The Ledes

Wednesday, November 25, 2015.

Attention, Costco Shoppers. E. coli in the Salad Cooler. Washington Post: "Federal health officials are investigating an outbreak of deadly E. coli bacteria that has sickened 19 people in at least seven states, mostly in the west.... Preliminary evidence suggests that rotisserie chicken salad made and sold in Costco Wholesale stores in several states is the likely source of this outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, November 24, 2015.

New York Times: "The American economy turned in a better performance last quarter than first thought, expanding at a 2.1 percent rate, the government said on Tuesday. While well below the pace of growth recorded in the spring, it was better than the 1.5 percent rate for the third quarter that the Commerce Department reported late last month."

Houston Chronicle: "A helicopter crashed at Fort Hood on Monday, killing four crew members, U.S. Army officials said. Military officials said the UH-60 helicopter crashed sometime after 5:49 p.m. Monday in the northeast section of the central Texas Army post. Emergency crews spent several hours searching the area and later found the bodies of the four crew members."

Reuters: "A bomb exploded outside the offices of a Greek business federation in central Athens on Tuesday, badly damaging the nearby Cypriot Embassy but causing no injuries, police officials said.The blast, which police believe was carried out by domestic guerrilla groups, is the first such incident since leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras came to power in January. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.Attacks against banks, politicians and business people are not uncommon in Greece, which has a long history of political violence and has been mired in its worst economic crisis in decades."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (October 26): "A research division of the World Health Organization announced on Monday that bacon, sausage and other processed meats cause cancer, and that red meat probably does, too. The report by the influential group stakes out one of the most aggressive stances against meat yet taken by a major health organization, and it is expected to face stiff criticism in the United States."

New York Times (October 20: "The American Cancer Society, which has for years taken the most aggressive approach to [breast-cancer] screening, issued new guidelines on Tuesday, recommending that women with an average risk of breast cancer start having mammograms at 45 and continue once a year until 54, then every other year for as long as they are healthy and likely to live another 10 years. The organization also said it no longer recommended clinical breast exams, in which doctors or nurses feel for lumps, for women of any age who have had no symptoms of abnormality in the breasts."

White House Live Video
November 25

11:15 am ET: Vice President Biden delivers a joint summit statement with President Grabar-Kitarović of Croatia, President Pahor of Slovenia and European Council President Tusk in Zagreb, Croatia (audio only)

2: 45 pm ET: President Obama pardons the national Thanksgiving turkey

Go to


Domenico Montanaro of NPR with everything you never wanted to know about the strange tradition of presidential "pardons" of turkeys.

Frank Rich reviews "Carol," the film based on Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel The Price of Salt, published under a pseudonym. As usual, Rich goes deep.

New York Times: "Ta-Nehisi Coates won the National Book Award for nonfiction Wednesday[, Nov. 18,] night for “Between the World and Me,” a visceral, blunt exploration of his experience of being a black man in America, which was published this summer in the middle of a national dialogue about race relations and inequality.... The fiction award went to Adam Johnson for 'Fortune Smiles.'..."

Slate: Carly Simon told People magazine that "You're So Vain" is about Warren Beatty. CW: Somehow I think I knew that a long time ago.

Guardian: "Gawker, the gossip website..., is giving up on reporting gossip in order to refocus on politics and 'to hump the [2016 presidential] campaign'. The site, founded by British journalist Nick Denton in 2003, announced on Tuesday that Gawker was steering in a new direction that would “orient its editorial scope on political news, commentary and satire'.”

Washington Post: Actor "Charlie Sheen confirmed on Tuesday that he is HIV-positive, as rumored in recent days by an onslaught of tabloid stories. Sheen told Matt Lauer on the 'Today' show that he is going public with his illness for multiple reasons, including that he’s been blackmailed for upwards of $10 million since he was diagnosed four years ago."

... For about $880,000, you can purchase Julia Child's excellent little house in Provence; her kitchen is intact, except for the stove.

New York Times: "Archaeologists have over the years cataloged the rocks [forming Stonehenge], divined meaning from their placement — lined up for midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset — and studied animal and human bones buried there. They have also long known about the other monuments — burial chambers, a 130-foot-tall mound of chalk known as Silbury Hill and many other circular structures. An aerial survey in 1925 revealed circles of timbers, now called Woodhenge, two miles from Stonehenge." With slide show.


New York Times: "In an overheated art market where anything seems possible, a painting of an outstretched nude woman by the early-20th-century artist Amedeo Modigliani sold on Monday night for $170.4 million with fees, in a packed sales room at Christie’s. It was the second-highest price paid for an artwork at auction."

Artist's rendering of the main exhibition hall of the planned wing of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. CLICK ON PICTURE TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "In designing its $325 million addition on Columbus Avenue, the American Museum of Natural History has opted for an architectural concept that is both cautious and audacious, according to plans approved by its board on Wednesday. The design ... evokes Frank Gehry’s museum in Bilbao, Spain, in its undulating exterior and Turkey’s underground city of Cappadocia in its cavelike interior. The design, by the architect Jeanne Gang for the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation, aims to unite the museum’s various activities, solve its notorious circulation problems and provide a multistory showcase for the institution’s expanding role as a hub for scientific research and scholarship.”

New York Times: "... Jon Stewart has signed a production deal with the premium cable channel HBO, the channel announced on Tuesday. As part of the arrangement, Mr. Stewart will work on some digital short projects that are expected to appear on HBO’s apps like HBO Now and HBO Go. Mr. Stewart could also pursue movie or television projects with the network. The contract covers four years."

Guardian: "Facebook has announced plans to water down its controversial 'real names' policy, after lobbying from civil liberties groups worldwide."

If you'd like to know whatever happened to former NYT food columnist Mark Bittman, the Washington Post has the answer.

Jennifer Senior of the New York Times reviews Notorious R.G.B., by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik: "It’s an artisanal hagiography, a frank and admiring piece of fan nonfiction."

Digital Globe photo, via NASA, republished in the New York Times. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.... New York Times: "Satellite pictures of a remote and treeless northern steppe reveal colossal earthworks — geometric figures of squares, crosses, lines and rings the size of several football fields, recognizable only from the air and the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old. The largest, near a Neolithic settlement, is a giant square of 101 raised mounds, its opposite corners connected by a diagonal cross, covering more terrain than the Great Pyramid of Cheops.... Described last year at an archaeology conference in Istanbul as unique and previously unstudied, the earthworks, in the Turgai region of northern Kazakhstan, number at least 260 — mounds, trenches and ramparts — arrayed in five basic shapes."

New York Times: "In a landmark study, scientists at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands reported that they had conducted an experiment that they say proved one of the most fundamental claims of quantum theory — that objects separated by great distance can instantaneously affect each other’s behavior. The finding is another blow to one of the bedrock principles of standard physics known as 'locality,' which states that an object is directly influenced only by its immediate surroundings. The Delft study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, lends further credence to an idea that Einstein famously rejected. He said quantum theory necessitated 'spooky action at a distance,' and he refused to accept the notion that the universe could behave in such a strange and apparently random fashion." CW: Everything is relative, Al.

Gizmodo: On Halloween, "a rather large asteroid — discovered less than three weeks ago — is set to to fly past the Earth at a distance not seen in nearly a decade.... NASA says that 2015 TB145 will safely pass by the Earth and continue to following along its exceptionally eccentric and high-inclination orbit — which may explain why it wasn’t discovered until only a few weeks ago. During the flyby, the asteroid will reach a magnitude luminosity of 10, so it should be observable to astronomers with telescopes."

For $299,000 you could buy the house where Bruce Springsteen wrote "Born to Run." It looks like a dump prone to flooding every time it rains, but it's a block-and-a-half from the Jersey shore beach.

New York Post: "During his time in the White House, President Richard Nixon — pug-nosed, jowly, irascible, charmless-yet-devoted husband to Pat — was known to awkwardly hit on middle-aged female staffers. In 'The Last of the President’s Men' (Simon & Schuster), veteran journalist Bob Woodward quotes Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s deputy assistant, about the commander-in-chief’s sad seduction techniques."

The Washington Post thought it would be great journalism to feature Donald's Digs in their weekend edition.  You'll be happy to know that Trump's taste runs to the gaudy & garish. You can take the boy out of the boroughs but you can take the boroughs out of the boy. I'd call Donald's style Early Modern Lottery Winner. Here's a sampling:

... There's much more where that came from. Ugh. Here, by contrast, is the study in Michael Bloomberg's New York City pad. Bloomberg is quite a few $$BB richer than Trump.

CW: I've completely ignored the buzz about the film "Steve Jobs," so this was welcome:

... Sharon Shetty in Slate: "As the latest attempt to mine every last bit of meaning from the life of Apple’s late founder, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs will probably make lots of money and spark lots of debate. For those preemptively exhausted by that debate, there’s Conan O’Brien’s less controversial take on a tech biopic: Michael Dell":

AND contributor D. C. Clark was kind enough to remind us of Eva Cassidy:

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The Commentariat -- October 29, 2015

Presidential Race

MAG is right. Driftglass has the best liveblog of the debate.

Philip Rucker & Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "The leading Republican candidates for president tangled with the moderators and one another in a freewheeling and chaotic debate ... Wednesday night that swerved from one topic to another but featured a handful of notably sharp exchanges and breakout performances." ...

... Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "For most of this year, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) have been lurking in the background of the Republican presidential campaign. On Wednesday night, they broke out into the open, delivering strong and forceful performances in a raucous and rambling Republican debate marked by squabbling and sharp elbows.... ...

     ... CW: Balz's commentary seems to reflect the consensus Beltway takeaway. I didn't watch all of the debate, but I did see some of Marco's & Ted's supposed "breakout moments." They were bullshit. Both of them are experts at not answering questions & blaming the media for their own failings. Admittedly, the audience of lemmings & ignoramuses applauded this crap, but it was crap. Marco was particularly galling, "answering" questions with pieces of his canned stump speech, the "answers" usually having little or nothing to do with the questions. Question: Why don't you show up for work, Sen. Rubio? Answer: I believe in the American dream, blah-blah. Question: Why do you oppose the budget & debt-ceiling deals, Sen. Cruz? Answer: Your questions suck, blah-blah. ...

... So say Patrick Healy & Jonathan Martin in the New York Times' lead story: "Mr. Rubio, a first-term senator, had the best night of his campaign, showing the political talent that many insiders had long seen in him.... Mr. Cruz also stood out far more than he had in the first two debates, reminding viewers of his fights against Republican leaders and blistering the news media in a fashion that delighted the crowd." ...

... AND John Dickerson of Slate & CBS was just wowed! "There were plenty of strong moments for almost all the candidates not named Jeb Bush, but what made Rubio's moments so useful for him was that they combined three things: They were well-timed, they shored up his weaknesses, and they came as his rising poll numbers and the vulnerabilities in his rivals' polling are creating a moment for him." ...

... Greg Sargent on the Man of the Moment: Here's "why Rubio is so effective and dangerous -- to his GOP opponents, and potentially in a general election as well. It's this: Rubio knows how to feed the angry preoccupations of many GOP base voters while simultaneously coming across as hopeful and optimistic."

Here's what ABC News analysts call the "six moments that mattered" in the debate. CW: They don't matter to me; I do agree that Marco got the best of Jeb! tho not on tone. Cruz, Rubio, Christie & Trump don't sound like presidential candidates to me; they sound like high-school bullies. The best debater, Lindsey Graham (with whom I heartily disagree), played in the wrong show.

A Party United Against Reality. Jonathan Chait: "The debate allowed the candidates mostly to agree with each other and against the moderators, who they especially resented for their intrusions of reality. A recurring trope was for candidates, when presented with uncomfortable facts, to simply deny them.... Media-bashing provided the most popular subject for contemporaneous sermons, a foolproof way for candidates to bat down any inconvenient query and win wild applause from the partisan crowd." ...

... Amanda Marcotte in Salon: "The irony in all this is that CNBC leans pretty hard to the right and toward the CEO class, and while the moderators were trying to be tough, they buy into a surprising number of erroneous right-wing economic ideas.... Whenever journalists do their actual job, whether it's by pointing out that the Benghazi hearings are a farce or that Donald Trump's tax plan is unworkable, it's time to whip out the claim that the mainstream media is out to get you. Conservative audiences eat it up and it allows you to tell any lie you want without ever having to really deal with the facts." ...

... Ezra Klein of Vox: "The questions in the CNBC debate, though relentlessly tough, were easily the most substantive of the debates so far. And the problem for Republicans is that substantive questions about their policy proposals end up sounding like hostile attacks -- but that's because the policy proposals are ridiculous, not because the questions are actually unfair.... Republicans have boxed themselves into some truly bizarre policies -- including a set of tax cuts that give so much money to the rich, and blow such huge holes in the deficit, that simply asking about them in any serious way seems like a vicious attack. Assailing the media is a good way to try to dodge those questions for a little while, but it won't work over the course of a long campaign." Emphasis added. ...

... Christopher Rugaber & Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "Reality got twisted out of shape on a number of fronts in the fast-paced Republican presidential debate Wednesday night." ...

... Glenn Kessler & Michelle Lee of the Washington Post debunk quite a few whoppers. CW: It's easy to make mistakes or exaggerate in off-the-cuff remarks -- I'm sure I do it myself (tho I try not to) -- but these lying liars are often repeating stump-speech claims that have been repeatedly debunked. They just don't care. It's all part of Right Wing World's fantasy worldview.

Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: Jeb Bush "entered Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate with little margin for error in a race that has spiraled out of his control. He needed to make things right. But time and again, he failed to capitalize on the opportunities he created for himself."

Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Jeb Bush campaign manager Danny Diaz got into a heated confrontation with a CNBC producer outside the debate as it was happening.... 'I expressed my displeasure about the way the debate was managed and the amount of time [we got],' said Diaz, who declined to comment further." ...

... Steve M.: "If Jeb had a complaint, he should have voiced it on the air. He should have mingled it with a broader attack on the moderators and the media in general. GOP voters eat that kind of thing up. But no. Jeb has people to do the complaining for him. He's not going to get into it with the moderators. He's not going to scrap. He's above that sort of thing. And that's why he's losing so badly." ...

     ... CW: I dunno, Steve. It comes across as really whiney to say, "Call on me, call on me." Jim Webb received withering criticism when he tried that tack during the Democratic debate. To wit,

... ** Dana Milbank: "The Republicans seem to be testing a strategy of winning by whining. Certainly, voters are discontented and even angry. But do they want a leader who campaigns by kvetching? At the debate itself, the grievances tumbled forth in bulk." ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM gets it right: "I think the only clear takeaway is that the window is closing on the Bush campaign. And it may already have closed.... Carson was somewhat more coherent than in past debates.... The final thing is Marco Rubio. He seemed on the defensive and without terribly good answers to the senate absenteeism charges.... I didn't think he came off that well. But the audience didn't seem to agree with me. He kept getting ovations from the audience."

** Charles Pierce: "... the conservative fearscape ... is the place where Barack Obama actually is a 'socialist,' where Carly Fiorina can run on her dismal record at Hewlett-Packard 'all day,' where Chris Christie can talk about the rule of law while his lawyers back home are answering motions, and where anybody -- like, say John Harwood -- who brings up the empirical reality within which the rest of us live can be dismissed with an airy wave by ambitious young hacks like Marco Rubio and outright loons like Dr. Ben (The Blade) Carson. It is a place where you can get rousing applause by accusing a panel on CNBC that included not only nutty Jim Cramer, but also Tea Party ranter Rick Santelli, as just another hit squad from what Rubio called, 'the Democratic SuperPac -- the American mainstream media.'"

Gail Collins: "Jeb Bush is not going to be the Republican presidential nominee. Neither is, let's see -- [Chris] Christie, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina or any of the other supporting cast members. Ted Cruz did have a big moment when he answered a question about raising the debt limit by attacking the questioner. That went over so well that by the end of the two-hour session, the left-wing media had overtaken government regulators as the greatest threat to the future of American democracy.... One of the theories on why [Ben] Carson can't win -- besides the fact that he's utterly loopy -- is that even a lot of Republican voters will be unnerved by his plans to undermine Social Security and Medicare. But his ideas aren't actually all that different from those of most of the other candidates, who want to raise retirement rates or cut out everybody under, say, 45. Somebody has got to be nominated. Happy Halloween."

"I am Hillary Clinton's worst nightmare." - Carly FiorinaTessa Stuart of Rolling Stone finds teensy bits of humor in the debate.

Elspeth Reeve of the New Republic: "As mean as he was to the media, [Ted] Cruz was nice to his opponents. It's all part of his sinister plot: The Texas senator hopes to steal the votes of his fellow Republicans by being nice to them -- and their fans -- while they self-destruct. We know this because he straight-up told Politico."

Andrew Prokop of Vox: "About a month ago, conservative commentator Erick Erickson wrote a post at Redstate headlined, 'Ted Cruz vs. Marco Rubio: This Is Where We Are Headed.' Erickson predicted that, eventually, 'the more conservative elements' of the party would fall behind Cruz, while 'the more establishment elements' would opt for Rubio. It was a bold statement, considering that both candidates were stuck in the single digits in the polls. After Wednesday night's third Republican debate, it's much easier to see how it could happen."

Will Oremus of Slate: "CNBC's Carl Quintanilla was lustily booed by the GOP debate audience Wednesday night for pressing Ben Carson on his relationship with a sketchy nutritional supplements firm. The jeers rained so loudly that Carson couldn't even finish his answer to the question. Which is good for him, because he was in the process of spinning one of the most convoluted, nonsensical, bald-faced lies of the entire campaign. And that's saying something." With video.

Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "While many of the candidates inside the wire fencing and security cordon [at the University of Colorado-Boulder] have roused their supporters with fierce anti-immigration rhetoric, a group of campaigners on the other side of campus are holding a rally to protest what they see as an alarmingly xenophobic tone to the Republican primary."

The New York Times is liveblogging the GOP presidential debates, & they're right on top of it. At the top of their liveblog of the kiddie debate, they also have a list of ways to watch the debates. ...

... The Washington Post's liveblog of the also-rans is here. The Post's liveblog of the big show is here.

Orlando Sun-Sentinel Editors: Marco Rubio, "You are paid $174,000 per year to represent us, to fight for us, to solve our problems. Plus you take a $10,000 federal subsidy -- declined by some in the Senate -- to participate in one of the Obamacare health plans, though you are a big critic of Obamacare. You are ripping us off, senator.... Two other candidates -- Sens. Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders -- have missed only 10 Senate votes during their campaigns for the White House. You, on the other hand, have missed 59.... And it is unconscionable that when it comes to intelligence matters, including briefings on the Iran nuclear deal, you said, 'we have a staffer that's assigned to intelligence who gets constant briefings.' And you want us to take you seriously as a presidential candidate?... Either do your job, Sen. Rubio, or resign it."

Norm Ornstein, in the Atlantic, assesses the state of the horse race. ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "The overwhelming majority of Republican voters have repeatedly told pollsters this year that, whatever their choice in any given poll, they haven't made up their minds yet. Most won't think hard about their decision for at least another three months. At this point in 2008, Rudy Giuliani was the polling leader. In 2012, it was [Herman] Cain. Rather than tell us anything deep about voter sentiments, polls at this point generally reflect name recognition and which candidates are receiving the most media attention at any given time.... The most likely scenario remains that the G.O.P. will eventually coalesce around the most conservative candidate who is electable."

Liar, Liar, Liar. Russ Choma of Mother Jones: "As a presidential candidate, [Carly] Fiorina is selling herself as a no-nonsense former CEO who could manage and lead the federal government efficiently and effectively. Yet while she campaigns, she leaves behind a long trail of false assertions -- enough so that voters ought to wonder about anything she says regarding her own qualifications." Choma details a list of "false assertions" that Fiorina repeats again & again -- after factcheckers have debunked them. CW: I think she's profoundly immoral, which makes her every criticism of other people, whether Barack Obama or a woman who has an abortion, meaningless.

Colbert's retelling of Donald Trump's riches-to-richer story is a classic:

John Wagner & Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: "... Bernie Sanders announced his support Wednesday for removing marijuana from a list of the most dangerous drugs outlawed by the federal government -- a move that would free states to legalize it without impediments from Washington."

Dan Merica & Ashley Killough of CNN: Hillary "Clinton's campaign on Tuesday backed away from the candidate's claim that issues at the VA were not 'widespread'" after veterans' groups & Republicans strongly criticized her for being clueless & facts-averse.

Real News

Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "After four and a half years as House speaker, [John] Boehner will close out an extraordinary tenure with a farewell speech Thursday morning before handing over the gavel to his successor, Representative Paul D. Ryan, to see what he can do with it." CW: I'm sure we can all imagine "what he can do with it." We'll probably look back fondly upon Boehner. ...

... Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "The test for Mr. Ryan will be whether he can manage, perhaps even blunt, [the conservative] wing of the House Republican conference, or if he too will fall to its members' intransigence. He had warned members that while he would take their concerns about process seriously, he would not brook dissent that would undermine his ability to lead them.... His problems are less with Democrats, who have deeply opposed his policy ideas for years, than in his own party, which controls 247 seats but is divided over tactics and to some degree ideology, with a sizable number of members often supporting government dysfunction over political compromise." ...

     ... UPDATE -- New Lede: "Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin was elected the 62nd speaker of the House on Thursday, taking the gavel that he never sought to wield from John A. Boehner, who relinquished it under fire.... Mr. Ryan received 236 votes, a comfortable margin that included several of the hardline conservatives who had worked to oust Mr. Boehner."

Kelsey Snell of the Washington Post: "Congress on Wednesday moved a step closer to clearing a bipartisan budget deal that would boost spending for domestic and defense programs over two years while suspending the debt limit into 2017. The House passed the bill on a 266 to 167 vote late Wednesday afternoon and Senate leaders have promised to quickly move it through the upper chamber. Senate leaders want to move the bill quickly.... Many House Republicans remained opposed to the deal and only 79 voted for it while 187 Democrats supported the bill."

David Hersenhorn of the New York Times: "House Republicans on Wednesday nominated Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin to be the 62nd speaker of the House.... Mr. Ryan ... won the overwhelming support of his colleagues in the nominating contest and is now set to be installed as speaker in a formal vote on the House floor on Thursday. Republicans said the vote was 200 to 43 over Representative Daniel Webster of Florida, Mr. Ryan's closest rival."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Weeks before President Obama ordered the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in May 2011, four administration lawyers developed rationales intended to overcome any legal obstacles -- and made it all but inevitable that Navy SEALs would kill the fugitive Qaeda leader, not capture him.

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it is not ready to raise interest rates, completing a seventh year in which it has held short-term rates near zero."

Quentin Hardy of the New York Times: IBM "announced on Wednesday that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire most of the assets of the Weather Company, including its website, a large number of weather data collection points, consumer and business applications and a staff of over 900 people. IBM would not say how much it was paying for the business, but an earlier report in The Wall Street Journal put the deal at over $2 billion. The Weather Channel, a cable television outlet, was not part of the deal, but it would license weather forecast data from IBM.... If combined with [IBM's] Watson, a computing system skilled at parsing unusual types of data and making statistically based decisions across a range of industries, the data could be more valuable,'" Weather Company CEO David Kenny said.

Photo via the Washington Post.... Andrea Peterson, et al., of the Washington Post: "The U.S. military has two giant unmanned surveillance blimps it uses to watch the East coast from a base in Maryland. And one of them escaped its tethering Wednesday and floated aimlessly over Pennsylvania, downing power lines and cutting off electricity for tens of thousands of residents." ...

... Austin Wright of Politico: There have been "a series of mishaps for a $2.8 billion program that's suffered from cost increases and performance issues and is now a national laughingstock as Twitter users and cable-news outlets marvel over how one became untethered -- forcing the Pentagon to scramble two F-16 fighter jets and the FAA to reroute some airline flights before the large white dirigible came down in Pennsylvania farmland.... The program dates back to 1996, when the military decided to try to build blimps ... that could perform over-the-horizon surveillance and detect cruise missiles.... Raytheon won the contract to develop the system in 1998.... In 2010, according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times, Army leaders sought to kill the program. But top Pentagon officials intervened -- including then-Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman James Cartwright, who's since made hundreds of thousands of dollars as a member of Raytheon's board of directors."

AP: "All five Gulf of Mexico states have reached a settlement with the owner of the offshore drilling rig involved in the 2010 BP oil spill. A court filing from Transocean and attorneys for Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas said all of the states had entered a settlement agreement. Alabama's governor announced that state's settlement with Transocean last week."

Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "New international negotiations on Syria that will start Friday follow weeks of intensive diplomacy, a significant amount of arm-twisting on all sides, and agreement between the United States and Russia that the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will not be on the table for now."

Reuters: "The United States is not keen on pursuing a separate free trade deal with Britain if it leaves the European Union, the US trade representative, Michael Froman, said -- the first public comments from a senior US official on the matter. Voters are due to decide by the end of 2017 whether the UK should remain in the EU, and opinion polls show rising support for leaving the bloc. Froman's comments on Wednesday undermine a key economic argument deployed by proponents of exit, who say Britain would prosper on its own and be able to secure bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with trading partners."

Beyond the Beltway

Kim Chandler of the AP: "A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Alabama to restore Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, money the state tried to cut off in the wake of undercover videos shot by abortion opponents. U.S District Judge Myron Thompson issued an order that temporarily bars Alabama from cutting off Medicaid contracts with the group's clinics in Alabama. Planned Parenthood Southeast and a patient filed suit in August, days after Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley announced he was ending the Medicaid agreements with the two clinics." ...

CW: Judge Thompson, who now has senior status, is a Carter appointee. "He was the first African American employee of the state of Alabama who was not a janitor or a teacher." -- Wikipedia

Craig Melvin & Erick Ortiz of NBC News: "The school resource officer who was caught on camera violently flipping a South Carolina high school student at her desk has been fired, authorities announced Wednesday. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said an internal investigation over the Monday incident at Spring Valley High School in Columbia focused on whether Senior Deputy Ben Fields had violated the department's policies. He said at a news conference that the department looked at cellphone videos taken from the classroom and interviews with witnesses, and concluded that the maneuvers he used in the confrontation were 'not acceptable.'" CW: No kidding. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post has a good response to the "defenses" Richmond County, South Carolina, Sheriff Leon Lott offered for Deputy Ben Fields -- before Lott fired him. ...

... Perry Stein of the Washington Post shows one way a cop can diffuse a confrontation with teenagers. Prior to the scene depicted in the video below, the "officer approached two groups of teenagers and told them to disperse." At least one of the young women chose not to comply. Requires skills not likely taught at the police academy. Thanks to D. C. Clark for the link:

... Richard Perez-Pena, et al., of the New York Times: "A deputy's rough takedown and arrest of an uncooperative 16-year-old girl in a high school classroom adds fuel to a debate over the proliferation and proper role of the police in schools, where officers are often called on to deal with student misbehavior that used to be handled by teachers and administrators. Since the early 1990s, thousands of school systems around the country have put officers in schools, most often armed and in uniform, while many schools have adopted 'zero tolerance' policies for misconduct. That has produced sharp increases in arrests, especially for minor offenses, giving criminal records to students who in the past might have faced nothing more serious than after-school detention."

News Ledes

Stars & Stripes: "The USS Ronald Reagan scrambled its fighter jets earlier this week after two Russian naval reconnaissance aircraft flew within one nautical mile of the U.S. aircraft carrier as it sailed in international waters east of the Korean Peninsula, according to 7th Fleet officials. In the latest in a series of incidents involving Russian aircraft, two Tupolev Tu-142 Bear aircraft flew as low as 500 feet Tuesday morning near the Reagan, which has been conducting scheduled maneuvers with South Korean navy ships."

Washington Post: "China announced on Thursday it had abandoned its 'one-child policy' and would allow all couples to have two children, according to state news agency Xinhua. The move, which came after a meeting of the Communist Party leadership in Beijing, reflected rising concerns over a rapidly aging population and potential labor shortages that would put immense strains on the economy in the years ahead."


The Commentariat -- October 28, 2015

CW: If, like me, you want to watch (at least part of) the GOP debate tonight & you're not in the vicinity of your teevee, you can start at this CNBC page, click on "Watch Live" in the menu at the top of the page, click on the image of the key that comes up. pick your cable or dish service provider, then sign in thru the provider. For instructions to use other media & apps, this CNBC page will get you started.

Afternoon Update:

Craig Melvin & Erick Ortiz of NBC News: "The school resource officer who was caught on camera violently flipping a South Carolina high school student at her desk has been fired, authorities announced Wednesday. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said an internal investigation over the Monday incident at Spring Valley High School in Columbia focused on whether Senior Deputy Ben Fields had violated the department's policies. He said at a news conference that the department looked at cellphone videos taken from the classroom and interviews with witnesses, and concluded that the maneuvers he used in the confrontation were 'not acceptable.'"


Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The budget agreement struck late Monday between the White House and Congress hands President Obama a clear victory, vindicating his hard line this year against spending limits that he argued were a drag on the economy and buying him freedom for the final 14 months of his term from the fiscal dysfunction that has plagued his presidency. The deal is the policy equivalent of keeping the lights on -- hardly the stuff of a bold fiscal legacy. But it achieves the main objective of his 2016 budget: to break free of the spending shackles he agreed to when he signed the Budget Control Act of 2011, an outcome, the president allowed Tuesday, that he could be 'pretty happy' about." ...

... Phony Baloney. Paul Ryan Mad About Budget Bill His Staff Helped Write. Arthur Delaney of the Huffington Post: "Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Tuesday morning that he hadn't seen the new bipartisan budget deal and that the secretive process used to craft it 'stinks.'... 'Paul Ryan's staff was involved in crafting the [SSDI] provision for weeks,' a Democratic aide told HuffPost. 'His staff signed off on the provision, his staff also signed off on other key provisions' related to tax compliance and Medicare.... At 52 pages, the disability insurance provision comprises a significant portion of the 144 page bill." ...

... Kevin Drum: "This is so staged it makes Dame Edna look serious. Ryan has basically been given permission to blast the deal in order to verify his conservative bona fides, and everyone else understands this is just an act." ...

... digby: "We can now see why Ryan was willing to take the [speaker's] job. If Boehner can successfully take the basic requirements to keep the government running off the table Ryan can indulge his Freedom Caucus with endless witch hunts and crazy maneuvers for two whole years before any chickens come home to roost. If they ever do. Get ready for a very theatrical political freak show to try to appease the rubes. It's what they really want. Planned Parenthood is up next." ...

... UPDATE. This just in, via Jake Sherman of Politico: "After sharply criticizing how it came together, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan announced he would support the budget deal Wednesday." CW: What a weasel. ...

     ... Greg Sargent: "Paul Ryan's transformation from safety-net-obliterating, Ayn Rand-worshipping conservative hero to RINO squish Obummer-enabling sellout is complete." ...

(... Oh, but there's this. Elaina Plott of the National Review: "Paul Ryan has signed off on a letter promising restless members of the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) that he won't bring immigration-reform legislation to the House floor while President Obama remains in office." CW: They've got it in writing. I promise not to do jack-shit for "those people" while "that person" is in office. They all make me sick. ...)

... Jake Sherman & John Bresnahan of Politico: "House Republicans are facing a last-minute uprising against Speaker John Boehner's budget deal, as dozens of GOP lawmakers are telling leadership they might vote against the package because of changes to crop insurance programs, and other concerns. Senior GOP lawmakers estimate that between 60 and 120 Republicans will vote for the package as is, leaving Democrats to supply the vast majority of votes, though the vote count is fluid at this time. Aides in both parties expect the bill to pass, but the number of GOP defections is a notable rebuke to Boehner and other top Republicans." ...

... Sophia Tesfaye of Salon: "The U.S. government just avoided economic calamity. Naturally, the extreme right is unhappy." ...

... Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "The tentative budget agreement forged by congressional leaders and the Obama administration will ward off a historic spike in Medicare premiums for the coming year, but it will nevertheless require nearly one in three older Americans to pay 17 percent more in monthly premiums for doctors' visits and other outpatient care." ...

... CW: If you want to understand what is really in the budget, Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities is you man.

... Otherwise, you can turn to Steve Benen: "On the bottom of page 144, the budget agreement would designate the 'small House rotunda' on the first floor of the Capitol to serve as a 'Freedom Foyer.' I'm not making this up." CW: See? There's something in this budget to make everyone happy -- even for the loudest whiners. They get their very own foyer.

Lisa Rein of the Washington Post: "A group of House Republicans ... moved Tuesday to impeach [John Koskinen,] the head of the Internal Revenue Service, saying he violated the public trust and lied to Congress as it investigated the treatment of conservative groups. The announcement by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform panel, came four days after the Justice Department formally closed its investigation of the targeting scandal without filing criminal charges.... Chaffetz was joined by 18 committee Republicans in sponsoring an impeachment resolution, which now goes to the House Judiciary Committee. House Democrats quickly denounced the move as political grandstanding."...

... CW: Those "fiscal conservatives" sure are wasting a lot of our taxpayer dollars in the service of grandstanding hoo-hah.

CW: I'm sure there will be plenty of waste here, too. Christian Davenport of the Washington Post: "Northrop Grumman on Tuesday won the Pentagon contract to build a fleet of stealthy planes known as the Long Range Strike Bomber, a new generation of aircraft designed to reach deep into enemy territory. Northrop beat out a team of Boeing and Lockheed Martin in the high-stakes competition for a project likely to be one of the Pentagon's most significant over the next decade. In announcing the award, valued at nearly $60 billion, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said the program represents a 'technological leap' that will allow the United States to 'remain dominant.'"

Juliet Eilperin & Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post: "President Obama said Tuesday that there is no evidence police officers in major cities have pulled back from enforcing the law out of concern they will come under fire for using harsh tactics. Twice in the past week, FBI Director James B. Comey suggested that exactly such a phenomenon was responsible for rising crime rates in many U.S. cities, as police officers worry that their behavior will be captured on video and go viral":

Richard Fausset, et al., of the New York Times: "... the Justice Department said Tuesday that it would investigate ... a white sheriff's deputy upending and dragging an uncooperative black girl in a high school classroom [in Columbia, South Carolina], follows a set of

... Elahe Izadi & Emma Brown of the Washington Post: "Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, who requested the independent criminal probe [by the DOJ], said at a Tuesday news conference he was 'shocked and disturbed' by what the short video showed. Officials also have uncovered another video, recorded from a different angle, showing the student resisting, 'hitting the student resource officer with her fist and striking him,' Lott said. 'What she does is not what I'm looking at; what I'm looking at is what our student resource officer did.'"

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Justice Anthony Kennedy ... suggested during an event at Harvard Law School last Thursday that public officials who do not wish to follow the Court;s marriage equality decision should resign. Kennedy's remarks came in response to a question from a student who ... asked whether public officials who disagree with the Court's decisions on marriage equality or abortion have 'authority to act according to her own judgment' of whether the Court's legal reasoning was sound.... [He said] 'the rule of law is that, as a public official in performing your legal duties, you are bound to enforce the law.'... The justice did acknowledge the 'difficult moral questions' presented when a public official is asked to 'enforce a law that they believe is morally corrupt.'" ...

... CW: Looks as if Kim Davis would be making a big mistake to take her "religious freedom" claim to the Supreme Court.

Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "Former House speaker J. Dennis Hastert pleaded guilty Wednesday to bank fraud charges connected to $1.7 million he paid to cover up what federal officials said was sexual misconduct dating back to his years as a high school teacher and coach. Prosecutors are recommending up to 6-month prison sentence." ...

... The Chicago Tribune story, by Jason Meisner & Jeff Coen, is here. (It is currently not firewalled.) "'Guilty, sir,' Hastert said during his hearing before a judge in Chicago federal court. Hastert admitted he knew his conduct was wrong.... Hastert faces probation or up to 6 months in prison.... Hastert read a brief statement saying that he didn't want officials to know how he intended to spend the money he withdrew."

Coral Davenport, et al., of the New York Times: "... scientific data [collection] ... could yield groundbreaking information on the rate at which the melting of Greenland ice sheet, one of the biggest and fastest-melting chunks of ice on Earth, will drive up sea levels in the coming decades. The full melting of Greenland's ice sheet could increase sea levels by about 20 feet.... Each year, the federal government spends about $1 billion to support Arctic and Antarctic research.... But the research is under increasing fire by some Republican leaders in Congress, who deny or question the scientific consensus that human activities contribute to climate change. Leading the Republican charge on Capitol Hill is Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the chairman of the House science committee...."

Shannon Hall in Salon: "Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, according to a recent investigation from InsideClimate News. This knowledge did not prevent the company (now ExxonMobil and the world's largest oil and gas company) from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation -- an approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking."

Michael de la Merced & Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times: "Walgreens Boots Alliance said on Tuesday that it would buy Rite Aid for more than $9.4 billion in cash...." CW: Cash? Really? Bags of cash? Suitcases full of cash? What denominations? How many people will it take to carry $9.4 billion in cash.

Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "For the 24th year in a row, and by a wider margin than ever before, the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to urge the United States to end its economic embargo on Cuba. Despite the Obama administration's professed eagerness to do precisely that, the United States was one of only two nations to vote no. Joined by Israel, against a 191-vote majority, the U.S. delegation dismissed the Cuban-sponsored resolution as failing to reflect the 'spirit of engagement President Obama has championed.'"

The folks at Fox "News" are as smart as ever. Allegra Kirkland of TPM: "Fox News host Harris Faulkner asked on Tuesday why guns should be regulated in the U.S. if 'we're not regulating the car.'"

Presidential Race

Nick Gass of Politico: "With Vice President Joe Biden officially out of the running and the Benghazi testimony behind her, Hillary Clinton has surged to a 41-point lead in the first caucus state of Iowa, according to results out Tuesday from the latest Monmouth University poll surveying likely Democratic caucus-goers." ...

... digby: Over there in Right Wing World, they are not too worried about the presidential race because they have a ringer in FBI Director James Comey. He's going to put Hillary Clinton in jail. And AG Loretta Lynch won't be able to stop him. digby finds the Hillary-Behind-Bars scenario pretty hilarious, BUT: "Using whatever means necessary whether it's calling bogus voter fraud, closing polling stations or indicting opposition politicians on flimsy charges is a legitimate democratic process in their eyes. If Comey and the FBI are good partisan Republicans they'll help out any way they can. And that means they may not be able to press charges but you can bet they'll leak misleading information to feed the hungry little birdies in the press and the wingnut mob." ...

Stephen Koff of "U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, is endorsing Hillary Clinton for president. Brown's endorsement could matter among Ohio primary voters next March as Clinton vies with Bernie Sanders for the party's nomination. Brown has long embraced the progressive label, taking positions more often affiliated with colleagues such as Sanders, of Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts than with moderates such as Clinton."

Do you know how crazy this election is?... I've about had it with these people. Let me tell you why. We got one candidate [Ben Carson] that says we ought to abolish Medicaid and Medicare. You ever heard anything so crazy as that...? We got one guy [Donald Trump] that says we ought to take 10 or 11 million people and pick them up, where the -- I don't know where, we're going to go in their homes, their apartments. We're going to pick them up and we're going to take them to the border and scream at them to get out of our country. Well that's just crazy. -- John Kasich, at a rally in Ohio Tuesday

Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: Second-place Donald held a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, last night. Second place, for Trump, "is terrible."

Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Ben Carson calls abortion murder but thinks states should decide whether it's legal. The retired neurosurgeon says it's wrong to accuse fellow Americans of treason, yet suggested President Barack Obama could be guilty of the crime. He advocates severe punishment as a deterrent for health care fraud, yet helped secure a lighter sentence for a convicted schemer. On issue after issue, Carson's positions conflict, a collection of statements, assertions and pronouncements that are often out of step with a conservative electorate.... Carson's contradictions continued this week, when he said he had junked his long-held plan to eliminate Medicare and Medicaid." ...

... Steve M. explains why Ben Carson's Seventh-day Adventist beliefs -- including the conviction that Sunday-worshipping Christians are "the devil's partners" -- will not hurt him with these supposedly-doomed evangelicals: "I don't believe religion is exclusively or even primarily about religion for these people -- it's about tribal identification and tribal solidarity. The tribe in this case isn't the members of a particular faith tradition, but rather the overall group of heartlanders who wear their Christianity on their sleeve." ...

     ... CW: I think Steve has this just right. BTW, every time Carson uses the word "secular," in whatever context -- & he uses it often -- that's a dogwhistle to evangelicals. (When Carson asked for Secret Service protection, for instance, he said the reason was that "I'm in great danger because I challenge the secular progressive movement to the very core.") ...

... Dr. Ben Still Doesn't Understand the Debt Ceiling. Jonathan Easley of the Hill: "In a new interview with The Hill, GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson said he would not sign any budget deal that raised the debt ceiling if he is elected president." CW: See, Doc, the budget sets expenditures for the coming year (actually the coming two years this time around, but let's not make this too complicated), & the debt ceiling covers expenditures in the current year & years gone by. Maybe somebody should buy Dr. Ben a calendar & explains years and things to him, although I suppose introducing the concept of fiscal years may be way beyond his ken. Or we could forget about all this & concentrate on the End of Days. Jeesh! ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM: "I genuinely wonder if this guy is all there."

Li'l Randy Still Doesn't Understand the Debt Ceiling. Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has called [the agreement to raise the debt limit] a 'slap in the face to conservatives.' Likely speaker of the House Paul Ryan has said the process that created it 'stinks.' But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is the first Republican to pledge outright that ... 'I will filibuster the new debt ceiling bill.'... Paul also called the bill a 'steaming pile of legislation,' and urged fellow Republicans to join him. But Paul made the same move in 2011...." (CW: Ted Cruz understands it, but he's a phony-outrage machine who likes to stay in character. Li'l Randy just isn't very bright.) ...

... Andrew Kaczynski & Megan Apper write an open letter to Rand Paul: "Stop using fake founding fathers quotes. Four months ago, we brought to your attention that your first two books contained several quotations incorrectly attributed to our founding fathers.... Speaking in Greenville, South Carolina earlier this year, we caught you using a fake Patrick Henry quotation.... Just this week you released a new book, Our President &Their Prayers: Proclamation of Faith by America's Leaders, with co-author James Robison who 'compiled and edited' the text. It too is full of fake quotations." CW: If Li'l Randy is not very bright, neither are his ghostwriters. ...

... there's a ridiculous cottage industry out there of people who think they're smarter than everyone else, and because certain quotes are disputed -- well, yeah! If you want to say something's not a Thomas Jefferson quote, you can get a whole book on whether it's a quote or not.... I mean, this idiot [Kaczynski] says the same thing about my speeches. Do I need to say in my speech, 'as many people attribute to Thomas Jefferson, but some people dispute,' before I give the quote? It's idiocy, it's pedantry -- it's ridiculous stuff from partisan hacks. And I'd say that guy's one of 'em. -- Rand Paul, defending his "scholarship"

Paul & Christie Campaigns Are Literally in the Toilet. Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "During a tense 30-minute meeting at the Coors Event Center [in Denver]..., several lower-polling campaigns lashed out at the RNC. They accused the committee of allotting them less-than-hospitable greenroom spaces while unfairly giving lavish ones to higher-polling candidates.... Trump was granted a spacious room, complete with plush chairs and a flat-screen TV. Marco Rubio got a theatre-type room, packed with leather seats for him and his team of aides. Carly Fiorina's room had a Jacuzzi. Then there was Chris Christie, whose small space was dominated by a toilet. So was Rand Paul's." ...

... CW: Now, boys. This is just the RNC's subtle way of telling you drop out of the race to make room for Jeb! I'm with Kasich & Graham. You can't take these people seriously. They're only worth our notice for the laughs. ...

... Noah Weiland of Politico writes a piece titled "Everything you need to know about Wednesday's GOP debate." CW: But that's not true. He doesn't write about toilets & Jacuzzis. ...

... Steve M.: "I think this will continue to be a two-man race, and Carson really might have a chance of winning it." ...

... CW: Nah. I realize the dynamics are different every cycle, but I think we're seeing in Carson's surge the 2012 effect: that is, one GOP candidate is on top for a while, then another, then another. We just don't know yet who that third guy (or gal, as Steve suggests) is. Carson's uptick is really bad news for Trump, not because it deprives him of his top talking point ("I'm No. 1"), but because it means that the flavor of the summer doesn't taste so good in the fall, & voters will be looking at other candidates. It's Carson today, maybe Cruz or Rubio tomorrow. The Iowa caucus results, BTW, are just as important as they were in 2012, President Santorum. ...

... Speaking of "gal," Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: Carly Fiorina has told a story, at least twice before, of taking a friend to an abortion clinic years ago; this, she said, "helped harden her antiabortion position." Now she has revised her story to say the facility she took her friend to was a Planned Parenthood clinic. How convenient. ...

... CW: Let's just say Fiorina's story is 100 percent true. Having a friend who later wished she had not had an abortion is not by any means a sound basis for opposing abortion for other women who who want to choose that option. And if her friend "never got over it," as Fiorina claims, the friend has a psychological problem that is probably unrelated to the abortion. We all make decisions we later regret, but we do get over our angst. Fiorina's argument is as sensible as "My friend wished he had not bought a Corvette, so Corvettes should be illegal." There's nothing wrong with personally opposing abortion (or Corvettes!), whatever the reason, but to impose that view upon other women & families is imperious.

Beyond the Beltway

Onward, Christian Smugglers. Candida Moss & Joel Baden of the Daily Beast: "In 2011, a shipment of somewhere between 200 to 300 small clay tablets on their way to Oklahoma City from Israel was seized by U.S. Customs agents in Memphis.... Their destination was the compound of the Hobby Lobby corporation, which became famous last year for winning a landmark Supreme Court case on religious freedom and government mandates.... Law enforcement sources tell The Daily Beast, the Greens [who own Hobby Lobby] have been under federal investigation for the illicit importation of cultural heritage from Iraq." Thanks to Akhilleus for the link. ...

... Charles Pierce: "Now, it appears, their truly appalling Museum Of The Bible may discuss only eight commandments -- hanging up those prohibitions against bearing false witness and coveting your neighbor's goods may strike some people as a little ironic.... I've checked. I don't think you can claim that you have the 'religious liberty' to be a smuggler. Who knows what John Roberts thinks, though." ...

... CW: I'm awfully disappointed the Greens got caught. As the Daily Beast reported, "The tablets were described on their FedEx shipping label as samples of 'hand-crafted clay tiles.'... The monetary value assigned to them -- around $300, we're told -- vastly underestimates their true worth...." The Greens' haul was 40,000 "tiles"! Surely, they would have sold most of the "hand-crafted tiles" at their Hobby Lobby stores throughout the nation, & I could have picked up one -- at a huge markup from their assigned value of .75 cents apiece. I'd have decorated it with Hobby Lobby glitter & craft paints & maybe some cute decals.

Daphne Duret & Lawrence Mower of the Palm Beach Post: "Corey Jones was on the phone with AT&T's roadside assistance -- and possibly recorded -- when a Palm Beach Gardens officer confronted him on an Interstate 95 off-ramp last week, triggering the events that led to his death." Jones is black. He had a gun & a concealed carry permit for it. The officer who shot him dead was not in uniform, was not wearing a badge, & drove an unmarked white van with tinted windows.

Way Beyond

Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "In interviews, four of the 69 Arab prisoners of the Islamic State freed in a military raid last week described life under the thumb of the Islamic State."

News Lede

New York Times: "Iran has accepted an invitation to join talks with the United States and Russia this week on a possible political resolution to the Syrian civil war, state news media reported on Wednesday. The talks would be Secretary of State John Kerry's first formal negotiations with Tehran on issues beyond the nuclear accord reached in July."


The Commentariat -- October 27, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Seething at the Export-Import Bank’s expiration, 62 Republicans voted with 184 Democrats Monday on a rarely used procedure to force a vote to reopen the bank with some modest reforms. Final passage will be Tuesday, sending the legislation to the Senate, where its outcome is unclear but where it counts the support of almost 70 of 100 senators."


Boehner Cleans House. David Herszenhorn of the New York Times: "Congressional leaders and the Obama administration are close to a crucial budget deal that would modestly increase domestic spending over the next two years and raise the federal borrowing limit. The accord would avert a potentially cataclysmic default on the government's debt and dispense with perhaps the most divisive issue in Washington just days before Speaker John A. Boehner is expected to turn over his gavel to Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. While congressional aides cautioned that the deal was far from certain, and the CW: That last of which is mighty stupid. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Update: "After five years of bitter clashes, Republican congressional leaders and President Obama on Monday night appeared to settle their last budget fight by reaching a tentative deal that would modestly increase spending over the next two years, cut some social programs, and raise the federal borrowing limit.... With Mr. Boehner's backing, the House moved with rare bipartisanship -- employing an even rarer legislative maneuver -- toward ... reauthorization of the 81-year-old Export-Import Bank, the government's lender of last resort for American exporters. The House voted, 246 to 177, to wrest a bill that would revive the bank's charter from a hostile committee chairman [-- Jeb Hensarling (RTP-Texas --] and set it up for House passage on Tuesday."

... The Washington Post story, by Kelsey Snell, is here. "House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) led the negotiations with the White House." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) Snell's updated story, reflecting the finalization of the agreement, is here. ...

... Greg Sargent says the deal is not too bad. "On Medicare and Social Security: Nancy Altman, the president of Social Security Works, a group that strenuously opposes benefits cuts and argues for their expansion, tells me that the deal 'doesn't actually cut benefits or really hurt beneficiaries who aren't gaming the system.' Altman says the Medicare cuts are all on the provider side, which could harm beneficiaries at some point, but it's not a major concern. 'On the Medicare side, they limited their cuts to far in the future, and to providers," Altman says. ...

... CW: One tidbit I learned today: John Boehner actually knows his way around a kitchen, while his heir-apparent, Prince Paul, only pretends to. Look for the House to go totally fake under new managemement. ...

... Seung Min Kim, et al., of Politico: "The ink isn't even dry on a tentative two-year budget agreement, but conservatives in Congress are already pouncing.... Not only will the increased spending levels make for heartburn with conservatives, but many of the offsets touch on political hot buttons." ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "If the deal comes to fruition, it will be a huge gift for Paul Ryan.... Ryan is likely to face much of the same conservative opposition that Boehner did, but the deal could make the Wisconsin representative's tenure less miserable.... Boehner met with House Republicans to outline the agreement on Monday night, and according to Representative John Fleming, he was confronted for going around House committees. 'I would say that we're very skeptical at this point,' Fleming said, when asked if he'll support the measure. 'He threw the committee chairmen under the bus.' Others complained that the GOP leadership made too many concessions to the White House.... Ryan was not involved in the negotiations.... Ryan has yet to comment on the deal.... Representative Raúl Labrador, a founding member of the Freedom Caucus..., [said,] 'I think it would be a wise idea for us to just move forward and let Ryan start negotiating this stuff.'... The Freedom Caucus is clearly not going to help Boehner make things easy for his successor."

Conservative Matt Lewis of the Daily Beast: "There's a lot of range between being a heartless, grandma-murdering ideologue and being an effete, squishy RINO -- but in a short period of time, Paul Ryan has run the gamut.... He would certainly be the most conservative Speaker of the House in modern history.... he would certainly be the most conservative Speaker of the House in modern history.... Once the conservative battle against the 'establishment' was about ideology; the 'Rockefeller Republicans' really were liberals. Today, the fight isn't about political philosophy. It's not about right versus left, but us versus them. Being an institutionalist (someone who doesn't want to figuratively burn everything down) is tantamount to being a liberal. Believing in prudence, experience, and wisdom once defined being a Burkean conservative; today, those values label you a RINO."

David Roberts of Vox: "The Benghazi committee is not even the worst committee in the House. I'd argue that the House science committee, under the chairmanship of Lamar Smith (R-TX), deserves that superlative for its open-ended, Orwellian attempts to intimidate some of the nation's leading scientists and scientific institutions. The science committee's modus operandi is similar to the Benghazi committee's -- sweeping, catchall investigations, with no specific allegations of wrongdoing or clear rationale, searching through private documents for out-of-context bits and pieces to leak to the press, hoping to gain short-term political advantage -- but it stands to do more lasting long-term damage."

Ryan Cooper of the Week explains -- more clearly & concisely than New York Times reporters did a few days ago -- how conservative scammers work & how their grift is turning the GOP ever-more radically right.

Jonathan Chait: Sen. Jim "Inhofe, the Environment and Public Works Committee chairperson, and Kentucky representative Ed Whitfield, the House Energy and Commerce Committee energy and power subpanel chairperson, are thinking of going to the Paris climate talks to persuade the diplomats there that the Republican party really is crazy & it really will derail any hopes of progress on climate change abatement. CW: These fellas will have little trouble convincing world leaders that they're nuts; besides, most already know.

Steve M. disagrees with Bill Daley's assertion (linked yesterday) that Sarah Palin was the canary in the coal mine of GOP dysfunction: "Maybe Palin's nomination represented a turning point -- although I don't know how can she can be regarded as much more of an ignorant simpleton than Dan Quayle or George W. Bush. I think it's more likely that what destroyed the GOP was not nominating a few simpletons, but rather a day-to-day reliance on the political equivalent of superstition."

** Missy Ryan & Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "President Obama's most senior national security advisers have recommended measures that would move U.S. troops closer to the front lines in Iraq and Syria, officials said.... The debate over the proposed steps, which would for the first time position a limited number of Special Operations forces on the ground in Syria and put U.S. advisers closer to the firefights in Iraq, comes as Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter presses the military to deliver new options for greater military involvement in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan."

** Ken Dilanian of the Washington Post: "The Army Green Berets who requested the Oct. 3 airstrike on the Doctors without Borders trauma center in Afghanistan were aware it was a functioning hospital but believed it was under Taliban control, The Associated Press has learned. The information adds to the evidence the site was familiar to the U.S. and raises questions about whether the attack violated international law.... The attack left a mounting death toll, now up to 30 people." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama will make his case on Tuesday for an overhaul of the nation's sentencing laws, telling a gathering of top law enforcement officials in Chicago that putting large numbers of nonviolent drug offenders in prison is neither fair nor an effective way of combating crime, White House officials said.... White House officials said Mr. Obama would take note of the unusually high murder rate in Chicago, his hometown, by also renewing his call for gun control measures, though the president is not expected to announce any new proposals to limit gun purchases."

Ciara McCarthy & Sabrina Siddiqui of the Guardian: "FBI director James Comey conceded on Monday that he had little evidence to support his theory that a recent increase in crime was caused by heightened scrutiny of the police, as the White House appeared to distance itself from his remarks. Addressing police chiefs at a conference in Chicago, Comey said he could not be certain that the so-called 'Ferguson effect' ... had led to a retreat by officers, but said this was 'common sense'.... Barack Obama's press secretary [Josh Earnest], however, said at a White House briefing on Monday that available evidence 'does not support the notion that law enforcement officers around the country are shying away from fulfilling their responsibilities'." CW: Aw, c'mon, Josh; when shit happens, it's "common sense" to blame minority activists. ...

... New York Times Editors: "Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey -- the increasingly desperate presidential candidate who is going nowhere fast -- ...on Sunday ... accused President Obama of encouraging 'lawlessness' and violence against police officers by acknowledging that the country needed to take both police brutality and the 'Black Lives Matter' protest movement seriously. The president is absolutely right. This movement focuses on the irrefutable fact that black citizens are far more likely than whites to die at the hands of the police.... The recent remarks of James Comey ... were not as racially poisonous as Mr. Christie's, but they were no less incendiary.... His suggestion plays into the right-wing view that holding the police to constitutional standards endangers the public.... His formulation implies that for the police to do their jobs, they need to have free rein to be abusive.... Mr. Comey's speculations about alleged pressure on officers to stand down shows that he hasn't begun to grasp the nature of the problem." ...

... Steve M.: "... Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has said similar things:

With Chicago's annual murder count soaring, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is laying blame on what he sees as the chilling effects of high-profile protests against police brutality and officers' fear of cell phone videos of their actions going viral. 'Officers themselves were telling me about how the news over the last 15 months have impacted their instincts -- do they stop, or do they keep driving? When I stop here, is it going to be my career on the line?' Emanuel said this week....

... See also related links under Beyond the Beltway below.

Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "The region that gave birth to civilization six millennia ago could soon witness a grim milestone in the history of urban development: the first cities to experience temperatures too extreme for human survival. A scientific study released Monday predicts that parts of the Persian Gulf could see lethally hot summers by the end of the century, thanks to human-induced global warming that is already contributing to soaring temperatures around the globe. The report's authors say coastal cities from Dubai to Iran's Bandar Abbas could experience summer days that surpass the 'human habitability' limit, with heat and humidity so high that even the healthiest people could not withstand more than a few hours outdoors." CW: The irony is that oil production, which has been the economic lifeblood of the region for a century, will be the death of it in the next century.

Presidential Race

Jeet Heer of the New Republic: "The Republican presidential campaign has focused all along on matters of honor more than matters of policy.... The ... candidates need a more formal way of settling the issues of honor that Trump has placed at the center of GOP politics.... Duels are the ideal solution.... And surely a party as firmly committed to NRA dogma would have no objections."

Unpossible! On our side, you’ve got the No. 2 guy [who] tried to kill someone at 14, and the No. 1 is high energy and crazy as hell. How am I losing to these people? -- Sen. Lindsey Graham, GOP presidential candidate

... Poll Finds Nearly Half of Republican Primary Voters Are Idiotic. Jonathan Martin & Dalia Sussman of the New York Times: Ben Carson has taken a narrow lead nationally in the Republican presidential campaign, dislodging Donald J. Trump from the top spot for the first time in months, according to a New York Times/CBS News survey released on Tuesday. Mr. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, is the choice of 26 percent of Republican primary voters, the poll found, while Mr. Trump now wins support from 22 percent, although the difference lies within the margin of sampling error.... No other candidate comes close to Mr. Carson and Mr. Trump." Not that the alternatives are way better.

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "A new television ad by the Carson campaign aims to capitalize on his unusual experience and style of campaigning. The 30-second spot, which is airing in the Greenville, S.C., market, features Mr. Carson ... standing next to an empty cardboard box that says 'Washington political class' on one side and a sketch of the Capitol on another.... [In the end,] turning to the box, Mr. Carson concludes, 'There must be a good idea in there somewhere.'" ...

     ... Margaret Hartmann: "We recommend to 'stop comparing things to Hitler and the Holocaust.' That one's been in there for a while, so he might have to do some digging."

A Different World. Jonathan Swan of the Hill: "... Jeb Bush says his brother George W. Bush responded in an 'awe-inspiring' way to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and suggests he would learn from his sibling's leadership if he wins the presidency. The Republican presidential candidate's comments, which were made in a staged conversation with his brother at a Bush family donor retreat in Houston on Monday, were another attempt to rebut Republican front-runner Donald Trump." CW: And all of the reality-based world. Well, I suppose Dubya's seven minutes reading "The Pet Goat" after he learned of the first WTC attack was awesome in a jaw-dropping way. Wait, wait. A "staged conversation"? That must have been awesome, too, if awesome also means "dopey." These people are just embarrassing. ...

... digby wasn't awed, either. ...

... David Jackson of USA Today: At the staged conversation, "George W. Bush said 9/11 underscores the need for a president who can deal with unexpected event[s]. He ascribed that quality to his younger brother, saying, 'I am absolutely certain given his background and his steadiness that he'd be able to deal with the unexpected.'" ...

... Here's Jeb! dealing with "the unexpected." During a punishing "economic freedom" forum organized by his arch-enemies the Koch brothers, an evil inquisitor rose from his hiding place in the audience & demanded that Jeb! name his favorite Marvel cartoon character. After hemming & hawing (but not for seven whole minutes!), Jeb! mustered the forces of his background & responded with Bush-family steadiness:

She looked kind of ... she looked pretty hot. I don't know which channel it's on, but I'm looking forward to that. -- Jeb!, on actor Melissa Benoist, who plays "Supergirl" on TV

Benoist is five years younger than Jeb's youngest child. -- Constant Weader

Cruz Tells Rick Donors He's a Phony; They're Impressed. Katie Zezima & Matea Gold of the Washington Post: "For all his bashing of 'billionaire Republican donors' who 'actively despise our base,' [Ted Cruz,] the anti-establishment senator from Texas, is being bolstered by his own robust base of wealthy contributors.... Cruz's unorthodox campaign has hit on a fundraising formula that no other candidate has been able to match: raising millions from a robust base of grass-roots supporters while building a substantial network of rich backers.... Cruz has had trouble making inroads in New York financial circles or on Florida's donor-rich Gold Coast. But he is finding support among like-minded constitutionalists, religious conservatives, and oil and gas executives.... A Republican strategist well connected to the donor world [said]: 'When he's with major donors, they expect the guy they see with all the red meat, but they instead see an intelligent but toned-down lawyer with real bona fides. He will say things like, basically, "This is politics -- you've got go out there and sell and perform."'"

Beyond the Beltway

Jaeah Lee of Mother Jones: "Authorities in Richland County, South Carolina, are investigating a video that surfaced Monday showing a uniformed officer aggressively confronting a high school student.... The video, which appears to have been recorded on a cellphone by a classmate, shows a white male officer standing over a black female student sitting at her desk; moments later he grabs the student and flips her on her back. After dragging her across the floor, the officer says, 'Hands behind your back -- give me your hands.' The video has no additional context as to what led to or followed the altercation." Includes video. ...

... Steve M.: "Um, I thought cops were so intimidated by cellphones these days that they're afraid to do any policing at all. Looks like the school cop doing the body-slamming here has a history of committing similar acts of brutality against the kids. ...

... Tom Cleary of Heavy has the goods on Sheriff's Deputy Ben Fields, the cop in the video. ...

... The New York Times story, by Richard Fausset & Ashley Southall, is here.

Ole Miss Joins USA 150 Years after Civil War. Susan Svrluga of the Washington Post: "The Mississippi flag was taken down at the state's public university Monday morning, after student leaders, faculty and staff called for its removal because of its prominent Confederate emblem. It was a dramatic change for a university long proud of its southern traditions and ties to the Confederacy...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Way Beyond

Totally texas! Sarah Kaplan of the Washington Post: "Norway, when a party goes wild, when a soccer match gets heated, when a rare swordfish shoots out of a fjord with a loud noise and a massive splash, there is only one appropriate response: 'Det var helt Texas!' ... That is totally texas!'... No, it's not really a compliment.... Norwegians have been using the term 'texas' (always lower case, often accompanied by an exclamation point) to mean 'exciting,' 'crazy' or 'out of control' for roughly half a century." CW: Hey, what do they know? They're socialists.

News Ledes

Guardian: "China reportedly summoned the US ambassador on Tuesday after Washington launched a direct military challenge to Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea with naval manoeuvres near two artificial islands in the region. State television reported that the Chinese vice-foreign minister, Zhang Yesui, had branded the move 'extremely irresponsible' when meeting with the US ambassador to China, Max Baucus."


The Commentariat -- October 26, 2015

Afternoon Update:

David Herszenhorn of the New York Times: "Congressional leaders and the Obama administration are close to a crucial budget deal that would modestly increase domestic spending over the next two years and raise the federal borrowing limit. The accord would avert a potentially cataclysmic default on the government's debt and dispense with perhaps the most divisive issue in Washington just days before Speaker John A. Boehner is expected to turn over his gavel to Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. While congressional aides cautioned that the deal was far from certain, and the Treasury Department declined to comment, officials briefed on the negotiations said the emerging accord would call for cuts in spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits." CW: That last of which is mighty stupid. ...

... The Washington Post story, by Kelsey Snell, is here.

** Ken Dilanian of the Washington Post: "The Army Green Berets who requested the Oct. 3 airstrike on the Doctors without Borders trauma center in Afghanistan were aware it was a functioning hospital but believed it was under Taliban control, The Associated Press has learned. The information adds to the evidence the site was familiar to the U.S. and raises questions about whether the attack violated international law.... The attack left a mounting death toll, now up to 30 people."

Ole Miss Joins USA 150 Years after Civil War. Susan Svrluga of the Washington Post: "The Mississippi flag was taken down at the state's public university Monday morning, after student leaders, faculty and staff called for its removal because of its prominent Confederate emblem. It was a dramatic change for a university long proud of its southern traditions and ties to the Confederacy...."

Unpossible! On our side, you've got the No. 2 guy [who] tried to kill someone at 14, and the No. 1 is high energy and crazy as hell. How am I losing to these people? -- Sen. Lindsey Graham, GOP presidential candidate


Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Tens of thousands of people with modest incomes are at risk of losing health insurance subsidies in January because they did not file income tax returns, federal officials and consumer advocates say. Under federal rules, anyone who receives an insurance subsidy must file a tax return to verify that the person was eligible and received the proper amount of financial assistance based on household income.... Many of the people potentially affected have incomes so low that they would not otherwise have to file tax returns. But if they received insurance subsidies in 2014, they were required to file this year."

A Disaster Waiting to Happen. Ashley Halsey & Michael Laris of the Washington Post: "Railroad industry lobbyists have flooded key members of Congress with cash in a so-far successful effort to get them to postpone the installation & implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC), an automatic braking system, even though the National Transportation Safety Board "has investigated 145 rail accidents since 1969 that PTC could have prevented, with a death toll of 288 and 6,574 people injured.... [Meanwhile,] the number of rail tank cars carrying flammable material in the United States has grown from 9,500 seven years ago to 493,126 last year, thanks to the boom in domestic oil produced in the Bakken oil fields.... A federal official familiar with [the] 2008 negotiations [establishing the deadline, said,] 'The railroads were in the room, and [Association of American Railroads] and those guys were the ones who said 2015 was doable. They did not embrace the deadline, but they said it was a fair bill.'..."

Sellouts! Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: GOP base says Freedom Caucus members who support Paul Ryan for speaker are no longer crazy enough. ...

... BUT. Gery Legum of Salon: Ryan is already caving to the Crazy Caucus. ...

We know that the Ryan budget is very hostile toward federal employees. It would dramatically cut their effective pay. The Ryan budgets have always looked to federal employees as a piggy bank to be used to reduce the deficit rather than as an important resource to provide services to the American people. -- Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), whose district includes 1,000s of federal workers

Bill Daley, President Obama's former chief-of-staff, says in a Washington Post op-ed that GOP dysfunction began with Sarah Palin: "Palin's blatant lack of competence and preparedness needs no belaboring.... Now the 'settle for flash' aura of Palin's candidacy looks like a warning that the party was prizing glib, red-meat rhetoric over reasoned solutions.... Once McCain put Palin on the ticket, Republican 'grown-ups,' who presumably knew better, had to bite their tongues. But after the election..., they either remained quiet or abetted the dumbing-down of the party. They stood by as Donald Trump and others noisily pushed claims that Obama was born in Kenya. And they gladly rode the tea party tiger to sweeping victories in 2010 and 2014."

"Free Mitt Romney!: Paul Krugman: "... a few days ago Mr. Romney couldn't help himself: he boasted to the Boston Globe that 'Without Romneycare, we wouldn't have had Obamacare' and that as a result 'a lot of people wouldn't have health insurance.'... Mr. Romney quickly tried to walk his comments back, claiming that Obamacare is very different from Romneycare, which it isn't, and that it has failed. But you know, it hasn't.... From the point of view of the Republican base, covering the uninsured, or helping the unlucky in general, isn't a feature, it's a bug...: the base is actually willing to lose money in order to perpetuate suffering."

New York Times Editors: "Clearly, concealed carry does not transform ordinary citizens into superheroes. Rather, it compounds the risks to innocent lives, particularly as state legislatures, bowing to the gun lobby, invite more citizens to venture out naïvely with firearms in more and more public places, including restaurants, churches and schools. College campuses are the latest goal for the gun lobby -- a perverse marketing campaign after the gun massacre that took 10 lives this month at a community college in Oregon."

Jack Ewing of the New York Times: "A widening internal investigation at Volkswagen is focusing not only on who was responsible for installing illegal software designed to fool emissions testers, but also on which managers may have learned of the deception and failed to take appropriate action, a person briefed on the inquiry said. The failure of people inside the carmaker to sound warnings about illegal engine software has emerged as a crucial element of the scandal, in which 11 million cars were programmed to produce far fewer emissions during laboratory testing than they did under normal driving conditions."

Marisa Bellack of the Washington Post: "... there was a 19th-century echo in the American Cancer Society's announcement this past week of revised guidelines for breast cancer screening. Whereas anxiety was once a reason for aggressive medical intervention, it is now invoked to avoid intervention -- an argument that is both patronizing and unscientific. There may be good reasons for women in their early 40s to forgo regular mammograms, but this isn't one of them.... There doesn't seem to be as much concern about a hysterical response to a prostate cancer screening."

Rebecca Ruiz of the New York Times: "This fall, legal claims of wage theft in professional cheerleading have spread from the N.F.L. to the N.B.A., and basketball teams' treatment of female performers is under intense scrutiny. Lauren Herington, a former dancer for the Milwaukee Bucks, sued the team in federal court in Wisconsin last month, charging that she had been paid well under the minimum wage during the 2013-14 season."

Mary Chapman of the New York Times: "Minutes before their contract was set to expire, the United Automobile Workers union and General Motors announced a tentative agreement Sunday night on a new national agreement covering about 52,000 employees."

AP: "A video of the joint raid of a prison in Iraq by US and Kurdish forces in which 70 hostages held by Islamic State (Isis) were rescued has been released. Helmet-camera footage, released on Sunday, shows the raid on Thursday of the prison, which was controlled by Isis militants in Hawija, 9 miles (15km) west of the city of Kirkuk.... US army Master Sgt Joshua Wheeler, 39, of Roland, Oklahoma, was killed during the operation, officials said on Friday. He is the first American to die in combat as part of the US Operation Inherent Resolve." Includes video.

Presidential Race

Digby, in Salon, on politics as teevee drama. "Bill and Hillary Clinton ... are the stars of the nation's longest running TV soap opera.... Hillary Clinton is the biggest political star of all. Along with her husband, she has been in the harsh spotlight of national politics for 25 years, and has gone through more ups and downs, heartache and triumph than your average Telenovela heroine."

Eric Bradner of CNN: "Bernie Sanders says his criticism of Hillary Clinton's 'shouting' on gun control has nothing to do with her gender.... Sanders criticized the "shouting" from both sides on gun issues in the first Democratic presidential debate. Clinton said Saturday in Iowa that Sanders' remarks came with a gender-related undercurrent. She said: 'I'm not shouting. It's just that when women talk, some people think we're shouting.' Sanders on Sunday laughed at her suggestion that his remarks were about gender." ...

... Jonathan Martin & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Nearly eight years after [Hillary] Clinton was humbled by a third-place finish in Iowa, she has gone to great lengths to demonstrate her commitment to winning the state that first propelled Barack Obama to the presidency. But in a campaign that seems to be testing every long-held assumption about the electorate, Mrs. Clinton is facing a stiff challenge from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont that is again showcasing her difficulties with liberal activists in a state where she and her husband do not have deep ties."

Charles Pierce: "Iowa Democrats had themselves a rollicking, yabba-dabba-doo time at the annual Slave-Raper, Indian-Slaughterer fundraising rodeo on Saturday in Des Moines.... All three of them came into Hy-Vee Hall knowing that the putative Democratic frontrunner had reasserted herself in a very serious way. Their respective reactions to this change in circumstances created a change in tone, an awareness that, to become president, you not only have to sell your vision to the country, but you also have to beat somebody.... Without mentioning her name, Sanders relentlessly portrayed Clinton's base-pleasuring moves in this campaign as the same kind of cold political calculations that, in the past, she had made in supporting the Iraq War and the Defense of Marriage Act."

Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. delayed making a decision about a potential presidential campaign for months, in part because of the tears of his 11-year-old granddaughter. That time for family healing after the death of her father, the vice president's son Beau, in May ultimately meant he would not be able to win, Mr. Biden said ... in an interview televised on Sunday night on CBS's '60 Minutes.'" ...

... You can watch the interview, by Nora O'Donnell, of Vice President & Dr. Biden here.

It has not been easy for me. I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars. I came into Manhattan, and I had to pay him back, and I had to pay him back with interest. But I came into Manhattan and I started buying properties, and I did great. -- Donald Trump, relating his rags-to-riches story

You know, many successful people start out with nothing. The poor, hapless Donald began his career a millon dollars in debt! Plus interest! -- Constant Weader

A Kindlier, Gentler Trump? Yeah, Right. Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "'When I'm president I'm going to unify the country,' the property billionaire told CNN on Sunday, in a surprise call for more civility in politics. 'A lot of people think I'm a tough guy, but actually I am a nice guy,' he added. 'Barack Obama has divided this country unbelievably and it's all hatred. I think it hurts both parties, it hurts the country.'" Of Hillary Clinton's appearance before the Benghaazi! committee, Trump said, "It was very partisan. The level of hatred between Republicans and Democrats was unbelievable. I have never seen anything like it." CW: If it's "all hatred," Mr. Birther, the hatred is coming from you & your side.

The press has a lower approval rating than Congress. They're scum. -- Donald Trump, in New Hampshire this morning

Like Jeb!, Trump Has Other "Cool Things" He Could Be Doing. This isn't so easy. I can be at other places at 7 in the morning, not on live television all over the world. -- Donald Trump, same rally

Martin Pengelly of the Guardian: "... Marco Rubio has defended his common and much-criticised absences from Senate business, saying: 'Voting is not the only part of the Senate job.' Speaking to CNN in an interview broadcast on Sunday, the Florida senator also deflected the suggestion that his own statement this week, that federal employees who did not perform in their roles should be fired, could be turned back on him. Rubio has the worst voting attendance record in the Senate this year." ...

... David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: Action figure Marco Rubio can't stand the glacial pace of his day job, so he has most quit doing the job, & he won't be doing it in the future.

Still Crazy ... AND Cruel & Sexist. Jonathan Martin: "... Ben Carson said Sunday he believed that abortion should be outlawed even in cases of rape and incest, comparing the procedure with slavery. 'I would not be in favor of killing a baby because the baby came about in that way,' Mr. Carson said on NBC's 'Meet the Press,' citing 'the many stories of people who have led very useful lives who were the result of rape or incest.'" ...

... AND, since he hasn't figured out a way to compare abortion to Hitler, he compares women who seek abortions to slaveholders. ...

... But Now, Back to Hitler. Kyle Balluck of the Hill: "... Ben Carson is defending comments in which he said an armed Jewish population could have stopped the Nazis.... Carson also said there should be no compromises on the Second Amendment." He got straight on Noah Webster v. Daniel Webster this time, however. ...

... Fire Chuck Todd! CW: Todd, being the fake journalist that he is, lets Carson get away with repeating his fake history. After Dr. Ben repeats his little history-of-the-Holocaust malarkey, Chuck moves right along to the next, unrelated question, never citing historians who say Carson is wrong on every aspect of the story. If you want to know why a crazy man has a shot at becoming POTUS, the answer is Chuck & Co. Evidently Chucky thinks "Meet the Press" means "meet and greet," a mixer sort of happening where folks can show up to chat & make friends with the show's staff. ...

... Still Baffling. Chris Wallace can't understand Dr. Ben's prescription for Medicare. Apparently, neither can Dr. Ben. "When Wallace pressed him on his past indication he would eliminate Medicare, Carson said he’s perfectly capable of changing his mind." Includes video. You figure it out. I think he's saying you're on your own, buddy.

Bushed, Bothered & Bewildered. Eli Stokols of Politico: A "closed-door summit [in Houston] for Jeb Bush's richest donors was meant to be a pep rally, a reunion for loyalists eager to celebrate the family legacy with two former presidents. But as George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush draw supporters together under gray skies and unrelenting rains, the gathering has become a rescue operation for a candidate who looks unable to meet the expectations of the family brand. Many of these dedicated Bush supporters are no longer denying that the guest of honor is unable to connect with a GOP electorate that has become increasingly fractured and stridently ideological since -- and in reaction to -- his brother's presidency.... 'I look at this party now and I hardly recognize it,' one Florida-based donor said." ...

... "A Tale of Two Establishment Favorites." John Cassidy of the New Yorker contrasts the status of Jeb!'s campaign with that of Hillary's. ...

...Steve M. makes a telling point: "It's a quitters-never-win kind of family (though the persistence is usually accompanied by the employment of amoral attack dogs like Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes, and Karl Rove, an approach Jeb isn't taking yet)." In raw politics, the above-the-fray noblesse oblige 'tude works only if your staff operates more like Tricky Dick's dirty-tricks plumbers.

HaHaHaHaHa. Melissa Cronin of Gawker: "New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ... nearly missed his 9:55 Amtrak train from DC to New York. Then, he didn't get the seat he wanted on the train. Then, to make things even worse, he got kicked out of the quiet car!" Fellow passenger Alexander Mann told Gawker, "He got on last minute yelling at his two secret service agents I think because of a seat mixup, sat down and immediately started making phone calls on the quiet car. After about 10 minutes the conductor asked him to stop or go to another car. He got up and walked out again yelling at his secret service.' Mann also said that Christie was having an intense phone conversation, repeating the phrases, 'this is frickin' ridiculous' and 'seriously?! seriously?!'" CW: Wonder if the actual word Christie used was "frickin'." ...

... Maggie Haberman: "Aides to Mr. Christie said the episode was far less dramatic than what was portrayed in the Gawker account.... A spokeswoman, Samantha Smith, said that the governor was not yelling.... At least one other person backed up Ms. Smith's account." CW: Aw, shucks. I prefer to think he was yelling & carrying on. ...

... Guardian: "... Chris Christie said on Sunday the Black Lives Matter protest movement was creating an environment that could put police officers at risk. Speaking on CBS, he said: 'I don't believe that movement should be justified when they are calling for the murder of police officers.' He also accused President Obama of supporting the movement and encouraging 'lawlessness' while not backing up law enforcement." CW: Which is, of course, an absolute crock. If I were seated in the quiet car next to Gov. Crisco, I'd be yelling at him.

CW: How to tell when a presidential contender is finished: news outlets do a dump of their research on a candidate they haven't reported on in weeks. Here's Politico's entry:

Matt Katz: Chris "Christie was on the train returning from an appearance on CBS's Face The Nation, where he went further than most Republican presidential candidates by alleging that the Black Lives Matter movement calls for killing cops. But that extraordinary comment about a critical American civic issue was lost as Gawker's account of Christie screaming on his phone, drinking a McDonald's strawberry smoothie -- and just being so Christie -- lit up political Twitter.... In 2011...," etc. CW: Ben & Scary's new flavor of the month is Carson Candy Nutty Swirl. Christie Creme Triple Chunky Monkey has been retired. ...

... AND here's today's New York Times entry:

... Michael Barbaro: "Those who worked with [Carly Fiorina at Hewlett-Packard] described an exhilarating, blunt, self-punishing figure who stayed in the office until 1 a.m. (and expected aides to do the same) -- a boss who could be warm, even nurturing, but who could abruptly turn cold and unforgiving." CW: Sorry, Carly. The Frozen Caramel Fiorina has melted.

Senate Races

She's Ba-a-a-ack! Burgess Everett & Elena Schneider of Politico: "Republicans have had enough of Sharron Angle, the one-time Senate hopeful who crashed and burned against then-Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2010. And now the GOP in Nevada and Washington is trying to chase her out of another campaign that could again jeopardize the party's chances of capturing Reid's Senate seat. Angle's very public flirtation with a primary bid against Rep. Joe Heck, the party favorite to take on Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, is reviving Democratic dreams and Republican nightmares from the 2010 election."

Timothy Cama of the Hill: "Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) came out in support late Sunday of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) regulation that seeks a 32-percent cut in the power sector's carbon dioxide emissions. Ayotte, who faces a tough reeelection bid in a state that voted for President Obama in the last two presidential cycles, is the first congressional Republican to openly endorse the rule dubbed the Clean Power Plan.... New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan is seeking the Democratic nomination to face Ayotte, and would be seen as a top-notch challenger. She's already attacked Ayotte on climate, signaling she intends to make it an issue in the race. Hassan on Friday called for the state's congressional delegation to support the climate plan. She accused Ayotte of siding 'with corporate special interests over New Hampshire's environment,' arguing the senator had fought to protect tax breaks for oil companies and voted to block the EPA from moving forward with regulations to reduce carbon emissions."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Argentine voters sent the country's presidential race into a runoff on Sunday, boosting hopes in the opposition after Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires, made a surprisingly strong showing against the candidate endorsed by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, according to partial results released by the electoral authorities."

Washington Post: "A massive earthquake rocked northeastern Afghanistan on Monday with tremors felt across the region from Pakistan to Central Asia, leaving dozens dead amid collapsed buildings and panicked stampedes with officials bracing for possible further casualties."

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