The Ledes

Wednesday, August 20, 2014.

AP: "Germany says it is prepared to arm the Kurdish fighters battling Sunni insurgents in northern Iraq. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Germany would closely coordinate its efforts with France, Britain and other European countries who are already delivering weapons to the Kurds."

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, August 19, 2014.

Washington Post: "The Islamic State militant group claimed Tuesday to have beheaded an American photojournalist in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. A video released online purported to show the execution of James Foley after he recited a statement in which he called the U.S. government 'my real killers. A second prisoner, said to be Steven Joel Sotloff, like Foley an American journalist who disappeared while covering Syria’s civil war, then appears in the video. The masked executioner, speaking with what sounds like a British accent, identifies Sotloff and says that 'the life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.'”

New York Times: "Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed late Monday to extend a five-day cease-fire for Gaza that expired at midnight for 24 hours, reflecting the difficulty of reaching more durable agreements after two weeks of Egyptian-brokered talks but also an apparent lack of appetite on either side to resume the conflict." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Another Gaza cease-fire collapsed on Tuesday when Palestinian militants fired rockets into southern Israel, drawing retaliatory airstrikes from Israel and prompting the Israeli government to withdraw its delegation from Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo for an agreement to end the latest conflict."

Guardian: "Armed groups in Syria have several hundred portable anti-aircraft missiles that could easily be diverted to extremists and used to destroy commercial planes, according to a new report by an international arms research group that cites the risk of the missiles being smuggled out of Syria by terrorists. The report was released a few hours after the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice to US airlines banning all flights in Syrian airspace."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
August 18

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

John Oliver on "native advertising." Via Juan Cole:

Justice Ginsburg on the Tumblr site Notorious R.B.G.:

Washington Post: "Former president George W. Bush has been writing a book about his father, former president George H.W. Bush. The book will be published in November."

"Homophonia." Caroline Moss of Business Insider: "An education blogger in Utah is out of a job today after writing [righting] a blog post explaining 'homophones' for the Nomen Global Language Center. Tim Torkildson said he was fired by [buy] his boss and NGLC owner, Clarke Woodger, for [four] promoting a gay agenda." Here's Torkildson's blogpost on his firing. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times: "New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission would do well to turn down the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion, which imagines replacing a prized garden on East 70th Street in Manhattan with a clumsy addition. The city should avoid another self-inflicted wound, and there are other options." CW: As I recall, the garden is that it is difficult to see from the street. I love the garden court & have spent a good deal of time there.

Martha Stewart has a drone.

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."

 

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:

 

Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

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Monday
Aug042014

The Commentariat -- August 5, 2014

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "Gay men and lesbians still have a long way to go before they achieve the formal legal equality that women have long enjoyed. But they have made stunning progress at the Supreme Court over the last decade, gaining legal protection for sexual intimacy and unconventional families with stirring language unimaginable a generation ago. At the same time, legal scholars say, the court has delivered blows to women's groups in cases involving equal pay, medical leave, abortion and contraception, culminating in a furious dissent last month from the court's three female members. Many forces are contributing to this divide, but the most powerful is the role of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court's swing vote." ...

More on the Deportation Party. Ed Kilgore: "To grasp how fateful [the House's Friday night anti-DREAMers vote was] this was, you have to think back to the summer of 2012, when President Obama announced DACA in an action that was universally understood as a preemption of a pending GOP initiative being crafted by Sen. Marco Rubio for the relief not just of DREAMers, but of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was trying to find something to embrace to offset the 'self-deportation' position he had embraced during the primary season. Had Obama not announced DACA, its substance would have probably become the dominant GOP position. Now House Republicans have officially moved far to the right of where they were the day before DACA was announced, and ... well to the right of Romney '12." ...

... CW: The Deport 'Em vote would never have taken place had Boehner allowed a version of the Senate bill to come for a vote before the House: it would have passed with mostly Democratic support, & President Obama would have signed it into law. Sorry, Friends of Boehner, your buddy does not belong to "the governing wing" of the GOP.

Jonathan Chait: "Representative Mo Brooks [RWhiteyWhiteWhite-Ala.], appearing on Laura Ingraham's radio program, diagnoses the Republican Party's so-called difficulty attracting nonwhite voters. 'This is a part of the war on whites that's being launched by the Democratic Party,' explains Brooks, 'and the way in which they're launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else.' White racial victimization is a concept as old as racism itself.... The war on whites has raged continuously in the right-wing mind for more than two centuries." ...

... So Mo don't know racial animus is supposed to be subtext, But teabagger Chris McDaniel, who still doesn't think he lost the Mississippi GOP primary to Sen. Thad Cochran, figured out the subtext thing by the final draft: Daniel Strauss of TPM: "The first draft of [a McDaniel] press release according to the Daily Caller said that 'Thad Cochran lost Republican votes in the runoff, but made up the difference with black democrat votes.' That line was changed to 'Thad Cochran lost Republican votes in the runoff and made up for the difference with Democrat votes.'" ...

     ... As Ed Kilgore notes, McDaniel still "managed to scratch the same itch in the same press release by whining about 'race-baiting radio ads' allegedly run by Thad Cochran's campaign." CW: not subtle, but definitely subtext. ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "In a brief press conference punctuated by several loud rumbles of thunder, losing Mississippi senate candidate Chris McDaniel announced that the campaign is submitting an official challenge of the June runoff election to the state Republican executive committee." Besides identifying more "questionable" votes than separate the two candidates in the runoff, "McDaniel's team likely aims to prove that Cochran's margin of victory came from Democratic votes, and therefore wasn't a victory at all" under state Republican rules.

Julian Hattem of the Hill: "The Obama administration's attempt to redact some portions of an upcoming report on 'enhanced interrogation techniques' is drawing ire from Capitol Hill and could delay the release of the detailed analysis for months. That's likely to increase hostilities between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA, which are already riding high after the spy agency admitted to snooping on some Senate staffers in the run-up to the report's release. ...

... Jonathan Bernstein in Bloomberg View on why President Obama is standing by John Brennan: "... throughout his presidency, Obama has been overly skittish when it comes to potentially crossing his national security bureaucracy, and I strongly suspect that torture and other Bush-era abuses are both part of the original cause and will cause more of that timidity down the road. Obama has tried to deal with this by getting the policy right. But when we learn more about the events of the last six years, I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that getting the internal politics wrong has made it a lot harder to get the policy right."

Juan Cole on the "Top 5 Ways the US is Israel's Accomplice in War Crimes in Gaza." Thanks to P.D. Pepe for the lead. ...

... CW: I hesitated to link this story yesterday, as I wasn't familiar with the author. However, several commentators, including Juan Cole, have relied on the writer & his reporting, so I'm going with it. Richard Silverstein: "[Sunday's] report [linked here yesterday], originating in Der Spiegel that Israel intercepted the telecommunications of Secretary of State John Kerry when he was in flight to the Middle East has just become a much bigger story. The reporter noted that there were two countries who eavesdropped on Kerry. But he didn't say which country it was. My highly-placed Israeli source tells me that the identity of that country is Russia.... Israel provides Russia with transcripts of the Kerry calls it intercepts when his plane is within tracking distance. And Russia does the same when Kerry's calls are intercepted by its agents.... It also reveals a huge, gaping hole in U.S. telecommunications security. How is it that calls made on Kerry's plane couldn't be encrypted or protected in some way."

Chris Moody of Yahoo! News: "Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Monday denied that he once supported ending federal aid to Israel -- an idea he proposed as recently as 2011."

Benghaaazi! Not! Ctd. Last Thursday, the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee released its report on the Benghazi attacks, which "found no evidence of an intelligence failure prior to the attack" & debunked several GOP criticisms of the Obama administration. BUT. Rob Garver of the Fiscal Times: "Over the weekend, the committee chair [of a "select" House committee to investigate the Benghazi incident], Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said that plans are moving forward for additional hearings and that witnesses are being contacted." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... Olivia Marshall of Media Matters: "The findings [of the House Intelligence Committee] present a new challenge for media outlets in the runup to Gowdy's Benghazi select committee, explicitly formed to investigate 'unanswered questions' that previous Benghazi investigations have long-since asked and answered. When House Republicans announced plans to form the committee in May, many in the media presented Gowdy's premise of 'unanswered questions' as legitimate.... The House Intelligence Committee's finding ... adds to a pile of overwhelming evidence against the right-wing's Benghazi hoax. Will it finally be enough to convince the media to stop taking Gowdy and his misguided Benghazi witch-hunt seriously?"

Alex Altman & Elizabeth Dias of Time: "... BCFS, formerly known as Baptist Child and Family Services ... has emerged as one of the biggest players in the federal government's response to the influx of more than 57,000 unaccompanied children who have trudged across the southern border so far this year. It runs two of the largest facilities for temporarily housing immigrant children, as well as six permanent shelters in California and Texas. Since December, BCFS has received more than $280 million in federal grants to operate these shelters.... On July 7..., the Department of Health and Human Services awarded BCFS $190,707,505 in a single grant. BCFS is just one part of a sprawling system of shelters for unaccompanied children across the country.... [BCFS CEO Kevin] Dinnin received nearly $450,000 in compensation in 2012.... Unlike the temporary shelters, the permanent facilities are largely inaccessible to media and the taxpayers that fund them." ...

... The New York Times has some excellent graphs here of where the children are being sent -- and where they're coming from.

Paul Waldman reminds us that in 1991 this "very famous Hollywood liberal tried to exploit [Jim] Brady's shooting in order to take your guns away."

Senate Races

Nate Silver: "... we continue to see Republicans as slightly more likely than not to win a net of six seats this November and control of the Senate."

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) & Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) face primary challenges from the right today & Thursday respectively. Both are expected to win.

See also McDaniel challenge to Cochran primary win, linked above.

CW: You may be shocked to learn that former Sen. Handsome Scott Brown does not mind lying through his beautiful teeth to become Senator Scott Brown once again. Here he is in an op-ed in the Manchester Union Leader: "It turns out this [border] crisis is the result of executive orders issued by President Obama in 2012 that halted deportation proceedings against young illegal immigrants."

Presidential Race

David Rauf of the Houston Chronicle: "Gov. Rick Perry has formed a federal political action committee to help Republican candidates, in what amounts to another sign that Perry is jockeying to curry national support for a 2016 presidential bid. Perry filed the paperwork Thursday with the Federal Election Commission to create a political action committee called 'RickPAC.'"

Beyond the Beltway

Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "After Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) endorsed Mitt Romney for president in 2012, McDonnell's wife sought out the candidate to promote the dietary supplement at the heart of the former first couple's corruption trial, a onetime aide testified Monday.... The sixth day of the McDonnells' trial ... was marked again by a series of revelations that could be damaging to the couple. It was also notable in that [Jonnie] Williams -- after 15 hours on the witness stand -- finally stepped down with his account largely intact and with a few key points clarified in prosecutors' favor." ...

... The Washington Post's live updates of the trial are here. ...

... What About Bob? Dana Milbank: "Had he taken the [plea bargain] deal [prosecutors offered him before trial], [Bob] McDonnell would have looked like a sleazy pol. Now, he looks like a sleazy pol and a cad. Even if the former GOP governor beats the 13 counts, the trial is showing him to be not just greedy but also ungallant, allowing his wife and children to suffer to minimize his own shame.

News Ledes

New York Times: "A Russian crime ring has amassed the largest known collection of stolen Internet credentials, including 1.2 billion username and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses, security researchers say. The records, discovered by Hold Security, a firm in Milwaukee, include confidential material gathered from 420,000 websites, ranging from household names to small Internet sites."

Washington Post: "A shooting at a training academy for Afghan military officers wounded numerous troops Tuesday in Kabul, the U.S.-led military coalition said. A two-star U.S. Army general was killed and a one-star German general was wounded, according to media reports." ...

     ... New York Times UPDATE here.

New York Times: "As a 72-hour cease-fire mediated by Egypt took hold Tuesday morning, Israel announced that it had withdrawn its forces from Gaza and Hamas said it would engage in talks on a lasting arrangement to keep the peace. Most Israeli troops had already pulled back from populated areas in Gaza, and many had redeployed in Israel. But as late as Monday, Israeli officials had said that the army would maintain some positions inside Gaza, and the announcement of a complete pullout appeared to be a major concession to the Egyptian initiative."

Sunday
Aug032014

The Commentariat -- August 4, 2014

Der Spiegel: "Spiegel has learned from reliable sources that Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on US Secretary of State John Kerry during Middle East peace negotiations. In addition to the Israelis, at least one other intelligence service also listened in as Kerry mediated last year between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states, several intelligence service sources told Spiegel.... During the peak stage of peace talks last year, Kerry spoke regularly with high-ranking negotiating partners in the Middle East. At the time, some of these calls were not made on encrypted equipment.... Intelligence agencies intercepted some of those calls. The government in Jerusalem then used the information obtained in international negotiations aiming to reach a diplomatic solution in the Middle East." ...

     ... CW Note to Ed Snowden: Everybody does it, even BFFs.

The Economist interviews President Obama on Africa & a wide range of subjects. With audio (that background noise you hear is AF1).

David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Fox News analyst Juan Williams on Sunday confronted the CEO of the Heritage Foundation [Michael Needham] for his role in 'demonizing' President Barack Obama to the point that many all-white tea partiers were calling for impeachment." A lovely rant:

... Williams interviews Eric Holder for the Hill: "Holder predicts that Congress will pass his proposed reforms to the criminal justice system, specifically reductions in sentencing, even if Republicans hold majorities in both chambers after November's midterm elections. 'Next year you are likely to see significant accomplishment when it comes to criminal justice reform,' he said."

Paul Krugman: "The Dodd-Frank reform bill ... is working a lot better than anyone listening to the news media would imagine.... All accounts indicate that the [Consumer Protection Financial Bureau] is in fact doing its job, and well -- well enough to inspire continuing fury among bankers and their political allies.... Dodd-Frank ... giv[es] regulators Ordinary Liquidation Authority, also known as resolution authority, so that in the next crisis we can save 'systemically important' banks and other institutions without bailing out the bankers.... Did reform go far enough? No."

Benjamin Goad of the Hill: "Business interests are vowing to fight President Obama's executive order imposing new restrictions on companies who want to do business with the federal government. Obama announced the action this week, ordering up new regulations that would require firms seeking federal contracts to disclose labor law violations and create new compliance advisors at agencies to oversee decisions about which firms get the work."

This piece of crap by Ross Douthat on Obama Rex is getting a good deal of media attention. CW: I could deconstruct it down to teeny little turds, but I won't bother. ...

... Martin Longman of the Washington Monthly dispenses with one aspect of it: Douthat's assumption that he knows what President Obama will do on immigration reform. ...

... CW: One angle that I haven't seen anyone suggest in relation to whatever the President decides to do in regard to immigration relief is this: the POTUS has the constitutional authority to grant reprieves & pardons. I believe he could use that authority to grant reprieves to undocumented residents, & he could place conditions on those reprieves, conditions similar to those in the Senate bill, which Speaker Boehner refuses to bring to the House floor for a vote. I doubt that is what Obama has in mind, but I think it's what he should do. ...

     ... ** Update. Brian Beutler makes the same point Longman does: "Douthat’s thesis rests on the assumption that aggressive executive action on behalf of certain unauthorized immigrants will by definition be 'an extraordinary abuse of office.... [L]awless, reckless, a leap into the antidemocratic dark.' These are awfully firm conclusions to draw about a policy that hasn't been unveiled yet." And Beutler does mention Obama's "unchecked pardon power," noting the President is unlikely to use it.

... BUT. David Jackson of USA Today: "White House officials are downplaying stories that President Obama is prepared to take executive action on immigration that would allow millions of undocumented people to stay in the United States.' The reports you're seeing are uninformed speculation,' White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Pfeiffer said Obama asked the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to 'present him with recommendations by the end of the summer.' Those agencies have not yet reported back." ...

... Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "CNN anchor Candy Crowley called out Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) Sunday for claiming that illegal immigrants crossing the Rio Grande have committed thousands of homicides. Perry said his constituents in Texas are concerned about 'the 90 percent-plus of individuals who don't get talked about enough that are coming into the United States illegally and committing substantial crimes.' He said that the 203,000 illegal immigrants who have come into Texas since 2008 and booked into Texas county jails have been responsible for over 3,000 homicides and almost 8,000 sexual assaults. Crowley, the host of CNN's 'State of the Union,' called Perry's claim 'wildly off.'' Video via Crooks & Liars:

... PolitiFactTexas (July 17): "... for this declaration to hold water, one would have to assume illegal immigrants committed nearly half of the state's homicides since 2008; we found no such data. This statement is both incorrect and ridiculous. Pants on Fire!" ...

It should be noted at the outset that the dissent does not discuss a single case — not one — in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby. -- Justice Antonin Scalia, concurrence, Kansas v. Marsh, 2006

... Texas "Justice." Maurice Possley of the Marshall Project, in the Washington Post: "Since [Cameron Todd] Willingham was executed [in Texas] in 2004, officials have continued to defend the account of the informer, Johnny E. Webb, even as a series of scientific experts have discredited the forensic evidence that Willingham might have deliberately set the house fire in which his toddlers were killed. But now new evidence has revived questions about Willingham's guilt: In taped interviews, Webb, who has previously both recanted and affirmed his testimony, gives his first detailed account of how he lied on the witness stand in return for efforts by the former prosecutor, John H. Jackson, to reduce Webb's prison sentence for robbery and to arrange thousands of dollars in support from a wealthy Corsicana rancher. Newly uncovered letters and court files show that Jackson worked diligently to intercede for Webb after his testimony and to coordinate with the rancher, Charles S. Pearce Jr., to keep the mercurial informer in line....

In 2004, [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry refused to temporarily stay Willingham's execution despite the report of a leading forensic expert that sharply disputed the finding of arson by a Texas deputy fire marshal. Perry's administration has also repeatedly undercut the authority of a state Forensic Science Commission, which agreed that the arson finding relied on flawed analysis. Defending his handling of the case in 2009, the governor declared that Willingham 'was a monster.' The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, the members of which were all appointed by Perry, voted in March to deny Willingham a posthumous full pardon.

You are so frozen in fear of your own voters -- so frozen in fear of your own colleagues -- and the nation needs you to be courageous. Only cowards scapegoat children, and only those who are ashamed of themselves do it after hours on a Friday night. -- Rep. Luis Guiterrez (D-Ill.), Friday, to Republicans during House debate of the border bill

Steve LaTourette, a now-retired, long-time Republican Congressman from Ohio & an ally of John Boehner's, has an opinion piece in Politico Magazine knocking the Tea Party in general as "the grifting party" -- who are "lining their pockets" with special interest money & contributions they grift from unwitting dupes -- & Ted Cruz specifically: "Groups like the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots are run by men and women who have made millions by playing on the fears and anger about the dysfunction in Washington.... Our Founding Fathers set up a system of government that by its very nature excludes the possibility of one party or one ideological wing of one party getting everything it wants. Ted Cruz, who quotes the founders almost every chance he gets, ought to know this." CW: Of course LaTourette also claims that "the governing wing" of the GOP wants to get things done, which is a crock. ...

... CW: If "the governing wing" wanted to "get things done," John Boehner would have made a deal with Nancy Pelosi a long time ago to pass consensus legislation. The argument that he would have lost his speakership is weak; Pelosi could have got Democrats to vote for him as part of the deal. Boehner instead chose to pass dead-in-the-water bills while refusing to allow votes on bills that could pass the House & conform to Senate legislation. He coulda been a statesman. Instead, he's a clown. ...

I want to fund Israel. I also want to make sure our children have a future. -- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Ok.), before blacking Iron Dome funding last week ...

... Jonathan Chait notes that the cost of the program that was going to ruin our children's future was 0.006 percent of the federal budget. "You could say that Tom Coburn is upholding his party's principles in a courageous and consistent fashion. You could also say he is a dangerous, ideological fanatic. Both those descriptions would be correct.... Republicans continue to cling to an opposition to spending that has paralyzed basic government functions.... Faced with an immovable logjam, the two parties can only move ahead by producing phony savings."

Benghaaazi! Not! Carolyn Lochhead of the San Francisco Chronicle: "The House Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, has concluded that there was no deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama administration in the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, said Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena, [Calif.,] the second-ranking Democrat on the committee. The panel voted Thursday to declassify the report, the result of two years of investigation by the committee. U.S. intelligence agencies will have to approve making the report public.... That conflicts with accusations of administration wrongdoing voiced by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista (San Diego County), whose House Government Oversight and Reform Committee has held hearings on the Benghazi attack." Via Greg Sargent.

David Remnick has a long, interesting piece in the New Yorker about Russia & Vladimir Putin's beliefs, methods & imperial ambitions.

Drones! James Barron of the New York Times: "... drones are soaring as never before, deployed by some for fun and others for work as new models come on the market at lower and lower prices. But their proliferation has also resulted in problems.... On Sunday, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat from New York, said the city had turned into the Wild West for drones. He said it was time for new federal rules and urged the F.A.A., which is considering regulations for drones, to issue them by the end of the year. ...

... digby: "Nobody knows where [Texas mass murderer Ronald Lee Haskell] got his guns. But we can assume that Governor Perry figures he had an All American, God given right to have as many as he wanted.... But sure, by all means, let's put every effort into stopping non-existent crime among immigrants and child refugees down at the border. That's what we call conservative 'problem solving.'"

Gubernatorial Race

Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald: "In a nationwide push to fight Republicans who deny the existence of man-made climate change, investor-turned-activist Tom Steyer has founded a Florida political committee, seeded it with $750,000 of his own money, and says he'll spend far more to help Democrat Charlie Crist defeat Gov. Rick Scott."

Beyond the Beltway

David Goodman of the New York Times: "Narcotics officers on Saturday arrested a Staten Island man whose visceral cellphone images of the forceful and ultimately deadly arrest of Eric Garner helped galvanize protests and set off a citywide debate over police practices. The police charged the man, Ramsey Orta, with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon -- a .25-caliber Norton semiautomatic handgun -- that the officers said he had been trying to pass to a teenager on the sidewalk of a drug-prone street only blocks from the spot where officers had the fatal confrontation with Mr. Garner."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Claiming it had achieved most of its objectives and pressured by Western allies to stop causing civilian casualties in Gaza, Israel moved to wind down its operations there on Monday -- either unilaterally or through a new Egyptian-brokered cease-fire announced late in the day."

New York Times: "James S. Brady, the White House press secretary who was wounded in an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan and then became a symbol of the fight for gun control, championing tighter regulations from his wheelchair, died on Monday in Alexandria, Va. He was 73."

New York Times: "A federal judge on Monday rejected as unconstitutional an Alabama law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The requirement, adopted by the legislature in 2013, would have forced three of Alabama's five abortion clinics to close, severely restricting access to abortions while not providing significant medical benefits, United States District Judge Myron H. Thompson wrote in a 172-page decision.

Haaretz: "Israel entered day 28 of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza on Monday, after scaling back its offensive over the weekend. The IDF unilaterally declared a 7-hour humanitarian cease-fire late Sunday, which went into effect at 10 A.M. This follows the Israeli security cabinet's decision to no longer attempt to reach a truce agreement through negotiations with Hamas and the Palestinian factions in Gaza. ...

... Here's the State Department statement on Israel's shelling of the U.N. school in Rafah, Gaza.

Saturday
Aug022014

The Commentariat -- August 3, 2014

New York Times Editors: "It was a remarkable two days of legislative dysfunction, even for congressional Republicans, who have been pushing the limits of unhinged governance.... Congressional nihilism has created a vacuum. Now it's President Obama's job to fill it.... Having spent the summer howling about a catastrophe at the border, Republicans are now congratulating themselves for refusing to solve it."

Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story: "In a new study conducted by researchers tasked with studying of the root causes and consequences of terrorism in the U.S. and abroad, the sovereign citizen movement was perceived to be the gravest terrorist threat, rivaling Islamist extremists and militia/patriot groups."

Nathan Thrall explains in the London Review of Books what led to the current Israeli-Hamas conflict. It's complicated! ...

My suggestion is a two-state solution and coexistence between Israel and the West Bank: two capitals in Jerusalem, a mutually agreed territorial modification, removal of most of the Jewish settlements from the West Bank. -- Amos Oz

Philip Gourevitch in the New Yorker on the Israeli-Gaza conflict as seen through the eyes of novelist Amos Oz & former Palestinian Rashid Khalidi.

Maureen Dowd writes a column wherein she whacks Dubya for the Oedipal thing, then ends by whacking Obama. CW: I do think she's mostly right about John Brennan. He never should have been put in a position of power & responsibility. Calling Brennan "a cheerleader for torture," however, is an overstatement. See this 2008 piece by Glenn Greenwald.) Still, Obama should invite Brennan to resign. Soon. There's no doubt he was, at the least, complicit in CIA torture operations during the Bush years. ...

... "We Tortured Some Folks." digby on President Obama's remarks (see yesterday's Commentariat): "We have normalized torture with this tepid, half-assed, sanctimonious admission that 'we tortured some folks' and that it crossed a line and all, but they did it because people were afraid. Heckuva job."

Michael Paulson of the New York Times (July 30): "The Roman Catholic archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, under fire for the way his diocese has dealt with sexually abusive priests, apologized Wednesday for his conduct but rejected calls for his resignation. The archbishop, John C. Nienstedt, acknowledged errors in his diocese's response to abuse allegations, writing in a column for the diocesan newspaper that 'it is very clear that we did not handle all complaints the way we should have in the past' and that he had only recently removed from ministry several priests accused of abuse.... He did not directly address accusations that he himself had had inappropriate sexual relationships with adult men, other than to say that he commissioned an investigation 'because I had nothing to hide and wanted to be vindicated from false allegations, as anyone would.'" Via Steve Benen. ...

     ... CW: If Nienstedt had relationships with consenting adult men who knew what his job was, I would say there's a good chance the relationships weren't "inappropriate." Although Paulson couches the "inappropriate" behavior as an accusation by others, it sure comes across as a value judgment on the part of the Times, & in a straight news report, that is "inappropriate."

Stan Diel of the Alabama Media Group: Twinkle Cavanaugh, the President of the Alabama Public Service Commission, wants all Alabamians to "be in prayer" against the EPA's proposed carbon emissions regulations. "PSC commissioner-elect Chip Beeker..., a Republican who is running unopposed for a PSC seat, said coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God's plan." Via Benen. ...

     ... CW: Well, Chip & Twinkle, God put that coal away down deep under her green earth, & it could be she didn't have any plans for you-all to dig it all up & burn it down, spewing the carcinogous detritus into the good air she gave all her creatures breathe. Nor was it likely in her plan to warm up the earth to ungodly temperatures. Those floods & hurricanes & droughts & heat waves are God's way of telling you nitwits to cut carbon emissions, & she doesn't appreciate your beseeching her to destroy her little pet planet.

Gubernatorial Election

Dave McKinney of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Multimillionaire Republican Bruce Rauner[, the GOP's nominee for governor of Illinois,] has channeled at least part of his fortune into the Cayman Islands, a Caribbean paradise long criticized as a tax haven for American investors.... For Rauner, consistently leading [Gov. Pat] Quinn [D] in mid-summer polling, it's the same political issue that President Barack Obama used to his advantage against uber-rich Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential campaign.

Beyond the Beltway

Brent Johnson of the Star-Ledger: "Gov. Chris Christie [Friday] said he doesn't recall receiving a text message from a top aide in December as talk of the controversial lane closings at the George Washington Bridge intensified. Regina Eg[e]a, whom the Republican governor has named his next chief of staff, testified last month before a state legislative committee that she texted Christie about testimony given by Port Authority officials concerning the lane closings but later deleted the message."

Laura Vozzella, et al., of the Washington Post: "Tanned, relaxed and sometimes witty on the stand, [Jonnie] Williams[, Sr., the chief witness in the Bob & Maureen McDonnell corruption case,] might charm and convince the eight men and four women who hold the former first couple's fate in their hands. But there's also a risk that jurors will see him as a snake oil salesman, one who duped the McDonnells and is lying now to save his own skin."

News Ledes

AP: "Fighting raged Sunday on the western outskirts of Donetsk as the advancing Ukrainian army tried to seize control of the rebel stronghold. In danger of being encircled, the separatists renewed their calls for Russia to send troops to their aid. To support their operations, the pro-Russian fighters have been confiscating vehicles and food from residents and businesses in Donetsk." ...

... ** New York Times: "The growing confrontation between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine has derailed a recent accord that promised one of the most expansive collaborations ever between the countries' nuclear scientists, including reciprocal visits to atomic sites to work on projects ranging from energy to planetary defense."

Washington Post: "A United Nations school was attacked in southern Gaza on Sunday, killing at least 10 and injuring more than 30, as Israeli shells continued to bombard southern Gaza, hours after President Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Hamas would pay 'an intolerable price' for its assaults. A spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency said an Israeli air strike most likely hit the school in the southern border city of Rafah, while about 3,000 Palestinians, who had fled their homes and were seeking refuge there, were waiting in line for food and other supplies." ...

     ... AP UPDATE: "Israel withdrew most of its ground troops from the Gaza Strip on Sunday in an apparent winding down of the nearly monthlong operation against Hamas that has left more than 1,800 Palestinians and more than 60 Israelis dead. Even as Israel said it was close to completing its mission, heavy fighting raged in parts of Gaza, with at least 10 people killed in what U.N. and Palestinian officials said was an Israeli airstrike near a U.N. shelter. The United States lashed out at Israel, saying it was 'appalled' by the 'disgraceful' attack." ...

     ... Guardian UPDATE: "A deadly attack on a school in the city of Rafah in the south of Gaza has been denounced as a 'moral outrage' and 'criminal act' by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon."

Guardian: "Libya's interim government says a day of militia fighting for control of the international airport in the capital Tripoli has killed 22 people."

Guardian: "One of two American aid workers infected with the deadly Ebola virus returned to the US from Africa on Saturday. Both were volunteers treating Ebola patients in Liberia, one of three countries affected in a West African outbreak that has so far killed 729 people, the deadliest outbreak in history."

Friday
Aug012014

The Commentariat -- August 2, 2014

David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Obama is preparing to announce new measures that would potentially allow millions of illegal immigrants to remain in the United States without fear of deportation, a politically explosive decision that could jolt Washington just weeks before the midterm elections, according to people who have been in touch with the White House. Administration officials have told allies in private meetings that both the current surge of Central American children crossing the border and Congress's failure this year to pass a broader immigration overhaul have propelled the president toward taking action on his own by summer's end."

White House: "In this week's address, President Obama discussed the new monthly jobs report and the fact that our economy created over 200,000 new jobs in July for the sixth straight month -- the longest streak since 1997":

... New York Times: "Little to rave or rant about. That was the view among economists of Friday's jobs report, in which the Labor Department estimated that the economy added 209,000 jobs in July, continuing a string of sturdy monthly advances above 200,000 but lower than in recent months and less than analysts had expected."

CW: At 8:35 pm Friday, the House border spending bill has passed. ...

     ... Update: Here's the Washington Post story, by Ed O'Keefe & Robert Costa. ...

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "In a vote likely to exacerbate their party's demographic problems, House Republicans passed legislation on Friday night to effectively require the deportation of everyone in the U.S. illegally, including young people brought as children who attended college or joined the military. It passed by a vote of 216 to 192. Eleven Republicans voted no and four Democrats voted yes. The bill serves a symbolic rebuke of President Barack Obama for his current and upcoming executive actions to relieve undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation. It passed shortly after the House passed 223-189 a separate GOP-led border funding proposal, which gives House Republicans the opportunity to go home for recess and say they acted on the child migrant crisis. 'In the end, the Republican position on immigration can be summed up as: deport 'em all,' said Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL)...."You know it is suicide as a political strategy, but you continue to say deport 'em all." Both bills are dead on arrival in the Senate. Obama slammed them as "extreme and unworkable" and promised to veto them if they land on his desk."

... Greg Sargent: "In a statement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemns the House GOP bill":

It is a sad day for our country. A chamber of Congress is poised to send vulnerable children back to danger and possible death. It violates our commitment to human rights and due process of the law and lessens us as a nation. I pray that this legislation never sees the light of day. -- Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami

The changes brought into this are ones I've developed and advocated for over the past two years. It's like I ordered it off the menu. -- Rep. Steve King (RTP-Iowa), who has claimed most immigrant children are "evil" "marijuana smugglers

Yup, on immigration, the GOP is Steve King's party. -- Greg Sargent

Ed O'Keefe, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Obama warned Friday that he likely will have to use his executive authority to address the historic influx of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border as House Republicans moved closer to consensus on legislation that would do little to immediately solve the crisis. Obama said during an afternoon news conference that Republicans are trying to pass the 'most extreme and unworkable portions' of a bill that they know will go 'nowhere' -- except to his desk for a presidential veto."

... CW: This is a mighty interesting presser. Worth listening to while you're shucking peas or whatever:

... Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "The Thursday collapse of the border security plan offer by the House Republican leadership was a triumph for conservatives in the House GOP caucus, who see it as a high point in their troubled relationship with House Speaker John A. Boehner and his more centrist leadership team. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), one of those conservatives, described the retreat by Boehner (Ohio) as one of the highlights of her career, because the leadership was forced to mostly capitulate to the conservative demands." ...

... CW: I can see why Bachmann is elated: she has saved these hapless children from a terrible fate. Kyle Mantyla of Right Wing Watch: "Appearing on 'WallBuilders Live'..., Bachmann ... claim[ed] that President Obama and the medical community want to bring tens of thousands of children from Central America into the United States so that they can be turned over to state governments and then used for medical experiments." Read the post to see how she figured out Obama's diabolical plot. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Hers is just fried.

Karen DeYoung & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The Senate unanimously passed an additional $225 million in emergency funding for Israel's Iron Dome defense system Friday, after refusing to do so just hours earlier out of concern that the money hadn't been offset by spending cuts. Passage appeared directly related to the almost immediate breakdown of a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip that was to begin Friday morning.... The House plans to approve a similar measure later in the day, senior GOP aides said Friday. The vote might be held by unanimous consent, said the aides, who weren't authorized to speak publicly about the plans." ...

     ... Update. Christina Marcos of the Hill: "The House late Friday sent a measure to the president that would provide Israel with funding for its Iron Dome missile defense system. The vote was 395-8."

Today in Both-Sides-Do-It, starring Jonathan Weisman & Ashley Parker of the New York Times. The gist of the story is that this is the do-nothingest Congress in history, & both Republicans & Democrats are to blame. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is holding back bills when Republicans threaten to attach amendments designed specifically to hurt Democratic Senators running for re-election. More of the reporters' "evidence" against Democrats: "Senate Democrats, who continue to blame Republicans for failing to reaching any broader immigration deal, were unable to overcome a procedural maneuver to even vote on their own border bill." Translated into language ordinary readers could understand:Republicans filibustered the vote. ...

... Gail Collins looks at the bright side: Both sides passed a short-term highway fund bill, which (1) relies on an "outrageous" accounting gimmick; (2) includes no long-term infrastructure plan; & (3) which represents about half what Europeans spend on infrastructure. (CW: And remember, Europeans already had a pretty good infrastructure in place; they're still traveling the old Appian Way, & there are a few Roman aqueducts still in use.) Anyhow, that's the bright side.

You can't say on the one hand that the president is overreaching by acting without legislative authority and direction and then refuse to give him legislative authority and direction in another area. -- Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), an ally of John Boehner's, on msnbc, addressing Boehner's, um, mixed messages

Dana Milbank: "Apparently, if Obama is using his executive authority to advance a policy House Republicans support, it's a meritorious exercise of presidential authority; if he uses that same authority to aid a policy they oppose, it's time to write up articles of impeachment."

I take my job one day at a time. -- John Boehner, Thursday

The problem with day-by-day leadership, though, is inconsistency: What you do on Thursday has a way of contradicting what you said on Wednesday. -- Dana Milbank

One lie too many? Here's a taste of that Taiwanese parliamentary procedure which Milbank mentions. John Parkinson of ABC News: "In an unusual breach of decorum, even for the divided Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi chased Rep. Tom Marino across the House floor...."

"We Tortured Some Folks." Josh Gerstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama couldn't have been more blunt in acknowledging that the U.S. crossed a moral line in its treatment of war-on-terror prisoners. 'We tortured some folks,' Obama said during a White House news conference Friday. 'When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line. And that needs to be understood and accepted.'" ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama said on Friday that he has 'full confidence' in John Brennan, the director of the C.I.A., despite Mr. Brennan’s admission this week that his agency improperly searched the computers of the congressional committee that is preparing to release a report on the use of torture in the fight against terror."

... Julian Hattem of the Hill: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Friday became the third senator to publicly call for CIA Director John Brennan to leave office in the wake of the agency's admission that some officials spied on Senate staffers. In a statement sent to The Hill, Paul, who mounted a 13-hour filibuster against Brennan's confirmation in March, said that the spy agency chief and everyone else involved with the hacking should be removed from office.... Paul's call comes after Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who both sit on the Intelligence Committee, on Thursday urged Brennan to step aside." ...

... Charles Pierce calls President Obama's comments on torture "the single most revolting thing this president ever said in public.... Most of the torture went on long after we knew that there weren't going to be follow-up acts of terror. Much of it was used to get information with which to gin up an illegal war of aggression against a country that had not attacked us. The lies of Iraq were seeded with torture, and if the president thinks he can use the word and then just walk away from its profound implication in a cloud of banalities, he's been out on the golf course without a hat too long."

Andrew Zajak of Bloomberg News: "The Obama administration asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to reconsider a three-judge panel's ruling that customers on the federal marketplace authorized by the health-care overhaul are ineligible for subsidies to buy insurance.... Later today, the appeals court ordered the plaintiffs to file within 15 days a response to the government's motion. Yesterday, the plaintiffs asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, saying a ruling by the high court would end uncertainty about the IRS provision." ...

Today among the Halbig Troofers.... The troofer argument is that a single cherry skin on the ground makes an apple orchard a cherry tree. -- Scott Lemieux in Lawyers, Guns & Money

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "The story of whether Congress ever intended to limit Obamacare subsidies to state-based exchanges begins and ends with the Congressional Budget Office. And what it reveals about the latest legal threat to Obamacare dramatically undercuts the arguments against the law.... Every tweak to the law was funneled through the accounting brains of the non-partisan congressional scorekeeper.... Like everybody else on Capitol Hill in 2009 and 2010, from legislators to the journalists who covered them, the CBO's quants never even considered ... factor[ing federal exchange subsidy cuts] into its analyses.... The CBO itself has said, in a December 2012 letter to House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA), that it never considered limited subsidies to only state exchanges...."

Anna Palmer, et al., of Politico: "In his decision to quit Congress altogether, Eric Cantor gave only one reason: so his successor could get a head start.... But several GOP lawmakers and aides suggested to Politico that ... the last thing he wanted ... was to endure the humbling shift from 11 years in the leadership to being a back bencher, even if only for four months. And, they said he was already focused on the next chapter of his life in the private sector. Although members can explore new job opportunities while still in office, his departure from Congress means that Cantor won't have to disclose any companies or firms with whom he may be negotiating for a job."

Beyond the Beltway

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "The star witness for the prosecution at the corruption trial of former Virginia governor and his wife told jurors Friday that Robert F. McDonnell was not directly involved in soliciting many gifts he gave the first family. Jonnie R. Williams Sr. also acknowledged under questioning from defense attorneys that he was not aware if the former governor was directly involved in arranging things that helped benefit his company or the dietary supplement it was launching. Williams's testimony concluded the first week of the trial, which could stretch on for four more weeks."

Fernanda Santos of the New York Times: "Lawyers for an inmate who was executed last month by lethal injection said Friday that his executioners injected him with 15 times the standard dose of a sedative and a painkiller during a procedure that lasted nearly two hours before their client was declared dead.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "An Israeli soldier who the military feared had been abducted by Hamas gunmen in a firefight Friday that shattered a temporary cease-fire in Gaza was declared dead Sunday, just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled that military operations against Palestinian militants would continue. 'We will take as much time as necessary, and will exert as much force as needed,' Netanyahu said Saturday. He said that Hamas will pay 'an intolerable price' for its attacks."

New York Times: "Israel will continue its military campaign in the Gaza Strip as long as necessary to stop Hamas's attacks on Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday evening, but he added that once the army's operations to destroy tunnels into Israel were completed, Israel would decide how to redeploy its forces, suggesting a de-escalation of the ground war in Gaza." ...

... New York Times: "The armed wing of Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian faction that dominates the Gaza Strip, said early Saturday that it was not holding an Israeli officer who has been missing since a deadly clash Friday that shattered a planned 72-hour cease-fire. The Qassam Brigades, which have led the 26-day-old battle with Israel, suggested in a statement that the officer may have been killed along with his captors in an Israeli assault that followed a suicide-bomb attack by Palestinian militants, who emerged from a tunnel that Israeli troops were trying to destroy near the southern border town of Rafah."

AP: "Following the quick collapse of the cease-fire in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the White House not to force a truce with Palestinian militants on Israel. Sources familiar with conversations between Netanyahu and senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, say the Israeli leader advised the Obama administration 'not to ever second guess me again' on the matter. The officials also said Netanyahu said he should be 'trusted' on the issue and about the unwillingness of Hamas to enter into and follow through on cease-fire talks."

Guardian: "A large team of international investigators, including Australian police, have recovered human remains and passenger belongings from the MH17 crash site during their first visit to the area. An 80-strong Australian and Dutch team spent five hours combing farmland, paddocks and villages in eastern Ukraine in an operation that could last up to 10 days."