The Ledes

Thursday, December 18, 2014.

New York Times: "The stock market began the week burdened by geopolitical worries, but by the close of trading on Thursday it had bounced back to achieve one of its biggest upswings in recent years. Soothing words from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday, saying that it would be 'patient' on raising interest rates, drove the surge, analysts said. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index jumped 2.4 percent on Thursday, to 2,061.23 — its biggest one-day gain since January 2013. That came on the back of a 2 percent rise on Wednesday."

CNN: "U.S. airstrikes have killed two top-level and one mid-level ISIS leader, a senior U.S. military official tells CNN. Haji Mutazz was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's deputy in Iraq; Abd al Basit was his military emir in Iraq; and Radwan Talib was his Mosul emir. Their deaths resulted from multiple strikes going back to mid-November -- it has taken until now to determine conclusively they were killed."

AP: "Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, with the benchmark 30-year loan rate reaching a new low for the year. The rates' historically low levels could be a boon to potential homebuyers. Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage dropped to 3.80 percent this week from 3.93 percent last week. It is now at its lowest level since May 2013."

New York Times: "A federal judge on Thursday refused to release Don E. Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, from prison as he continues to appeal a prosecution that Republicans say exposed pervasive corruption in state government but Democrats regard as a case pursued for political retribution."

Boston Globe: "Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stood in federal court in Boston this morning for a brief pretrial hearing, which was punctuated by an interruption in Russian and English from a woman in the gallery. Several journalists reported she exclaimed 'stop killing innocent people' in English as she was escorted out for yelling in Russian. The woman identified herself to reporters as a relative of Ibrahim Todashev: a friend of Dzhokhar’s brother who was killed by an FBI agent during an incident that arose from the investigation of a Waltham triple homicide."

AFP: "Two owners and 12 former employees of a US pharmacy were arrested Wednesday in connection with a 2012 outbreak of meningitis that killed 64 people across the country, prosecutors said. Barry Cadden and Gregory Conigliaro owned the New England Compounding Center (NECC), which lost its license in 2012 after inspectors found it guilty of multiple sanitary violations. the pharmacy, located in the city of Framingham, Massachusetts in the US northeast, voluntarily shut down and recalled all products following the unprecedented outbreak of fungal meningitis."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, December 17, 2014.

New York Times: "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty Wednesday as the government declared three days of official mourning and grappled with the aftermath of an attack on a school by the Pakistani Taliban that killed 145 people. The national flag was lowered to half-staff on all official buildings and prayer services were scheduled across the country." ...

... The Washington Post profiles "Mullah Radio," the leader of the Taliban attack on schoolchildren & teachers.

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
December 18

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

... BUT ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is quite cool:

 

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

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

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Thursday
Dec042014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 5, 2014

Helene Cooper, et al., of the New York Times: "President Obama on Friday will announce his selection of Ashton B. Carter to lead the Pentagon, White House officials said, embracing a physicist and national security centrist who may advocate a stronger use of American power. Mr. Carter, 60, is expected to face smooth confirmation hearings from Senate Republicans, who say they foresee no opposition to him."

Feliz Navidad! Robert Costa & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "House Republicans voted to rebuke President Obama for his unilateral overhaul of the nation's immigration system Thursday, passing legislation to curb the White House's ability to protect millions from being deported. But the effort was largely symbolic: The Democratic-controlled Senate plans to ignore the bill, and the White House has said it would veto it."

Tim Egan: "Many of the people who dwell in the uglier recesses of social media, or make casual conversation among the like-minded, will not grant Obama the family man the respect he has earned, or Obama the president the dignity that comes with the office. I want to believe this is not about race, but it sure looks that way."

** Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "If Mary Landrieu, a Democratic senator from Louisiana, loses re-election in Saturday's runoff election, as expected, the Republicans will have vanquished the last vestige of Democratic strength in the once solidly Democratic Deep South. In a region stretching from the high plains of Texas to the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas, Republicans would control not only every Senate seat, but every governor's mansion and every state legislative body."

** Paul Krugman: Chuck Schumer is an asshole. (Paraphrase.) "If more Democrats had been willing to defend the best thing they've done in decades, rather than run away from their own achievement and implicitly concede that the smears against health reform were right, the politics of the issue might look very different today." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "What makes this wave of regret [over passing the ACA] -- not even taking into account the unmitigated hostility from the political right -- so strange is that Obamacare is actually working. Indeed, evidence continues to mount that the law is working extremely, even shockingly, well.... Four major new sources of information have come out this week, all of which have further demonstrated the law's success [by] 1. Increasing access to the uninsured; 2. Reducing overall health-care costs..., 3. [Reducing] hospital errors..., [and] 4. [Increasing] hospital competition." ...

... ** Ryan Cooper of the Week outlines "everything that is wrong with the Democratic party," as demonstrated in "one speech by Chuck Schumer.... The reason all this happened is that Democrats, especially in the Senate, are a bunch of spineless porridge creatures, wholly owned by the financial sector, who continually failed to grasp that being cautious and timid in power during a huge recession was highly politically risky. They were obsessed with ridiculous Beltway shibboleths like the deficit, and got slaughtered at the polls as a result." CW: Now that, IMHO, is a more realistic take on history than Schumer's spineless, stupid rewrite.

Annals of "Justice," Ctd.

Richard Oppel & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "One week after the release of a surveillance video showing a Cleveland police officer fatally shooting a 12-year-old African-American boy who was holding a pellet gun, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. flew [to Cleveland] on Thursday to announce that a lengthy Justice Department civil rights investigation had found 'unreasonable and unnecessary use of force' by the city's Police Department. The Cleveland abuses highlighted by Mr. Holder included many that have caused friction with the police in minority communities around the country.... 'Cleveland officers are not provided with adequate training, policy guidance, support and supervision,' the Justice Department concluded in its report. As a result of the investigation, the city has agreed to work toward a settlement with the Justice Department...."

... CW: Training? Guidance? Ha! They don't even bother to screen applicants to see if they're qualified to serve. (See yesterday's Commentariat.) ...

... The Guardian report, by Paul Lewis, is here. "'Our review revealed that Cleveland police officers violate basic constitutional precepts in their use of deadly and less lethal force at a rate that is highly significant,' the report said. It found use of force by Cleveland police was at times 'chaotic and dangerous', even going so far as to suggest victims of crime and innocent bystanders should fear for their lives in the presence of police." ...

... The Justice Department report is here (pdf).

Mark Santora of the New York Times: "One day after a grand jury declined to indict a New York police officer in the death of Eric Garner, prompting angry protests and calls for reform from elected officials, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday announced the start of a significant retraining of the nation's largest police force.... Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, assailed Mr. de Blasio, saying that officers around the city felt he had thrown them 'under the bus.'" ...

... Andy Cush of Gawker: During his press conference Wednesday night, Mayor de Blasio revealed how he & his wife repeatedly warned their son Dante -- who is black -- to watch out for New York's finest. Read it & weep.

Ashley Southall of the New York Times: "Thousands of demonstrators gathered Thursday night in several cities to protest recent killings of unarmed African-Americans by white police officers."

** Max Read of Gawker: "The 'rule of law' that [New York Gov. Andrew] Cuomo wants us to hold in high esteem is the very same one that has given the NYPD a wide berth to harass, intimidate, and abuse young men of color, a 'rule of law' governed by a rapidly militarizing police force training trigger-happy violent cops. A rule of law at the base of a system of violence and hate so out of control that even the mayor of New York City needs to warn his son of it. How can you ask people to respect the law when the law does not respect them? How can you remind them of the importance of the process when Missouri and New York are reminding us the process is hopelessly broken?"

Peter Beinart of the Atlantic: "... the right's largely indifferent response illustrates just how much the Garner case really is about race. Had Eric Garner been a rural white man with a cowboy hat killed by federal agents, instead of a large black man choked to death by the NYPD, his face would be on a Ted Cruz for President poster by now."

Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post on "the killing of Rumain Brisbon..., an unarmed African American man at the hands of a white police officer" in Phoenix, Arizona.

Carl Hulse of the New York Times: Republican senators may question "Loretta E. Lynch's nomination as attorney general, because she will be heading the inquiry as the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York even as she undergoes scrutiny in the new Republican-controlled Senate." CW: Except as an indicator that Loretta Lynch can walk & chew gum at the same time, this seems like a non-story story.


Gary Robertson
of Reuters: "A Virginia health panel remade by the Democratic governor [Terry McAuliffe] voted on Thursday to revamp rules that threatened to shut down abortion clinics across the state. In a victory for abortion rights advocates, the state Board of Health voted 13-2 to begin amending regulations that require abortion clinics to have standards similar to hospitals. The board put the requirement in place in 2013 when then-Governor Bob McDonnell, a Republican, appointed abortion foes to the panel."

Chris Mooney & Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "For two decades, scientists have kept a close watch on a vast, icebound corner of West Antarctica that is undergoing a historic thaw. Climate experts have predicted that, centuries from now, the region's mile-thick ice sheet could collapse and raise sea levels as much as 11 feet. Now, new evidence is causing concern that the collapse could happen faster than anyone thought. New scientific studies this week have shed light on the speed and the mechanics of West Antarctic melting, documenting an acceleration that, if it continues, could have major effects on coastal cities worldwide." ...

... Jeff Spross, et al., of Think Progress, June 26, 2013: "90 percent of the Republican leadership in both House and Senate deny climate change. 17 out of 22 Republican members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, or 77 percent, are climate deniers. 22 out of 30 Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, or 73 percent deny the reality of climate change, 100 percent of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Republicans have said climate change is not happening or that humans do not cause it. The campaigns of those who reject the reality of climate science are fueled by the fossil fuel industry that advocate for and drive the emissions that cause global warming." CW: Let's pick 'em all up & put 'em on a little ole iceberg somewhere near Antartica.

Presidential Election

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: Speaking at a conference in Boston, "Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that she supported President Obama's decision to form a task force to review police tactics and praised the Justice Department's decision to investigate the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of a white police officer on Staten Island. 'Each of us has to grapple with some hard truths about race and justice in America,' Mrs. Clinton said in wide-ranging remarks about the protests over police tactics that have erupted in cities across the country." ...

... CW: Clinton would have spoken up sooner, but it took her pollster & speechwriter a while to test & develop her response. Jeesh. Rand Paul might say stupid shit (okay, does say stupid shit), but at least he's capable of saying stupid shit spontaneously. Sorry, I don't think a majority of Americans are going to vote for a robot. There's a difference between (1) being cautious & circumspect -- a good thing -- and (2) only saying what will garner the highest level of public approval. ...

... Alex Seitz-Wald of MSNBC: "Beyond racial issues, Clinton suggested she favors reducing the prison population overall. 'The United States has less than 5% of the world's population, yet we have almost 25% of the world's total prison population,' she said, saying it's not because Americans break more laws than other nations. 'It is because we have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance. And I personally hope that these tragedies give us the opportunity to come together as a nation to find our balance again.'... Clinton had been criticized for waiting almost 20 days to comment on Ferguson after Brown was killed in August." CW: I'd call that "co-opting Rand Paul's message." Also, more "shoring-up the black vote." ...

... Dana Milbank: On Wednesday, Georgetown students were too busy to attend an event featuring Hillary Clinton. The few who did show up appeared bored.

Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "Chris Christie today said he doesn't want to 'second-guess' that work by the grand jury [that failed to indict Eric Garner's killer Daniel Pantaleo]. In comments reported by the Wall Street Journal, Christie said, 'As someone who ran a prosecuting office for seven years before I became governor, one of the things I learned is that you never know all the things that a grand jury knows, unless you're in that grand jury and working with them.' Christie has kept mostly silent on these issues, recently declining to discuss issues raised by Ferguson. CW: Ah, "shoring up the white bigot vote." ...

... Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "Determined to let no doubts about his enthusiasm for the [Keystone XL] pipeline linger, [Chris] Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, traveled [to Calgary, Canada,] to meet with the chief executive of the company trying to build it. He held a joint news conference with the premier of Alberta, who is aggressively pushing for it. And Mr. Christie delivered a speech to a group of Canadian energy executives who fervently support it -- inside the Calgary Petroleum Club, no less.... Mr. Christie, who has limited experience in international affairs, is fashioning a foreign policy that is heavily grounded in North America, which he views as an overlooked domain in an era of international threats to the United States." ...

... Kate Zernicke of the New York Times: "A long-awaited report by a New Jersey legislative committee says that there is 'no conclusive evidence' whether Gov. Chris Christie knew about the controversial lane closings at the George Washington Bridge in 2013 before or as they were happening. But in a detailed chronology, the report argues that the governor had many opportunities to know about the lane closings, the political motive behind them and the involvement of his administration, even as he insisted he knew nothing." Thanks to Marvin S. for the heads-up. ...

... Shawn Boburg of the Bergen Record: "A report summarizing a yearlong investigation by the legislative panel examining the George Washington Bridge lane closures found no evidence of Governor Christie's involvement but concluded that two of his allies acted 'with perceived impunity' when they gridlocked Fort Lee's streets apparently for political reasons. The committee's 136-page report, drawing off sworn testimony, private interviews and thousands of subpoenaed documents, also highlights the unsuccessful efforts by a now-shuttered arm of Christie's office to court the Fort Lee mayor's endorsement, finding that the closures were 'motivated in part by political considerations.'"

News Ledes

Bloomberg News: "Employers in the U.S. added 321,000 jobs in November, the most since January 2012, driving wage gains and highlighting increased corporate confidence the economy will endure a weakening in global markets. The advance in payrolls exceeded the most optimistic projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists and followed a 243,000 gain in October that was stronger than previously reported, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington. The jobless rate held at a six-year low of 5.8 percent."

Orlando Sentinel: "Atop the most powerful rocket available, NASA's next generation space capsule Orion blasted off at 7:05 this morning against the backdrop of a rising sun at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.... The 4 1/2 hour, unmanned mission gives NASA a chance to test America's new do-everything spacecraft. In coming decades, Orion is expected to carry astronauts deep into space to the moon, asteroids, Mars and beyond."

Wednesday
Dec032014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 4, 2014

Kelsey Snell of Politico: "The House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to renew more than 50 expired tax breaks for individuals and businesses through the end of this year, with the Senate looking increasingly likely to follow suit. The one-year retroactive renewal, which passed by a 378-46 vote, includes heavily lobbied business breaks like those for corporate research, wind production, renewable fuels, corporate expensing and expanded depreciation schedules. It also includes tax breaks for individuals including a deduction for mortgage debt forgiveness, a break for state and local sales taxes paid as well as breaks for teachers and commuters." ...

... Burgess Everett of Politico: "Republican senators panned Ted Cruz and his conservative colleagues' Wednesday as they picked up traction on their push to derail the House GOP's plan to keep the government funded. The high-profile Texas conservative made a splash on Wednesday in announcing his opposition to House leaders' plans to pass an omnibus spending bill to keep the government funded through September...." ...

... Gail Collins: "With maximum effort, it's possible Congress might manage to pass a last-minute retroactive bill to keep some popular tax cuts alive for the holiday season. Which Obama would sign. But I have seen the future, and it's worse." CW: The headline to Collins' column is "Of Taxes, Pigs & Congress." What's weird: there's no mention of "pigs" in the copy. I guess she did a last-minute edit. Update: See MAG's comment.

Surprise, Surprise. Manu Raju of Politico: "GOP senators were outraged at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for invoking the 'nuclear option' last year, calling his push to weaken the filibuster on presidential nominees a destructive and heavy-handed move with far-reaching consequences. But now that Republicans are about to take control of the Senate, they seem unlikely to reverse it."

James Hohmann of Politico: "Seventeen states filed a joint lawsuit in federal court Wednesday to try blocking President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican governor-elect, took the lead, filing the suit in the Southern District of Texas. Other states joining are Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin."

Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News: "The U.S. attorney nominated by President Barack Obama to be his next attorney general is asking a federal judge to impose a stiff prison term of up to four and a half years on a former Hillary Clinton fundraiser convicted of making more than $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions.... 'It won't hurt for Loretta Lynch to be sending a major Democratic fundraiser to prison right before her confirmation hearing for attorney general,' said Brett Kappel, a Washington campaign-finance lawyer who closely tracks federal election law enforcement."

Joe Romm of Think Progress: "2014 is currently on track to be [the] hottest year on record, according to new reports from both the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the U.K.'s Met Office Wednesday.... What is remarkable, as the WMO explains, is that we're headed toward record high global temps 'in the absence of a full El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).'"

Dahlia Lithwick: on Young v. UPS. Old white guys on Supreme Court are easily confused by pregnancy. Also, trouble with semicolons. "Nobody is quite sure, following argument, how the votes add up or what possible test the court might set out to resolve the issue, even if it sends the case back to the lower court for a full trial. What is clear is that the justices are treading softly, in ways that haven't always been in evidence in gender and employment cases. That's a good start." Helpful to Young, it cannot be emphasized enough, is that anti-abortion & other conservative groups are on her side. They don't think women should have to decide between giving birth & keeping their jobs.

"Diplomacy Is Not a Soap Opera":

Fire Chuck Schumer

As MAG pointed out toward the end of yesterday's thread, Tom Edsall of the New York Times has bought into Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) argument that passing ObamaCare was a huge mistake because it didn't do enough to help middle-class voters, so they all abandoned the Democratic party: "... the Democratic plan for victory by demographics could implode, which would make the case for a full scale re-evaluation of its strategies and policies glaringly obvious. Whatever you think of Senator Schumer, you begin to understand why he spoke out as forcefully as he did." ...

... CW: First, let me just say that I didn't read Edsall's column initially because he (or the headline writer) framed it in the form of a question: "Is ObamaCare Destroying the Democratic Party?" This usually means that the writer won't answer the question, & Edsall is -- generally speaking -- a writer after the heart of Harry Truman's economists -- his "opinions" are chockful of "on-the-other-hand"'s. This column is no exception, though he does eventually take Chuck's side in that wishy-washy way of his. ...

... Paul Krugman, again as MAG highlights, responds to Edsall's column in a blogpost titled "Return of the Focus Hocus Pocus": "... 'focusing', whatever that means, wouldn't have delivered more job growth. What should Obama have done that he actually could have done in the face of scorched-earth Republican opposition? And how, if at all, did health reform stand in the way of doing whatever it is you're saying he should have done? I have seen no answer to these questions." ...

... ** Michael Hiltzig of the Los Angeles Times makes an even more forceful argument against Schumer's historical rewrite: "The biggest political error committed by Democrats over the last four years has been to run away from their signature legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act. As a result, they've allowed Republicans and conservatives to depict a measure that improves the lives and health of millions of Americans as harmful, even un-American.... [Schumer's analysis] is a startling admission of political spinelessness. Schumer gets the positive impact of the legislation wrong, he gets the politics of it wrong, and he displays a shocking ignorance of the problems facing the American middle class. The only good thing about his remarks is that they confirm how bad today's Democrats are at messaging." Read the whole column. ...

... CW: It is worth noting, too, that Chuck Schumer is "the Democrats' top message man." If Chuck really wants to know why Democrats "took a shellacking" in 2010 & lost big in 2014, he should get a big ole mirror. If the middle class doesn't understand how the ACA is helping them & the general economy, it's because Message Man didn't tell them. Moreover, he "guided" Democratic candidates to hide from ObamaCare, when they should have been boasting about it & educating their constituents about its benefits. ...

... Plus, this part of Schumer's critique is hilarious: Edsall: "Schumer argued, the 'first step is to convince voters that we are on their side, and not in the grips of special interests.' He specifically suggested the prosecution of bankers for 'what seems, on its face, blatant fraud' and tax reform designed to ensure that C.E.O.s paid higher rates 'than their secretaries.'" Any Wall Street perp walk would feature a guy in a trench coat who looked exactly like Chuck Schumer halting the perp parade to frisk the pockets of the cuffed bankers for a few final payoffs.

... Charles Pierce: notes that outgoing Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) made a different -- but equally fact-free -- point yesterday about the trouble with ObamaCare. Pierce: "I am worried about the developing meme that the Affordable Care Act somehow doomed the Democratic party in some fundamental way. (Tom Edsall as much as said so this morning in the NYT.) It's not hard to see this line of thinking sliding toward some sort of really rancid compromise 'improvement' measure when the newer and more radical Senate comes to town in January. If it ever becomes the "centrist" position in the debate, then a lot of parents will be staying awake at night again." ...

... Here's the report on the Harkin interview, by Alexander Bolton of the Hill.

Single-payer right from the get go or at least put a public option would have simplified a lot. We had the votes to do that and we blew it. -- Tom Harkin

That "we had the votes to do it" is a lie. Bolton of course doesn't bother to challenge Harkin. That's not reporting; that's stenography. -- Constant Weader

... CW: Chuck Schumer's little rant was about saving Chuck Schumer's wrinkled ass. If Democrats want to dominate Washington again, a good first step would be to fire the Message Man. The rapid demise of Democrats has come on his watch, and as a result of his horrible advice.

Beyond the Beltway
Annals of "Justice," Ctd.

David Goodman, et al., of the New York Times: "A Staten Island grand jury voted on Wednesday not to bring criminal charges in the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died after being placed in a chokehold by a white police officer, a decision that triggered outrage by many public officials, spurred protesters to take to the streets and led President Obama to once again vow to help heal the rift that exists between the police and those they serve. Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at a news conference in Staten Island, said that he had been assured by Attorney General Eric Holder that a federal investigation would continue to probe the death and determine whether Mr. Garner's civil rights were violated." ...

     ... The story has been updated: "While hundreds of angry but generally peaceful demonstrators took to the streets in Manhattan as well as in Washington and other cities, the police in New York reported relatively few arrests, a stark contrast to the riots that unfolded in Ferguson in the hours after the grand jury decision was announced in the [Michael] Brown case." ...

... "It Was a Wrestling Move." Uh-huh. David Goodman & Michael Wilson of the New York Times: "It was never supposed to be a chokehold, the officer testified. It was a wrestling move.... [His] his account does not seem to match what is seen on the video, with Officer Pantaleo holding firm and not appearing to hurry to get off Mr. Garner." ...

... David McCabe of the Hill: "Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday night that the federal government is launching a civil rights investigation into the chokehold death of Eric Garner, a black man who was killed by a white police officer in July." ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York on what legal actions may follow. ...

... The New York Times is live-updating reactions here. ...

     ... Some Would Be Heroes: 8:44 pm ET: "Benjamin Carr, Mr. Garner's stepfather, was standing off to the side, bristling. 'When we needed them out here, we didn't get them,' he said, referring to the protesters. 'Now the cameras are out here.' 'Don't cause a problem now,' he told a protester with a megaphone." ...

... President Obama reacts to the grand-jury decision. "This is an American problem":

... Roberto Ferdman of the Washington Post: NYPD cops continue to use chokeholds even though the practice has been banned since 1985. That's because the NYPD doesn't enforce the rule. ...

... ** Steven Rosenfeld of AlterNet in the American Prospect: "Why is the justice system so biased against holding abusive officers accountable? The answer is both simple and complex. On the simple side, the system is substantially rigged in favor of letting officers off the hook for using excessive force in the line of duty -- especially if they say they needed to protect themselves. On the complex side are how the various stages of the process tilt toward covering up what abusive police have done, as well as biases built into the legal system that shield police from prosecution." Rosenfeld enumerates the complex ways. ...

... Josh Voorhees of Slate: "... the default setting for our criminal justice system -- both explicitly and implicitly -- is to believe that an on-duty officer who takes another citizen's life was justified in doing so. Unless that baseline assumption changes, we should expect the same result the next time a cop takes someone else's life in the line of duty. Even when the killing is caught on video. Even when the police officer uses a chokehold that's been barred by his department." ...

... Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele on Wednesday criticized grand jury decisions to not indict white police officers in the deaths of black men in New York and Ferguson, Mo. 'They tell us, at least, a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. Well clearly a black man's life is not worth a ham sandwich when you put these stories together. And that is the frustration,' Steele said on MSNBC." ...

... Gene Robinson: "In the depressing reality series that should be called 'No Country for Black Men,' this sick plot twist was shocking beyond belief. There should have been an indictment in the Ferguson case, in my view, but at least the events that led to Michael Brown's killing were in dispute. Garner's homicide was captured on video. We saw him being choked, heard him plead of his distress, watched as no attempt was made to revive him and his life slipped away." ...

... David Love of the Grio: "Eric Garner proves body cameras won't save black men." Love cites numerous instances of unwarranted police killings or other bad acts against black men that caught on videotape but led to no findings of guilt. ...

... Uri Friedman of the Atlantic: Criminologist Barak "Ariel recently co-authored a study on the practice in Rialto, California, where he found that police officers who weren't wearing cameras were twice as likely to use force as those who were. During the 12-month experiment, the police department also saw a reduction in citizens' complaints compared with previous years. The researchers concluded that the benefits of wearing cameras trumped the costs. But Ariel insists that there isn't enough evidence so far to generalize the finding...." ...

... Charles Blow: "... racist is the word that we must use. Racism doesn't require the presence of malice, only the presence of bias and ignorance, willful or otherwise. It doesn't even require more than one race. There are plenty of members of aggrieved groups who are part of the self-flagellation industrial complex. They make a name (and a profit) saying inflammatory things about their own groups, things that are full of sting but lack context, things that others will say only behind tightly shut doors. These are often people who've 'made it' and look down their noses with be-more-like-me disdain at those who haven't, as if success were merely a result of a collection of choices and not also of a confluence of circumstances."

... Chris Smith of New York on Mayor de Blasio's problem. ...

... Tom Levenson of Balloon Juice: "I hope I may be forgiven for believing that Staten Island DA Daniel M. Donovan Jr. had no intention of putting a cop on trial. Never mind that Officer Pantaleo was captured on video tape performing an illegal act that led to the death of a human being who's threat to society consisted of dodging local tobacco taxes, cancer stick by stick. I got nothing. This is not a justice system. This is not policing in any form that I understand. This is how law serves as cover for power when the forms but not the substance of civil society are all that is left." ...

This Is Remarkable: "Eric Garner was killed by police for no reason.... John Edwards was right: there are Two Americas. There's an America where people who kill for no legitimate reason are held to account, and there's an America where homicide isn't really a big deal as long as you play for the right team. Unfortunately Eric Garner was a victim in the second America, where some homicides are apparently less equal than others." The writer further reminds us that "Less than a month after Garner was killed, the same DA's office tasked with handling his homicide case just happened to get a grand jury indictment against the man who filmed Garner's homicide." ...

... What's remarkable about the commentary above is that it comes from Sean Davis of the right-wing blog the Federalist. Davis's background: "... co-founder of The Federalist and also serves as COO of Media Trackers, a non-profit government watchdog. He previously worked as an economic policy adviser to Gov. Rick Perry, as CFO of Daily Caller, and as chief investigator for Sen. Tom Coburn." ...

... CW: Steve M. is not as impressed by Davis's post as I am: "But, um, folks ... does what happened in this case not make you the least bit skeptical about the narrative that emerged from the grand jury proceedings in Missouri?" His point is well-taken. ...

... CW: Meanwhile, the usual suspects are making excuses for the police & the grand jury. One of them -- I forget which; they're all imbecilic -- argued that white-cops-on-black murders can't be racist because occasionally the police also kill white people under questionable circumstances. By that standard, the KKK isn't racist because they also hate Catholics. ...

... Digby in Salon: "A certain sub-group of Americans" still believe, as they have since before the Civil War, that white people are the victims, whose "way of life" is constantly being challenged by nefarious forces. ...

... Mikey Likes It! Jesse Byrnes: "Embattled Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) praised a grand jury in his Staten Island district after its Wednesday decision not to indict a white police officer in the choking death of Eric Garner, a black man.... Grimm, who won reelection last month [against a complete doofus], is under a 20-count federal indictment including allegations of hiding profits and employing undocumented immigrants at a Manhattan restaurant he previously owned." ...

... So Does IRA Bagman Peter King (R-N.Y.) Sara Fischer of CNN: "'Thanks to SI grand jury for doing justice & not yielding to outside pressure,' King tweeted. "Decision must be respected. Compassion for the Garner family. Later, he told Wolf Blitzer on CNN's 'The Situation Room' that he feels 'strongly' the police officer should not have been indicted, arguing that there is no way he could have known that Garner's health conditions would affect his ability to survive the chokehold." ...

... Now for the Libertarian Point of View. Sara Fischer: "Rand Paul blames Eric Garner's death on high NYC cigarette tax." CW: This is not a parody. (Actually, I guess there is a sin-tax argument to be made.) ...

... CW: It occurs to me that the grand-jury decision was another form of red-lining. The jurors -- whether consciously or unconsciously -- were telling black Americans not to come to Staten Island.


Adam Ferrise
of the Northeast Ohio Media Group: "The Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice had issues with handling guns during his brief tenure with a suburban police department. A Nov. 29, 2012 letter contained in Tim Loehmann's personnel file from the Independence Police Department says that during firearms qualification training he was 'distracted' and 'weepy.' 'He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal,' according to the letter written by Deputy Chief Jim Polak of the Independence police. The letter recommended that the department part ways with Loehmann, who went on to become a police officer with the Cleveland Division of Police." ...

... Adam Ferrise: "Cleveland officials drove to Independence to gather information about hiring the officer who eventually shot Tamir Rice, but never looked at his personnel file.... The personnel file contained reports by a top Independence police official who questioned Loehmann's ability to handle the duties of a police officer after an emotional breakdown during firearms training and other incidents that caused concern for his superiors. They eventually decided they wanted to release Loehmann from the department but allowed him to resign. ... Cleveland police on Wednesday amended their written policy on reviewing public personnel files for someone trying to get hired, [Cleveland Police spokesman Ali] Pillow said. They previously had no policies about viewing personnel files."

News Ledes

Washington Post: The mass shooting that killed a two-star Army general and wounded 18 other people in Afghanistan on Aug. 5 was carried out by a lone Afghan soldier who did not have any apparent ties to the Taliban and who simply seized 'a target of opportunity,' according to a U.S. military investigation."

USA Today: "A federal appeals court in New Orleans on Wednesday halted the execution of Texas killer Scott Panetti, whose case has sparked a global debate over whether people with severe mental illnesses should be put to death for their crimes.Panetti's lawyers say he is too delusional to be executed. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a reprieve less than eight hours before Panetti was scheduled to receive a lethal injection." No word from Rick Perry or Greg Abbott.

Tuesday
Dec022014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 3, 2014

Helene Cooper & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama has settled on Ashton B. Carter to be the next defense secretary, senior administration officials said on Tuesday, but is not prepared to announce the move because the White House has not completed its vetting of him. A former deputy defense secretary with a long history at the Pentagon -- though no uniformed military service -- Mr. Carter was on a short list of prospective defense secretaries from the moment that Chuck Hagel announced his resignation, under pressure, on Nov. 24." The Washington Post story, by Craig Whitelock & Missy Ryan, is here.

The Yoho Solution. Ashley Parker & Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "House Republicans on Tuesday ... began coalescing around a two-part plan that would allow a symbolic vote to show their frustration with President Obama's executive action on immigration, before funding the government ahead of a Dec. 11 deadline. The proposal, presented by Speaker John A. Boehner, first calls for House Republicans to vote on a resolution proposed by Representative Ted Yoho, Republican of Florida, that says that the president does not have the power to take the executive action he took last month. The resolution, however, would largely be a way for House Republicans to express their displeasure with the president's immigration action. Mr. Yoho said that his measure would be a largely 'symbolic message' if Senate Democrats do not take up his resolution, which they are unlikely to do." ...

... Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "Congress abandoned efforts Tuesday to craft an ambitious tax plan that would have raised hopes for bipartisan collaboration when Republicans take over in January, opting for a modest measure that would extend a slew of popular tax breaks for just a few more weeks." CW: This is supposed to be a news story, but Montgomery lets us know she's awfully sad about the failure of bipartisanship: "The development offered a stark reminder that, despite pledges from President Obama and GOP leaders to work together in a reshaped Washington, the same old political divisions hang over the Capitol -- and could be complicated by fresh tensions between moderates and liberals in the bruised Democratic Party...." ...

... Michael McAuliff, et al., of the Huffington Post: Not that any plan Boehner comes up with will pass muster with his Tea Party caucus. ...

... Dana Milbank: "Obama has already won the immigration fight." ...

... Jerry Markon of the Washington Post: "House Republicans clashed with the Obama administration over its recent executive actions on immigration Tuesday, with lawmakers blasting the measures as divisive and illegal but a top administration official defending them as a lawful and necessary first step toward fixing the nation's broken immigration system. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, in the first appearance on Capitol Hill by an administration official to defend Obama's actions, said the administration ordered a thorough legal review to ensure their legality." ...

... Dara Lind of Vox: Yes, Obama flip-flopped on immigration reform, though he won't admit it. In fact, during the years he claimed he "couldn't wave a magic wand" to effect relaxation of immigration laws, he was making a political calculation, not a legal case. "... what he was saying in 2011 was wrong. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, president has a lot of authority to decide who to deport and who not to deport -- and what to do with the latter. That doesn't require a change to the law -- no matter what Obama said in Nevada."

Paul Lewis of the Guardian: "The American sporting establishment was accused on Tuesday of presiding over a 'culture of silence' that has enabled professional athletes to commit domestic violence with impunity. Top executives and counsel from the main football, basketball, hockey and baseball leagues appeared before the Senate commerce committee after a string of controversies involving athletes accused of abusing their partners or children."

Greg Sargent: Mitch McConnell roots for the Supremes to overturn ObamaCare. If they do, McConnell says, "... I would assume that you could have a mulligan here, a major do-over of the whole thing -- that opportunity presented to us by the Supreme Court, as opposed to actually getting the president to sign a full repeal, which is not likely to happen." As law professor Nicholas Bagley told Sargent, "McConnell confirms here that the litigation is politics by other means. It sounds like McConnell is treating the Supreme Court as another political institution." CW: Which it is. ...

... Here's the Wall Street Journal interview of McConnell, by Jeffrey Sparshott. ...

... ** Charles Gaba: "Annnnnd there we go: Mitch McConnell flat-out states the SCOTUS is simply a tool for the GOP." Via Greg Sargent. (Who's Charles Gabe? Here's a clue.) ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "There might be one member of that court majority of five who won't be too pleased that McConnell has ripped the veneer off of this case and exposed it for the baldly political stunt it is: Chief Justice John Roberts. He does seem to have some concern for his legacy. He might not want that legacy to include being responsible for taking health insurance away from millions of people and gutting the law that is racking up successes and saving lives." CW: This may be wishful thinking on McCarter's part.

Jason Millman of the Washington Post: "Wide-ranging efforts to make hospital care safer have resulted in an estimated 50,000 fewer patients dying because of avoidable errors in the past three years, according to a new report presented by government and industry officials on Tuesday.... They pointed to new financial incentives for hospitals to keep patients healthier -- such as a Medicare penalty on providers that experience excessive readmissions -- and a three-year-old public-private initiative, known as the Partnership for Patients, designed to spread best practices for making hospital care safer. Some health insurers in recent years have also stopped paying for hospitals' mistakes." CW: In other words, you have to pay hospitals not to kill their patients. Nice.

Whatever Happened to the Ebola Panic? (Besides November 4). Steve Benen: President Obama is still working on the problem. Now will Republicans provide the emergency funding the president requested? ...

... Here's President Obama speaking just yesterday at the NIH in Bethesda about the fight to eradicate Ebola. The transcript is here.

John McCain is right.

Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "The corporate lobbying network American Legislative Exchange Council, commonly known as Alec, is planning a new onslaught on a number of environmental protections next year when Republicans take control of Congress and a number of state legislatures. The battle lines of Alec's newest attack on environmental and climate measures will be formally unveiled on Wednesday, when the group begins three days of meetings in Washington DC. Alec, described by its opponents as a corporate bill mill, has suffered an exodus of tech companies from its ranks recently because of its extreme positions -- especially its promotion of climate denial."

Alan Gomez of USA Today: If Republicans continue down the anti-immigration path their heading, they could lose the Hispanic vote for generations. ...

... BUT. Jeffrey Jones of Gallup: "Since the Republican Party's strong showing on Election Day last month, Americans' political allegiances have shifted toward the GOP. Prior to the elections, 43% of Americans identified as Democrats or leaned toward the Democratic Party, while 39% identified as or leaned Republican. Since then, Republicans have opened up a slight advantage, 42% to 41%, representing a net shift of five percentage points in the partisanship gap." ...

... Bernie Sanders is unimpressed. Here he is on the Senate floor (Tuesday) unveiling his "12-step program" to attack inequailty. CW: I love Bernie:

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "In many areas, President Obama has already campaigned for versions of the policies that Sanders is putting forward, and few Clintonites would have any trouble endorsing them. The exceptions are his proposals to break up the big banks and move beyond Obamacare to a 'Medicare-for-all' system of health care." ...

... Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: "Now that [Elizabeth] Warren and centrist Mark Warner are both in the Democrats' Senate leadership ranks, I think the two of them should sit down and hammer out a Warren-Warner Middle-Class Compact that consists of 10 or however many major points that they know they can get everyone from Bernie Sanders to Joe Manchin to agree on (and of course they also need to be confident that Hillary Clinton will agree to most of them). Hmm. Ten points? I guess that eliminates two of Bernie's points: bank breakup & Medicare for all. ...

... Patricia Cohen of the New York Times: "The Federal Reserve says that more than 30 percent of Americans report irregular incomes that sabotage efforts to budget and save. Unreliable work hours are cited most often." And of course "unreliable work hours" most affect those at the lower end of the economic scale.

Lara Jakes & John-Thor Dahlburg of the AP: "Nearly a year after the Islamic State overran key cities in western Iraq, diplomats from more than 60 counties and international organizations gathered in Brussels to plot a way forward against what has since become one of the world's worst terror threats. The mostly Sunni Muslim insurgency now stretches across much of northern Iraq and Syria, and has attracted thousands of foreign fighters from around the world, including Europe. Its elusive leadership is flush with financial support from illicit donations and black-market oil sales."

Annals of "Justice," Ctd.

Maria Konnikova of the New Yorker: "Richard Johnson, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Toledo..., has written that an 'officer's uniform has a profound psychological impact on others, and even slight alterations to the style may change how citizens perceive them.' The traditional uniform, he has found, often evokes impressions of safety and competence. Fatigues, SWAT suits, and other military-issue gear associated with the army, by contrast, suggest increased aggression.... The same cues that signal 'army' and 'conflict' to civilians may affect police officers themselves.... Insofar as the donning of military gear signals a more aggressive stance, and may lead police to engage in more aggressive actions, [President] Obama's desire to circumscribe [the] use [of military gear] holds a degree of promise."

Anthony McCarthy of the AP: "A lawsuit by a woman who claims Bill Cosby molested her when she was 15 years old has moved allegations of sexual misconduct against the comedian from the court of public opinion into the courthouse. Judy Huth's lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles accuses Cosby of forcing her to perform a sex act on him in a bedroom of the Playboy Mansion around 1974. She is the latest woman to accuse the comedian of sex abuse, and is the first one since 2005 to file a lawsuit.... Huth's lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court is the first time a woman has gone public claiming Cosby abused her when she was underage." CW: Good luck proving a case 40 years later.

Keith Alexander of the Washington Post: "A former Democratic congressional aide pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexually assaulting two women in 2010. Donny Ray Williams Jr., 37, who served as a staff director for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee, pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual abuse, two misdemeanor counts of sexual abuse and one count of misdemeanor threats." CW: So, after raping two women, get this: "As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors said they would seek a suspended prison term and five years of supervised probation. Williams also would have to register as a sex offender for 10 years." Excellent deal for Williams. For his victims, whatever. Date rape is still not so bad. See also Annals of "Journalism," Ctd., up next.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times: "An article in Rolling Stone magazine about an alleged gang rape on the campus of the University of Virginia has come under scrutiny for its reporting methods, even as the university and the local police investigate the events the article described." ...

... Rebecca Traister of the New Republic: "But do not forget, as we go about what is sure to be the unpleasant business of turning our suspicions on Erdely -- and in turn, on Jackie -- that the swift shift of focus is central to what's so jacked about systemic inequalities (and our impulse to pretend they don't exist) to begin with." ...

... CW: I just reread a good bit of Erdely's report, and the criticisms seem overblown. Erdely did interview -- or attempt to interview -- a number of people who had previous knowledge of Jackie's claims. Erdely also talked to other women who had similar stories. Even if Jackie herself made up the whole story -- which I find doubtful given the change in her personality & activities which others describe -- the article makes a damning case against a university that is extremely tolerant of date rape. Whether or not this particular gang rape happened is almost beside the point, except of course for Jackie. Traister is right.

If you think this guy, pictured on the left giving expert opinion & on the right commenting on Michael Brown's autopsy, doesn't look like a forensic pathologist or any kind of medical doctor or a professor or an expert on anything, you're totally wrong. His name is Shaun Parcells, and he has been interested in dead people since his grandfather died when Shaun was 12. He's also thinking about maybe going to medical school some day "to get more credentials." CW: I myself have been interested in outer space since the first Sputnik & also saw part of one of the "Star Wars" movies, which makes me a rocket scientist. To the moon, Alice.

Radley Balko of the Washington Post: Shaun Parcells, the "professor" & "forensic pathologist" who "assisted" Dr. Michael Baden in the autopsy of Michael Brown, & who has appeared as an "expert" on numerous news shows & in news stories, is a complete phony. Even after media began noticing Parcells' lack of credentials, CNN & other outlets have continued to rely on his "expertise." The CNN Story, by Elizabeth Cohen & Matthew Stucker, is here. Read 'em both. The part where Parcells lost the guy's brain is pretty good. ...

... Beyond the Beltway

AP: "Police are investigating Michael Brown's stepfather for angry comments made to a Ferguson crowd after a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who fatally shot his stepson. The St Louis County police spokesman, Brian Schellman, said on Tuesday that police want to talk to Louis Head about his comments as part of a broader investigation into arson, vandalism and looting that followed the 24 November grand jury announcement. Twelve commercial buildings were destroyed by fire."

Christine Ferretti, et al., of the Detroit News: "Power was back on by 5:30 p.m. to hundreds of Detroit buildings including hospitals and municipal buildings that went dark Tuesday morning. The widespread power outage that caused evacuations of buildings throughout downtown is 'another reminder of how much work we still have to do to rebuild the city,; Mayor Mike Duggan said. Duggan, speaking at an afternoon news conference, said DTE is in the early stages of paying for a four-year, $200 million plan to upgrade the city's electrical grid, which has not been modernized in decades. When the transition is complete, DTE will run the system and the city will be out of the power business."

Just the Headline & Subhead Will Do. New York: "European Court Rules Out Boner Tests for Gay Asylum Seekers. Should Use Gaydar Instead."

News Lede

Guardian: "Iran's air force has attacked targets of Islamic State (Isis) in eastern Iraq, the Pentagon has said. Tehran has denied carrying out raids and acting in coordination with the US, which is leading a western-Arab coalition to defeat the jihadi group. News of air strikes in Iraq's Diyala province came from the Pentagon in Washington, which said that it was the first time such operations had taken place since Isis captured the Iraqi city of Mosul in June."

Monday
Dec012014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 2, 2014

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama on Monday announced that he would tighten standards on the provision and use of military-style equipment by local police departments, but he stopped short of curtailing the transfer of such hardware or weapons to the local authorities. After a review of the government's decade-old strategy of outfitting local police forces with military equipment, the White House concluded that the vast majority of these transfers strengthen local policing, but that the government should impose consistent standards in the types of hardware it offers, better training in how to use it and more thorough oversight. Mr. Obama announced the steps at a cabinet meeting that was called to deal with lingering tensions from fiery clashes between the police and protesters in Ferguson, Mo...." ...

... White House: "President Obama met with elected officials, community and faith leaders, and law enforcement officials to talk about how communities and law enforcement can build trust and work together":

... Dana Milbank is extremely unimpressed with President Obama's response to Ferguson. "To take a bolder stand on healing racial divisions would be easy for Obama, both because it doesn't require cooperation from Congress and because he already knows the words." ...

... CW: BTW, I disagree with Milbank. Obama can't "heal racial divisions," specifically because he is black. As Chris Rock said to Frank Rich (linked also in yesterday's Commentariat), "to say Obama is progress is saying that he's the first black person that is qualified to be president. That's not black progress. That's white progress. There's been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years.... The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let's hope America keeps producing nicer white people." That is, "healing race relations" is mostly up to white people. If you want to know how white people are progressing, see the posts by Brendan James of TPM & Ed Kilgore, linked below. ...

... CW P.S.: Yeah, I know Obama is "the first black president," but that's not how I think of him. I think of him as the president. Period. If Milbank, et al., want to do their bit for "healing race relations," they could start by not repeatedly pointing at President Obama while shrieking, "OMG, he's black!" followed by scolding, "He should act more black." Dana Milbank probably voted for Obama, at least in 2008, & I'll bet that vote made Dana feel right progressive & big-hearted. Trouble is, Dana thought he was voting for Stepin Fetchit, not for an extraordinary man. ...

... Monica Davey, et al., of the New York Times: "At colleges and high schools, outside police stations, courthouses, city halls and federal buildings, a series of nationwide protests on Monday maintained the momentum of those seeking justice for the unarmed black teenager who was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., almost four months ago." ...

... More White People "Explain" Ferguson. Brendan James of TPM: "MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' panel started the day off on Monday with a segment slamming protestors in Ferguson, shaming the St. Louis Rams football team, and calling slain unarmed teenager Michael Brown a 'thug.'" ...

... Okay, Let's Hear from a Black Person for an Alternate Explanation. Ahiza Garcia of TPM: "Conservative activist and former pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson recently blamed police shootings of black men on the 'Me' generation that grew out of the 'women's lib movement.'" CW: Thanks for setting us slutty girls straight, Dr. Ben. You should run for president. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "I’ve just spent nearly a week back home in exurban Atlanta, and I regret to report that the events in and in reaction to Ferguson have brought back (at least in some of the older white folks I talked with) nasty and openly racist attitudes I haven’t heard expressed in so unguarded a manner since the 1970s." CW: Aah, your elderly, white Southern friends probably don't sound a lot worse than the honkies on "Morning Joe."

Julie Pace of the AP: "The job conditions for President Barack Obama's next defense secretary have already spurred some top contenders to bow out, leaving the White House with a slim list of candidates to fill the post for the administration's final two years. On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson became the latest to tell the White House he wasn't interested in the job, according to people familiar with the process." ...

... BUT What About Joe? He's available! I'm seeing some of that old Joe-mentum. ...

... Hahahaha. Al Kamen of the Washington Post: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Monday that White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough had contacted him about his thoughts on who should be the next defense secretary. 'I said Lieberman,' McCain told our colleague Steven Ginsberg as he got off the Amtrak Acela from Washington to New York. McCain laughed and said McDonough thanked him for his input, but that McCain did not think his close pal, the former senator from Connecticut, a Democrat turned Independent, would be considered for the job. (After all, he did endorse McCain over Obama in '08.)"

Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post: "Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is trying to use a massive appropriations bill to loosen campaign finance rules. The Republican leader's office is attempting to attach a policy rider to the omnibus bill that would effectively end limits imposed on coordinated spending by federal candidates and political party committees."

Sí, Se Puede. Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "Emory University political science Prof. Alan Abramowitz noticed something in Gallup's weekly assessment of President Obama's approval numbers: His approval among Hispanics has shot up by 14 points over the past two weeks. It's now at 68 percent -- the highest it has been this year, and at a level last seen in early 2013.

Steve Mufson of the Washington Post: "Tumbling oil prices are draining hundreds of billions of dollars from the coffers of oil-rich exporters and oil companies and injecting a much-needed boost for ailing economies in Europe and Japan -- and for American consumers at the start of the peak shopping season. The result could be one of the biggest transfers of wealth in history, potentially reshaping everything from talks over Iran's nuclear program to the Federal Reserve's policies to further rejuvenate the U.S. economy. The price of oil has declined about 40 percent since its peak in mid-June and plunged last week after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC] voted to continue to pump at the same rate. That continued a trend driven by a weak global economy and expanding U.S. domestic energy supplies."

Maryclaire Dale of the AP: "Bill Cosby stepped down as a trustee of his beloved Temple University following renewed accusations that he had drugged and sexually assaulted a string of women over many years. The 77-year-old entertainer has been a high-profile booster for his alma mater in Philadelphia and a board member since 1982. 'I have always been proud of my association with Temple University. I have always wanted to do what would be in the best interests of the university and its students. As a result, I have tendered my resignation,' Cosby said in a statement released by the university."

Joe Harris of the AP: "The St. Louis Rams and the NFL will not discipline the five players who stood with their hands raised in a show of solidarity with Ferguson protesters before Sunday's game. Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Monday that it was his players' 'choice to exercise their free speech,' but he would not comment further on their actions." ...

... Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post: Jeff Roorda, spokesperson for the St. Louis Police Association, made "a veiled suggestion that the only thing protecting the Rams and the NFL from mob violence at games is the cops."

The Smoking Gun: "The Republican congressional aide who castigated the Obama daughters for their lack of 'class' and dressing as if they were angling for a 'spot at a bar' was once arrested for larceny during her own 'awful teen years,' court records show.... [Elizabeth] Lauten, then 17, was collared for stealing from a Belk department store in her North Carolina hometown." CW: In Lauten's defense, she was stealing modest, dowdy clothing (which is all they sell at Belk's) & was smiling politely & respectfully while the surveillance cameras rolled. Totally a class act. Thanks to Haley S. for the lead. ...

... Now that the former shoplifter is out of a job, I hope she doesn't have to try to go on food stamps. Her now-former boss, Rep. Stephen Fincher (RTP-Tenn.), who is "one of the largest recipients of [farm] subsidies in the history of the great State of Tennessee." is on a "mission from God" to end the food-stamp program, which he characterizes as "stealing from those in the country to give to others in the country" (which pretty much describes the farm subsidy; only difference: the children of farm subsidy hogs like Fincher aren't going hungry).

The words 'separation of church and state' is [sic.] not in the U.S. Constitution, but it was in the constitution of the former Soviet Union. That's where it very, very comfortably sat, not in ours. -- Rick Santorum

So, we're a Christian nation? Or dupes of the Communist party? Or what? Did Thomas Jefferson, who repeatedly implored the Founders to include a bill of rights in the Constitution, misunderstand the First Amendment? Do explain, Rick. -- Constant Weader

... Speaking of the Constitution. Sahil Kapur of TPM: "An alternative [to impeachment] that has gained some traction among Republicans is to 'censure' the president.... But there's one big problem with this plan: censuring the president might be unconstitutional.... '[A] censure resolution is obviously punitive both in purpose and in effect and would thus appear to constitute a kind of "trial by legislature' outside the ambit of impeachment and accordingly might be deemed a "Bill of Attainder" forbidden by Article I, §9, Clause 3,' [law professor Laurence] Tribe said in an email."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Heidi Moore of the Guardian: "The newsroom of the New York Times was tense Monday as staffers marked the departures of several senior editors and speculated about which of their colleagues would take early exit packages and which could be laid off. The job reductions, which will come first in the form of buyouts, appear likely to continue a generational shift at the paper as veteran reporters and columnists accept lucrative offers to leave." CW: Please, Tom Friedman, take the deal. ...

... No, the New York Times did not publish Darren Wilson's home address. Margaret Sullivan, the Times' public editor, has the details.

Beyond the Beltway

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Rams vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff, reached late Monday evening by the Post-Dispatch, denied that he issued an apology to the St. Louis County Police Department for the 'Hands Up' gesture on Sunday.... St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar sent an email Monday night to his staff, alerting them that the executive vice president of football operations for the Rams, Kevin Demoff, had called him to apologize for the actions of several players on the field Sunday." ...

... Thanks to Citizen625 for pointing out the Jeff Roorda, the spokesman for the St. Louis Police Association, has a history of being a proven liar & apparently other bad stuff, all of which caused him to be fired from his job as a police officer in Arnold, Missouri. Here's a report of the proceedings against him. CW: I think we have to assume the St. Louis-area police knew this history before hiring Roorda & wanted a spokesperson who was comfortable with being blatantly untruthful.

Presidential Election

Dan Sewell of the AP: "Ohio Sen. Rob Portman says he will not run for president in 2016, choosing instead to seek a second term in the Senate over the Republican nomination for the White House."

Shane Goldmacher of the National Journal: [CW: Oxymoron Alert!] "Rand Paul's brain trust has spent months developing an exhaustive political and legal battle plan to ensure he can run for both Senate reelection and the White House in 2016 -- despite a Kentucky law that suggests otherwise.... The path remains murky, but Paul will take the first step on Tuesday, when he will formally announce he is running for reelection, even as he lays the groundwork to launch a presidential bid next year."

Shushannah Walshe of ABC News: "In an address to an environmental group that fiercely opposes the Keystone XL pipeline Monday evening, Hillary Clinton made no mention of the project. At a fundraising dinner for the League of Conservation Voters, Clinton spent most of her speech expressing support for the president's environmental policies, the need to stay vigilant in combating climate change and the risks around natural gas drilling, but she ignored the pipeline.... Earlier Monday evening she appeared at a New York City fundraiser for Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu who is in a tough run-off in Louisiana. Landrieu strongly supports construction of the Keystone XL pipeline...." CW: I read some while back that when she was Secretary of State, & before environmental groups got up & running against the pipeline, Hillary planned to approve it (no link).

News Ledes

Washington Post: "U.S. officials have designated 35 hospitals around the country to care for Ebola patients, part of the Obama administration's effort in the past two months to improve domestic preparedness to cope with the deadly virus that has ravaged West Africa."

Guardian: "The Obama administration will ask a federal appeals court to overturn a judge's ruling that it must disclose videos depicting its controversial tube feedings of hunger strikers at Guantánamo Bay. The long-expected decision from the Justice Department, filed in court on Tuesday, comes two months after Judge Gladys Kessler of the Washington DC federal district court ruled that the government did possess a compelling rationale for preventing the public from viewing the forcible feedings and detention cell removals of a Syrian detainee."

New York Times: "In a far-reaching deal that helps reunite Iraq in the face of a bitter war with Islamic extremists, the [Iraqi] central government agreed on Tuesday to a long-term pact with the autonomous Kurdish region to share the country's oil wealth and military resources. The deal settles a long dispute between Baghdad and Erbil, the Kurdish capital in the north, over oil revenues and budget payments. It is also likely to halt a drive -- at least in the short term -- by the Kurds for an independent state, which appeared imminent this past summer after a violent territory grab by Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL."

New York Times: "In a decisive move after days of intense political bickering, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel fired his centrist finance and justice ministers on Tuesday and called for the dissolution of Parliament and early elections. Mr. Netanyahu excoriated Yair Lapid, the finance minister, and Tzipi Livni, the justice minister, for attacking his government and its policies from within in recent weeks, declaring in a statement, 'I will no longer tolerate opposition from within the government.'"