The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, September 21, 2014.

New York Times: "Afghanistan’s election commission on Sunday pronounced Ashraf Ghani the winner of the country’s presidential election, but it withheld an announcement of the total votes won, despite an exhaustive and costly audit process overseen by the United Nations and financed by the American government. The suppression of the vote totals was apparently the final step necessary for the two presidential candidates to sign an American-brokered agreement to form a power-sharing government, giving the runner-up, Abdullah Abdullah, substantial powers in what is, in effect, the post of prime minister."

New York Times: "NASA’s latest Mars spacecraft, Maven, arrives Sunday evening to study the mystery of what happened to the planet’s air. A 33-minute engine firing, beginning at 9:37 p.m. Eastern time, will put Maven in orbit around the planet. Acknowledgment will reach mission controllers 12 1/2 minutes later, the time it takes for a radio signal to travel to Earth from Mars. NASA’s website will provide a live broadcast beginning at 9:30 p.m."

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President thanked Congress for its strong bipartisan support for efforts to train and equip Syrian opposition forces to fight ISIL":

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
September 22

10:15 am ET: Latino educators meet

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

1:00 pm ET: Mental health & suicide prevention briefing

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

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

CW: Here's some cheery news. The MacArthur Foundation has named the newest recipients of its "genius" grants. I hope none of them is somebody you personally dislike (thus keeping it cheery). The AP article linked includes a slide show with mini-profiles of each grant recipient.

** CW: The best, most provocative piece of writing in the "news" today is A. O. Scott's piece in the New York Times Magazine on "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." If you don't watch a lot of TV & never see stupid movies, you will struggle with Scott's exemplary references. You may not accept all of his premises, & I think he falls short on defining "adulthood" (though maybe, like pornography, we're supposed to recognize it when we see it.). ...

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

Jeff Weiss, in the New York Times, profiles comedian Bill Maher, who is in the midst of a schtick aimed to defeat the U.S.'s worst Congressperson. You would be a good idea to read Weiss's piece with A. O. Scott's essay in mind. Maher (& even Weiss, who -- in ticking off "bad things" about Maher -- never mentions Maher's offensive attitudes about women) is a fine example of Scott's thesis.

Guardian: "Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, the royal family said on Monday morning. The announcement was made from Clarence House on Twitter.... The Duchess of Cornwall is suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with her first pregnancy, and is being treated by doctors at her apartments in Kensington Palace."

Washington Post: "After less than a year at the top of Politico’s masthead, veteran New York Times editor Rick Berke has resigned as the publication’s executive editor.... Friction had been on display in the newsroom almost from the beginning of his tenure. Berke, according to several current and former Politico employees, tried to impose some of the values of the world he came from — where multiple editors might weigh in, demand multiple drafts, and shape bigger, more ambitious stories — on Politico’s fast-moving, reporter-driven newsroom."

 

Jimmy Fallon & Maroon 5 singer & Voice judge Adam Levine stage a "musical impressions-off." This clip, from a show that aired this week (September 2), already has more than 8MM hits:

New York Times: "The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine. The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she 'cracked' and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.... The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch."

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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Wednesday
Sep102014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 11, 2014

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama said Wednesday night that he was ordering a significantly expanded military campaign against Sunni militants in the Middle East that includes American airstrikes in Syria and the deployment of nearly 500 more military advisers to Iraq. But he sought to dispel fears that the United States was embarking on a repeat of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.":

... Michael Gordon & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "Saudi Arabia has agreed to an American request to provide a base to train moderate Syrian opposition fighters, American officials said on Wednesday." ...

... Jonathan Weisman & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Senate Democratic leaders on Wednesday prepared legislation to expressly authorize the United States military to train Syrian rebels to help battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and House Republicans appeared ready to follow their lead. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority leader, abruptly called off a vote on a stopgap spending bill that was planned for Thursday to reconsider President Obama’s request that training language be included." ...

... Metaphorically Speaking. Juan Cole: "Don’t listen to [President Obama's] expansive four-stage program or his retooled, stage-managed John Wayne rhetoric. Look at his metaphors. He is telling those who have ears to hear that he is pulling a Yemen in Iraq and Syria. He knows very well what that implies. It is a sort of desultory, staccato containment from the air with a variety of grassroots and governmental forces joining in. Yemen is widely regarded as a failure, but perhaps it is only not a success. And perhaps that is all Obama can realistically hope for." ...

... Fred Kaplan of Slate: "... the cause is just, and Obama’s plan sounds reasonable, even nuanced. What could go wrong? Well..., everything." ...

... Gail Collins assesses the President's speech, the threat ISIS poses to the U.S., & Republican opinions on both. John Cornyn (R-Texas) spoke with authority from the floor of the Senate, roundly criticizing the President's character & policies while confusing Iran with Iraq. A word from Michelle Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee!: "Hitler." At least "it’s comforting to have Dick Cheney around, so we can at least know what we definitely want to avoid." ...

... NYT: Obama Is Just Like Bush. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "In ordering a sustained military campaign against Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq, President Obama on Wednesday night effectively set a new course for the remainder of his presidency and may have ensured that he would pass his successor a volatile and incomplete war, much as his predecessor left one for him.... He also advanced an argument that in some ways mirrored Mr. Bush’s much-debated strategy of pre-emption — that is, acting to forestall a potential threat rather than waiting for it to gather." CW: A low point in New York Times "news analysis." ...

... There Is This (which Baker doesn't mention). Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "In the space of a single primetime address on Wednesday night, Barack Obama dealt a crippling blow to a creaking, 40-year old effort to restore legislative primacy to American warmaking. Obama’s legal arguments for unilaterally expanding a war expected to last years have shocked even his supporters.... Yet one of the main authorities Obama is relying on for avoiding Congress is the 2001 wellspring of the war on terrorism he advocated repealing only last year, a document known as the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) that few think actually applies to Isis. Taken together with the congressional leadership’s shrug, Obama has stripped the veneer off a contemporary fact of American national security: presidents make war on their own, and congresses acquiesce." ...

... Ditto Eli Lake of the Daily Beast: "Legal experts were shocked to learn Wednesday that the Obama administration wants to rely on that 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force against al Qaeda for the new ISIS war.

Sometimes looks are not deceiving.Emma Roller of the National Journal: "Speaking on Wednesday at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, [Dick] Cheney denounced [President] Obama's milquetoast approach, saying his administration has 'failed utterly' to maintain the post-9/11 security apparatus that Cheney and President George W. Bush put in place." ...

... Dana Milbank: Dick "Cheney’s 20-minute speech, carefully read from his prepared text, had an I-told-you-so tone.... Cheney is a singularly flawed critic, because the alternative he offers is war everywhere and always — and though there is support for taking on the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, there is no appetite in the country, or even in the GOP, for Cheney’s alternative extreme.... Cheney, so expert on Obama’s failings, remains blind to his own." ...

... Carol Giacomo of the New York Times: "Whatever [President] Obama’s shortcomings may be, [Dick] Cheney is an absurdly flawed critic on national security. He was a primary architect of the Iraq war, propelling the United States into a bogus and costly conflict that may represent the most disastrous foreign policy blunder in recent memory. It was that war, in its early days, which gave rise to the Sunni militant group that would become ISIS. Like President George W. Bush, Mr. Cheney has shown no willingness to acknowledge the impact of these ruinous policies. Instead, he’s tried to spin an irredeemable legacy. It wasn’t just the content of Mr. Cheney’s admonitions but also the timing that was jarring." ...

... Steve M. John McCain, in a Senate hearing, cites fake James O'Keefe video as evidence ISIS (maybe masquerading as Osama bin Laden) operatives are (past, present, future tenses, I guess), crossing into the U.S. via the U.S.-Mexican border. A piece of cake, because there are "miles and miles" of unprotected border. ...

... CW: In this entertaining post, published last month, Adam Weinstein of Gawker pretty much debunked O'Keefe's claims. Via Steve M. But no matter. Sen. McCain still finds O'Keefe's Excellent Adventure good enough evidence to counter testimony from a Homeland Security witness. When you wonder what informs McCain's hawkish view of everything, remind yourself he's relying on sources like James O'Keefe. ...

... Up Next: John McCain Calls for Hearing on Interplanetary Security. Cites "War of the Worlds." Notes Obama is "in denial" about Martian threat.

GOP Senators Oppose Equal Pay, but Voted to Debate It to Stall Other Legislation. Burgess Everett of Politico: "Senate Republicans have a new strategy: Vote to advance bills they oppose. On Wednesday, more than a dozen Republicans joined with Senate Democrats to overcome a filibuster of legislation aimed at ensuring pay equity for men and women. That vote was 73-25, an overwhelming margin by Senate standards. On Monday, 25 Republicans voted with Democrats to advance a constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform. The GOP broadly opposes both of these proposals — but they are voting to extend debate on them to chew up the remaining few days on the legislative calendar and prevent Democrats from holding even more campaign-themed votes on raising the minimum wage, reforming the student loan system and striking back at the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision."

David Dunlap of the New York Times: "This week, 150 miles north of ground zero, the Family Room — and a thousand stories of love and loss — has opened to the public for the first time, in an exhibition at the New York State Museum in Albany. The display speaks of the personal communion between the victims’ relatives and those who were killed 13 years ago, when terrorists took down the twin towers."

Henry Aaron (no, not the Henry Aaron), David Cutler & Peter Orszag, in a New York Times op-ed, on the cynical lawsuits designed to gut the ACA: "... now the opponents of Obamacare are asking the Supreme Court to immediately hear an appeal of the Richmond decision [which unanimously rejected the plaintiffs' specious claims], and to pre-empt the full District of Columbia court from hearing the case.... The Supreme Court should wait to see what the lower courts do before deciding whether to intervene. Whatever one thinks of the Affordable Care Act, it is absurd to argue that its drafters intended to make insurance unaffordable." ...

(CW: Here's how I know who this particular Henry Aaron is. Charles Pierce: "Let it never be said that the Republicans in the Upper Chamber of our national legislature aren't tuned in with the feral children in the House of Representatives. The president nominated a guy named Henry Aaron for a post on the Social Security Advisory Board, a job that ends on September fking 30th of this year. Every Republican voted against him. Every damn one. They wouldn't vote to let this president's appointee to an obscure executive branch position have a job for the next two-and-a-half weeks.") ...

... CW Two-Word Note to Chuck Todd, who, in his interview of President Obama, expressed the opinion that it doesn't make much difference if Republicans take control of the Senate since the House will reject Democratic proposals out-of-hand: "Henry Aaron." We cannot expect ordinary Americans -- the majority of whom pay scant attention to Washington shenanigans & can't even name the three branches of government -- to understand anything about the political process when Sunday morning "experts" like Chuck Todd, who is often referred to as a "political junkie," mislead them to such an egregious extent. 

Ken Belson of the New York Times: "Late Wednesday night, [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell said that he asked Robert S. Mueller III, the former F.B.I. director, to conduct an independent investigation into the league’s 'pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.' John Mara, the co-owner of the Giants, and Art Rooney II of the Steelers, who are both lawyers, will oversee the investigation, the final results of which will be made public. Goodell said Mueller, who was director of the F.B.I. for 12 years, will have access to all N.F.L. records."

AP: "A law enforcement official says he sent a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee to an NFL executive five months ago, while league executives have insisted they didn’t see the violent images until this week.The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: 'You’re right. It’s terrible.' The law enforcement official ... says hehad no further communication with any NFL employee and can’t confirm anyone watched the video. The person said he was unauthorized to release the video but shared it unsolicited, because he wanted the NFL to have it before deciding on Rice’s punishment. The NFL has repeatedly said it asked for but could not obtain the video of Rice hitting Janay Palmer — who is now his wife — at an Atlantic City casino in February." ...

... John Barr & Greg Amante of ESPN: "Revel [hotel & casino] security workers watched the incident from the operations room through a security camera of the elevator.One former staffer said Rice ... spat in his then-fiancée's face twice, 'once outside the elevator and once inside,' prompting her to retaliate with movements that were ultimately countered with a knockout punch. According to the men, as Rice punched Palmer, the elevator the couple rode was rapidly approaching the hotel lobby just two floors above the casino floor. A security staffer, dispatched from his lobby post, saw Rice starting to drag his fiancée, who appeared to still be unconscious, out of the elevator.... All of the staffers ... say they were not contacted by anyone from NFL security or the Ravens and they are not aware of any current or former co-workers who have been." ...

... TMZ: NFL Commissioner Roger "Goodell said Tuesday he did not contact the Revel Casino because it was his understanding 'the casino is prohibited from turning over material to a third party during a law enforcement proceeding' -- namely the criminal case against Rice. But Paul Loriquet, the Director of Communications for the New Jersey Attorney General, tells TMZ bluntly, 'No, it's not illegal.'" ...

... Jodi Kantor of the New York Times: "... after [Ray] Rice’s contract was terminated by his team on Monday, [Janay Palmer Rice] became the most famous battered wife in the country, a fierce defender of her husband and, to domestic violence experts and survivors, an extraordinarily public example of the complex psychology of women abused by men."

Charles Pierce: "The triumph of the campaign for voter-suppression out in the states is not going to be limited to measures like curtailing early voting and requiring state ID cards. Once established in law, these measures will lead to a 'debate' on whether or not we should reinstate property-based suffrage, or some other form of restrictions on the franchise that we all thought we were done with a century or so ago. (There's already serious talk about a property requirement bubbling up in the usual precincts -- because, of course, that's what the Founders wanted.)"

Dominic Rushe of the Guardian: "After a day of protest against Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposals for regulating the internet that was coordinated by some of the world’s largest tech companies, the agency announced on Wednesday it had received a record 1,477,301 public comments about the proposals since July. The previous record of 1.4 million was set in 2004 when an alleged 'wardrobe malfunction' during the halftime show at the Super Bowl led to [Janet] Jackson’s breast (plus nipple shield) being flashed to an audience of 111 million."

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Hadas Gold of Politico: "Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney will join CNN as a political commentator, the network announced Wednesday. He will start Wednesday night as President Barack Obama makes a prime-time statement about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Sam Feist, CNN's Washington bureau chief said in a statement." ...

     ... Update. Hadas Gold: Carney wrangled with John McCain in a CNN segment. Sounds kinda like CNN's failed, exceedingly annoying "Crossfire" show, minus the charming hyenas Paul Begala & Tucker Carlson.

Tuesday
Sep092014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 10, 2014

Julie Pace of the AP: "President Barack Obama will ask Congress to quickly authorize the arming and training of Syrian opposition forces but will press forward without formal sign-off from lawmakers on a broader military and political effort to combat militants in Syria and Iraq, administration officials said Tuesday. Obama was to outline his plans Wednesday in a rare prime-time address to the nation, a format that underscores the seriousness of the threat posed by the Islamic State militants. The president's broader strategy could include more wide-ranging airstrikes against targets in Iraq and possibly in Syria, and hinges on military and political commitments from allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere." ...

... Mark Landler & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "President Obama is prepared to authorize airstrikes in Syria, a senior administration official said on Tuesday, taking the military campaign against the Sunni militant group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, into new and unpredictable terrain. But Mr. Obama is still wrestling with a series of challenges, including how to train and equip a viable ground force to fight ISIS inside Syria, how to intervene without aiding President Bashar al-Assad, and how to enlist potentially reluctant partners like Turkey and Saudi Arabia." ...

... Josh Rogin & Tim Mak of the Daily Beast: "When the president calls for Congress to approve his new counterterrorism fund in his speech Wednesday, it's unlikely he'll mention that for the last four months his administration has stifled calls from inside and outside the government for the White House to specify exactly what the money is for."

... Lara Jakes of the AP: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad Wednesday to press Iraq's Shiite leader to quickly deliver more power to wary Sunnis -- or jeopardize any hope of defeating the Islamic State group. Kerry landed in the Iraqi capital just two days after newly sworn Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi seated his top government ministers, a crucial step toward restoring stability in a nation where security has spiraled out of control since the beginning of the year." ...

... Steve Benan: "... Dick Cheney was on Capitol Hill once again today, delivering yet another round of advice to congressional Republicans on foreign policy as if he still has credibility on the subject. The failed former vice president was reportedly 'greeted with affection,' and received standing ovations from the assembled GOP lawmakers.... Even now, years later, as the world struggles with the consequences of a disastrous war, which the Bush/Cheney team handled in the most incompetent, dishonest, and corrupt ways possible, congressional Republicans look back and think, 'Yep, that was a smart move.'" ...

... Ben Jacobs of the Daily Beast: "According to Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana, Cheney said Obama 'has actually done things that have supported the Muslim Brotherhood.' The former vice president then went on to name the Muslim Brotherhood as 'the beginning of all the Islamist groups that we're dealing with now like Hamas and ISIS.'" CW Translation: ISIS did not arise out of the unnecessary, disastrous, poorly-planned war I started (as experts contend), but out of Obama's deep & abiding faith in & support for radical Islam.

Paul Kane & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "House Republican leaders Tuesday unveiled a temporary government funding bill that includes a short-term extension of a trade-promotion agency that has been targeted by conservative activists, eliminating a key sticking point in the effort to avoid a government shutdown. The bill would keep the government running on this year's budget levels from the start of the new fiscal year, Oct. 1, until ­mid-December, when negotiators would prefer to approve detailed spending plans for the federal agencies through 2015." See also Cruz News below.

Jeremy Herb of Politico: "The House condemned President Barack Obama on Tuesday for swapping five Taliban commanders at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl without notifying Congress. The House approved a resolution, 249-163, that condemned the president for breaking the law since he did not give Congress 30 days notice of the transfer."

Lindsay Abrams of Salon: House Republicans think curbing fake "government overreach" is way more important than ensuring Americans have clean water. "House bill, H.R. 5078, overrides a rule proposed in March by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, which sought to clarify two Supreme Court decisions that had made it difficult to determine whether waterways that are dry for part of the year are protected by the Clean Water Act -- confusion that polluters have Obama's senior advisers would recommend he veto the bill....."

Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "US police forces that use military equipment earmarked for counter-terrorism to handle public order disturbances instead could be forced to repay millions of dollars in grants, under a review revealed during the first congressional hearings into this summer's riots in Ferguson, Missouri.... The Department of Homeland Security, one of three US agencies primarily responsible for providing the equipment, said it was now considering whether to demand that its grants be repaid if police are found to have broken a little-known rule prohibiting its use in riot suppression.... Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said committee investigators had found there were now more MRAPs in the hands of local police forces than the national guard and that 36% of all surplus equipment received direct from the military was brand new or unused." ...

... The Guardian liveblogged Tuesday's Congressional hearing on police use of military equipment.

Molly Ball of the Atlantic: "To understand why [immigration reform] advocates are so hurt and angry [by President Obama's decision not to take executive action until after the elections], you have to understand the meandering road immigration reform has taken over the course of the last decade -- a road littered with false starts, broken promises, and a community repeatedly left in the lurch. Latinos feel that they have been jerked around by politicians who alternately pander for their votes and shunt them aside when their priorities become inconvenient -- like now. Obama in particular has made a series of pledges on immigration, only to abandon them all."

Sorry, Wrong Number. Alexander Bolton of the Hill: A top aide to Eric Holder accidentally calls Darryl Issa's (RTP-Calif.) office -- he meant to call Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) -- & asks to have the Congressman's staff leak documents to "interested reporters" re: the IRS investigation favorable to the administration....

     ... CW: Just massively stupid. Of course, Issa -- who has a history of leaking parts of reports that misrepresent the totality of actual findings -- was in high dudgeon over the very idea that Democrats would leak favorable information, & that there would be coordination between the Democratic administration & Democrats in Congress. What I do find troubling, though not surprising, was that it was the DOJ -- which is supposed to be a impartial (though it never is), law-enforcement operation -- that is doing the "coordinating." Why not the political wing of the White House?

Katie McDonough of Salon: NFL Commissioner "Roger Goodell ... explains that he needs to see a woman get knocked out to know domestic violence is bad.... It has long been clear that the NFL is indifferent to violence against women. This incident was just too much of a media headache to ignore, so the NFL acted -- belatedly, inadequately, cynically. Rice is not the only man in the NFL who has abused women, though Goodell really wants the public to believe that's the case."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Jim Newell of Salon writes a very good analysis of Tim Russert's interview methodology, & explains why it sucked. "Had Russert lived and continued hosting the show, he could have ended up like Thomas Friedman: someone whose 'brand' kept him going, but whose style and techniques had long ago become mockable shtick. David Gregory's failure was in trying to continue the Russert shtick without ever having built up the brand." I quit watching the Sunday shows regularly because the interviewers, including Russert, seldom challenged the wildly inaccurate claims guests and panelists made. But I had forgotten that Russert enjoyed "challenging" guests with "gotcha" assaults highlighting inconsistencies on often inconsequential aspects of an issue.

Cruz News

House Speaker Holds Late-night Tea Party Strategty Session. Matt Fuller of Roll Call: "Sen. Ted Cruz again met with a small group of House Republicans late Tuesday night, this time to discuss over pizza a conservative strategy on the continuing resolution.... Earlier in the evening, the [other] House GOP leadership unveiled a bill to keep the government funded through Dec. 11. And the early review from conservatives attending Cruz's meeting in the Texas Republican's office was that Dec. 11 is too soon.... Pushing the next big spending showdown into March, members of the 'Cruz Caucus' said, would give the new 114th Congress, which could include a Republican-controlled Senate, an opportunity to tackle government funding." Via Greg Sargent.

Seung Kim Min of Politico: "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called on lawmakers to use 'any and all means necessary' -- including must-pass government funding measures -- to block President Barack Obama from taking executive action on immigration. The tea party hero, who aggressively pushed the anti-Obamacare strategy that spurred last year's 16-day government shutdown, has seized on immigration executive moves from the Obama administration as the root cause of the border crisis this summer." ...

... Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Setting up a possible confrontation over the funding measure that would keep the federal government open beyond September, Cruz declined to rule out opposing the stopgap bill if it allows the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to continue." CW: Looking forward to some more of those Dr. Seuss readings. Maybe I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today or If I Ran the Zoo.

MEANWHILE. Jonathan Chait: Ted Cruz's ObamaCare nightmare comes true. It's working, & Republicans can't even agree to schedule any more of their "message" repeal votes.

Democrats Conspire to Take Down SNL, Jail Lorne Michaels. Lucy McCalmont of Politico: "Sen. Ted Cruz says the comedy of NBC's 'Saturday Night Live' is at risk and creator Lorne Michaels could be thrown in jail if a proposed Constitutional amendment on campaign finance is passed." Cruz has been in touch with Sen. Al Franken on this. Franken, a former SNL star & co-sponsor of the amendment is oddly untroubled by Cruz's warning. Probably the whole amendment is a Franken plot to bring down his former boss.

Congressional Races

James Hohmann of Politico: "Scott Brown won the New Hampshire Republican Senate primary Tuesday night, setting up a general election showdown with Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. The former Massachusetts senator, who ... became a New Hampshire citizen last December, easily defeated two main challengers, former state Sen. Jim Rubens and former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith." ...

... Ha Ha. Scott Brown's campaign manager Colin Reed sent Larry Lessig a nasty, threatening letter on accounta Lessig described Brown as a "Washington lobbyist" is a campaign finance reform flyer. Also, Reed cc'ed Lessig's department chair, the president & the provost of Harvard. Larry Lessig: "I take it Mr. Reed's outrage is triggered by the Senate's regulations of what constitutes being a 'lobbyist' for purposes of the Senate rules. I hadn't received the memo that explained that the English language is now regulated by the rules of the United States Senate.... I submit to anyone else in the world, a former Senator joining a 'law and lobbying firm' to help with Wall St's 'business and governmental affairs' is to make him a lobbyist. Because to anyone else in the world, when you sell your influence to affect 'business and governmental affairs,' you are a lobbyist." Via Charles Pierce. CW: Probably Scottie's man should not be trying to match wits with of a Harvard law professor. ...

... CW Note to Jeanne Shaheen: Call Brown a "Washington lobbyist" every chance you get. Apparently he'll go nuts. (And, yeah, in case they missed it, I sent Lessig's post on to Shaheen's campaign.)

Steve LeBlanc of the AP: "U.S. Rep. John Tierney has conceded defeat to former Marine Seth Moulton after a hard-fought Democratic primary in Massachusetts' 6th Congressional District.... Moulton argued he would have a stronger chance of holding off [Republican Richard] Tisei, who lost to Tierney by less than 1 percent of the vote in the 2012 election. Tierney is the first incumbent Democratic congressman from Massachusetts to lose a primary since Chester Atkins in 1992."

Gubernatorial Races

Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York claimed the Democratic nomination for a second term on Tuesday, but at a considerable price: A liberal challenger with little money or name recognition, Zephyr Teachout, was on track to receive about a third of the vote, a signal of the potent dissatisfaction with Mr. Cuomo in his party's left wing. Mr. Cuomo avoided what could have been a more damaging blow to his prestige, as his choice for lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, a former congresswoman from Buffalo, soundly defeated Ms. Teachout's running mate, Tim Wu." CW: Kudos to everybody who voted for Teachout. Too bad her good showing won't teach that Gov. Sleazy a lesson.

Roberto Scalese & Lara Salahi of the Boston Globe: "Treasurer Steve Grossman has conceded to Attorney General Martha Coakley in the [Massachusetts] Democratic gubernatorial primary Tuesday night. With 65 percent of precincts reporting, Coakley has 42 percent of the vote. Grossman has 37 percent of the vote, and former Medicare Administrator Don Berwick has 21 percent of the vote." CW: Let's hope Martha has developed the teensiest familiarity with the top sports teams this time around & also has overcome her aversion to dirtying her hands dirty by shaking the hands of mere voters.

Roberto Scalese: "Charlie Baker is projected to win the Republican primary for governor [of Massachusetts]. At 75 percent, Baker has a massive lead over [Mark] Fisher at 25 percent, with 60 percent of the vote counted."

Beyond the Beltway

Julie Bosman of the New York Times: "The first Ferguson City Council meeting since the police killing of Michael Brown one month ago erupted on Tuesday into an outpouring of grievances -- accusations of racism, police harassment and government incompetence -- as hundreds of residents made angry appeals for change."

Georgia State Senator Angrily Vows to Suppress Black Vote. Really. Daniel Strauss of TPM: Fran Millar, "a Republican state senator in Georgia, has vowed to end Sunday balloting in DeKalb County (includes part of Atlanta) due to the fact that the area is 'dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches.'" Thanks to safari for the link. ...

... Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reproduces Millar's full e-mail rant. It begins with a barely-coded racial slur & descends from there: "How ironic! Michele Obama comes to town and Chicago politics comes to DeKalb." ...

... Time to Bring Back Literacy Tests. (Millar later elaborated that he wanted "more educated voters" rather than a greater number of voters." Rick Hasan, a law professor & elections law specialist, offered this erudite analysis: "Holy cow!" ...

... DuBose Porter, chair of the Georgia Democratic party responds, in part, "What have Georgia Republicans come to when they are outwardly admitting to suppressing the African-American vote? Further, his comments about 'educated voters' are reprehensible. I suppose Fran would prefer a return to literacy tests or the poll tax while he's at it." The Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, made a similar statement. Both statements reprinted in full at the linked page (AJC).

... Millar complains that church buses taking people to polling places is a violation of the First Amendment "accepted principle of separation of church and state." Steve Benan: I don't think this state lawmaker fully appreciates what 'the accepted principle of separation of church and state' is. If a private institution (a church) has a bus that takes people to another private institution (a shopping mall), this isn't a First Amendment violation. That really doesn't make any sense at all." CW: Also, whaddaya bet Millar would swear on his Holy Bible that this is a "Christian Nation." By which, I suppose he would mean "White Christian Nation."

Anemona Hartocollis & David Goodman of the New York Times: Performer Joan Rivers' "treatment at ... Yorkville Endoscopy, a for-profit center, has drawn attention to a flourishing model of medical treatment, outpatient surgery centers, which have been licensed by the state to replace hospital operating rooms for minor procedures. Their management structure is often explicitly designed to maximize profits for doctors, who are typically the majority owners. They are common in other states, but only now gaining traction in New York, where by law, the traditional hospital model is nonprofit." Rivers went into cardiac arrest during minor surgery at the clinic & died a week later, during which time she was kept alive on life support. Her death is being investigated by the New York State Health Department & New York City medical examiner.

CW: This story is a week old, but since Akhilleus brought it to our attention (see yesterday's Comments for his take), it seems too weird to pass up. Jessica Chasmar of the Washington Times: "Ohio police say they have 'overwhelming evidence' to prove a former Navy SEAL turned prominent TV personality lied when he claimed he was shot during a fight with three black men outside of a Bath shopping plaza. Chris Heben, a former Navy SEAL and current spokesman for Montrose Auto Group, has been charged with misdemeanor counts of falsification and obstructing official business, a local ABC affiliate reported.... In 2008, the former SEAL pleaded no contest to three counts of forgery in Ohio and had his physician's assistant license suspended for writing up fake prescriptions, the Daily Mail reported." ...

Doktor Zoom of Wonkette: "Despite Heben's previous willingness to put himself forward as an expert for TV stories about brave special operators and security and why no Navy SEAL would ever vote for Obama or for Hillary (because Benghazi), he hasn't answered a single Ohio media outlet's request for an interview since he was charged. Go figure!" ...

... CW: The police seem pretty blase about finding out who shot Heben. After all, it's highly likely that -- unless Heben shot himself (not necessarily a wild guess) -- somebody committed a felony when that somebody shot Heben. And Heben himself may have been engaging in some felonious shenanigans that earned him the shot in the gut. Also, a hat tip to those awesome-scary black gangsters who can shoot to kill even when they're imaginary.

...Akhilleus also dug up this story, featuring "Judge Jeanine (Pirro) of Fox "News" interviewing Heben for his expert opinion on threats to the national power grid. Super-hero Heben explains a big problem is that a bunch of wimpy "'desk jockeys' who are not trained in unconventional warfare" -- as he is -- run the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It is these fat-asses (who are no more expert than a WalMart employee who watches security cameras all day) have approved the crappy power-grid security system. Another problem: power company execs are not buying his sales pitch to sell them an expensive security system. The segment seems to be an infomercial for Heben's security products & services. Meanwhile, you'd better stock up on canned goods because your power will be out for months. ...

... Pirro, by the way, has had plenty of troubles of her own.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Israel’s Military Advocate General Corps has ordered criminal investigations into five incidents of possible misconduct on the part of Israeli forces in the 50-day Gaza war, a senior Israeli military official said on Wednesday. Word of the investigations, coming two weeks after a cease-fire in the conflict, appeared to be the beginning of an Israeli effort to pre-empt the impact of international inquiries into allegations of possible Israeli war crimes in Gaza."

Reuters: "Two senators asked the federal government to investigate a data breach on the payment-card processing systems of Home Depot Inc and five U.S. states launched a probe into the matter on Tuesday as fallout from the attack intensified. The retailer has yet to say what was stolen, though experts fear the attackers may have gotten away with more than 40 million payment cards, which would exceed the number taken in last year's unprecedented attack on Target Corp."

Guardian: "Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was destroyed in an instant when the cockpit and other parts of the fuselage were peppered by 'a large number of high-energy objects,' causing the plane to break apart over eastern Ukraine before anyone could raise an alarm, according to a preliminary report on the disaster which was released on Tuesday.... The findings are consistent with US and Ukrainian assertions the Boeing 777, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was brought down by an anti-aircraft missile, which they say was provided by Russia."

Monday
Sep082014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 9, 2014

Jonathan Weisman, et al., of the New York Times: "President Obama on Tuesday will begin laying out his case for an expanded military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria when he faces congressional leaders who are averse to taking an election-year stand but are being pushed by lawmakers who want a say in matters of war. Mr. Obama's meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders on Tuesday in the Oval Office will be the first of several between White House officials and lawmakers as the administration tries to persuade Congress to embrace the president's plan to halt the momentum of the Sunni militant group known as ISIS." ...

... Justin Sink of the Hill: "President Obama is pushing congressional leaders to authorize a $5 billion counterterrorism fund that could be used to support operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Approving the fund could allow the White House and congressional leaders to escape a tougher vote on authorizing or funding military action before the midterm elections but still achieve the 'buy in' the president has said he wants from Congress." ...

... Hmm. Let's see how the GOP will decide what to do. Al Kamen & Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: "The leading architect of the Iraq war will be on Capitol Hill for a private chat with House Republicans on Tuesday, just as Congress is grappling again with how involved the United States should be in the region's snowballing unrest. Yes, ... Dick Cheney ... was invited by the GOP's campaign arm to speak at its first weekly conference meeting since Congress's five-week break...." ...

... Steve Benen: "Republicans are concerned about the threat posed by ISIS? The group's existence is largely the result of the disastrous war Cheney helped launch under false pretenses. Republicans are outraged that the White House is completing a plan for the next phase of the U.S. counter-terrorism policy? Cheney's the guy who helped invade Iraq without a plan for what would happen after the war began.... During Cheney's tenure, the U.S. policy in Iraq was incoherent -- the Republican White House couldn't figure out what to do about the terrorist threat, parts of which they inadvertently helped create, picked Maliki to run the country almost at random and struggled to understand the value of political solutions." ...

... Oh, And This. (Gaffe Alert.) It's an election year.... Republicans don't want to change anything. We like the path we're on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long. -- Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) on why Republicans don't want to vote on a use-of-force resolution ...

Now, that's putting your country before your party, Jack. Thank you for your service. -- Constant Weader

Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "A spokesman for Steven Sotloff's family contends the slain American journalist was sold to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant by Syrian rebels and says the Obama administration 'could have done more' to save him. Appearing on CNN Monday evening, Barak Barfi said that his sources in the region have told him one or more of the Syrian rebels sold Sotloff to ISIL for $25,000-$50,000. He referred to them as 'so-called moderate rebels, that people want our administration to support,' a jab at lawmakers and political figures -- including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and many others -- that have suggested arming the Syrian rebels.... Barfi, a research fellow at the [nonpartisan] New America Foundation, reserved stronger criticism for the Obama administration...."

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Several Senate Republicans joined Democrats on Monday to advance a constitutional amendment that would give Congress and the states greater power to regulate campaign finance. But the bipartisanship ends there. Many of the Republicans only voted for the bill to foul up Democrats' pre-election messaging schedule, freezing precious Senate floor time for a measure that ultimately has no chance of securing the two-thirds support necessary in both the House and Senate to amend the Constitution."

... The text of the proposed amendment (S.J. Res. 19) is here.

... Mitch McConnell in a Politico op-ed: "... Democrats who control the Senate say they're more interested in repealing the free speech protections the First Amendment guarantees to all Americans. Their goal is to shut down the voices of their critics at a moment when they fear the loss of their fragile Senate majority. And to achieve it, they're willing to devote roughly half of the remaining legislative days before November to this quixotic anti-speech gambit." ...

... CW: Not once in his little essay does Mitch mention that the Democrats "quixotic anti-speech gambit" is a constitutional amendment to allow the Congress to enact campaign finance legislation.

digby in Salon: Antonin Scalia "claims that he could not be a judge if he thought his participation in the death penalty was immoral and yet he does not believe it matters under the Constitution if the state executes innocent people. How on earth can such a depraved person be on the Supreme Court of the United States? On what basis can our country lay claim to a superior system of justice and a civilized moral order when such people hold power?" ...

... CW: digby writes that the execution of an innocent person "is as horrifying as the brutal slaying of the victim." I would say the execution is worse than the crime the condemned person did not commit. Heinous crimes are, almost by definition, committed by deranged people. Often the crimes are unplanned, often the perpetrators are drunk or drugged. By contrast, those who mete out "justice" -- police, prosecutors, expert witnesses, juries, judges, justices -- are supposed to be rational, deliberative, unbiased & working within the law. Executions are systematic, cold-blooded killings. There are no mitigating circumstances in a crime of dispassion.

Robert O'Harrow & Michael Sallah of the Washington Post write the third of a three-part series on "Search & Seize." CW: I hope many of you have been reading this series. The cases the writers cite are horrifying. Besides being stopped for "looking suspicious," many of these innocent people don't get all or even most of their lawfully-obtained money back. And most are carrying large amounts of cash because they have "lived their lives in cash economies, paying for everything from food to rent and business expenses with hard currency." When I travel long distances, as I often do, I have some of the same "indicators" that cause these cops to pull over drivers: tinted windows (in the back of my vehicle), sunglasses, food wrappers on the floor & energy drinks (well, tea & coffee). It's true I don't travel with much cash, so I don't have to worry about the police seizing my life's savings, but the main wonderful, fabulous personal traits that have saved me from being pulled over for nothing: I'm an Old White Lady. Somebody tell me how that represents "equal justice under the law."

"Twenty-Eight Pages." Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker: In 2002, the Bush administration classified a 28-page report, part of the report by the Joint Congressional inquiry into 9/11. "President Bush said then that publication of that section of the report would damage American intelligence operations, revealing isources and methods that would make it harder for us to win the war on terror.' 'There's nothing in it about national security,' [Rep.] Walter Jones [R-N.C.] ... contends. 'It's about the Bush Administration and its relationship with the Saudis.' [Rep] Stephen Lynch [D-Mass] ... told me that the document ... offers direct evidence of complicity on the part of certain Saudi individuals and entities in Al Qaeda's attack on America.... Another congressman who has read the document said that the evidence of Saudi government support for the 9/11 hijacking is 'very disturbing.'... Now, in a rare example of bipartisanship, Jones and Lynch have co-sponsored a resolution requesting that the Obama Administration declassify the pages. The Saudis have also publicly demanded that the material be released.... The effort to declassify the document comes at a time when a lawsuit, brought ten years ago on behalf of the victims of the attacks and their families, along with the insurers who paid out claims, is advancing through the American court system."

Marie's Sports Report

Ken Belson of the New York Times: "The National Football League's handling of a domestic violence case is under renewed scrutiny after a graphic video emerged Monday, leading to the termination of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice's contract and his indefinite suspension from the league. The video shows Rice punching his fiancée, who is now his wife, in the face, leaving her motionless on the floor of a hotel elevator in Atlantic City in February. He then dragged her unconscious body from the elevator.... The Ravens had not previously disciplined Rice in any public way, and after the episode, the team said on Twitter: 'Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.' The post was deleted Monday afternoon." ...

... CW: Just another example of "both sides do it": Here, an athlete punched his fiancee in the face, knocking her out cold, but only after she put her face in proximity to his fist. She should deeply regret that. ...

... UPDATE. Cindy Boren of the Washington Post: "In an Instagram post, [Janay] Rice defended her husband and marriage and railed against the price she and the couple is paying for the incident in February in an Atlantic City casino elevator.... 'No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options [opinions??] from the public has caused my family.'" CW: Dr. Ben Carson (see his insights below) was right about one thing: this woman needs help. ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: "... what did people think it looked like when a football player knocked out a much smaller woman? Like a fair fight?" ...

... Greg Rosenthal of NFL media: "'We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today,' the [National Football] league said in a statement released to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport." (Emphasis added.)...

... "Someone Is Lying." Barry Petchesky of Deadspin: Several sports reporters, including Peter King of Sports Illustrated, reported earlier, as King did in July 2014, that "the NFL and some Ravens officials have seen, from the security camera inside the elevator at the time of the physical altercation between Rice and his fiancée." Petchesky: "Privately, top reporters were told in no uncertain terms that the video existed, that the NFL had seen it, that it showed Janay Palmer acting violently toward Rice, and that, if released, it would go some way toward mitigating the anger against him. One of the league's most devoted mouthpieces described the video for us on an off-the-record basis, going off what his sources had told him. The implication was clear: If you saw this video, you'd know why Rice only got two games." ...

     ... Marcy Wheeler: "... the scandal of the video -- in addition to the fact that they appear to be lying about having considered it in their discussion of Rice's punishment -- is they believed that because Janay swung at Rice he was justified in swinging back. Even assuming that was their logic, though, remember that Roger Goodell was at this same time giving long, long punishments to various people for doing the harmless thing of smoking dope." ...

... Eliot Shorr-Parks on NJ.com: "TMZ's Harvey Levin said that the website has more information about the incident, and that come Tuesday morning, they will prove that the NFL knew about the video and decided to turn a blind eye." ...

     ... Update. TMZ: "Multiple sources tell TMZ Sports ... the casino made a copy of the elevator surveillance video for police. We're also told Rice's lawyer had a copy of the video, which he got in the criminal case. An NFL source tells us they requested 'any and all information' from law enforcement in the criminal case but got nothing because it was a pending case. But the NFL had other options ... namely going to the casino or Rice's lawyer -- but the NFL never bothered to ask." ...

... Katie McDonough of Salon with a reminder: "Ray Rice [was] fired -- but every other terrible person associated with the Ravens still has a job." ...

... Yeah, and how 'bout that prosecutor. Charles Curtis on NJ.com: "The Atlantic County[, New Jersey,] Prosecutor's Office ... stood by its decision not to pursue jail time -- or even probation -- and allow Rice to enter a diversion program instead. 'Mr. Rice received the same treatment by the criminal justice system in Atlantic County that any first-time offender has, in similar circumstances,' Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office Jay McKeen said in an email.... 'The decision was correct.'" ...

Olbermann!

... Juliet Macur of the New York Times: "Of course the video made the assault seem worse, and naturally it sparked a tidal wave of revulsion from the public.... But the facts alone should be enough in any domestic violence case. ...

AND Now, the Word from the Right ...

Worse Than the NFL & Ravens Management. David Edwards of the Raw Story: "The hosts of Fox & Friends on Monday turned video of NFL player Ray Rice punching his then-girlfriend unconscious in an elevator into a joke, saying that in the future she should 'take the stairs.'" Via Charles Pierce, who has almost nothing to say about the Rice video. CW: Pierce, a former sports reporter, once again shows he's no feminist. ...

     ... Update. "Fox Show Clarifies Ray Rice Comments." Kendall Breitman of Politico: "The comments faced backlash throughout the day." So NOW "Fox & Friends" say "domestic abuse is a very serious issue to us." CW: Yeah, right. ...

     ... Update 2: Charles Pierce weighs in: "Commissioner Roger Goodell was exposed as either a liar, or as someone who should not be allowed to count his own money. (Olbermann's right. He's got to go, but he won't, because most of the NFL owners think he's handled the whole thing splendidly.) The Ravens organization was exposed as a rat's nest of soulless, profit-driven drones. (And I hope nobody in the head offices of either the NFL or the Ravens misled the local prosecutors, who now also look like idiots on the national stage, and very likely are looking for someone to blame.)" Pierce contrasts Rice's treatment with that of Federal District Judge Mark Fuller, who got similar treatment from prosecutors for beating his wife, but gets to go back to his day job, with full pay & benefits, judging other people.

Let's not all jump on the bandwagon of demonizing this guy. He obviously has some real problems, and his wife obviously knows that, because she subsequently married him. So they both need some help. So rather than just jumping on a punitive bandwagon, let's just see if we can get some help for these people. -- Ben Carson, neurosurgeon, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush & a potential GOP presidential candidate

I wanna know, where is the President on this one? .. My question is ... this is a White House that seems to bring up a 'war on women' every other week. A White House that's very concerned about the NFL, concussions, etc., prescription drugs in locker rooms. -- Fox "News" host Andrea Tantaros

... CW: Not sure if Tantaros means this is all President Obama's fault or all this sissy-talk about concussions is just pandering to domestic violence perps. Or just, you know ... Obama!!!


Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania. Matt Bonesteel
of the Washington Post: "Citing 'significant progress toward ensuring its athletics department functions with integrity,' the NCAA announced Monday that it is restoring Penn State's postseason eligibility immediately and will allow the Nittany Lions' football team to offer a full complement of scholarships beginning next season. In the wake of the child sex-abuse scandal involving former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the NCAA in 2012 levied unprecedented penalties on Penn State, banning the Nittany Lions from bowl games for four years, cutting 40 football scholarships over four years and fining the school $60 million."

Congressional (and Other) Races

Emily Cahn of Roll Call: "The final primary night of the midterms takes place Tuesday, with consequential contests across New England and Delaware." ...

... Here's more from Politico staff.

Margaret Hartmann of New York: New York statewide primaries are today (Congressional primaries were in June). "The biggest race is the Democratic gubernatorial primary, in which Andrew Cuomo faces Fordham Law School Professor Zephyr Teachout.... A recent Quinnipiac University poll found Cuomo has a 78 percent favorability rating among Democrats, while 85 percent said they hadn't heard enough about Teachout to form an opinion of her. Also, she's raised only $541,000 to the governor's $35 million." ...

... Steve Myrick of the Martha's Vineyard Times: "Massachusetts voters will decide several hotly contested statewide and district primary races when they go to the polls on Tuesday, September 9. With the departure of Governor Deval Patrick after two terms in office, three candidates hope to carry the Democratic banner into the November general election."

Stu Rotherberg of Roll Call: "While the current Rothenberg Political Report ratings don't show it, I am now expecting a substantial Republican Senate wave in November, with a net gain of at least seven seats. But I wouldn't be shocked by a larger gain."

Beyond the Beltway

Yes, Virginia, There Are Lots of Scrooges (Who Don't Care if You Get Sick & Die). Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "After fuming at state lawmakers and threatening unilateral action, Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia took only modest steps on Monday to extend health care to the poor and disabled.... Mr. McAuliffe, who in June ordered his cabinet to devise a plan for unilateral action by Sept. 1, in the face of what he called Republican 'demagoguery' and 'cowardice,' announced that only 25,000 uninsured Virginians would be receiving coverage, far fewer than the 400,000 he has said are eligible if the state expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.... The governor reportedly consulted legal experts on how much he could accomplish by executive action. The modesty of his orders on Monday reflected the reality of a State Constitution that forbids any spending without the legislature's approval."

Frances Robles of the New York Times: "... the Ferguson City Council said Monday that it would establish a citizen review board to provide guidance for the Police Department. It also announced sweeping changes to its court system, which had been criticized as unfairly targeting low-income blacks, who had become trapped in a cycle of unpaid tickets and arrest warrants. Municipal court fines are the city's second-highest source of revenue, leading many critics to argue that the authorities had a financial incentive to issue tickets and then impose more fees on those who did not pay. Young black men in Ferguson and surrounding cities routinely find themselves passed from jail to jail as they are picked up on warrants for unpaid fines, one of the many simmering issues here that helped set off almost two weeks of civil unrest after the teenager, Michael Brown, 18, was killed by a white Ferguson officer on Aug. 9."

Sunday
Sep072014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 8, 2014

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama will use a speech to the nation on Wednesday to make his case for launching a United States-led offensive against Sunni militants gaining ground in the Middle East, seeking to rally support for a broad military mission while reassuring the public he is not plunging American forces into another Iraq war." See also video of Chuck Todd's interview of the President in yesterday's Commentariat.

David Remnick of the New Yorker: "As the Middle East disintegrates and a vengeful cynic in the Kremlin invades his neighbor, Obama has offered no full and clarifying foreign-policy vision.

His opponents and would-be successors at home have seized the chance to peashoot from the sidelines. What do they offer? Unchastened by their many past misjudgments, John McCain and Lindsey Graham go on proposing escalations, aggressions, and regime changes. Rand Paul, who will likely run for President as a stay-at-home Republican, went to Guatemala recently and performed eye surgeries as a means of displaying his foreign-policy bona fides.

Julie Davis & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "What had once looked like a clear political imperative for both parties -- action to grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants -- had morphed instead into what appeared to be a risky move that could cost Democrats their majority.... [Angus] King, a Maine independent who is a member of the Democratic caucus, warned Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff, [that] ... unilateral action by the president might undermine the prospects for bipartisan agreement on a broad immigration overhaul for years to come. It was that concern..., White House officials said, that ultimately prompted the president to break the promise he made on June 30 in the Rose Garden to act on his own before summer's end to fix the immigration system."

Lobbying Tanks. Eric Lipton, et al., of the New York Times: "More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors' priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found.... Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research.... The line between scholarly research and lobbying can sometimes be hard to discern.... The think tanks ... have not registered with the United States government as representatives of the donor countries, an omission that appears, in some cases, to be a violation of federal law...."

The Mind of Mitt. There’s no question in my mind that I think I would have been a better president than Barack Obama has been.... I think the president is really out of touch with reality when it comes to what's happening in the world.... I don't know whether you can't see reality from a fairway, but the president has not seen the reality internationally and domestically.... No question ... in my mind [that I would make a better president than Hillary Clinton].... Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are two peas in the same pod. -- Mitt Romney on "Fox 'News' Sunday"

William Finnegan of the New Yorker: A "Berkeley-University of Illinois study, commissioned by Fast Food Forward (a workers' association), found that American fast-food workers receive almost seven billion dollars a year in public assistance.... According to the progressive think tank Demos, fast-food executives' compensation packages quadrupled, in constant dollars, between 2000 and 2013.... Their front-line workers' wages have barely risen in that time, and remain among the worst in U.S. industry. The differential between C.E.O. and worker pay in fast food is higher than in any other domestic economic sector -- twelve hundred to one.... In Denmark McDonald's workers over the age of eighteen earn more than twenty dollars an hour -- they are also unionized -- and the price of a Big Mac is only thirty-five cents more than it is in the United States."

Charles Blow: "A damning report released by the Sentencing Project last week lays bare the bias and the interconnecting systemic structures that reinforce it and disproportionately affect African-Americans.... As the Sentencing Project report makes clear, the entire government and media machinery is complicit in the distortion.... The effects of these [mis]perceptions and policies have been absolutely devastating for society in general and black people in particular.

Jonathan Chait: The worst government in the U.S. is local government. "... police militarization bore only the faintest responsibility for the tragedy in Ferguson.... Old-fashioned policing tools were all the Ferguson police needed to engage in years of discriminatory treatment, to murder Michael Brown, and to rough up journalists covering the ensuing protests. Police militarization was a largely unrelated problem that happened to be on bright display. Over the ensuing days, it grew apparent that demilitarizing the police might save the government some money but would not address the crisis's underlying cause, and the momentary consensus evaporated.... The town of Ferguson, while tiny in scale, is an Orwellian monstrosity. Its racially biased Police Department is the enforcement wing of a predatory system of government...."

Robert O'Harrow & Michael Sallah of the Washington Post continue the Post's fascinating -- and disturbing -- series on "Stop & Seize." "A cornerstone of Desert Snow's instruction rests upon two 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that bolstered aggressive highway patrolling. One decision affirmed the police practice of using minor traffic infractions as pretexts to stop drivers. The other permits officers to seek consent for searches without alerting the drivers that they can refuse and leave at any time."

David Cole, in the New York Review of Books, reviews Zephyr Teachout's Corruption in America. "Teachout's important new book reminds us that corruption -- in its more expansive sense of excessive private interest undermining public virtue -- poses very real risks to a functioning democracy, risks that were foreseen at the founding, and that have preoccupied politicians, statesmen, and jurists for the entire course of our nation's history. Today's Court has sought to deny those concerns through a definitional strategy that cannot be squared either with that history or with the actual effects of money on our politics.... Only when the Court begins to grapple with the full extent of the dangers of corruption will its campaign finance jurisprudence truly reflect the competing values at stake." Teachout is running in the Democratic primary against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a poster-boy for enabling political corruption. The primary is tomorrow; Cuomo -- who tried unsuccessfully to keep Teachout off the ballot -- is expected to win by a landslide.

Paul Krugman: "I have a message for the Scots [who will be voting on a referendum next week for independence from Great Britain]: Be afraid, be very afraid. The risks of going it alone are huge. You may think that Scotland can become another Canada, but it's all too likely that it would end up becoming Spain without the sunshine.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Driftglass writes a lovely remembrance of yesterday's morning shows. ...

Also, it's hard to top Driftglass the Artist:

... The above limited-edition reprint tops Driftglass's reflection on receding local and state government reporting, which fits in nicely with Jonathan Chait's post, linked above. (CW: Click on the link, please, to help me justify swiping Driftglass's artwork for my own living room.) As Chait writes,

Since 1910, state house elections almost perfectly track U.S. House elections. The correlation, to be precise about it, is 0.96. Which is to say virtually none of us -- even those of us who bother to vote -- form judgments of any kind regarding our state legislators.

... Support your local newspaper!

Marie's Sports Report

Andrew Keh of the New York Times: "Bruce Levenson, who has led the ownership group of the Atlanta Hawks since 2004, informed N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver on Saturday that he intended to sell the team, effectively cutting short a league investigation into an email that Mr. Levenson sent two years ago to fellow Hawks executives detailing his thoughts on how the team could attract more white fans." ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York takes a cynical view of Levenson's "self-reporting." Want to spend more time with your family AND make wads of money? Just dig up one of your old racist e-mails!

Congressional Election

Elizabeth Drew of the New York Review of Books: "Whether or not the Republicans take control of the Senate, the ground there has already shifted to the right." CW: This is a long piece which provides an excellent review of "where we're at" politically. Drew is a master of the form. Her assessment of Hillary Clinton's critique of President Obama's Middle East policy is noteworthy.

A discouraging -- but not surprising -- note from Greg Sargent: "The new NBC/Marist polls released over the weekend put Mitch McConnell up over Alison Grimes by 47-39 and Tom Cotton over Dem Senator Mark Pryor by 45-40 in Arkansas, while Dem Senator Mark Udall leads GOPer Cory Gardner by 48-42 in Colorado."

Beyond the Beltway

Kimberly Kindy & Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "Instead of telling grand jury memberswhat charges they believe police officer Darren Wilson should face [in the killing of Michael Brown, St. Louis county prosecutors]

Jon Swaine of the Guardian reviews the differing accounts of the police killing of John Crawford III in a WalMart in Beavercreek, Ohio. Ronald Ritchie, the "witness" who called 911, has a credibility problem. State AG Mike DeWine (R) has refused to release surveillance video to the public, although Ritchie says he has seen it, & the Crawford family & their attorney also have viewed it. Another shopper, Angela Williams, died of heart failure after collapsing during the melee inside the WalMart that followed the shooting.

Kenneth Lovett of the New York Daily News: "In what many say is an alarming first, a private eye hired by Assembly Republicans placed a GPS device on a Long Island assemblyman's car for two months in an unsuccessful effort to prove the pol didn't live in his district. According to court transcripts, investigator Adam Rosenblatt said he was hired in March by attorney James Walsh, repping the Assembly Republican Campaign Committee, to find out where Assemblyman Edward Hennessey (D-Suffolk) actually lives. Walsh that same month was paid $3,000 by the GOP campaign committee.... State police say placing a GPS device on a vehicle is legal in mostcases...."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Under huge international and domestic pressure, Iraq swore in a new government on Monday, opening the way for an expansion of U.S. military support to fight Islamic extremists in the country. The vote to approve a new cabinet came during a fiery late-night parliamentary session. Key positions, including those of the defense and security chiefs, were left open amid controversy over who would fill them. Now confirmed as prime minister, Haider al-Abadi said he would name candidates for those positions within a week."

Washington Post: "Hospitals in Colorado, Missouri and potentially eight other states are admitting hundreds of children for treatment of an uncommon but severe respiratory virus. The virus, called Enterovirus D68, causes similar symptoms to a summer cold or asthma: a runny nose, fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. But the illness can quickly escalate and there are no vaccines or antiviral medications to prevent or treat it."

Guardian: "US warplanes have carried out five strikes on Islamist insurgents menacing Iraq's Haditha dam, witnesses and officials said, widening what President Barack Obama called a campaign to curb and ultimately defeat the militants.... The leader of a pro-Iraqi government paramilitary force in western Iraq said the air strikes wiped out an Isis patrol trying to attack the dam -- Iraq's second biggest hydroelectric facility that also provides millions with water."