The Ledes

Tuesday, September 2, 2014.

New York Times: "With NATO leaders expected to endorse a rapid-reaction force of 4,000 troops for Eastern Europe this week, a senior Russian military official said on Tuesday that Moscow would revise its military doctrine to account for 'changing military dangers and military threats.'”

Guardian: "Syrian rebels have issued three demands for the release of 45 Fijian peacekeepers they've held captive for five days, Fiji's military commander has said. Brig Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga said the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front wants to be taken off the United Nations terrorist list, humanitarian aid delivered to the capital Damascus, and compensation for three of its fighters it says were killed in a shootout with UN officers."

AP: "U.S. military forces attacked the extremist al-Shabab network in Somalia Monday, the Pentagon said, and a witness described ground-shaking explosions in a strike that reportedly targeted the group's leader. Al-Shabab had attacked the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 67 people a year ago this month and the U.S. had targeted planners of the bloody assault."

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, September 1, 2014.

Guardian: "The UK and US governments have criticised, in unusually strong language, Israel's decision to approve one of the largest appropriations of Palestinian land for settlement in recent decades. The UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said he deplored the move as 'particularly ill-judged'."

Al Jazeera: "Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shia armed volunteers have retaken more northern towns from the Islamic State group, killing at least two of its senior fighters, sources have told Al Jazeera. A day after breaking the siege in the town of Amerli north of Baghdad, government forces retook the town of Sulaiman Bek on Monday, removing another key stronghold of the Islamic State group." ...

... Guardian: "Barack Obama on Monday formally notified Congress that he had authorised targeted air strikes in Iraq to help deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged Shia town of Amerli, the White House said in a statement."

Washington Post: Pakistan's "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was clinging to power Monday as protesters stepped up their assault on government buildings while the capital was gripped with fear and confusion about whether the country’s powerful military will step in to defuse the tension. As the demonstrations calling for the prime minister’s resignation enter their third week, Sharif is trying to navigate Pakistan’s worst political crisis in more than a decade."

Guardian: "The American government on Monday asked North Korea to release three Americans currently held in the communist country, after foreign media outlets were allowed to interview detainees. 'Out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle, Matthew Miller, and their families, we request the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] release them so they may return home,” said Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the State Department, in a statement. 'We also request the DPRK pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care.'”

Public Service Announcement

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."

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

White House Live Video
September 2

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

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

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

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."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New York Times: "The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards was a win for broadcast and cable television, which earned numerous awards as the digital gate-crasher Netflix was nearly shut out. AMC’s 'Breaking Bad' scored big on Monday night, winning a total of five awards, including its second consecutive prize for outstanding drama series. The crime drama, about a high school teacher who receives a diagnosis of lung cancer and starts selling crystal meth with a former student, concluded its final season." Here's the L.A. Times' coverage.

... Via Slate.

Looking for a bucolic retreat where the townspeople will protect you from curious outsiders? Got about $700K to burn? Then you might be interested in purchasing the former home of fiction writer J. D. Salinger. the property is located in Cornish, New Hamphire:

... Many more pix & a virtual tour here.

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

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

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

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Wednesday
Aug062014

The Commentariat -- August 7, 2014

Justin Sink of the Hill: "President Obama defended his use of executive action on Wednesday, signaling he's willing to take steps on immigration and tax policy if Congress fails to act. Obama vowed to 'scour our authorities' seeking opportunities to act 'wherever I have the legal authorities to make progress'":

... Here's the full presser. The Q&A begins at 7:10 min. in:

Jake Tapper of CNN: "The killing of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene in Afghanistan-- the highest ranking officer to have been killed in that war, and the first time a general has been killed on the battlefield since Vietnam -- has met with many statements mourning his loss, with one notable exception: the commander in chief. Why? A national security source tells CNN that the administration does not like to signal that the particular rank of a casualty merits a different response – every loss of life is equally tragic; every sacrifice is equally heartbreaking."

** Linda Greenhouse: "Listening to politicians talk about abortion, watching state legislatures put up ever more daunting obstacles, reading the opinions of judges who give the states a free pass, it's abundantly clear to me that some constitutional rights are more equal than others.... And then, forcefully to the contrary, came this week's opinion by a federal district judge in Alabama, Myron H. Thompson, who declared unconstitutional the state's Women's Health and Safety Act.... Judge Thomas [made] a profound point: that a right -- any right -- without the infrastructure and the social conditions that enable its exercise is no right at all."

Justin Leavitt in the Washington Post: When it approved Wisconsin's voter ID law, "the Wisconsin Supreme Court blew it." The justices claimed the law enhanced public confidence & prevented voter fraud. Neither is true. "... I've found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country.... I’d bet that some of the 31 will end up debunked.... In general and primary elections alone, more than 1 billion ballots were cast in that period.... In just four states that have held just a few elections under the harshest ID laws, more than 3,000 votes (in general elections alone) have reportedly been affirmatively rejected for lack of ID. (That doesn’t include voters without ID who didn't show up, or recordkeeping mistakes by officials.)." ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times: "Most Republican politicians know these criminals don't actually exist, but they have found it useful to take advantage of the party base's pervasive fear of outsiders, just as when they shot down immigration reform. In this case, they persuaded the base of the need for voter ID laws to ensure 'ballot integrity,' knowing the real effect would be to reduce Democratic turnout."

Dana Milbank: "... for the country, the disassociation of whiteness and American-ness is to be celebrated.... The tea party movement was a setback because it elevated extreme individualism over collective responsibilities and because it tapped into nativism and further undermined trust in American institutions. Some tea partyers .... But for other conservatives and Republicans -- and, more importantly, for America -- it's not too late." ...

... Charles Blow makes an air-tight case: "Democrats didn't drive a wedge between Republicans and blacks; Republicans drove blacks away." ...

... Driftglass posts this 1946 Encyclopaedia Britannica educational film that has relevance today:

Dr. Marc Stern writes in a Guardian op-ed that in 2005 he resigned his job with the Washington State Department of Corrections rather than procure the "lethal cocktail" of drugs for an execution. "Americans like things to be neat, clean and error-free ... basically, nice.... So death by hanging, firing squad, electrocution and the gas chamber have fallen out of favor because they can be gruesome and don't always go so smoothly.... [But] there is no method of execution that meets our 'needs' as a society -- a method that is 'nice', 'reliable' and that does not require medical professionals to act unethically."

AP: "Bank of America has tentatively agreed to pay between $16bn and $17bn to settle an investigation into its sale of mortgage-backed securities before the financial crisis, a source directly familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. The deal with the bank, which must still be finalised, would be the largest Justice Department settlement by far arising from the economic meltdown. It follows earlier multibillion-dollar agreements reached in the last year with Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase."

Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "Gov. Rick Perry's recent announcement that he was deploying 1,000 National Guard troops to the border has generated widespread attention. But it was only the latest step in a broader, decade-long strategy by Mr. Perry and other Republican leaders to patch together Texas' own version of the Border Patrol on its 1,200-mile border with Mexico. Mr. Perry and state officials defend the show of force as a costly but necessary effort to stop the smuggling of people and drugs into Texas and to prevent what they call 'criminal aliens' from filling up Texas jails.... But their operations have scores of detractors, including some officials in border communities, who say Mr. Perry and his supporters have no business using taxpayer dollars to put state officers and National Guard soldiers on the front lines of a border the federal government is responsible for safeguarding." Among the officers Perry employs at the border: game wardens & Texas Rangers. "Mr. Perry told a congressional committee that Texas should be reimbursed by the federal government for the half a billion dollars it has spent securing the border dating from the presidency of Mr. Perry&'s predecessor, George W. Bush."

Loveday Morris of the Washington Post: "Stranded on a barren mountaintop, thousands of minority Iraqis are faced with a bleak choice: descend and risk slaughter at the hands of the encircled Sunni extremists or sit tight and risk dying of thirst." See also Wednesday's Ledes. ...

... Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post: "The Yazidis are just the latest minority group the Islamic State has targeted in its brutal campaign of religious persecution and killings. While many recent Iraqi conflicts have been framed as clashes between Sunnis and Shiites, this one is different. The Islamic State has declared war against anyone different, anyone unwilling to convert to the its ascetic brand of Islam. It's worse, Iraqi religious leaders say, than Genghis Khan.... Most analysts agree there's not a religious or ethnic minority in northern Iraq -- Shabaks, Turkmens, Yazidis, Christians -- that isn't in danger." ...

... George Packer of the New Yorker has more on the crisis of the Yazidi, the ancient religious minority whom ISIS has driven into the mountains. ...

... Charles Pierce: "Maybe kicking over the hornet's nest for the purposes of draining the swamp on the advice of people who didn't know fk-all what they were doing, or enabling said exercise, has turned out to be not such a good idea after all. There were people who got it right. There were people to whom other people should have listened. The hornets are going to fly free for a very long time." CW: To remind yourself of what a fuck-up (or fk-up) Bush was, take a gander at the second link (by Pierce), which is to a 2004 story by Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian.

Alec Luhn & Mark Tran of the Guardian: "Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower, has been given permission to stay in Russia for three more years and will be allowed to travel abroad for three-month stints. His Russian lawyer told reporters that Snowden, whose temporary asylum ran out on 1 August, has received a three-year residence permit.... But the former NSA contractor has not been granted political asylum, which would have allowed him to stay in Russia permanently. However, [his lawyer] said Snowden would be able to extend his residency permit for a further three years when it runs out and after five years would be eligible to apply for Russian citizenship, but he did not know if Snowden intended to do so."

David Stout of Time: "A new poll released this week by the Levada Center reports that the Russian President [Vladimir Putin] currently enjoys an approval rating of 87% -- a 4-point jump since a similar survey was completed in May, according to the Moscow Times. Meanwhile in the U.S., where the economy is bouncing back and the White House has largely retreated from militaristic interventions abroad, President Barack Obama's approval rating sagged to 40% this week -- its lowest point to date."

Congressional Races

Sam Hall of the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger: "The Mississippi Republican Party has said they will not hear the challenge from Chris McDaniel because state law would not allow them sufficient time to consider the evidence. In a letter to McDaniel attorney Mitch Tyner, Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef said the candidate should move their challenge to the courts.... Nosef said he consulted with other members of the party's executive committee to see if they had any other ideas, which he said they didn't. Nosef wouldn't say to how many members he spoke. State GOP executive committee member John Parker of Laurel, a McDaniel supporter, was unaware of the decision when contacted Wednesday evening. He said the 52-member committee was apparently not consulted about the decision." CW: I hate to stick up for a buffoon like McDaniel, but I'd say the Mississippi GOP is pretty high on the despotism scale (see educational film above). It seems to me the party has a responsibility to at least hear McDaniel's case. You know, so there's "public confidence" in the electoral process (see Justin Leavitt's post linked above). ...

... Mississippi Looney Toons. Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "The endlessly complicated aftermath of Mississippi's Republican Senate primary added a new layer of complexity late Tuesday, with reports that the man who had accused the campaign of Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) of buying votes is now accusing a spokesman for Chris McDaniel, Cochran's opponent, of paying him to lie about the whole thing."

Gail Collins points out that New York & California Congressional races can be silly. But I don't think she can beat the Mississippi after-primary party.

Erik Schelzig of the AP: "Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, a 40-year veteran of Tennessee politics, is facing a challenge Thursday from two tea party-styled candidates who have tried to cast him as out of touch with the state's increasingly conservative electorate." ...

... Jay Newton-Small of Time: "Also on the Tennessee ballot is embattled Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Republican sophomore from the Chattanooga suburbs. DesJarlais, a Tea Partier and pro-life doctor, came under fire recently after it was revealed in decade-old divorce papers that he had eight affairs, once threatened his wife with a gun during an argument and encouraged a pregnant mistress, who also happened to be a patient, to get an abortion. On top of that, DesJarlais was fined $500 by the Tennessee medical board for inappropriate relations with a patient last year,* but he has since doubled down, calling the scandal 'old news.' ... Finally, white Jewish Democrat Steve Cohen is hoping for a fourth term representing a majority black district in Memphis. Cohen has drawn African American challengers every cycle, and this cycle is no different. Thursday, he faces wealthy attorney Ricky Wilkins." ...

* Make that two patients.

Presidential Race

Driftglass has some photos of "Rand Paul running away from things." Scroll down or click on the links in the linked post for more pix. Warning: There's a slight possibility that a few of these are Photoshopped. ...

Update. Akhilleus: "The Gospel According to Aqua Buddha Boy":

... ALSO, via Brian Beutler:

... CW: I see there's a #RanPaul hashtag.

Rand Paul. The first deserter in the War on Whites. -- @LOLGOP

Beyond the Beltway

Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "Businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. was Maureen McDonnell's 'favorite playmate' and went on 'play dates' with her, a longtime aide to the former first lady of Virginia told government investigators, according to testimony and records from the interviews. Mary-Shea Sutherland also testified that McDonnell complained of financial difficulties. Sutherland said she had personally lent the first lady money to buy shoes for her husband's inauguration because one of the McDonnells' accounts 'was maxed out.' She went on to lend her boss $6,000, she said, after the first lady said she needed the money to 'cover a stock purchase' she had made." The Post's liveblog of Wednesday's testimony is here. ...

     ... UPDATE. The Post's liveblog for today is here.

Jill Palermo of InsideNoVa: "Bob FitzSimmonds, Prince William County Circuit Court deputy clerk, will resign from his position as treasurer for the Republican Party of Virginia. FitzSimmonds, 62, has been under fire during the last two weeks for a set of controversial comments he made in response to President Barack Obama's Facebook post July 29 wishing American Muslims a happy Eid al-Fitr, the last day of the Muslim holy month Ramadan, and thanking them for their 'contributions to the very fabric of our nation.' FitzSimmonds questioned what contributions Muslims have made to the country, prompting several officials in his own party to accuse him of ethnic bigotry and call for his resignation. In one comment, FitzSimmonds wrote on his Facebook page: 'Exactly what part of our nation's fabric was woven by Muslims? ... What about Sikhs, Animists and Jainists? Should we be thanking them too?'"

News Ledes

** Washington Post: "Aircraft under the U.S. Central Command, escorted by fighter jets, dropped 'critical meals and water for thousands of Iraqis' who have been stranded on a mountaintop, surrounded by Islamist forces, for five days after fleeing the western town of Sinjar toward the relatively peaceful Kurdish region, a senior Defense official said." ...

... ** AP: "President Barack Obama has approved airdrops of humanitarian supplies to thousands of religious minorities in Iraq who are under siege from Islamic militants, but he was still weighing whether to combine that assistance with U.S. airstrikes, officials said Thursday night. Airstrikes were under consideration in part out of concern that U.S. military trainers stationed in Iraq's north were threatened by the Islamic State group, the officials said. The Islamic State fighters have made gains toward the Kurdish capital city of Irbil." ...

... ** New York Times: "Airstrikes on towns in northern Iraq seized by Islamist militants began late Thursday in what Kurdish and Iraqi officials called the first stage of an American-led intervention to blunt the militants' advance and provide emergency aid to tens of thousands of refugees. Kurdish and Iraqi officials attributed the bombing campaign to American forces. But the Pentagon firmly denied that American forces had begun a bombing campaign. Pentagon officials said it was possible that allies of the United States, either the Iraqi or Turkish militaries, had conducted the bombing." ...

... ** ABC News: "The United States is sending cargo planes to drop pallets of humanitarian aid and supplies to stranded Iraqi citizens threatened by the militant Islamic group ISIS, U.S. officials said today. The airdrop mission has begun, officials told ABC News. The emergency effort is being deployed to help a group of 40,000 Yazidis, a group of ethnic Kurds, who fled villages in northern Iraq under threat from ISIS." ...

... New York Times: "President Obama is considering airstrikes or airdrops of food and medicine to address a humanitarian crisis among as many as 40,000 members of religious minorities in Iraq, who have been dying of heat and thirst on a mountaintop where they took shelter after death threats from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, administration officials said on Thursday." ...

... New York Times: "Sunni militants captured the Mosul dam, the largest in Iraq, on Thursday as their advances in the country's north created an onslaught of refugees and set off fearful rumors in Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital."

Guardian: "Argentina has asked the international court of justice (ICJ) in The Hague to take action against the United States over an alleged breach of its sovereignty as it defaulted on its debt. Argentina defaulted last week after losing a long legal battle with hedge funds that rejected the terms of debt restructurings in 2005 and 2010. A statement issued by the ICJ, the United Nation's highest court for disputes between nations, said Argentina's request had been sent to the US government. It added that no action will be taken in the proceedings "unless and until" Washington accepts the court's jurisdiction."

New York Times: "A court on Thursday found the two most senior surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, which brutalized Cambodia during the 1970s, guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced them to life in prison."

BBC News: "Thousands of Christians are reported to be fleeing after Islamic militants seized the minority's biggest town in Iraq. The Islamic State (IS) group captured Qaraqosh in Nineveh province overnight after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces."

New York Times: "Russia announced on Thursday that it was banning the import of a wide range of food and agricultural products from Europe and the United States, among others, responding to Western-imposed sanctions and raising the level of confrontation between the West and Moscow over the future of Ukraine."

Tuesday
Aug052014

The Commentariat -- August 6, 2014

Manu Raju & James Hohmann of Politico: "Montana Sen. John Walsh is engaged in internal deliberations with his political team about whether to stay on the ballot this year, sources said Tuesday, in the wake of a plagiarism scandal that has tarnished the appointed Democratic lawmaker's standing. Senate Democratic leaders in Washington and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are not playing an active role in the discussions, allowing the situation to be sorted out between Walsh and his Montana Democratic colleagues, according to people familiar with the matter."

Maureen Dowd: Impeach Obama! It's a win-win-win for Democrats, for President Obama & for President-by-Succession Biden. Plus, "It gives the [Republican] party, which is ripping itself apart trying to figure out what it stands for, a clear identity: You can count on Republicans to always impeach Democratic presidents in their second terms. G.O.P. will become short for Gratuitously Ousting Presidents."

Julia Preston of the New York Times: "After declaring the surge of Central American migrants crossing the border a humanitarian crisis, the Obama administration has shifted sharply to a strategy of deterrence, moving families to isolated facilities and placing them on a fast track for deportation to send a blunt message back home that those caught entering illegally will not be permitted to stay."

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The Obama administration is weighing plans to circumvent Congress and act on its own to curtail tax benefits for United States companies that relocate overseas to lower their tax bills, seeking to stanch a recent wave of so-called corporate inversions, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said on Tuesday." ...

... Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "Washington policymakers are bracing for a wave of corporations to renounce their U.S. citizenship over the next few months, depriving the federal government of billions of dollars in tax revenue and stoking public outrage ahead of the Nov. 4 congressional elections. So far this year, about a dozen U.S. companies -- including such well-known brands as Medtronic medical devices and Chiquita bananas -- have merged with foreign firms and shifted their headquarters offshore to avoid U.S. taxes, analysts say. Dozens of additional deals are in the works...."

Julie Pace of the AP: "Seeking to strengthen America's financial foothold in Africa, President Barack Obama announced $33 billion in commitments Tuesday aimed at shifting U.S. ties with Africa beyond humanitarian aid and toward more equal economic partnerships. The bulk of the commitments came from private-sector companies, including Coca-Cola and General Electric, underscoring Africa's growing appeal to businesses. The continent is home to six of the world's fastest-growing economies and a rapidly expanding middle class with increased spending power":

... Chris McGreal of the Guardian: "President Obama took a swipe at China in a speech to a summit of African leaders in Washington on Tuesday, claiming that the US is interested in the continent for more than just its minerals and oil." ...

... Chris Jansing, MSNBC's very own birther. (With prompting, she cleans up her act):

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "The planned release of a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the CIA's interrogation of terrorism suspects has broken down in a dispute between the committee and the Obama administration over how much of the document can be declassified. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the committee, said Tuesday that she had written a letter to President Obama raising objections to material that was stripped from the report by the CIA and the White House."

Neil Irwin of the New York Times: "Economists at Standard & Poor's Ratings Services are the authors of the straightforwardly titled 'How Increasing Inequality is Dampening U.S. Economic Growth, and Possible Ways to Change the Tide.' The fact that S.&P., an apolitical organization that aims to produce reliable research for bond investors and others, is raising alarms about the risks that emerge from income inequality is a small but important sign of how a debate that has been largely confined to the academic world and left-of-center political circles is becoming more mainstream." ...

... Peter Eavis of the New York Times: "Congres's overhaul of the financial system aims to reshape large banks so that if they get into trouble they can descend into an orderly bankruptcy that does not set off a wider panic. But on Tuesday, two regulators, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, sharply criticized the plans that the banks have prepared for winding themselves down in a controlled fashion. The F.D.I.C. said that it had determined that the so-called living wills were 'not credible.'"

Greg Sargent: "Gallup finds that three of the largest drops in the rate of the uninsured just happened to take place in states with the most hard-fought Senate races": Kentucky, Arkansas & Colorado. ...

... Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP: "President Barack Obama's health care law has become a tale of two Americas. States that fully embraced the law's coverage expansion are experiencing a significant drop in the number of uninsured residents, according to a major new survey released Tuesday. States whose leaders still object to 'Obamacare' are seeing much less change."

** Edward Snowden, 2.0! Evan Perez of CNN: "The federal government has concluded there's a new leaker exposing national security documents in the aftermath of surveillance disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, U.S. officials tell CNN. Proof of the newest leak comes from national security documents that formed the basis of a news story published Tuesday by the Intercept, the news site launched by Glenn Greenwald, who also published Snowden's leaks.... The article cites documents prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center dated August 2013, which is after Snowden left the United States to avoid criminal charges. Greenwald has suggested there was another leaker. In July, he said on Twitter 'it seems clear at this point' that there was another." ...

... BUT. The AP scooped the Intercept. Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post: "The government, it turned out, had 'spoiled the scoop,' an informally forbidden practice in the world of journalism. To spoil a scoop, the subject of a story, when asked for comment, tips off a different, typically friendlier outlet in the hopes of diminishing the attention the first outlet would have received. Tuesday's AP story was much friendlier to the government's position, explaining the surge of individuals added to the watch list as an ongoing response to a foiled terror plot.... The government's decision to spoil a story on the topic of national security is especially unusual, given that it has a significant interest in earning the trust of national security reporters.... [intercept editor John] Cook told the [government] official [at the National Counterterrorism Center] that in the future the agency would have only 30 minutes to respond to questions before publication." ...

... Peter Foster of the Telegraph: "Speculation that there was a second source grew last month after the German magazine Der Spiegel published two articles containing apparent NSA leaks that were not, as in the past, explicitly sourced to Mr Snowden...." ...

... The piece by Jeremy Scahill & Ryan Devereaux, published in the Intercept, relies on classified intelligence documents date subsequent to Snowden's leaving the NSA: "Nearly half of the people on the U.S. government's widely shared database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group, according to classified government documents obtained by The Intercept." ...

... In addition, this article by Greenwald is based on an April 2013 top secret document, which Greenwald does not source to Snowden (who left the agency in June 2013). I read the piece yesterday & thought Greenwald didn't add anything to Juan Cole's post on the U.S.'s aid to Israel's war efforts, which I did link. Guess I was a teensy bit wrong. ...

... Finally, here's the AP story, which government officials fed to Eileen Sullivan.

Kim Barker of ProPublica: "Move America Forward[, a Tea party-backed 'charity,'] calls itself the nation's 'largest grassroots pro-troop organization,' and has recruited a bevy of Republican luminaries, including former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, to support its efforts. Yet an examination of its fundraising appeals, tax records and other documents shows that Move America Forward has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms.... The charity's funds and other assets also appear to have been used to subsidize three conservative political action committees, records show." Plus, their fundraising claims are fake or stolen from actual charitable groups. Also, they're a tax audit waiting to happen. CW: Luckily for scammers like this, Republicans keep cutting IRS funds so the IRS has limited resources to conduct audits. ...

     ... CW: Hard to believe that astroturfers would do anything so dishonorable, isn't it? ...

... Alexander Burns of Politico: The Republican State Leadership Committee "was implicated in a risky campaign finance scheme that an internal report warned could trigger 'possible criminal penalties' and 'ultimately threaten the organization's continued existence,' according to a confidential document Politico obtained...." Led by Ed Gillespie, former Republican party chairman, lobbyist, co-founder (with Karl Rove) of the super-duper PAC American Crossroads & now candidate for the Senate in Virginia, the RSLC leaders engaged in activities its own lawyers said were "improper" -- "essentially laundering 'toxic' money from the gaming industry by routing it out of [the] state [of Alabama] and then back into Alabama." The leaders all deny the charges & say the legal report was the product of "internal" conflict. Gillespie was apparently not party to the pass-through scheme which involved, amonth others, "one of the Christian groups through which Jack Abramoff funneled Choctaw Indian-money."

Tom Edsall of the New York Times more-or-less asks the philosophical question, what is corruption? ...

... This sort of question comes to mind when you read Ross Douthat, who imagined that "a creative White House lawyer -- a John Yoo of the left" -- could come up with "legal justifications" for the President's committing "an extraordinary abuse of office: the granting of temporary legal status, by executive fiat, to up to half the country's population of illegal immigrants." While I'll admit the relative value of the goals is in the eye of the beholder, it's hard not to notice that Douthat is comparing a justification for torture to a justification for clarifying the status of millions of people living in Limbo America. (It is fair, I think to compare Yoo to David Barron, who wrote the so-called justifications for using drones to kill Americans abroad. [President Obama rewarded Barron with an appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals.]) In defining "corruption" or "abuse of power," one really has to look at the merits of the action &, specifically, how the actor benefits.

Congressional Races

Dave Helling & Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star: "Kansas Republicans Tuesday appeared poised to nominate Pat Roberts for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate -- a victory claimed after the toughest race of his decades-long political career. Incomplete returns showed that the Kansas GOP picked Roberts, 78, over insurgent tea party challenger Milton Wolf, a 43-year-old Leawood radiologist."

Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) lost his primary to businessman Dave Trott on Tuesday, becoming just the third sitting member of Congress to lose in a primary this year. Bentivolio, who has frequently clashed with GOP leaders, entered the day as an underdog."

Jay Newton-Small of Time writes a brief rundown of these & other results from yesterday's primary races.

Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill: Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) faces his toughest race yet. "The focus from McConnell’s campaign on the GOP leader's influence is also an attempt to mitigate some of the damage it privately admits has been done by [Alison] Grimes [D] hammering McConnell on job creation. It acknowledges his comments, as quoted by a local paper, that economic development in the state is 'not my job' have been a thorn in the senator's side."

Presidential Race

Today in Rand Paul. Two Headlines to Remember:

... Brian Beutler: "Watch Rand Paul Run for His Life Before Steve King Insults an Immigrant in Iowa." Video & commentary. ...

... Jeremy Stahl of Slate: "Rand Paul Takes Bite of Burger, Hears Questioner Is a DREAMer, Flees While Still Chewing.... He actually leaves the table after having taken a bite of what appears to be a hamburger, seems to almost do a spit-take, getting up from his seat midchew, and leaving behind the half-eaten sandwich." Video & commentary." ...

... NEW. Here's Li'l Randy's excuse for cutting & running. As Akhilleus lays out in the Comments, & as a couple of stories linked below demonstrate, one should not credit much Rand Paul says, especially when he's trying to get out of a jam.

... "You're Very Good at English." Dave Weigel comments on Steve King's response to the DREAMers. CW: I thought King was very gallant. He asked the young woman if she was a drug smuggler rather than checking out her calves to see if they looked like cantaloupes. ...

... OR, as digby puts King's remarks, "And now a word from the GOP's leading strategist on immigration policy."

CW: Yesterday I linked a story by Chris Moody of Yahoo! News which pointed out that Rand Paul not only has changed his position on U.S. aid to Israel, he lied & said he never "really proposed that in the past," (which he did in 2011). Kevin Drum: "This is starting to become one of Paul's distinguishing features. He's also done the same thing regarding the Civil Rights Act. Instead of simply saying that his thinking has evolved in some way or another, he aggressively denies he ever held his previous position and then pretends to be outraged that some liberal shill of a reporter is deliberately misrepresenting his position. How dare he?!?" ...

... CW: I think we can conclude that Rand Paul is very good at running away from unpleasantness. ...

NEW. Sarah Smith of Politico: "Democrats seized on Rand Paul's comments over foreign aid to Israel on Tuesday, adding to a growing chorus of criticism from those on the left who say the Kentucky senator wants to 'rewrite history.'" ...

... Sarah Smith: "It's not just the left: Some on the far right are hitting Rand Paul over inconsistencies between his past and present policies. 'I think it's a little like a compass,' conservative columnist Ann Coulter said Tuesday night on CNN. 'It used to be whatever would please 15-year-old Ayn Rand readers was his position. Now, it's whatever will please basically the mainstream media.'" ...

... NEW. AND the annoying Mike Allen of Politico reports that Rand Paul is going to give "a major foreign policy speech" next month. Video report. Probably won't be a repeat of those 2011 anti-foreign aid speeches. Paul has removed the copies of those remarks from his "Everybody Loves Randy" scrapbook & run them through the shredder. He thought reporters did, too. ...

... Simon Maloy of Slate: No matter how many times Rand Paul accuses Hillary Clinton of dereliction of duty over Benghazi, the media report it as big news.

Beyond the Beltway

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "Just six minutes after former Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell emailed a wealthy businessman about getting a $50,000 loan, he sent a note to a staffer asking to discuss state university studies of the man's new dietary supplement." AND there are more "coincidences." It doesn't look good for Transactional Bob. ...

     ... CW: And another thing. A lot of these big shots get in trouble because they're surrounded by yes wo/men who tell them they can do no wrong. But McDonnell's aides are testifying they told him not to do some of this stuff to help Williams, & Bob pretty much did it anyway or found some workaround.

Tom Dart of the Guardian: "The first US execution since the drawn-out death of Joseph Wood is scheduled for Wednesday in Missouri, where Michael Worthington is set to die for the 1995 murder of a college student."

Lillian Cunningham of the Washington Post: "Raymond Burse..., the interim president at Kentucky State University..., announced that he would take a 25 percent salary cut to boost [the] wages [of school employees earning less than $10.25/hour].... He has pledged to take further salary cuts any time new minimum-wage employees are hired on his watch, to bring their hourly rate to $10.25." ...

... CW: Virtually every CEO of a major American corporation could & should do the same.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post: A mysterious crater that "suddenly appeared, yawning nearly 200 feet in diameter in Siberia's Yamal Peninsula may have been caused by methane gas "related to Yamal's unusually hot summers in 2012 and 2013.... As the Associated Press put it in 2010, the melting of Siberia's permafrost is 'a climate time bomb waiting to explode if released into the atmosphere." CW: But never mind. Climate change is a myth or an Obama plot to undermine God's plans for Alabama coal or something.

News Ledes

Reuters: "Russia has amassed around 20,000 combat-ready troops on Ukraine's eastern border and could use the pretext of a humanitarian or peace-keeping mission to invade, NATO said on Wednesday."

Washington Post: "Politicians appealed Wednesday for emergency aid for thousands of minority Iraqis who have been stranded with little food on a mountaintop in the country's north, surrounded by al-Qaeda-inspired rebels."

Time: "Federal health officials are facing a surge in reports of possible Ebola cases from hospitals and health departments, none of which have been confirmed but which highlight a moment of growing domestic concern about an outbreak that has claimed over 800 lives in Africa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told TIME on Tuesday that it's received several dozen calls from states and hospitals about people who are ill after traveling in Africa. 'We've triaged those calls and about half-dozen or so resulted in specimen coming to CDC for testing and all have been negative for Ebola,' CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said...."

Guardian: "Formal negotiations to secure a lasting ceasefire in the Gaza Strip are expected to begin in Cairo on Wednesday, as a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas enters a second day."

AP: "A U.S. drone fired two missiles at a sprawling compound in a northwestern tribal region of Pakistan on Wednesday, killing seven militants, two Pakistani intelligence officials said."

Monday
Aug042014

The Commentariat -- August 5, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate Races

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

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

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

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

Presidential Race

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

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

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

News Ledes

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

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

     ... New York Times UPDATE here.

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

Sunday
Aug032014

The Commentariat -- August 4, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gubernatorial Race

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

News Ledes

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

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

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

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

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