Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President reflected on the significant progress made by this country in 2014, and in the nearly six years since he took office":

The Ledes

Saturday, December 20, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States transferred four detainees from the Guantánamo Bay prison to Afghanistan late Friday, the Defense Department announced Saturday, fulfilling a request from the new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, in what officials here characterized as a show of good will between the United States and the government in Kabul.The four men are not likely to be subjected to further detainment in Afghanistan, an Obama administration official said."

New York Times: "In an apparent targeted killing, two police officers were shot in their patrol car in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon by a man who later fatally shot himself in head, police officials said."

Reuters: "Dozens of protesters were arrested on Friday in Milwaukee when they blocked rush-hour traffic on a major highway to protest the killing of an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by a white police officer this year. The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department took at least 73 adults and one minor into custody during the protest that blocked Interstate 43, which runs through the city, according to the department's Twitter feed."

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, December 19, 2014.

Los Angeles Times: "Lowell Steward, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen who flew more than 100 missions during World War II, died Wednesday, according to Ron Brewington, former national public relations officer for the Tuskegee Airmen. Steward was 95."

NBC News: "The Army has concluded its lengthy investigation into the disappearance of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in eastern Afghanistan and must now decide whether Bergdahl should face criminal charges. Bergdahl reportedly walked away from his base into the hands of the Taliban and was held hostage for five years. Based on the investigation, the Army must now decide whether Bergdahl should be charged with desertion or a lesser charge of being 'absent without leave,' AWOL."

New York Times: "The Pakistani military said on Friday that it had killed 62 militants in clashes near the border with Afghanistan, stepping up operations against insurgents after the Pakistani Taliban carried out an attack at a school that left 148 students and staff members dead."

New York Times: "Mandy Rice-Davies, a nightclub dancer and model who achieved notoriety in 1963 in one of Britain’s most spectacular Cold War sex scandals, died on Thursday after a short battle with cancer, her publicist said on Friday. She was 70."

Denver Post: "James Holmes, the man who killed 12 people inside an Aurora movie theater two years ago, is 'a human being gripped by a severe mental illness,' his parents write in a letter that pleads for him to be spared from execution.'" The letter is here.

Public Service Announcement

Surprise! December 19: Dr. Oz is a quack.

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
December 19

1:30 pm ET: President Obama holds a press briefing

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

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A former resident of Somerville, Massachusetts, calls into outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick's last regular monthly radio call-in show:

Sixteen times Stephen Colbert broke character on his show. With videos. ...

... Winger John Hinderaker of Powerline has never seen Colbert's show, but he's pretty sure it was an hour-long ad for the Democratic party. "I am not in favor of restricting anyone’s right to free speech, but if federal law is going to bar a businessman from contributing enough to buy more than a minimal amount of television time on behalf of his party or his candidates, why shouldn’t Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central be prohibited from airing millions of dollars worth of pro-Democratic Party propaganda?" CW: Evidently, Hinderaker has not heard of Fox "News."

Los Angeles Times: "A hashtag about asking police officers questions for a CNN panel turned extremely negative almost as soon as it was posted Tuesday. #AskACop was meant to be used by viewers who wanted to tweet questions to officers for the town hall segment "Cops Under Fire,” hosted by Don Lemon. There was an overwhelming response -- most of which were criticisms toward police." CW: Apparently CNN had no idea people were pissed at the police.

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, 'The Colbert Report' — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest."

New York Times: "Life on Mars? Today? The notion may not be so far-fetched after all. A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday. Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months. For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.... It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.... The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them."

"Oh, God, It's Mom." Kelly Faircloth of Jezebel: "Oh my Lord, shut it down, here is the greatest moment in the history of C-SPAN: A (very Southern) mama called into one of their shows to yell at the guests. Not because she disagrees, but because the guests are brothers and both her sons and she is sick and tired of their shit":


Escape from Alcatraz. Live Science: "... on the night of June 11, 1962, three inmates left Alcatraz in one of the most mysterious prison breaks in American history. John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris tucked dummy heads into their bed sheets and snuck into an unused utility corridor through holes they had crudely drilled through their cells. Then, from the prison roof, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack and climbed over the fence. From the northeast shore of the island, they floated away from the prison on a small raft made from more than 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument that was converted into a pump. Even the FBI still calls the plan 'ingenious' on its website. After a 17-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the men most likely drowned during the escape...."

... BUT ...

... The linked story above has a better video, but it's not embeddable.

Rolling Stone: "David Letterman will retire from late-night television on Wednesday, May 20th. The Late Show host's production company Worldwide Pants announced the news, according to Deadline, with CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves praising Letterman’s 'remarkable legacy of achievement and creative brilliance [which] will never be forgotten.'"

Washington Post: "New information from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that Mars may once have had large, long-lasting lakes above ground. That would challenge the more popular theory that water on the planet was only underground, or only appeared in a few areas for a short amount of time. The key to this latest theory is Mount Sharp, which stands 3 miles tall and sits in the red planet's Gale Crater. But Mount Sharp is a curious formation: The layered mountain is made of different kinds of sediment. Some layers were probably deposited by a surrounding lake bed, and other seem more likely to be the result of river or wind deposits." CW: Yeah, there was probably once a really well-developed life on Mars with flora & fauna & -- eventually -- little green men who didn't believe in climate change.

New York Times: "After weeks of planning, New York City welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Sunday for a three-day visit, greeting Prince William and his wife, Catherine, with the blend of enthusiasm, sarcasm and bemusing antagonism that tends to tail the urban celebrity tourist."

The Wrap: "Longtime CNN political anchor Candy Crowley is leaving the network."

December 6: Max Fisher of Vox: So two white guys -- guys who will have no trouble finding other jobs -- get fired, & half the New Republic staff walks out in protest. Where was the outrage when Marty Peretz was editor & writing racist screeds? The contrasting reactions speak "to a larger problem of how we think about racism in American society and particularly in the elite media institutions that have badly lagged in employing people of color." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "For all its sins [of the past], I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is 'an essential foundation of American progressive thought' is a ship that sailed a long time ago." ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: " The number of damns I give about TNR as a going concern at this point equals approximately the number of black voices writing for the magazine, which is to say zero, but YMMV."

... December 4 & 5: Dylan Byers of Politico: "Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, the top two editors at The New Republic, quit on Thursday amid a shakeup that will relocate the Washington-based magazine to New York City, sources there told Politico on Thursday. Gabriel Snyder, a Bloomberg Media editor who previously served at The Atlantic Wire, has been tapped to replace Foer as editor. The magazine will also reduce its print schedule to 10 issues a year, down from 20." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "More than two dozen members of the staff of The New Republic, including several contributing editors, resigned on Friday morning, angered by an abrupt change of editors and what they saw as a series of management missteps. The resignations include the senior editors Alec MacGillis, Julia Ioffe and Isaac Chotiner, and the contributing editors Sean Wilentz and William Deresiewicz, according to several staff members who are leaving. A list compiling the names of those resigning was obtained by The New York Times." ...

     ... AND more from Jessica Roy of New York. ...

... Jonathan Chait: The New Republic has lost its way. ...

... Ezra Klein: "It's a bit early, I think, to write The New Republic's eulogy. Gabriel Snyder, the magazine's new editor, is a smart and web-savvy guy." ...

... Leah Finnegan of Gawker: "Indeed, an entire magazine is now doomed to fail because a white man has been fired and — gasp — an internet-savvy white man has been brought in to replace him! In TNR's 100-year history, I never would have imagined such a triage of injustice. It's clear that the new leadership of the magazine—with all their greasy Facebook money—is dead set on ruining a (historically racist) publication no one ever read in the first place, and was on the slow road to Irrelevance City. What will Chris Hughes do next? Perhaps the publication might even become interesting. Scream!"

Charles Pierce is completely taken with Ed Snowden. He's brave, credible & intelligent, blah-blah, & the film "Citizenfour" is bee-youtiful. For an antidote to starry-eyed Charles, see this review by Fred Kaplan of Slate.

This is quite cool:

 

Washington Post: "Scientists are 99.999 percent sure, in their most conservative estimate, that remains found in 2012 really do belong to King Richard III. These results, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, put a 529-year-old cold case to rest -- all thanks to some intense genetic detective work." CW: Let's hope one of the expert detectives wasn't Shaun Parcells. You may weigh in, Dr. Schwalb. ...

Welcome to Gramercy Park! -- "one of the most forbidden places in Manhattan." New York Times: Woody Allen couldn't get in to film, Robert De Niro couldn't get in, but Shawn Christopher, who was honeymooning in Manhattan, borrowed a key and "took three 360-degree panoramas using Photo Sphere, a Google app, and then uploaded them to the company’s ubiquitous Maps site. He had gotten into the park using another of his favorite technologies, Airbnb, where the room he rented included not only fresh linens and Wi-Fi but also one of the 383 coveted keys to the park. Mr. Christopher was unaware at the time that guests had to be accompanied by key holders on their visits and that commercial photography was prohibited." So take an insider's view of the park.

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Saturday
Dec132014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 14, 2014

Ed O'Keefe & Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "The Senate approved a sweeping $1.1 trillion spending bill Saturday night to fund most of the federal government through the next fiscal year." CW: You might want to read the whole report, as it's mostly about how pissed senators are at Ted Cruz (and Mike Lee). It's a straight report, but amusing nonetheless, especially as it reiterates how the Cruz move played into Democrats' hands & embarrassed Mitch McConnell. ...

... Democratic Senators voting against the CR: Blumenthal, Booker, Boxer, Brown, Cantwell, Franken, Gillibrand, Harkin, Hirono, Klobuchar, Levin, Manchin, Markey, McCaskill, Menendez, Merkley, Reed, Sanders (I), Tester, Warren, Whitehouse & Wyden. ...

... Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "A vast majority of the Senate disagreed with Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) assertion that President Obama's executive order on immigration is unconstitutional.... Only 22 senators voted with Cruz and 74 voted against his point of order." ...

... "Does Not Play Well with Others." Manu Raju, et al., of Politico: "The fiasco has turned many of Cruz's colleagues openly against him, a dynamic that might bolster his cred with the tea party wing of the party if he makes a run for the GOP's presidential nomination in 2016, but could also leave him vulnerable to attacks that he's more troublemaker than leader -- able to shut down the government or stall votes but unable to advance a proactive agenda." ...

... Ramsey Cox: "The Senate spent nine hours on procedural votes that will allow Senate Democrats to confirm 24 more of President Obama's nominations before adjourning for the year. The rare Saturday session was prompted by objections from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) over the government funding bill. 'Because of Sen. Cruz's actions and Republicans' inability to stop him, Democrats will end up confirming more nominees by the end of this Congress than we would have been able to otherwise -- including several key executive branch nominees and up to 12 of President Obama's judicial nominees," said Adam Jentleson, [Harry ]Reid's spokesperson." ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The Senate convened for a rare Saturday session after a bloc of conservative senators upended plans to quickly pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill. But a backstop measure to extend current government funding until Wednesday was approved Saturday afternoon, averting a potential government shutdown that would have started at midnight.... 'I think it is critical for the Senate to have an opportunity to have a clear up or down vote on funding President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty. I am using every tool available to help bring about that vote,' said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.)." ...

... David Espo & Donna Cassata of the AP: "Their power ebbing, Senate Democrats launched a last-minute drive Saturday to confirm roughly 20 of President Barack Obama's nominees, and several Republicans blamed tea party-backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for creating an opening for the outgoing majority party to exploit." ...

... Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "The secret negotiations that led to one of the most significant expansions of campaign contributions in recent years began with what Republican leaders regarded as an urgent problem: How would they pay for their presidential nominating convention in Cleveland in two years? The talks ended with a bipartisan agreement between Senate Democrats, led by the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and House Republicans, led by Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, that would allow wealthy donors to begin giving more than $1 million every election cycle to each party's national committees. The agreement drew intense criticism from both liberal Democrats and Tea Party-aligned Republicans.... It is now headed for likely passage as a rider in a $1.1 trillion spending bill loaded with provisions sought by banks, food industry lobbyists and other special interests. It continued to draw fierce attacks as lawmakers prepared to vote on a final spending bill, even as Democratic leaders privately defended the addition as a necessary compromise to forestall more aggressive efforts by Republicans next year to whittle away at other campaign funding restrictions."

Darryl Fears of the Washington Post: "Thousands of demonstrators streamed down Pennsylvania Avenue on Saturday, shouting 'Black lives matter,' 'Hands up, don't shoot' and 'I can&'t breathe' to call attention to the recent deaths of unarmed African American men at the hands of police. The peaceful civil rights march led by families of the slain and organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network drew a wide range of Americans -- black, white, Latino, Asian, young and elderly." ...

... Jennifer Steinhauer & Elena Schneider of the New York Times: "Thousands of people marched along the National Mall on Saturday to protest the deaths [of black men & youths by white policemen], mirroring protests planned around the nation Saturday, ranging from hikes in canyons in the West to marches down the streets of the nation's urban centers.... Around the nation, from California to Kentucky to Manhattan, activists came together on Saturday for a National Day of Resistance. In New York, protesters gathered at Washington Square Park and walked north on Fifth Avenue while chanting, 'Hands up, don't shoot,' and 'Justice now.'" ...

... AP: "Three cardboard cutouts of black men were found hanging by nooses on Saturday on the Berkeley campus of the University of California. A school spokeswoman, Amy Hamaoui, said ... the effigies appeared to be connected to a noontime demonstration nearby planned to coincide with a national protest against police brutality dubbed '#blacklivesmatters'. The effigies appeared to be life-size photos of lynching victims. The effigies had names of lynching victims and the dates of their death." ...

"An undercover police officer, who had been marching with anti-police demonstrators, aims his gun at protesters after some in the crowd attacked him and his partner." AP photo.

... CW: Can't imagine how protesters guessed the guy with a gun was a cop. ...

... Nikki Woolf & Jessica Glenza of the Guardian: "An undercover California highway patrol officer who infiltrated protests against police violence in Oakland pulled a gun on demonstrators after his and his partner's cover was blown." ...

... Us v. Them. Brendan O'Connor of Gawker: "New York City's largest police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA) is encouraging its members to sign a form letter asking Mayor Bill De Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito not to attend their funerals if they are killed while on active duty."

Scott Shane of the New York Times: "... the Senate report ... represents the fullest public account by any branch of government of the C.I.A.'s secret prison program. It exposes some of the mistakes made in the agency's rush to grab people with possible links to Al Qaeda.... Until 9/11, the United States had officially condemned secret imprisonment as a violation of the basic international standards of human rights. But like the prohibition on torture, it was set aside in the frantic effort to stop another attack. The Senate Democratic staff members ... counted 119 prisoners who had been in C.I.A. custody. Of those, the report found that 26 were either described in the agency's own documents as mistakenly detained, or released and given money, evidence of the same thing. The C.I.A. told the Senate in its formal response that the real number of wrongful detentions was 'far fewer' than 26 but did not offer a number." ...

... Jane Mayer of the New Yorker: "It didn't have to be this way. There have been a number of true 'torture patriots,' many of them at the C.I.A., who Obama and Brennan could have praised while sending a very clear message to the Agency and to the public. They are the officers who blew the whistle on the program internally and externally, some of whom have paid a very high price for their actions.... As David Luban, a professor of law at Georgetown University and the author of 'Torture, Power, and Law,' suggested in the Times, there are many forms of accountability for torture, and one of the most meaningful would be to honor the real torture patriots -- those who tried to stop it. What a better week it would have been if Obama had." ...

... Charles Pierce: "I think it's possible that the barbarians in the White House tortured people in order to produce statements they could use to validate further their bullshit case for their bullshit war. Even I don't want to believe that we were ruled for eight years by that species of monster. If that is the case, however, somewhere at the CIA there's a memo, and somewhere there's somebody in a cubicle that knows where the memo is, and who knows the phone number of a reporter." ...

... Steve M.: "What's revealing about [an exchange between Dick Cheney & Bret Baier of Fox "News"] is that Cheney is asked about brutality and asserts that the only alternative is indulgence. Right-wingers can't imagine any possible middle ground.... In the same way that they believe every liberal or moderate alternative to their economic ideas constitutes hardcore socialism, right-wingers think you can either treat prisoners their way or turn their prisons into spas. If you disagree with them, pampering is what you're advocating, according to the right."

Steve also has a very good post on why Democrats have lost white men. It's about the economy, stupid.

Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "For decades, officials at Bob Jones University told sexual assault victims that they were to blame for their abuse, and to not report it to the police because doing so would damage their families, churches and the university, according to a long-awaited independent report released Thursday. Bob Jones, an evangelical Christian institution in Greenville, S.C., displayed a 'blaming and disparaging' attitude toward abuse victims, according to 56 percent of the 381 current and former students and employees who replied to a confidential survey and said they had knowledge of how the university handled abuse cases."

God News

Kimberly Winston of Relgion News Service finds some swell Christmas cards for the cynical.

"The Christmas Resolution." Scott Kaufman of the Raw Story: "For the third time in four years, Colorado Representative Doug Lamborn (R) introduced a resolution intended to defend Christians against the so-called 'War on Christmas.'" Via Steve Benen.

Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times: "The U.S. Senate passed a defense policy bill Friday that would allow a 43-foot cross to remain atop Mt. Soledad in San Diego, possibly ending a 25-year legal battle. A provision in the $577-billion measure calls for the federal government to sell the land beneath the cross to the Mt. Soledad Memorial Assn., which has pledged to retain the cross as part of a war memorial." Also via Benen.

Josephine McKenna of Religion News Service: "The Roman Catholic Church in Australia acknowledged that 'obligatory celibacy' may have contributed to decades of clerical sexual abuse of children in what may be the first such admission by church officials around the world. A church advisory group called the Truth, Justice and Healing Council made the startling admission Friday (Dec. 12) in a report to the government's Royal Commission, which is examining thousands of cases of abuse in Australia. The 44-page report by the council attacked church culture and the impact of what it called 'obedience and closed environments' in some religious orders and institutions."

Jon Shirek of WXIA-TV Atlanta: "Wednesday night, in a stunning reversal, the Kennesaw[, Georgia,] City Council said they plan to approve the new mosque that they rejected last week.... Council members did not say why they were changing their votes to Yes. But they knew that the city was facing a certain, and expensive, lawsuit by the Muslims claiming that the city was violating their Constitutional rights." Via Benen. ...

... MEANWHILE, in a nearby community, Gideons is intent upon distributing Christian Bibles to children at public schools even though it is aware the practice is illegal. In fact, as Hemant Mehta reports, according to an attorney for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, "The Gideons operate by deliberately avoiding superintendents and school boards. They advise their members to seek permission at the lowest level of authority. Usually, they target teachers and principals."

"Sorry, Fido." No, Pope Francis didn't say dogs would go to heaven. ...

     ... David Gibson of Religion News Service: "When The New York Times went with the story [that Pope Francis told a little boy he would see his dog in heaven], along with input from ethicists and theologians, it became gospel truth.... There's only one problem: none of it ever happened." The Times story is here, now with a lo-o-ong correction.

But Maybe Horses. Danielle Avitable of WJTV, Jackson, Mississippi: "Reverend Edward James of Bertha Chapel Missionary Baptist Church dressed his horse, Charlotte, in a makeshift wedding dress to protest same-sex marriage. 'The horse is to show the ridiculous idea of two men getting married,' says James." CW: If this guy has enough imagination to dress up a horse, why can't he imagine that "two men" would want to marry for the same reasons a man & a woman do?

News Lede

Guardian: "International negotiators at the Lima climate change talks have agreed on a plan to fight global warming that would for the first time commit all countries to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions. The plan, agreed at United Nations talks on Sunday, was hailed as an important first step towards a climate change deal due to be finalised in Paris next year."

Saturday
Dec132014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 13, 2014

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Sen. Ted Cruz [RTP-Texas] ... has blown up the Senate leadership's plans to have a peaceful weekend by forcing round-the-clock votes on President Obama's nominees and the $1.1 trillion omnibus.... Because of objections from Cruz and his ally Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the Senate will begin slogging through procedural votes on nominees starting at noon Saturday and vote to end a filibuster of the omnibus spending package at 1 a.m. Sunday morning." ...

... Ashley Parker & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Senate on Friday struggled to pass a $1.1 trillion spending package notable for its expansive spending on military and disease fighting abroad, as well as its scaling back of financial and environmental regulations at home. In a late-night twist that is emblematic of the dysfunction plaguing the 113th Congress, partisan maneuvering in the Senate disrupted what leaders on both sides had expected to be a relatively smooth path toward final passage.... Lawmakers plan to reconvene on Saturday and work through the weekend if necessary." ...

... Dave Clarke, et al., of Politico: "Wall Street's success in using the year-end spending bill to weaken a provision of the 2010 financial reform law shows how it plans to wield its clout in the months ahead -- slowly and methodically, piece by piece, leveraging the legislative process. But the sudden uprising by liberals led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also showed that Wall Street's toxic reputation will continue to dog its efforts in Congress.... 'This is an absolute outrage,' former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the law's namesake, said of the deal. 'This is a road map for stealth unwinding of financial reform.'" ...

... Brian Beutler summarizes what "we learned from the raucous debate over the omnibus. Elizabeth Warren is a bigger powerhouse than we thought.... Democrats are divided tactically ... [and] substantively.... Republicans mostly agree ... that they shouldn't shut the government down again.... Obama's priorities are clearer.... Democrats will thus have a hard time playing populist." ...

... Gail Collins offers up an "opinion primer" so you can speak intelligently about the CRomnibus at holiday gatherings. ...

... CW: Collins doesn't mention the "pension reform" in the CRomnibus. As KPCC (NPR) reports, "If you're one of the million or so Americans who work for supermarkets, drive trucks, or build homes, your pension could shrink. Some private pensions are in trouble - they're underfunded and not enough new workers are contributing to the pool. The federal agency that bails out pension funds is also running out of money. A deal that allows these pensions to cut pensions for already retired workers was crafted by retiring Northern California Congressman George Miller, the top Democrat on the Education and Workforce Committee. Critics say it opens the door to slashing pensions in other industries as well." Roll Call: "A statement from Teamsters President Jim Hoffa ... said [pension changes in the bill] would result 'in an untold number of retirees losing a substantial percentage of their fixed income should reductions be required.'" ...

... OR This. Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "Democrats who voted for the giant spending bill on Thursday night received, on average, twice the campaign contributions from the finance/insurance/real estate industry as their colleagues who voted against it." CW: If you think this is a coincidence, I have some swell derivatives I'll sell you. ...

... For a comprehensive review of the bad policies crammed into the CRomnibus, I'd go with David Dayen's summary for the Fiscal Times. His conclusion: "The precedent for making changes on signature issues by tucking rollbacks into must-pass legislation has been set, without much presidential objection, or indeed, with the White House's active cooperation. 'It shows that conservatives can use must-pass legislation to repeal the regulatory state,' said one GOP aide this week. And while big theatrical fights may get waged over single provisions, dozens of others can get pushed through under cover of darkness. In other words, elections have consequences." Dayen also notes that "Obama marginalized the Democratic party" & that almost all of the "policy riders ... benefiting one donor or another [which], offers a window into how Washington will operate in 2015 and beyond." ...

... AND this, from Dylan Scott of TPM: "The CRomnibus ... prohibits the Health and Human Services Department from transferring funds from other sources to fund the [risk corridor] program. The practical impact, one policy expert told TPM, is that HHS can therefore only use money brought into the program to make payouts, effectively making it revenue neutral.... Any negative effects on insurance companies -- and then, by extension, Obamacare -- are a policy win for Republicans, who have derided risk corridors as a taxpayer-funded bailouts." Thanks to Victoria D. for the link. ...

     ... CW: I don't think this is a very big deal. The risk-corridor program was designed to be self-sustaining, except perhaps in the first year or two of the program, when, with no experience history, there was a "risk" that it would have to get a public assist. If it isn't paying for itself in future years, HHS should be able to tweak the numbers to make it revenue-neutral anyway.

** Ali Soufan in the Guardian: "The Senate report exposed an orchestrated campaign of deception and lies while I was an FBI agent. But here's the worst part: the lies haven't stopped.... One of the hardest things we struggled to make sense of, back then, was why US officials were authorizing harsh techniques when our interrogations were working and their harsh techniques weren't. The answer, as the long-awaited Senate Intelligence Committee report now makes clear, is that the architects of the program were taking credit for [the FBI's] success [in using normal interrogation techniques to gain useful intelligence]." ...

... Steven Reisner in Slate: According to "recent revelations in James Risen's new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War..., it appears that senior staff members of the American Psychological Association ... colluded with national security psychologists from the CIA, the Pentagon, and the White House to adapt APA ethics policy to suit the needs of the psychologist-interrogators. Now, the APA, under enormous pressure because of the allegations reported by Risen, has agreed to an independent investigation to be conducted by David Hoffman, a former inspector general and federal prosecutor.... Other major national organizations of physicians, psychiatrists, and nurses all determined that their ethical obligations prohibited their members from participating in these interrogations." ...

... "I Am Not a Doctor." Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "Former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden on Thursday defended revelations from Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats that the agency used rectal rehydration on detainees. 'These were medical procedures,' Hayden said during a tense interview on CNN's 'The Lead with Jake Tapper.' He added that the method was used because detainees were dehydrated, and that giving them intravenous fluids with needles would be dangerous. 'I'm not a doctor,' he said. 'What I am told is that this is one of the ways that the body is rehydrated.'" The interview is here. Tapper was astounded: "You're really defending rectal dehydration?" ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "For the record, Physicians for Human Rights says that using the procedure 'without evidence of medical necessity' is in fact 'torture.' And, for the record, they are doctors." ...

Contrary to the CIA's assertions, there is no clinical indication to use rectal rehydration and feeding over oral or intravenous administration of fluids and nutrients. This is a form of sexual assault masquerading as medical treatment. -- Dr. Vincent Iacopino of Physicians for Human Rights

... CW: Both Tapper & Hayden make a big deal of the fact that the Senate staff did not talk to CIA witnesses. On that point, Daphne Eviatar of the Huffington Post: "One of the biggest criticisms of the Senate report is that it didn't interview witnesses, but the Senate committee has explained that was because many would not have been able to speak about their role while under investigation by the Justice Department." ...

... AND Nino Weighs In: Torture Is Totally Constitutional! AP: In an interview with Radio Television Suisse, conducted Wednesday after the Senate report was released, & aired Friday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said "nothing in the Constitution appears to prohibit harsh treatment of suspected terrorists." CW: Scalia uses the right's "ticking timebomb" defense of torture, which intelligent people know is an absurdist argument. Funny he didn't say anything about torture's being immoral & a violation of our international treaties (at least as reported by the AP). Worth bearing in mind: this brilliant jurist (and moral cipher) also says that the Court is okay with putting an innocent person to death. So naturally, torture is cool. ...

     ... As Paul Waldman notes, "So: torture? No problem. A mandate to buy health insurance? A horrifying affront to liberty."

Bob's Bad Day. Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "The federal agency that will play a pivotal role in guiding the sentence of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell has recommended that the onetime Republican rising star spend at least 10 years and a month in prison, according to several people familiar with the matter. The guidelines recommended by the U.S. probation office are preliminary, and even if finalized, U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer is not required to follow them. But experts said that Spencer typically heeds the probation office's advice, and judges in his district have imposed sentences within the recommendations more than 70 percent of the time in recent years."

Pete Williams of NBC News: "Attorney General Eric Holder has decided against forcing a reporter for the New York Times to reveal the identity of a confidential source, according to a senior Justice Department official. The reporter, James Risen, has been battling for years to stop prosecutors from forcing him to name his source for a book that revealed a CIA effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear weapons program.... But now, according to the Justice Department official, Holder has directed that Risen must not be required to reveal "information about the identity of his source.... The federal judge overseeing the case, Leonie Brinkema of Alexandria, Virginia, gave the government until next Tuesday to declare how much [Risen] would be required to reveal in court."

Here's Jeff Johnson's full interview of President Obama (video & transcript). David Hudson of the White House provides a transcript of excerpts regarding race relations.

Here's Colbert's interview of President Obama. Part 2 is here. A brief extended portion is here:

Danny Vinik of the New Republic on Elizabeth Warren's big week. He holds out hope she will decide to run for president.

Issa's Last Stand. Natalie Villacorta of Politico: "House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has subpoenaed MIT economist Jonathan Gruber for all documents related to his government work on the Affordable Care Act. At a committee hearing this week, which was prompted in part by his controversial comments about the passage of the ACA, Gruber refused to provide details about how much he was paid by federal and state governments for his consulting services on the health care law." CW: Issa's chairmanship of the Oversight Committee ends with this Congressional session. ...

... Barbara Morrill of Daily Kos explains why: "Saddened that his recent hearing into the Kenyan plot to destroy America by providing health care to millions was largely overlooked because of a pesky report about torture, or maybe because this is his last chance to put on a show, Republican jackass Darrell Issa is at it again." ...

... OR, as Dave Weigel of Bloomberg Politics, reports, Issa's motivation is more sinister: "It's one final pearl dive, albeit one that incoming Chairman and Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz will happily strap on the SCUBA gear for. The goal, as before, is to find Gruber gabbing about something that could bolster the legislative arguments for states to undo the ACA, and bolster the legal arguments for the Supreme Court to rule against the government and argue that state exchanges were never meant to have subsidies."

Darryl Fears of the Washington Post: "With the families of slain black men and children walking with him, the Rev. Al Sharpton will guide a traditional civil rights march from downtown Washington to the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, but it won't be the weekend's only demonstration. In other parts of the nation, a number of younger activists say they will gather in areas as part of a broad National Day of Resistance to protest recent grand jury decisions to not indict officers in the deaths of Eric Garner of Staten Island and Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo." ...

... Abby Ohlheiser of the Washington Post: "Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer last month, died from a 'gunshot wound of torso with injuries of major vessel, intestines and pelvis,' according to an autopsy released on Friday. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's report ruled Rice's the death a homicide." ...

... Mary Kilpatrick of Northeast Ohio Media Group: "Tamir's mother, Samaria Rice, is expected to join the Rev. Al Sharpton and the families of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin Saturday in Washington D.C. to lead a march against police brutality and excessive force."

In yesterday's commentary thread, Akhilleus pointed to a piece that's a good demonstration of all that's wrong about the right. Eric Hananoki of Media Matters: "Allen West heavily plagiarized from a viral Internet story in a piece attacking the Obama administration for purportedly ignoring the deaths of law enforcement officers. West lifted at least six paragraphs (including typos) from the story, which was previously posted on sites like Yahoo! Answers, Free Republic, Facebook, and the comments section of various websites." The fabulous coda: "West concluded the column by claiming, "I write this missive because I despise hypocrisy." He previously decried plagiarism by Sen. John Walsh (D-MT) in an October 14 post." ...

... Hananoki has updated his piece, & this too is hilarious: "The following sentence has been added to the piece, just before the series of paragraphs Media Matters highlighted as originating with the viral story: 'Then I came across a widely circulated email and viral internet post about a number of stories that seem to have dropped off the radar of the mainstream media, and conveniently ignored by the Department of Justice.' That sentence replaces one from the original version in which West had credited the research in the article to himself, writing: 'I decided to do a little checking and scouring for some information. And it didn't take long to find proof of hypocrisy that reaches the highest levels -- the White House.' The post now includes italicized paragraphs where West had previously committed mass plagiarism. He has also fixed the three plagiarized typos that were originally identified by Media Matters. There is no indication in the post that it has been changed." A staff member fell on her sword for West, claiming she "inadvertently failed to transcribe the quotation marks. As Hananoki notes, her "explanation doesn't pass the smell test." ...

... CW: Not only is the entire post based on a lie (see Hananoki's piece), right-wing "ideas" are so crass & strident & fact-free they lack any originality past making up shit. West, a one-term Congressman, is now head of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), (Oxymoron Alert!) a conservative think tank, which described him as a "visionary leader." His "vision," alas, is entirely plagiarized. There is no vision on the right, unless dystopia passes for vision these days.

Thursday
Dec112014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 12, 2014

New York Times Editors: "When the long-lost grail of bipartisan compromise finally re-emerged on Capitol Hill this week, the spending bill for 2015 turned out to be weighted with some of the most devious and damaging provisions imaginable for good government. Written in secrecy, presented as the take-it-or-leave-it alternative to a government shutdown, the bill, which narrowly passed the House Thursday night, includes two regressive 'riders' aimed at warming the big-money hearts of donors who leave Congress increasingly vulnerable to special-interest corruption." ...

... Rebecca Shabad, et al., of the Hill report on some of the arm-twisting that got the bill passed: "The bill's passage, as a result, was a remarkable victory for both Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Obama, who were able to cobble together the votes for passage." CW: So Boehner & Obama were "victorious" over the citizenry. Congratulations, fellas. And you wonder why the public holds these guys in low regard. ...

... Greg Sargent is fairly sanguine about the deal. ...

... Charles Pierce, not so much. ...

... Thursday @ 9:05 pm ET: MSNBC is reporting the House will vote "shorty" on the appropriations bill to fund the government. ...

     ... Update: @ 9:50 pm ET, the spending bill passed the House 219-206, with 57 Democrats voting for it. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Hang tight for another Orange Man crisis." ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Just hours before a possible government shutdown, House leaders were struggling to shore up support for a sweeping bill to fund most of the federal government, change campaign finance laws and make it harder for the District of Columbia to legalize marijuana. The White House said President Obama supports the bill and would sign it, but also criticized lawmakers for using the 1,603-page bill to tweak financial regulations and campaign donation limits.... In a notable public break with the White House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) used a floor speech to blast Obama and Republicans for backing the bill." ...

     ... Update. New Lede: "A sweeping bill to fund most of the federal government for the next year, change campaign finance laws and make it harder for the District of Columbia to legalize marijuana passed the House on Thursday even as Congress plans to give itself more time to avert a government shutdown and complete unfinished business."

... Emma Dumain & Matt Fuller of Roll Call: "Unsure whether they have the votes to pass a trillion-dollar federal spending package, House GOP leaders on Thursday afternoon delayed a final vote on the 'cromnibus.' They did so with mere hours to go until the government is set to run out of funding, and just before the House was scheduled to vote." ...

... Mike Lillis of the Hill: "With just hours to go before a scheduled government shutdown, the Democrats launched a lobbying blitz to counter calls made by Obama and other White House officials urging passage of the bill. Leading the charge was Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, who is up in arms over the face that Obama has agreed to accept a GOP rider to undo parts of the 2010 Wall Street reform law as part of the package. 'We don't like lobbying that is being done by the president or anybody else that would allow us to support a bill that ... would give a big gift to Wall Street and the bankers who caused this country to almost go into a depression,' she said. 'So I'm opposed to it and we're going to fight it.'" ...

... Peter Schroeder & Kevin Cirilli of the Hill: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday sought to rally opposition to the $1.1 trillion government funding bill, spearheading a revolt on the left that has put her influence in the Democratic Party to the test. The Massachusetts liberal pleaded for House Democrats to withhold support for a government funding package due to a provision she said would change the Dodd-Frank financial reform law to let 'Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money.'"

Mark Mazzetti & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "John O. Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, defended the agency's use of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation tactics on Thursday, sidestepping questions about whether agency operatives tortured anyone. Mr. Brennan, responding to an excoriating Senate report detailing years of brutal interrogation tactics in secret C.I.A. prisons, criticized only those officers who he said went 'outside the bounds' of the guidelines established by the Justice Department. Those guidelines allowed for waterboarding, a week of sleep deprivation, shackling prisoners in painful positions, dousing them with water, and locking them in coffin-like boxes." CW: So the Democrats' very own Dick Cheney. ...

... Rosa Brooks of Foreign Policy: "Writing in the Wall Street Journal, former CIA Directors George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Michael Hayden and three former CIA deputy directors insist that all that waterboarding and rectal feeding wasn't pointless: 'It led to the capture of senior al Qaeda operatives ... [and] the disruption of terrorist attacks ... [and] added enormously to what we knew about al Qaeda as an organization.' Besides, they say, the SSCI report leaves out the all-important 'context' -- which is that everything the ACLU insists on calling 'torture' happened way back when things were really scary.... [But] in real life you don't get actual ticking bomb scenarios, with their certainty, simplicity, and urgency. In real life, you get ambiguity and uncertainty.... The insistence that 'torture works' just leads to more slippery slopes.... Once we start justifying immoral actions based on their utilitarian outcomes, there's no principled place to stop." ...

... Kimberly Dozier of the Daily Beast: "A top CIA official in charge of the agency's interrogation program claimed he was unaware of some of the most gruesome techniques revealed by the Senate's torture report. Working from CIA documents, the report said detainees were made to stand on broken limbs, or forced to take in food or water rectally. But Jose Rodriguez, head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center at the time, said the newly revealed abuses caught him off-guard, too.... Rodriguez's narrative of those early years of the war on terror appears to be contradicted in part by the Senate report." ...

... Putting Torture "in Context," Ctd. Matt Spetalnick & Bill Trott of Reuters: "One of the two psychologists who devised the CIA's harsh Bush-era interrogation methods said on Wednesday that a scathing U.S. Senate report on the torture of foreign terrorism suspects 'took things out of context' and made false accusations. 'It's a bunch of hooey,' James Mitchell told Reuters from his home in Florida when asked for his response to the Senate Intelligence Committee's findings released on Tuesday. 'Some of the things are just plain not true.'" CW: It sure looks like the torture proponents are all working off the same talking points memo. ...

Digby has an excellent post in Salon on another secret torture report, the "Panetta Review," a taste of which Sen. Mark Udall revealed in his Senate speech (embedded in yesterday's Commentariat). According to Udall, here's the smoking gun: "The Panetta Review found that the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Congress, the president, and the public on the efficacy of its coercive techniques." ...

     ... Driftglass: "If CIA and top White House goons and National Security officials really did conspire to create and execute torture policy while keeping the Commander-in-Chief in the dark for years, then what happened can only be described as the first coup d'etat in American history." ...

... ** Frank Rich: "Whatever credit [President Obama] deserves for shutting down our government's practice of torture is mitigated by his refusal to hold anyone accountable for the crimes committed in our country's name." Read the whole commentary.

... Tim Egan contrasts reactions from Dick Cheney & John McCain to release of the Senate torture report. "As McCain walked off the [Senate] floor, with the cautious gait of a man physically hobbled by his service nearly a half-century ago, Senator [Dianne] Feinstein kissed him on the cheek. It was a way of saying thanks to a war hero whose words, if this country believes what it preaches, will outlast the scowling remarks of a chicken hawk. ...

... Duped! Adam Serwer in BuzzFeed: "Most damningly -- and politically conveniently -- the report somehow manages to combine harrowing details of torture while exonerating nearly every top official whose job it was to prevent it from happening, and place the blame on a powerful political entity that is the most likely to emerge unscathed: the CIA itself."

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Thursday to authorize the military campaign against the Islamic State, a party-line decision that raises difficult questions for Republicans and intensifies a debate over war powers that has split President Obama from many in his own party. The 10-to-8 vote put on display an unusual alliance between some Democrats and some Republicans as well as contemplations about morality, obligation, constitutional prerogatives and the proper balance of power between branches of government."

Rachel Bade of Politico: Republicans are planning multiple attacks on the IRS, gutting appropriations, forbidding it to do its part in administering the ACA, disallowing its regulatory oversight of PACs & cutting taxpayer services as well as audits.

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "The share of prime-age men -- those 25 to 54 years old — who are not working has more than tripled since the late 1960s, to 16 percent. More recently, since the turn of the century, the share of women without paying jobs has been rising, too. The United States, which had one of the highest employment rates among developed nations as recently as 2000, has fallen toward the bottom of the list." ...

... Amanda Cox of the Times looks at what these non-working men are doing,

"Mad as Hellas." Paul Krugman: The latest flare-up in the long-running Greek economic crisis "is what happens when an elite claims the right to rule based on its supposed expertise, its understanding of what must be done -- then demonstrates both that it does not, in fact, know what it is doing, and that it is too ideologically rigid to learn from its mistakes.... There's a real lesson in its political turmoil that's much more important than the false lesson too many took from its special fiscal woes."

Cecilia Kang, et al., of the Washington Post: "The hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment has escalated into a humiliating public crisis for the company as deeply held secrets -- including business practices, pay disparities and ugly personal feuds -- continue spilling onto the Internet in ways that experts say could damage the Hollywood studio for years to come.... The consequences for Sony have been swift and devastating since the attack became public last month, exposing the company to potential lawsuits and backlash from key Hollywood players. The inside drama revealed this week was the unraveling of a high-profile project at Sony to produce a biopic of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs -- the movie was eventually lost to a rival studio." ...

... Michael Cieply & Brooks Barnes of the New York Times: "Salaries of its top executives. Unpublished scripts. Sensitive contracts. Aliases that stars use to check into hotels. Those are just some of the disclosures from a devastating hacking attack on Sony's movie studio last month. But among all of the information that has spilled forth, perhaps nothing has riveted Hollywood more -- and laid bare the machinations at the highest levels of the film industry -- than a humiliating email exchange between Amy Pascal, Sony's co-chairwoman, and the producer Scott Rudin over Angelina Jolie and a planned Steve Jobs biopic.... Mr. Rudin referred to Ms. Jolie as 'a minimally talented spoiled brat' and pressured Ms. Pascal to shelve 'Cleopatra.' .... 'This is not about salacious emails being batted around by Gawker and Defamer,' Mr. Rudin said on Wednesday. 'It's about a criminal act, and the people behind it should be treated as nothing more nor less than criminals.'" ...

... Those Rich, White Liberal Obama Supporters Are Racists, Too. In the latest revelation, Sony Pictures chair Amy Pascal & producer Scott Rudin exchanged e-mails making fun of President Obama's race, stereotyping him as someone who would prefer movies starring & about black men. Matthew Zeitlin of BuzzFeed first reported the e-mail exchange. ...

... Cecilia Kang: "Thursday, Pascal apologized, breaking weeks of silence on the building and damaging leaks." ...

... Mike Fleming of Deadline: "Producer Scott Rudin has issued a public apology for the racially insensitive comments that surfaced last night in an exchange of hacked private e-mails between him and Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Amy Pascal." ...

... If you can about Hollywood backstabbing, Sam Biddle of Gawker has the scoop on some exchanges re: the making of the Steve Jobs biopic.

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "A woman charged with shooting and killing her ex-husband and stepdaughter has strong connections to groups advocating for expanding open carry gun laws in Texas. Local news outlets on Wednesday reported that Veronica Dunnachie was arrested and charged with shooting and killing her ex-husband and step daughter." ...

... Adam Weinsten of Gawker has more.

Top model Beverly Johnson, in a Vanity Fair essay, recounts how Bill Cosby lured her to his home & drugged her in the 1980s. Johnson has not previously revealed this incident publicly.

CW: I haven't followed this because it's a stupid story, but in case you were wondering if Harvard professors are pricks, well, yeah. Clint Rainey of New York: "Harvard-educated Harvard professor Ben Edelman has now apologized for threatening legal action against Sichuan Garden for overcharging him $4, and now Boston.com, where four of the top five stories right now involve the academic, breaks the news to readers that he may have done something similar in 2010." Make that serial pricks. Here's the Boston Globe's latest, by Hillary Sargent.

Presidential Election

Joshua Green & Miles Weiss of Bloomberg Politics: "Jeb Bush has a Mitt Romney problem.... Bush's recent business ventures reveal that he shares a number of liabilities with the last nominee, Mitt Romney, whose career in private equity proved so politically damaging that it sunk his candidacy.... BH Global Aviation is one of at least three such funds Bush has launched in less than two years through his Coral Gables, Fla., company, Britton Hill Holdings. He's also chairman of a $26 million fund, BH Logistics, established in April with backing from a Chinese conglomerate, and a $40 million fund involved in shale oil exploration, according to documents filed in June.... 'Running as the second coming of Mitt Romney is not a credential that's going to play anywhere, with Republicans or Democrats,' says John Brabender, a Republican consultant and veteran of presidential campaigns. 'Not only would this be problematic on the campaign trail, I think it also signals someone who isn't seriously looking at the presidency or he wouldn't have gone down this path.'" ...

... Ed Kilgore thinks Jeb's "Mitt problem" makes Mitt look better to GOP fatcats: "f you're going to run a candidate who is perceived as 'the second coming of Mitt Romney,' why not go with the original." ...

... Ben White & Maggie Haberman of Politico: "While some people close to Romney insist he hasn’t moved from saying he has no plans to run, the 2012 Republican nominee has sounded at least open to the idea in recent conversations, according to more than a dozen people who've spoken with him in the last month. In his private musings, Romney has sounded less than upbeat about most of the potential candidates in the 2016 Republican field, according to the people who've spoken with him....

CW: Aw, c'mon, Mitt. There's this guy:

Running for the presidency's not an IQ test. -- Rick Perry, the GOP's dumb candidate, touting his bona fides.

Perry, dumb as he is, seems to be aware that a dumb Texas governor can become president. -- Constant Weader

Running a close second in the contest for dumbest GOP presidential candidate is Scott Walker, who wrote to a Jewish constituent, "Thank you for you letter regarding the Menorah Display. Yes we would be happy to display the Menorah celebrating 'The Eight Days of Chanukah' here at the Courthouse.... Thank you again and Molotov." ...

... As for Perry, he's totally cool with "the Jews":

News Lede

Guardian: "Attempts by opposition parties in Germany to bring Edward Snowden to Berlin to give evidence about the NSA's operations have been thwarted by the country's highest court. The Green and Left parties wanted the whistleblower to give evidence in person to a parliamentary committee investigating espionage by the US agency, but Germany's constitutional court ruled against them on Friday." ...

... CW: Forget Ed Snowden. The lede is an excellent example of why every newspaper should ban use of the passive voice. Using it twice in one lede is extraordinary.

Wednesday
Dec102014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 11, 2014

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Even as [President] Obama repeated his belief that the techniques constituted torture and betrayed American values, he declined to address the fundamental question raised by the report, which the committee released on Tuesday: Did they produce meaningful intelligence to stop terrorist attacks, or did the C.I.A. mislead the White House and the public about their effectiveness? That debate, after all, has left Mr. Obama facing an uncomfortable choice between two allies: the close adviser and former aide he installed as director of the C.I.A. versus his fellow Democrats who control the Senate committee and the liberal base that backs their findings." ...

... Matt Apuzzo & Jim Risen of the New York Times: "Initially, agency officials considered a path very different from the one they ultimately followed, according to the newly released Senate Intelligence Committee report.... They envisioned a system in which detainees would be offered the same rights and protections as inmates held in federal or American military prisons. Conditions at these new overseas prisons would be comparable to those at maximum-security facilities in the United States. Interrogations were to be conducted in accordance with the United States Army Field Manual, which prohibits coerced, painful questioning. Everything at the prisons would 'be tailored to meet the requirements of U.S. law and the federal rules of criminal procedure,' C.I.A. lawyers wrote in November 2001." Read the whole report. ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The Obama administration has urged a court to reject a request to disclose thousands of pages of documents from a Justice Department investigation into the torture of detainees by the Central Intelligence Agency, including summaries of interviews with about 100 witnesses and documents explaining why in the end no charges were filed. The administration made the filing late Tuesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by The New York Times, hours after the Senate Intelligence Committee made public a 524-page executive summary of its own investigation into C.I.A. torture...." ...

... John Heilprin of the AP: "All senior U.S. officials and CIA agents who authorized and carried out torture like waterboarding as part of former President George W. Bush's national security policy must be prosecuted, top U.N. human rights officials said Wednesday.The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, said it is 'crystal clear' under international law that the United States, which ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 1994, now has an obligation to ensure accountability." ...

... Mark Udall Makes Good on His Threat. Lauren Fox & Dustin Volz of the National Journal: "In a career-defining speech, Sen. Mark Udall took to the Senate floor Wednesday to discuss a largely classified internal CIA investigation into the agency's Bush-era 'enhanced interrogation techniques,' and to call for the current CIA director's resignation. Udall, an outbound Democrat from Colorado, began highlighting key conclusions from the CIA's so-called Panetta Review, written in 2011 and named after then-agency Director Leon Panetta. Its critical findings, in addition to the agency's attempts to prevent the Senate from seeing it, Udall said, demonstrates that the CIA is still lying about the scope of enhanced-interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration." ...

... Richard Norton-Taylor & Ian Cobain of the Guardian: "MPs and human rights groups have demanded a judge-led inquiry into Britain’s involvement in CIA abductions of terror suspects, following the devastating US Senate intelligence committee's report. Under pressure from Britain and other allies, their role in the CIA renditions were redacted from the report." ...

... What Did the President Know & When Did He Know it? Fred Kaplan of Slate examines the question, concluding -- contra some implications in the Senate report -- that George W. Bush knew & approved the broad outlines of the torture program early on, but made an effort to retain "plausible deniability" as to the specifics. CW: And, hey, it looks as if the Most Heartless Man in America backs up Kaplan: "Contrary to the report's conclusion that Bush didn't know the extent of the CIA's efforts, [in a Fox "News" interview] Cheney said the President was involved in discussions about the interrogation techniques, and that Bush even pointed out some of those conversations in a book he wrote after leaving office." Cheney added, "I think we were perfectly justified in doing it. And I'd do it again in a minute." Notice he doesn't say "in a heartbeat." Because he doesn't have a heart. ...

... Peter Sullivan of the Hill has more: "The report says that Bush did not know the details of the techniques until 2006, years after they began, and that he 'expressed discomfort' when he learned of an incident involving a detainee chained to a ceiling and wearing a diaper. 'I think he knew certainly the techniques, we did discuss the techniques, there was no effort on our part to keep him from that,' Cheney said on Fox News. 'That the president wasn't being told is just a flat out lie.'" CW: Dick Cheney wants you to know that the buck didn't stop with him. "No effort on our part"? Who is this "we"? Cheney is acknowledging/boasting that he & unspecified others ran the whole 9/11 response -- including the torture program -- but they would occasionally report to the President on what-all they were up to & allow him to nod his approval. Now the bastards are not going to let the "Decider" off the hook. ...

... Gail Collins on James Mitchell & Bruce Jessen, the psychologists/contractors to whom the CIA outsourced our immoral, useless torture program, to the tune of $81MM, & counting. ...

... Benedict Carey of the New York Times has much more on Mitchell & Jessen's role. "'My impression is that they misread the theory,' said Dr. Charles A. Morgan III, a psychiatrist at the University of New Haven who met Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Jessen.... 'They're not really scientists.'"...

The report's full of crap. -- Dick Cheney ...

... Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "In his aggressive efforts to salvage his reputation in the wake of a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's use of torture, former director Michael Hayden has offered a number of defenses for the agency's conduct.... 'I mean what are they doing — trying to score my public speeches? What's that about?' he said in an interview with Politico magazine. 'You want me to go out and score [Sen.] Ron Wyden's [D-Oregon] speeches?' ... Wyden's former top spokeswoman, Jennifer Hoelzer, emailed over the following:'1. That's really fucking offensive given that all of Ron's statements are directed towards informing the American people and exposing the [intelligence community's] attempts to mislead, while Hayden's all about the lying/misleading. 2 - While I'm no longer Ron's official spokesperson, I think I speak for everyone on team Wyden, when I say 'Go the fuck ahead.'" ...

I don't believe these are torture at all.... We're not talking about anyone being burned or stabbed or cut or anything like that. We're talking about people being made to stand in awkward in positions, have water put into their nose and into their mouth. Nobody suffered any lasting injuries from this.... -- Rep. Peter King (R-NY), former IRA bagman, explaining "enhanced interrogation" ...

Okay, Petey, let's test that. We'll let the CIA stand you "in an awkward position," the way they do, preferably with one of their professional rectal-feeding implements up your ass. -- Constant Weader

... James Downie of the Washington Post: "... if the program was successful, then why hide it and lie about it? The CIA repeatedly 'impeded' oversight from Congress, the White House and even the agency's own inspector general." ...

The Feinstein report ... risks undermining the ability of our intelligence agencies to protect the nation at a time when threats abroad are rising, not falling. -- John Yoo, author of the torture memoranda, in a New York Daily News op-ed ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Bob Kerrey hasn't read the Senate Intelligence Committee's summary of the 'Torture Report.' But he's taken to the op-ed page of USAToday to condemn it. Why? '... The Republicans checked out early when they determined that their counterparts started out with the premise that the CIA was guilty and then worked to prove it.... This committee departed from that high road and slipped into the same partisan mode that marks most of what happens on Capitol Hill these days.' When Republicans 'check out' of a bipartisan process because they cannot control it, it is by definition the fault of the Democrats for not finding a way to prevent it."

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post on the "CRomnibus" bill. "So, what's in the bill? We've sifted through the legislation, consulted supporting documents from Democratic and Republican aides, and called out some of the more notable and controversial elements below. (If you want to review detailed reports on all 12 parts of the spending bill, click here.) Please note: This is a fluid report that will be updated to add more detail or correct errors." ...

... Good News for Oligarchs. Ashley Parker & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The $1.1 trillion spending agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators on Tuesday night would vastly expand the amount of money that donors can give political parties, bolstering party leaders' ability to tap into the wallets of their largest contributors and reclaiming some clout from the outside groups that can accept unlimited dollars.Depending on how the new law is interpreted by election officials, the provision could expand the amount that any one person can give to national party committees to more than $777,000 each year from what is now a maximum of $97,200.... Neither party's leaders in Congress would claim responsibility for inserting the new provision, which was tucked into the final pages of the more than 1,600-page spending bill on Tuesday evening." ...

     ... Matea Gold & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "A massive expansion of party fundraising slipped into a congressional budget deal this week would fundamentally alter how money flows into political campaigns, providing parties with new muscle to try to wrest power back from independent groups. The provision -- one of the most significant changes to the campaign finance system since the landmark McCain-Feingold measure -- was written behind closed doors with no public debate." ...

... Screw You, Working People. Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post: "A measure that would for the first time allow the benefits of current retirees to be severely cut is set to be attached to a massive spending bill, part of an effort to save some of the nation's most distressed pension plans. The rule would alter 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers, many of them part of a shrinking corps of middle-income employees in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets." ...

Jake Sherman & John Bresnahan of Politico: "Nancy Pelosi and progressives aren't ready to support a carefully crafted government funding compromise, throwing the $1.1 trillion bill into doubt one day before a potential shutdown. In question are a provision that would weaken Wall Street regulation and a measure that would loosen campaign finance laws."

... Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Democrats in the House to use their leverage and reject a bipartisan spending bill to keep the government open until a measure tucked inside rolling back a piece of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law is removed. 'Who does Congress work for?' Warren said in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon. 'Does it work for the millionaires, the billionaires, the giant companies with their armies of lobbyists and lawyers, or does it work for all the people?'" ...

     ... The Washington Post story, by Lori Montgomery & Sean Sullivan, is here. "Meanwhile, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that 'it is certainly possible that the president could sign this piece of legislation,' even though it would undo a pillar of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul by freeing banks to more readily trade the exotic investments known as derivatives. The legislation ranks among the administration's biggest domestic achievements." ...

... Erika Eichelberger of Mother Jones: "Citigroup Wrote the Wall Street Giveaway Congress Just Snuck Into a Must-Pass Spending Bill. The bill, drafted almost entirely by Citigroup, would allow banks to do more high-risk trading with taxpayer-backed money." ...

... Dana Milbank argues that Ted Cruz has lost his ability to create havoc in the House & Senate.

Annals of "Justice," Ctd. Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times: "A federal judge has told the Obama administration to decide by next week whether it intends to force a reporter for The New York Times to testify at the trial of a whistle-blower, bringing to a head the most serious confrontation between the government and the news media in many years. The reporter, James Risen, has been fighting government subpoenas in the case since 2008, but the Justice Department has refused to abandon its effort to force him to discuss his confidential sources. In June, the Supreme Court declined to review the matter, letting stand a federal appeals court ruling that allowed the government to compel his testimony."

Timothy Phelps of the Los Angeles Times: "Opening the door for what could be a lucrative and controversial new industry on some Native American reservations, the Justice Department on Thursday will tell U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands, even in states that ban the practice."

Americans Getting More Gun-Happy. Pew Research Center: "For the first time in more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys, there is more support for gun rights than gun control. Currently, 52% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership. Support for gun rights has edged up from earlier this year...."

CW: Help Me! I think I agree with George Will: "The scandal of mass incarceration is partly produced by the frivolity of the political class, which uses the multiplication of criminal offenses as a form of moral exhibitionism. This, like Eric Garner's death, is a pebble in the mountain of evidence that American government is increasingly characterized by an ugly and sometimes lethal irresponsibility."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Rees Shapiro of the Washington Post: "In their first interviews about the events of that September 2012 night, [Jackie's] three friends separately told The Post that their recollections of the encounter diverge from how Rolling Stone portrayed the incident in a story about Jackie's alleged gang rape at a U-Va. fraternity.... The friends said they were never contacted or interviewed by the pop culture magazine's reporters or editors." ...

... Hanna Rosin of Slate: "The Post story doesn't connect all the dots, but it's not hard to do. Jackie has now given her friends two different names for the man she was with that night. Neither of them was in fact with her, ever dated her, or even knew her all that well. She appears to have invented a suitor, complete with fake text messages and a fake photo, which suggests a capacity for somewhat elaborate deception.... When confronted with what appear to be so many orchestrated lies, it's getting harder to see Jackie as a person whose memory may have been shaken by trauma." CW: Again, I have to ask, WTF was the supposed fact-checker doing? It is beginning to sound as if Jackie fabricated the whole gang-rape story, perhaps to attract a young man who wasn't interested in a romantic relationship with her. Her semester-long depression, then, could have been a result of that failure, not of trauma caused by a grotesque sexual assault.

Oh Lord, no. -- Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), on whether she would run for public office again, after having lost her Senate seat in a run-off election last week ...

... What a Surprise. Anna Palmer & Burgess Everett of Politico: "Mary Landrieu may have lost her Senate seat, but the Louisiana Democrat is a hot commodity on K Street. Several headhunters, veteran lobbyists and consultants said Landrieu's status as a moderate Democrat and senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee make her a top recruit from Capitol Hill."

Nobody Loves You When You're Out. Marin Cogan of New York on Michele Bachmann's lonely good-bye. CW: I'd advise Bachmann to get a dog, but she's got Marcus.

Nicole Egan of People: "Tamara Green, a retired California attorney who says Bill Cosby drugged and groped her in 1969 or 1970, filed a defamation lawsuit against the entertainer Wednesday. In the suit, filed in Springfield, Massachusetts, not far from where Cosby has a home, Green says comments made by Cosby's representatives to The Washington Post and Newsweek this year 'impugned' her reputation and exposed her to 'public contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace.'" Via New York.

Presidential Election

We don't grapple with that here. -- Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas), on how he mitigates income inequality in his state (Texas "ranks fifth or sixth among states on income inequality")

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont & former chair of the Democratic National Committee, in Politico Magazine: "Hillary Clinton is by far the most qualified person in the United States to serve as President. If she runs, I will support her."

Beyond the Beltway

Nathan Bomey & Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press: "With Detroit officially out of bankruptcy, now-former emergency manager Kevyn Orr said it's not the next couple of years he's worried about for the city, or even five years out.... Crediting [Mayor Mike] Duggan's administration as being top-tier, Orr said he worried that, if Detroit does well, starts to turn around and even reflect some of the remarkable recoveries that parts of cities like Miami and New York have seen in recent decades, Detroit leaders and residents won't remember the lessons learned." Via New York.

Dillon Thomas & Zuzanna Sitek of 5 News Fayetteville, Arkansas. "Fayetteville voters have repealed the city's Civil Rights Ordinance following a special election Tuesday.... Those in favor of repeal got 52% of the vote.... The ordinance would have prohibited local businesses and entities from discriminating against employees and customers based on gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and other factors. The Fayetteville City Council passed the ordinance in August...." CW: Fayetteville, BTW, is a university town. One might have hoped the voters would be a little more enlightened.

News Lede

Time: "The [U.S.] Department of Defense said Thursday that it had shuttered the last American detention facility in Afghanistan, bringing to an end a controversial practice of holding prisoners in the country without trial. The U.S. said it no longer had custody of detainees in Afghanistan following the transfer on Wednesday of remaining detainees from Bagram Airfield north of Kabul, which once held hundreds of detainees, Reuters reports."