The Ledes

Sunday, November 23, 2014.

Washington Post: "Marion Barry Jr., the Mississippi sharecropper’s son and civil rights activist who served three terms as mayor of the District of Columbia, survived a drug arrest and jail sentence, and then came back to win a fourth term as the city’s chief executive, died early on Nov. 23 at United Medical Center in Washington. He was 78." Barry's New York Times: obituary is here.

Washington Post: "Negotiators working to slow Iran’s nuclear program and ease sanctions pressed forward with talks Saturday amid indications that they are at an impasse with two days left before a deadline for an accord."

The Wires

CW: Looks as if the Google News & stock market widgets are kaput & the Reuters widget is intermittent. We'll see what happens over the next few days with these.

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President laid out the steps he took this past week to fix our broken immigration system. Enacted within his legal authority, the President’s plan focuses on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border; deporting felons, not families; and accountability through criminal background checks and taxes":

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
November 21

7:30 am ET: Vice President Biden and President Poroshenko of Ukraine deliver joint statements in Kyiv, Ukraine (audio only)

8:30 am ET: Vice President Biden attends a roundtable discussion on anti-corruption & reform efforts in Kyiv (audio only)
3:55 pm ET:President Obama speaks at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada

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

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

Elaine Maine at the AFI Awards honoring Mike Nichols' lifetime achievements:

Frank Rich remembers Mike Nichols.

Erik Wemple: Bill Clinton discusses why his mother-in-law Dorothy Rodham watched Fox "News."

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Bill Cosby’s dazzling, decades-long career as one of America’s most beloved entertainers appeared to be toppling this week amid a succession of allegations painting Cosby as a serial sexual predator." ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "In the latest fallout from the sexual assault accusations involving the comedian Bill Cosby, NBC and Netflix have set aside projects with Mr. Cosby, and a lawyer for him issued a denial of a new claim from a woman who said he raped her decades ago. NBC said on Wednesday that it had dropped plans to develop a new situation comedy starring Mr. Cosby. The decision followed a week of revelations about accusations of rape and sexual assault against him." ...

... In an interview earlier this month, Cosby tried to get the AP to "scuttle" his "no comment" out of the videotape, suggested the reporter would not be considered "serious" if the AP didn't comply:

A Man for All Women. Jessica Roy of New York: "Karl Stefanovic is a beloved anchor on Australia's version of the Today show.... Over the weekend, Stefanovic made a startling confession: He's been wearing the same exact knock-off Burberry suit on-air every single day for a year, and — shockingly — nobody noticed. Stefanovic says he pulled the stunt to make a statement about how women on TV are judged much more harshly than men, particularly for their appearances. 'No one has noticed; no one gives a shit,' he said in an interview with Fairfax Media.'Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.'"

David Carr of the New York Times offers belated kudos to John Oliver & conceded, among other things, that Oliver was responsible for bringing "attention to the debate on net neutrality.... The show’s sudden influence was felt most acutely on the arcane issue of net neutrality, which Mr. Oliver introduced this way: 'Oh my god, that is the most boring thing I’ve ever seen! That is even boring by C-Span standards.' But after a string of jokes explaining the technology, the stakes and the power dynamics, Mr. Oliver concluded with a call to the underbelly of the Internet to urge the F.C.C. not to cave to moneyed interests and demand that the web remain a level playing field." Read the whole post. ...

... "Preventing Cable Company Fuckery":

... Matt Seitz of New York: " Last Week is doing what media watchdogs (including the Peabody Awards) keep saying that The Daily Show does — practicing real journalism in comedy form — but it's doing it better, and in a simpler, yet more ambitious, ultimately more useful way. If Stewart's show is doing what might be called a reported feature, augmenting opinions with facts, Oliver's show is doing something closer to pure reporting, or what the era of web journalism calls an 'explainer,' often without a hook, or the barest wisp of a hook."

Brian Stelter of the New York Times on how Stewart, Colbert & especially Oliver put net neutrality on the radar:


Clyde Haberman of the New York Times on the story of Lindy Chamberlain, the Australian woman who was convicted of killing her baby in the midst of a media blitz, then later exonerated. "... it took nearly three more decades before a coroner, in 2012, finally issued what the now-divorced parents had long sought: full vindication in the form of a death certificate formally ascribing Azaria’s fate to a dingo attack." With video from the Retro Report.

 

Anna Silman of Salon: "As long as there have been Aaron Sorkin shows on air, there have been parodies of Aaron Sorkin shows. His signature tropes — the Sorkin sermon, the high speed walk-and-talk — have been parodied so extensively that they’ve become cultural artifacts unto themselves, recognizable even to those who never watched the shows that spawned them. [Thursday] night on 'Late Night With Seth Meyers,' the Sorkin parody machine reached its self-referential apex, not just parodying these familiar tropes but also naming the tropes as they parodied them."

... Silman has embedded a number of other Sorkin parodies in her post.

"Triple Elvis (Ferus Type)" by Andy Warhol. Would you pay $82 million for this picture? BTW, you can get a swell copy of it for $29.99 on ebay.... New York Times: Christie's has its biggest auction night evah. CW: The super-rich are still super-rich.

The Guardian claims it will tell you here everything you need to know about the Rosetta comet landing. CW: Oh yeah? The data it sends back will probably just lead to a lot more of those bogus "scientific theories."

Jon [Stewart]'s problem is he has his head so far up Obama's ass he cannot see clearly, he is obviously better suited to reading his joke writers material, and making his clapping seal audience happy. -- Sean Hannity, supporting Stewart's point that Hannity is "the most loathsome dude" at Fox "News"

The New Yorker begins a metered paywall today, November 11. It will allow you to link to six free articles a month.

Washington Post: "They have spawned parodies from 'Ellen' to 'South Park' to 'Saturday Night Live,' but Lincoln is laughing all the way to the bank thanks to its commercials starring Matthew McConaughey. There was more from the Hollywood Reporter: 'Lincoln announced that its overall sales were up 25 percent last month, the strongest October for the beleaguered marque since 2007.'" ...

... Here's one of the McConaughey ads:

Jim Carrey nails it in an SNL skit:

... AND Ellen Degeneres takes the bull by the horns in another:

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.

Monday
Oct272014

The Commentariat -- Oct. 28, 2014

NEW. Gov. Rush Limbaugh. Marc Santora & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: New Jersey Gov. Chris "Christie continued to defend his state's mandatory quarantine program on Tuesday morning, even as a growing number of scientists and public health experts condemned the restrictions as overly broad and possibly harmful in the fight against Ebola in West Africa. The New England Journal of Medicine, in an editorial published on its website, said the approach taken by New Jersey, New York and several other states 'is not scientifically based, is unfair and unwise, and will impede essential efforts to stop these awful outbreaks of Ebola disease at their source, which is the only satisfactory goal.'"

Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "In a rare public accounting of its mass surveillance program, the United States Postal Service reported that it approved nearly 50,000 requests last year from law enforcement agencies and its own internal inspection unit to secretly monitor the mail of Americans for use in criminal and national security investigations. The number of requests, contained in a little-noticed 2014 audit of the surveillance program by the Postal Service's inspector general, shows that the surveillance program is more extensive than previously disclosed and that oversight protecting Americans from potential abuses is lax.... The audit found that in many cases the Postal Service approved requests to monitor an individual’s mail without adequately describing the reason or having proper written authorization." ...

... Eric Tucker of the AP: "While Congress mulls how to curtail the NSA's collection of Americans' telephone records, impatient civil liberties groups are looking to legal challenges already underway in the courts to limit government surveillance powers. Three appeals courts are hearing lawsuits against the bulk phone records program, creating the potential for an eventual Supreme Court review." ...

... Katrina Vanden Heuvel of the Nation, in the Washington Post: "It is time for President Obama to offer clemency to Edward Snowden, the courageous U.S. citizen who revealed the Orwellian reach of the National Security Agency's sweeping surveillance of Americans. His actions may have broken the law, but his act, as the New York Times editorialized, did the nation 'a great service.'"

Michael Shear & Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times: "The federal government on Monday announced a new set of monitoring guidelines for people arriving from West Africa that stopped short of the tough measures instituted in New York and New Jersey last week, an effort to bring uniformity to a messy patchwork of responses by states. The new policy, which federal health officials said was an effort ... to strike a balance between safety and civil liberties, would require returning heath care workers, or people who had been near Ebola patients, to submit to an in-person checkup and a phone call from a local public health authority." ...

... Jon Swaine & Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "Federal health officials attempted on Monday to bring some order to a chaotic response to the latest Ebola diagnosis in the United States, after the United Nations criticised earlier restrictions placed on healthcare workers returning from west Africa.". ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "Since each state sets its own quarantine rules, governors can keep imprisoning health-care workers if they want. The army immediately undermined the federal government's new guidelines by announcing that soldiers returning from West Africa are being quarantined for 21 days, though they show no signs of illness and had no direct contact with Ebola patients." ...

... The Most Misunderstood Man in New Jersey Is Misunderstood Again. Matt Arco of NJ Advance Media: " Gov. Chris Christie insisted during a campaign stop today he hasn't reversed his decision on mandatory quarantines for people traveling to the U.S. from West Africa, even as a nurse who had been held at University hospital was released earlier this afternoon. The governor, speaking to reporters in Florida, said his policy hasn't changed. The statement came just hours after the administration announced the nurse under quarantine at University Hospital in Newark after treating Ebola patients in Africa will be discharged. 'I didn't reverse any decision, why are you saying I reversed my decision?' Christie responded to a question today about the nurse, Kaci Hickox." ...

... Susan Livio of NJ Advance Media: Hickox "will be expected to quarantine herself at home, according to the Maine Health Department, which pledged to 'work collaboratively' with her and coordinate any food or medicine she might need if she begins to show symptoms." ...

... Liz Robbins, et al., of the New York Times: "Even as New Jersey officials on Monday released a nurse they had kept quarantined in a tent since her return from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, an unapologetic Gov. Chris Christie dismissed those who questioned his handling of the case and denied that he had reversed himself.... Mr. Christie said he had no reason to talk to [nurse Kaci] Hickox. 'My job is not to represent her,' he said. 'My job is to represent the people of New Jersey.'" ...

... CW: Yesterday, Steve M. asked "Is Chris Christie being mean enough to Kari Hickox to win the Republican nomination in 2016?" Yeah, I think, "Fuck you, International Hero Nurse," is just mean enough. (It would have been better if Hickox had been both a nurse AND a nun who dedicated herself at great risk to helping the helpless, but you can't have everything.) ...

     ... Oh, sorry, I was wrong. Lucy McCalmont of Politico: "Rush Limbaugh slammed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Monday over his Ebola response, saying it's the Republican governor who should be quarantined for siding with President Barack Obama ahead of the elections. 'So one week before the election, once again, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has caved. We need to quarantine Chris Christie is what needs to happen here, folks. This is the second election in a row,' Limbaugh said on his radio program.... Comparing Christie's Ebola response to his Hurricane Sandy hug with the president ahead of the 2012 elections, Limbaugh said Christie is 'responding to Obama's demands.'" ...

... Steve M. explains Christie's mistake: "If he were whining now that he was forced to [release Hickox] by jackbooted Obama administration thugs, or possibly by evil trial lawyers (... Hickox was threatening a federal lawsuit), he might be looking good right now in the eyes of Limbaugh and his crowd.... You leave her in the tent, or you say you were forced to free her by the fascist political correctness police. Christie had an enemy -- as Mark noted in my comments, the right was already mounting a hate campaign against Hickox, noting that she's (gasp!) a registered Democrat, and has worked for (horrors!) the CDC." ...

... Abby Ohlheiser & Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post: Hickox "was specifically critical of Christie, who had told reporters Saturday that Hickox was 'obviously ill.' 'First of all, I don't think he's a doctor,' Hickox told CNN on Sunday, in an interview from her isolation tent.... That same day, she hired civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, who told NBC News that Hickox planned to sue for her release." ...

... Andy Borowitz: "Saying that he was 'sick and tired of having my medical credentials questioned,' Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.) had himself sworn in as a medical doctor on Sunday night. Dr. Christie acknowledged that becoming a doctor generally requires pre-med classes, four years of medical school, plus additional years of residency, but he said that the Ebola epidemic compelled him to take 'extraordinary measures, as we say in the medical profession.'" ...

... Benjamin Wallace-Wells of New York: "Christie's own politics, his instinctive pugilistic communitarianism, may seem a little anachronistic in a country less inclined to see outsiders as enemies.... Already there is something that feels characteristic about Christie in this episode, in which he rushed to the barricades to fight an enemy that no one else could see."

Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "The office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, said on Monday that [New York C]ity's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the contractor, Computer Sciences Corporation, created schemes that would trigger [fraudulent Medicaid] reimbursements on tens of thousands of false claims.... [The] reimbursements ... amount to tens of millions of dollars.... The lawsuit, which follows a whistle-blower's complaint, was filed under the False Claims Act. The lawsuit demands triple damages and penalties, but does not specify how much it is seeking.... '... we strongly disagree with the allegations, which we believe involve technical billing issues, not fraud,' the [city's] Law Department said."

A Kindlier, Gentler ISIS Media Campaign? Adam Taylor of the Washington Post: "In a remarkable new video released by the Islamic State militants, British hostage John Cantlie gives a tour of the Syrian city of Kobane and denounces Western coverage of the fighting in the city."

Kate Cox of the Nation: "All across the United States, prison populations are graying, growing old and infirm behind bars.... This is a man-made crisis that tracks back to the nation's long obsession with retribution, which peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. That's when the 'tough on crime' and 'war on drugs' ideologies reigned supreme, spawning mandatory minimum sentences and 'three strikes' laws, among other things.... Spending on inmates ages 50 and older tops $16 billion annually.... Perpetrators and victims -- and the public at large -- could benefit from a system that recognizes retribution must be paired with earlier release and more support for re-entry, as well as repealing mandatory minimum sentencing laws and refocusing our energies on diversion, community supervision and community-based sanctions and services."

November Elections

Dan Balz & Peyton Craighill of the Washington Post: "Republicans enter the final week of the midterm campaign holding higher ground than the Democrats, [link fixed] aided by public dissatisfaction with President Obama's leadership, with the overall direction of the country and with the federal government's ability to deal with major problems, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll." ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "... it is perfectly possible that neither side will emerge from next Tuesday with victory sealed. Runoffs are likely in Georgia and Louisiana. We could have to wait until early January to find out who controls the upper chamber."

John Dickerson of Slate: "This year's contest is a no-mandate election, in which the winning side will succeed with no great animating idea other than the fear (or avoidance) of the Obama nightmare. Republican debates, speeches, and advertisements have been so thoroughly concerned with the president and how much the Democrat on the ballot agrees with him, there is no other message that competes. That's a smart political strategy, but it's not a governing strategy. Republicans may take control of Congress, but it will have been by clobbering a president they'll then have to work with...."

Coming Soon -- the Ebola Senate Majority. Margaret Talev of Bloomberg Politics: "Last week marked a spike in TV ad buys in Senate and House races featuring either the word 'Ebola' or images of emergency workers in protective suits and masks, according to data from Kantar Media's CMAG, a tracking firm. The uptick coincided with polling showing worsening prospects for Democrats in some of the same states where the ads are running, including Georgia." ...

... David Espo of the AP: "Senate Democrats unleashed a late-campaign round of attack ads Monday accusing Republicans in key races of harboring plans to cut Social Security and Medicare. The commercials in Iowa, New Hampshire, Louisiana and elsewhere appear aimed at older voters, who cast ballots in relatively large numbers in midterm elections and have tended to support Republicans in recent years."

Georgia. Laura Bassett of the Huffington Post: "David Perdue, Georgia's Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, defended himself Sunday night against charges that he paid female managers less than male ones when he was CEO of Dollar General, saying 'it was less than 2,000 people' who brought the lawsuit against the company.... We had upwards of 70,000 employees at that company.'" ... Paul Waldman suggests, "Maybe he should turn this into a slogan: 'David Purdue: The majority of people who worked for me didn't sue for discrimination.'" ...

     ... CW: If you read the underlying Mother Jones story, you'll see that more than 4,000 employees sued Dollar General during Perdue's tenure as CEO: 2,100+ in the gender discrimination suit & another 2,000 in a suit claiming "that the company had made them managers in name only so it could deny them overtime they would have earned as store clerks." In mediation, Dollar General paid off the employees & former employees in both class action suits.

Kentucky. The Louisville Courier Journal Editors in endorsing Alison Grimes. notes that Mitch McConnell has refused to speak to the board: McConnell "now is identified largely as the master of obstruction and gridlock in Washington. Kentucky needs a U.S. senator who sees a higher calling than personal ambition and a greater goal than self-aggrandizement." ...

Lexington Herald Leader Editors, endorses Alison Grimes for U.S. Senate: "The Senate may never recover from the bitter paralysis [Mitch] McConnell has inflicted through record filibusters that allow his minority to rule by obstruction. Even before Barack Obama was sworn in, McConnell told his fellow Republicans that their strategy was to deny the new president any big wins. The country was in two wars and at deep risk of sliding into a depression, but making an adversary look bad was McConnell's main mission. His signature cause - flooding elections with ever more money - corrupts. He poses as a champion of the right to criticize the government, but it's really his rich buddies' right to buy the government that he champions." ...

... Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: After asking McConnell's various offices a dozen times, a spokesman finally confirmed that Mitch McConnell "wants to repeal the full health care law, including not just the federal subsidies for people purchasing on exchanges like Kynect, but also the mandates and taxes on high-cost plans and other features of the legislation." CW: Say adios to affordable health insurance, 500,000 Kentuckians & millions of Americans. ...

... CW: Despite his despicable character & Dickensian policies, Mitch makes a humanizing campaign ad, proving, if nothing else, that Mad men are awesome. If you can make the Turtle seem like a good-natured human being, you can make even that dead guy in New Hampshire (see below) come to life:

Louisiana. Phil Mattingly of Bloomberg Politics: "Senator Mary Landrieu [C-La.] used the absence of her top opponent in her re-election race at Monday's debate to highlight her differences with President Barack Obama and her efforts to work across the aisle during her time in office.... The no-show, Rep. Bill Cassidy "has consistently led Landrieu in head-to-head polling."

Maine. Matt Byrne of the Portland Press Herald: "Two Portland-area lawmakers will roll out a referendum petition drive this week to enact ranked-choice voting in Maine gubernatorial elections. Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, who is running for re-election, and Sen. Richard Woodbury, an independent from Yarmouth who is not running again, said Monday that ranked-choice voting offers a fairer way for Mainers to choose their governor." CW: Good for Russell & Woodbury, but this system should be used for other races, too.

Massachusetts. Charles Pierce stands up for Martha Coakley & rips the Boston Globe for its endorsement of Charlie Baker which "doesn't make a very compelling case for Baker over Coakley on any grounds save for the fact that he's not her."

New Hampshire -- where a dead politicians weighs in on today's U.S. Senate campaign. He didn't like Jeanne Shaheen when he was alive, & he doesn't like her now that he's dead, apparently. Anyway, the GOP thought what was good in 2008 is good for 2014. Whatever. Dave Weigel, via Margaret Hartmann.

Wisconsin. "Scott Walker to Chris Christie: Thanks for Nothing." Alexander Burns of Politico: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he needs more help from the national GOP in his reelection fight -- and an upcoming visit from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie isn't going to cut it.... '[Christie] is coming because he asked if he could come and we weren't going to say no,' Walker said. 'But we're not looking for surrogates.'" CW Note to Scottie: Maybe your likely 2016 presidential rival doesn't want you to win this one.

Presidential Election

Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "As [Chris] Christie considers a run for president, the question of how his image as a no-nonsense, shoot-from-the-hip executive will play in the far-flung precincts of Iowa and South Carolina, where politics tends to be less in-your-face than in New Jersey, is increasingly relevant. His Ebola decision thrust both his persona and his policy-making style back into the spotlight."

Surprise! Hillary Business, After All. Ruby Cramer of BuzzFeed. At a rally for Martha Coakley Friday, where she & Elizabeth Warren both spoke, Hillary Clinton said, "Don't let anybody tell you that corporations and businesses create jobs." Speaking Monday at a rally for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney" (D-N.Y.), Clinton corrected herself: "The Republican alternative is a discredited economic theory that will hurt middle class families. So-called trickle-down economics has failed. I short-handed this point the other day, so let me be absolutely clear about what I've been saying for a couple of decades. Our economy grows when businesses and entrepreneurs create good-paying jobs here in America and workers and families are empowered to build from the bottom up and the middle out -- not when we hand out tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs or stash their profits overseas." CW Translation: "Send more cash, my Little Wall Street Angels." ...

... Jonathan Chait adds some context in a post titled, "In gaffe, Hillary Clinton endorses communism."

Jason Horowitz of the New York Times profiles Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is gearing up to run for president.

Beyond the Beltway

Michael Schwirtz & Michael Winerip of the New York Times: "The New York City Correction Department’s top uniformed officer, facing criticism over underreporting of violence at Rikers Island, will step down, a department spokesman said Tuesday. The officer, William Clemons, a 29-year veteran correction official in New York, was appointed chief of department just five months ago by Mayor Bill de Blasio's reform-minded correction commissioner, who described him at the time as a 'superb corrections professional.'... The move is a blow to the commissioner, Joseph Ponte, who has stalwartly defended his decision to promote Mr. Clemons in the face of unsettling revelations about his competence in recent weeks." ...

     ... UPDATE. New Lede: "In a major shake-up at the New York City Correction Department, three high-ranking officials, including the top uniformed officer, are stepping down amid mounting criticism over the handling of violence and corruption at Rikers Island.... Mayor Bill de Blasio's handpicked correction commissioner, Joseph Ponte, had promoted all three within the last five months."

News Ledes

AP: "An unmanned commercial supply rocket bound for the International Space Station exploded moments after liftoff Tuesday evening, with debris falling in flames over the launch site in eastern Virginia. No injuries were reported following the first catastrophic launch in NASA's commercial spaceflight effort. The accident at Orbital Sciences Corp.'s launch complex at Wallops Island was sure to draw criticism over the space agency's growing reliance on private U.S. companies in this post-shuttle effort."

USA Today: "Amber Vinson, one of two Texas nurses who tested positive for Ebola after treating an infected patient, is free of the virus and will be discharged Tuesday from Atlanta's Emory University Hospital, according to the hospital."

Atlantic: "Darren Wilson, the police officer accused of shooting Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, this summer..., has not been seen since August 9.... It's now being reported that a total of six criminal cases have been dismissed, because Wilson, as the arresting officer, isn't showing up to court to testify."

CNN: "South African prosecutors will appeal the verdict and the sentence in the Oscar Pistorius case, a spokesman for the country's National Prosecuting Authority told CNN on Monday."

Sunday
Oct262014

The Commentariat -- Oct. 27, 2014

Paul Krugman: "... nowadays we simply won't invest [in public projects], even when the need is obvious and the timing couldn't be better. And don't tell me that the problem is 'political dysfunction' or some other weasel phrase that diffuses the blame. Our inability to invest ... reflects the destructive ideology that has taken over the Republican Party."

Azam Ahmed of the New York Times: "Combat operations in Helmand Province officially ended on Sunday for the United States Marines and British troops stationed there, bringing an end to a decade-long struggle to keep a major Taliban stronghold and the region's vast opium production in check. Officials commemorated the handover during simultaneous ceremonies at Camp Leatherneck for the Marines and Camp Bastion for the British forces, conjoined bases that made up the coalition headquarters for the region."

Matt Flegenheimer, et al., of the New York Times: "Facing fierce resistance from the White House and medical experts to a strict new mandatory quarantine policy, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Sunday night that medical workers who had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa but did not show symptoms of the disease would be allowed to remain at home and would receive compensation for lost income." This is a revision of the NYT story linked in yesterday's News Ledes. ...

This is government's job. We have taken this action, and I have no second thoughts about it. -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on quarantines of people who have come into contact with Ebola ...

... CW: Um, actually Christie did have second thoughts. This, from today's NYT piece by Flegenheimer, et al.: "After Mr. Cuomo's announcement, Mr. Christie issued a statement saying that, under protocols announced on Wednesday [??], New Jersey residents not displaying symptoms would also be allowed to quarantine in their homes." ...

... BUT. Jonathan Cohn: "Meanwhile, Hickox remains in her tent, at least as of this writing. Her presence could discourage health care workers from going overseas in the future. That would be tragic -- and dangerous." ...

... Steve M.: "Is Chris Christie being mean enough to Kari Hickox to win the Republican nomination in 2016?" ...

... Elizabeth Cohen, et al. of CNN: "Kaci Hickox, a nurse placed under mandatory quarantine in New Jersey, went on CNN on Sunday and criticized the 'knee-jerk reaction by politicians' to Ebola, saying 'to quarantine someone without a better plan in place, without more forethought, is just preposterous.' Hickox, an epidemiologist who was working to help treat Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, has tested negative twice for Ebola and does not have symptoms, she said." With video. ...

James Hambin of the Atlantic has a long piece on the U.S.'s response to Ebola, in which he cites the work of interviews Steven Hatfill, who "was very publicly, very falsely accused of killing several people with anthrax in 2001.... As he wrote....: 'The initial response to the outbreak of Ebola in the United States has been badly designed, and poorly and incompetently implemented.... The leading health authorities of the United States have made far over-reaching statements and assumptions that are not fully supported by the existing scientific literature.' For one objection, Hatfill wants it known that ... aerosol droplet transmission of Ebola virus has been shown in animal studies. 'It is therefore irresponsible for government health officials to emphatically state that aerosol transmission does not occur,' he writes. He also believes the argument against a national quarantine is 'inexcusable in light of the size of the current West African epidemic.' Hatfill's concerns are backed by some compelling evidence and the clout of a long, storied career." ...

Jonathan Chait: "If Republicans recapture the Senate majority, Mitch McConnell has a plan ... [to] restore the Senate to its glorious, dignified place in American political life ... [as it was] before Harry Reid degraded the institution.... It takes an exceptionally principled politician to elevate procedural fairness over his own political goals. That doesn't sound like a description of Mitch McConnell."

The New York Times has an extensive review of how the Affordable Care Act has performed: "After a year fully in place, the Affordable Care Act has largely succeeded in delivering on President Obama's main promises, an analysis by a team of reporters and data researchers shows. But it has also fallen short in some ways and given rise to a powerful conservative backlash." ...

... CW: I know for sure it's working. I had the TV on in the middle of the night, & some rip-off outfit was urging people to call in to get ACA health insurance. If the crooks have found it, it's working.

Today's History Lesson. Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "In the decades after World War II, the C.I.A. and other United States agencies employed at least a thousand Nazis as Cold War spies and informants and, as recently as the 1990s, concealed the government's ties to some still living in America, newly disclosed records and interviews show." ...

... CW: So here's a question for you. And for Congress. Should these ex-Nazis, who worked for the U.S., get Social Security benefits? See also this story.

Digby gives her take on Thomas Frank's essay (linked in the Commentariat yesterday) on the parallels between the Obama & Carter presidencies. ...

... Scott Lemieux writes the "Shorter Thomas Frank." ...

... Paul Waldman: "I'm not going to bother going through all the things that are wrong with Frank's argument (Bill Clinton was 'passionless'?), but one thing's for sure: There are no liberals left who think that the savagery of the right is best dealt with through some kind of mushy-headed post-partisanship. Frankly, I don't know how many of them there were to begin with, even those who were smitten by Barack Obama in 2008. They didn't love Obama because they thought he'd melt conservatives' icy hearts; one of the things that made him so compelling was the fact that not only was he inspiring and new, he was also obviously a shrewd tactician who knew how to wield the knife, as he showed in dispatching Hillary Clinton."

Kara Lankford of Ocean Conservancy in Politico Magazine: "Yes, BP did damage the Gulf." CW: This seems to be Politico's mea culpa. They used the same format for Lankford's piece as for BP exec Geoff Morrell's piece in the magazine last week. In an earlier opinion piece outlining damage to Gulf, Politico made abundantly clear that the work was "only the author's opinion."

Yishai Schwartz of the New Republic on the documentary film Citizenfour, by Laura Poitras about Ed Snowden: "Despite Poitras' best efforts, the movie confirms the views of [Snowden's] critics."

God News Follow-up. Mark Kleiman of the Reality-Base Community: "Shorter Ross Douthat: All Popes are infallible, but reactionary Popes are more infallible than others. Note especially two extraordinary claims: * That what Douthat admits is a traditionalist minority deserves deference because of its energy. Apparently Douthat wants his faction to dominate the Church the way the Tea Party dominates the GOP. * That it would be outrageous for Pope Francis to use the power of appointment to move the Church into the future in precisely the way his two predecessors used it to move the Church into the past."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Charles Pierce reviews the Sunday shows.

November Elections

Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "Many of the governor's races remain exceedingly close, according to the latest round of data from The New York Times/CBS News/YouGov online panel of more than 80,000 respondents.... On balance, Democrats seem set to pick up two or three states, mainly because the Republicans enter the elections with twice as many Republican-held seats. But it is easy to imagine the Republicans holding their advantage -- there are 29 Republican governors and 21 Democratic ones -- or the Democrats picking up a half-dozen seats." ...

E. J. Dionne lists four "underappreciated facts" about the midterm Senate elections. "If Democrats upset expectations, these underappreciated factors will be the reason." ...

... Nate Silver reviews the lastest polls, noting that the GOP's Senate "advantage remains consistent but not decisive."

Maine. Steve Mistler of the Portland Press Herald: "Republican Gov. Paul LePage has opened a lead over Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in the closing weeks of the gubernatorial campaign, according to a Maine Sunday Telegram/Portland Press Herald poll. The findings mark a significant shift from previous polls showing both candidates running in a virtual dead heat. LePage leads Michaud 45 percent to 35 percent, with independent Eliot Cutler at 16 percent and 4 percent undecided...." CW: If Cutler actually cares about Maine, he should drop out now & not make this the second gubernatorial race he's given to LePage.

Massachusetts. The Boston Globe editors endorse Republican Charlie Baker for governor.

New Hampshire. Marin Cogan of New York: Elizabeth Warren aims to defeat Scott Brown -- again. "... no matter how well Scott Brown does on election day, he is poised to make history: either as the first politician to be elected senator from two different states in nearly a century and a half, or, as [N.H. Sen. Jeanne] Shaheen hopes, as the first to run in two states and be defeated by two women." Shaheen, BTW, is "the first woman to serve as both governor and senator of a state in U.S. history."

Presidential Election

Arlette Saenz of ABC News: "In an interview in College Station, Texas, this week, George P. Bush told ABC News' Jonathan Karl he thinks his father, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will 'more than likely' run for president in 2016." ...

     ... UPDATE. Charles Pierce reminds of Pee's youthful stalker days. Apparently, being the son of a wealthy Republican means having to do some illegal, creepy things to women.

... Peter Baker of the New York Times tells you just what all the members of the Bush family think about President Jeb." ...

... CW: I cannot think of how this country could better demonstrate to the world that it has become retrogressive, dynastic & dull than to have another Bush-Clinton race, starring two old fogies. A Romney-Clinton race would not be much better. I think either would be described by future historians as the endpoint of U.S. global leadership, although the pivotal point probably came in 2001, when the Supremes elected Dubya. An uninspiring presidential face-off would/will be another, significant event in the decline & fall.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was reelected by a whisker in a second-round head-to-head vote, after one of the closest, most aggressive campaigns in the country's recent history."

Guardian: "Pro-Europe parties secured a big win in an election in Ukraine, a partial vote count suggested on Monday, with President Petro Poroshenko hailing people's support for his plan to end a separatist war and pursue democratic reforms sought by the west."

Seattle Times: "A second student has died after a freshman’s shooting rampage Friday at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. Gia Soriano, 14, died Sunday night at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, a hospital official announced at a news conference. She had been hospitalized in critical condition since the shooting."

Saturday
Oct252014

The Commentariat -- Oct. 26, 2014

Sabrina Tavernise, et al., of the New York Times: New York's "carefully planned response was a world apart from the scene that unfolded in a Dallas hospital last month when a Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, became the first person to test positive for Ebola in the United States.... The often rudderless response [in Dallas] lasted two weeks, and in the end, two nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson, fell ill with the virus. Both have recovered, but the searing experience stunned experts, and shook Americans' confidence in their health care system.... In effect, the United States has become 19th-century Britain: We provide superb education for elites, but we falter at mass education." ...

... As Marvin Schwalb points out, not every response to Ebola in these parts is perfect (blame Chris Christie!):

... Anemona Hartocollis & Emma Fitzsimmons of the New York Times: "A nurse who was being quarantined at a New Jersey hospital after working with Ebola patients in Sierra Leone criticized her treatment on Saturday as an overreaction after an initial test found that she did not have the virus. 'I am scared about how health care workers will be treated at airports when they declare that they have been fighting Ebola in West Africa,' the nurse, Kaci Hickox, wrote in an essay on the website of The Dallas Morning News, in collaboration with a friend who works for the paper. 'I am scared that, like me, they will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear, and most frightening, quarantine.'" ...

... Noam Scheiber of the New Republic: "The authorities in New York clearly lied in their press conference ... about Craig Spencer, the New York physician who contracted Ebola while volunteering for Doctors Without Borders in Guinea. Among the many accurate pieces of information that Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and city Health Commissioner Mary Bassett disseminated to the public was the following whopper: That Dr. Spencer acted entirely appropriately and responsibly.... This is clearly not true.... He decided to ride the subway, go bowling, and frolic at the High Line Park on Wednesday." Scheiber is okay with the lie because it avoided public panic. CW: I think the lie was stupid & I thought so when I read it because I already knew Spencer had been all over the city. And that too was damned stoopid.

Nicholas Kristof: "THE best escalator to opportunity in America is education. But a new study underscores that the escalator is broken.... A new Pew survey finds that Americans consider the greatest threat to our country to be the growing gap between the rich and poor. Yet we have constructed an education system, dependent on local property taxes, that provides great schools for the rich kids in the suburbs... and broken, dangerous schools for inner-city children.... Too often, America's education system amplifies not opportunity but inequality." ...

... CW: You know where Education Secretary Arne Duncan is on this? Nineteenth-century Britain.

WHERE'S ARNE? Surely he's here somewhere.

Thomas Frank on how Barack Obama is just like Jimmy Carter. Thanks to Terence for the link.

Charles C. W. Cooke of the National Review, in the New York Times: "If supporters of the right to keep and bear arms want their pleas to be heard in their proper context, they might consider talking a little less about Valley Forge and a little more about Jim Crow -- and attempting to fill their ranks with people who have known much more recently what tyranny really looks like." CW: This is a remarkable essay: historically & theoretically correct -- & stunningly naive. If black people want to get shot dead with impunity, they should openly pack heat in stand-your-ground states.

God News

Ross Douthat with News from the Vatican: Oh my god oh my god. The Holy Roman Catholic Church is in CHAOS. Stop the gays! Stop the divorcees! "... this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him." ...

... Bad News, Ross. Cathy Grossman of Religion News Service: A new survey by religion researcher David Kinnaman finds that 38 percent of Americans are "churchless"; that is, "roughly four in 10 people living in the continental United States are actually 'post-Christian' and 'essentially secular in belief and practice.'" Via Steve Benen.

Sarah Jones in Americans United for Separation of Church & State: Alabamians will vote next week on a ludicrous state constitutional amendment to outlaw Sharia law. To make the amendment look less silly, its authors didn't use the word "Sharia." "At Americans United, we are often asked why we don't support these bills. The answer is always the same: Because there isn't a real threat that our courts or legislatures are implementing Sharia law. We have yet to receive a report about a Muslim community or Muslim elected official attempting to legislate based on Sharia principles.... We do, however, receive many reports about fundamentalist Christians doing exactly that." Via Benen.

CW: Isn't it time for conservative Christians to do something about the shocking fact that four months of the year -- January, March, May & June -- are named for pagan gods? It's bad enough that two months are named for pagan dictators -- July & August -- but gods? In Christianland, the calendars months should be something like Epiphany, February, Easter, Josephus, Mary, Jesus, September, October, November, December, Reaganus, Christmas.

November Elections

Alabama. See God News, above.

Kentucky. Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is giving his reelection campaign a $1.8 million personal loan to stave off a new round of attack ads from Democrats."

Mississippi. Geoff Pender of the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger: "The state Supreme Court on Friday upheld the dismissal of Chris McDaniel's lawsuit over his June GOP primary loss to incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran. The court ruled four to two, upholding a lower court decision that McDaniel waited too long to file the challenge of his loss. Three justices did not participate.... Neither McDaniel nor his lead attorney Mitch Tyner answered definitively on Friday whether the ruling will put end to his trying to overturn the election...."

Beyond the Beltway

Another Murder in Gunland. David Ferguson of the Raw Story: "A Gary, Indiana man shot and killed a 13-year-old neighbor boy for laughing at him on Friday night. According to the Gary Post-Tribune, police have not released the shooter's name, but said that he shot Kobe Jones, 13, nine times.... Gary Police Lt. Thomas Pawlak told the [Gary] Post-Tribune that the gunman's home was broken into and robbed some time on Friday afternoon..... As [the shooter] was having a noisy tantrum in his back yard, a crowd of neighborhood residents gathered. Jones made the mistake of laughing at his neighbor's histrionics."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Under the cloud of a bitter war in their nation's east, Ukrainians on Sunday were projected to have elected the most pro-European parliament in their country's 23-year-old history, firmly backing an effort to steer their nation away from Russia's orbit."

New York Times: "The Obama administration has been pushing the governors of New York and New Jersey to reverse their decision ordering all medical workers returning from West Africa who had contact with Ebola patients to be quarantined, an administration official said on Sunday."

     ... The Washington Post story is here.

Friday
Oct242014

The Commentariat -- Oct. 25, 2014

Marc Santora of the New York Times: "The governors of New York and New Jersey announced Friday afternoon that they were ordering all people entering the country through two area airports who had direct contact with Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to be quarantined." ...

... Michael Paulson of the New York Times: "Nina Pham, a 26-year-old nurse who became infected with Ebola while caring for a Liberian patient, walked out of a Maryland hospital on Friday, thanked God and others for her recovery, then went to the White House for a hug from President Obama before her return home to Dallas." ...

... Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: The Soviet Union once worked on developing Ebola as a biological weapon. "The research began amid intense secrecy with an ambitious effort to assess Ebola’s potential as a biological weapon, and it later included attempts to manipulate the virus’s genetic coding, U.S. officials and researchers say. Those efforts ultimately failed as Soviet scientists stumbled against natural barriers that make Ebola poorly suited for biowarfare.... Now, at a time when the world is grappling with an unprecedented Ebola crisis, the wall of secrecy surrounding the labs looms still larger...." ...

... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Speaking in a local radio interview on Thursday, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown [D] blamed the NRA for a lack of a U.S. surgeon general, and Congressional Republicans for cuts to public services." With audio. CW: Sherrod Brown is one of my very favorite Senators. And proof that somebody with a coif like Rand Paul's can still be a righteous smart guy. ...

... Gail Collins: "Two years after the Sandy Hook tragedy, the top gun-control priority in the United States is still background checks. There is nothing controversial about the idea that people who buy guns should be screened to make sure they don’t have a criminal record or serious mental illness.... The problem, of course, is the National Rifle Association, which does not actually represent gun owners nearly as ferociously as it represents gun sellers." Read the whole column.

The Two Faces of John Roberts -- Are Both White! Garrett Epps of the Atlantic on Chief Justice John Roberts inconsistent holdings on race: when it suits him, he says the law should be abolutely color-blind. But when a lower court concluded that the Texas voter ID the law was purposely racially discriminatory (i.e., not color-blind), Roberts let it stand anyway, so as not to inconvenience the state or something. 

"What Happened to that GOP Lawsuit?" Josh Gerstein of Politico: "It takes about 10 minutes to walk from the Capitol to the federal courthouse just down the hill, but House Republicans haven’t managed to make that trip in the four months since they announced they’d be suing the president.... Some attribute the delay to electoral politics — suggesting that Republicans were worried it could rile up the Democratic base — though the GOP is mum on why the suit has yet to be filed.... 'I thought this was a constitutional crisis and the republic was in jeopardy because Obama overstepped his bounds. Now, they can’t even get around to filing it?' asked former House Counsel Stan Brand, a Democrat. 'It, to me, emphasizes the not-serious nature of it.'”

Paul Krugman: "Profits are very high, so why are companies concluding that they should return cash to stockholders rather than use it to expand their businesses?... This kind of divergence — in which high profits don’t signal high returns to investment — is what you’d expect if a lot of those profits reflect monopoly power rather than returns on capital."

Josh Marshall of explains Sarah Palin AND Fox "News": "... Sarah Palin and her daughter Bristol have now spoken out about their notorious boozy family brawl, recasting Bristol's attack on the event's host as a morality tale about violence against women and media bias.... In talking about themselves they're already railing about Hunter Biden and Chelsea Clinton and media bias and the 'war on women' and the rest. As she has since she stepped onto the national stage six years ago, Palin is the ultimate avatar of base Republican culture since she views herself as an eternal victim, with all the grievance and resentment that entails.... In very broad terms, the origin of Fox News is analogous."

** Annals of Journalism, Ctd. "When Politicians Lie." The Washington Post publishes an essay "excerpted from the Press-Enterprise Lecture [former Post editor Ben Bradlee] delivered at the University of California, Riverside, on Jan. 7, 1997."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Lynne Marek of Chicago Business: "Chicago Sun-Times journalists, whose colleague Dave McKinney resigned this week, are asking the newspaper's owners for reassurance that the latter won't seek to influence editorial content. The request comes in a petition that's posted on the reporters' union website. It follows the exit of Mr. McKinney, the Springfield bureau chief, who questioned in his resignation letter whether the newsroom is insulated from owners' interests." ...

... CW: Back in the Dark Ages when I lived in Chicago, the Sun-Times, although published in tabloid format, was a decent alternative to the righty-right-wing Tribune. Not any more, I guess. I haven't linked to it very often as (a) their Website sucks, & (b) their content is usually fairly sketchy.

November Elections

Tim Murphy of Mother Jones introduces us to Dan Patrick, the next lieutenant governor of Texas: "Man Who Believes God Speaks to Us Through 'Duck Dynasty' Is About to Be Texas' Second-in-Command." We live in one stupid, scary country. ...

... CW: How Republicans can stop the flow of immigrants without building fences: publish truthful profiles of themselves in all the major media of the world. Who would want to come to a place run by people like this?

Presidential Election

Katharine Seelye & Amy Chozick of the New York Times: The Boston Two-Step. When Hillary met Liz. Also, Martha was there. ...

... Maggie Haberman of Politico has more on the Hillary Clinton-Elizabeth Warren offstage meeting.

The Most Interesting Man in Washington, Ctd. Paul Waldman: "... what if placating the right isn’t as hard as it appears? That question is right now being contemplated by Rand Paul, who is running for the White House harder than anybody. Paul has now given a speech outlining his foreign policy vision (which every candidate is supposed to have). The speech shows just how Paul is navigating the tension between the two competing incentives that will define his candidacy.... If you took out the five Reagan references and changed some words and phrases here and there, the speech Paul gave could have been delivered by Barack Obama. The difference between a Republican and a Democrat, apparently, is that the Republican says that we should always be prepared for war, but war should be a last resort, while the Democrat says that war should be a last resort, but we should always be prepared for war.... And also, Reagan Reagan Reagan." ...

... Steve M.: "Unless you think all the older Republicans are going to stay home while under-35s do all the voting, this is a recipe for failure in the GOP primaries." ...

... CW: I dunno. In the 2012 GOP primaries, Romney beat off a handful of professional wingers. Yeah, he said he was "severely conservative," but even the dumbest of dumb bunnies knew he was less conservative than the other candidates (including Jon Huntsman, Jr.). Somehow millions of actual severe conservatives pulled the lever for Mitt. Why? Because Mitt looked & sounded more like a president than, say, Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich. Winning is everything.

Beyond the Beltway

AND Anthony Weiner, who is not Rep. Anthony Weiner or Mayor Anthony Weiner is still Anthony Weiner. Jordan Sargent of Gawker: "It's been three years (only!) since Anthony Weiner's political career went limp because he sent photos of his dick to random women via social media, and yet he has still not learned how to use Twitter." CW: Actually, he's known all along how to use Twitter: as a medium for sending sexy pictures, this time "favorite-ing" a body-shot of "Sugarfuzz," a woman who urges married men to contact her "to indulge your sexual fantasies by having an affair." Calling Dr. Kate Madison.