The Ledes

Tuesday, September 30, 2014.

New York Times: "An Oklahoma man was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the beheading of a co-worker, but federal officials said they had found no links that tie the man to terrorist organizations, including Islamic extremist groups that have beheaded several Western hostages in the Middle East and North Africa in recent weeks. Alton Nolen, 30, who worked on the production line of a food processing plant in Moore, Okla., remains in the hospital after being shot by the company’s chief operating officer, who is also a reserve deputy sheriff, the authorities said."

New York Times: "Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leader on Tuesday called for the pro-democracy demonstrators who have blocked major roads in the city to return home 'immediately,' and he gave no sign that he was prepared to compromise on their demands for more open elections to choose his successor." ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging the protests.

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, September 29, 2014.

AP: "Militants of the Islamic State group were closing in Monday on a Kurdish area of Syria on the border with Turkey — an advance unhindered so far by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, including one that struck a grain silo, killing two civilians, according to activists. Islamic State fighters pounded the city of Kobani with mortars and artillery shells, advancing within three miles (five kilometers) of the Kurdish frontier city, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Nawaf Khalil, a Kurdish official."

New York Times: "A wave of protest in Hong Kong further engulfed the city on Monday as thousands of residents defied a government call to abandon street blockades, students boycotted classes and the city’s influential bar association added its condemnation of a police crackdown on protesters."

Los Angeles Times: "Ashraf Ghani was inaugurated Monday as president of Afghanistan, succeeding President Hamid Karzai and marking the first peaceful transition of power in the nation’s history."

Oklahoman: "In a bizarre coincidence, a fired Oklahoma City nursing home employee was arrested Friday after a co-worker reported he threatened to cut her head off. Jacob Mugambi Muriithi, 30, is being held in the Oklahoma County jail on a terrorism complaint. His bail is set at $1 million... She said Muriithi identified himself as a Muslim and said he 'represented ISIS and that ISIS kills Christians,' the detective told a judge in the affidavit. The two had not worked together before."

Public Service Announcement

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

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

White House Live Video
September 30

1:00 pm ET: Michelle Obama hosts Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards luncheon

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

1:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at a luncheon honoring Indian PM Narendra Modi

3:30 pm ET: White House BRAIN conference

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

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

Los Angeles Times: "George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin are married, having said their vows Saturday evening in Venice, Italy." ...

... OR, as the Business Women Media lede reads, "Amal Alamuddin, a 36 year old London-based dual-qualified English barrister and New York litigation attorney who has long been a high-profile figure in international refugee and human rights law has gone against the trend for professional women in her field and married… an actor."

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

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

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday
Sep142014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 15, 2014

Steve M. has two excellent post's -- here and here -- comparing Fox "News"'s "reporting" on the reactions of President Obama & British PM David Cameron (Friend ofRupert ) to the beheading of their citizens by ISIS terrorists. ...

... Manu Raju, et al., of the Politico on the extraordinary efforts President Obama, Vice President Biden & Congressional leaders are making to get Congressional authorization to provide support to Syrian rebels. "What prompted the developments, a White House official said, were high-level discussions with Syria's neighbors about 'cooperating and hosting' a program to train and equip the rebels since the president first requested the change in the law back in June. 'We were finally able to secure high-level Saudi commitments to host the program during [national security advisor] Lisa Monaco's meetings on Sunday,' [a White House] official said." ...

... Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "Several Arab countries have offered to carry out airstrikes against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, senior State Department officials said Sunday. The offer was disclosed by American officials traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry, who is approaching the end of a weeklong trip that was intended to mobilize international support for the campaign against ISIS."

Katie Glueck of Politico: "White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said on Sunday the administration 'didn't threaten' with prosecution the families of two American journalists slain by an extremist group, as the families have alleged. Families of journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley have ... [said] the federal government ... threatened prosecution. 'In terms of what was communicated to the families, in the midst of many, many meetings over the course of this very difficult circumstance, we obviously made clear what the law is,' McDonough said on 'Fox News Sunday.' ... As a father, McDonough said, he personally feels deeply for the families and the 'very difficult circumstances' they are experiencing."

** E. J. Dionne on the Congressional debates preceding the first U.S.-Iraq War. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) "proposes a two-step process involving, first, quick congressional approval of Obama's proposal to train and arm Syrian rebels, and then broader debate about the president's overall policy after the country votes on Nov. 4." CW: Something I forgot: "Without congressional authorization, Bush had already sent 500,000 U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia to prepare for war. He insisted he did not need Congress's approval to put them into action. His request for a resolution was essentially a courtesy. It came just a week before the deadline he had set for Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait -- and, as it happened, just nine days before the war started [on January 17, 1991]. ...

... Here, BTW, is Bush I's Secretary of State James Baker, speaking on "Meet the Press" Sunday:

... Martin Longman of the Washington Monthly on "bedwetter" Sen. Lindsay's Graham's [R-S.C.] claim that Americans "will be killed here at home" if President Obama is allowed to follow his "disingenuous & delusional" plan to degrade ISIS: "There really in no excuse for a 59 year old man to not be housebroken. The idea that we are all going to get killed if the president doesn't immediately send ground troops to Iraq and Syria is the intellectual equivalent of having night terrors about monsters in your closet and under your bed."

Ari Berman of the Nation: "Late Friday afternoon, a panel of Democrat-appointed judges on the Sixth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction from a Democrat-appointed district court judge striking down Ohio's cuts to early voting. Two hours earlier, however, a trio of Republican-appointed judges on the Seventh Circuit overturned an injunction from a Democratic judge blocking Wisconsin's voter ID law. This is why elections matter. And the courts are increasingly becoming the arbiters of who does and does not get to participate in them." (Emphasis added.) ...

     ... Rick Hasen: The Wisconsin decision "is a big, big mistake for election administration reasons (regardless of how the court ultimately comes out) and I expect now an emergency motion to the Supreme Court, based upon Purcell v. Gonzalez, to stop this change. I think there's a decent chance the Supreme Court could intervene on this, even if the Court ultimately is likely to reject the constitutional and Voting Rights Act challenges to this ruling." (See also Hasen's comments to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, linked in Saturday's Commentariat.) ...

... Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Democrats have reversed the partisan imbalance on the federal appeals courts that long favored conservatives, a little-noticed shift with far-reaching consequences for the law and President Obama's legacy. For the first time in more than a decade, judges appointed by Democratic presidents considerably outnumber judges appointed by Republican presidents. The Democrats' advantage has only grown since late last year when they stripped Republicans of their ability to filibuster the president's nominees.... With control of the Senate at stake in November's midterm elections, the success of Democrats in reshaping the courts is a reminder of the subtle power that the majority party has even in a moribund Congress."

Jonathan Chait takes exception with Thomas Frank's "polemic" against political science (linked here yesterday): "He argues that political science has always run Washington and that political science is the main problem with Washington. Frank is tellingly wrong on all these things, but in one way he is dead-on: He has correctly identified the field of political science as the true enemy of his worldview." ...

... CW: For what it's worth, I think Chait's analysis of reasons for the 1994 election results is off-base, too. What really shifted the balance of power -- and it was a decades-long shift that's still ongoing -- was civil rights legislation & "liberal" court decisions of the 1950s, '60s & '70s. The majority of people are inherently conservative, selfish & miserly. These selfish people are "liberal" only when they belong to a group that the majority has excluded or disadvantaged; i.e., when it's in their self-interest to vote "liberal." And they are tribal. Conservative Roman Catholics voted for Jack Kennedy. Conservative Southerners voted for Jimmy Carter. Once. Barack Obama won in 2008 because of the confluence of extraordinary circumstances: (a) of the financial crisis, & (b) a singularly unappealing Republican opponent (& his Hillbilly sidekick), & (c) the unpopularity of Dubya's actions, not the least of which was starting the Iraq War. Obama won in 2012 because -- voters are conservative: they (fairly narrowly) danced with the one that brung 'em. One might argue that the outlier in this pattern was Bill Clinton (the guy Frank criticizes for moving Democrats to the right), but even that isn't true. Besides pulling down a good deal of the tribal Southern vote, Clinton got a tremendous assist from crazy Ross Perot, who directly appealed to people's selfish tendencies. The sitting president, George H. W. Bush, had two strikes against him.

NEW. Charles Pierce comments, in hilarious fashion, on the contretemps over the remains of Saint-in-Waiting & Dead TeeVee Personality Fulton Sheen.

Isla Bennie of Reuters: "Pope Francis married 20 couples on Sunday, some of whom had already lived together and had children, in the latest sign that the Argentine pontiff wants the Catholic church to be more open and inclusive."

Paul Krugman: "Clearly, economics as a discipline went badly astray in the years -- actually decades -- leading up to the [2008 economic] crisis. But the failings of economics were greatly aggravated by the sins of economists, who far too often let partisanship or personal self-aggrandizement trump their professionalism. Last but not least, economic policy makers systematically chose to hear only what they wanted to hear. And it is this multilevel failure -- not the inadequacy of economics alone -- that accounts for the terrible performance of Western economies since 2008."

Mike Florio of NBC Sports: "According to multiple [National Football L]eague sources, [Ray] Rice will appeal the indefinite suspension on Monday. The appeal will be handled by the NFLPA and by an outside lawyer retained by Rice."

Martin Longman on Rep. Mark Sanford's Facebook break-up with his fiancée Maria Belen Chapur: "... one does wonder how awful a Republican would have to behave to get kicked out of office in the Palmetto State."

In the interest of fair, both-sides linking, here is the Palin family's version of the infamous Saturday night brawl, according to "a source close to the Palin family," via Scott Conroy of Real Clear Politicis. CW: It sure took a long time for the Palins to come up with their spin on this yarn, which goes like this: a former boyfriend of Willow's started the fight; he tried to get into the Palins' stretch Hummer, & a gang of four men -- including the boyfriend -- attacked Track, who ended up with four cracked ribs. Todd joined the melee & the gang of meanies bloodied him. Sarah, "in full mama grizzly mode," yelled, "Don't you know who he is? He's a vet!" Also, Bristol couldn't have a "mean right hook" because she's left-handed. Definitely need that video. ...

... NEW. Jeanne Devon of the Mudflats weighs in, adding some details & lots of context. Thanks to James S. for the link. AND to Devon for her swell effort to re-construct the scene:

Capitalism Is Awesome. Jessica Roy of New York: "Urban Outfitters, the official clothing store of Outrage Twitter, reached a new low yesterday when shoppers noticed that the site was selling a 'vintage' Kent State sweatshirt, complete with blood spatter. The Ohio university was the site of the 1970 Kent State shooting, when the Ohio National Guard killed four students during a peace protest." Do read on. (CW: Clicking on the link to the e-bay auction page for the sweatshirt doesn't work. Maybe somebody had a change of heart.)

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

T. Bogg: "America's Most Annoying Neighborhood Kid™, Luke Russert, tried out and made NBC;s Meet the Press team this week.... Friday, Chuck 'Figure It Out For Yourself' Todd emailed his NBC/MSNBC colleagues excitedly announcing that young master Luke would be joining the MTP cast -- which, as I am sure you are aware and will be made aware no matter how much you try to avoid it -- where Luke's father [editors note to nerds: not Darth Vader] used to totally rule. It's just like The Lion King, but with self-important large-headed people instead of adorable cartoon lions and meerkats." ...

... T. Bogg helpfully provides Simba's MTP "audition tape":

Evan McMurry of Mediaite: "In his new guise as a political commentator for CNN, former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dished out conventional wisdom on State of the Union Sunday morning, which in this case meant diagnosing the Democrats' chances in the upcoming midterms as poor."

Congressional Elections, Etc.

I've studied all the polls and I really believe that we're still in a zone where they're all real close and it depends on who decides to show. And our side's not used to voting in midterms. We gotta get used to it. There's a lot at stake. -- Bill Clinton, in Iowa yesterday

... Greg Sargent on Senate race polling/odds: "The Washington Post and New York Times forecasts have tightened considerably, with the WaPo Election Lab showing the GOP with a 50 percent chance of taking the Senate and the NYT Upshot putting it at 52 percent. FiveThirtyEight gives the GOP a 58 percent chance, but the poll-focused models run by Sam Wang and HuffPollster give Dems roughly the same-sized edge.... CNN will release a poll today that finds the New Hampshire battle between Dem Senator Jeanne Shaheen and GOP challenger Scott Brown is all tied up at 48-48. However, Reid Wilson reports that the DSCC will release a poll showing Shaheen up by 51-43."

Kentucky Democratic nominee Alison Grimes is running against Mitch McConnell AND Barack Obama. It's a good ad:

** Arizona GOP Leader Would Sterilize Poor People. Resigns over Controversy. Yvonne Sanchez of the Arizona Republic: "Former [state] Sen. Russell Pearce, who has recently served as the Arizona Republican Party's first vice chair, resigned his post late Sunday in the wake of criticism from powerful GOP candidates about contraception.... Pearce [spoke on] his talk-radio program on KKNT 960 AM [recently] ... about changes he would make to the state's public assistance programs and was quoted in the Democratic Party's news release as saying: 'You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I'd do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations.... Then we'll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.' In his [resignation] statement, Pearce wrote that during [the] recent radio show ... he 'shared comments written by someone else and failed to attribute them to the author.' ... Pearce, best known for his role in passing the state's hard-line immigration law Senate Bill 1070, served as Arizona Senate president before he was recalled in 2011." CW: Ah, well. He's just an accidental plagiarist. He's not really into sterilizing the poor; he just promotes the idea. And congrats to GOP candidates for condemning his remarks -- after Democrats highlighted their silence on Pearce's policy proposal/"mistake."

Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald: Fielding criticism about "a cigar-smoking boys-only 'roundtable' he held," Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), in a tight race against Democrat Gwen Graham, "wondered why the press isn't asking ... Graham about whether she ever attended a ladies-only 'lingerie shower.' ... Paging Dr. Freud." Via Steve Benen.

John Eligon of the New York Times: "Although every statewide elected official in Kansas is a Republican and President Obama lost the state by more than 20 points in the last election, [Gov. Sam] Brownback's proudly conservative policies have turned out to be so divisive and his tax cuts have generated such a drop in state revenue that they have caused even many Republicans to revolt."

Presidential Election

Amy Chozick & Jonathan Martin: Hillary & Bill Clinton go to Tom Harkin's steak fry. CW: Like déjà vu all over again. Pretty depressing. ...

... Roger Simon of Politico: "'Hello, Iowa!' says Hillary Clinton, who has not set foot in Iowa for six years and eight months, and in fact, until quite recently has loathed the place. She cautiously enunciates each word from her prepared text, even the jokes. She is careful, modulated, meticulous. She is Hillary."CW: It seems that Roger saw a different show from the one Amy & Jonathan were watching. The NYT reporters characterize Bill Clinton as dominating the event; Simon sez just the opposite. But then that might be expected, given that ...

NEW. There were more than a hundred reporters, camera-people, a human centipede of boom microphones waiting by a chain link fence, waiting for Hillary Clinton to grill a steak. Yes, Hillary Clinton and dead meat. The conventional wisdom at the moment is that the Democratic presidential field for 2016 is pretty much the same thing. -- Charles Pierce (Read the whole post.)

... Benjamin Bell of ABC News: "Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be headlining Sen. Tom Harkin's annual Steak Fry today, but the longtime progressive senator indicated that shouldn't be taken as an endorsement should she decide to run for president in 2016. Harkin, who is retiring after 30 years in the Senate and was hosting his last annual Steak Fry today, said progressives should raise questions about Clinton's foreign policy and economic positions."

Arit John of the Atlantic: "During a talk with the New Hampshire chapter of Generation Opportunity (a millennial-focused group best known for using a creepy Uncle Sam mascot to convince people not to enroll in Obamacare) a young man asked [Sen. Rand] Paul if he would repeal any executive orders. 'I think the first executive order that I would issue would be to repeal all previous executive orders,' Paul said, according to Breitbart.... [This left] "the impression that ... Paul ... would want to repeal all executive orders as president, probably because he said that he would repeal all executive orders if he was president. But as a Paul aide told The Huffington Post, the senator didn't mean to be taken at his word." ...

... Steve Benen: "By one account, Paul's vow to repeal all previous executive orders was met with 'booming cheers' from his conservative audience." ...

... CW Translation/Explanation of Paul's, Aide's Remarks: Paul was addressing a fringe group in the first state to hold a presidential primary. Naturally, he told the wackos what they wanted to hear. It isn't lying. It's retail politics. ...

... Benen, Ctd.: "It's worth noting that executive orders have been issued to advance some worthy causes over the years. The Emancipation Proclamation, for example, was one of Lincoln's executive orders. Truman ended racial discrimination in the military through an executive order. Ford banned political assassinations through an executive order."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Glenn Greenwald & Ryan Gallagher of the Intercept: "The New Zealand spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), worked in 2012 and 2013 to implement a mass metadata surveillance system even as top government officials publicly insisted no such program was being planned and would not be legally permitted. Documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the government worked in secret to exploit a new internet surveillance law enacted in the wake of revelations of illegal domestic spying to initiate a new metadata collection program that appeared designed to collect information about the communications of New Zealanders. Those actions are in direct conflict with the assurances given to the public by Prime Minister John Key..., who said the law was merely designed to fix 'an ambiguous legal framework.'..." ...

... Edward Snowden, in the Intercept: "... any statement that mass surveillance is not performed in New Zealand, or that the internet communications are not comprehensively intercepted and monitored, or that this is not intentionally and actively abetted by the GCSB, is categorically false." ...

... Philip Dorling of the Sydney Morning Herald: "The latest disclosures from top secret documents leaked by Mr Snowden come in the context of the final stages of New Zealand's election campaign where New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has been under pressure to explain the extent of GCSB's surveillance activities. On Sunday Mr Key stridently attacked US journalist Glen[n] Greenwald." ...

... Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald: "Snowden ... appeared by video link before a capacity crowd at the Kim Dotcom organised Moment of Truth event at Auckland Town Hall this evening.... Visiting US journalist Glen[n] Greenwald who has made the same claims and who introduced Snowden to the audience of about 1700.... Snowden began his talk with the claim the NSA had a facility in Auckland and went on to expand on his article in which he said: 'If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched.' ... Information about New Zealand communications was available [to the NSA] simply by clicking on a check box in [NSA] software [called XKEYSTROKE]. This evening to huge cheers he told the audience that if political leaders were 'going to use check boxes against us... election time is when we get to check boxes about them.''' ...

... CW: So now Eddie is explicitly working to bring down the government of a U.S. ally. Okay. ...

... Key & Dotcom have a history.

Nicholas Watt, et al., of the Guardian: The Queen [of England & Scotland! & Other Places] made a rare intervention on the political stage when she expressed the hope that voters will 'think very carefully about the future' before the Scottish independence referendum on Thursday. As [British PM] David Cameron prepares to issue a warning in Scotland that a vote for independence will lead to a permanent split from the UK, campaigners for the union welcomed the Queen's remarks.... The comments by the Queen came as she left Crathie Kirk near her Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire after the Sunday morning service. The Queen told a well-wisher: 'Well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future.'" ...

... Telegraph: "Most polls show a small lead for No, but opinion has shifted sharply in the past month, and twice in the past fortnight pollsters have put Yes ahead."

Saturday
Sep132014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 14, 2014

The World According to Chicken Little. Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) blasted President Barack Obama's plan to defeat ISIS during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, calling the commander-in-chief 'disingenuous and delusional' and warning that Americans will be 'killed here at home' unless he sends ground troops into Iraq and Syria to defeat the terrorist threat."

Peter Baker of the New York Times on President Obama's private remarks re: the steps leading up to his speech to the nation on his plans to "destroy" ISIS. ...

... Rebecca Kaplan of CBS News: "Secretary of State John Kerry backtracked on the language he had used to describe the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as ISIL), saying in an interview on CBS' 'Face the Nation' Sunday that, 'we are at war' with the group." See yesterday's Commentariat for context. Seems "war" is the new White House buzzword.

Raya Jalabi of the Guardian: "Islamic State (Isis) militants have released a video showing the apparent beheading of a British hostage, David Haines. Site, an intelligence group, which was the first to report US journalist Steven Sotloff's beheading last month, confirmed the video's release. In the video, entitled A Message to the Allies of America, a masked man is shown carrying out the beheading of Haines, whose life had earlier been threatened in a video showing the murder of ... Sotloff." ...

... Rowena Mason of the Guardian: "Britain stands ready to take 'whatever steps are necessary' to help an international push to destroy the 'evil' extremist group that murdered British aid worker David Haines, [British PM] David Cameron has said. In an emotional statement in Downing Street after chairing a meeting of the government's Cobra emergency committee to discuss the killing, the prime minister hailed Haines as a 'British hero' and vowed to 'hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice no matter how long it takes'." ...

... The New York Times story, by Rukmini Callimachi &Kimiko de Freytax-Tamura, is here. It has been updated. ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The White House believes that Congress's 2002 authorization of the Iraq war -- and not just the 2001 authorization to fight Al Qaeda -- provides a legal justification for President Obama's air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Obama administration said Friday. The White House has not issued a formal analysis of its legal thinking, but the disclosure adds to an evolving public understanding of its theory about the basis for the strikes against ISIS." ...

... Michael Gordon & David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry received broad assurances but no public commitments from Egypt on Saturday as he continued his tour of the Middle East to try to assemble a coalition behind an American campaign against [ISIS].... In Baghdad, meanwhile, the new prime minister ... said Saturday that he had ordered the Iraqi security forces to stop 'the indiscriminate shelling' of civilian communities under the control of the militants. Together, the professions of good intentions in Baghdad and Cairo underscored the long road ahead for the Obama administration...." ...

... David Sanger & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The Obama administration is struggling to cut off the millions of dollars in oil revenue that has made the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria one of the wealthiest terror groups in history, but so far has been unable to persuade Turkey, the NATO ally where much of the oil is traded on the black market, to crack down on an extensive sales network." ...

... Ken Dilanian of the AP: "Islamic State militants, who once relied on wealthy Persian Gulf donors for money, have become a self-sustaining financial juggernaut, earning more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion, according to U.S. intelligence officials and private experts."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.
Rise of the Know-It-Alls

NEW. Ezra Klein, Chief Know-It-All: "Perhaps the single best thing that's happened to political journalism in the time I've been doing it is the rise of political science." CW Note: Any article that contains the phrase "the late, great David Broder," unless appearing in an ironical context, is probably bollocks. ...

... NEW. Thomas Frank, Chief Rebuttal Witness, in Salon: "Not only does Washington routinely fill the No. 1 spot on those 'most educated cities' articles, but the town positively seethes with academic experts. Indeed, it is the only city I know of that actually boasts a sizable population of fake experts, handing out free-market wisdom to passers-by from their subsidized seats at Cato and Heritage. The characteristic failing of D.C. isn't that it ignores these herds of experts, it's that it attends to them with a gaping credulity that they do not deserve." Thanks to James S. for the link.

Marie's Sports Report

NEW. CW: TMZ -- and nobody else -- reports that the Carolina Panthers have "deactivated" defensive end Greg Hardy, who is appealing his misdemeanor conviction for physically assaulting & threatening to kill a woman. See links in yesterday's Commentariat .

** Kent Babb & Adam Goldman of the Washington Post: The NFL, "America’s most popular sports league..., generat[es] about $10 billion in annual revenue, and behind the scenes is an intricate and largely secretive three-layered security force -- mainly comprised of former federal agents -- in charge of staying in front of the league's problems. Its emphases are swiftness and thoroughness, its tentacles reaching into states even without an NFL team, its code mostly one of silence. And while its agents can help keep bad actors from ever getting to the league by vetting them beforehand, they are equally if not more valuable in funnelling information back to the league office once problems occur to help make sure NFL leaders are not caught off guard." ...

... CW: AND TMZ, a celebrity-watcher outfit, breached this wall. This report further illuminates how farcical is the NFL's "internal investigation" -- many in the NFL security team are ex-FBI agents, some of them high-ranking. The NFL chose former FBI director Robert Mueller -- who would have worked directly with these top FBI grads -- to "investigate" them. (Mueller already was known to have deep ties to the NFL & Ravens management. This just adds another layer to the cover-up.) ...

... A War Game for a Warring Nation. Mark Edmundson in the Los Angeles Times: "Football is a warlike game and we are now a warlike nation. Our love for football is a love, however self-aware, of ourselves as a fighting and (we hope) victorious people.... The rise of football over baseball is about a change in America's self-image.... Plato fears that we become what we behold." ...

... Jonathan Zimmerman in a Los Angeles Times op-ed: "For the last century, schools and colleges have tried to modify the [football] game so fewer people get hurt. And it hasn't worked." ...

... CW: There are, obviously, direct connections among (1) playing a war game from the time you're 11; (2) regularly getting your brains bashed, (3) the trappings of celebrity that come with the game (even at the high-school level), (4) the remuneration -- or potential remuneration for playing the game well; (5) the value of a player to his team's bottom line, & (6) domestic violence. Every "institution of learning" that has a football team is molding young sociopaths, some percentage of whom -- because of football-related brain damage -- really cannot control themselves. Most Americans, myself included, contribute or have contributed to perpetuating this ring of violence. ...

... Maureen Dowd: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had a model in his father Charles of a profile in courage. He has no excuse for his own slimy behavior.

God News

Sharon Otterman of the New York Times: "Since [Roman Catholic Archbishop Fulton Sheen's] death in 1979, his remains have been sealed in a white marble crypt at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, the city where he spent much of his life. And though the Peoria diocese says it was promised the remains, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who considers Archbishop Sheen something of a personal hero, has refused to part with them, citing the wishes of the archbishop and his family. Now the dispute over Archbishop Sheen's corpse has brought a halt to his rise to sainthood, just as he appeared close to beatification, the final stage before canonization. Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, Peoria's leader, announced this month that the process had been suspended because New York would not release the body."

Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God. -- Matthew 5:9

Blessed are the fully armed; because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. -- Pat Robertson 9:2014

"So Help Me, God." Stephen Losey of the Air Force Times: "An atheist airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada has until November to change his mind and swear a reenlistment oath to God, the Air Force said. The unnamed airman was denied reenlistment Aug. 25 for refusing to take an oath that concludes with the phrase 'so help me God,' the American Humanist Association said in a Sept. 2 letter to the inspectors general for the Air Force and Creech." ...

... Air Force Finds Constitution Irrelevant. Steve Benen: "In the Army and Navy, Americans have the discretion to omit [the words "so help me God." The Air Force, however, has a different 'interpretation' of Pentagon regulations.... It's worth noting that the U.S. Constitution -- the one the military supports and defends, and which trumps Defense Department regulations and forms -- says quite explicitly that 'no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.' To date, the Air Force has found this unpersuasive." ...

... Brad Knickerbocker of the Christian Science Monitor: "The US Air Force has gotten itself into a bureaucratic, legal, and public relations snarl over what would seem to be a simple thing: Four words included in its reenlistment oath."

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.... -- Leviticus 19:33-34

... Strangers in the Land of the South: David Wren of the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Sun News: "Reginald Wayne Miller, the president of Cathedral Bible College, was arrested Thursday on accusations that he forces foreign students at his school to work long hours for low wages and then threatens to revoke their student visas if they complain or fail to comply with his demands. Via Steve Benen.

Congressional Races

NEW. Rick Hasen: "A three judge panel of the Sixth Circuit has just issued this order denying Ohio's request to put on hold a district court order requiring Ohio to restore early voting days (including 'Golden Week') which the Republican legislature tried to cut.... All the judges in the Sixth Circuit today were Democrat-appointed."

Martin Longman of the Washington Monthly on Bill Maher's choice of targeting John Kline (RTP-Minn.) in his "Let's Flip a District" gag: "John Kline has a reputation as a moderate but he votes with the teabaggers all the time. All the Democrats need is for his constituents to become aware of how radical his recent voting record really is and they toss him out in favor of Some Dude." See yesterday's Commentariat for context.

Southern Gothic, Ctd.
A Week in Paris

Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: Rep. Mark Sanford's (R-S.C.) former fiancee, Maria Belen Chapur said she had asked him to make their break public, but that Mr. Sanford did not warn her before announcing it on Facebook on Friday, catching her off guard. 'I learned it from the press today,' she said Saturday."

News Ledes

AP: "North Korea's Supreme Court on Sunday sentenced a 24-year-old American man to six years of hard labor for entering the country illegally and trying to commit espionage. At a trial that lasted about 90 minutes, the court said Matthew Miller, of Bakersfield, California, tore up his tourist visa at Pyongyang's airport upon arrival on April 10 and admitted to having the "wild ambition" of experiencing prison life so that he could secretly investigate North Korea's human rights situation."

Friday
Sep122014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 13, 2014

White House: "In this week’s address, President Obama reiterated his comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group ISIL":

Justin Sink of the Hill: "The United States is at war with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL), the White House and Pentagon said Friday, a day after Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly declined to use that phrase. 'In the same way that we are at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe, we are at war with ISIL,' White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the White House. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby echoed that sentiment, telling reporters that while the effort was 'not the Iraq war,' they should 'make no mistake, we know we are at war with ISIL.'" ...

... Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News: "The parents of murdered journalist Steven Sotloff were told by a White House counterterrorism official at a meeting last May that they could face criminal prosecution if they paid ransom to try to free their son, a spokesman for the family told Yahoo News Friday night.... The Sotloff family issued their statement after Diane Foley, the mother of murdered journalist James Foley, told ABC News that her family took statements by the White House counterterrorism official about legal bars to paying ransom as a 'threat, and it was appalling. ... We were horrified he would say that. He just told us we would be prosecuted.'" ...

... Brian Ross, et al., of ABC News: "The mother of slain American journalist James Foley said she wasn't necessarily surprised that the U.S. government threatened her family with prosecution should they raise money to pay her son's ransom, but she was astounded by how such a devastating message was delivered. 'I was surprised there was so little compassion,' Diane Foley told ABC News today of the three separate warnings she said U.S. officials gave the family about the illegality of paying ransom to the terror group ISIS.... Earlier this week five current and former officials with direct knowledge of the Foley case confirmed the alleged threats were made.... Diane Foley told ABC News earlier this week that warnings over the summer came primarily from a highly decorated military officer serving on the White House's National Security Council staff." ...

... digby: "Threatening the family of an abducted journalist with criminal charges for terrorism is indeed appalling. But the fact that everyone, including the president, is using the execution of these prisoners as a rationale for military action  means that this policy has major ramifications we have not fully examined." ...

... Bruce Ackerman, in a New York Times op-ed: "PRESIDENT OBAMA's declaration of war against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria marks a decisive break in the American constitutional tradition. Nothing attempted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, remotely compares in imperial hubris.... The 2001 authorization for the use of military force does not apply here. That resolution -- scaled back from what Mr. Bush initially wanted -- extended only to nations and organizations that 'planned, authorized, committed or aided' the 9/11 attacks.... Not only was ISIS created long after 2001, but Al Qaeda publicly disavowed it earlier this year. It is Al Qaeda's competitor, not its affiliate." ...

     ... CW Note: Ackerman is a highly-respected Constitutional scholar. He has been writing about executive overreach for a long time. Here he is in the American Prospect in March 2009, urging the new President to take steps to force future presidents to follow "the rule of law." At that time, barely two months into the Obama presidency, Ackerman asserted that, "Barack Obama is no George W. Bush -- he will indeed cut back substantially on unilateral assertions of power. The big question is whether he will take effective steps to prevent the next president from reversing course yet again...." CW: So that hasn't worked out. ...

     ... CW Update: OR, it's worth throwing into the mix that following President Obama's address to the nation, both Boehner & Reid vowed to bring up authorization bills. So perhaps (she said, being generous to the President), Obama has used hubris to bully the Congress into doing something.

... New York Times Editors: "By avoiding responsibility, [members of Congress] allow President Obama free rein to set a dangerous precedent that will last well past this particular military campaign. Mr. Obama, who has spent much of his presidency seeking to wean the United States off a perpetual state of war, is now putting forward unjustifiable interpretations of the executive branch's authority to use military force without explicit approval from Congress." ...

... Steve M.: "I understand that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force drawn up right after the 9/11 attacks doesn't really apply to a group that didn't exist in 2001, and that's in conflict with Al Qaeda. I understand that what the president plans to do will take ongoing military action past the deadline imposed by the 1973 War Powers Act. But America is a failed state now, so I have to confess that I'm struggling to care.... If Republicans in Congress resist voting (see that Jack Kingston quote) and resist working with president, then we have a non-functioning government, and that's the real constitutional crisis." ...

... CW: Both Ackerman & Steve M. are right. Never before in my lifetime have we had a Congress whose explicit goal was to keep the government from functioning. That effort began in a secret meeting led by Eric Cantor in December 2008 and at a dinner on January 20, 2009, the night of President Obama's inauguration. Once a conspiracy of top Republican elected officials, including Mitch McConnell was prime participant, the cat has been out of the bag so long that McConnell & other Republican MoCs are now touting it as legitimate strategy. ...

... Kevin Drum poses a question it would be nice to see one of those crack Sunday show hosts ask John McCain/Lindsay Graham/Generic Republican Hawk the next time one appears on the teevee (which would be tomorrow): "Republicans seem to universally hold the following two opinions about Iraq and ISIS:1. President Obama is to blame for the military success of ISIS because he declined to keep a residual force in Iraq after 2011. 2. In the fight against ISIS, we certainly don't want to send in combat troops. No no no.... But if we don't want boots on the ground in the fight against ISIS, what exactly would [a "residual force"] have done? Hang around Baghdad to buck up the morale of the Iraqi forces that came fleeing back after encountering ISIS forces? Conduct ever more 'training'? Or what? Can someone tell me just what everyone thinks this magical residual force would have accomplished?"

Ali Watkins of McClatchy News: "Tensions between the CIA and its congressional overseers erupted anew this week when CIA Director John Brennan refused to tell lawmakers who authorized intrusions into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a damning report on the spy agency's interrogation program. The confrontation, which took place during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, came as the sides continue to spar over the report's public release.... After the meeting, several senators were so incensed at Brennan that they confirmed the row and all but accused the nation's top spy of defying Congress." Read the whole story. Brennan is defying Democratic senators, & they're willing to go on the record, closed-door meeting notwithstanding. CW: This is something President Obama can mitigate. He should do so. Today.

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Senate Republicans unanimously rejected a constitutional amendment sought by Democrats that would allow Congress to regulate campaign finance reform. The measure failed to clear a 60-vote threshold on Thursday afternoon, 54-42.... 'Senate Democrats want a government that works for all Americans -- not just the richest few. Today, Senate Republicans clearly showed that they would rather sideline hardworking families in order to protect the Koch brothers and other radical interests that are working to fix our elections and buy our democracy,' [Majority Leader Harry] Reid said after the vote."

Mark Stern of Slate: "On Wednesday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs voted 13-12 to continue to deny equal benefits to gay veterans who live in states without gay marriage. Currently, all active servicemembers and their same-sex spouses receive equal benefits -- no matter where they live -- under an order from the Department of Defense. But a statutory quirk instructs the Department of Veterans Affairs to look to veterans' state of residency to determine their marital status." ....

     ... Because ... States' Rights! Stern, Ctd.: "Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Florida, explained that 'deference to the state is not motivated by hostility, it is motivated by adherence to the Constitution.' ... Miller's notion of 'deference to the state' is ... so utterly inane, so completely and totally wrong about the structure of the U.S. government, that it reads more like a giveaway question on a seventh-grade true/false civics quiz than a statement by an ostensibly educated congressman." CW: Just makes me want to sing "Dixie" & the version of "Swanee River" -- Florida's state song -- we used to sing as children. (The Negro-dialect version was retired in 2008, tho I think it was commonly bowdlerized long before that.) ...

... BUT. Federal Judge Understands Federalism. Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "A federal judge has ordered Arizona to recognize one same-sex marriage, determining Friday that the state must formally acknowledge that Fred McQuire and George Martinez were married.... [Judge John Sedwick's] ruling is very limited, focusing only on this one couple, but it also touches on the larger issues involving same-sex marriage, noting that arguments suggesting Arizona's ban does not discriminate 'lacks merit.'" (You can read the complete ruling here.)" CW: Sedwick is Bush I appointee.

CW: Forgot to link this yesterday. of Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Sen. Ted Cruz walked off the stage and left an event hosted by a Christian organization mid-speech after being booed on Wednesday night following comments praising Israel. The Texas Republican senator and tea party icon was a keynote speaker at a Washington summit hosted by In Defense of Christians, a group that focuses on persecuted Christian and minority communities in the Middle East." ...

... Jonathan Topaz: "The president of the Christian organization who hosted Sen. Ted Cruz at its summit has partially blamed the senator for walking off the stage after being heckled and booed by some in the crowd during his speech. In Defense of Christians President Toufic Baaklini, in a statement released Thursday evening, said that while the hecklers were out of line, Cruz's actions were 'unfortunate.' ... [Baaklini] contested the characterization used by some outlets that the Texas Republican was 'booed off stage,' suggesting the group of hecklers was 'small' and that there were more audience members shouting them down.... Republican Rep. Charlie Dent struck a harsher tone in criticizing Cruz on Thursday. '... what Senator Cruz did was outrageous and incendiary," the Pennsylvania congressman told The Washington Post. 'He showed a true lack of sensitivity for the people he was speaking to, especially the religious leaders who were there. It was a political speech, inappropriate and, overall, an uncomfortable moment.'" ...

... Robert Costa of the Washington Post has more on Dent's comments....

... CW: In the reporting, I haven't seen any evidence that the hecklers "hate Jews," as Cruz claimed before walking off the stage. While it isn't polite to boo a speaker (I might not be able to contain myself either if Cruz was the speaker), it's pretty damned easy to deplore Israel's actions against Gazans & other Palestinians without in any way, shape or form "hating Jews." Cruz's assumptions, as far as I can tell, are unsupported conjecture. I suppose Cruz is just posturing, but if he really can't tell the difference between opposing a government's policy & hating its citizens, then he's remarkably stupid. Does Ted Cruz, who opposes practically every U.S. policy, hate Americans? Maybe so. On the other hand, he may just be a thin-skinned crybaby. Good luck, President Cruz.

Beyond the Beltway

** Dana Milbank Indicts the Prosecutor: "It's a good bet the grand jurors won't charge [Darren Wilson for shooting dead Michael Brown], because all signs indicate that the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, doesn't want them to.... McCulloch's office has declined so far to recommend any charges to the grand jury.... A grand jury is less likely to deliver an indictment -- even a much deserved one -- if a prosecutor doesn't ask for it.... [In response to a request by the Post's Wesley Lowery,] McCulloch's office ultimately came up with only one case over 23 years that The Post could verify of the prosecution of a white officer for using inappropriate force against a black victim, and it wasn't a shooting." Read the whole post. On an empty stomach.

Federal Appellate Panel Okays Wisconsin Voter Suppression Law. Patrick Marley & Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A federal appeals panel reinstated Wisconsin's voter ID law Friday, acting with unusual speed eight weeks before the Nov. 4 election and just hours after hearing arguments on the subject. The move by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals clears the way for the state to immediately implement the law, though it does not stop the ongoing appeal over whether the measure is constitutional. State officials responded by saying they planned to have the requirement in place this fall. 'The state of Wisconsin may, if it wishes (and if it is appropriate under rules of state law), enforce the photo ID requirement in this November's elections,' the judges wrote in an unsigned two-page order. The appellate court indicated it was satisfied by changes imposed on the law by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a separate decision this summer.... Some 300,000 people in Wisconsin do not have IDs...." All three judges on the panel -- the ruling was unanimous -- are Republican appointees. Thanks to Nadd2 for the lead. ...

... Even though the (U.S.) Supreme Court could well agree that Wisconsin's voter ID law is legal, there's a real chance that the (U.S. Supreme) Court could reverse today's 7th Circuit order. The Supreme Court has said that courts should not make changes in the run-up to elections, which can cause voter and election official confusion. The 7th Circuit did not even mention this rule in its order today. -- Rick Hasen, election law expert

... Journal Sentinel Editors: "This has always been a law in search of a problem. The kind of fraud that voter ID can catch has been rare, and the chilling effect the law will have on the votes of some groups -- minorities, older people and students -- far outweighs any benefits. Beyond that, the timing issue is critical. Coming less than two months before the November election, the ruling threatens to make balloting difficult for voters and election officials." Thanks to Victoria D. for the link.

Marie's Sports Report

Ken Belson of the New York Times: "The National Football League, which for years disputed evidence that its players had a high rate of severe brain damage, has stated in federal court documents that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at 'notably younger ages' than in the general population. The findings are a result of data prepared by actuaries hired by the league and provided to the United States District Court judge presiding over the settlement between the N.F.L. and 5,000 former players who sued the league, alleging that it had hidden the dangers of concussions from them."

WCCO Minneapolis: "A warrant was issued Friday for the arrest of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson after a grand jury in Texas indicted him for reckless or negligent injury to a child. Peterson will not play in Sunday's game at TCF Bank Stadium against the New England Patriots. On Friday afternoon, the Vikings said Peterson had been deactivated. That's different from a suspension, as Peterson will be still be paid as officials investigate." ...

... Here are some details from TMZ. ...

... Update. The New York Times story, by Steve Eder & Pat Borzi, is here. ...

... Paul Campos in Lawyers, Guns & Money: "For those who don’t follow the sport, Peterson is the best running back in the league, and a much bigger star than Ray Rice." ...

... Sean Gregory of Time details the harrowing, life-threatening experience of the victim of another pro-player's domestic abuse. A female judge convicted Greg Hardy, who plays for the Carolina Panthers, of a misdemeanor. She "sentenced him to 18 months probation; a 60-day jail sentence was suspended." Hardy is appealing. "The world hasn't seen this incident on tape. Hardy played in Carolina's first game. He didn't practice on Wednesday for what the team said were 'personal reasons' -- he met with his attorney. But Hardy returned to practice Thursday and as of right now, he is slated to play on Sunday, as the Panthers host the Detroit Lions.... On Wednesday night..., Panthers owner Jerry Richardson received a humanitarian honor in Charlotte: The Echo Award Against Indifference." ...

... CW: You read what that woman endured & tell me if you think Hardy is guilty of a minor infraction & should have got off with a suspended sentence. There is one judge who thinks severe domestic violence is not such a terrible thing. Oh, & after reading the Charlotte Observer report linked below, we find she also doesn't care too much if the defendant commits perjury. ...

... Joseph Person & Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer have more. "Hardy ... has not been disciplined by the NFL or the team."

Lifestyles of the Ludicrous

Oh, My Stars. Our Lady of the North Is Actually a Cat-fighting, Foul-mouthed Harridan. Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post relates the details of the Palin brawl, via Amanda Coyne, who "recounts what happened through the eyewitness account of Eric Thompson." Thompson, who was the designated driver for a group, was not drinking, so his account is not colored by the substances which apparently encouraged the Palin clan. Money quote from Coyne's account: "... Sarah got involved and began to scream profanities at everyone. One source, who didn't want to be named, said that she was 'nearly crawling on top of people,' trying to get into the scrum." CW: Yes, millions of Americans decided that this model of probity should be one aged heartbeat away from the presidency. And yes, thanks again, John McCain, for another demonstration of your excellent judgment. ...

... Coyne's full account is here. ...

... Here's Thompson discussing the story on "Good Morning, America! Know Your Former Vice-Presidential Candidate":

... Tina Nguyen of Mediaite: "Thompson ... was fired [Friday] for talking to the media." CW: Thompson's employer was McKenna Brothers Paving. Korey Klingenmeyer, the owner of the house where the party was held, also works for McKenna Brothers. In fact, according to Coyne, the party was to celebrate the birthdays of "twins Matt and Marc McKenna," who own McKenna Brothers. Apparently omerta is part of the Alaskan chivalric code. ...

... At the end of her report on the "Palin Fight Club," Ahiza Garcia of TPM demonstrates how Sarah Palin has avoided all mention of the melee. ...

... CW: Former Half- Gov. Palin also appeared on Sean Hannity's Fox "News" show Thursday night to bash President Obama. Hannity, of course, did not ask her about the Saturday night brawl, even though it was all over the "liberal media." When Martha Stewart was involved in a stock scandal -- for which she was later jailed -- she appeared on her regular CBS morning show homemaking segment only to be confronted by host Jane Clayson about the stock deal. Martha, who mumbled something about the "ridiculousness" of the charges against her, famously replied, "I'd rather focus on my salad," and kept on chopping cabbage. But then CBS "News" occasionally covers news, whereas Fox "News" focuses on their shredded Obama salad & keeps on chopping. ...

... Update. The New York Times has a story on the brawl, in muted Grey Lady-style. On the byline are Amanda Coyne & Lizette Alvarez (Alvarez often reports Florida news for the Times).

The Trials of Mark. Sahil Kapur of TPM: "South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford took the liberty of airing his legal troubles with his ex-wife in excruciating detail on Friday afternoon. In a 2,343 word Facebook post, the Republican congressman wrote about several lawsuits and child custody disputes with his ex-wife Jenny Sanford, whom he left for an Argentinian woman he was cheating with while he was governor. He revealed in the post that the woman, Maria Belen Chapur, is no longer his fiancé[e]."

... CW: No one knows the troubles Mark's seen. (Well, okay, some of the troubles, which he blubbered out in an extraordinary presser after his "Appalachian Trails" scam flopped.) So he's going to tell you. In excruciating detail. Here's how Mark begins his Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me post, and truth be told, this is where I quit reading, but I'm pretty sure there's going to be some more Jesus & God stuff further along, wherein I'm pretty sure we're going to find out Jesus & God are on Mark's side, & Jezebel Jenny, his mean former wife, will have to answer to them:

More than anything, I am struck by two truths. One, it seems that history well documents that those who work to avoid conflict at all costs wind up being those destined in many instances to find much conflict. Peace at all costs rarely brings it. On the other hand, Jesus was incredibly clear in the book of Luke that we are to turn the other cheek at offenses and that if someone took our shirt, we were to offer our coat as well.

... Ed O'Keefe & Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "Shortly before posting his message online, Sanford also filed a motion requesting a gag order against his ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, that will be heard by a judge on Monday." CW: Here again, I suspect we'll find that Jesus gave Mark the idea he should muzzle the missus. And thou shalt go before the judge of thy land & pray that he shall silence thy former wife for her wickedness. ...

... Also, do read A. O. Scott's piece in this week's NYT Magazine, linked under Infotainment.

Rene Stutzman of the Orlando Sentinel: "A driver called Lake Mary[, Florida,] police earlier this week, accusing former Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman of threatening to shoot him during a road-rage incident. Zimmerman, 30, was not arrested. Lake Mary Police Chief Steve Bracknell said the man, 35-year-old Matthew Apperson of Winter Springs, did not want to press charges, so there would be no arrest." Read the whole story.

Congressional Races

Gail Collins: Today's Senate candidates are often reluctant debaters. Indeed, political debates these days are not going to be of the calibre of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. After all, the most famous debate in New York gubernatorial history in one in which candidates included "a woman whose claim to fame was running a prostitution ring and the nominee of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party."

Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill: "A group helmed by a major donor and policy adviser to Democratic Senate candidate Michel[l]e Nunn is under investigation by the Georgia secretary of State for alleged voter fraud. Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) said in a memo ... that his office has 'received numerous complaints about voter applications submitted by the New Georgia Project,' an organization launched to register and turn out voters to the polls. 'Preliminary investigation has revealed significant illegal activities, including forged voter registration applications, forged signatures on releases, and applications with false or inaccurate information,' Kemp wrote in the memo." CW: Might be true; might be voter suppression as usual. ...

... Jamelle Bouie has an excellent post on this. Here's a key factor: Stacey Abrams, the Democratic leader of the Georgia house, "notes, Georgia law 'requires that we turn in all application forms we collect, regardless of concerns over validity.' It's the job of the secretary of state, she says, to determine the status of the applications. 'We do not get to make the decisions about whether or not a form is valid or not.' ... But there is an aggressive subpoena that, Abrams says, 'essentially demands every document we have ever produced.' She calls it a 'fishing expedition' meant to 'suppress our efforts.' A spokesperson for the New Georgia Project, the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church, was a little more explicit. 'I see this move by the secretary of state as the latest effort in voter suppression in the state of Georgia,' he said." CW: So, voter suppression as usual.

Where's Terri? Laura Berman of the Detroit News: Michigan's GOP U.S. Senate candidate "Terri Lynn Land [is] ... gambling you won't notice her near total disappearance from the campaign trail. While both Land and her opponent, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, are bombarding the airwaves with commercials, it's Land who's trying to stay out of sight.... [A] Mackinac Island policy conference last May -- included both Senate candidates, who appeared separately.... That was also Land's last media confrontation, when she was visibly overwhelmed by a crush of microphones, and lambasted by the media for failing to understand 'net neutrality.'... In November, voters will decide whether such cynicism can also be a clever way for an insecure, under-prepared candidate to win."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Comedian Bill Maher announced Friday night that he will personally target Republican Rep. John Kline (Minn.) for defeat in the November election -- the culmination of his longstanding 'Flip a District' contest in which the HBO host allowed his viewers to pick which Republican he would attempt to unseat." Blake explains why Maher "picked the wrong guy.... If Maher somehow pulled ... off [an upset], it would be a true testament to the ability of one man to 'flip a district.' But don't hold your breath."

Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "Maher will be traveling to Kline's district to do stand-up, and he explained why this congressman -- whom you probably never heard of -- is his big target: because he's 'the living embodiment of legislation for hire.' He called Kline a 'silent threat' who doesn't say 'kooky things' but votes with the people who do:

News Ledes

New York Times: "The president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has implored President Obama for help in managing her country's rapidly expanding Ebola crisis and has warned that without American assistance the disease could send Liberia into the civil chaos that enveloped the country for two decades."

Guardian: "The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, wants to destroy Ukraine as an independent country and resurrect the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk has said. Yatseniuk told a conference of European politicians his country was 'in a stage of war' with Russia, as renewed clashes broke out between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian rebels in the east and Moscow sent a second convoy of trucks into Ukraine without Kiev's consent. Continuous rocketfire could be heard overnight in the eastern city of Donetsk."

New York Times: "The doctor who performed an endoscopy on Joan Rivers before she went into cardiac arrest has stepped down as medical director of the Manhattan clinic where she was treated and he is no longer doing procedures there, the clinic announced on Friday.... The doctor who performed the endoscopy, Lawrence B. Cohen, a prominent gastroenterologist, had brought an ear, nose and throat specialist into the operating room to examine Ms. Rivers, even though that doctor was not authorized to practice medicine there, according to people briefed on the matter."

Thursday
Sep112014

The Commentariat -- Sept. 12, 2014

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "In a rare show of unity with President Obama, House Republican leaders will summon their fractious members back to the Capitol a day early next week to push through legislation to authorize the military to train Syrian rebels for the fight against Islamist militants.The decision to bring lawmakers back on Monday, costing them a campaign day seven weeks before the midterm elections, showed how quickly the politics of Mr. Obama's foreign policy shifted after he vowed in a speech to the nation on Wednesday night to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, and Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, the majority leader..., promised a quick vote to begin training rebels in the Free Syrian Army to take the ISIS fight into Syria." ...

... Geir Moulton & Sylvia Hui of the AP: "Hours after Britain's foreign minister [Philip Hammond] said the country wouldn't participate in any airstrikes on Syria, Prime Minister David Cameron's office overruled the comment Thursday and stressed that the government hadn't discarded the use of air power.... 'Let me be clear: Britain will not be taking part in any airstrikes in Syria,'" Hammond said. ...

... Anne Barnard & David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times: "Many Arab governments grumbled quietly in 2011 as the United States left Iraq, fearful it might fall deeper into chaos or Iranian influence. Now, the United States is back and getting a less than enthusiastic welcome, with leading allies like Egypt, Jordan and Turkey all finding ways on Thursday to avoid specific commitments to President Obama's expanded military campaign against Sunni extremists.... The tepid support could further complicate the already complex task Mr. Obama has laid out for himself...."

... Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post fact-checks assertions by John McCain & Jay Carney made during their CNN squabble Wednesday night. ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "President Obama, long a reluctant warrior, has committed the United States to a risky and open-ended military campaign, the ultimate consequences of which are difficult to predict. Confronted with popular outrage at the beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and political opponents keen to exploit any hint of weakness or indecision, the realist has relented.... The President, who only last year, at West Point, talked about winding down the 'war on terrorism,' has come a long way in a short time." ...

... Kerry-Anne in Addicting Information: "ISIS kills two journalists & the West goes mad; Israel kills 2,000 civilians ... YAWN." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. See Tim Egan's column, linked next, for part of the reason. ...

... ** "Video Nation." Tim Egan: "'All you need to do is see the videos of the beheadings and we're not worried about mission creep,' said Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, this week, in making an argument for military engagement. That's it in a nutshell: public policy driven by visceral reaction to videos.... 'The world has always been messy,' said Obama, a smart man, making a smart observation to a public that doesn't reward that trait. 'In part we're just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through.'" ...

... Frank Rich on the national circus (published Wednesday).

Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications -- a request the company believed was unconstitutional -- according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the National Security Agency's controversial PRISM program. [A] ruling [against Yahoo] by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review became a key moment in the development of PRISM, helping government officials to convince other Silicon Valley companies that unprecedented data demands had been ... found constitutionally sound.... Yahoo, which endured heavy criticism after The Washington Post and Britain's Guardian newspaper used [Edward] Snowden's documents to reveal the existence of PRISM last year, was legally bound from revealing its efforts in attempting to resist government pressure."

Paul Krugman: "... the persistence of the inflation cult is an example of the 'affinity fraud' crucial to many swindles, in which investors trust a con man because he seems to be part of their tribe. In this case, the con men may be conning themselves as well as their followers, but that hardly matters.... This tribal interpretation ... helps explain the sheer rage you encounter when pointing out that the promised hyperinflation is nowhere to be seen. It's comparable to the reaction you get when pointing out that Obamacare seems to be working, and probably has the same roots.... Everything is political, even among those who are supposed to rise above such things. And that reality, unlike the supposed risk of runaway inflation, is something that should scare you."

Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times: "Today, more than 14 million vehicles have been recalled by 11 automakers over rupture risks involving air bags manufactured by the supplier, Takata. That is about five times the number of vehicles recalled this year by General Motors for its deadly ignition switch defect. Two deaths and more than 30 injuries have been linked to ruptures in Honda vehicles, and complaints received by regulators about various automakers blame Takata air bags for at least 139 injuries.... The danger of exploding air bags was not disclosed for years after the first reported incident in 2004, despite red flags...."

Beyond the Beltway

Randi Kaye of CNN: "Two men ... describe an unarmed teenager with his hands up in the air as he's gunned down by a police officer. They were contractors doing construction work in Ferguson, Missouri, on the day Michael Brown was killed.... And the men ... said they were about 50 feet away from Officer Darren Wilson when he opened fire. 'He had his f**n hands up,' one of the men says in the video.... CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin says the video could play an important role in the case. 'You have practically in real time someone discussing what they saw, and that's just good evidence.' ... Sunny Hostin, a CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, says it's important to note that several witnesses are telling the same story":

     ... Update. Contributor P. D. Pepe found a more expansive CNN analysis of the video above, by Catherine Shoichet & Randi Kaye, which confirms that the constructions workers are white. "The race of the witnesses shouldn't matter, but it could for the grand jury that's investigating the case, said Mark Geragos, a CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney. There are nine whites and three African-Americans on the 12-member panel tasked with deciding whether Wilson, who is white, should be charged. 'You now have some witnesses who the majority of this grand jury are going to better relate to. I hate to say it, but that's the reality of it, and that's why it's a game changer to me,' Geragos said."

Liar, Liar, Ctd. Don Van Natta of ESPN: "Ray Rice told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on June 16 that he punched his then-fiancee in a casino elevator, four sources have told 'Outside the Lines,' an assertion that contradicts Goodell's statement this week that 'when we met with Ray Rice and his representatives, it was ambiguous about what actually happened.' Goodell made the statement Tuesday during an interview with CBS News, saying the latest video released by TMZ Sports about the incident was 'inconsistent' with what the former Baltimore Ravens running back had told him. But four sources close to Rice say that during the disciplinary meeting in the commissioner's office on June 16, Rice told Goodell he had hit Janay Rice, then his fiancee, in the face inside a Revel Casino Hotel elevator in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and had knocked her unconscious. 'Ray didn't lie to the commissioner,' a source with knowledge of the meeting [said]." ...

... Karen Crouse of the New York Times: "Across professional sports, it is hardly unusual for athletes to be involved in domestic abuse cases, but seldom have they faced meaningful punishment from their employers. Teams and leagues have generally demurred, noting that there is a presumption of innocence and that it is not their role to supersede the criminal justice system.... In the N.B.A. alone, a starting lineup could be made of former first-round draft picks who since 2012 have faced legal troubles connected to domestic abuse: guards Ty Lawson and Terrence Williams; forwards James Johnson and Jared Sullinger and center Jordan Hill. Jason Kidd, formerly the coach of the Nets and now with the Milwaukee Bucks, could coach them." ...

... I Was Wrong to Fall Down & Hit My Head after He Punched Me. Margaret Hartmann of New York: "The NFL is still scrambling to save face in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal, but somehow it managed to find a story that makes commissioner Roger Goodell sound even worse.... On Thursday, an anonymous NFL owner explained to The Wall Street Journal that Goodell was quick to drop the incident because Janay told him (during a meeting with six male NFL executives and the man who hit her, as Deadspin notes) that she felt she was partly to blame.... So don't blame Goodell for the NFL's awful response, blame ... ugh." ...

... Hartman goes on to review how CBS Sports tried to respond to the domestic violence issue. Here's James Brown in part of the pregame show last night, aired before CBS's inaugural NFL game featuring, as their bad luck would have it, the Ravens & the Steelers:

     ... Hartmann: Immediately after Brown's commentary "the camera cut to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was suspended for six games in 2010 for allegedly sexually assaulting a female college student. Goodell later reduced his suspension to four games." ...

... How to Cover Up the Cover-up. Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News: "Roger Goodell declined to appear on CBS' 'Thursday Night Football' pregame show.... CBS left a gaping hole when it came to discussing the independent investigation the NFL is conducting under the direction of former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III. Not once was it mentioned that Ravens team president Dick Cass worked at WilmerHale, the D.C. -- based law firm where Mueller is a partner. And there was no attempt to define the relationship between the two suits overseeing the investigation -- John Mara and Art Rooney -- and Goodell, which has been characterized as extremely close." ...

... George Jones of WJHL, Johnson City, Tennessee: "One of the most high-profile victims of domestic violence will no longer be the musical voice for a Thursday Night Football game featuring an NFL team beset by the Ray Rice scandal. Rihanna, the singer Chris Brown pleaded guilty to assaulting in 2009, is featured on Jay-Z's hit song Run This Town. Her vocals on the song were scheduled to open all Thursday night games, but an official from CBS Sports told Sports Illustrated the network was pulling the song from its Sept. 11 broadcast."

In his regular feature, "Today in Responsible Gun Ownership," Charles Pierce highlights an incident in which a grade-school teacher accidentally shot herself in the leg while in a school bathroom. In the AP story, which Pierce cites, Michelle Price writes, "Utah is among the few states that allow people with concealed-weapons permits to carry guns in public schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Teachers are not required to disclose that they are carrying a weapon, and administrators are prohibited from asking." ...

... CW: Sorry, Charlie. This is the wave of the future in red-state America. Summer Ballentine of the AP: "Missouri lawmakers expanded the potential for teachers to bring guns to schools and for residents to openly carry firearms, in a vote Thursday that capped a two-year effort by the Republican-led Legislature to expand gun rights over the objection of the Democratic governor.... The new regulations, which this time garnered the two-thirds majority needed to override [Gov. Jay] Nixon's veto, take effect in about a month. Missouri school boards already have the power to allow employees with concealed gun permits to carry weapons on their campuses." Do I think that some day in the not-to-distant future a teacher will accidentally shoot a student in the leg or chest or head? Yes, I do.

Trouble in Right Wing World

Jonathan Stempel of Reuters: "The U.S. government wants conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza to be sentenced to as much as 16 months in prison, following his guilty plea to a campaign finance law violation. In a Wednesday court filing, federal prosecutors rejected defense arguments that D'Souza was 'ashamed and contrite' about his crime, had 'unequivocally accepted responsibility,' and deserved a sentence of probation with community service.... The government ... also said D'Souza waited to 'the last possible moment' prior to trial before admitting guilt, and then went on TV shows and the Internet to complain about being 'selectively' targeted for prosecution, and having little choice but to plead guilty."

Saturday Night in "Sarah Palin's Alaska." Amanda Coyne: Last Saturday night, "There's some sort of unofficial birthday/Iron Dog-type/snowmachine party in Anchorage. A nice, mellow party, until the Palins show up. There's beer, of course, and maybe other things.... Just about the time when some people might have had one too many, a Track Palin stumbles out of a stretch Hummer, and immediately spots an ex-boyfriend of Willow's.... There's words, and more. The owner of the house gets involved.... At this point, he's up against nearly the whole Palin tribe: Palin women screaming. Palin men thumping their chests. Word is that Bristol has a particularly strong right hook, which she employed repeatedly..., Sarah screams, 'Don't you know who I am!' ... Someone in the crowd screamed back, 'This isn't some damned Hillbilly reality show!' ... As people were leaving in a cab, Track was seen on the street, shirtless, flipping people off, with Sarah right behind him, and Todd somewhere in the foreground, tending to his bloody nose." ...

... CW: I hate doing anything to raise Sarah Palin's profile, but this is just too hilarious. And apparently true. Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post verifies this much of it: there was a fight, the Palins were there, & the Anchorage police showed up. Besides, Amanda Coyne is a credible reporter.

Tara Palmeri of the New York Post: "Arnold Schwarzenegger was so hot to erase any memory of his marriage to Maria Shriver that he had her face scrubbed from his official portrait as governor of California -- and he didn't even care that the hastily done job was a sloppy mess, The Post has learned.... Shriver's face originally had appeared on a small lapel pin that Schwarzenegger wore as he sat for the painting in 2003.... Many in Shriver's and Schwarzenegger's orbit had been holding their breath ... after The Post broke the news last week that she'd had an affair with her husband's campaign strategist Matthew Dowd."

Senate Race

Dylan Scott of TPM: "The Kansas Supreme Court has decided to hear the lawsuit Democratic Senate nominee Chad Taylor has brought against Secretary of State Kris Kobach, after Kobach argued [in a court filing] that the case should be transferred to a lower court. Taylor is suing Kobach over his ruling that Taylor must remain on the Senate ballot in November, despite Taylor's announcement that he would withdraw from the race." ...

... Election law expert Rick Hasen comments.

Gubernatorial Races

Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "Democrats running in five highly competitive governors races ... -- Florida, Maine, Kansas, Wisconsin and Georgia -- ... this year have vowed to expand Medicaid coverage through ObamaCare if they are elected, something that could result in 1.7 million new people getting covered.... Most congressional Democrats are retreating from ObamaCare on the campaign trail. The law remains a tough political litmus test at a time when the president's approval rating has sunk to record lows. But Democrats in some of the closest gubernatorial contests are running on a platform to expand a key piece of the law."

News Ledes

AP: "Toronto Mayor Rob Ford withdrew his re-election bid Friday as he seeks treatment for a tumor in his abdomen, ending a campaign he had pursued despite persistent calls for him to quit amid drug and alcohol scandals."

New York Times: "The Rev. Ian Paisley, Northern Ireland's firebrand Protestant leader who vowed never to compromise with Irish Catholic nationalists, then, in his twilight, accepted a power-sharing agreement that envisioned a new era of peace in Ulster after decades of sectarian violence, died Friday in Northern Ireland. He was 88."

Guardian: "The Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of culpable homicide for the fatal shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The guilty verdict on the manslaughter charge, a day after the judge Thokozile Masipa cleared him of murder, means Pistorius could receive anything from 15 years in prison to a suspended sentence, which would potentially allow the double amputee a chance to resurrect his sporting career. The court will resume for sentencing on 13 October."