The Ledes

Tuesday, October 21, 2014.

Guardian: "The US State Department says Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans being held in North Korea, has been released. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Fowle was home Tuesday after negotiators left Pyongyang. She said the US is still trying to free two other Americans, Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae."

New York Times: "Oscar de la Renta, the doyen of American fashion, whose career began in the 1950s in Franco’s Spain, sprawled across the better living rooms of Paris and New York, and who was the last survivor of that generation of bold, all-seeing tastemakers, died on Monday at his home in Kent, Conn. He was 82."

New York Times: "Oscar Pistorius, the South African track star once seen as an emblem of triumph over adversity, was sentenced on Tuesday to five years in prison for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp." ...

     ... The Guardian is liveblogging the sentencing.

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, October 20, 2014.

New York Times: "At least one chapter of the Ebola saga neared a close Sunday, as most of the dozens of people who had direct or indirect contact here with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola, had been told by officials that they were no longer at risk of contracting the disease."

New York Times: "Escalating its assistance to Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State in the Syrian town of Kobani, American military aircraft on Sunday dropped ammunition, small arms and medical supplies to resupply the combatants, officials said."

New York Daily News: "Tennessee state Sen. Jim Summerville was arrested twice this weekend — just one month after he was arrested for public intoxication, police said. The outgoing Republican senator from Dickson, Tenn., has been charged with stalking and assault in separate incidents involving his neighbor, Lt. Todd Christian said." CW: Another fine representative of the people.

Public Service Announcement

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

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

White House Live Video
October 21

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

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks to the Washington Post (audio only)

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

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

Stephen Colbert describes his workday:


No Surprise Here. Valerie Tarico of AlterNet, in Salon: "... online search traffic from behind closed doors in Jesusland suggests that the bad, nasty, sexual impulses righteous believers are trying so hard to shut down may be their own. And if Google search patterns mean anything, they’re not succeeding too well: studies consistently demonstrate that people in conservative religious states search for adult materials online far more often than people in blue states."

Jeffrey Frank reviews, for the New Yorker, a new biography of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith. The review is fairly entertaining & informative.

Michael Cieply of the New York Times: "... several of the companies behind 'Citizenfour' — which takes issue with Mr. Obama’s expansion of Bush-era surveillance, and his administration’s attempt to prosecute [Edward] Snowden for espionage — are led by some of the president’s close political allies. They include Harvey Weinstein, the Weinstein Company’s co-chairman, as well as Jeff Skoll, the founder of Participant Media, and Richard Plepler, the chief executive of HBO, who all have been major contributors to Mr. Obama’s political campaigns."

Washington Post: "President Obama's credit card was rejected last month at a restaurant in New York. 'I went to a restaurant up in New York when I was -- during the U.N. General Assembly, and my credit card was rejected,' Obama said Friday while signing an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft. 'It turned out I guess I don’t use it enough. They were -- they thought there was some fraud going on. Fortunately, Michelle had hers.'"

"Who's Gonna Stand Up & Save the Earth?" Not Stephen Colbert:

Novelist John Grisham recants his apologia for child porn. Good to know.

Unsolved Mystery. Washington Post: "Human remains recently exhumed from an Alabama grave are not those of the notorious fugitive William Bradford Bishop, who is accused of killing five family members with a small sledgehammer in Montgomery County in 1976 and setting their bodies on fire, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. The FBI said that DNA taken from the unidentified body in Scottsboro, Ala., on Oct. 9 did not match Bishop, who is a member of the Ten Most Wanted list." Original story further down this column. Thanks to Haley S. for the lead.

New York Times: "CBS announced a new subscription Internet streaming service on Thursday that allows people to watch its live television programming and thousands of its current and past shows on demand without paying for a traditional TV subscription. The new 'CBS All Access' service, costing $5.99 a month, is the first time that a traditional broadcaster will make a near-continuous live feed of its local stations available over the web to non-pay-TV subscribers. At its start, the live stream will be available in 14 markets in the United States." ...

... New York Times: "HBO announced Wednesday that it would start a stand-alone Internet streaming service in the United States in 2015 that would not require a subscription to a traditional television service, a move that intensifies the premium cable network’s growing rivalry with Netflix. Just hours after HBO unveiled plans for its new service, Netflix announced that its subscriber growth was slower than expected...."

Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Following its initial mercy killing at the hands of Jon Stewart, Crossfire was rebooted last year with Newt Gingrich and Van Jones to dismal returns..., CNN ... scrapped it for good today [October 15] so that Newt can spend more time with his animals — and hopefully run for president again."

Joe Concha of Mediaite: "A well-placed source tells me MSNBC will be announcing major programming changes sometime in the next month, including the cancellation of Ronan Farrow‘s afternoon program, Ronan Farrow Daily." CW: I've caught a few minutes of Farrow's show a couple of times, & it was clear the guy was in way over his head. His performance was as embarrassing as the Russert kid's, though he isn't an obnoxious bro in the Russert-kid mold. I'm not sure if the suits will ever figure out that legacies & children-of-famous-people are usually not the best & brightest, perhaps because a lot of the suits themselves are legacies.

Philip Shenon in Politico Magazine: "If even Robert Kennedy was a conspiracy theorist, it is hard to see how millions of other Americans will ever be convinced to accept that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone."

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "MSNBC has seen its ratings hit one of the deepest skids in its history, with the recently completed third quarter of 2014 generating some record lows."

Snowden, The Movie:

... AND, Snowden's girlfriend is living with him in a Moscow apartment. David Harding of the New York Daily News: "His girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, moved into his apartment in the Russian capital in July, a detail that was revealed in the new documentary, 'Citizenfour.'” ...

... George Packer of the New Yorker on Laura Poitras & making the film "Citizenfour." ...

... Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times discusses the film. He attended the premiere at the New York Film Festival, where the documentary got a rare standing O. CW: I'm kinda sensing that "Citizenfour" can best be described as "documentary as hagiography." And, yes, I'm definitely seeing an Oscar here. Call me an oracle.

 

 

A video for Marco I'm-Not-a-Scientist-Man Rubio & Bobby I'm-Not-an-Evolutionary-Biologist Jindal, & all their non-scientist Republican friends:

Selina Gray, on right, saved Arlington House treasures during the Civil War.Michael Ruane of the Washington Post: "When Robert E. Lee’s wife, Mary, fled Arlington House at the start of the Civil War, she gave her personal slave, Selina Norris Gray, the keys to the mansion and responsibility for the grand house the Lees had lived in for 30 years. Gray fulfilled her duties. She is famously credited with saving from marauding Union soldiers numerous heirlooms belonging to George Washington that were stored in the house. Now the National Park Service, which administers Arlington House, has acquired what it says is a rare and previously unknown photograph of Gray and, apparently, two of her eight children."

"An FBI wanted poster shows William Bradford Bishop Jr. The image on the left shows how Bishop would look now. (Getty)"Dan Morse of the Washington Post: "For nearly 40 years, the legend of Bethesda fugitive William Bradford Bishop Jr. carried an air of not just evil brutality but refined sophistication. This was a man suspected of killing his family with a small sledgehammer in 1976 and setting their corpses on fire. Then he vanished, taking with him fluency in five languages, the experience of a world traveler for the State Department, and a fondness for playing tennis, flying airplanes and drinking Scotch. There were alleged sightings: a public park in Stockholm, a restroom in Sorrento, Italy, a train station in Basel, Switzerland. Now, in a potentiality stunning development in the case — centered in a municipally owned cemetery in the northeastern corner of Alabama — remains that were exhumed Thursday may tell a different story. Bishop could be the heretofore unidentified man called John Doe, who was struck by a car while walking down a highway in 1981, a person who appeared to be homeless, who’d worn several layers of heavy, dirty clothes and weighed just 155 pounds." ...

... CW: If you like mysteries & enjoy reading about how they're unravelled, you should find this a compelling story.

Christopher Schmidt says, "On Oct 8th, I was flying my quadcopter at Magazine Beach Park in Cambridge, [Massachusetts,] when a hawk decided he wasn't too happy with my invasion of his airspace:

... CW: Thanks to Julie L. for the link. So one way to get rid of those annoying drones that will soon be hovering in your air space is to take up falconry. (Since bringing down other people's drones may be illegal, blame the bird.)

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-- Constant Weader

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Saturday
Oct042014

The Commentariat -- October 5, 2014

Andrew Bacevich in the Washington Post: "... Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that's just since 1980.... Even if we win, we lose. Defeating the Islamic State would only commit the United States more deeply to a decades-old enterprise that has proved costly and counterproductive.... By inadvertently sowing instability, the United States has played directly into the hands of anti-Western radical Islamists intent on supplanting the European-imposed post-Ottoman order...." ...

... Don't worry, Andrew. The "war against ISIS" will be over in a month. Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) argued on Sunday that President Obama has declared war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria in order to help Democrats win the midterm elections in November and expressed concern that he would abandon the fight in the new year."

Matthew Dallek, in the Washington Post, on the history of high security at the White House. "It was after Dec. 7, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor, that the White House truly ceased to be the 'people's house.'" ...

... Maureen Dowd: Julia Pierson "earned her abrupt exit fair and square. It's no blot on the copybook of women. She withheld crucial information and helped paper over fiascos at an agency where mismanagement and denial put the president's life (and his family's lives) in jeopardy."

God News

Shadee Ashtari of the Huffington Post: "The separation of church and state doesn't mean 'the government cannot favor religion over non-religion,' Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia argued during a speech at Colorado Christian University on Wednesday.... Defending his strict adherence to the plain text of the Constitution, Scalia knocked secular qualms over the role of religion in the public sphere as 'utterly absurd,' arguing that the Constitution is only obligated to protect freedom of religion -- not freedom from it." ...

... Steve Benen: "If U.S. policymakers passed a law that deliberately treated American atheists as second-class citizens, Scalia seems to believe that's perfectly permissible under the Constitution. Of course, there is nothing in the Constitution that empowers the state to favor religion over irreligion, but Scalia has apparently morphed the document to comport with his preferred vision of a government that blurs the church-state line.... The strict constructionist just made up his own rules, based on what he wishes the Constitution says, but doesn't. It's what happens when someone starts with an answer, then works backwards in the hopes of reaching an agreed upon conclusion." ...

... ** Rob Boston, in the American Constitution Society: "... for all this bluster, Scalia isn't really harkening back to the founding document of the Constitution. Nothing there provides comfort for his view of a religion-tinged government. In fact, Scalia is endorsing a much more modern theory of church-state relations: It's what scholars call 'ceremonial deism.' The idea behind ceremonial deism seems to be that government can endorse religion as long as it's not terribly serious about it and no one faith is endorsed over others." Via Benen.

Here's the big argument between Bill Maher & Sam Harris on the one side & Ben Affleck on the other, re: radical Islam:

... Esther Lee of Think Progress provides some context. ...

... Here's some more context, extracted from an extensive Pew Research study. ...

... There are more Pew findings here. ...

... digby backs Affleck.

Jack Jenkins of Think Progress: "Pope Francis had some harsh words for religious extremists this weekend, voicing his strongest condemnation yet for those who use religion to justify violence. Speaking on Sunday to an audience that included the President, governmental authorities, and diplomatic corps of Albania, where he is spending a one-day apostolic visit, the first Argentinean pope directly addressed the growing issue of religious violence. Francis first praised the 'climate of respect' in Albania -- which is a Muslim-majority country -- between Muslims, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians, saying the culture of tolerance was a 'precious gift.' He then expressed firm criticism for those who cite faith as grounds for killing others."

AP: "An American nun credited with curing a boy's eye disease moved a step closer to sainthood Saturday in what church officials said was the first beatification Mass held in the United States. A beatification Mass for Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, who died in 1927, was led by Cardinal Angelo Amato at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. Beatification is the third in a four-step process toward sainthood."

Congressional Races

Carrie Dann of NBC News: "Independent candidate Greg Orman is leading incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas by 10 points, while Democrats have a slim lead in North Carolina's contest and both candidates are in a dead heat in Iowa's Senate race, new NBC News/Marist polls find."

Don't you ever touch me. Don't ever touch me. The last guy who touched me ended up on the ground dead. -- Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), to Democratic challenger Forrest Dunbar, when, just prior to a debate, Dunbar lightly touched Young on the arm during a conversation

Gubernatorial Race

Jason Salzman of the Huffington Post (October 2): "During a debate Tuesday against Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez said he thinks intrauterine devices (IUDs) cause abortions, and he would not use public funds on them.... 'These comments illustrate how little Bob Beauprez really understands about women's health,' said Cathy Alderman of Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado, in a news release issued after the debate." CW: Sorry I missed this earlier. Beauprez's view isn't about opposition to abortion; it's about opposition to women, especially poor women -- women who would benefit from receiving "public funds" to obtain IUDs. ...

... Today's Rant. Pardon my paranoia, but I have long thought that a fundamental reason for opposition to abortion is to maintain income & "class" inequality. Higher-income women can afford to practice family planning. If they accidentally get pregnant at an inconvenient time in their lives or under other undesirable circumstances, they can obtain abortions even if they live in Texas 150 miles from the nearest abortion provider. Not so for poorer women & families, who may find themselves saddled with child-rearing responsibilities when they are financially &/or otherwise ill-equipped to do so. Unplanned children may prove to be joys to their parents, but the expense & time it takes to rear them necessarily limit the mothers' or families' opportunities for upward mobility. I think there are many abortion opponents who are right pleased with that disparity. They probably see family planning as one of the perks of wealth -- another way to distinguish themselves from "those people," & to make sure "those people" remain in the underclass. -- Constant Weader

Presidential Race

Dana Milbank: The GOP presidential primary lineup is beginning to look like a police lineup, so many of the potential candidates are under investigation for criminal activities.

When "Madame President" Was Unthinkable

A man must be protected while he is the President of the United States. -- Eleanor Roosevelt, in her autobiography, published 1961

If all of us except Frances were killed we would have a woman president. -- Franklin Roosevelt, ca. 1942, on how a White House dinner with his Cabinet could have an absurd result (Both citations from Matthew Dallek's article, linked above)

News Ledes

Guardian: "The parents of Peter Kassig, an American aid worker held hostage by Islamic State (Isis) militants, have appealed for his release in a statement and video message that highlighted his aid work and mentioned his conversion to Islam."

Guardian: "Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have vowed to keep up their occupation as a Monday deadline fast approaches, but are seeking compromise by offering to open access lanes."

Guardian: "The condition of Thomas Duncan, the first patient ever to be diagnosed with Ebola outside Africa, was reported to have worsened on Saturday as health officials in Texas said they were closely monitoring nine people who had close contact with him before he was admitted to hospital."

New York Times: "Jerrie Mock, who as a relatively untested pilot accomplished in 1964 what Amelia Earhart could not -- becoming the first woman to fly solo around the world -- died on Tuesday at her home in Quincy, Fla., near Tallahassee. She was 88."

Friday
Oct032014

The Commentariat -- October 4, 2014

An Inconvenient Protest. Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama is scheduled to visit China next month, and with tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters on the streets of Hong Kong, human rights could force itself onto the agenda between the United States and the Chinese in a way not seen in many years."

Steve Benen: In his speech at Northwestern Thursday, President Obama veered from his prepared text to marvel that a "top Republican in Congress said that tax cuts for those at the top are -- and I'm quoting here -- 'even more pressing now' than they were 30 years ago. More pressing. When nearly all the gains of the recovery have gone to the top 1 percent, when income inequality is at as high a rate as we've seen in decades, I find that a little hard to swallow that they really desperately need a tax cut right now, it's 'urgent.'" That "top Republican"? -- Paul Ryan, currently chief House budget guru/writer & soon-to-be chair of the Ways & Means Committee. Read the whole post. CW: Is there anyone on the right who understands that Ryan is a dunce?

Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast: "In a forthcoming book, obtained by The Daily Beast, former spy director and Pentagon leader Leon Panetta blames the White House for screwups from Syria to Afghanistan." CW: It's pretty nice of Panetta to time his rant to election season. What a dick. ...

... Luckily for Panetta, he has some dickish friends to back him up. Alexandrea Boguhn of Media Matters: "During an October 2 interview on Fox Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade ... asked [former President George W.] Bush whether he agreed with Gen. Martin Dempsey's assessment that [President] Obama should have left a residual military force in Iraq. And though Bush acknowledged that having a former president 'second guessing' is not 'good for the presidency or the country,' he said that he agreed with Dempsey's assessment." ...

... CW: Bush is saying here that Obama should not have honored the "Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which provided that U.S. troops pull out of Iraq by 2011." Bush himself signed the SOFA, an agreement/treaty which his own administration negotiated with Iraq. Maybe SOFA was a mistake, & maybe it wasn't, but it most certainly was an international agreement which both countries were bound to honor. Let's be clear: Bush says Obama should have broken the treaty Bush signed. Now let's ask ourselves if breaking the agreement would have prevented radical groups from challenging the U.S-imposed Iraqi government. And let's try to figure out how many Iraqis would have been thrilled to have a continued American military presence forced upon their country. Perhaps I should ask some AmerIndians what they think about the U.S.'s failure to honor its treaties with their forebears. ...

... CW: A more charitable reading of Bush's remarks is that he is admitting a mistake, something he is rather infamous for being unable to do. Maybe he's saying in the interview that he made a bad deal with Iraq. But you can't honestly read his remarks that way. He says, "I'm not gonna second-guess our President." That is, it was Obama, not he, who made the "choice" to withdraw troops in 2011. ...

... I tell people all the time -- off the record, by the way -- that, ah, you know, Condi Rice's relatives were enslaved in the greatest democracy ever for a hundred years. Democracy takes time to take hold. And yet there's an impatience with that process. -- Former President George W. Bush, October 2, in a Fox "News" interview

... So, black Americans -- don't be so impatient??? -- Constant Weader

Drip, Drip, Drip. Jonathan Allen of Bloomberg News: "An unidentified man posing as a member of Congress made it into a secure area backstage at President Barack Obama's appearance at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation awards dinner in Washington Sept. 27, according to a White House official.... The unidentified man said he was Representative Donald Payne Jr., a Democrat from New Jersey, the official said. One member of the White House staff determined that the man wasn't Payne, and another asked him to leave, the official said. He did so without incident and wasn't detained." The Secret Service says they screened the man -- and everyone allowed in the area -- for weapons.

Joe Nocera: "In truth, most [corporate] tax subsidies don't make much sense -- not for countries and certainly not for states. 'There is a lot of work that shows that tax subsidies vastly overpay for the jobs they create,' said Edward Kleinbard, a law professor at the University of Southern California.... It's a good thing that the E.U. is trying to curb unjustified tax breaks. Maybe it's time to do the same here." CW: Once in awhile, Nocera shares a good idea. This is one of those times.

The Supreme Horror Picture Show. Ladies, Here Is a Stranger with the Power to Control Your Bodies, Your Lives, Your Futures. You Cannot Stop Him. He Has Been Doing It for Decades. He Will Do It Again.Ian Millhiser of Think Progress on the 5th Circuit's decision against Texas abortion rights, which conflicts with many other Appeals Courts' decisions. "By calling attention to disagreement among circuit court judges regarding the proper way to resolve abortion cases, [5th Circuit Judge Jennifer] Elrod[, who wrote the opinion,] sent a blood-red howler to the Supreme Court telling them to 'TAKE THIS CASE!' Elrod, it should be noted, is not wrong to be confident her decision will be affirmed if it is heard by the justices. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the closest thing the Supreme Court has to a swing vote on abortion, hasn't cast a pro-choice vote since 1992. As a justice, Kennedy's considered 21 different abortion restrictions and upheld 20 of them." ...

... Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post writes a good column on "undue burden." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... we now know what percentage of an affected population can have its constitutionally protected rights curtailed before that percentage can be considered 'significant' enough to have those rights protected from meddling by the government. The percentage is one-in-six:

The three-judge panel agreed with the state's lawyers that there was insufficient evidence that a 'large fraction' of women seeking abortions would face an unconstitutional burden because of the surgical-center requirements and clinic closings. They wrote that the data provided by one of the plaintiffs' experts, Dr. Daniel Grossman, suggested that about one out of six Texas women seeking an abortion would live more than 150 miles from the nearest clinic if the surgical-center rules went into effect. 'This is nowhere near a "large fraction,"' the panel wrote. -- New York Times

... CW: Well, no, according to the court, many more than one-in-six can face an "undue burden" before the undue burden becomes unconstitutional. One-sixth is "nowhere near a 'large fraction,'" say the judges. So what is it: 1/5, or 2/7 or 5/8? We don't know yet what constitutes "a large fraction." By this logic, as Pierce suggests, any time you are subjected to an "undue burden," it's okay as long as a "large fraction" of other people are not. Note: as Marcus points out, the right to an abortion is not a constitutionally-guaranteed right (as Pierce claims), as a result of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Rather what the decision guarantees is "a woman's right to choose to have an abortion before fetal viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State." (Emphasis added.)

An undue burden exists, and therefore a provision of law is invalid, if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability. -- Planned Parenthood v. Casey, plurality opinion

... CW: Oddly enough, the Planned Parenthood v. Casey plurality opinion (which governed the decision) repeatedly refers to "a woman," rather than "most women" or "a large fraction of women." A novice such as I would interpret that to mean "any woman," or at least "any woman, within reason." Justice Kennedy was one of the three justices joining in the plurality opinion. The 5th Circuit would like him to rethink that opinion. There is every reason to think he will oblige.

Gail Collins: "You'd think that the people in charge of the states where climate change was wreaking the most havoc would be in the forefront of the battle to push it back. But no." Includes an extensive cast of Republican characters, with a juicy role for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, seemingly the only one of the lot who has not proclaimed, "I am not a scientist," possibly because he has a degree in biology. ...

... The lyrics to "I Am the Walrus" are purposely nonsensical. As such, they are ironically prescient of Republican pronouncements re: climate change, one incidental result of which is the dramatic shrinking of walrus habitat. As Collins writes, "We are the walrus."

November Elections

Brian Beutler: "The GOP's 2014 midterms strategy is a lot like "Seinfeld." It's a campaign about nothing -- but way less funny."

Maggie Haberman of Politico: Hillary Clinton is coming to a Senate race near you. "Hillary Clinton has mapped out much of her political schedule through Election Day, an itinerary that focuses on helping Senate candidates and includes trips to a half-dozen states, including Kentucky and presidential early states Iowa and New Hampshire...."

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "State Sen. Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, once said she would support legislation that would allow 'local law enforcement to arrest federal officials attempting to implement' Obamacare. Ernst voiced her support for that, as well as supporting legislation that would 'nullify' Obamacare in a Iowa State Legislative Candidates survey for Ron Paul's libertarian-aligned Campaign for Liberty in 2012. It can be viewed here." CW: Never mind that both of those brilliant proposals obviously would violate federal law. Naw, Joni isn't an extremist. ...

... As Paul Waldman remarks, "... okay, so Ernst is advocating something that sounds a lot like insurrection against the federal government. But at least if your chickens crap on her lawn, she'll be totally cool with it." ...

... Waldman strikes a more serious tone here, but it boils down to the same thing: "You can put words like 'liberty' in the name of your organization all you want, but what Ernst was agreeing to here isn't liberty, it's insurrection against the Constitution of the United States."

A few weeks ago, Monica Wehby, a medical doctor & Oregon's GOP nominee for Senate, scrubbed her published health care plan when Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed revealed that she had cribbed her own "plan" from the plan of former GOP candidates & of famed healthcare expert Karl Rove. Now, Wehby has a new plan. Kaczynski: "In a weird twist, Monica Wehby's new health care is also plagiarized -- but even stranger, it's plagiarized from her primary opponent Oregon Rep. Jason Conger, whom she criticized repeatedly during the primary on health care." Oh, and she's kept some of the language from Dr. StrangeRove's plan, too. ...

... Sen. Jeff Merkley (D), whom Wehby is challenging, put out this Webvid late last month in response to Kackzynski's original revelation:

... Merkley also ran this ad, which leads with the earlier plagiarism report. Jeff Mapes of the Oregonian (Sept. 30): "The new ad comes as Freedom Partners, a group connected with conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, is halting its advertised attacks against Merkley in Oregon. The group said three weeks ago that it had canceled its October advertising campaign against Merkley and the group on Tuesday confirmed that it has not bought any additional time at this point." As Mapes reported in early August, the Koch boys had planned to spend $3.6 million to oust Merkeley. ...

     ... CW: Glad to see Mapes also picked up Kaczynski's latest scoop. ...

... According to Real Clear Politics' most recent survey of surveys, Merkley is up by more than 13 points.

Beyond the Beltway

Bill Draper of the AP: "A judge struck down part of Missouri's gay marriage ban for the first time on Friday by ordering the state to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states, saying state laws banning the unions single out gay couples 'for no logical reason.' The order means such couples will be eligible to sign up for a wide range of tax, health insurance, veterans and other benefits now afforded to opposite-sex married couples. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who has defended the state's ban on gay marriage, said his office was reviewing the ruling."

Rachel Kleinman of NBC News: Citing a lack of police resources in Ferguson, "beginning Friday and until further notice, the St. Louis County Police Department will take over control from the Ferguson P.D. for security detail related to ongoing protests in the city in the aftermath of Michael Brown's death, the county said in a release issued late Friday. Additionally, the St. Louis County Police Department's media relations staff will assume responsibility for relaying all pertinent information to the press."

I note our slavery history. Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today! Shouldn't our students be provided that viewpoint? This is part of the argument that America is exceptional. -- Colorado State School Board Member Pam Mazanec

When Only an Argumentum ad Hitlerum Will Do. I note Germany's World War II history. Yes, Hitler slaughtered millions of innocent men, women & children. But he also committed suicide, the ultimate sacrifice, thus voluntarily ending the Holocaust AND the European war, while ethnic cleansing & the waging of wars continue among many countries still today! Shouldn't students be provided that viewpoint? This is part of the argument that Germany is exceptional. -- Hialeah High School Graduate Marie Burns, with apologies to Mr. Koos, her 11th-grade history teacher

CW: Here's something I missed but Charles Pierce caught: Jim Puzzanghera of the Los Angeles Times: "Economists said the August [jobs] figure appeared to be an aberration driven by a New England grocery store strike and a shift in when automakers shut their factories for annual summer retooling.... Part of the reason for September's stronger job growth was ... an increase of 20,000 jobs in food and beverage stores, largely reflecting the return of workers at the Market Basket grocery store chain in New England, the Labor Department said." ... CW: I shopped at my local Market Basket yesterday, & it was packed with customers.

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week's address, the President highlighted that six years after the Great Recession, thanks to the hard work of the American people and the President's policies, our economy has come back further and faster than any other nation on Earth":

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Jean-Claude Duvalier, the second-generation 'president for life' who plunged one of the world's poorest countries [-- Haiti --] into further despair by presiding over widespread killing, torture and plunder, died Oct. 4 at his home in Port-au-Prince. He was 63. He had a heart attack, his lawyer, Reynold George, told the Associated Press." ...

     ... here's the New York Times obit.

Guardian: "US-led war planes attacked Islamic State (Isis) targets around the Syrian border town of Kobani overnight as the insurgents pressed their assault against its Kurdish defenders, a monitoring group and witnesses said.... In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded an apology from the US vice-president, Joe Biden, and warned he would become 'history for me' over comments in which Biden said the Turkish leader had admitted Turkey had made mistakes by allowing foreign fighters to cross into Syria."

Washington Post: "North and South Korea have agreed to hold another round of high-level talks after a top-level Northern delegation, including the men thought to be second and third in command behind Kim Jong Un, paid a surprise visit to the South on Saturday."

New York Times: "The huge cyberattack on JPMorgan Chase that touched more than 83 million households and businesses was one of the most serious computer intrusions into an American corporation.... Also troubling is that about nine other financial institutions -- a number that has not been previously reported -- were also infiltrated by the same group of overseas hackers...."

Guardian: "Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong must be cleared by Monday morning, its chief executive has announced following further violent clashes. Hours after he spoke, however, tens of thousands of people flooded into the Admiralty area of the city centre in the biggest gathering for days. The Saturday night rally was called to oppose attacks on protesters by opponents of the movement on Friday, and came six days after police used pepper spray and teargas in failed attempts to disperse the crowds."

New York Times: Hospital changes its story. "Health officials' handling of the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States continued to raise questions Friday, after the hospital that is treating the patient and that mistakenly sent him home when he first came to its emergency room acknowledged that both the nurses and the doctors in that initial visit had access to the fact that he had arrived from Liberia."

Thursday
Oct022014

The Commentariat -- October 3, 2014

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd.

President Obama delivered an address at Northwestern University about the economy. He does an excellent job of dancing around the real issues, which IMO, are income & wealth inequality, although he does at least give it a mention:

... CW: If I were a business major who didn't know much -- that is, if I were one of the people in the President's audience yesterday --I would still not have the slightest idea that our wonderful capitalist system is sucking the life out of ordinary workers. These business students, who will go on to become the next generation of meritocrats, will repeat the same mistakes of this generation of meritocrats. A gutsy president, who has nothing to lose since he's not running for re-election -- as he points out in his address -- would set the kids straight. Instead, this address was mostly an embarrassing exercise in hubris, a catalogue of how little the President actually understands about the dynamics of capitalism, which he calls "the greatest force for prosperity and opportunity the world has ever known." It made me sick. I'm sticking with this guy:

No, this is not a Photoshop job. This is an actual artifact in a museum in Asia Minor. No doubt a great economist of the ancient world."Depression Denial Syndrome." Paul Krugman explains why "Bill Gross, the so-called bond king," made a spectacular error -- he failed to listen to Paul Krugman, the so-called economics king, about the "liquidity trap," a function of the depressed economy. Gross, instead, listened to the inflation alarmists, & his goose was cooked.

The Bank Dick. Neil Irwin of the New York Times: Ben Bernanke's bank turned him down for a loan to refinance his home mortgage. Ben & Neil seem to think the reason for this is that (a) credit is tight, (b) lenders now have to follow Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac's "strict standards" for loans, (c) Ben changed not just his job but his type of employment & the banking system is so inflexible that it ignores Ben's fabulous earnings & income potential. ...

... Wherein the Constant Weader Explains Banking & Capitalistic Principles to the Former Chair of the Federal Reserve & Renowned Economics Professor: I've got news for Ben & Neil. Any one or more of those "reasons" for the loan denial may be the bullshit excuse(s) the loan officer told Ben his loan was denied. But the real reason is that Ben & Mrs. Ben took out their mortgage in 2004, when interest rates were higher than they are now. This of course is the reason the Bernankes wanted to refinance: they wanted to pay a lower interest rate. The lower rate is precisely why the bank denied the deal. See, banks are all into this thing called "maximizing profit." And reducing the profit they would make off Ben & Mrs. Ben is antithetical to that business model. Ben, you gave the banks billions of "free money" while you were working your last gig, but that doesn't mean any of those bankers is motivated to be all thankful & cut you a break they won't cut anyone else. They're dicks, Ben, each & every one of them, & you're the asshole they're fucking over this time (to put it in the vernacular). Neil says you make up to $250K a pop for speaking engagements, Ben. So go make a couple-a-three more of those speeches like the one you were making when you revealed your bad luck at the bank, then pay off the damned mortgage altogether.

Jessica Silver-Greenberg, et al., of the New York Times: "A cyberattack this summer on JPMorgan Chase compromised the accounts of 76 million households and seven million small businesses, a tally that dwarfs previous estimates by the bank and puts the intrusion among the largest ever. The details of the breach -- disclosed in a securities filing on Thursday -- emerge at a time when consumer confidence in the digital operations of corporate America has already been shaken. Target, Home Depot and a number of other retailers have sustained major data breaches. Last year, the information of 40 million cardholders and 70 million others were compromised at Target, while an attack at Home Depot in September affected 56 million cards."

We need to be more like Disney World. We need to be more friendly, inviting. -- Former Disney World worker Julia Pierson, on the Secret Service, after she became director (CW: no, I didn't make this up) ...

... Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: Former Secret Service Director Julia "Pierson was elevated to the top spot 18 months ago to put an end to business as usual, after a dozen agents were implicated in a night of carousing with prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, on the eve of an official visit by Obama. But while the administration dubbed Pierson a fresh start and a new direction for the agency, she was a deeply entrenched part of its culture. A 30-year veteran of the agency, Pierson had served as director Mark Sullivan's chief of staff and then assistant director before taking over." Read the whole article. ...

     ... Michael Calderone of the Huffington Post: "With the Secret Service under fire for a series of security lapses in presidential protection, there is one journalist who seems to have all the information. The White House, Congress and even Julia Pierson, who just resigned as director of the Secret Service, all learned details of the controversy from Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig. Why did members of the embattled agency turn to the press with concerns rather than pursuing the proper bureaucratic channels? 'I think they trusted The Washington Post more than they trusted their headquarters' leadership,' Leonnig said in an interview with The Huffington Post." ...

... Michael Bender & Margaret Talev of Bloomberg News: "The final straw wasn't something Pierson did. It was what she didn't do: Brief the president on how a man with a gun and criminal record wound up riding in an elevator beside him." CW: Yup, that one really stood out for me, too, especially since she told a House committee that she briefed the President on "100 percent" of presidential security breaches. ...

... Oh, and about those wingers being all upset at "liberal" Peter Baker of the NYT for writing a story suggesting Republicans' "concern for the President's safety" just might contain a political component? Here's this from Bender-Talev story: "[Wednesday] morning, Republicans were on the move, turning the security lapses into a political issue. In a news release, the National Republican Senatorial Committee connected them to the Obamacare rollout, underestimating the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the failures at the VA medical centers to say Democrats were 'asleep at the wheel.'" ...

... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Almost as soon as President Obama decided that Julia Pierson had to go as director of the Secret Service, he knew exactly whom he wanted to replace her. On Wednesday, the president and first lady Michelle Obama, aides said, personally recommended to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough that the administration reach out to former special agent Joseph Clancy, who retired in 2011 after serving as chief of Obama's protective detail for two years."

... NBC News: "The Iraq war veteran accused of jumping the White House fence, dashing into the building with a knife and reaching the East Room before he was tackled pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a three-count federal indictment."

Everything Is Obama's Fault. Leon Panetta Dumps on Obama Again. In a Time opinion piece, which is an excerpt from his new book Knife Fights: A Memoir of Backstabbing in War & Peace (or something like that), Panetta says "the President's team" couldn't be bothered to negotiate a deal to keep U.S. troops in Iraq, as much as he -- Leon Panetta, Superhero -- urged the callow White House youths to muscle the Iraqis. "... without the President's active advocacy, al-Maliki was allowed to slip away. The deal never materialized. To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda's resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country." So ISIS.

Katie Thomas & Rachel Abrams of the New York Times: "In just five months at the end of last year, doctors and other health care professionals made more than $212 million on speaking and consulting engagements for drug and device makers, according to data released on Tuesday by the federal government."

A "privileged white guy" who goes by the handle of eodell "whitesplains" racism to offended racist white guys. Also what offended racist white guys should do about it. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link. Send a copy to all your friends on the Supreme Court. This is a concept with which they are petulantly unfamiliar.

Beyond the Beltway

Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "Thirteen abortion clinics in Texas were forced to close immediately after a federal appellate court on Thursday sided with Texas in its yearlong legal battle over its sweeping abortion law and allowed the state to enforce one of the law's toughest provisions while the case was being appealed. The decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, will have a far-reaching effect on abortion services in Texas, lawyers for abortion providers said. The ruling gave Texas permission to require all abortion clinics in the state to meet the same building, equipment and staffing standards as hospital-style surgical centers, standards that abortion providers said were unnecessary and costly, but that the state argued improved patient safety."

Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post: "Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's chief of staff left a voice-mail message for a Democrat who was on the verge of quitting the General Assembly in June, saying that the senator's daughter might get a top state job if he stayed to support the governor's push to expand Medicaid, according to descriptions from three people who heard the recording. Then-Sen. Phillip P. Puckett wound up resigning, flipping control of the chamber to Republicans and thwarting McAuliffe's signature goal of expanding health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Puckett's abrupt exit came amid accusations that Republicans had enticed him to leave with job offers for himself and his daughter, triggering an ongoing federal investigation and inflaming partisan passions in Richmond." CW: Is the stupidest part leaving a bribe on a voicemail?

Elections Matter. Yamiche Alcindor of USA Today: "More than 3,000 people have registered to vote in Ferguson, Mo., since the death of Michael Brown -- a surge in interest that may mean the city of 21,000 people is ready for a change."

Jack Healy of the New York Times: "... after two weeks of demonstrations and a fierce backlash across Colorado and beyond, the Jefferson County[, Colorado,] school board scrapped a plan that sought to teach students the 'benefits of the free-enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights' while avoiding lessons that condoned 'civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.' Instead, the board voted 3 to 2 to adopt a compromise that would allow community members, students and teachers to join the experts who already conduct curriculum reviews for the school district." Thanks to Ken W. for the link.

Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against Alabama this week in an attempt to overturn what the group suggests may be the most radical parental consent law in the country. Under a new law that went into effect this summer, minors who are seeking to bypass their parents' consent to get an abortion are essentially put on trial. The state is allowed to appoint a lawyer for their fetus and call witnesses to testify about the teenager's character."

November Elections

Lauren Carroll of Politifact: Iowa GOP Senate nominee Joni "Ernst said [her opponent, Democrat Bruce] Braley, 'threatened to sue a neighbor over chickens that came onto (his) property.' Some might not like the way Braley and his wife handled a dispute with a neighbor -- by going to the neighborhood association and then consulting the association's lawyer. Even so, there is no material evidence that Braley threatened a lawsuit against the neighbor or was even considering one. Even the neighbor says that." CW: I have paid scant attention to the chickenshit debate (I linked one story at least a month ago), but it remains a big deal in the Senate race, with Republicans successfully characterizing the minor neighborhood squabble as a "character" issue. Now, what about the "character" issue of repeatedly lying about your opponent?

Steve Benen: "For a guy who’s been talking about 'personhood' for six years, it’s interesting to see how much Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is struggling to explain himself." Benen demonstrates what a dishonest, creepy extremist Gardner is. ...

... CW: But never mind. In November, Coloradans may choose him over U.S. Senator Mark Udall. Pema Levy of Newsweek: "The two latest polls show Gardner stealing the lead from Udall, one by a whopping eight points."

Aviva Shen of Think Progress: "Arkansas Attorney General candidate Leslie Rutledge is crying foul over the cancellation of her voter registration form. Rutledge, the Republican nominee for Attorney General, was kicked off the voter rolls after it was discovered that she failed to cancel previous voter registrations in Washington, DC and Virginia, and re-register in Pulaski County when she moved. Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane, a Democrat, said he was legally obligated to remove her after receiving a letter flagging this issue.... Rutledge and Republican groups are calling the removal a 'dirty trick' that was politically motivated. But what happened to Rutledge is in fact very common, and becoming even more common after the state implemented a number of strict voter restrictions. CW: Gotta go find my head. I laughed it off. ...

... digby: "That's right. It's protecting legitimate voters from vote fraud when it's done to the you-know-whos. [Link fixed.] It's a 'dirty trick' when it happens to a nice Republican lady." CW: Make that a nice white Republican lady.

News Ledes

New York Times: The Islamic State has released another video of a beheading -- this one of a middle-aged British aid worker, Alan Henning, who was abducted last year from the ambulance he had driven into Syria to offer lifesaving help."

Washington Post: "The U.S. job market rebounded in September as the economy added 248,000 jobs..., a reassuring sign of the nation's recovery. The unemployment rate crossed a key threshold for the first time in six years, falling to 5.9 percent."

Wednesday
Oct012014

The Commentariat -- October 2, 2014

Michael Schmidt & Michael Shear of the New York Times: " Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service, is resigning in the wake of several security breaches. Ms. Pierson offered her resignation on Wednesday during a meeting with Jeh C. Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the agency that oversees the Secret Service. The resignation came less than a day after lawmakers from both parties assailed Ms. Pierson's leadership and said they feared for the lives of the president and others in the protection of the agency. In a statement, Mr. Johnson said that he had appointed Joseph Clancy, a former agent in charge of the Presidential Protective Division, to become the Secret Service's acting director. President Obama concluded that new leadership and a new direction was needed at the Secret Service 'in light of recent and accumulating reports about the agency,' Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Wednesday." CW: Always heartening when we learn that top officials read RealityChex & immediately follow our advice. (See yesterday's Comments.) ...

... The Washington Post story, by Carol Leonnig, is here. CW: Leonnig, who broke & advanced several stories about serious Secret Service lapses, probably did more than any other single person to effect Pierson's resignation. ...

... Catherine Thompson of TPM: "Some of the male panelists on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' wondered Wednesday whether Secret Service director Julia Pierson hadn't been dismissed over recent revelations of serious security lapses because of her gender. Panelist Donny Deutsch ... said that promoting women into positions of authority shouldn't be prioritized over competence. Co-host Joe Scarborough then turned the conversation to the female agent who was guarding the White House's front door when an intruder entered the building last month and managed to overpower her. 'Now, if a woman, 6' 4", can tackle a big guy or a big woman that's intruding, that's one thing,' he said. 'But we can't have people standing between the President of the United States and a terrorist that can get knocked down and that's there for politically correct reasons.'" ...

     ... Update: Erik Wemple of the Washington Post quite properly pins the blame on Mika Brzezinski for starting the men down the sexist path (and then trying to weasel out of taking responsibility): Brzezinski questioned why Pierson got the job in the first place, suggesting -- but not saying -- it was because she was a woman. As Wemple points out, "loaded in [her] question of whether a 30-year veteran of the Secret Service -- someone who'd served as chief of staff, as coordinator of the agency's drug program, as special agent in charge of the Office of Protective Operations and who, according to the New York Times's Peter Baker, 'boast[ed] a résumé much like those of her predecessors' at the time of her elevation -- had gotten her job via some kind of gender preference."

... Digby: "They've had female Secret Service agents for a long time. And no president has been assassinated since they put them in the job. In fact, the only presidents who've ever been assassinated were guarded only by men. Therefore, we should get rid of all the male Secret Service agents." ...

... Bryce Covert of the New Republic: "... it's probably not pure chance that Pierson, who held that position for just a year-and-a-half, was a woman. Time and again, women are put in charge only when there's a mess, and if they can't engineer a quick cleanup, they're shoved out the door." ...

... Wingers were vewwy upset yesterday at Peter Baker's New York Times article [linked in yesterday's Commentariat] suggesting that Republican legislators were crying crocodile tears over the Secret Service's failure to adequately protect the President & his family. Matt Lewis of Daily Caller strikes a more conciliatory note & has a superb suggestion: "I would suggest that conservative militias should begin voluntarily policing the fence around the White House, immediately. There is no border more important to protect, and there is nothing that would potentially do more harm to the cause of conservatism than for some horrible thing to happen to this president. Even if you put humanity and common decency aside, conservatives have a greater incentive than anybody to ensure his safety and security. God save the president." ...

     ... CW: I'm not sure if Lewis proposes that these noble militiamen be armed -- the District has an open-carry ban -- but having militiamen milling near the White House, harassing & intimidating tourists & other passers-by, would be swell, wouldn't it? ...

... Charles Lane of the Washington Post profiles the Secret Service's second director Hiram Whitley, who served during President Grant's administration. He was a genuine scoundrel and proud of it. Julia Pierson was no Hiram Whitley.

Julie Pace of the AP: "In a striking public rebuke, the Obama administration warned Israel on Wednesday that plans for a controversial new housing project in east Jerusalem would distance Israel from 'even its closest allies' and raise questions about its commitment to seeking peace with Palestinians. The harsh criticism came just hours after President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House. Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said the president privately raised his concerns with Netanyahu though the two leaders made no mention of the matter in their public comments to reporters."

Paul Waldman wrote this a couple of days ago, but as a window into the future of voting rights, it's worth reading today: "The Supreme Court has granted Ohio's request to throw out a ruling by lower courts stopping the state from implementing a law on early voting passed by the Republican state legislature. Meanwhile, cases on Republican-passed voting laws in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Texas are also working their way through the courts, and may all wind up in front of the Supreme Court in one way or another. So here's a prediction: Republicans are going to win every single one of these cases. No matter how compelling the arguments of the opponents are, the simple fact is that there are five conservative justices who think that almost anything a state does to restrict people's ability to vote is just fine with them." ...

... CW: I continue to think that voter suppression will backfire. People are casual about rights (or anything else) given freely. So in the case of voting rights, many vote only when it's convenient. But take away rights to which people are accustomed, & they suddenly get passionate about them.

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department is not expected to bring civil rights charges against George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death o Trayvon Martin, according to three law enforcement officials, despite allegations that the killing was racially motivated. The federal investigation of Zimmerman was opened two years ago by the department's civil rights division, but officials said there is insufficient evidence to bring federal charges. The investigation technically remains open, but it is all but certain the department will close it."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. CW: I sort of followed Politico's most recent jump into outrageous, but didn't think it worth linking. However, Margaret Hartmann of New York paraphrases it so beautifully I can no longer take a pass: "Politico is sorry readers thought they blamed Obama for his hypothetical assassination." Start with this closing graf in a piece by Politico guest columnist Ron Kessler:

Agents tell me it's a miracle an assassination hasn't already occurred. Sadly, given Obama's colossal lack of management judgment, that calamity may be the only catalyst that will reform the Secret Service.

     ... Hartmann: "After many people objected to the implication that the Secret Service will only improve if the president is killed, and that his death would be his own fault, the lines were changed.... [and an editor's note was added.] Politico is sort of sorry, but if readers mistakenly thought they were blaming the president for his own assassination, they really only have themselves to blame." ...

     ... CW: Let me add that guest columns typically get a lot of editorial scrutiny (unless they're written by prominent politicians or heads-of-state, in which case they get a spellcheck). And, um, hint to Politico: normally this scrutiny comes before the column is published. ...

... Also, Steve M. takes a peek at Kessler's history, demonstrating anew Politico's excellent editorial judgment in seeking out Kessler's opinion in the first place.

November Elections

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal appeals court has blocked North Carolina from ending same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting in connection with this fall's elections. In a 2-1 ruling issued Wednesday, the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said the changes appeared to run afoul of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, a provision that prohibits practices that discriminate on the basis of race."

Gail Collins: "Conservative Republicans still tend to hew to the theory that the [Social Security] system is 'going bankrupt' and needs to be turned into some kind of private retirement investment account. They also generally promise to protect people 55 or over from any change.... If you happen upon a congressional debate in the next few weeks, feel free to ask the candidates what they're going to do to protect Social Security. Bring along a 54-year-old friend who might helpfully burst into tears when anyone starts promising to protect the 55-year-olds." ...

... Here's the "Daily Show" segment Collins mentions in her column:

Greg Gatlin & Mariellen Norris of Suffolk University: "Independent businessman and political enigma Greg Orman (46 percent) is leading three-term Republican incumbent Pat Roberts (41 percent) in the race for U.S. Senate in Kansas, with 11 percent undecided, according to the latest Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll of likely voters in the general election. In the race for governor [of Kansas], Democratic state Rep. Paul Davis (46 percent) is leading incumbent Sam Brownback (42 percent), a Republican, with 6 percent undecided in the survey conducted by the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston."

Charles Franklin of Marquette U. Law School: "A new Marquette Law School Poll in the Wisconsin governor's race finds Republican Gov. Scott Walker receiving the support of 50 percent of likely voters and Democratic challenger Mary Burke receiving 45 percent support."

Here's how College Republicans think they can influence young women to vote for Florida Gov. Rick Scott. CW: Apparently all college Republicans are boys who don't actually know any young women. I don't know how it's possible, but these young Republican boys seem to have come to us from 1954, which makes this ad not just the Worst Political Ad of 2014 but also kinda creepy. To be fair, the ad would have sucked in 1954, too:

     ... Via Ed Kilgore. ...

... Amanda Marcotte in Slate: "At this point, it's hard not to wonder if the people being hired to do outreach to women on behalf of Republican candidates aren't all a bunch of Democratic moles." ...

     ... Update: It gets worse. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: College Republicans are spending nearly $1MM on a "digital campaign" using this ad. BUT wait. It's a generic ad, in which they plug in the name of the GOP gubernatorial candidate & his rival. The rest of the script remains the same. So Rick Scott/Tom Corbett/Rick Snyder "has new ideas that won't break your budget!"

Beyond the Beltway

Vivian Kuo & Eliott McLauglin of CNN: The Tallahassee, "Florida police department is investigating one of its officers after he shot a 62-year-old woman in the back with a Taser on Tuesday afternoon. The incident was captured on videotape by a nearby witness. The incident was captured on videotape by a nearby witness." With video. Thanks to Akhilleus for the lead. Also see his commentary in today's Comments. Here's the video Akhilleus linked:

     ... CW: Besides tasing an older woman "for nothing," as the videographer says, it seems the white police officers thought it would be an excellent idea to arrest a number of black people for walking in the street. The street obviously is a residential side street, & there are no sidewalks. If pedestrians want to get from here to there & the municipality doesn't provide sidewalks, exactly where are those pedestrians supposed to walk? As the videographer says, "And they wonder why they're hated."

CW: I'm dedicating the video below to Akhilleus. You'll have to read today's Comments to see why. To my credit, even tho this video has had 100MM views, I've never heard the song before:

News Ledes

New York Times: "As a large crowd of demonstrators massed outside his offices Thursday night, Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive declared that he would not resign but said his government was willing to meet with student protesters to discuss their demands for democratic reform. But the chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, who was anointed by Beijing to lead Hong Kong two years ago, said the talks would have to be in accordance with an earlier ruling by the Chinese leadership limiting the scope of political change here -- a ruling that has been a target of the mass protests that have shaken this former British colony for nearly a week."

Bloomberg News: "U.S. stocks fell, with the Standard & Poor's 500 poised for its first four-day decline of the year, as European shares tumbled on speculation central-bank stimulus will fail to revive the euro-area economy."

NEW. New York Times: "Health officials in Texas said Thursday that they had reached out to as many as 100 people who may have had contact -- either directly or indirectly -- with a Liberian man sick with the Ebola virus while he was contagious. Of those people, only a handful have been isolated, including family members and the medical technicians who rushed the patient, Thomas E. Duncan, to the hospital on Sunday. Most on the list are there simply because they had contact with people who had had contact with Mr. Duncan."

Hill: "The White House said Wednesday it will not impose travel restrictions or introduce new airport screenings to prevent additional cases of Ebola from entering the United States. Spokesman Josh Earnest said that current anti-Ebola measures, which include screenings in West African airports and observation of passengers in the United States, will be sufficient to prevent the 'wide spread' of the virus." ...

... AP: "A Dallas emergency room sent a man with Ebola home last week, even though he told a nurse that he had been in disease-ravaged West Africa, and officials at the hospital are considering if they would have acted differently had the entire medical staff been aware."