The Ledes

Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

Guardian: "At least 19 Palestinians were killed and about 90 injured early on Wednesday when a UN school sheltering people was hit by shells during a second night of relentless bombardment that followed an Israeli warning of a protracted military campaign. Gaza health officials said at least 43 people died in intense air strikes and tank shelling of Jabaliya, a neighbourhood of Gaza City. The death toll included the people at the school who had fled their own homes."

Los Angeles Times: "Pacific Gas & Electric was charged Tuesday with lying to regulators during the immediate aftermath of the deadly 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight people and ravaged a San Bruno, Calif., neighborhood. The new indictment includes obstruction charges related to what the company said about its records immediately after the incident, according to a release from the Northern District of California U.S. attorney's office. The filing comes three months after an April indictment claimed that PG&E violated federal pipeline safety laws."

Los Angeles Times: "A top Los Angeles utility official faced tough questions Tuesday night about the response to a massive pipe break that flooded UCLA and surrounding areas with millions of gallons of water and threatened the near-term use of Pauley Pavilion. The rupture of the 90-year-old main sent a geyser shooting 30 feet in the air and deluged Sunset Boulevard and UCLA with 8 million to 10 million gallons of water before it was shut off more than three hours after the pipe burst, city officials said."

Reuters: "Militant fighters overran a Libyan special forces base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday after a battle involving rockets and warplanes that killed at least 30 people. A special forces officer said they had to abandon their main camp in the southeast of Benghazi after coming under sustained attack from a coalition of Islamist fighters and former rebel militias in the city."

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, July 29, 2014.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Jesse Ventura won his defamation case against the estate of author Chris Kyle, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who said he punched out the former Minnesota governor for criticizing the SEALs’ role in the Iraq war. The jury awarded a total of $1.845 million: $500,000 in defamation damages and $1.345 million for 'unjust enrichment' — or to be specific, $1,345,477.25. Jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict, as instructed. Instead, with the consent of both sides, they voted 8 to 2 in Ventura’s favor."

AP: "A senior PLO official has called for a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire in the Gaza war, saying he is also speaking in the name of Hamas."

Guardian: "Gaza endured a night of relentless bombardment that brought some of the heaviest pounding since the start of the conflict three weeks ago, in the hours after the Israeli political and military leadership warned of a protracted offensive. Palestinian officials say more than 110 people have been killed in Gaza in the past 24 hours."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, May 29:"The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was  eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday."

White House Live Video
July 29

10:10 am ET: White House Agricultural Champions of Change meet

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."

 

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:

 

Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

Heller McAlpin reviews Marja Mills' book The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir of the writer's friendship with Harper Lee & her sister Alice Finch Lee, for the Washington Post.

According to this Daily Beast headline, the "World Awaits LeBron James' Decision." CW: Even though I so often do the sports report, it turns out I am not of this world.

Smart Girls Don't Swear. Vanity Fair "cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed" some of the Nixon tapes, "many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable." The post excerpts a few: Nixon on gays, Jews, swearing.

New York Times: Hillary Clinton's "memoir, 'Hard Choices,' has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein. It is a powerful statement about today’s publishing realities that Mr. Klein’s book, a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages, including one about a physical altercation between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama, has landed atop the New York Times best-seller list, knocking 'Hard Choices' to No. 2." ...

... If by chance you believe the major media are the exclusive haunts of "elite leftists," here's evidence it ain't so. Klein, the Times story notes, is "a former editor at Newsweek  and The New York Times Magazine."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast interviews Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times. Abramson still doesn't know what "management skills" means. Kinda makes you think maybe she doesn't have any.

Tim Egan: American children are too sheltered. The world isn't as scary as we think it is.

... Thanks to Bonita for the link. CW: I except you actually could purchase the materials at Hobby Lobby you'd need to make an IUD. However, Dr. Weader strongly advises against this do-it-yourself project.

New York Times: "The New Yorker is overhauling its website, making all articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers."

The New York Times Magazine publishes excerpts from a few of Warren Harding's love letters to Carrie Phillips. Also, he was a worse poet than he was a president. And Phillips was unfaithful to Harding; then she blackmailed him. Maybe it was because she was so turned off by all those letters where he personified his penis as "Jerry."

Guardian: A Princeton archaeologist has found what may be the world's oldest extant erotic graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia in the Aegean sea. Also, it is so gay.

Wherever in the U.S. you may live, if you missed your local news last night, we have it here. In fact, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, here's what will be on your local news tonight. Thanks to Bonita for the link:

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Monday
Jul212014

The Commentariat -- July 22, 2014

Leslie Larson of the New York Daily News: "President Obama blasted Russia on Monday for failing to yield influence over separaists who have violated the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines plane shot down in eastern Ukraine. 'This is an insult to those who have lost loved ones. This is the kind of behavior that has no place in the community of nations,' Obama said Monday in remarks from the White House":

... Here's the official White House statement. The President took questions from the press after he delivered his remarks (not included in the video above). ...

... Gene Robinson: "The most important lesson U.S. policymakers should learn from this terrible event, I believe, is that sophisticated weapons, once given to combatants in a civil war, are virtually impossible to keep under control. This is true whether those given the arms are Russian-backed rebels or 'moderate' Syrian freedom fighters." CW: Yo, John McCain, are you listening? Nope. ...

As I turned, I was this close to him. I said, 'Mr. Prime Minister, I'm looking into your eyes, and I don't think you have a soul.' ... And he looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, 'We understand one another.' This is who this guy is! -- Joe Biden, recounting a 2011 meeting in the Kremlin with Vladimir Putin

... Julia Ioffe in the New Republic: "As the crisis surrounding the plane crash deepens and as calls for Vladimir Putin to act grow louder, it’s worth noting that they're not really getting through to Putin's subjects. The picture of the catastrophe that the Russian people are seeing on their television screens is very different from that on screens in much of the rest of the world, and the discrepancy does not bode well for a sane resolution to this stand-off." CW: Read the whole post. And we thought our media were mediocre. (Does the term "yellow journalism" come from "media-ochre"?) ...

... Alex Altman of Time: "Since a Malaysian jetliner crashed in a wheat field in eastern Ukraine last week, RT's pro-Putin packaging has been exposed in grim detail. In the aftermath of the tragedy, which killed all 298 souls on board, the outlet -- like the rest of Russian state media -- has seemed as if it were reporting on an entirely different crime. As the international media published reports indicating the plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists, RT has suggested Ukraine was responsible, cast Moscow as a scapegoat and bemoaned the insensitivity of outlets focusing on the geopolitical consequences of the crime." ...

... Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post: "In the agonizing quest to pin down exactly what happened when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 went down over Ukraine last week, Web archivists and other digital sleuths are playing an unusual -- potentially pivotal -- role."

Jonathan Cook: "As we watch the horrifying slaughter unfold in Gaza, bear in mind the Israeli psychosis that fuels and justifies it.... Comments from three rightwing Israelis -- two leading politicians and a professor -- ... very much reflect a strain of mainstream thinking in Israel, one that the international media largely avoids noting. Each, in their different ways, is advocating a genocide of the Palestinians." Via Susie Madrak.

Paul Waldman: "Creative policy thinker Rick Perry has come up with a way to address the problem of those Central American kids coming to the border": he's sending 1,000 Texas National Guard to the border in a move he calls "Operation Strong Safety." "Why not just go ahead and call it Operation America Macho TestosteReagan? Perry seems unaware that the problem isn't one of insufficient strength -- as the head of the National Guard under George W. Bush has said, it's unclear what the Guard is supposed to do in this situation that others couldn't, particularly given the fact that these kids are walking up to Border Patrol agents to turn themselves in." ...

... CW: As you may recall, Fox "News"'s Britt Hume tried to explain this to Gov. Perry. His bumbling response: "It's the visuals." That's right, folks. Would-be President Perry needs "visuals" to convey to people that he is America Macho TestosteReagan. ...

... Manny Fernandez & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The cost of deploying the National Guard was estimated at $12 million a month, a bill that he and other Texas Republicans vowed to send to the federal government." ...

... Christy Hoppe of the Dallas Morning News: "... sheriffs along the border said they have not been consulted and question the wisdom of sending military personnel who are not authorized to stop, question or arrest anyone." ...

... Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Texas Rep. Joaquín Castro on Monday said Gov. Rick Perry is 'militarizing our border' with his reported decision to deploy state National Guard troops there. 'We should be sending the Red Cross to the border not the National Guard to deal with this humanitarian crisis,' the Democratic congressman said in an email. 'The children fleeing violence in Central America are seeking out border patrol agents. They are not trying to evade them. Why send soldiers to confront these kids?'"

Brian Bennett of the Los Angeles Times: "The increasingly costly and divisive border crisis is pushing federal investigators to crack down on money-laundering schemes they say are being used to smuggle thousands of Central American children into the United States.Agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, are targeting suspicious patterns of deposits and withdrawals through "funnel accounts" held at U.S. banks, according to two federal law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the topic." CW: It might work, but it's not nearly as impressive as sending in armed soldiers to try to scare the kiddies. No "visuals."

Jonathan Topaz: "Vice President Joe Biden on Monday said the Obama administration would continue to press Congress on approving Veterans Affairs secretary nominee Robert McDonald and passing legislation to address problems at the VA. 'It's time to get it done now,' Biden, speaking at the Veterans of Foreign Wars conference in St. Louis, said of legislation on Capitol Hill to reform the VA. 'Stop fooling around.'"

I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades. -- Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, on Joe Biden, in his memoir

Bob Gates is a Republican, with a view of foreign policy that is, in many fundamental ways, different from mine. Bob Gates has been wrong about everything! Bob Gates is wrong about the advice he gave President Reagan about how to deal with Gorbachev! That he wasn't real. Thank God the President didn't listen to him. Bob Gates was wrong about the Balkans. Bob Gates was wrong about the bombing. Bob Gates was wrong about the Vietnam War, for Christ's sake. You go back, and everything in the last forty years, there's nothing that I can think of, major fundamental decisions relative to foreign policy, that I can think he's been right about! -- Joe Biden

Mark Stern of Slate: "On Monday morning, President Obama signed an executive LGBT non-discrimination order, barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity among federal contractors.... Crucially, Obama did not include the broad religious exemption that some faith leaders had begged the White House for.... The executive order does, however, preserve a Bush-era exemption that allows religiously affiliated contractors to continue to preference workers of a certain religion":

CW: Kevin Drum disagrees with me (or, specifically, with Thomas Frank. See yesterday's Commentariat.): "Back in 2009, was Obama really the only thing that stood between bankers and the howling mob? Don't be silly. Americans were barely even upset, let alone ready for revolution.... Why were Americans so obviously not enraged? Because -- duh -- the hated neoliberal system worked. We didn't have a second Great Depression. The Fed intervened, the banking system was saved, and a stimulus bill was passed." Read his whole post. I'm not convinced, but since we can't know what might have been if Obama had asserted his inner LBJ, it's a moot point.

Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic: "Millions of Americans are getting health insurance because of Obamacare. But you're a lot less likely to be among them if you live in one of the 'red' states than if you live in one of the 'blue' states -- and there's no great mystery why. It's because the conservative officials who run most of the red states want it that way.... The states where officials are blocking expansion are the ones where residents need help the most, because they are poorer and more likely to have no insurance in the first place." ...

... Bruce Jaspen in Forbes: "While record numbers of Americans sign up for the larger Medicaid health insurance program for the poor, financial issues are emerging for medical care providers in the two dozen states that didn't go along with the expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The moves against expansion are 'beginning to hurt hospitals in states that opted out,' a report last week from Fitch Ratings said." CW: We know these redneck legislators & governors don't care about the poor. Let's see if they care about hospitals, which are businesses. ...

... Mario Trujillo of the Hill: "A federal judge in Wisconsin threw out Sen. Ron Johnson's (R-Wis.) lawsuit challenging an Obama administration rule that allows congressional staffers to continue to receive healthcare subsidies when signing up for ObamaCare. Judge William Griesbach did not rule on the merits of the case, instead dismissing the challenge because Johnson and another staffer on the suit lacked standing because they were not concretely injured by the regulation. The judge, appointed in 2002 by President George W. Bush, said not all disputes warrant a remedy by a federal court."

Maya Rhodan of Time: President "Obama will sign the first significant legislative job training reform effort in nearly a decade on Tuesday. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act passed by Congress on July 9 will streamline the federal workforce training system, trimming 15 programs that don't work, giving schools the opportunity to cater their services to the needs of their region, and empowering businesses to identify what skills workers need for success and help workers acquire them."

AP: "A Pennsylvania congressman's press secretary has pleaded not guilty to a weapons charge after Capitol police say he carried a gun into a federal office building in Washington. An attorney for Ryan Shucard says he entered the plea Saturday in D.C. Superior Court. Lawyer Jason Kalafat called the gun incident unintentional.... Shucard was charged with carrying a pistol outside a home or business, which is a felony." ...

     ... CW: Because if there's anything more responsible than carrying a Smith & Wesson (& ammo) into a restricted area, it's forgetting you're carrying a handgun & magazine into a restricted area. "Oh, I must have left my pistol in the cloakroom. Or maybe it fell out of my jacket when I dropped my daughter off at school."

When is "I have no idea" news? When it's about a Darrell Issa investigation. Here's another extremely useless IRS "scandal" story.

Thanks to P. D. Pepe for this link:

Senate Races

Chris Good of ABC News: "Two months of Republican-on-Republican badmouthing will finally come to an end in Georgia on Tuesday.  Either Rep. Jack Kingston or former Dollar General CEO David Perdue will become the GOP candidate for the state's open Senate seat, to be vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss, kicking off what's expected to be one of the most hotly contested elections in the country." ...

     ... The Atlanta Journal-Constitution story, by Greg Bluestein & Dan Malloy, is here.

PetKoch. Kate Sheppard of the Huffington Post: Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who's running for Michigan's open Senate seat, takes on the Koch brothers, who already have run a massive ad campaign against him.

I think that, for both Joe and for Hillary, they’ve already accomplished an awful lot in their lives. The question is, do they, at this phase in their lives, want to go through the pretty undignifying process of running all over again. -- President Obama

Beyond the Beltway

The Poor Door Is Around Back, Jack. Even if you're not extremely wealthy, you too might be able to live in an upscale Manhattan condo! But you'd have to enter through the "poor door." And maybe you won't be swimming in the pool & working out on the gym equipment with your rich neighbors.

Brent Snavely & Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press: "The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is suspending its water shutoffs for 15 days starting today to give residents another chance to prove they are unable to pay their bills.... The decision comes after the city has put into national spotlight for a policy that has been framed as a human rights issue for low-income residents who can't afford to pay their bills. It also was announced on the same day that a group of Detroit residents filed a lawsuit in the city's bankruptcy case asking U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes to restore water service to residential customers."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday afternoon ordered U.S. carriers to stop flying to or from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, prohibiting them from traveling through Israel's largest airport after a rocket landed nearby."

Reuters: "Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in neighboring Egypt, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Israel later in the day. Both have voiced alarm at mounting civilian casualties."

New York Times: "A train carrying the bodies of victims from the Malaysia Airlines jet downed by a missile last week arrived Tuesday morning in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv after a 17-hour journey out of lawless territory controlled by pro-Russian rebels." ...

... New York Times: "A piece of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 that was shot down in eastern Ukraine last week bears telltale marks of small pieces of high-velocity shrapnel that apparently crippled the jet in flight. Riddled with these perforations and buffeted by a blast wave as it flew high above the conflict zone, the plane then most likely sheared apart."

Sunday
Jul202014

The Commentariat -- July 21, 2014

Peter Beaumont & Harriet Sherwood of the Guardian: "US President Barack Obama has called for an 'immediate ceasefire' between Israel and Hamas as the death toll among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip reached 508. Israeli continued its assault on the neighbourhood of Shujai'iya on Monday, where bombardment and fierce fighting on the ground between Israeli troops and Hamas militants on Sunday left shattered streets littered with bodies after Israeli forces subjected it to an intense bombardment.... Obama's appeal came as the United Nations security council opened urgent talks on efforts to strike a ceasefire deal...."

It's a hell of a pinpoint operation. We've got to get over there. -- John Kerry, speaking ironically to an aide, regarding the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in an Israeli operation that was supposed to target militants ...

... Open Mic. Brian Knowlton & Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "Secretary of State John F. Kerry strongly criticized Palestinian leaders on Sunday for rejecting a cease-fire plan, but he also appeared -- in comments captured by a live microphone -- to express exasperation with the high cost in civilian lives as Israel pressed its ground attack on Gaza. ...

... David of Crooks & Liars: "National Review Editor Rich Lowry asserted over the weekend that Israelis were not at fault for the deaths of four boys who were killed while playing on a Gaza beach last week because Hamas should have told them to move out of the way." ...

     ... digby awards Lowry her "Loathsome Wingnut o'the Day" award. He earned it.

Michael Gordon & Brian Knowlton: "Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that Russia had trained Ukrainian separatists in the operation of SA-11 antiaircraft missiles, the type of system that the United States said had been used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine.... 'There's enormous amount of evidence, even more evidence than I just documented, that points to the involvement of Russia in providing these systems, training the people on them,' he said":

... E. J. Dionne: Obama should be more like Kerry. And Republicans should stop making "every foreign policy crisis about him." Also, Dionne reminds us of this gem:

[Putin] makes a decision and he executes it, quickly. And then everybody reacts. That's what you call a leader. President Obama [has] gotta think about it, he’s got to go over it again, he's got to talk to more people about it. -- Rudy 9/11 Guiliani, March 2014

Let's ask Rudy about this assessment now that Putin's "leadership" got nearly 300 innocent people murdered. -- Constant Weader

... MEANWHILES, Charles Pierce reflects on the reflections of wingers who took to the Sunday shows to call Putin a thug, rather than a leader. Either way, Obama is a weakling, sez they of the Cheney wing of the Republican party. (CW: Pierce is put out by the National Journal's top Republican apologist Ron Fournier's describing GOP hawks as the "Cheney wing of the party." I think it's fucking perfect.)

Ben Birnbaum & Amir Tibon have a long piece in the New Republic on Kerry's efforts to negotiate a peace agreement between Israel & Palestine.

David Nakamura, et al., of the Washington Post: "Nearly a year before President Obama declared a humanitarian crisis on the border, a team of experts arrived at the Fort Brown patrol station in Brownsville, Tex., and discovered a makeshift transportation depot for a deluge of foreign children.... In a 41-page report to the Department of Homeland Security, the team from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) raised alarms about the federal government's capacity to manage a situation that was expected to grow worse.... The administration did too little to heed those warnings, according to interviews with former government officials, outside experts and immigrant advocates, leading to an inadequate response that contributed to this summer's escalating crisis. ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker on the GOP's dangerous anti-immigration stance(s). ...

... Ron Brownstein of the National Journal: "Regardless of how Congress handles his request for more border resources, President Obama is moving toward a historic -- and explosive -- executive order that will provide legal status to a significant number of the estimated 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.... Though the administration is still debating the reach of Obama's authority, some top immigration advocates hope he could legalize up to half of the undocumented population.... Such a move would infuriate Republicans.... They would likely challenge an Obama order through both legislation and litigation. Every 2016 GOP presidential contender could feel compelled to promise to repeal the order. Those would be momentous choices for a party already struggling to attract Hispanics and Asian-Americans."

Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "The Senate went three months this spring without voting on a single legislative amendment.... Senators say that they increasingly feel like pawns caught between Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose deep personal and political antagonisms have almost immobilized the Senate." ...

... CW: Kane's article is one of the worst cases of both-sides-do-it-ism I've ever read. After going on for paragraphs on how senators are all frustrated & how former leaders from both parties have tried to intervene to restore function to the Senate, blah-blah, we finally get to the nitty-gritty of the standoff:

If Reid allowed the free-flowing give-and-take that defined the Senate of the past, his endangered Democratic incumbents would be forced to vote on carefully crafted GOP amendments designed to hurt them in November. He refuses to do that. If McConnell were to work with Reid to allow the Senate to function more smoothly and effectively, he would undermine a key component of the Republican campaign argument this fall: that Democrats have mismanaged the Senate and the GOP must take over.

     ... Excuse me. Just who's fault is that? Is it Reid's? Hell, no. Kane has buried deep in his story that the cause of the friction is McConnell's obstructionism. Have I mentioned that the Washington Post sucks?

Paul Krugman: "... it's hard to escape the sense that debt panic was promoted because it served a political purpose -- that many people were pushing the notion of a debt crisis as a way to attack Social Security and Medicare. And they did immense damage along the way, diverting the nation's attention from its real problems -- crippling unemployment, deteriorating infrastructure and more -- for years on end." ...

... Thomas Frank, in Salon, imagines the themes of the Obama Presidential Library: "The Obama team, as the president once announced to a delegation of investment bankers, was 'the only thing between you and the pitchforks,' and in retrospect these words seem not only to have been a correct assessment of the situation at the moment but a credo for his entire term in office. For my money, they should be carved in stone over the entrance to his monument: Barack Obama as the one-man rescue squad for an economic order that had aroused the fury of the world." Thanks to James S. for the link. ...

... CW: Frank is pretty snide, but I think he's right. Obama's reliance on the failed policies of the Clinton economic team is his Vietnam. I don't know how much expert advice LBJ got to pull out of Vietnam, but Obama got plenty of expert advice -- even from inside his administration (Christina Romer)-- to go big on the stimulus & go hard on the banks, and he ignored it. Similarly, he should have had the guts to fight for some form of the public option in his healthcare bill (and beat the pulp out of Joe Lieberman & ConservaDems); instead, he knuckled under to big PHARma & the Max Baucus crowd. He had a choice -- and a mandate -- to radically change policies, & he never seriously considered it. This might have been understandable if he had implemented his programs with GOP support, but only Democrats voted for his bills. ...

... CW: Sort of contra Frank, MAG recommends this piece on American optimism by Jonathan Chait. I recommend it, too, but I don't agree with it. I'll explain why in the Comments.

Evan Osnos has a nice, longish piece in the New Yorker on Joe Biden.

News Ledes

Governor Grandstand. New York Times: "Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was expected to announce on Monday the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico to bolster security as the Border Patrol faces an influx of Central American immigrants."

Guardian: "As Dutch forensic experts arrived at the scene of the Malaysia Airlines crash on Monday and promised that the train being loaded with the victims' bodies would be moved before the end of the day, heavy fighting broke out between the Ukrainian army and rebels on the outskirts of Donetsk, the main regional city and the hub of the insurgency." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "After days of obstruction, Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine permitted Dutch forensics experts on Monday to search the wreckage of the downed Malaysia Airlines jetliner destroyed by a surface-to-air missile, allowed bodies of the victims to be evacuated by train and agreed to give the plane's flight recorder boxes to the Malaysian government."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin issued a brief statement early on Monday saying that Russia would work to ensure that the conflict in eastern Ukraine moves from the battlefield to the negotiating table, and he again said that a robust international investigating team must have secure access to the Malaysia Airlines crash site. He also accused unspecified nations of exploiting the disaster in pursuit of 'mercenary political goals.' The statement posted on the Kremlin website came a day after mounting international criticism and anger against Russia and specifically Mr. Putin for the chaotic, unsecured condition of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site and what some nations said was the desecration of the victims' bodies."

Saturday
Jul192014

The Commentariat -- July 20, 2014

Jim Fallows, in a New York Times op-ed: "... unless airspace is marked as off-limits, it is presumptively safe and legal for flight.... Therefore when [the Malaysia Airlines pilots] crossed this zone at 33,000 feet, they were neither cutting it razor-close nor bending the rules, but doing what many other airlines had done, in a way they assumed was both legal and safe.... Malaysia Airlines, its crew and passengers and the civil aviation system are the objects of this crime and tragedy. The finger-pointing should not be at them, but at the criminals."

Bloomberg View Editors: "U.S. conservatives make at least two arguments against action on climate change: We don't have enough conclusive evidence to prove it is happening, and even if we did, the cost of cutting our carbon emissions would be too high. The U.S. military has been quietly rebutting both those arguments.... The military frames [its] efforts in terms of saving money and reducing its dependence on vulnerable supply lines, not dealing with climate change, but the result is the same. The department's domestic greenhouse-gas emissions fell 9 percent from 2008 to 2012."

The Rev. William Barber's speech before Netroots Nation. Thanks to James S. for the link:

Alexander Nazaryan has a long piece in Newsweek (who knew there was a Newsweek?) on chemical dumps at military bases. "Maureen Sullivan, who heads the Pentagon's environmental programs, told me her office must contend with 39,000 contaminated sites (to be fair, a single base can have several, some as small as a single building)."

CW: Gail Sheehy's interview of former NYT executive editor Jill Abramson is mildly interesting. BTW, I don't buy Abramson's argument, which she has repeated numerous times, that her firing was sexist because former editor Abe Rosenthal was an SOB & he didn't get fired for it. Rosenthal was executive editor in the 1970s & early '80s, when being boss meant you could treat employees pretty much however you wanted. That is no longer true, at least in major corporations. Abramson might as well claim that Warren Harding was a better president than George Washington because Harding didn't keep slaves.

Maureen Dowd: "As Hillary stumbles and President Obama slumps, Bill Clinton keeps getting more popular."

Presidential Race

Dana Milbank illuminates a pretty good indicator that Elizabeth Warren won't be running for president anytime soon.

Beyond the Beltway

Yeah, Fundamentalist Sharia Is Extremely Cruel & Crazy. Daniel Kelly of Reuters: "Two men described as leaders of a Philadelphia mosque were accused of trying to cut off the hand of a suspected thief, whose wrist was sliced so deeply it required hospital treatment, police said on Friday. The 46-year-old victim said two officials in the mosque accused him of stealing jars of money from the house of worship after morning prayers on Monday. The officials, described in police reports as the mosque's imam and amir, dragged the victim to the rear of the mosque, and attempted to chop off his hand with a machete, according to a police statement." ...

... CW: Time for a Little Sharia Scaremongering. But, um, here's the thing. The police arrested one of the perps (the other was at large at the time of the report). The incident does not represent a takeover by radical Islamists. No U.S. government entities will impose Islamic law upon you. Get over it, you little nutcases.

News Ledes

New York Times: "After weeks of escalating conflict in Gaza, both sides reported death tolls that made clear Sunday was the deadliest day so far in the war. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that 87 Palestinians had died, and the Israeli military said 13 soldiers were dead.... President Obama told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that he had 'serious concern' about the growing number of casualties on both sides in Gaza."

Los Angeles Times: "Actor James Garner, whose whimsical style in the 1950s TV Western 'Maverick' led to a stellar career in TV and films such as 'The Rockford Files' and his Oscar-nominated 'Murphy's Romance,' has died.... He was 86." ...

     ... UPDATE: The New York Times obituary is here.

New York Times: "Pro-Russian separatist militiamen have seized custody of the bodies of about 200 victims of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that was blown out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile, Ukrainian officials said on Sunday, and rebels continued to limit access to the crash site in eastern Ukraine, blocking the work of experts even as hundreds of untrained local volunteers were picking through the wreckage with sticks." ...

... Washington Post: "The United States has confirmed that Russia supplied sophisticated missile launchers to separatists in eastern Ukraine and that attempts were made to move them back across the Russian border after the Thursday shoot-down of a Malaysian jet liner, a U.S. official said Saturday." ...

... Washington Post: "Russia said Saturday it supports a transparent international investigation of the downing of a Malaysian airliner, but U.S. and other Western officials said they saw no evidence Moscow was seeking to impose that message on its eastern Ukrainian allies.... In a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Secretary of State John F. Kerry 'underscored that the United States remains deeply concerned' that international investigators were denied access, and that victims and debris were reportedly being 'tampered with or inappropriately removed from the site,' a State Department statement said." ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging developments.

New York Times: "The Israeli military said on Sunday that it had expanded its ground activities in Gaza, increasing the number of forces and the areas in which they were operating, as eastern Gaza came under heavy shelling and as resistance from Hamas fighters appeared to intensify. Casualties grew on both sides...."

Friday
Jul182014

The Commentariat -- July 19, 2014

Ewen MacAskill, et al., of the Guardian: "Pro-Russia separatist groups in eastern Ukraine are hastily covering up all links to the Buk missile battery suspected to have been used to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane, according to western-based defence and intelligence specialists. As the UN security council called for a 'full, thorough independent international investigation' into the downing of the plane, concern that a cover-up was under way was fuelled by a standoff at part of the crash site between observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and rebel gunmen, which ended with a warning shot being fired."

Ralph Ellis, et al., of CNN: "International monitors investigating the Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine said Friday the team was not given full access to the site and was greeted with hostility by armed men."

Everything Is Obama's Fault, Ctd. Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "Guess who Sen. John McCain blames for the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17? Yup, President Obama: 'Mr. McCain said that Mr. Obama is running a "cowardly administration that failed to give the Ukrainians weapons with which to defend themselves."'" ...

We need more leadership from the president. He gave this a passing reference in his speech in Delaware, then went on to tell Joe Biden jokes and take the usual shots at Republicans -- which is fair game, but not on this day -- and then to go to New York and go to two fundraisers. I mean, I can't imagine Eisenhower or Kennedy or Reagan doing that. -- Rep. Steve Peter King (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee

... Yes, Why Can't Obama Be More Like Reagan? Steve M. Conservatives "are looking at President Obama's response to the shootdown of the Malaysian airliner and finding it lacking -- specifically, they think it falls short of Ronald Reagan's reaction to Russia's shootdown of a Korean passenger jet in 1983.... I would like to point out that Reagan slept through the shootdown -- and was not awakened." Uh, and then he went horseback-riding on his ranch & made no plans to return to Washington. He left it up to Press Secretary Larry Speakes to handle the administration's response. As Deborah Potter of CBS News reported later, "Officials [in Washington] began to worry that, given the circumstances, it wouldn't have looked right for the President to stay on his ranch. So he's returning to Washington later today for an urgent meeting with his national security advisors":

... Josh Marshall of TPM: "In a paradoxical way, I think the future ramifications of [the downing of the Malaysian Airlines jet] are almost greater because it is about Russia's recklessness and bumbling than it would be if it were more clearly a matter of intent. This is a f'-up on Putin's part of almost mind-boggling proportions. Yes, a tragedy. Yes, perhaps an atrocity. But almost more threatening, a screw up. Malign intent is one thing. So is aggression. But goofs of this magnitude by someone who controls a massive military arsenal and nuclear weapons are in a way more threatening." ...

... Now, let us return to Not-President-Thank-God McCain's assertion that Cowardly President Obama caused this tragedy by not arming Ukraine. Take it away, Charles Pierce:

It is becoming plain that the atrocity visited on the Malaysian jetliner is a direct result of arming morons. The New York Times obtained audiotape, allegedly from the people who shot down the plane, and these guys sound like they shouldn't be trusted with a lemon zester, let alone a surface-to-air missile. And it is quite plain that the one thing this situation doesn't need is to arm more morons, or to have another superpower come bungling in.... Vladimir Putin is responsible for a horrendous crime, and one that weakens his international standing. The only thing that would bail him out would be a flood of American arms to our own set of morons. The only thing that would bail him out would be if we all started listening to John McCain again.

CW: I don't know what the correlation is between morons & armed persons -- whether soldiers or civilians -- but I'm certain it is higher than the correlation between morons & the general public. A lot of morons are drawn to bright, shiny steel gadgets that go bang.

David Koenig & Scott Mayerowitz of the AP: "Airlines are already being more vigilant about avoiding trouble spots. That will make flights longer and more costly because of the need for extra fuel -- an expense that will be passed on to passengers. They may be quicker to abandon routes near conflict areas. In the aftermath of Thursday's disaster, carriers around the globe rerouted flights to avoid Ukraine. Malaysia Airlines announced that it will no longer fly over any portion of the country, routing flights over Turkey instead."

John Plunkett of the Guardian: Sara Firth, "a London-based correspondent of Kremlin-funded news channel Russia Today, has resigned in protest at its coverage of the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.... Russia Today, which has been criticised as a propaganda mouthpiece for the Russian government, suggested Ukraine was to blame for the crash, while most media organisations have said it was shot down by a suspected Russian-made missile.

CW: I know one John McCain remark a day is one too many, but I can't resist adding a second. Jake Tapper of CNN: "Sen. John McCain ... [suggested that] if he had been elected in 2000, there might not have been a war in Iraq.... If he had been president, McCain said, 'I think I would have challenged the evidence [that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction] with greater scrutiny. I think that with my background with the military and knowledge of national security with these issues that I hope that I would have been able to see through the evidence that was presented at the time.'" Pretty rich, coming from Sen. Bomb-Bomb-Bomb who is usually first to demand military action no matter what the conflict & who was captain of the Iraq War Cheerleading Squad.

Two Friday Afternoon News Dumps to Applaud:

(1) Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposal Friday under the Clean Water Act that would limit mining activity in Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed, striking a major blow to a project that would rank as one of the world's largest open-pit mines. The proposed determination, which will now be subject to a public comment period until Sept. 19, represents the latest step by the Obama administration to impose restrictions on a massive gold and copper mining project, called Pebble Mine."

(2) Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "President Obama, resisting calls from several prominent faith leaders, will not include a new exemption for religiously affiliated government contractors when he issues an executive order Monday barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the White House said Friday."

AND Another DocuDump. Josh Gerstein of Politico: "More previously secret files from President Bill Clinton's eight years in office went public Friday, offering new insight on when he turned to first lady Hillary Clinton for advice, the pitfalls the president's advisers saw in some of his Supreme Court nominees and how a news story prompted the president to express doubts about deadly bombings the CIA had pinned on Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden." Gerstein summarizes some of the docs. ...

** Read this New York Times editorial on the Senate's confirmation of Ronnie White's nomination to the federal bench. At long last, justice is served. Oh, & only because the Democrats changed the rules on filibustering judicial nominees. Senate Republicans really are a despicable lot.

Jeff Shesol in the New Yorker: "... conservatives are doing exactly what they say the left has long done: rushing to litigate political questions, elevating all manner of disputes to the level of high constitutional principle, and asking judges to settle (or revisit) policy arguments that ought to be resolved by legislators or voters. If the Affordable Care Act can't be repealed..., it can be undercut by judges, as in the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case. If the National Labor Relations Board can't be shut down, the Presidential power to make recess appointments -- which has kept the agency running -- can be curbed, possibly for good, as last month's Noel Canning decision portends. And if Obama can't be impeached, well, he can be sued. That Republicans have learned to stop worrying and love the lawsuit ... is a measure of their success in remaking the judiciary and reshaping the legal environment over the past forty years."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: "Even before Senator Elizabeth Warren entered the grand ballroom of the Cobo Center [in Detroit] on Friday for a much-anticipated speech to hundreds of liberal activists [at the Netroots convention], her admirers were handing out plastic boater hats, bumper stickers and lawn signs declaring, 'Elizabeth Warren for President.' ... 'Run, Liz, run!' the crowd chanted as the senator took the stage for her morning talk.... Then she opened the sort of blistering populist assault on corporations, Republicans, banks, lobbyists and trade deals that has become her trademark." ...

... Warren takes the stage at about 15:15 min. in. Gary Peters, Democratic nominee for Michigan's open U.S. Senate seat, introduces her at about 13:15 in:

... John Dickerson of Slate (of whom I'm not a big fan) urges Elizabeth Warren to run for president. She wouldn't win, he says, but she would force a campaign of ideas & she would get Hillary Clinton to sharpen her message. CW: Or get one. ...

... digby: "I suspect the Villagers are yearning for a way to balance the crazy tea partiers with some false hippie equivalence.... Let me just point out the one reason Dickerson doesn't mention: how wonderful it would be for me to watch two intelligent, accomplished women stand for president and debate the issues?"

AP: "Germany wants 'sensible talks' with the United States on the two countries' spat over alleged American spying, the chancellor, Angela Merkel, said on Friday, indicating that Berlin is still aiming for a formal accord. Washington has dismissed the idea of a 'no-spy' agreement demanded by Germany since reports last year that the US National Security Agency was conducting mass surveillance of German citizens -- and eavesdropping even on Merkel's cellphone. The discovery of two alleged US spies in Germany earlier this month further stoked German anger, prompting Merkel to demand the departure of the CIA station chief in Berlin."

John Tye in the Washington Post: "Public debate about the bulk collection of U.S. citizens’ data by the NSA has focused largely on Section 215 of the Patriot Act," a provision which provides extensive protections for U.S. persons. "Executive Order 12333 contains no such protections for U.S. persons if the collection occurs outside U.S. borders. Issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 to authorize foreign intelligence investigations, 12333 is not a statute and has never been subject to meaningful oversight from Congress or any court. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has said that the committee has not been able to 'sufficiently' oversee activities conducted under 12333. Unlike Section 215, the executive order authorizes collection of the content of communications, not just metadata, even for U.S. persons."

Stephen Colbert, like so many on the right, is a compassionate conservative:

Danielle Ivory & Rebecaca Ruiz of the New York Times: "... G.M. maintains that a distinct difference exists between its recall of 2.6 million older Chevrolet Cobalts and other cars, which started in February, and its more recent recall of 7.6 million cars like the Chevrolet Malibu, announced on June 30. For that reason, it has refused to expand a fund set up to compensate victims of the defective Cobalts, infuriating safety advocates. Its insistence comes even after new information filed with regulators was made public Friday that further detailed the similarities."

Dylan Byers of Politico: "CNN has removed international correspondent Diana Magnay from Israel after she referred to a group of Israelis as 'scum.' Magnay, who was covering the Israeli missile attack on Gaza, tweeted Thursday, 'Israelis on hill above Sderot cheer as bombs land on #gaza; threaten to "destroy our car if I say a word wrong". Scum.' In a statement, a CNN spokesperson said Magnay had been 'threatened and harassed' but 'deeply regrets the language used.'" ...

... Jennifer Shutt of Politico: "NBC News is sending a high-profile correspondent back into Gaza after unexpectedly removing him from the troubled region earlier this week, the network said Friday. Ayman Mohyeldin would go back into Gaza this weekend, NBC said, but didn't clarify why it had removed him."

Tim Egan: "He's had a busy summer. As God only knows, he was summoned to slaughter in the Holy Land, asked to end the killings of Muslims by Buddhist monks in Myanmar, and played both sides again in the 1,400-year-old dispute over the rightful successor to the Prophet Muhammad."

Congressional Races

Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "Nearly five decades after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, black voters in the South are poised to play a pivotal role in this year's midterm elections. If Democrats win the South and hold the Senate, they will do so because of Southern black voters.... If Democrats win this November, black voters will probably represent a larger share of the winning party's supporters in important states than at any time since Reconstruction."

News Ledes

AP: "Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of helping separatist rebels destroy evidence at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines plane shot down in rebel-held territory with 298 people onboard. The government in Kiev said militiamen have removed 38 bodies from the crash site in eastern Ukraine and have taken them to the rebel-held city of Donetsk. It says the bodies were transported with the assistance of specialists with distinct Russian accents."

McClatchy News: "Islamic State gunmen overran a former U.S. military base early Friday and killed or captured hundreds of Iraqi government troops who'd been trying to retake Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, the worst military reversal Iraqi troops have suffered since the Islamist forces captured nearly half the country last month."

Reuters: "More than 40 Central American children were expelled from the United States on flights to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador on Friday, as the U.S. government stepped up its deportation of illegal child migrants.... Thirty-three minors aged 6 months to 15 years along with 26 mothers landed on a U.S. flight to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the city with the world's highest murder rate."

Guardian: "As Israel pressed ahead with a ground offensive in Gaza on Saturday morning, the death toll of Palestinians rose above 300, many of them children.... As diplomatic efforts to end the conflict continued in Cairo and at the UN, Hamas was looking increasingly isolated in its refusal to negotiate a truce without concessions in advance. It wants prisoners released and the easing of the blockade on Gaza by both Israel and Egypt."

Washington Post: "The press secretary of a House Republican was arrested Friday morning for carrying a firearm into a House office building. Ryan Shucard, press secretary for Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), was arrested at approximately 9:15 a.m. after officers found a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun and magazine with Shucard as he went through security to enter the building."