The Wires

Public Service Announcement

September 9: The New York Times reports that Equifax is doing nothing to protect you if hackers to its system gained access to your personal information. In fact, Equifax has a plan to make money on your misfortune. Reporter Ron Lieber has some suggestions about what you can do to protect yourself from Equifax & its hackers. Equifax is providing no good way to find out if you've been affected; it is apparently just trying to hook as many suckers as it can into getting a "free" account, but you can bet it won't stay free. Read the story if you'd like to feel helpless & enraged.

On Request:

David Remnick of the New Yorker remembers its publisher S.I. NewHouse, Jr.

Janet Malcolm of the New Yorker profiles Rachel Maddow. Mrs. McC: Maddow was right the first time about the canisters.

The New Yorker has links to Lillian Ross's stories here. The New Yorker is subscription-only but allows non-subscribers to read six stories a month, so if you're not a subscriber, you may want to open the page in a private window.

Mrs. McCrabbie: When the Emmy folks are looking to give out prizes next year, they should think Jimmy Kimmel.

Some highlights of the Emmys:

... To watch the whole monologue, go to YouTube & type something like "stephen colbert monologue emmys". There are quite a few pirated copies up right now, but CBS will certainly take them down, so none will be posted here. The Washington Post has some of the transcript here.

Former star of "The Apprentice" finally gets his Emmy:

Kim Weeks in the Washington Post: "Hillary Clinton revealed this week she turned to an esoteric breathing technique popular among yogis to heal from her devastating election loss.... By bringing this kind of breath work into the mainstream, Clinton has introduced the world to a practice that has both proven mental and physical health benefits.... In nadi shodhana, the process of literally alternating breathing between the right and left nostril also helps balance the right and left brain, the right and left lungs, and the right and left sides of the body. Alternate nostril breathing has been shown to slow down a rapid heart rate and to lower blood pressure." ...

... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Okay, I tried it. I can do the left nostril but not the right. That stressed me out.

Hill: "Melissa McCarthy brought home an Emmy this weekend for her memorable impression of former press secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live. The actress won an Emmy for best comedy actress on a comedy series at the Emmy’s creative arts awards Sunday, according to the Associated Press. The awards are a precursor to the main show next weekend." Spicer panned McCarthy's impression.

New York Times: "Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, plans to step down from the magazine in December after a 25-year tenure, leaving the role that established him as a ringmaster of the Hollywood, Washington and Manhattan power elite. Mr. Carter’s influence stretched from the magazine and entertainment worlds into finance, literature and politics, where President Trump, a target of Mr. Carter’s poison pen for decades, still bristles at the mention of his name. One of the few remaining celebrity editors in an industry whose fortunes have faded, Mr. Carter — famous for double-breasted suits, white flowing hair and a seven-figure salary — is a party host, literary patron, film producer and restaurateur whose cheeky-yet-rigorous brand of reporting influenced a generation of journalists.... Spy[a magazine Carter co-founded,] took special glee in attacking Mr. Trump, whom the magazine memorably deemed a 'short-fingered vulgarian.' (The insult stuck: just last week, Mr. Trump referred to his 'too big' hands during a visit to Houston.)"

New York Times: "Tronc, the publisher of The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, announced on Monday that it had acquired The Daily News, the nearly 100-year-old tabloid that for decades set the city’s agenda with its gossip, sports and city coverage. The deal represents the end of an era for The News, which was long a voice for New York’s working class. It may also signal the end of the political influence of its owner, the real estate magnate Mortimer B. Zuckerman, who often used the paper’s bold, front-page headline — known as 'the wood' — for commentary about candidates and politicians, locally and nationally."

Guardian (Sept. 4): "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a third child, Kensington Palace has announced. The announcement was made as the duchess was forced to cancel an engagement on Monday because of extreme morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum."

Constant Comments

Friday
Aug082014

The Commentariat -- August 9, 2014

CW: No more postings until late Sunday, & light postings for a few days thereafter. I'm traveling for a few days & taking a vacation for a few more.

New York Times: President Obama talks to Tom Friedman. ...

... Michael Shear & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama said Friday that he was open to supporting a sustained effort to drive Sunni militants out of Iraq if Iraqi leaders form a more inclusive government, even as he vowed that the United States had no intention of 'being the Iraqi air force.'” ...

... Mark Landler, et al., of the New York Times on what led to President Obama's decision in Iraq. ...

... Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post -- same subject. ...

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama’s decision Friday to launch airstrikes in Iraq reflected an important shift for a president who had spent months making the case for how the United States could achieve its foreign policy objectives without the use of force. His conclusion: Sometimes there is no substitute for military might." ...

... Julie Davis & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "President Obama drew bipartisan support on Friday from members of Congress for his decision to authorize military strikes in Iraq, but the backing was tempered with substantial concern — including within Mr. Obama’s own party — about his strategy for the operation. Republicans suggested that the administration had acted too slowly and timidly to confront the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and now was moving too cautiously against the group. Some said he should not rule out ground troops. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio accused the president of 'parochial thinking' that had emboldened the enemy and 'squanders the sacrifices Americans have made.'” ...

... CW: Hah! There is no "thinker" more "parochial" than John Boehner, whose worldview doesn't extend beyond John Boehner. ...

... AND then there's Not-President (Thank God) John McCain, in a class by himself (thank god). Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast: "President Obama’s limited strikes on ISIS in northern Iraq are 'pinpricks' that are 'meaningless' and 'worse than nothing,' according to one of his fiercest foreign policy critics, Sen. John McCain. ...

... Juan Cole: "Obama’s hope that the so-called 'Islamic State' can be stopped by US air power is likely forlorn. The IS is a guerrilla force, not a conventional army. But one thing is certain. A US-policed no fly zone or no go zone over Iraqi Kurdistan is a commitment that cannot easily be withdrawn and could last decades, embroiling the US in further conflict." Cole provides some evidence for his assertion.

Peter Hermann of the Washington Post: "The death on Monday of James S. Brady, the press secretary for President Ronald Reagan who was wounded in an assassination attempt in 1981, has been ruled a homicide by gunshot by the Virginia medical examiner’s office, according to District police department’s chief spokeswoman. There was no immediate word on whether the shooter, John W. Hinckley, who has been treated at St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital, could face new criminal charges. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity after he shot Reagan and three others on March 30, 1981."

Michael Liedtke of the AP: "A federal judge rejected as too low a $324.5 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit alleging Google and Apple conspired with several other technology companies to block their top workers from getting better job offers.The Friday ruling by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh concludes the more than 60,000 high-tech workers represented in the 3-year-old lawsuit deserve to be paid more money, based on the evidence indicating their earning power was undermined by the collusion among their employers."

Conservative legal scholar Jonathan Adler in the Washington Post: "Many Republicans and conservatives are upset with the Administration’s approach to immigration, in particular the deferred deportation of illegal immigrants.  There may well be good policy arguments against Obama’s policies, but there’s a strong case the actual law is on the president’s side.... Immigration law is an area in which — for good or ill — Congress has given the executive wide latitude." ...

... Greg Sargent interviews attorney John Sandweg, who helped write the DACA or DREAMers order President Obama signed. Sandweg says, "The president is doing what every single law enforcement agency across the country does: Put in place rational priorities to ensure that limited resources are focused on the populations that pose the greatest threat to public safety and border security.... ICE officers have always exercised discretion.... If you choose to expend resources on those who have been here 15 years and have never committed a criminal offense, that means somebody who has committed a felony is more likely to be able to stay in the U.S.... Longstanding law already allows for individuals who are granted deferred action to gain work authorization." Read the whole interview, plus Sargent's queries of "immigration reform advocate" David Leopold.

CW: Gee, I just got my weekly report, "This Week in News for Senator Rand Paul." It was "Dr. Rand Paul did this" & "Dr. Rand met with So-&-So." But not a word about "The Real New This Week for Senator Rand Paul." No GIF! No video of his running away from young DREAMers! Maybe Dr. Sen. Rand Paul didn't read his press clippings. Maybe Dr. Rand Paul needs to get his eyes examined. ...

... CW: Li'l Randy has some ideas on immigration, which he failed to share with those DREAMer young people, likely because he would send them back where their parents came from. I have allowed Charles Pierce to illuminate, since the original story comes from Breitbart "News," & I don't want to encourage those people. It turns out that, according to Paul, the immigrant crisis is only partly President Obama's fault (for letting some DREAMers stay in the U.S.); Rick Perry shares the blame! (Oddly, this particular radio interview does not make the cut on "This Week in News for Sen. Rand Paul.") As Pierce notes, we are not "we are living through the libertarian moment, at least as represented by Senator Aqua Buddha. This is because 'the libertarian moment' is a scam."

... Sam Biddle of Gawker: "Is there any way to keep white people from using computers, before this whole planet is ruined? I ask because the two enterprising white entrepreneurs above just made yet another app for avoiding non-white areas of your town — and it's really taking off! Crain's reports on SketchFactor, a racist app made for avoiding 'sketchy' neighborhoods, which is the term young white people use to describe places where they don't feel safe because they watched all five seasons of The Wire."

Paul Waldman on the New York Times' decision to call torture, torture: "when [executive editor Dean] Baquet says the Times 'avoided a label that was still in dispute,' what he's saying is that the paper essentially outsourced its judgment on what is and isn't torture to the Bush administration. All that was required to put the matter 'in dispute' was for the administration to declare, beyond all reason and common sense, that things like waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and stress positions aren't torture.... So, presumably, if tomorrow the Obama administration decided to refer to Republicans as 'the Hater party,' the Times would no longer use the term 'Republican' in its pages, because now that's 'in dispute.'" ...

     ... CW: AND one does have to wonder why the Times doesn't consider the name of the Democratic party "in dispute," inasmuch as Republicans call it the "Democrat party," which they seem to think is some kind of cleverly derogatory epithet.

Richard Leiby of the Washington Post reviews John Dean's new book The Nixon Defense, which is based on Watergate tapes. "The historical value of Dean’s book — which unspools as a practically moment-by-moment chronicle of the White House machinations starting soon after the break-in — is one thing. The sheer entertainment value of the tapes he quotes is another." CW: The review itself is fairly entertaining.

Congressional Races

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts is not amused that Mitch McConnell's wife Elaine Chao chose to sit on the Board of Bloomberg Philanthropies shortly after Bloomberg gave $50MM to the Sierra Club "to continue funding its campaign to keep new coal-fired power plants from opening and has supported other attacks on coal and coal miners’ jobs.... One has to wonder just where Sen. McConnell is with respect to this, and whether he supports his wife’s continued service on the board of this organization, one whose actions have already cost thousands of coal miners in Kentucky and elsewhere their jobs."

Chas Sisk of the Tennessean: "U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais declared victory in the Republican primary for the 4th Congressional District, as state officials hustled to finalize results from Thursday's vote. Robert Jameson, a spokesman for the DesJarlais campaign, said they do not believe enough ballots remain uncounted to shift the outcome of the race. DesJarlais holds a 35-vote lead over state Sen. Jim Tracy in an unofficial tally." CW: Got that? A 35-vote lead in an unofficial tally & he's sure he won. An asshole in too many ways to count. ...

... Gail Collins counts a few: "Wow, it appears that Republicans in Tennessee just gave a vote of confidence to a right-wing congressman-doctor who has a history of having sex with his patients and encouraging the women in his life to end inconvenient pregnancies by abortion.... As a member of Congress, DesJarlais eagerly and persistently urged that women be deprived of the right to do the very thing that he seems so enthusiastic about when an unwanted pregnancy interfered with his own life.... So, at best, we have a man who made a decision that worked for him at the time. Then he regretted it and changed his moral principles. Then he decided that nobody else was ever going to have the right to make that moral choice for herself, if he had anything to do with it. Some things are really unforgivable.... So how the heck did DesJarlais end up doing so well? Maybe it’s just because he’s already there.... Despite all the whining about unpredictable voters, a seat in Congress is still a hard thing to lose."

Beyond the Beltway

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "Prosecutors focused on secrecy on the 10th day of the [McDonnells corruption] trial, showing that [Jonnie] Williams kept his own company in the dark about the items he gave the McDonnells while also trying to prove that the McDonnells themselves took steps to hide their financial ties to the businessman.... To win a conviction, prosecutors must show the McDonnells were engaged in a corrupt bargain with Williams. They are allowed to use evidence they worked to conceal the arrangement to make their case." ...

... Theodore Schleifer of the New York Times: "The second week of the corruption trial against [Virginia Gov. Bob] McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, ended much like it began, with the character and foresight of his wealthy donor Jonnie R. Williams Sr. under fire. Mr. Williams is the star witness in the prosecution’s case, which argues that Mr. McDonnell took official action to benefit Mr. Williams’s dietary supplement, Anatabloc, in return for gifts and loans. On Friday, the chairman of the board of Mr. Williams’s company, Star Scientific, testified that Mr. Williams had displayed 'the most egregious errors in judgment.'”

Ahiza Garcia of TPM: "A Democratic candidate for a judicial seat in Plainfield, Conn. was forced to answer questions about her husband this week after a watchdog group exposed his ties to the white supremacist movement.... '"What am I supposed to do? Divorce him? It’s not unusual for husbands and wives to have different views,'" the candidate Anna Zubkova said. CW: Yes, dear. Divorce him. He's a reprehensible scum.

Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "The [Texas anti-abortion] law will soon force El Paso’s sole abortion clinic to shut its doors, leaving no abortion providers in all of West Texas. Opponents of the law said that would force women to embark on a lengthy drive to the nearest abortion provider in San Antonio. For women in El Paso, for example, it amounts to a nearly eight-hour, 550-mile trip one way. The state’s lawyers said that no such burden would exist, and that no long drives would be necessary, because West Texas women can go to the New Mexico clinic, 15 miles outside El Paso. But the state’s reliance on the New Mexico clinic is being disparaged by the law’s critics, who say Texas’ use of an out-of-state clinic is contrary to a recent abortion ruling in Mississippi. And it remained unclear whether the Santa Teresa clinic meets the new standards Texas has mandated."

Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times: "With Florida’s election schedule in disarray after a judge ruled the state’s congressional map unconstitutional, state lawmakers moved one step closer to resolving the uncertainty during a special session on Friday in Tallahassee. Redistricting committees for both the state House and Senate on Friday approved a redesigned congressional map — drawn in private by the two Republican committee heads, members of their staff and outside lawyers — that they expect will comply with the court’s orders. The redrafted map makes relatively minor changes to the two congressional districts that were ordered redrawn: the Fifth District, held by Representative Corrine Brown, a Democrat, and the 10th District, held by Representative Daniel Webster, a Republican.

Thursday
Aug072014

The Commentariat -- August 8, 2014

CW @ 10:15 am ET: There's a boatload of political news, people. Have you nothing to say about it? ...

     ... Update. Thank you very much, especially to P. D. Pepe, who got out of a sick bed to comment.

Today I authorized two operations in Iraq -- targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death. -- Barack Obama, last night

Julie Pace & Robert Burns of the AP: "President Barack Obama says he has authorized the U.S. military to launch targeted airstrikes if Islamic militants advance toward American personnel in northern Iraq. He also has announced that the military carried out airdrops of humanitarian aid Thursday to Iraqi religious minorities threatened by the extremists. 'Today America is coming to help,' he said in a late night statement from the White House." ...

... The New York Times story, by Helene Cooper, et al., is here. Another Times story providing more background, by Peter Baker, is here:

     ... The transcript is here. ...

... Michael Crowley of Time: "Why not Syria? Or for that matter the Democratic Republic of Congo, or the Central African Republic, or anywhere else that innocents are dying every day? Because, Obama would surely say, the nature of those conflicts make limited U.S. intervention with clear and achievable goals impossible.... Just because we intervene in some places doesn't mean we have to intervene everywhere." ...

... NEW. Sarah Jones of Politics USA writes an extremely partisan, but useful, roundup of Republican reactions to President Obama's announcement.

Martin Matishak of the Hill: "President Obama on Thursday signed a $16.3 billion bill to overhaul the troubled Veterans Affairs Department, saying the country had a 'sacred duty' to protect its military service members. The bill, approved by Congress last week, would allow veterans to seek private care outside VA facilities, and would also provide money for the VA to hire more doctors and nurses. The effort came after reports that some veterans had waited months to get care from the VA.... During the ceremony, Obama also made his first public comments about the killing of Major Harold Greene, who was shot in Afghanistan on Tuesday.... 'Our prayers are with the Greene family, as they are with all the gold star families and those who've sacrificed so much for our nation,' Obama said. 'Now, four months from now, our combat mission to Afghanistan will be complete'":

Bad News for IRS Scandal-Mongers. Bernie Becker of the Hill: "A federal judge on Thursday delivered an early setback to a conservative group's lawsuit against the IRS, denying a request to allow an independent expert to search for former agency official Lois Lerner's missing emails. Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court in Washington ruled that the conservative group, True the Vote, had provided no evidence that the IRS had already intentionally destroyed evidence or would do so in the future. He added that approving True the Vote's request could jeopardize the confidentiality of taxpayer information, and complicate the efforts of an inspector general currently investigating what happened to Lerner's emails. 'The public interest weighs strongly against the type of injunctive relief the plaintiff seeks,' Walton, a George W. Bush nominee, wrote in his 17-page opinion filed Thursday." CW: I didn't realize this disgusting fake "voter integrity" group had branched out into IRS fake scandal territory. What fake cause will they take up next?

Another Nixonian Summer. Frank Rich: "... it's hard not to notice similarities [between Americans' attitudes toward Washington today and] the funk of [the Watergate] era: Vast economic uncertainty; the absence of leadership and governance in a polarized Washington; continued revelations of CIA crimes, from torture to illegal surveillance; the citizenry's disillusionment with unpopular, failed wars."

Tim Egan: "More than 250,000 acres have burned in the largest fire in [Washington] state's history, the Carlton Complex. About 300 homes have been destroyed. A small army of firefighters, at a cost of $50 million so far, is trying to hold the beast in the perimeter.... With this kind of loss comes blame. It's President Obama's fault. Why? Because everything is his fault in the inland West, where ignorance rides the airwaves of talk radio. Amid the conservative cant, a great irony: People who hate government most are the loudest voices demanding government action to save their homes.... Smart foresters had been warning for years that climate change, drought and stress would lead to bigger, longer, hotter wildfires.... If [you] want to put a face on this inaction, you can look no further than the member of Congress whose district in Washington State is now choked by smoke and harassed by flames -- [Rep.] Cathy McMorris Rodgers [R-Wash.].

** Paul Krugman: "For more than three decades, almost everyone who matters in American politics has agreed that higher taxes on the rich and increased aid to the poor have hurt economic growth.... But there's now growing evidence for a new view -- namely, that the whole premise of this debate is wrong, that there isn't actually any trade-off between equity and inefficiency. Why? ... American inequality has become so extreme that it's inflicting a lot of economic damage.... If you look systematically at the international evidence on inequality, redistribution, and growth -- which is what researchers at the I.M.F. did -- you find that lower levels of inequality are associated with faster, not slower, growth."

Janelle Marte of the Washington Post: "One in five people who are near retirement age have zero money saved.... The sobering statistic was one of many released by the Federal Reserve on Thursday as part of its report on the economic well-being of U.S. households, which surveyed more than 4,100 people online last year between mid-September and early October. The study offered a stark reminder that as more Americans are made responsible for their own retirement, most are not saving nearly enough.... [According to the Fed report,] 'The lack of preparedness is not signaled by a lack of planning alone. Many respondents, particularly those with limited incomes, indicated that they simply have few or no financial resources available for retirement.' ... The biggest resource people planned to rely on, whether they had savings or not, was Social Security, which was cited by roughly 45 percent of respondents." CW: But, but Social Security is an entitlement program, it should be privatized (because freeedom! [to starve to death on the street]) & it's going broke.

CW: Today in Agitprop. I seldom read articles whose headlines ask a question. Robert Draper's New York Times Magazine cover story -- "Has the 'Libertarian Moment' Finally Arrived?" -- did not inspire me to change my policy.... Jonathan Chait says the Draper piece is a crock, largely dictated by Reason magazine & its skewed poll "findings.": "Draper's story presents the libertarians' self-conception in their preferred terms." ...

... Rand Paul, Pragmatically Anti-Gay. If you tell people from Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia, 'You know what, guys, we've been wrong, and we're gonna be the pro-gay-marriage party,' they're either gonna stay home or -- I mean, many of these people joined the Republican Party because of these social issues. So I don't think we can completely flip.... I think the party will evolve. It'll either continue to lose, or it’ll become a bigger place where there's a mixture of opinions. -- Rand Paul, to Robert Draper

Not sure suggesting people from Alabama, Mississippi & Georgia are seriously Cro Magnon will help Paul's primary chances there, but at least his assessment is accurate. I admire the way Randy suggests he has "evolved," without actually saying he's evolved. Kinda like running away from a Steve King-DREAMers confrontation, then claiming you had to rush to an interview. Has anyone seen or read that interview? -- Constant Weader

Mo Brooks, recently delivered from obscurity by his claim that Democrats are waging a War on Whites, is intent on extending his 15 minutes. Ahiza Garcia of TPM: "Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said during a radio interview on Wednesday that his party's efforts to court Hispanic voters amount to 'race-baiting.' The Huffington Post reported that the comments came in response to a passage from the Republican National Committee's Growth and Opportunity Book 2013, that was read aloud by the National Journal's Ron Fournier, who was also a guest on the show." CW: Maybe we should mention to Mo that "Hispanic" is not a race or ethnicity. ...

... Charles Pierce writes a classic Piercian response: "Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama, who got in a little trouble the other day when he said that the president was waging a 'war on whites,' has apparently decided to go Full Peckerwood just for the pure hell of it. Next up, why the alleged Republican outreach to Hispanic voters is...wait for it...race-baiting! And, god help us, he did so in response to Ron Fournier, who undoubtedly chalked it up to the president's failure to 'lead' Brooks away from his previous job as a cave painter." CW: I so hope Mo is reading his press clippings. Fournier, too.

The Grand Old Deportation Party. David Nakamura & Sebastian Payne of the Washington Post: "The [immigration] crisis has empowered conservatives, whose more restrictionist views on the crisis and the broader issue of dealing with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country have taken precedence in the party. House Republicans are pushing for more deportations, and several of the party's prospective 2016 White House contenders are moving to align themselves with the GOP's pro-enforcement wing.... The strategy runs counter to the party's announcement -- after losing the presidential race two years ago -- that its future depends largely on broadening its appeal to minority groups...."

Jonathan Capehart: "Herman Cain made no sense when he ran for the 2012 Republican nomination for president.... But Cain made absolute sense when he talked about the state of the tea party on Fox News yesterday. 'The tea party movement is alive and well. Now, I never expected tea party-backed candidates ... to take Congress by storm,' he said. 'But I think the key thing is it's causing many of the incumbents to move more to the right relative to what the tea party message is.' Truer words have never been spoken, especially by Mr. 999." ...

... ** Paul Waldman: "The Tea Party wins when it wins, and it wins when it loses. Five years after it began and long after many people (myself included) thought it would fade away, it continues to hold the GOP in its grip. For a bunch of nincompoops prancing around in tricorner hats, it's quite a remarkable achievement."

Another ACA "Horror Story" Debunked. Eli Stokols of Fox 31 Denver: "A new TV ad from Crossroads GPS [Karl Rove] features a Castle Rock mom criticizing Democratic Sen. Mark Udall for voting for the Affordable Care Act.... But the woman in the ad, Richelle McKim, is actually an employee of an energy company that is among the biggest donors to Udall's opponent; and her story, which seemingly contradicts information on her publicly available LinkedIn profile, is at least more complicated than the 30-second version hitting Colorado's airwaves starting Thursday.... On the screen, text appears that reads: 'Richelle had to go back to work.' McKim's own LinkedIn profile shows that she has worked constantly since July 2008 -- four months before President Obama was elected.... Reached by phone Thursday afternoon at her office, McKim explained ... 'It wasn't the Affordable Care Act.... It was just a financial burden, having a single income for so long.'" ...

... Steve Benen: "Complicating matters, McKim's husband had been treated for high-blood pressure, a pre-existing condition that made coverage unaffordable. For a while, he apparently had to go without insurance. That is, until 'Obamacare' came along to protect those like McKim's husband, making coverage affordable for those with pre-existing conditions. At this point, everyone in McKim's family now has the benefit of health security and they're no longer one serious illness away from bankruptcy. Indeed, this sounds like a great success story...." Read the whole post. CW: McKim's real complaint is Freeeedom! to get sick, or die, &/or go bankrupt.

The New York Crank: "The Gun Nut of America, or whatever they're called," are very, very upset with anyone who manufactures or sells "smart" firearms that would help prevent accidental shootings or other misuse. CW: The next thing you know, under the GNA theory, legislators will be depriving three-year-olds of their a Constitutional right to kill people & burglars from their Constitutional right to wrest your gun from your hand & shoot you with it. ...

.... The underlying Washington Post story, by Michael Rosenwald: "In nearly 30 years at Heckler & Koch, a legendary German gunmaker, Ernst Mauch designed some of the world's most lethal weapons, including the one that reportedly killed Osama bin Laden. A state regulator once called him a 'rock star' in the industry. Now the gun world sees him a different way: as a traitor. The target of their fury is the smart gun Mauch designed at Armatix, a start-up near Munich. The very concept of the weapon has been attacked by U.S. gun rights advocates even as it has helped Mauch resolve a sense of guilt that has haunted him his entire career."

Joe Stiglitz & Martin Guzman in the Guardian: "On 30 July Argentina's creditors did not receive their semi-annual payment on the bonds that were restructured after the country's last default in 2001. Argentina had deposited $539m (£320m) in the Bank of New York Mellon a few days before. But the bank could not transfer the funds to the creditors: US federal judge Thomas Griesa had ordered that Argentina could not pay the creditors who had accepted its restructuring until it fully paid -- including past interest -- those who had rejected it. It was the first time in history that a country was willing and able to pay its creditors, but was blocked by a judge from doing so. The media called it a default by Argentina, but the Twitter hashtag #Griesafault was much more accurate.... It was clear that Griesa never really fathomed the issue's complexity. The US financial system, already practised at exploiting poor Americans, has extended its efforts globally. Sovereign borrowers will not -- and should not -- trust the fairness and competence of the US judiciary. The market for issuance of such bonds will move elsewhere." CW: Griesa is a Nixon appointee! ...

... ** Greg Palast in the Guardian: President "Obama could prevent vulture hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer from collecting a single penny from Argentina by invoking the long-established authority granted presidents by the US constitution's 'Separation of Powers' clause. Under the principle known as 'comity', Obama only need inform US federal judge Thomas Griesa that Singer's suit interferes with the president's sole authority to conduct foreign policy. Case dismissed.... President George W Bush invoked this power against the very same hedge fund now threatening Argentina. Bush blocked Singer's seizure of Congo-Brazzaville's US property, despite the fact that the hedge fund chief is one of the largest, and most influential, contributors to Republican candidates." See also Thursday's Ledes.

Katie Zavadski of New York: "The hotly debated story of who exactly was behind the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers killed in the West Bank is still developing. This week, Israeli officials announced that they have arrested the man who allegedly orchestrated the abductions -- Hussam Qawasmeh -- and that he confessed to receiving orders and financing from Hamas leadership in Gaza. Mideast correspondents Jon Donnison and Sheera Frenkel previously quoted two different Israeli officials questioning whether Hamas was directly involved in the incident, which sparked the current round of conflict in Gaza.

No More Euphemisms! (After a Decade of Using Euphemisms.) Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times: "... reporters urged that The Times recalibrate its language. I agreed. So from now on, The Times will use the word 'torture' to describe incidents in which we know for sure that [CIA] interrogators inflicted pain on a prisoner in an effort to get information."

Congressional Races, Plus

Chris Moody of Yahoo! News: "For months, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell has accused his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, of engaging in a 'war on coal,' casting her as n outright enemy of one of the state's most vital industries. But McConnell's wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, sits on the board of directors of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has plunged $50 million into the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal initiative, an advocacy effort with the expressed goal of killing the coal industry.... Bloomberg Philanthropies isn't the only group Chao represents that has taken a stand against the coal industry. She also sits on the board of directors at Wells Fargo, which in 2013 announced that it would divest from surface mining of coal in Appalachia due to environmental concerns."

** Lisa Baumann & Matthew Brown of the AP: "Montana U.S. Sen. John Walsh dropped his election campaign Thursday amid allegations he plagiarized large portions of a 2007 research project, leaving fellow Democrats to scramble for a replacement with the election less than three months away." ...

     ... Politico's story, by Manu Raju & Maggie Haberman, is here. ...

... The report by Jonathan Martin, who broke the new of Walsh's plagiarism in the New York Times, is here. ...

... Cameron Joseph of the Hill: "Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) won't run for Sen. John Walsh's (D-Mont.) seat. "Although I'm flattered to be on some of the lists of potential U.S. Senate candidates, I respectfully decline to seek the nomination," he announced on Facebook shortly after Walsh's decision to step aside became public."

Michael Cass of the Tennessean: "U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander won a convincing victory in Tennessee's Republican Senate primary -- though not as convincing as his pollsters predicted -- over state Rep. Joe Carr, fending off a tea party challenge in a state that continues to favor politicians who can work across the aisle." ...

... Alan Blinder & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Tennessee voters backed Senator Lamar Alexander against a Tea Party challenge and turned down an aggressive bid by conservatives and business interests to oust three members of the State Supreme Court in primaries on Thursday.... Chief Justice Gary R. Wade and Justices Cornelia A. Clark and Sharon G. Lee all survived to win new eight-year terms on the state's highest court, maintaining a margin of about 56 percent to 44 percent, The A.P. said. The justices were all appointed by the governor at the time, Phil Bredesen, a Democrat.... Their critics, including the Republican State Leadership Committee and Americans for Prosperity, affiliated with Charles G. and David H. Koch, mounted a high-profile campaign claiming the justices had been 'soft on crime' and hostile to business interests. The justices were also criticized for obliquely supporting the Affordable Care Act...."

Chas Sisk of the Tennessean: "State Sen. Jim Tracy holds a narrow lead over U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in one of the state’s most closely watched races. Shortly before 9 p.m. Tracy, R-Shelbyville, led DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, 46 percent to 44 percent. Tracy appeared to benefit from strong early voting returns in Rutherford County, the district's largest county, but the latest returns showed DesJarlais' closing the gap." As of 10:15 pm ET Thursday, the AP had not called the race. ...

     ... AP Update: "U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who has been battered by a series of scandals, is locked in a razor-thin battle to hang onto his seat in Tennessee's Republican primary. Results from Thursday's balloting show DesJarlais with just a 33-vote margin ahead of state Sen. Jim Tracy. The race was too close to call and may ultimately be decided on a possible recount."

AP: "U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen has surged to victory in the Democratic primary as he seeks a fifth consecutive term in the House seat representing Tennessee's 9th District. With about 3 percent of the 9th congressional district's precincts reporting, Cohen had more than 65 percent of the vote Thursday. His closest challenger, attorney Ricky Wilkins, had about 32 percent. Cohen, who is white, once again defeated an African-American challenger. Cohen has represented the majority-black district, which includes Memphis, since 2006." CW: Yo, Mo. Apparently black people in Memphis did not take up arms against white people. Or Jewish people.

Murkowski Pissed off that Begich, Voter Suggest She's a Good Senator. Katie Glueck of Politico: "Representatives for GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski are demanding that her fellow Alaskan, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, take down a campaign ad featuring her image -- an unusual instance of two sitting senators from the same state in a public spat. In a letter disseminated on Thursday, the law firm for Murkowski's Senate committee skewered a Begich ad in a cease-and-desist missive. The ad in question, 'Great Team,' features Murkowski and Begich appearing together, along with testimony from an individual who says he is a lifelong Republican, a Murkowski voter -- and also a Begich supporter. The letter charges that Murkowski's image was used misleadingly and without her permission, and that the individual in the ad is not a lifelong GOP supporter but is in fact undeclared.... [The letter claims] this advertisement prominently features a photograph taken in Senator Murkowski's official U.S. Senate office, an apparent violation of Federal law and Senate rules.' The photo in question, however, appears to be hosted by the Associated Press." Here's the ad:

     ... CW: After losing Alaska's 2010 GOP primary election to bagger Joe Miller, Murkowski won the election as an unaffiliated write-in candidate (an amazing feat, not only because her name is hard to spell). Murkowski vowed to be an independent voice for Alaska, but apparently the leaden GOP side of her brain disallows her from admitting she might work across the aisle for the benefit of citizens of Alaska & the USA.

Adam Bell of the Charlotte Observer: "The Indian Trail councilman who wrote his resignation letter in Klingon wants to beam up to Capitol Hill. David Waddell is running as a write-in candidate for U.S. Senate.... Waddell, a plumber, said Thursday he is a registered Libertarian running on the Constitution Party platform's conservative values that focus in part on property rights and a strict adherence to the Constitution." You can see the original Klingon resignation letter here.

Beyond the Beltway

Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "Virginia's health secretary testified Thursday that he was angry that a Richmond businessman hoping to promote his company's new dietary supplement was allowed to shape the guest list at a 2012 reception meant for state health-care leaders at the governor's mansion. The businessman, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., seemed to be able to navigate the governor's office in an atypical way, Health Secretary William A. Hazel Jr. testified. That was especially frustrating, he said, because of the dubious claims Williams was making about his product." ...

... Jim Nolan & Mark Green of the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Secretary of Health Bill Hazel testified today that he met with Jonnie Williams Sr. at Gov. Bob McDonnell's request but he was deeply skeptical about Anatabloc, Star Scientific's dietary supplement." ...

... Robin Givhan of the Washington Post: "What's in Maureen McDonnell's Louis Vuitton handbag? Status, insecurity and maybe jail time.... The designer goods at the center of the government's case against former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen were splayed out on tables in a most undignified way, photographed and entered into evidence.... One can't help but think Maureen McDonnell was shopping and dressing for the job she aspired to -- one that comes with an office in the East Wing of the White House -- not the position she already had." ...

... NEW. The Washington Post's liveblog of the McDonnell trial is here. ...

... Jenna Portnoy of the Washington Post: "Virginia has hired an executive director to run a new ethics board intended to implement and police reforms approved earlier this year in the wake of the gifts scandal surrounding former governor Robert F. McDonnell and his family. The news comes as the second week in the federal corruption trial of McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, comes to a close."

NEW. Kevin Boyle of the Rockaway Times: "Anthony Weiner is ... now the name being associated with a fledgling non-profit called the Rockaway Restoration Kitchen. On Idealist.org the endeavor is described as 'a social entrepreneurship that operates a healthy, sustainable restaurant in a hard luck community to provide training, on-the-job apprenticeship and placement in the culinary and food service sector for unemployed New Yorkers.' ... Weiner's aim is to launch something that can help the disadvantaged in Rockaway."

News Ledes

AP: "Authorities say the wildfire burning in Oregon's wind-swept Columbia River Gorge has destroyed a home, damaged two others and is threatening 740 more. Residents of more than 140 homes have been told to evacuate and nearly 600 households have been put on alert in the community of Rowena near The Dalles."

New York Times: "The United States on Friday afternoon launched a second round of airstrikes on Sunni militants in northern Iraq, sending four Navy fighter jets to strike eight targets around Erbil, according to Pentagon officials." ...

... New York Times: "American warplanes struck Sunni militant positions in northern Iraq on Friday, the Pentagon said in a statement, confirming the first significant American military operation since ground troops left Iraq in 2011. Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon Press Secretary, said that two F-18 fighters dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery target near Erbil."

Time: "Tropical storm Iselle made landfall on Hawaii's biggest island Thursday evening local time, cutting down trees, ripping roofs off buildings and cutting power at a biodiesel plant, leaving 18,000 people without electricity.... Over the weekend, an even more powerful hurricane, Julio, is expected to barrel just to the north."

Washington Post: "Palestinian militants began to fire rockets at Israel again Friday morning after a three-day truce ended and talks in Cairo to extend it sputtered." ...

... Guardian: "Israel launched air strikes on Gaza on Friday morning after Islamist groups there refused to extend a ceasefire and resumed rocket fire.... In Gaza, tens of thousands of people who had returned to their homes during the 72-hour ceasefire rushed back to the UN-run shelters where many have been staying since the war began more than four weeks ago." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Talks are continuing in Cairo in a desperate bid to end renewed hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza."

AP: "Afghanistan's feuding presidential candidates have agreed to resolve their election dispute and say they will set the inauguration before the end of August. The breakthrough comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry opened a second day of talks in Afghanistan on Friday aimed at preventing the fragile country from collapsing into political chaos after disputed elections."

Guardian: "The World Health Organisation has declared the Ebola outbreak an international public health emergency, but it is not recommending general bans on travel or trade."

Guardian: "Malaysia Airlines shares have been suspended and the beleaguered company will be taken entirely into state hands after it was hit by two disasters that killed hundreds of people. Trading of shares in Malaysia Airline System Bhd (MAS) was suspended on Monday morning and the company soon afterwards announced it would be removed from the stock market."

Los Angeles Times: "A federal grand jury Thursday indicted [Keith Emerald,] a 32-year-old bow hunter suspected of starting the campfire that sparked last year's Rim fire, the third-largest blaze in recorded state history, which scorched more than 250,000 acres in and around Yosemite National Park."

AP: "More than 35 years after the infamous suicide-murder of some 900 people -- many forced to drink a cyanide-laced grape punch -- in Jonestown, Guyana, the cremated remains of nine of the victims were found in a dilapidated former funeral home in Delaware, officials said Thursday."

Wednesday
Aug062014

The Commentariat -- August 7, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congressional Races

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

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

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

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

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

* Make that two patients.

Presidential Race

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

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

... ALSO, via Brian Beutler:

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

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

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

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

News Ledes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday
Aug052014

The Commentariat -- August 6, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congressional Races

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

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

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

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

Presidential Race

Today in Rand Paul. Two Headlines to Remember:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

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

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

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

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

Way Beyond the Beltway

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

News Ledes

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

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

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

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

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