The Ledes

Sunday, August 30, 2015.

New York Times: "Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and acclaimed author who explored some of the brain’s strangest pathways in best-selling case histories like 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,' using his patients’ disorders as starting points for eloquent meditations on consciousness and the human condition, died Sunday at his home in New York City. He was 82." ...

... Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times: "Dr. Sacks ... was a polymath and an ardent humanist, and whether he was writing about his patients, or his love of chemistry or the power of music, he leapfrogged among disciplines, shedding light on the strange and wonderful interconnectedness of life — the connections between science and art, physiology and psychology, the beauty and economy of the natural world and the magic of the human imagination."

AP: "Los Angeles and the U.S. Olympic Committee have struck a deal that will make the city America's 2024 Olympic bidder pending approval by the city council next week. If the council approves the deal at a meeting Tuesday, the USOC will announce Los Angeles as its candidate, a person familiar with the process told The Associated Press."

AP: "Turkish fighter jets have carried out their first air strikes as part of the US-led coalition against Islamic State in Syria. A Turkish foreign ministry statement said that late on Friday the jets began attacking Isis targets across the border in Syria that were deemed to be threats to Turkey."

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week's address, the President spoke about his upcoming trip to Alaska, during which he will view the effects of climate change firsthand. Alaskans are already living with the impact of climate change, with glaciers melting faster, and temperatures projected to rise between six and twelve degrees by the end of the century":

The Ledes

Saturday, August 29, 2015.

Washington Post: "Thai authorities arrested a foreign man Saturday they said had been holed up in a suburban apartment with bomb-making equipment and stacks of passports, the first possible breakthrough in the deadly bombing at a Bangkok shrine nearly two weeks ago."

New York Times: "An Egyptian judge on Saturday handed down unexpectedly harsh verdicts in the trial of three journalists from the Al Jazeera English news channel, sentencing them to at least three years in prison on charges that human rights advocates have repeatedly dismissed as political in nature. The journalists, Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste, had said they were expecting to be exonerated or sentenced to time already served. Egyptian officials have strongly suggested they were eager to be rid of the case, which had become a source of international embarrassment for the government...."

Washington Post: "Tropical Storm Erika was losing its punch as it drenched Haiti and the Dominican Republic early Saturday, but it left devastation in its path, killing at least 20 people and leaving another 31 missing on the small eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, authorities said."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times [Aug. 20]: "As many as 60,000 American women each year are told they have a very early stage of breast cancer — Stage 0, as it is commonly known — a possible precursor to what could be a deadly tumor. And almost every one of the women has either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, and often a double mastectomy, removing a healthy breast as well. Yet it now appears that treatment may make no difference in their outcomes."

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

White House Live Video
August 28

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

Go to


Maureen Dowd: Trump has got the best of Jeb! & Hillary: "Trump’s 'gusto,' as he likes to call it, has thrown into sharper relief the grinding-it-out, impatient entitlement, the overthinking and overcorrecting of Jeb and Hillary. Both campaign like they are owed, not because of their great national achievements, but because of their byzantine family dynamics."

The Oliver Brief. We do note, however, that the so-called 'Insular Cases,' which established a less-than-complete application of the Constitution in some U.S. territories, has been the subject of extensive judicial, academic, and popular criticism. See, e.g., Juan Torruella, The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid, 77 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 1 (2008); Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories, Youtube (Mar. 8, 2015), -- Footnote, Paeste v. Guam, Ninth Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon

Jordan Golson of Wired: "Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage. The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars — there’s no flying beams of light, no 'pew! pew!' sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down. People keep flying their drones where they shouldn’t.... Luckily, there haven’t been any really bad incidents — that is, no one has been killed by a civilian quadcopter or plane, yet."

"The cream cheese is too damn much." Scott Lemieux and I agree.

Sunday Morning Come-Down. Politico: "Al Sharpton is leaving MSNBC's weekday dayside lineup, and moving to Sunday mornings. Sharpton's last weekday 'PoliticsNation' will be Sept. 4. He moves to Sundays a month later on Oct. 4, according to a memo sent to MSNBC staff by the channel's president Phil Griffin Wednesday evening."

Washington Post: "Stephen Hawking believes he’s solved a huge mystery about black holes."

Washington Post: "The case for canonizing [Sister Blandina Segale,] the 19th century Italian-born nun, whose run-in with Old West outlaw Billy the Kid is the stuff of legend, was presented at a ceremonial 'first inquiry' in Albuquerque on Tuesday. If approved, her name will be sent to the Vatican, where it will head down the long (and somewhat secretive) path toward sainthood."

New York Times: Can't sidewalk scaffolding be attractive? Yes, it can.

Terror in Toledo! ABC News: "A man caught on video the moment a public art installation in Toledo, Ohio -- a giant, 250-pound red ball -- decided to run away and start rolling down streets lined with parked cars. Part of a Toledo Museum of Art exhibit, the RedBall Project had been wedged between Roulet Jewelers and Ice Restaurant in downtown Toledo when a thunderstorm and strong winds this past Wednesday evening knocked the ball loose and caused it to start rolling away, according to Kelly Garrow, the museum's director of communications."

... AP: "America’s two foremost Democratic families, the Obamas and the Clintons, mingled on Saturday[,August 15,] as politics mixed with summer repose on swanky Martha’s Vineyard."

Washington Post: "Offering such perks as 'free' bags and 'free' airline tickets, [some credit] cards are big on promises, but they often fall short on the delivery. And although these financial instruments are legal, experts say they are not always worthwhile."

Kori Schulman of the White House: "Today (August 14), the White House joined Spotify — and our inaugural playlist was hand-picked by none other than President Obama. When asked to pick a few of his favorite songs for the summer, the President got serious. He grabbed a pen and paper and drafted up not one, but two separate summer playlists: One for the daytime, and one for the evening." ...

... CW: If you're subscribed to Spotify, you can play the President's list from the linked story (at "Today".)

Washington Post: "Google, one of the best-known brands on the planet, on Monday[, August 10,] radically restructured itself under the corporate name Alphabet, an almost unprecedented shift that reflects the company’s far-reaching ambitions and the vast Web it helped evolve. The move represents Google’s biggest push yet to ... turn the company into a multifaceted General Electric for the digital age."

Bureaucracies Move in Mysterious Ways. New York Post: "The city [of New York] moved to fire an employee for missing about 18 months of work, even though he had the best excuse of all time — he was dead. Bureaucrats at the Human Resources Administration filed charges against Medicaid-eligibility specialist Geoffrey Toliver accusing him of going AWOL — even though his death by cancer was reported in an online obituary.... 'It is my understanding that . . . his employer was fully aware that he was not able to come back to work,' Toliver’s brother Anthony told The Post. 'It is my understanding that my brother’s family spoke directly to his supervisor during his long hospitalization and informed them of his death.'” ...

... CW: Doesn't surprise me at all. When I lived in Manhattan, my mother sent me a gift which came directly from the catalog company from which she had bought it. My father had died a few years earlier, but my mother was still getting these catalogs in his name. So my father's name, not hers, appeared on the package as the giftor. He had never lived in New York City. He was not the addressee on the package. The package didn't come from New York City. And my father was dead. But never mind all that. A few months after I received the gift, I got a letter at my New York home addressed to my father. It was a notification from the city ordering my father to show up for jury duty. Or else.


Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "For years and years, plenty of websites (Mediaite included) have written about the many times Jon Stewart has 'destroyed,' 'annihilated,' or 'eviscerated' anything from terrorism to race relations to Fox News. Well..., on his penultimate night, Stewart discovered that he didn’t actually do any of that":

Exit Laughing. John Koblin of the New York Times: "Since [Jon] Stewart started hosting 'The Daily Show' 16 years ago, the country’s trust in both the news media and the government has plummeted. Mr. Stewart’s brand of fake news thrived in that vacuum, and turned him into one of the nation’s most bracing cultural, political and media critics. With his over-the-top presentation of the news — his arms swinging wildly, his eyes bulging with outrage, followed by a shake of the head and a knowing smile — Mr. Stewart attracted a generation of viewers ready to embrace an outlier whose exaggerations, in their view, carried more truth than conventional newscasts." ...

...Stewart hasn't done any interviews prior to ending his run on the "Daily Show," but he did sit down with "Daily Show" producers for an "exit interview" on Episode 20 of the "Daily Show Podcast without Jon Stewart." You can listen to it here.

Los Angeles Times: "Donald Sterling filed for divorce Wednesday[, August 5] in Los Angeles Superior Court, almost a year after a contentious legal fight with his wife, Shelly, led to the sale of the Clippers.... However, the court later rejected Wednesday’s filing because it was incomplete, according to a spokeswoman. The matter is expected to be re-filed."

New York Times: "Jason Fine, the editor of Men’s Journal, will take over as the managing editor of Rolling Stone as part of what the magazine’s publisher, Jann S. Wenner, described as a 'shake-up.'”

"Where Are My Pancakes?"

The Word Salad King. If Donald Trump's good friend & possible running mate Sarah Palin is the Word Salad Queen, it stands to reason that the Donald would be the king. Slate challenges you to diagram this "sentence." To help you out, Slate has transcribed the words in the order delivered. Not that the order delivered matters much:

Obama Slept Here

For a mere $22.5MM this Martha's Vinehard house on 10 acres can be yours. The Obamas stayed in the house for 8 days in 2013. The current owner bought the property, which has expansive views of the Atlantic & Chilmark Pond, in 2000 for about $3MM. So, hey, the price is negotiable. Slide show.

The Birth of Franklin. Washington Post: After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Glickman, a white California mother wrote to cartoonist Charles Schultz urging him to introduce a black character to his "Peanuts" cartoon strips. When Schultz demurred, saying he was afraid "it would look like we were patronizing our Negro friends," Glickman got two of her "Negro friends" who backed the idea to write to Schultz. A short time later, Schultz introduced Franklin. Oh, yes, & strips showing Franklin in an integrated! classroom upset Southern editors, according to Glickman.

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Aliens Among Us!

In a field of candidates who collectively hold such radical, xenophobic ideas against immigrant Americans, it is remarkable that so many are themselves the children of aliens.

The parents of these Republican presidential hopefuls come from exotic lands where the majority of people are communists or non-Christians, even from one country where men wear short skirts. Under the Constitution, the President of the United States must be a "natural born citizen." Do these shady birthright citizens qualify? Equally as unsettling: three candidates are married to foreign-born women. Do we really want an alien First Lady rifling through the White House silver & speaking in foreign tongues to world leaders plotting to undermine the American way?

Marco Rubio. Both of his parents were non-citizen immigrants when Marco was born. Despite Marco's claims that his parents were political refugees from Communist Cuba, the Washington Post revealed that the parents were economic opportunists who immigrated to the U.S. in 1956 during the Fulgencio Batista regime. In hopes of moving back to their native land, Marco's parents returned to Cuba several times after Fidel Castro gained power. Rubio's wife Jeanette is the daughter of Colombian immigrants. Prudent "real" Americans should question Marco's obviously shaky allegiance to the U.S. Rubio said this week that he was "open to exploring ways of not allowing people who are coming here deliberately for that purpose to acquire citizenship."

Ted Cruz was born in a socialist foreign country where his parents were working. Ted's mother Eleanor Wilson was born in Delaware to American parents. His father Rafael was Cuban-born & did not become a U.S. citizen until 2005. Meanwhile Teddy retained his foreign citizenship until last year, and then only after the Dallas Morning News outted his foreign allegiance to a nation which long threatened U.S. sovereignty and has harbored tens of thousands of enemies of the U.S. Like many a foreign spy, Ted dissembled when confronted with the facts: he claimed to have no idea he was a Canadian citizen. Ted said this week, "We should end granting automatic birthright citizenship to the children of those who are here illegally. That has been my position from the very first day of my running for the Senate." Notably, he told a different story when he was actually running for the Senate. We one-hundred-percent U.S. citizens should not trust this guy. The U.S. has already fought one Revolution to win independence from the British Empire into which Ted was born & maintained citizenship. The very purpose of the Constitutional requirement that the president be a natural-born citizen was to protect the new nation from a return to British (or other foreign) rule. Would President Ted invite another Canadian invasion? Would we soon find ourselves singing "God Save the Queen"? 

Bobby Jindal is a true "anchor baby." Both his parents came legally from India to the U.S. six months before Bobby's birth in Baton Rouge. Obviously, they sneaked into the U.S. with a fiendish plan to endow their child with birthright citizenship. Curious, isn't it, that they chose a part of the country where a lot of people speak a foreign language? Although prestigious American universities invited Jindal to do his post-graduate work here in the U.S., Jindal chose to attend a foreign university which is a font of radical thought. Jindal's wife Supriya is an immigrant from India. Yet Jindal tweeted this week, “We need to end birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants.”

Rick Santorum. His father Aldo immigrated to the U.S. from Italy when he was a child. According to Rick, his paternal grandfather -- also a U.S. immigrant -- was an acquaintance of Adolf Hitler's. Rick has close relatives in Italy who are communists. Real reds! The question is -- is Santorum a communist plant or a fascist? Santorum wants to end birthright citizenship.

Jeb Bush. Jeb! himself is a blueblood American, but his wife Columba was a Mexican who immigrated to the U.S. when she married Jeb! A known smuggler who lied repeatedly to U.S. Customs officials, Columba represents the criminal element of such concern to Republicans. While Bush calls birthright citizenship a constitutionally protected right,' he said this week that we should find a "targeted way" to "solve abuses, of people coming into the country so their children can become citizens."

Donald Trump. His mother immigrated from Scotland. Although Donald claims to be of Swedish descent on his father's side, his paternal grandfather was Friedrich Drumpf, who immigrated from Germany, not Sweden, first to New York City, then to Seattle & then to the Canadian Klondike & finally, via Germany, back to Queens. Two of Donald Trump's wives are natives of communist countries with ties to Russia & the old Soviet Union. Donald Trump says he would "end birthright citizenship" without bothering to amend the Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States."

OR, maybe we could reject these exclusionary candidates & elect a Democrat who welcomes people from around the world & celebrates their contributions to our culture and our economy.


The Commentariat -- August 22, 2015

White House: "In this week's address, the President spoke to the economic progress that our country has made over the past few years, from over 13 million new jobs over the past five and a half years, to 17 states raising the minimum wage":

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Thad Moore & Drew Harwell of the Washington Post: "The Dow Jones industrial average capped a four-day losing streak by dropping more than 500 points to close at 16,459.75, sinking 10 percent from its May peak and following even steeper market declines in Asia and Europe. The rout will further rattle workers whose 401(k) retirement accounts have taken a troubling hit. Investors have lost billions in recent weeks and are flocking to safety-net Treasury bonds as they wait for the bleeding to stop."

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Joe Nocera of the New York Times: "A previous generation of Americans could count on a social compact; if you stuck loyally by a company, it would stick by you, providing you with a good job and a decent retirement. Long ago, loyalty fell by the wayside, and longtime employees learned that their loyalty meant nothing when companies 'downsized.' Amazon -- and, to be sure, any number of other companies as well -- has taken this idea to its logical extreme: Bring people in, shape them in the Amazon style of confrontation and workaholism, and cast them aside when they have outlived their usefulness.... [Founder & CEO Jeff] Bezos didn't have to build Amazon the way he did. He could have created a culture that valued employees and treated them well. But that would have required him to care about what somebody else thought. Fat chance."

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Michael Birnbarm & Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "The ink was barely dry on a landmark agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear program before a German government plane packed with the nation's economic elite touched down in Tehran. The trip was just the first in a rush of European ministers and business people flocking to a market that is poised to reopen after years of grinding sanctions." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... MEANWHILE. Thomas Erdbrink of the New York Times: "During the past decade, well-connected Iranian investors amassed undervalued assets in poorly executed and frequently corrupt rounds of privatization, buying insurance companies, hospitals, refineries and public utilities, among other things previously run -- usually poorly -- by the state.... [A] potential sell-off began to take shape in July, as the nuclear agreement began to move toward a conclusion...." (Also linked yesterday.)

Kevin Cirilli of the Hill: "Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said she believes the videos are illegal and that her organization is 'considering everything' in going after the Center for Medical Progress, the group behind the videos. 'I absolutely do believe that they have violated laws in terms of how they secured these videos,' she said in an interview at the group's Washington, D.C., headquarters. "But the fraud is also in how they have presented them and in the editing." ...

... Eliza Collins of Politico: "Jindal trolls protesters with undercover Planned Parenthood videos.... The Louisiana governor on Thursday showed a series of undercover Planned Parenthood videos on a loop outside the governor's mansion to protesters who were demonstrating against the defunding of Planned Parenthood."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Max Fisher of Vox has an update on the AP stories claiming that a U.N. "side deal" to the negotiated Iran nuclear agreement allows Iran to do its own testing of a military site known as Parchin. "On Thursday, as the AP came under increasing pressure, it published what it said was the full text of the draft IAEA agreement. The arms control experts were not convinced: Jeffrey Lewis, of Middlebury College, called the draft 'way too vague to support that story.' Cheryl Rofer, who has previously worked alongside the IAEA, tweeted that there were 'several things wrong' with the draft, for example that 'the whole thing is far too vague. It has no resemblance to a sampling plan.'... Tariq Rauf, the former head of verification and security policy coordination at the [IAEA] ... concluded that he suspected the draft may be fake..., in part on several odd errors in the draft..., but I suspect this may be because the AP reporter was required to copy down the draft agreement text by hand..., although it does raise questions about whether there could be more substantial errors as well." Thanks to Keith H. for the lead....

... CW: Here's something I find particularly troubling, tho Fisher doesn't mention it. The AP reporter George Jahn did a follow-up story reporting on reactions to his original, oft-altered story. In a section titled, "What Does the IAEA Say?", he quotes IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano: "'The arrangements are technically sound and consistent with our long-established practices. They do not compromise our ... standards in any way.' He says agreements with Iran on clearing up the nuclear arms allegations 'are confidential and I have a legal obligation not to make them public - the same obligation I have for hundreds of such arrangements made with other IAEA member states.'" That's it. BUT Jahn omitted this part of Amano's statement, which appeared in a fuller Reuters report (linked in the Commentariat yesterday): "I am disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran. Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work." Reuters called Amano's remark "an unusually strongly worded statement." In other words, Amano directly & strongly criticized Jahn's report, calling it a "misrepresentation," and the AP chose not to print that part of the statement. That's just crap "journalism." News media regularly report denials or refutations by the subjects of their stories. The AP's decision to truncate Amano's remarks to eliminate his criticism of the gist of its story is cowardly &, well, misleading.

Presidential Race

Jonathan Martin & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "As Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign struggles with sliding poll numbers, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s exploration of a presidential candidacy is taking on a new seriousness.... Some Democrats supporting Mrs. Clinton have quietly signaled that they would re-evaluate their support if Mr. Biden joined the race."

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Hillary Rodham Clinton pleased progressives this week when she came out in opposition against drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Now they want to hear from her on Social Security. Former Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland announced a proposal on Friday to expand Social Security, enhancing its benefits while holding the retirement age steady. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has expressed a similar view, leaving the ball in Mrs. Clinton's court.... The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America and all pressed Mrs. Clinton on Friday to join her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination in promising to protect Social Security...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Jonathan Allen of Reuters: Reuters disputes Clinton's claim that she did not send classified material over her private e-mail account. Reuters has found at least 30 threads which it identifies as "so-called 'foreign government information,' information that is automatically classified. "The State Department disputed Reuters' analysis but declined requests to explain how it was incorrect." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

This is supposed to be a straight report. So Wow! Ben Schreckinger of Politico: "It was immigration, not segregation, that brought some 20,000 southerners -- far fewer than predicted -- out for Donald Trump on Friday night, but the ghost of George Wallace loomed large. Wallace, an avowed segregationist, was the last presidential candidate to win electoral votes as a third-party candidate. The threat of Trump doing so, propelled by a hardline immigration stance that many have condemned as racist, looms over the Republican Party now as it did over the Democratic Party then, even as the enthusiasm of his following, for once, fell far short of expectations.... Trump invited Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, one of Congress's most ardent immigration hardliners who helped the businessman craft his immigration plan, to the podium, where the two embraced." ...

... Robert Costa & Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Trump's flashy performance was about more than showmanship. His visit to Alabama was coolly strategic, touching down in the heart of red America and an increasingly important early battleground in the Republican nominating contest.... On the street, Olaf Childress, a neo-Confederate activist, gave out copies of 'The First Freedom' newspaper, which had headlines about 'Black-on-white crime,' 'occupied media' and 'censored details of the Holocaust.'" ...

     ... Steve M. assesses Costa & Weigel's "love letter" to Trump: "Clearly the earth moved for Costa and Weigel."

... The New York Times report, by Alan Blinder, is here.

John McCormick of Bloomberg: "A day after Jimmy Carter appeared on national television to talk about the cancer that's ravaging his body, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz criticized the former president's administration in a speech in Iowa. 'I think where we are today is very, very much like the late 1970s,' the senator from Texas said on the Des Moines Register's political soapbox stage at the Iowa State Fair. 'I think the parallels between this administration and the Carter administration are uncanny: same failed domestic policies, same misery, stagnation and malaise, same feckless and naïve foreign policy,' Cruz said. 'In fact, the exact same countries -- Russia and Iran -- openly laughing and mocking at the president of the United States.'" ...

     ... CW: Cruz's remarks about Carter struck me, too. This is what happens when a politician is a complete narcissist; he lacks normal awareness of common civility. Cruz, unsurprisingly, defending his remarks about Carter. As McCormick points out, Cruz did apologize for making a "joke" about Vice President Biden days after the death of Biden's son Beau. But Cruz can't help himself; he doesn't care about or even recognize other people's feelings. No doubt a staffer urged Cruz to apologize about his Biden "joke."

Josh Haskell & Jennifer Hopper of ABC News: "While Sen. Ted Cruz was grilling pork chops at the Iowa State Fair today, actress Ellen Page, wearing a hat and sunglasses, snuck her way up to the grill and asked the GOP presidential candidate about 'the persecution of gays in the workplace and LGBT rights.' ABC News caught the exchange." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Joseph Voorhees of Slate: Cruz repeatedly tells Page that "a Mennonite couple who agreed to pay a $5,000 fine late last year after they refused to provide service to a gay couple ... owns a church.... In reality they own a former church that they converted into an art gallery, flower shop, and bistro that they then ran as a wedding venue. So the Texan's taking some rather large liberties when he suggests that requiring the [couple] to allow a gay couple to wed in their for-profit business would be the same as 'forcing a Muslim imam to conduct a Jewish wedding ceremony.'" ...

... Cruz says his kind of birthright citizenship is cool -- he was born in Canada to an American mother & Cuban father -- but birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented residents is terrible. He says Jeb! is confused. Katie Glueck of Politico: "A day earlier, Bush suggested in New Hampshire that Cruz was the beneficiary of the broader birthright citizenship protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Bush opposes altering that language." (Also linked yesterday.)

... Flip-Flop. Esther Lee of Think Progress: "Scott Walker was tired from 'hours' of interviews when he said that fellow contender Donald Trump's plan to end birthright citizenship was 'very similar' to the immigration position that Walker supported as Wisconsin governor, according to an interview on Friday with CNBC correspondent John Harwood. Now, Walker says he doesn't have a stance on the topic. 'I'm not taking a position on it one way or the other,' Walker told Harwood, when questioned about ending birthright citizenship, a centerpiece demand that Trump laid out in his immigration policy plan....":

... CW: Really? Kasie Hunt of MSNBC: "Asked directly by msnbc if birthright citizenship should be ended, the Wisconsin governor replied: 'Yeah, to me it's about enforcing the laws in this country. And I've been very clear, I think you enforce the laws, and I think it's important to send a message that we're going to enforce the laws, no matter how people come here we're going to enforce the laws." Watch the video. Hunt asks the question twice, & twice Walker says, "Yeah," or "Yeah, absolutely," even invoking Harry Reid, who two decades ago introduced legislation to eliminating birthright citizenship for children of undocumented mothers, a position which years later he called a "travesty" & the "low point" of his legislative career. So Walker only favors this "travesty" when he's "tired"? Has he no principles? (Rhetorical question.) ...

... digby: "Walker, being the rank amateur he is, jumped on the Jeff Sessions/Donald Trump train automatically without thinking through whether or not that's what a serious frontrunning grown-up would do. He made a mistake." ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "There are flip-flops, and there are flip-flops. After leaping to support Donald Trump's far-right birthright-citizenship-ending proposal immediately after it was released and apparently agreeing that birthright citizenship needs to be repealed when asked by a reporter he now says ... he has no opinion on it?... Not only does Scott Walker walkback his own previous position, but he's apparently vowing to not have a position on one of the hot-button topics roiling the Republican presidential campaign.... Walker's unwillingness to state actual policy positions seems at this point less campaign strategy and more personal pathology."

** David Roberts of Vox: "Katie Couric recently interviewed Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, and the subject of climate change came up. They discussed it for over four minutes, likely marking the longest any national GOP political figure has spent talking about climate change in the past five years.... After acknowledging the science at the outset, literally everything Fiorina says subsequently is false or misleading. And yes, I know what 'literally' means.From the dazzling array, I have chosen a representative (but not exhaustive) sample of 10 misleading or false statements." CW: This is almost fun reading, Fiorina's claims & excuses are such nonsense. Unless you're already well-read on energy sources (and cats), you'll probably learn something. I did.

The Black Hand. Zeke Miller of Time: Jeb!'s superPAC "Right to Rise USA tweeted a picture of the inaugural mailing, which appears to show Bush posing in front of a bridge in what appears to be Cedar Rapids, the second largest city in Iowa. But a closer look at the photo seems to show that Bush was actually superimposed on a a stock image of the city, while his left hand appears to belong to someone else." CW: That "someone else" is a black person, so this must be Right to Rise's left-handed compliment to Iowa's huge black Republican base. The Photoshop fail has caused a lot of haw-hawwing on the Internets, but I'd say the biggest fake on the flyer is the candidate himself. ...

... ** IMPORTANT UPDATE: Chas Danner of New York: "... if you look at his other (right) hand, you can see that it was digitally colored white as well, as the awkward supposed shadows are the same color as the black hand." CW: Great catch, Chas!

Beyond the Beltway

Jonathan Katz of the New York Times: "A jury [in Charlotte, N.C.] said ... Friday that it was unable to decide whether a white police officer was guilty of manslaughter in the 2013 shooting death of an unarmed African-American man, but the judge ordered jurors to continue deliberating. The jury of eight women and four men -- seven are white, three African-American and two Hispanic -- said that it had taken three votes and was deadlocked on the fate of Officer Randall Kerrick. He is accused of using excessive force in the shooting of Jonathan Ferrell, 24, a former college football player who died early on Sept. 14, 2013. Jurors told the judge that the three votes split 7 to 5, 8 to 4 and 8 to 4, but gave no indication of which way they are leaning." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

News Ledes

AP: "... three Americans are being hailed as heroes for tackling and disarming a gunman they happened to encounter on a high-speed Amsterdam-Paris train. Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone remained hospitalized Saturday after being stabbed, though the Pentagon said the injury was not life-threatening. Another passenger was wounded by a handgun in the attack Friday night, according to a police union official. It's unclear whether there was a political motive to the gunman's actions. French authorities are questioning the attacker, identified by police as a 26-year-old of Moroccan origin, and are expected to speak to at least one of the Americans on Saturday about what happened. Counterterrorism police are leading the investigation, according to the Paris prosecutor's office." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "The two American service members who tackled a gunman on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris rushed him even though he was fully armed, then grabbed him by the neck and beat him over the head with his own automatic rifle until he was unconscious, one of them said in television interviews [in Paris] on Saturday."


The Commentariat -- August 21, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Hillary Rodham Clinton pleased progressives this week when she came out in opposition against drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Now they want to hear from her on Social Security. Former Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland announced a proposal on Friday to expand Social Security, enhancing its benefits while holding the retirement age steady. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has expressed a similar view, leaving the ball in Mrs. Clinton's court.... The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America and all pressed Mrs. Clinton on Friday to join her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination in promising to protect Social Security...." ...

... Jonathan Allen of Reuters: Reuters disputes Clinton's claim that she did not send classified material over her private e-mail account. Reuters has found at least 30 threads which it identifies as "so-called 'foreign government information,' information that is automatically classified. "The State Department disputed Reuters' analysis but declined requests to explain how it was incorrect."

Jonathan Katz of the New York Times: "A jury [in Charlotte, N.C.] said ... Friday that it was unable to decide whether a white police officer was guilty of manslaughter in the 2013 shooting death of an unarmed African-American man, but the judge ordered jurors to continue deliberating. The jury of eight women and four men -- seven are white, three African-American and two Hispanic -- said that it had taken three votes and was deadlocked on the fate of Officer Randall Kerrick. He is accused of using excessive force in the shooting of Jonathan Ferrell, 24, a former college football player who died early on Sept. 14, 2013. Jurors told the judge that the three votes split 7 to 5, 8 to 4 and 8 to 4, but gave no indication of which way they are leaning."

Josh Haskell & Jennifer Hopper of ABC News: "While Sen. Ted Cruz was grilling pork chops at the Iowa State Fair today, actress Ellen Page, wearing a hat and sunglasses, snuck her way up to the grill and asked the GOP presidential candidate about 'the persecution of gays in the workplace and LGBT rights.' ABC News caught the exchange."

... Cruz says his kind of birthright citizenship is cool -- he was born in Canada to an American mother & Cuban father -- but birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented residents is terrible. He says Jeb! is confused. Katie Glueck of Politico: "A day earlier, Bush suggested in New Hampshire that Cruz was the beneficiary of the broader birthright citizenship protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Bush opposes altering that language."

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Michael Birnbarm & Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "The ink was barely dry on a landmark agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear program before a German government plane packed with the nation's economic elite touched down in Tehran. The trip was just the first in a rush of European ministers and business people flocking to a market that is poised to reopen after years of grinding sanctions." ...

... MEANWHILE. Thomas Erdbrink of the New York Times: "During the past decade, well-connected Iranian investors amassed undervalued assets in poorly executed and frequently corrupt rounds of privatization, buying insurance companies, hospitals, refineries and public utilities, among other things previously run -- usually poorly -- by the state.... [A] potential sell-off began to take shape in July, as the nuclear agreement began to move toward a conclusion...."


Eric Holthaus of Slate: July was the hottest month in the recorded history of the world. ...

... IN OTHER COSMIC NEWS. Nick Gass of Politico: "Seeking to swat down online rumors about a catastrophic asteroid strike between Sept. 15-28, the U.S. space agency clarified this week that reports circulated by 'numerous recent blogs and web postings' are categorically false."

What the Deficit-Scolds Don't Get. Paul Krugman: "... many economists argue that the economy needs a sufficient amount of public debt out there to function well.... There's a reasonable argument to be made that part of what ails the world economy right now is that governments aren't deep enough in debt.... The debt of stable, reliable governments provides 'safe assets' that help investors manage risks, make transactions easier and avoid a destructive scramble for cash." A low public debt also drives interest rates on that debt down, which is a bad thing: "When interest rates on government debt are very low even when the economy is strong, there's not much room to cut them when the economy is weak, making it much harder to fight recessions.... Very low returns on safe assets may push investors into too much risk-taking -- or for that matter encourage another round of destructive Wall Street hocus-pocus.... [Also,] "issuing debt is a way to pay for useful things, and we should do more of that when the price is right."

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "On Sunday, a swarm of small rogue drones disrupted air traffic across the country on a scale previously unseen in U.S. skies.... Before last year, close encounters with rogue drones were unheard of. But as a result of a sales boom, small, largely unregulated remote-control aircraft are clogging U.S. airspace, snarling air traffic and giving the FAA fits.... Pilots have reported a surge in close calls with drones: nearly 700 incidents so far this year, according to FAA statistics, about triple the number recorded for all of 2014."

New York Times Editors: "Of all the threats to human life confronted by international health workers, few cause as heavy a toll as what is termed 'vaccine hesitancy' -- the delay or refusal by misinformed people to accept vaccination for themselves and their children. An estimated one in five children went without lifesaving vaccines globally last year, adding to the grim toll of 1.5 million children who die annually for lack of immunization, according to the World Health Organization.... The resistance to vaccines is worldwide, encompassing rural ethnic minorities opposed to needles to wealthy urbanites with suspicions about whether vaccines cause autism."

Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed: "On Thursday morning, 130 civil rights and religious organizations, unions, and other progressive groups sent a letter to President Obama urging that he direct the Justice Department to reverse a Bush-era legal opinion about the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The 2007 memo from the Office of Legal Counsel concluded that, under RFRA, religious organizations seeking federal grants could not be forced to adhere to religious nondiscrimination laws in hiring."

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "In his most comprehensive effort to assure wavering Democrats, President Obama wrote in a letter to Congress that the United States would unilaterally maintain economic pressure and deploy military options if needed to deter Iranian aggression, both during and beyond the proposed nuclear accord.The Aug. 19 letter, obtained by The New York Times, is addressed to Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, but is also aimed at other Democrats with concerns about the deal." ...

... MEANWHILE. Mike Lillis of the Hill: "Twenty-two House Democrats visiting Israel got an earful from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their recent visit to the Middle East. Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders pressed their case against President Obama's historic nuclear deal with Iran, and focused on Democrats who could be the swing votes in the House." ...

... ** Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's top aide at State, in a U.S. News essay, on how the Bush-Cheney administration "did too little and were too late in strengthening the sanctions regime against Iran. In short, there was no policy with regard to Iran in the Bush administration other than, in Dick Cheney's words, 'We don't talk to evil.' As a result, by the time President Barack Obama's skillful and methodical diplomacy had made the sanctions regime more international and far more effective, the Iranians had over 19,000 centrifuges.... There are potentially deadly repercussions of a U.S. rejection of [the Iran nuclear] agreement. Rejection means the U.S. is alone.... The U.S. overestimated its capabilities to great damage in Vietnam and Iraq. We must not repeat that huge mistake with Iran." ...

... Burgess Everett & Jeremy Herb of Politico: "Sen. Claire McCaskill on Thursday become the latest in a string of red-state and centrist Democrats to endorse the Iran nuclear agreement this month -- providing a surge of momentum for Barack Obama ahead of a vote even the president has said could turn out to be as consequential as the decision whether to authorize the Iraq War last decade. McCaskill's announcement, on the heels of Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) saying he'll support the agreement a day earlier, is also a sign that moderate Democratic lawmakers don't appear especially worried about potential political fallout for backing the deal." ...

... Walter Pincus of the Washington Post tears apart, piece by piece, Sen. Bob Corker's "reasons" for not ratifying the Iran nuclear deal. See also yesterday's Commentariat. CW: As with so many Republican arguments about, well, everything, Corker wants to have his cake & eat it, too. In one part of his op-ed, he says, "Iran is so strong" it's scary; in another part he says, "Iran is so weak" negotiators should have gotten a much better deal. I guess a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, making Corker one exceptional intellect. ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Max Fisher of Vox: "On Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press published an exclusive report on the Iran nuclear program so shocking that many political pundits declared the nuclear deal dead in the water. But the article turned out to be a lot less damning that it looked -- and the AP ... scrubbed many of the most damning details.... A couple of hours after first publishing, the AP added in a bunch of quotes from Republicans furiously condemning the revelations, but at the same time, the AP removed most of the actual revelations. The information in the article was substantially altered, with some of the most damning details scrubbed entirely. No explanation for this was given.... On Thursday morning, shortly before this article went up, the AP reinstated most of the cut sections.... The AP then published another story that reiterated much of the information but also added a strange new detail that seemed to water down its original claims even further: 'IAEA staff will monitor Iranian personnel as they inspect the Parchin nuclear site.'... This is certainly not the first time that someone has placed a strategic leak in order to achieve a political objective. But it is disturbing that the AP allowed itself to be used in this way, that it exaggerated the story in a way that have likely misled large numbers of people, and that, having now scrubbed many of the details, it has appended no note or correction explaining the changes." CW: This is a lo-o-ong post. You'll have to read most of it to get the gist of it." See also yesterday's Commentariat. ...

... Shadia Nasralla of Reuters: "The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief on Thursday rejected as 'a misrepresentation' suggestions Iran would inspect its own Parchin military site on the agency's behalf, an issue that could help make or break Tehran's nuclear deal with big powers.... Under a roadmap accord Iran reached with the IAEA alongside the July 14 political agreement, the Islamic Republic is required to give the IAEA enough information about its past nuclear programme to allow the Vienna-based watchdog to write a report on the issue by year-end." ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM: "And here we have another case where tendentious malefactors leak seemingly damning details to reporters who in the most basic sense do not know what they are talking about and write a story which can and often does dramatically affect the public debate over a critical issue.... The AP has to scrub its story and pull a New York Times pretending the gist somehow isn't changed when there is barely a story there in the first place.... Again, basic premise: The nuclear stuff is complicated. The nuclear scientists understand it better than Hannity or even Wolf Blitzer. Listen to the nuclear scientists.

Ian Shapira of the Washington Post: The family of Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, who as killed in an insider attack in Afghanistan, does not accept the excuses in the Army's investigation of the murder. "Greene's widow, Sue Myers, who holds a top-level security clearance," has read an unredacted version of the Army's report.

AP: New Orleans "Mayor Mitch Landrieu says former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will visit New Orleans next week for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Their visits follow that of President Barack Obama, who is coming to the city Thursday. On Friday, Bush and Laura Bush will go to Warren Easton Charter School, one of the spots where George Bush marked the hurricane's first anniversary. They will also go to Gulfport, Mississippi, for an event thanking first responders." CW: Also, way more white people in Gulfport. Whew! Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Michael Birnbaum of the Washington Post: "Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned Thursday, calling snap elections in his economically embattled nation in a bid to combat dissent within his own party. The decision injected fresh uncertainty into Greece's turbulent economics."

Presidential Race

Nick Gass: "Democratic candidate Martin O'Malley will announce on Friday his goal to increase the number of Americans with adequate retirement savings by 50 percent within two terms in the White House, according to plans detailed in a campaign document provided to Politico. Rejecting calls to raise the retirement age, the former governor of Maryland will call for expanding Social Security benefits to all Americans for 'current and future' retirees, in addition to lifting the payroll tax cap on people earning more than $250,000." ...

... How to Respond to a Bully. Nick Gass: "Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley apologized 'like a disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby' for his remark that 'all lives matter,' Donald Trump said in an excerpt of a new interview aired Friday on Fox News.... In response to Trump's remarks, O'Malley's campaign said it had no interest in 'engaging in a race to the bottom.' 'Governor O'Malley stands with those who have the guts to stand up to Donald Trump's hate speech,' O'Malley spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement ... that included a link to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow praising the governor for meeting with employees of Trump's Las Vegas hotel seeking to form a union earlier this week."

Jason Horowitz of the New York Times: Bernie "Sanders's appeal is ... about the opportunity his campaign gives disaffected Democrats to vent their anger at the list of national ills they believe are caused by big business and its conservative allies and have been left unaddressed by President Obama.... Americans, Mr. Sanders says, live under an oligarchy of billionaires, the Koch brothers and Walmart owners and Wall Street chieftains who conspire to keep the workingman down. Their information is dumbed down by a news media that avoids the issues, treats campaigns like soap operas and begs him to 'beat up on Hillary Clinton.'"

Nick Gass of Politico: "Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sit atop their respective parties' primary polls in the swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday. Since 1960, no presidential candidate has won without taking at least two of these three states. But in hypothetical general-election matchups in all three states, Vice President Joe Biden performed as well or better than Clinton against the top Republican candidates, outpacing even The Donald."

Drip, Drip. Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "A federal judge on Thursday said that Hillary Rodham Clinton did not follow government policies when she relied exclusively on a personal email account while she was secretary of state, challenging her longstanding claim that she had complied with the rules. The judge, Emmet G. Sullivan of United States District Court, also opened the door for the F.B.I. to look through Mrs. Clinton's server for messages that she may have deleted but that should have been handed over to the State Department." CW: Presidents Reagan & Bush I appointed Sullivan to judgeships before President Clinton appointed him a District court judge. ...

... Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: Brian Fallon of the Clinton campaign: If Hillary Clinton unwittingly handled classified material on on a non-classified server, so did members of the House Benghaaazi! committee, since they also received the e-mails before the e-mails were classified." ...

... Bryan Bender of Politico: "While emphasizing that Clinton's defense cannot be judged until the content of the messages are fully analyzed, fellow diplomats and other specialists said on Thursday that if any emails were blatantly of a sensitive nature, she could have been expected to flag it. 'She might have had some responsibility to blow the whistle,' said former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who served under the former secretary of state and oversaw a department review of the deadly attack in 2012 on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi...." ...

... Kevin Drum says it's legitimate to question Clinton's judgment about using a private e-mail account, but he can't find any evidence of malfeasance: "Using a private server was allowed by the State Department when Clinton started doing it. Removing personal emails before turning over official emails appears to be pretty standard practice. None of the emails examined so far has contained anything that was classified at the time it was sent. There is no evidence that I know of to suggest that Clinton used a private server for any nefarious purpose. Maybe she did. But if you want to make this case, you have make it based on more than just timeworn malice toward all things Clinton." ...

... CW: Josh Voorhees of Slate has a fairly good recap of the events & issues surrounding Emailgate. He's wrong here, though: "Hillary's private email account and server effectively shielded her messages from Freedom of Information Act requests, congressional subpoenas, and other searches." If that were true, there would be no story here because the Benghaazi! committee & others filing FOIA requests would have come up with nothing. Wherever Clinton puts her work product, it is subject to FOIA & other legitimate investigatory & scholarly requests. One thing Voorhees points out: "Huma Abedin, is known to have had her own address, making it difficult to believe that all of Clinton;s government business was logged on government servers."

     ... Another important point, & what I think was Clinton's biggest mistake -- bigger than using a private server in the first place -- was that she had her own obsessively-loyal staff decide what was private & what was public. That's the vixen & her pups guarding the henhouse. To maintain a bare-minimal level of credibility, Clinton should have had disinterested parties -- probably from the National Archives -- vet the public/private sorting process. ...

... Bill Barrow of the AP: "As part of her promise to address rising college costs, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling to expand the AmeriCorps service program launched under her husband's administration. Clinton calls for spending about $20 billion over 10 years on the expansion, increasing the number of civil service volunteers from 75,000 to 250,000 and more than doubling the educational grant that enrollees can receive." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.

Adele Stan of the American Prospect: "While the warriors against Planned Parenthood frame their fight as one against abortion, the war is more roundly against health care for the kind of women who are least likely to vote for Republicans, all to stoke a GOP base formed of a particular subset of white men (and the women who love them) -- a subset comprising those who are aggrieved at their perceived loss of power to women and people of darker hues. That's what the war against Planned Parenthood really is: a reality show all about showing uppity women who's boss.... The real target is the Democratic Party and its frontrunner for the 2016 presidential nomination."

You know, a lot of the gangs that you see ... when you look at Baltimore, when you look at Chicago, and Ferguson a lot of these areas. You know, a lot of these gang members are illegal immigrants. They're gonna be gone. We're gonna get them out so fast, out of this country. So fast. -- Donald Trump, Thursday

Every "illegal immigrant" Latino living in Ferguson must be a gang member because only 1.2 percent of the population is Hispanic. Of course it's possible Trump was talking about other ethnic "illegal immigrants." -- Constant Weader

... Race to the Bottom. New York Times Editors: "As Mr. Trump swells in the polls, his diminished opponents are following in his wake.... When the campaign is over, no matter what becomes of Mr. Trump's candidacy, he will have further poisoned the debate with his noxious positions, normalized an extremism whose toxicity is dulled by familiarity and is validated by a feckless party. He has emboldened the fringe lawmakers whose 'hell no' on any positive immigration legislation has stymied reform for years."

A Great Nation of Thugs

Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported. -- Scott Leader, on his reason for allegedly beating a homeless Hispanic man in Boston

... Sara DiNatale & Maria Sacchetti of the Boston Globe: "Police said two brothers from South Boston ambushed [a] 58-year-old [homeless man] as he slept outside of a Dorchester MBTA stop, and targeted him because he is Hispanic.... The brothers walked away from the scene laughing, a witness told State Police.... One of the brothers said he was inspired in part by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.... In Dorchester District Court on Wednesday, Scott and Steve Leader, who have extensive criminal records, pleaded not guilty to multiple assault charges with a dangerous weapon, indecent exposure, and making threats."

It would be a shame. ... I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate. -- Donald Trump, on hearing of the alleged beating ...

Andrew Husband of Mediaite: "In addition to beating a homeless man because of his ethnicity, the Leader brothers' 'passionate' nature is also on display in their respective (and extensive) criminal records. Like the time Scott attacked a Dunkin' Donuts employee, a Moroccan man, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington D.C and rural Pennsylvania.... He threw a cup at the man and called him a terrorist.... Leader was charged with a hate crime and sentenced to one year in prison.

Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "Every cloud has a silver lining, I guess, and in the case of two intoxicated brothers that urinated on a homeless man and beat him with a pole simply because he's Hispanic, the silver lining is that they are passionate about America.... Trump's response was newsworthy for how tone-deaf it was. It was also much more novel than the crime itself."

Zandar in Balloon Juice: "Whether or not you think Trump is a colossal cosmic joke inflicted on the body politic, the hatred he's stoking is very real, and has very real consequences."

This pattern of hateful rhetoric has officially passed the point of extremist words and has turned into alarming action. This is more than just bad politics. When political debate encourages an atmosphere where hateful actions and hurtful rhetoric get mainstreamed, it's bad for the country. -- Frank Sharry of America's Voice

... Patti Solis Doyle, a former Hillary Clinton campaign manager, who now works at CNN, wonders what Donald Trump would do about her & her brother: they were born in the U.S. before their parents became citizens.

Robert Costa & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "The non-Trump candidates are falling into three categories: Those who are emulating and befriending him in an effort to win over his supporters; those who are assailing his background or calling him out for his views and rhetoric; and those who prefer to stay silent, as if hunkering down in the basement to ride out the tornado."

Jeb! Accuses Trump of Being a Democrat. Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "After weeks of parrying Donald J. Trump's derisive thrusts with elliptical, indirect and sparing responses, Jeb Bush aggressively attacked Mr. Trump [in Keene, New Hampshire,] on Thursday, portraying him as a Democratic-leaning poseur in the Republican field and expressing confidence that voters would come to the same conclusion." CW: Also, I see it is now routine among the Warriors Against Women to accuse anyone who supports abortion rights of being for "partial-birth abortion." Watch for it.

Embracing the Bro! A Decider Makes Decisions. It's the first decision that a party nominee makes that's an indication of how you make decisions as president. Once you get to the bottom line of this, a president is a decider. A president leads by making decisions. -- Jeb!, yesterday

If the Doofus was his "own man" once, as he has claimed, he isn't any more. He has nearly completely morphed into Bush II. -- Constant Weader

... Also, said Bro! is doing some fundraising for Jeb!

Eli Stokols & Eliza Collins of Politico: "On Thursday, [Jeb Bush] allowed himself to be pulled into the mud with Donald Trump. Trump ... offered an immigration plan this week that called for repealing birthright citizenship ... to ... what he termed 'anchor babies.' In Keene, New Hampshire on Thursday, Bush defended his own use of that term in a Wednesday radio interview. 'You give me a better term and I'll use it,' Bush snapped at reporters. 'Give me another word.'... On Thursday, he told reporters that he does not believe the term is offensive. But at the same time, he said he has not directly used it and said he believes in birthright citizenship."

Matthew DeFour of the Madison, Wisconsin State Journal: "Republican presidential hopeful Gov. Scott Walker has lost significant home-state support for his White House bid, and he continues to face dissatisfaction among Wisconsin voters with his job approval dipping below 40 percent for the first time in a new Marquette Law School Poll released Thursday. The poll found 39 percent of registered voters approve of Walker's job performance.... 'That's notably underwater,' said poll director Charles Franklin." Walker beat other presidential candidates in the survey of Republican & Republican-leaning voters, but is well behind where he stood with them in April. Thanks to Nadd2 for the lead.

AP: "Two former top aides to Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign pled not guilty Thursday to charges that they conspired to buy the support of an Iowa lawmaker before that year's caucuses. Jesse Benton and John Tate appeared in federal court in Des Moines. Along with a third former Ron Paul staffer, they are charged with conspiracy, falsifying documents and several other related crimes. Both were released and a trial date of Oct. 5 has been set for all three. Benton and Tate are on leave from their roles leading America's Liberty, a super PAC supporting Rand Paul's presidential run. Benton is married to Rand Paul's niece. The third aide, former Ron Paul deputy campaign manager Dimitri Kesari, has already appeared in court."

Beyond the Beltway

Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will try to counter a pro-Planned Parenthood rally scheduled to take place outside his mansion on Thursday by running a loop of the secretly recorded videos that they plan to protest. Jindal announced Thursday that he is setting up an outdoor movie screen and speakers outside the governor's mansion to show the controversial videos, which he said too many of Planned Parenthood's supporters have refused to watch. The showing will take place at the exact time of a scheduled protest by Planned Parenthood supporters." CW: Jindal may be trying to prove he's even creepier than Trump, but that still doesn't make him a serious presidential contender.

John Lyon of the Arkansas News: Arkansas "Gov. Asa Hutchinson [R] said Wednesday he is open to continuing to accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion [under the ACA] if the federal government grants the state increased flexibility in shaping its health-care programs." ...

... Steve Benen: "... the governor has a whole bunch of ideas about how to make the policy as conservative as possible, but there's no getting around the fact that Hutchinson has no interest in scrapping Arkansas' Medicaid expansion[, CW: which was instituted when Democrat Mike Beebe was governor].... Arkansas may be a ruby-red state now ... and the word 'Obamacare' probably polls horribly. But ... few states need the ACA as desperately as Arkansas, and even fewer have benefited more.... Just this month, Gallup showed the states with the largest drop in the uninsured rate. Arkansas was #1.... There's a big difference between GOP policymakers telling the public, 'We hate the president, so your family will no longer have access to basic medical care,' and actually going through with it."

Reuters: "California's first grey wolf pack since wild wolves disappeared from the state nearly a century ago has been spotted in the woods in the northern part of the state, wildlife officials said on Thursday."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Stock prices around the world continued to plunge on Friday, threatening to end one of the longest bull runs in the history of the United States stock market. A searing six-year rally in United States stocks had advanced into the summer months, shrugging off challenges like the dispute over Greece's debt. But in the last two weeks, world markets tumbled as investors grew increasingly concerned about developments in China, which unexpectedly devalued its currency last week, and the outlook for the economies of other large developing countries."

Guardian: "Emergency workers from Australia and New Zealand are travelling to the western United States to help fight raging wildfires in five states including Washington, where Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency as massive fires are burning out of control." ...

... Seattle Times: "A day after a rampaging wildfire near Twisp killed three U.S. Forest Service firefighters and injured four others, large blazes burned out of control across Washington [state] as gusting winds pushed flames over parched wild lands and broadened a statewide crisis. By Thursday, the Okanogan complex fires had exploded over bone-dry terrain in the North Cascades, tripling in size, consuming or threatening dozens of homes and outbuildings and displacing hundreds of people."


The Commentariat -- August 20, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Bill Barrow of the AP: "As part of her promise to address rising college costs, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling to expand the AmeriCorps service program launched under her husband's administration. Clinton calls for spending about $20 billion over 10 years on the expansion, increasing the number of civil service volunteers from 75,000 to 250,000 and more than doubling the educational grant that enrollees can receive."


Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "Former president Jimmy Carter said that the cancer doctors discovered earlier this year has spread to his brain and that he will receive his first radiation treatment for the disease Thursday afternoon. 'I'm perfectly at ease with whatever comes,' Carter, 90, said at a news conference." The New York Times story, by Alan Blinder, is here. Here are clips from President Carter's news conference:

Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "In dozens of lawsuits around the country involving local disputes, the federal government has filed so-called statements of interest, throwing its weight behind private lawsuits and, in many cases, pushing the boundaries of civil rights law.... Recently ... the Justice Department has filed statements of interest in cases involving legal aid in New York, transgender students in Michigan, juvenile prisoners in solitary detention in California, and people who take videos of police officers in Baltimore."

E. J. Dionne: "You can bet that the Texas voting case or another in North Carolina, or both, will make their way to a Supreme Court that has already gutted the Voting Rights Act once in a CW: Yes & no, in that order.

Linda Greenhouse: "In the breadth of its perspective on the history and current problematic state of the death penalty, in its cleareyed dissection of the irreconcilable conflict at the heart of modern death-penalty jurisprudence, the Connecticut Supreme Court not only produced an important decision for its own jurisdiction; but it addressed the United States Supreme Court frankly and directly."

George Yancy of the New York Times interviews Cornel West. CW: In my opinion, West is a preening, narcissistic crank, but he is worth reading for the direction of his complaints, which should be considered if not necessarily shared or adopted in full.

Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "President Obama will travel to New Orleans next week for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "Congress is unlikely to override a promised veto by President Obama if both chambers reject a deal to curtail Iran's nuclear capabilities, according to a Washington Post analysis of where the votes currently stand." With charts! ...

... Oh yeah? What about this? George Jahn of the AP: "Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms, operating under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.... The White House has repeatedly denied claims of a secret side deal favorable to Tehran.... The document is labeled 'separate arrangement II,' indicating there is another confidential agreement between Iran and the IAEA.... Iran is to provide agency experts with photos and videos of locations the IAEA says are linked to the alleged weapons work, 'taking into account military concerns.' That wording suggests that -- beyond being barred from physically visiting the site -- the agency won't get photo or video information from areas Iran says are off-limits...." ...

... CW: I didn't know what to make of this story. The AP doesn't usually make up stuff. All the prominent commentary on it came from the winger fringe, so no help there. Then ....

... Juan Cole: "The accord actually provides for the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency always to be present at such inspections. The reason for the presence of Iranian experts is that there is a long history of outside nuclear teams being sent in by the Great Powers for espionage. I.e., the Iranian inspectors are there to keep an eye on the UN inspectors, not to cover up Iranian activities.... The AP should retract its inaccurate allegations."

Sean Fitz-Gerald of New York: "Regal Cinemas, the nation's largest movie-theater chain, announced it's beginning to search ticket buyers' bags before letting them in, according to multiple reports. The move comes on the heels of an uptick in movie-theater shootings as well as the release of a survey that found roughly half of moviegoers interviewed wanted more security."

Presidential Race

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times posts full video of Hillary Clinton's meeting with BlackLivesMatter activists last week. "The combination of patience and gentle scolding with which she responded seemed a distillation of Mrs. Clinton's worldview: that movement politics gets you only so far, and that activists must pave the way for those in office to act.... [The video] also showed Mrs. Clinton as even her admirers lament that she is seldom seen: spontaneous, impassioned and seemingly unconcerned about potential repercussions." ...

... CW: What you're seeing here is a candidate with a presidential advantage, which she uses to a positive end. Because Clinton has a Secret Service detail, she was able to keep these young people from disrupting her public meeting, but she had the guts & sense not to shut them out entirely & to engage them in an actual dialog -- which for all the participants is far superior to a shout-down. Allowing the dialog to be taped was pretty smart, too. ...

... Kendall Breitman of Bloomberg: "When it comes to using a private server for her e-mails when she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton 'didn't really think it through,' according to her communications director...., Jennifer Palmieri. '... Others had done it before and it was just more convenient and she kept it like that, and she didn't really -- that's the thing, she didn't really think it through.' 'She has said, had she, she would have done it differently,' Palmieri added. ...

... CW: Again, this is a problem that derives from having a staff that doesn't have the guts to tell the boss she making a mistake, even when the issue is one the boss hasn't given much thought. I see this as a serious flaw to Hillary's management style, & there's little reason to think the style wouldn't carry over to the White House.

"There Goes the Electability Argument!" Ed Kilgore: "... new CNN/ORC poll findings [Wednesday] should provide a very rude shock to those who think Republican voters will finally wake up and realize Donald Trump would be a disaster as a general election candidate and stampede instead to a 'grown-up' like Establishment fave Jeb Bush. At this particular moment, Donald Trump is running better than Jeb Bush in trial general election match-ups with Hillary Clinton." ...

     ... CW: As I've said before, this should unsettle Democrats, too. ...

... Steve M. New York Crank "... don't write off Bernie so fast. If Hillary flounders, his momentum will pick up. And given that this could be a populist vs. populist race, Bernie just might make more sense to populist voters."

Mark Murray of NBC News: "Eight GOP presidential candidates have now said they oppose "birthright citizenship" if their parents are not documented citizens; that is, they favor repealing or ignoring or reinterpreting the part of the Fourteenth Amendment that guarantees citizenship to U.S.-born babies." ...

... Trump Is Just Copying Me. -- Ted Cruz. Sahil Kapur of Bloomberg: "Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz says that he 'absolutely' supports ending birthright citizenship.... Cruz says 'virtually every element' in Trump's immigration plan 'is contained within legislation' that he has previously filed." CW: Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban father & (U.S.) American mother. He had dual citizenship -- U.S. & Canada -- till he decided to run for president. In March of this year famed birther Donald Trump called Cruz's Canadian birth a "hurdle" that "somebody could look at very seriously." That's two GOP candidates now -- Cruz & Walker -- who claim authorship for Trump's extreme anti-immigration policy. BUT ...

... A Fine Bromance. Tim Mak of the Daily Beast: "It's a bromance with a payoff -- the senator [Ted Cruz] has been developing the billionaire's support and their aides are even discussing joint events, but if Trump drops out, Cruz aims to clean up." ...

... Eliza Collins of Politico: "Jeb Bush doesn't want birthright citizenship to go away, but he is calling for stronger enforcement for people who abuse it." ...

... David Leopold, past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, in TPM, explains the law re: "birthright citizenship." Donald "Trump claims that birthright citizenship must end because it's the 'biggest magnet for illegal immigration' -- it attracts illegal immigrants using their 'anchor babies' to reap the benefits of U.S. citizenship."... The 'magnet' to which Trump refers is an arduous 31-year-long slog to legal status for the undocumented parent.... According to the Migration Policy Institute (pdf), repeal of birthright citizenship would lead to a dramatic increase in the number of unauthorized children living in the U.S. -- as many as 24 million by 2050.... Trump's extremist proposal to end birthright citizenship ... comes at the grave cost of abridging civil rights, even hearkening back to the days of Dred Scott...." ...

... AND, if you're into original intent, Li'l Randy is wrong here, "... I don't think the 14th Amendment was meant to apply to illegal aliens. It was meant to apply to the children of slaves." Amanda Terkel of the Huffington Post: "... the framers of the 14th Amendment were thinking of immigrants' children, as they made clear in an 1866 debate on the Senate floor. Sen. Edgar Cowan (R-Pa.) was an opponent of birthright citizenship.... When he asked whether the proposed legislation would cover children of immigrants, Sen. John Conness (R-Calif.), a supporter, said it would." ...

     ... CW BTW: Terkel is reading a sanitized version of Conness's remark: "The proposition before the children begotten of Chinese parents in California, and it is proposed to declare that they shall be citizens.... I am in favor of doing so." Charles Pierce has "Chinese" as "Mongol"; Paul Finkelman has it as "Mongolian." Finkelman identifies Conness as a racist, who opposed equality for black Americans &, as a Californian, was hostile to Chinese immigrants. He seems, however, to have come around, as the concept of equality expanded. Nothing about intent is straightforward, despite what "law office historians" & Nino Scalia would assert. ...

... "Act Two of the Trump Epic." Josh Marshall of TPM: "Trump is now defining the GOP policy agenda. And that makes him far more than a top candidate or even a nominee. Ending birthright citizenship used to be an idea embraced on the far right of the House GOP caucus and bandied about by rightwing policy wonks. Trump has now not only made it a signature of his campaign. He's also pulling all the other candidates along with him.... In three years we've now gone from the need to support comprehensive immigration reform, to balking on supporting the deal, to embracing the policies that used to be held by the comical likes of Steve King...."

Eliza Collins: "In a 30-minute news conference in Derry, New Hampshire [yesterday], that was broadcast live on Fox News and CNN..., [Donald Trump] ripped into [Jeb Bush].... Bush saying the U.S. had to show they had 'skin in the game' by committing more resources to combating the Islamic State was 'one of the the dumber things I've heard, ever, in politics,' Trump said. 'Between Common Core, his 'act of love' on immigration and 'skin in the game' with Iraq ... I don't see how he's electable. And then on top of that he talks about women's health issues,' Trump said.... 'Right down the road, we have Jeb -- very small crowd,' he said[, referring to Jeb!'s simultaneous event in nearby Merrimack, New Hampshire]. 'You know what's happening to Jeb's crowd right down the street? They're sleeping now.'"

I had to do it for myself. -- Donald Trump, on why he's running

I think this is what people mean by "authencity." -- Constant Weader

... Time reporters interview Donald Trump for the magazine's cover story, & he says he's so much better than all the other bozos running for president. Et-cetera. Michael Scherer has the cover story here, with a lot of embedded videos of Trump saying he's so much better than all the other bozos running for president, etc. ...

... More of the Same. Tal Kopan of CNN: "... Donald Trump took on an array of subjects and political figures during a lengthy interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo on Wednesday.... Trump said the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton's email use is 'devastating,' and that it's not surprising that he came within 6 points of the Democrat in a head-to-head polling match-up. 'I think it's devastating for the election, but I think her bigger problem is not the election. I think her bigger problem is going to be the criminal (problem),' Trump said."

Philip Rucker & Jose Del Real of the Washington Post: In New Hampshire, Trump & Kasich are squeezing out Jeb! "Trump led the field in New Hampshire with 18 percent, followed by Bush at 13 percent and Kasich right behind at 12 percent, according to a recent Boston Herald/Franklin Pierce University poll of likely GOP primary voters."

Sahil Kapur: Experts suggest the state-run high-risk insurance pools that both Scott Walker & Marco Rubio propose would be prohibitively expensive, which is kind of a moot point because Congress would never fund them anyway. ...

... The Audacity of Dopes. CW: One thing that gets me about these Walker & Rubio "plans": ObamaCare, such as it is, took tens of thousands of hours to develop into something that had a chance to get through Congress & that was also cost-effective & workable. These bozos think they can dash off some "ideas" on a napkin, most of which are already known to be unworkable, unpassable, & meaner than dirt, then foist them off as a blueprint for a real replacement for the ACA. ...

... Kevin Drum of Mother Jones produces two charts that show how much ScottieCare "screws the poor," no matter the age of the head of household. Drum acknowledges that his post is "anticlimactic" because readers could already guess how his comparisons between ScottieCare & ObamaCare would turn out.

CW: I have been avoiding linking to any stories about Mike Huckabee, because of his remarks comparing the Iran deal to the Holocaust. But to update you a bit, Huckleberry is in Israel, demonstrating anew what an astounding, bigoted ignoramus he is. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Huck held a fundraiser for Americans living in West Bank settlements deemed illegal under international law.... The dude seems off-balance."

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling: "Finally another declared independent candidate, Deez Nuts, polls at 9% in North Carolina to go along with his 8% in Minnesota and 7% in Iowa in our recent polling." ...

... Ben Collins & Emily Shire of the Daily Beast: "Brady Olson is 15 years old. He filed to run for the President of the United States with the FEC on July 26 as Deez Nuts." ...

... Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone interviews Deez/Brady: "I really didn't want to see Clinton, Bush, or Trump in the White House, so I guess I'm just trying to put up a fight.... I'm fifteen, so I haven't been registered yet. I side more with the Libertarian Party." (CW: Like so many 15-year-old boys.)

Beyond the Beltway

Andy Grimm of the Times-Picayune: "Five New Orleans Police officers convicted in the shooting of unarmed pedestrians at the Danziger Bridge days after Hurricane Katrina are entitled to a new trial, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday (Aug. 18). The 2-1 ruling by a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Englehardt's 2013 decision to throw out the convictions of the officers on charges related to shootings that left two civilians dead, and a coverup involving the lead NOPD investigator on the case. 'The reasons for granting a new trial are novel and extraordinary,' the appeals court decision said, citing the misconduct of then-federal prosecutors who posted pseudonymous comments on stories about the case. The ruling also said the Department of Justice 'inadequately investigated' the misconduct." ...

... CW: Englehardt & all three justices on the Appeals Court panel are GOP appointees. ...

... Charles Pierce: "There should be a special circle of derision reserved exclusively for prosecutors who botch important cases in very stupid ways."

AP: "Vast areas of California's Central Valley are sinking faster than in the past as massive amounts of groundwater are pumped during the historic drought, Nasa said in new research released on Wednesday. The research shows that in some places the ground is sinking nearly two inches each month, putting infrastructure on the surface at growing risk of damage." ...

... Darryl Fears of the Washington Post: "... a new study released Thursday says human-caused global warming is worsening ... [California's drought]. The study by Columbia University's Earth Institute isn't the first to say warming has played a key role in fueling California's dry conditions, but it's the first to measure its impact, predicting that it increased the problem by as much as 25 percent."

Jaime Fuller of New York: "After reported [Wednesday] morning that drones were available for purchase at Brookstone and Hudson News locations at Newark International Airport, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said it was 'strongly opposed to the sale of drones at terminal shops' and that they should stop being sold 'immediately.' The New York Post reports that a Brookstone in Terminal 7 at JFK International Airport also sells drones.... 'This is obviously not a very well thought out retail strategy,'" an airport law enorcement official said. CW: Aw, c'mon, capitalism is awesome.