The Ledes

Wednesday, November 26, 2014.

NBC News: "A holiday storm system played havoc Wednesday with the Thanksgiving travel plans of tens of millions of people — wiping out hundreds of flights in the Northeast, dumping rain on busy roads and threatening more than a foot of snow in some places.

Washington Post: "Police cleared the remaining barricades from one of Hong Kong’s largest protest sites Wednesday and arrested two pro-democracy leaders as authorities stepped up their efforts to end the two-month-long civil disobedience campaign. Hundreds of protesters chanted for 'full democracy' as workers in red caps and 'I love Hong Kong' T-shirts began clearing the metal and wooden barricades in the shopping streets of Mong Kok, a crowded working-class neighborhood that has become a flash point between protesters and opponents during the occupation."

The Wires

CW: Looks as if the Google News & stock market widgets are kaput & the Reuters widget is intermittent. We'll see what happens over the next few days with these.

The Ledes

Tuesday, November 25, 2014.

Washington Post: "This week’s winter storm is shaping up to be a travel nightmare for Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving and the busiest travel day of the year. A coating to several inches of snow could accumulate along the I-95 corridor on Wednesday. While temperatures have been unseasonably warm early this week, snow is still likely to accumulate along coastal interstates, especially during periods of heavy snowfall."

Public Service Announcement

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

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

White House Live Video
November 26

2:15 pm ET: President Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey (Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, not so much)

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

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

CW: For those of you who don't like hassling with DVDs, I accidentally found a cheap alternative to Netflix. Although I will continue to subscribe to Netflix's streaming videos, Netflix doesn't stream most decent movies. Instead, you have to maintain a (second) monthly subscription, then order & return the DVDs. However, YouTube now allows you to stream movies (you can watch them -- more than once -- during a 48-hour period.) There's no monthly fee, & you can play the movies on your TV via various devices. I have a Google dongle on one TV & a Blu-Ray box on another. The YouTube streaming videos work on both (you have to download on the Chrome browser). Setting up an account was very easy. Since I watch few movies, this works perfectly for me. When Ben Bradlee died, I watched "All the President's Men" for the umpteenth time, & today I watched "Good Night & Good Luck." Big advantage: instant gratification! I'm not sure if YouTube is good for more recent movies.

The Rockefellers Are Leaving the Building. New York Times: "By this time next year, they will have vacated the 56th-floor aerie [in 30 Rock] they have occupied since 1933 and moved to somewhat less rarefied headquarters across 49th Street. One of the country’s great dynastic families is downsizing."

Elaine Maine at the AFI Awards honoring Mike Nichols' lifetime achievements:

Frank Rich remembers Mike Nichols.

Erik Wemple: Bill Clinton discusses why his mother-in-law Dorothy Rodham watched Fox "News."

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Bill Cosby’s dazzling, decades-long career as one of America’s most beloved entertainers appeared to be toppling this week amid a succession of allegations painting Cosby as a serial sexual predator." ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "In the latest fallout from the sexual assault accusations involving the comedian Bill Cosby, NBC and Netflix have set aside projects with Mr. Cosby, and a lawyer for him issued a denial of a new claim from a woman who said he raped her decades ago. NBC said on Wednesday that it had dropped plans to develop a new situation comedy starring Mr. Cosby. The decision followed a week of revelations about accusations of rape and sexual assault against him." ...

... In an interview earlier this month, Cosby tried to get the AP to "scuttle" his "no comment" out of the videotape, suggested the reporter would not be considered "serious" if the AP didn't comply:

A Man for All Women. Jessica Roy of New York: "Karl Stefanovic is a beloved anchor on Australia's version of the Today show.... Over the weekend, Stefanovic made a startling confession: He's been wearing the same exact knock-off Burberry suit on-air every single day for a year, and — shockingly — nobody noticed. Stefanovic says he pulled the stunt to make a statement about how women on TV are judged much more harshly than men, particularly for their appearances. 'No one has noticed; no one gives a shit,' he said in an interview with Fairfax Media.'Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.'"

David Carr of the New York Times offers belated kudos to John Oliver & conceded, among other things, that Oliver was responsible for bringing "attention to the debate on net neutrality.... The show’s sudden influence was felt most acutely on the arcane issue of net neutrality, which Mr. Oliver introduced this way: 'Oh my god, that is the most boring thing I’ve ever seen! That is even boring by C-Span standards.' But after a string of jokes explaining the technology, the stakes and the power dynamics, Mr. Oliver concluded with a call to the underbelly of the Internet to urge the F.C.C. not to cave to moneyed interests and demand that the web remain a level playing field." Read the whole post. ...

... "Preventing Cable Company Fuckery":

... Matt Seitz of New York: " Last Week is doing what media watchdogs (including the Peabody Awards) keep saying that The Daily Show does — practicing real journalism in comedy form — but it's doing it better, and in a simpler, yet more ambitious, ultimately more useful way. If Stewart's show is doing what might be called a reported feature, augmenting opinions with facts, Oliver's show is doing something closer to pure reporting, or what the era of web journalism calls an 'explainer,' often without a hook, or the barest wisp of a hook."

Brian Stelter of the New York Times on how Stewart, Colbert & especially Oliver put net neutrality on the radar:


Clyde Haberman of the New York Times on the story of Lindy Chamberlain, the Australian woman who was convicted of killing her baby in the midst of a media blitz, then later exonerated. "... it took nearly three more decades before a coroner, in 2012, finally issued what the now-divorced parents had long sought: full vindication in the form of a death certificate formally ascribing Azaria’s fate to a dingo attack." With video from the Retro Report.

 

Anna Silman of Salon: "As long as there have been Aaron Sorkin shows on air, there have been parodies of Aaron Sorkin shows. His signature tropes — the Sorkin sermon, the high speed walk-and-talk — have been parodied so extensively that they’ve become cultural artifacts unto themselves, recognizable even to those who never watched the shows that spawned them. [Thursday] night on 'Late Night With Seth Meyers,' the Sorkin parody machine reached its self-referential apex, not just parodying these familiar tropes but also naming the tropes as they parodied them."

... Silman has embedded a number of other Sorkin parodies in her post.

"Triple Elvis (Ferus Type)" by Andy Warhol. Would you pay $82 million for this picture? BTW, you can get a swell copy of it for $29.99 on ebay.... New York Times: Christie's has its biggest auction night evah. CW: The super-rich are still super-rich.

The Guardian claims it will tell you here everything you need to know about the Rosetta comet landing. CW: Oh yeah? The data it sends back will probably just lead to a lot more of those bogus "scientific theories."

Jon [Stewart]'s problem is he has his head so far up Obama's ass he cannot see clearly, he is obviously better suited to reading his joke writers material, and making his clapping seal audience happy. -- Sean Hannity, supporting Stewart's point that Hannity is "the most loathsome dude" at Fox "News"

The New Yorker begins a metered paywall today, November 11. It will allow you to link to six free articles a month.

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Constant Comments

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-- Constant Weader

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Sunday
Nov162014

The Commentariat -- Nov. 17, 2014

"A Freakout Foretold." Charles Pierce: "This may wind up being the most pivotal week of the president's administration. First, he may take the executive action on immigration that he should have taken before the election. Then, the Congress may send him a pro forma bill supporting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which he may then veto, even though that action may deprive the Republic of the services of Mary Landrieu, for whom some K Street lobbying firm likely already is clearing out an office, and despite the fact that it may very well occasion the launching of another Indian War in the West."

** Paul Krugman: "Conservatives want you to believe that while the goals of public programs on health, energy and more may be laudable, experience shows that such programs are doomed to failure. Don't believe them. Yes, sometimes government officials, being human, get things wrong. But we're actually surrounded by examples of government success, which they don't want you to notice." ...

... Katie Zezima of the Washington Post: "Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell said 100,000 people submitted applications for coverage under the Affordable Care Act on Saturday, the first day of the law's second enrollment period."

Charles Blow: "Congressional Republicans have been sent to Washington with a mandate not so much to conduct business but rather to collect a bounty, to do what they promised and what their supporters expect: Stop Obama at any cost and at every turn, to erase his name or at least put an asterisk by it." ...

... No Surprise. Steve M.: "Republicans are planning to blame Democrats again for a GOP government shutdown." Surprise. Chuck Todd said to Bobby Jindal, "You're twisting my question."

E. J. Dionne: "On immigration, Boehner has lost all credibility to claim he wants to act in a bipartisan way. In his heart of hearts, might he like to pass a bill? Sure. But the speaker's heart is not what's at stake here. A willingness to take heat from the right wing of his caucus to pass a bill is what matters. And this is something he has showed, again and again, that he just won't do." CW: Another guy who mentioned the House's yearslong footdragging: Barack Obama.

Washington Post Editors: "... since the election Republican leaders have continued to indulge in hysterical 'war on coal' rhetoric, and they attacked the climate breakthrough in Beijing. They still appear determined to repeal the country's climate policies rather than replacing those policies with cheaper and more effective options, such as the market-based carbon-pricing programs that authentic conservatives would favor.... Whether out of cynicism, callousness or ignorance, Republicans over the past decade have ... indulged and encouraged shortsighted naysayers and climate conspiracists in the face of grave climate forecasts."

... Rebecca Leber of the New Republic: At the G-20 meeting, President "Obama put Australia's climate-denying Prime Minister [Tony Abbott] on the spot." ...

... Don Lee of the Los Angeles Times: "Criticized for being long on promises and short on delivery, leaders of the Group of 20 major economies set a target of lifting global economic output by at least 2% over five years -- an ambitious goal that would add $2 trillion to the world economy and millions of new jobs. To achieve that, the U.S. and other G-20 countries presented more than 800 specific projects and policy reforms that would, for instance, build more roads, improve trade and bring more women into the workforce." ...

... Here's video of the full press conference which President Obama held in Brisbane, Australia, at the close of the G-20 summit there:

Danielle Kurtzleben of Vox: "The latest jobs report showed the unemployment rate was at its lowest level in six years, 5.8 percent. But Americans aren't convinced that things are nearly that good. In a recent Ipsos-MORI poll, 1,001 Americans were asked, 'Out of every 100 people of working age, how many do you think are unemployed and looking for work?' Their average response was 32." ...

... CW: When (and if) the average American thinks one-third of potential workers are unemployed, the political party in power -- especially the party that holds the White House -- is in deep trouble. Misperceptions cause voters to make a lot of bad decisions. Ergo, Senator-Elect Joni Ernst. ...

... David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: "That has an impact, for instance, on immigration policy: no one believes that undocumented immigrants are taking high-wage jobs, so you'll b likelier to oppose immigration reform if you believe that there just aren't enough even low-wage jobs...." ...

... Danny Vinik of the New Republic: Activists confront the Federal Reserve. And Janet Yellen listens. CW: (a) Elections matter. (b) Thanks to everyone who forced President Obama to choose Yellen to head the Fed over his preferred choice, Larry Summers. Really, would Summers have listened to "little people"? I don't think so.

Eric Segall in Slate: "Taking law seriously -- as opposed to making decisions based mostly on personal values -- is what distinguishes judges from other political officials. On that basis, Supreme Court justices are simply not judges.... We have unelected, life-tenured politicians masquerading as judges, making important decisions that affect us all. It is important to recognize the court for the purely political institution it is, and to acknowledge that it is not a court of law...." ...

... CW: I would add to that a point made some time back, I forget by which writer (Jonathan Bernstein??), that not only do these political justices have life tenure, if they aren't carried out in a coffin, they decide when to retire based entirely on strategic political considerations, so their "life" tenure can actually continue for many generations, in their like-minded replacements. Ruth Ginsburg, David Souter (although Souter said he "probably" would have retired anyway if McCain had won the 2008 election) & Sandra O'Connor all made clear that politics determined their retirement decisions.

Nicholas Kristof: "... one element of white privilege today is obliviousness to privilege, including a blithe disregard of the way past subjugation shapes present disadvantage."

Sally Jenkins & Rick Maese of the Washington Post: "Federal drug agents conducted surprise inspections of National Football League team medical staffs on Sunday as part of an ongoing investigation into prescription drug abuse in the league. The inspections, which entailed bag searches and questioning of team doctors by Drug Enforcement Administration agents in cooperation with the Transportation Security Administration, were based on the suspicion that NFL teams dispense drugs illegally to keep players on the field in violation of the Controlled Substances Act...."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. CW: Maybe I fooled you into thinking Chuck Todd had turned over a new leaf when he objected to Bobby's Jindal's twisting his words (see above). Nah. As Driftglass documents, Press the Meat was a veritable beauty pageant for wingers. My favorite: Carly Fiorina, who deigned to allow her man Chuck to break some big news: she cannot avoid considering a presidential run because "Well, when people ask you over and over again, you have to pause and reflect. So I'll pause and reflect at the right time." Thank you, California, for not electing this harridan as your representative to the greatest deliberative body on earth (TM).

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Yes, Bill Keller Is Doing Something Useful. Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times: "The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization focused on the American criminal justice system and led by Bill Keller, a former executive editor of The New York Times, went live this weekend, the latest in a crop of start-ups seeking a place in an increasingly fragmented journalism landscape." ...

... Annals of "Justice," Ctd.

Here's the Marshall Project debut story, by Ken Armstrong, published in the Washington Post. Armstrong covers the failure of some lawyers to file timely petitions for habeas corpus in capital cases, "arguably the most critical safeguard in the United States' system of capital punishment.... Just last month, Mark Christeson, a Missouri inmate whose lawyers missed the habeas deadline in 2005, received a stay of execution from the Supreme Court just hours before he was set to die by lethal injection. In a court brief filed on Christeson's behalf, 15 former state and federal judges emphasized that he had not even met the appellate attorneys handling his federal case until after the filing deadline had passed. 'Cases, including this one, are falling through the cracks of the system,' they wrote. 'And when the stakes are this high, such failures unacceptably threaten the very legitimacy of the judicial process.'" ...

     ... CW: Once again, thanks, Newt Gingrich & Bill Clinton, and all you other phony "law & order" turkeys. ...

... Here's Part 2 of Anderson's report: "... an investigation by The Marshall Project has found that in at least 80 capital cases in which lawyers have missed the deadline -- sometimes through remarkable incompetence or neglect -- it is almost always the prisoner alone who suffers the consequences.... The lack of oversight or accountability has left many of the lawyers who missed the habeas deadlines free to seek appointment by the federal courts to new death-penalty appeals." ...

AND here's another death penalty horror story, courtesy of Paige Williams of the New Yorker. This one, not surprisingly, comes out of Alabama, where a judge can capriciously, it seems, override a jury's recommendation not to impose the death penalty, even as he questions whether or not the convicted man is even guilty.

Beyond the Beltway

Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "Video footage has emerged showing Darren Wilson -- the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri -- threatening and arresting a resident who refused to stop filming him with a cellphone. Wilson is seen standing near his Ferguson police SUV and warning Mike Arman: 'If you wanna take a picture of me one more time, I'm gonna lock your ass up.' Arman, who had requested Wilson's name, replies: 'Sir, I'm not taking a picture, I'm recording this incident sir.'... Filming police officers carrying out their duties is widely considered to be legal and protected by the first amendment of the US constitution."

Martin Pengelly of the Guardian: "A lawyer for Bill Cosby said on Sunday the comedian would not make any comment on 'decade-old, discredited' allegations of sexual abuse." Here's the full statement, published on BillCosby.com.

News Ledes

AP: "The cold-eyed militants lined up behind their victims in the latest Islamic State video appear to come from outside the Middle East, including one from France and possibly two from Britain, as the extremist group tries to show a global reach. The grisly video -- clearly aimed at a Western audience -- lingers as much on the faces of the camouflaged extremists as the men who are beheaded. The victims include American aid worker Peter Kassig and more than a dozen Syrian soldiers."

Reuters: "Former customers of Bernard Madoff may soon recover an additional $496.8 million as a result of a settlement with two 'feeder funds' that was announced on Monday by the trustee liquidating the swindler's firm. The settlement, with the Herald Fund SPC and Primeo Fund, both based in the Cayman Islands, is one of the largest obtained by the trustee, Irving Picard, since the failure of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in December 2008."

Washington Post: "Martin Salia, a doctor who contracted the Ebola virus while treating patients in Sierra Leone, died on Monday while receiving treatment in Omaha. Salia was in 'extremely critical condition' after he was evacuated in a specially equipped air ambulance for treatment in the United States at the Nebraska Medical Center, which has a state-of-the-art isolation facility equipped for treating Ebola patients. A native of Sierra Leone with ties to Maryland, Salia had initially tested negative for the virus; but a subsequent test came back positive on Nov. 10."

Saturday
Nov152014

The Commentariat -- Nov. 16, 2014

Christi Parsons & Don Lee of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama said Sunday that world leaders agree Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't following the 'letter or the spirit' of his commitment to peaceful actions in Ukraine but that the sanctions currently in place against his regime are 'biting plenty good.' After a closed-door meeting with European leaders on the subject, Obama said the current level of isolation of Russia will continue as long as the country violates the principle that 'you don't invade other countries or finance proxies' who do.... Putin left the summit early, citing the long flight home." ...

... Here's a clip of President Obama's remarks at a press conference closing the G-20 meetings. I'll put up full video if one becomes available:

... Here's Obama on Ed Henry's (Fox "News"!) question about Johnathan Gruber/"stupid" comments. Thanks, Ed:

Amy Goldstein & Jason Millman of the Washington Post: "HealthCare.gov and online state insurance marketplaces in more than a dozen states opened Saturday morning for a second year of enrollment and a fresh test of whether the government can persuade millions of uninsured Americans to buy health plans. From anecdotal reports around the country, the early hours of the sign-up period appeared devoid of the computer troubles that frustrated both insurance-seekers and the Obama administration when the federal insurance exchange first debuted 13 months ago." ...

... OR ...

... Robert Pear & Amy Goodnough of the New York Times: "The health insurance marketplace opened for business on Saturday and performed much better than last year, but some consumers reported long, frustrating delays in trying to buy insurance and gain access to their own accounts at HealthCare.gov. Thousands of people attended hundreds of enrollment events around the country at public libraries, churches, shopping malls, community colleges, clinics, hospitals and other sites. Insurance counselors and federal, state and local officials said they were trying to juggle two tasks -- enrolling more of the uninsured and renewing coverage for those who already had it."

"Have You Met Joe Biden?" Cheryl Chumley of the Washington Times: "Republican bulldog Rep. Trey Gowdy put the kibosh on the idea of impeaching President Obama during a nationally television Fox News interview, telling his broadcast audience that booting the commander-in-chief from his office would open the doors to something even worse -- the ascension of Vice President Joseph R. Biden." ...

... Steve M. sees Gowdy's remark as scripted. "So GOP establishmentarians want maximum rage when Obama makes his announcement, but they don't watch impeachment. Can they hit the sweet spot? We'll see."

The Clinton Factor. Jamelle Bouie of Salon doesn't think Democrats can win the white working-class vote: "... for a new rhetoric of populism to work..., it needs to come with a commitment to universal policies that working-class whites like and support.... But the United States doesn't have a political party to support that kind of social democracy. Instead, it has the Democratic Party, a collection of disparate interests which -- at its best -- is nervous about economic liberalism and hesitant to push anything outside the mainstream. And worse, it has a presidential frontrunner who -- more than anyone else -- is connected to the kinds of elites and the kinds of policies that would push the party away from the muscular liberalism it needs."

Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: Based on a study that mined data from 1997 through 2010, "Stanford law professor John Donohue and his colleagues have ... concluded that ... more guns equal more crime. 'The totality of the evidence based on educated judgments about the best statistical models suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates' of aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder, Donohue said in an interview with the Stanford Report. The evidence suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with an 8 percent increase in the incidence of aggravated assault, according to Donohue. He says this number is likely a floor, and that some statistical methods show an increase of 33 percent in aggravated assaults involving a firearm after the passage of right-to-carry laws." Thanks to Nisky Guy for the link. AND, as Barbarossa notes, the comments from the NRA commentariat are a blast. Not only is the study flawed (an actual possibility), but high incidence of guns deaths are the fault of blacks & Hispanics. Several comments somehow associate Jonathan Gruber of MIT with the Stanford study.(All professors are liberals; all liberal professors make up shit. Or something.)

Today in Stupid. "Socialism on the Internet." Miranda Blue of Right Wing Watch gathers up a bunch of right-wing "explanations" of why net neutrality will ruin your life. Apparently, none of these geniuses understands what net neutrality is. Glenn Beck, ferinstance, "is outraged that President Obama wants to end 'the freedom of the internet' and ruin something that's 'working pretty well' because 'the government is not involved in it at all.' Apparently unaware that current FCC regulations allow his online network, The Blaze, to stream on an open internet, Beck claimed that regulations preserving net neutrality would end this supposedly government-free system in which he operates his business."

Roxane Gay, in the Washington Post on a Time magazine poll of readers asking them to choose which word, from among a list, to ban: "The list is supposed to be funny, but it is largely a policing of the vernacular of anyone who isn't a white, heterosexual man.... To include 'feminist' in this poll was irresponsible and lazy. It was a provocation without substance, designed to amuse. Women openly claiming feminism and a desire for equality? That's just silly." ...

... The poll, which is noxious with or without including the word "feminism," is here. Now, at the top, Time editor Nancy Gibbs writes, "Time apologizes for the execution of this poll; the word 'feminist' should not have been included in a list of words to ban. While we meant to invite debate about some ways the word was used this year, that nuance was lost, and we regret that its inclusion has become a distraction from the important debate over equality and justice." CW: Yes, because a poll about choosing words & phrases to ban is usually a work of intricate nuance. ...

... CW: What about the central assumption of the poll? Here we have a publication, whose only product is words, suggesting that it's quite okay to "ban" some words or phrases, not because they are boorish, hateful & oppressive, but because they are popular among the kids & some people find that annoying. This poll isn't just sexist; it's also ageist. I hope this is the last such poll Time finds "amusing" enough to publish. ...

... Now let's hear from an aggrieved white guy about all this silliness. Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit Tea party guy & a bonafide law professor, in a USA Today op-ed, is appalled that women were disgusted that a lead scientist on the European Space Agency's Philae project wore to a press conference a T-shirt adorned with scantily-clad women: "Yes, feminists have been telling us for years that women can wear whatever they want, and for men to comment in any way is sexism. But that's obviously a double standard, since they evidently feel no compunction whatsoever in criticizing what men wear.... With this sort of behavior in mind, it's no surprise that so many people feel that feminism has passed its sell-by date.... The [Time] poll captures a truth. Whatever feminists say, their true priorities are revealed in what they do, and what they do is, mostly, man-bashing and special pleading." Thanks, USA Today, for disseminating this garbage.

God News

Religious Freedom for Me But Not for Thee. Pamela Constable of the Washington Post: "In a corner of Washington National Cathedral, several hundred Muslim worshipers and other invited guests gathered Friday afternoon for a first-ever recitation of weekly Muslim prayers at the iconic Christian sanctuary and to hear leaders of both faiths call for religious unity in the face of extremist violence and hate.... The carefully scripted ceremony was marred once when one well-dressed, middle-age woman in the audience suddenly rose and began shouting that 'America was founded on Christian principles.... Leave our church alone!'"

AP: "A Mormon bishop in Los Angeles is under fire for his assertion that Sen. Harry Reid is unworthy to enter the faith's temples because of his support of Democratic Party positions. Mark Paredes, in a Wednesday blog titled 'Good Riddance to Harry Reid, the Mormon Senate Leader,' expressed his belief that Democrats' support of same-sex marriage, abortion rights and gambling runs contrary to church stances.... Church spokesman Dale Jones said Mormons are entitled to express their political opinions, but publishing their views while using a church title is 'entirely inappropriate.'" Via Steve Benen.

Josephine McKenna of Religion News Service: "In his latest bid to ease the suffering of the poor -- and upend the expectations of the papacy -- Pope Francis plans to build showers for the homeless under the sweeping white colonnade of St. Peter's Square. Three showers are to be built into refurbished public restrooms provided for Catholic pilgrims along the marble columns leading into the historic basilica...." Also via Benen.

David Gibson of Religion News Service: "The nation's Catholic bishops have chosen a mixed slate of delegates for next year's high-level Vatican summit on the family, including outspoken culture warriors who are sometimes viewed as out of step with Pope Francis' priorities."

** Lauren Markoe of Religion News Service interviews Karen Armstrong on religion & the history of violence.

Beyond the Beltway

Robert Patrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "The Aug. 9 fatal shooting here that sparked three months of protests and calls for change from around the world happened in less than 90 seconds, interviews and an analysis of police and EMS records shows. The records, obtained by the Post-Dispatch via Missouri's Sunshine Law, provide the best timeline yet for the events surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown Jr., 18." ...

... Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "A call for backup that a police officer claims to have made seconds before he killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, reportedly cannot be found in police recordings. The officer blames the problem on his radio." CW: Uh-huh. ...

... Jason Sickles of Yahoo! News: "The Ferguson police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown will be 'immediately' returned to active duty if he is not indicted, Chief Tom Jackson told Yahoo News on Friday. Officer Darren Wilson has been on paid leave since the controversial shooting in early August. He would come back to a 'not yet determined assignment,' the chief writes in an email."

Hudson Hongo of Gawker: "On Saturday, Weekend Edition host Scott Simon ended an interview with Bill and Camille Cosby by asking the comedian point-blank for comment on the accusations by more than a dozen women of sexual assault. In response, Cosby only shook his head." Audio & transcript of the interview here. ...

... The transcript of Hannibal Burgess's stand-up riff on the rape allegations (which Hongo says started renewed interest in Cosby's actions) is here. The video is here. As Burgess himself says, "It's not funny."

November Elections

Bill Clinton Is Still a Twerp. Ken Thomas of the AP: "Former President Bill Clinton said Saturday that Democrats lacked a 'national advertising campaign' in the recent midterm elections and that he's surprised many Senate races were not closer. Clinton said in an interview with Politico that Republicans were helped by a larger bloc of voters who felt more strongly about the elections than members of his party. Democrats could have benefited from a national message that reinforced the party's positions on refinancing student loans and promoting equal pay for women, he said." ...

... CW: Student loans & equal pay? Really? What about school uniforms? If this is going to be Hillary's radical message in 2016, well, hello, President Jeb/Paul/Christie. ...

... Two Twerps Talking. Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Clinton made the remarks in an interview with Politico's Mike Allen at an event held during the 10-year anniversary weekend of the opening of his presidential library in Little Rock."

News Ledes

New York Times: "President Obama on Sunday confirmed the death of the American aid worker Peter Kassig, a former Army Ranger who disappeared over a year ago at a checkpoint in northeastern Syria while delivering medical supplies. The president's midafternoon statement came hours after the Islamic State released a video showing a black-clad executioner standing over the severed head of a man it identified as Mr. Kassig." ...

... Guardian: "Islamic State (Isis) has released a video appearing to show the British terrorist known as 'Jihadi John' standing over the severed head of US aid worker Peter Kassig." The Washington Post story is here.

Friday
Nov142014

The Commentariat -- Nov. 15, 2014

Emily Clark of ABC (Australia) News: President Obama's "speech at the University of Queensland in Brisbane today, ahead of the official opening of the G20 leaders' summit, roused much applause from the capacity crowd, especially when it came to his comments on climate change and gender equality":

Juliet Eilperin & Steve Mufson of the Washington Post: "Even as the House passed legislation Friday authorizing construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline by a decisive vote of 252 to 161, President Obama is signaling he is increasingly skeptical of the project." ...

... ** Jim Avila, et al., of ABC News: "Asked about pending legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline [at a news conference in Myanmar], the president said his position on the issue has not changed and that the ongoing evaluation should be allowed to continue. In some of his strongest language yet, Obama pushed back against the Republican argument that the pipeline is a 'massive jobs bill for the United States.' 'Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn't have an impact on US gas prices,' he said, growing visibly frustrated. 'If my Republican friends really want to focus on what's good for the American people in terms of job creation and lower energy costs, we should be engaging in a conversation about what are we doing to produce even more homegrown energy? I'm happy to have that conversation,' he continued." ...

... Video of the full press conference is here.

Scott Wong, et al., of the Hill: "Conservative House Republicans say they're willing to shut down the government to prevent President Obama from carrying out what they see as unconstitutional actions on immigration. Tea Party lawmakers emboldened by the GOP's big midterm gains say they will insist on attaching a policy rider to legislation keeping the government open that would block funding for agencies carrying out Obama's promised executive actions limiting deportations. If the Democratic Senate or Obama rejects the rider, the government could shut down. A current measure funding the government expires on Dec. 12.... Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) called the plan to block the executive action through the government-funding bill 'a great idea.'" ...

     ... CW: YoHo Knows. Some of Yoho's Other Great Ideas: Drinking Yoo-Hoo through a straw in his nose. Licking the cookie off the Oreo frosting. Playing strip Yahtzee. Buying a ghost town in Ohio (or Iowa) & naming it after himself. Serenading the ladies with "Yo Ho Ho & a Bottle of Rum." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "The kooks will not be going quietly." ...

... Jonathan Bernstein explains the utility of "John Boehner's Magic Expanding Lawsuit." Both funny & true. ...

... Brian Beutler: "There are three tools Republicans can use to stop Obama [from reforming immigration], but toxic Republican politics preclude the only one -- a pledge to vote on comprehensive reform -- that would actually work. That leaves the spending and impeachment powers." CW: So why doesn't Boehner have the balls to take the easy way out? (The Senate already passed a satisfactory immigration reform bill & the House apparently has the votes to pass one, too.) ...

... Jim Avila, et al.: "Speaking to reporters alongside famous opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Obama was adamant that, [same story linked above] despite mounting GOP objections, he will move forward and take executive action to reform the immigration system by the end of the year because reforms are 'way overdue.' 'I gave the House over a year to go ahead and at least give a vote to the Senate bill. They failed to do so and I indicated to Speaker Boehner several months ago that if, in fact, Congress failed to act, I would use all the lawful authority that I possess to try to make the system work better, and that's going to happen,' he said." ...

... Julia Preston of the New York Times: "When President Obama announces major changes to the nation's immigration enforcement system as early as next week, his decision will partly be a result of a yearslong campaign of pressure by immigrant rights groups, which have grown from a cluster of lobbying organizations into a national force. A vital part of that expansion has involved money: major donations from some of the nation's wealthiest liberal foundations, including the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Open Society Foundations of the financier George Soros, and the Atlantic Philanthropies. Over the past decade those donors have invested more than $300 million in immigrant organizations, including many fighting for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants here illegally."

Gail Collins: Congress is not going to pass a tax reform package.

Robert Pear, et al., of the New York Times: "The Obama administration on Friday unveiled data showing that many Americans with health insurance bought under the Affordable Care Act could face substantial price increases next year -- in some cases as much as 20 percent -- unless they switch plans. The data became available just hours before the health insurance marketplace was to open to buyers seeking insurance for 2015. An analysis of the data by The New York Times suggests that although consumers will often be able to find new health plans with prices comparable to those they now pay, the situation varies greatly from state to state and even among counties in the same state." ...

... It's Working. Frank Newport of Gallup: "Over seven in 10 Americans who bought new health insurance policies through the government exchanges earlier this year rate the quality of their healthcare and their healthcare coverage as 'excellent' or 'good.' These positive evaluations are generally similar to the reviews that all insured Americans give to their health insurance." ...

... Jeffrey Jones of Gallup: "More than half of uninsured Americans say they plan to sign up for health coverage, a promising sign as the open enrollment period for obtaining health insurance through state and federal exchanges opens. Specifically, 55% of Americans who currently lack insurance say they plan to sign up for coverage while 35% of the uninsured say they will not get insurance and instead pay the fine as required by the Affordable Care Act...." ...

... Neil Irwin of the New York Times explains what Jonathan Gruber's repeated "stupidity" remarks were all about: the Congressional Budget Office has rules which determine what types of private spending constitute a tax -- and thus go into the federal budget -- and what do not. "So the Obama administration officials and congressional Democrats who were writing the [healthcare] law had strong political incentives to ensure that the individual mandate they proposed would fit the C.B.O.'s definition of things that don't have to be counted on the federal government budget. What's slightly curious about Mr. Gruber's comments is that the versions of Obamacare that received public discussion and debate never broke from that goal. The same could not be said of the Clinton administration's failed 1993 health reform effort, which stumbled in part on just this issue. But it's also the case that this wasn't some obscure debate in which no one at the time knew what was going on. There was clear public guidance from the C.B.O. on how the individual mandate had to be devised in order to not move trillions of dollars of health care expenditures onto the federal budget...." ...

     ... Shorter Irwin: Prof. Gruber has no idea how Congressional staffers work with the CBO. ...

     ... CW: Irwin's post also explains all the hoo-hah back in 2010 on how the CBO would "score" the various proposed ACA bills. This hoo-hah was hardly secret or obscure, as Gruber claims; all the major news outlets carried stories about it, & bloggers wrote hundreds of posts discussing the scoring. If Republicans in Congress can't even read the news, the hearings the GOP is mulling to bring Gruber's "devious plot" into the light should center on their own inability to pay attention. While GOP MOCs were demagoging phony death panels, Democratic staffers were writing an actual bill, and the details of that actual bill were readily available to members of Congress, & to an unusual extent, to the public.

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "The Democrats' widespread losses last week have revived a debate inside the party about its fundamental identity, a long-running feud between center and left that has taken on new urgency in the aftermath of a disastrous election and in a time of deeply felt economic anxiety. The discussion is taking place in postelection meetings, conference calls and dueling memos from liberals and moderates. But it will soon grow louder, shaping the actions of congressional Democrats in President Obama's final two years and, more notably, defining the party's presidential primaries in 2016."

Joe Nocera has never heard of Ted Cruz: "Is there anybody out there who opposes net neutrality?" Nocera asks. He then goes into a discourse on the various laws under which the FCC could regulate ISPs like Comcast. All that explaining is unnecessary, because, as MAG points out, it turns out some people have studied up on & discovered that net neutrality is horrible:

By Clay Jones.

CW: One of the great things about being a Republican politician is that you don't have to make any sense at all. Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "Defending his fellow Republican governors’ decision to block Medicaid expansion in their states, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Friday suggested that denying health coverage to additional low-income Americans helps more people 'live the American Dream' because they won't be 'dependent on the American government.'" CW: Because you spendthrifts earning $7.25/hour, which Scottie thinks is a fine minimum wage (if one must have a minimum wage at all), should be buying your own insurance in the freeeee market with all the spare cash you're wasting on beer & Cheetos. Congratulations, Cheeseheads. This guy is Your Fault.

Your History Lesson for Today. Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "... this week, Atlanta became the site of a historical marker annotating [Gen. William] Sherman folklore to reflect an expanding body of more forgiving scholarship about the general's behavior. One of the marker's sentences specifically targets some of the harsher imagery about him as 'popular myth.'... To that end, the marker in Atlanta mentions that more than 62,000 soldiers under Sherman's command devastated 'Atlanta's industrial and business (but not residential) districts' and talks of how, 'contrary to popular myth, Sherman's troops primarily destroyed only property used for waging war -- railroads, train depots, factories, cotton gins and warehouses.' Sherman’s aggressiveness, the marker concludes, 'demoralized Confederates, hastening the end of slavery and the reunification of the nation.'"

Your Greek Lesson for Today. Charles Pierce Robert Bateman of Esquire defines "Molon labe." If only the U.S. could be more like Sparta.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Seniors, Sex & Foxy "News." Paul Waldman explains why Fox "News" -- where the median age of viewers is 68.8 -- shows way more shots of mostly-naked girls than do the other "news" channels. For instance, top Fox journalist Sean Hannity did a week-long "exposé" of Fort Lauderdale Spring Break. Pretty funny. ...

... In related video, a "Daily Show" segment of unknown (to me) vintage:

Poor, Poor Pitiful Peggy. Ed Kilgore ruined his afternoon by reading Peggy Noonan's column titled "The Loneliest President Since Nixon." (Hint: the column is not about Ronald Reagan): "Best you can tell from her columns, her impressions of politics come from a rare and uncontextualized glimpse of real life (e.g., briefly seeing a lot of Romney yard signs in Florida in 2012), and talking to people who are almost exactly like her.... Data? History, other than her hoarded treasures from the Golden Age of Ronnie? Nah. Why bother? She provides all the partisan B.S. the market can bear, which turns out to be an awful lot. And so she drifts along in the isolated splendor of a public figure inhabiting a world of her own imagining, which makes her concern trolling about Obama's 'loneliness' particularly ironic."

November Election

Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "The Democrats invested millions of dollars in a vaunted field operation to mobilize the young and nonwhite voters who do not usually participate in midterm elections. Yet it was not enough to save Democrats from a Republican landslide.... The Democratic field effort was probably a success.

Presidential Race

Steve M. "One GruberGate bright spot: Romney's 2016 dreams are toast.

News Ledes

Guardian: "Russia has denied reports president Vladimir Putin is leaving the G20 early, after pressure from Western nations to withdraw troops from Ukraine and forthright hostility from some leaders, including Canada's Stephen Harper. Brisbane's Courier Mail, which two days ago demanded Putin say 'sorry' for the downing of MH17 over Ukraine, reported that Putin would skip a working G20 breakfast and leave Brisbane early for meetings in Moscow."

AP: "World leaders on Sunday prepared to release details of a plan aimed at injecting life into the world's listless economy, with infrastructure investment and the lowering of trade barriers flagged as key components of the initiative."

AP: "The pioneering lander Philae completed its primary mission of explorin the comet's surface and returned plenty of data before deplete batteries forced it to go silent, the European Space Agency said Saturday."

CNN: "A surgeon diagnosed with Ebola in his native Sierra Leone arrived Saturday afternoon in the United States, where he will undergo treatment at The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha."

AP: "America's top military leader arrived Saturday to Iraq, state television reported, his first visit to the country since a U.S.-led coalition began a campaign of airstrikes targeting the extremist Islamic State group. The visit by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, was not previously announced. It came just two days after he told Congress that the United States would consider dispatching a modest number of American forces to fight with Iraqi troops in the campaign against the Islamic State group, which controls about a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria."

Thursday
Nov132014

The Commentariat -- Nov. 14, 2014

Peter Baker & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "In the 10 days since 'we got beat,' as [President Obama] put it, by Republicans who captured the Senate and bolstered control over the House, Mr. Obama has flexed his muscles on immigration, climate change and the Internet, demonstrating that he still aspires to enact sweeping policies that could help define his legacy.... The back-to-back moves have reinforced Mr. Obama's desire to assert himself in a period when his poll numbers and political capital are at their lowest ebbs.... Advisers said that he feels liberated. He can now pursue his long-term agenda, they said, without being tethered to the short-term electoral concerns of his party's leadership in Congress." ...

... Michael McAuliff of the Huffington Post: "'I've been very disturbed about the way the president has proceeded in the wake of the election,' [Mitch] McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill soon after his caucus voted to keep him as its leader when Republicans take control of the Senate in January." ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker on "Obama's Unexpectedly Good Week.... Insomuch as there was any analysis of what the [election] results would mean for the next two years, it tended to dwell on when the President would recognize the error of his ways. In the narrative promulgated by the panjandrums of the Washington commentariat, this would involve publicly acknowledging his grave character flaws, disassembling the tight-knit circle of aides that surrounds him, inviting over some Capitol Hill bigwigs (and possibly some media bigwigs) for whiskey-and-poker evenings, and generally being less of an arrogant, aloof jerk.... During his first week of living in reduced circumstances after the midterms, Obama showed that he is capable of exceeding expectations, and he isn't done yet." ...

... (From yesterday's News Ledes.) Michael Shear, et al., of the New York Times: "President Obama will ignore angry protests from Republicans and announce as soon as next week a broad overhaul of the nation's immigration enforcement system that will protect up to five million undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation and provide many of them with work permits, according to administration officials who have direct knowledge of the plan." ...

... Ted Barrett of CNN: Harry Reid asked President Obama to wait to announce his executive order on immigration until after December 11, by which time Congress is supposed to have approved a continuing resolution to fund the government. CW: So Feliz Navidad, I guess, although Reid may not care if Obama holds off; he may just want to appear to be nice to Mitch, who is, you know, disturbed. ...

... MEANWHILE. Mike Lillis of the Hill: "Wary that President Obama might back away from vows to ease deportations unilaterally, House Democrats on Wednesday sought to hold the president's feet to the fire. On the first day of Congress's return to Washington after the midterm elections, the lawmakers pressed Obama to act swiftly and decisively to reduce deportations, even in the face of Republican warnings that sidestepping Congress could undermine immigration reform legislation and sink the confirmation of Obama's pick for attorney general."

... If you like to think of politics as a game, with people as helpless pawns, here's Chris Cillizza's analysis of the Immigrants Game. ...

(Contributor Nancy found this piece by Brett Line & Linda Poon, published in June 2013 in National Geographic, on how some other wealthy countries approach immigration. Denmark is awful.)

... Remember the Lawsuit! Robert Costa & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) is considering expanding a proposed federal lawsuit over President Obama's executive orders to include action on immigration." ...

     ... In a previous episode of the long-running sideshow "Remember the Lawsuit," it was revealed that Boehner's lawyers kept quitting. CW: I wonder why. ...

     ... NOW Look Who's on a Bumpy Ride. Update. Costa & O'Keefe: "Congressional Republicans have split into competing factions over how to respond to President Obama's expected moves to overhaul the nation's immigration system, which are likely to include protecting millions from being deported. The first, favored by the GOP leadership, would have Republicans denounce what House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has called 'executive amnesty' and use the party's new grip on Congress to contest changes to the law incrementally in the months ahead. The second, which has become the rallying cry for conservatives, would seek to block the president's decision by shutting down the government for an extended period until he relents." Read it and smirk.

Paul Kane & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Seeking ideological and regional balance, a chastened Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) expanded his leadership team Thursday, including the addition of liberal icon Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), to beat back internal critics.... Reid appointed Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a second-term senator close to many of the caucus's agitated members from then upper Midwest and Plains States, as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.... This came after Reid won another term leading the Democrats, over the objection of several centrist Democrats. Sens. Claire McCaskill and Joe Manchin told reporters afterward that they didn't cast a ballot for Reid or anyone else, a protest vote that was unusual simply by being held." ...

     ... The story has been updated with a new URL & new lede: "Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid faced the first internal opposition to his grip on power Thursday as at least six Democrats rejected his bid for another leadership term during an emotional meeting following last week's drubbing in the midterm elections." ...

... Digby explains in plain English: "Red state Dems have a little hissy fit inside the Democratic Senate caucus, hoping a Tea partier will give them a hug.... From what we're hearing about this lovely group of Quislings, they couldn't be happier to be free now to vote with the Republicans and pass some noxious shit that people who will never vote for them want. Again." ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times: Making Elizabeth Warren "a mere liaison" to the Democratic leadership " is not what the Democrats need right now.... If Ms. Warren is allowed to become the voice of Democratic opposition to the worst Republican policies, she may just help lead the party out of the wilderness." ...

... MEANWHILE, in the House. Billy House of the National Journal: "Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who is expecting a baby in December, is being denied a request to vote by proxy in the House Democratic Caucus leadership and committee member elections next week -- even though her doctor advises she can't travel to Washington in the late stages of her pregnancy.... Democratic aides, speaking on the condition they not be identified, said they believe the decision to block Duckworth, 46, from doing so is related ... to the tight intra-party race for the party's top seat next session on the Energy and Commerce Committee. The seat is being vacated by retiring Rep. Henry Waxman." ...

... So, okay, expect a bumpy ride on the Democratic side, too. Brian Beutler: "... structural difficulties ... make it harder for Democrats than Republicans to be a united, rejectionist opposition party. Their coalition includes many moderates; isn't overwhelmed by ideological liberals; is in hock to big business; and, unlike Republicans, is invested in the idea that government should function well.... That the Democratic Party's favorables have just fallen below the Republican Party's favorables for the first time since the last Republican midterm blowout (and really for the first time in about a decade) compounds the problem -- Democrats don't want to become even more unfavorable, and they saw what obstruction did to the House GOP's approval numbers."

Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "Barack Obama will make a substantial pledge to a fund to help poor countries fight climate change, only days after his historic carbon pollution deal with China. In a one-two punch, America plans to pledge at least $2.5bn and as much as $3bn over the next four years to help poor countries invest in clean energy and cope with rising seas and extreme weather, according to those briefed by administration officials." ...

... Paul Krugman: "The agreement between China and the United States on carbon emissions is, in fact, a big deal. To understand why, you first have to understand the defense in depth that fossil-fuel interests and their loyal servants -- nowadays including the entire Republican Party -- have erected against any action to save the planet.... I don't expect the usual suspects to concede that a major part of the anti-environmentalist argument has just collapsed. But it has. This was a good week for the planet." ...

... Oh Yeah? Jim Inhofe in a USA Today op-ed: "This is a non-binding charade because as China's economy grows, so will its demand for electricity.... As Republicans take the majority in the new Congress, I will be working to ensure these rules do not become final or put at risk our economy and domestic energy expansion." CW: Again, significantly, Inhofe says nothing about climate change being a hoax. Is he giving up on that argument?

** Charles Pierce: "... there was no braver American amid the tumult of the 1960's and the 1970's than John Doar."

Annals of "Justice," Ctd.

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Eric Holder! Devlin Barrett of the Wall Street Journal: "The Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of mobile phones through devices deployed on airplanes that mimic cellphone towers, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations." CW: Firewalled; copy & paste a clause or two into a search engine. ...

... Kate Knibbs of Gizmodo: "This is a huge deal. If the details in the WSJ are accurate, this program is as invasive and disturbing as the NSA surveillance programs exposed last year.... The fake phone tower signals used work even on phones with encryption, like the iPhone 6, so there's virtually no way phone makers could've prevented this from happening. The Justice Department has neither confirmed or denied the WSJ report."

CW: A number of posts I've linked in the past refer to the conservative justices' understanding of how the federal exchange is supposed to work as a substitute for state exchanges, as expressed in their dissent in the big Business v. Sebelius case of 2011, which upheld the ACA over their objections. Scott Lemieux does a fairly good job of explaining the four justices' analysis -- as it appears in their joint dissent -- & why they would have to reverse their own analysis if the ruled for the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, the case the Court recently agreed to hear. Lemieux adds, "... these four justices, having made one argument in service of their political goal of destroying the ACA, [would now have to] make precisely the opposite argument in service of their political goal of destroying the ACA. The fact that [this is] probably right is pretty much all I have to say about these four gentlemen." ...

... CW: Fortunately, thanks to the "stupidity of the American voters," the conservative justices will easily get away with that. If Roberts joins them, there will be high fives all around the GOP for, as Lemieux puts it, "stripping millions of people of their health insurance, consigning some of them to needless suffering and death, and others to avoidable bankruptcy. If there's a better way of describing the Republican Party in 2014, I don't know what it is." ...

... E. J. Dionne: "Here's a hypothetical for you: First, the Supreme Court issues a ruling that installs a conservative president. Then, he appoints two conservative Supreme Court justices who then join with three of their colleagues to make mincemeat of the greatest achievement of a progressive president elected by a clear majority. If such a thing happened in any other country, would we still call it a democratic republic?" ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that, not only did Jonathan Gruber not play a significant role in drafting Obamacare, but that she doesn't even 'know who he is.'... Many have pointed out since then that Pelosi's office has cited Gruber's work in the past. That's notable, but it's very unlikely Pelosi herself wrote those press releases herself or even participated in their drafting." ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox has an interesting rundown of Gruber's "contributions to the conversation" about ObamaCare....

... CW: What's interesting to me is that, assuming Kliff's reporting is accurate (and she has followed ACA developments closely), Gruber did not formally contribute much to the ACA; he only provided models for assessing the effects of various policy options. He was an "architect" of the ACA only in that the federal law has provisions similar to those of RomneyCare, which Gruber did do significant work on. I don't see how Gruber could get into Nancy Pelosi's head or read Max Baucus's mind; he apparently had little or no direct contact with them. He seems to be (a) projecting his own prejudices & (b) showing off by implying he has "insider" information). ...

... CW: Or maybe its just penis envy. Jake Tapper of CNN catches a talk Prof. Gruber gave in 2010 about high healthcare costs. "In the 1950s surgeons are middle class guys like professors.... Now they live on the Hamptons, the Cape, they're like investment bankers."

... Jonathan Chait explains what Gruber really meant about stupid people. Thanks to MAG for the link. ...


Michael Schmidt
of the New York Times: "An intruder was able to climb a fence and enter the White House in September because of a succession of 'performance, organizational, technical' and other failures by the Secret Service, according to a damning review of the incident by the Department of Homeland Security. The review found that the Secret Service's alarm systems and radios failed to function properly, and that many of the responding officers did not see the intruder as he climbed over the fence, delaying their response.... The review has not been made public, but members of Congress were briefed on it Thursday. An executive summary was obtained by The New York Times."

Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "Russia has informed the United States that it is planning to reduce its participation next year in a joint effort to secure nuclear materials on Russian territory, a move that could seriously undermine more than two decades of cooperation aimed at ensuring that nuclear bomb components do not fall into the hands of terrorists or a rogue state."

Even conservatives peg Tailgunner Ted as a tool & an ignoramus on net neutrality. Thanks to James S. for the link. ...

... Here's Teddy the Tool, in a WashPo op-ed, explaining why those conservative techies are all wrong: see, "net neutrality" is just another way to "stifle freedom." Also, Obama has arranged for "the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Chinese President Xi Jinping [to] dictate what can be read, written, distributed, bought and sold on the Internet." CW: So the next time you try to log on, don't be surprised if Putin rears his head, or some dancing pandas sing quotations from the Little Red Book, or the Ayatollah just shuts you down. Thanks, Ted, for keeping us all informed of the impending doom.

CW: I will not be having loofah for lunch. See "Beyond the Beltway" in yesterday's Commentariat for context. Thanks to Akhilleus for sparing me the sponge:

November December Election

Dana Milbank: "... nobody predicted that the first legislation Congress would take up would be the Mary Landrieu Preservation Act of 2014."

Beyond the Beltway

Ken Ward of the Charleston, West Virginia Gazette: "Don Blankenship, the longtime chief executive officer of Massey Energy, was indicted Thursday on charges that he violated federal mine safety laws at the company's Upper Big Branch Mine prior to an April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners. A federal grand jury in Charleston charged Blankenship with conspiring to cause routine and willful violations of mandatory federal mine safety and health standards at Upper Big Branch between Jan. 1, 2008, and April 9, 2010, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said."

News Ledes

AP: "Jane Byrne became part of Chicago history when she was elected its first female mayor. She became part of city lore because of how she won: beating an incumbent who voters thought had bungled the reaction to a blizzard that paralyzed the streets.... She died Friday at age 81 at a hospice in Chicago, said her daughter, Kathy." Her New York Times obituary is here.

Washington Post: "On separate trips to the opulent presidential palace in Naypyidaw and to the stately Rangoon villa of Burma's most famous politician, [president] Obama played the role of de facto adviser to President Thein Sein and the Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains blocked by constitutional rules from seeking the presidency."

AP: "A surgeon working in Sierra Leone has been diagnosed with Ebola and will be flown to Nebraska for treatment, according to a US government source. The surgeon, Dr Martin Salia, is a citizen of Sierra Leone but also a legal permanent US resident, an official with knowledge of the case told the Associated Press." Proposed Fox Headline: "Obama Ebola Epidemic Rages, Increases by 100 1,000 10,000 Incalculable Percent."

AP: "In an interview with authorities the night of his capture and in a letter to his parents, [alleged cop-killer Eric] Frein revealed himself to be deeply dissatisfied with the government and society, saying he hoped to foment a revolution to reclaim 'the liberties we once had,' said the documents, filed Thursday in support of terrorism charges against the sniper suspect."