The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW


The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

Guardian: A statement by the Academy of Motion Pictures said "that PwC – formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that has been used by the Academy to handle the voting process for 83 years – had taken full responsibility for 'breaches of established protocols' that led to the error.... On Monday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that ... Brian Cullinan, one of two accountants whose job it was to hand out the winners’ envelopes..., had tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of [best female actor winner Emma] Stone holding her statuette. The tweet, sent moments before the best picture announcement, raised the question of whether the accountant was distracted, handing Beatty the duplicate envelope." -- CW ...

... Actually, No, It Was Donald Trump's Fault. The Hill: "President Trump is calling Sunday’s Oscar ceremony 'sad,' saying the awards show was 'focused so hard on politics' it led to the epic mix-up over the best picture winner. 'I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn’t get the act together at the end,' Trump said Monday in an interview with Breitbart News." CW: Because everything is about Drumpf. 

Los Angeles Times: "In one of the most surprising upsets and shocking moments in Oscar history, the poetic coming-of-age drama 'Moonlight' took home the top prize for best picture at the 89th Academy Awards, beating out the heavily favored 'La La Land,' which was actually announced as the winner. The win for 'Moonlight' came in a chaotic and confused moment that played out live in front of an audience of millions, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially presented the evening’s final award to 'La La Land,' only to have one of the film’s producers announce that 'Moonlight' had, in fact, won." -- CW 

Here's the LA Times' "live coverage" page.

CW: It would have been way better for the world if the Electoral College had admitted, as a body, that "There's been a mistake." Unfortunately, actors & film producers have more integrity than electors.

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

Here's a Houzz feature on Frederick Douglass's D.C. home. Since it's not far from Donald Trump's new (temporary) digs and is every bit as fancy, the Trumpster might want to pay a visit to someone who's done such "an amazing job" that he's "getting recognized more and more." SCROTUS may be surprised to discover that Mr. Douglass is not at home. Too bad, because if Mr. Douglass weren't dead, he could have showed Donaldo his portrait, which for some time was owned by W.E.B. Du Bois (or DeBois or whatever).

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Rosie O'Donnell's new Twitter profile pic. Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW 

CNN: "The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell's dystopian classic '1984' in response to a sudden surge of demand. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon's computer-generated list of best-selling books. The list reflects hourly book sales. The 68-year-old novel appeared on the list on Monday, hovered around the #6 spot for much of the day, rose to #2 by Tuesday afternoon and then hit #1." -- CW 

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The Commentariat -- Sept. 20, 2014

New York Times Editors: "A recent report on job markets globally showed that too few jobs are being created worldwide, and even fewer good jobs are. Wages are flat or falling in all major economies as corporate profits claim an increasing share of productivity gains. The report, prepared by the World Bank, the United Nations'labor agency and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, notes that poor job creation and stagnant wages, if unchanged, will result in permanently lower living standards for most people amid widening inequality. It also states that the situation will not repair itself -- and, actually, is self-reinforcing.... Governments in the grip of poisoned politics and misguided ideology have largely abdicated their role." The report abstract & links to content are here.

... CW: All of this, of course, is what Krugman has been saying since 2008....

     ... As Nisky Guy points out in today's Comments, Krugman is still at it:

This idea that has been born, maybe out of the economy over the last couple years, that you know, I really don't have to work. I don't really want to do this. I think I'd rather just sit around. This is a very sick idea for our country. -- John Boehner

... Paul Krugman: "I could point to the overwhelming economic evidence that nothing like this is happening.... [AND he does.] But what really gets me here is the fact that people like Boehner are so obviously disconnected from the lived experience of ordinary workers. I mean, I live a pretty rarefied existence, with job security and a nice income and a generally upscale social set -- but even so I know a fair number of people who have spent months or years in desperate search of jobs that still aren't there. How cut off (or oblivious) can someone be who thinks that it's just because they don't want to work?"

Amanda Marcotte, in Salon: "Miseducation isn't only a red-state problem. Right-wing Christians are effectively writing our country's textbooks." An excellent review of how wingers are rewriting kids' schoolbooks as part of "a massive media campaign against reality." Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Crime without Consequence. Joe Pinsker of the Atlantic: Financial criminal Jordan Belfort, the real "Wolf of Wall Street," has not paid most of the millions the court ordered him to repay his victims, & he served only a portion of his sentence. "Belfort's relatively consequence-free story is only one of the more prominent ones in a parade of aggravating numbers reported on earlier this week by The Wall Street Journal. There's still $97 billion out there in penalties that the Justice Department has failed to recover, and between September 2012 and September 2013, the department collected only 22 percent of penalties doled out."

Jim Gaines of Reuters: One in four Americans wants his state to secede. Reuters called secessionist respondents at random & found random complaints; "against a recovery that has yet to produce jobs, against jobs that don't pay, against mistreatment of veterans, against war, against deficits, against hyper-partisanship, against political corruption, against illegal immigration, against the assault on marriage, against the assault on same-sex marriage, against government in the bedroom, against government in general -- the president, Congress, the courts and both political parties."

Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "Barack Obama will not be pledging any cash to a near-empty fund for poor countries at a United Nations summit on climate change next week, the UN special climate change envoy said on Friday. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has challenged the 125 world leaders attending the 23 September summit to make 'bold pledges' to the fund, intended to help poor countries cope with climate change. The UN has been pressing rich countries to come up with pledges of between $10bn and $15bn."

Russell Berman of the Atlantic: "House leaders announced Thursday that they were cutting their already abbreviated fall session short and sending lawmakers back home -- and onto the campaign trail -- more than a week early." ...

... Gail Collins: "Before decamping to go home and run for re-election, our elected representatives voted to fund the government and go to war. Pretty much ran the table on their constitutional responsibilities." Collins' take on the House's efforts to effect tax reform is a classic. Here's the topper: "... the House ... Ways and Means Committee, which is run by Boehner's very own party, did come up with a sweeping plan for tax reform this year. The speaker promptly made fun of it. ('Blah, blah, blah, blah.') Having completely and thoroughly slammed the door on any discussion of the bill, he told reporters this week that he was 'shocked at how little I have heard about it.'" ...

... But Some Housework Is Important. Lauren French of Politico: "House Republicans have replaced the firm managing their lawsuit against President Barack Obama for alleged abuses of executive authority after the first attorney backed out of the contract under political pressure, according to GOP aides. A House staffer said the change of firms came after multiple clients of Baker & Hostetler expressed concern that the firm was engaged in what the companies saw as an overtly partisan lawsuit."

Philip Ewing of Politico: "Gen. Ray Odierno has gotten letters from some 40 members of Congress asking why they're losing troops from their home districts. His answer: Look in the mirror. 'I wrote back and I said, "The reason I'm taking soldiers out of the installation in your state is because of sequestration. Not that I want to do it...."' The Army's chief of staff told reporters Friday morning that he warned Congress even before today's vortex of crises that major troop cuts would bring 'significant risk.' ... 'That was before we had [the Islamic State] and before the Ukrainian incursion,' Odierno said."

Julie Creswell & Nicole Perlroth of the New York Times: "... despite alarms as far back as 2008, Home Depot was slow to raise its defenses [against hacking], according to former employees. On Thursday, the company confirmed what many had feared: The biggest data breach in retailing history had compromised 56 million of its customers' credit cards. The data has popped up on black markets and, by one estimate, could be used to make $3 billion in illegal purchases.

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Two civil liberties groups are edging in on conservative gadfly Larry Klayman's legal challenge to National Security Agency surveillance. On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation asked to join in arguments set to be held in November on the government's appeal of the first and only judicial ruling disputing the constitutionality of the NSA's program sweeping up information on billions of telephone calls to, from, and within the United States. The groups asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to allow them 10 minutes of argument time."

Senate Race

Dylan Scott of TPM: "In an apparent reversal, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office is instructing election officials in the state to send out overseas military ballots without Democratic Senate nominee Chad Taylor or any other Democratic Senate candidate listed." ...

... Update. Bryan Lowry of the Wichita Eagle: "But Secretary of State Kris Kobach has not given up his position that Democrats must appoint a replacement for Chad Taylor. He says overseas voters may have to cast a second ballot later. The 526 ballots to be mailed by Saturday to overseas civilians and military personnel include a disclaimer that new ballots will be printed if a court forces Democrats to name a replacement candidate. Some ballots from Johnson County went out Thursday with Taylor's name. They were amended Friday." CW: What a mess.

... CW: Since Korbach wants to create as much confusion as possible, couldn't Democrats just nominate Greg Orman? Whether voters selected him on the Independent line or on the Democratic line shouldn't matter -- all votes would accrue to him. Of course there's no guarantee Orman would caucus with Democrats.

Marie's Sports Report

Barbara Starr of CNN: "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has asked his staff for detailed information about the U.S. military's relationships with the National Football League in the wake of the scandal over how the league is handling domestic-abuse allegations against players, CNN has learned.... The military has a zero-tolerance policy in the ranks for domestic abuse, but it also has a high-profile relationship with the NFL that goes back decades.... The Army alone spends some $10 million a year buying advertising from television networks broadcasting NFL games. Games are also broadcast by the Armed Forces Network to troops deployed overseas."

Blah, Blah, Blah. Lynn Zinser of the New York Times: "As calls increased for the N.F.L. to adequately address its recent rash of off-field violence, Commissioner Roger Goodell finally spoke publicly about the issue Friday, apologizing for his role in poor decision-making and promising a revamped personal conduct policy to address future cases.... Goodell had not spoken publicly since the video of [Ray] Rice punching Janay Palmer became public.... Goodell offered very little in the way of specifics in the news conference." ...

... Joe Nocera: "When he arrived at the podium, Goodell made a short statement in which he said ... nothing.... You would have thought that if Goodell were going to hold a news conference he would have something more to say than that he was sorry and that he was going to consult experts -- things he has said before. Stunningly, he didn;t, which became even clearer when reporters started asking questions."

... Jon Stewart reviews some of NFL's & NFL teams' decisive reactions to news their players were accused/guilty of domestic abuse:

... Bill Pennington & Steve Eder of the New York Times: "... in his role as the N.F.L.’s hard-bitten sheriff, Mr. Goodell appears to have had a major blind spot: domestic violence cases. Players charged with domestic violence routinely received considerably lighter punishments than players accused of other offenses, like drug use or drunken driving. Often, they were not punished at all." ...

... ** Don Van Natta & Kevin Van Valkenburg of ESPN lay out the Ravens' "purposeful misdirection" & the NFL's "scant investigation" of Ray Rice's knockout punch of his then-fiancee Janay Palmer. CW: The ESPN piece further puts the lie to some of the NFL's claims following TMZ's publication of the elevator-cam video. ...

... Ian Shapira of the Washington Post: Some fans who love the Redskins' name are upset when, for a segment of the "Daily Show," actual Native Americans confront them. One fan called the police. CW: As far as I can tell, the segment, which was shot last week, hasn't aired.

Vice President Joe Gaffe
. At a Democratic women's conference, Biden evokes fond memories of serial sexual harasser Bob Packwood. Really. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "The Oregon Republican resigned from the Senate in 1995 amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assaulting women. The Senate ethics committee had voted unanimously to recommend his expulsion." But Packwood was bipartisan! CW: MEANWHILE, a former runner-up for Biden's job is promoting physical violence. Go to the bottom of the page to link on the details.

Annals of "Journalism," Mob Edition. Joseph Berger of the New York Times: "A federal grand jury [in White Plains, New York] indicted [Selem] Zherka, 46, of Somers, the owner of two strip clubs in Manhattan and a modest real estate empire and the publisher of The Westchester Guardian, on fraud charges in connection with applications seeking $146 million in property loans. He was also charged with income-tax fraud and witness tampering. Moreover, in papers submitted for a bail hearing on Friday, two assistant United States attorneys ... accused Mr. Zherka, the Bronx-bred son of an Albanian-immigrant janitor, of essentially being a dangerous thug.... Mr. Zherka, a litigious man who has filed multiple lawsuits against his antagonists, has called himself the state Tea Party's 'loudest voice' and has said he had been unfairly pursued by the Internal Revenue Service as part of a government 'witch hunt.' But some local Tea Party leaders have distanced themselves from him." Read the whole story.

AP: "Al Jazeera America is suing former Vice President Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, the former owners of the TV network that became Al Jazeera America. The parties are fighting over money that is being held in escrow."

Beyond the Beltway

Grassroots Voter Suppression. AnnieJo of Daily Kos: "A Facebook group calling themselves the 'Wisconsin Poll Watcher Militia' (update: page has since disappeared and now it's back!) is threatening armed intimidation of voters who signed the Scott Walker recall in 2012 who also have any outstanding warrants or tax defaults. The page claims 'Our militia will watch polling places and report known felons and other people wanted by law enforcement. The police are looking for you, so are we.'" From the group's Facebook page:

Wisconsin Poll Watcher Militia is a force that is armed. Do not approach our members by engaging in a physical hostile act because you are going to get put down like a rabid dog. We are going to be around neighborhoods that may be crime-filled. These areas are heavy democrat-voting areas because it is a result of a poor education. We will be there to get criminal scum off the streets.

CW: I don't know Wisconsin law, but I seriously doubt having outstanding warrants or owing taxes disenfranchises a qualified voter. This group is planning unlawful -- & unjustifiable -- harassment. Also obviously racist. Thanks to safari for the link. Also, see safari's commentary in today's Comments section.

Edmund Mahony of the Hartford Courant: "Former Gov. John G. Rowland, a political rising star who crashed a decade ago in a corruption scandal, fell again Friday when a jury in federal court found him guilty in a low-rent scheme to collect secret paychecks from rich Republican congressional candidates."

Tom Hart of the Guardian: "A court has upheld the constitutional right of Texans to photograph strangers as an essential component of freedom of speech -- even if those images should happen to be surreptitious 'upskirt' pictures of women taken for the purposes of sexual gratification. Criticising an anti-'creepshot' law as a 'paternalistic' intrusion on a person's right to be aroused, the Texas court of criminal appeals struck down part of the state's 'improper photography or visual recording' statute which banned photographing, broadcasting or transmitting a visual image of another person without the other's consent and with the intention to 'arouse or gratify ... sexual desire'."

Toast? Or Artisan Sourdough Round? Jonathan Dienst, et al., of WNBC: "The U.S. Justice Department investigation into Gov. Chris Christie's role in the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal has thus far uncovered no evidence indicating that he either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the span, federal officials tell NBC 4 New York.... Federal officials caution that the investigation that began nine months ago is ongoing and that no final determination has been made.... [New Jersey] Assemblyman John Wisniewski said the state legislative committee's investigation into the bridge lane closures is continuing." ...

... Melissa Hayes of the Bergen Record: "Governor Christie called on the lawmakers investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures to wrap up their investigation during a State House news conference Thursday morning.... Christie spent more than 3 minutes chastising the Democratic-led committee during a State House news conference where he made unrelated staff announcements." ...

... Star-Ledger Editors: "Gov. Chris Christie wants the committee investigating Bridgegate to close up shop, saying it is a partisan witch hunt that has run out of gas.... Before he finishes this victory lap, a few reminders: No one on the investigative committee has accused him of personally ordering these lane closures.... But what about the cover-up? What about the bogus claim that this was all part of a traffic study?" The editors compare the investigations to Watergate & Christie to Richard Nixon. ...

... Update. Bob Jordan of the Asbury Park Press: "NBC says a report by Brian Williams on the network's Nightly News that federal charges have been ruled out for Gov. Chris Christie in the George Washington Bridge scandal was incorrect. Federal prosecutors say the investigation is ongoing and haven't made any announcement on Christie's status."

Former Half-Governor & Second Runner-up in the 2008 Veeps Beauty Pageant Sarah Palin obliquely defends her daughter Bristol for repeatedly punching up on a friend of the family. Something about her being a "strong young woman" promoting "family values."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Chris Johnson & Ben Quinn of the Guardian: "Gordon Brown has called on Scotland to unite behind a common future for the country after voters' rejection of independence in Thursday's referendum. In a passionate speech in Dunfermline, Fife, on Saturday, the former [British] prime minister - whose late intervention in the referendum campaign has been credited with helping to secure the no vote - said: 'Let us think of ourselves not as yes and no Scots but simply as Scots and let us be a nation, united again.'" ...

... Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "The decisive rejection of Scotland's independence referendum set off an instant scramble Friday to fundamentally reorganize constitutional power in the United Kingdom, with Prime Minister David Cameron citing a chance 'to change the way the British people are governed.' With Thursday's 'no' vote, Cameron avoided the eternal stigma that would have come from allowing Britain to break up on his watch. But with parliamentary elections due next spring, the prime minister still faces a raging anti-establishment tide that helped to fuel the Scottish independence bid and has penetrated all corners of the United Kingdom."

News Ledes

Guardian: "The United States has quietly released 14 Pakistani citizens from military detention in Afghanistan, where the US holds its most secret cohort of detainees in its war on terrorism. The US military transferred the 14 to Pakistani government custody on Saturday. It did not publicize the release, as is typical with releases from the detention center on the outskirts of Bagram Airfield which is known formally as the Detention Facility in Parwan. A Pakistani human rights group instead announced the transfer and said it was the largest number of Pakistanis the US has thus far released."

New York Times: "Polly Bergen, an actress, singer and businesswoman who won an Emmy in 1957 for her portrayal of the alcoholic torch singer Helen Morgan and was nominated for another 50 years later for her role on the television show 'Desperate Housewives,' died on Saturday at her home in Southbury, Conn. She was 84."

New York Times: "The two candidates for president of Afghanistan have agreed on a power-sharing deal that will give the losing candidate substantial influence in the next government, initialing the American-brokered deal Saturday night and promising to sign it at a formal ceremony on Sunday. The deal promised an end at last to the tumultuous, five-month-long aftermath of the Afghan presidential elections, although previous settlements have repeatedly collapsed at the last minute despite the candidates' promises."

New York Times: "A Texas man who scaled the White House fence made it through the North Portico doors on Friday night before being apprehended, the Secret Service said. The intruder, Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, was arrested just inside the doors and taken to George Washington University Hospital after complaining of chest pains, said Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman. None of the Obamas were home when the security breach occurred about 7:20 p.m., but White House staff members were evacuated as a precaution, officials said. President Obama and his daughters had left for the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., just minutes before the incident." ...

     ... New Lede: "The Secret Service will conduct an internal review of its security procedures around the White House after a man who jumped the fence Friday night at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue managed to make his way through the front door of President Obama's home before being stopped, officials said Saturday." ...

     ... ** Washington Post UPDATE: "Within seconds, the man who relatives said served as a sniper in the Iraq War got to the front double doors of the North Portico, turned the brass knob and stepped inside the vestibule. There he was grabbed and subdued by an officer standing post inside the door. He was carrying a folding knife with a 2-1/2 inch serrated blade." ...

... Fox "News": "A New Jersey man was arrested Saturday outside the White House after driving up to a gate and refusing to leave, less than 24 hours after another man jumped the fence and got inside the presidential mansion before being arrested, which has resulted in increased security and a 'comprehensive internal review,' according to the Secret Service."

New York Times: "Forty-nine Turkish hostages who had been held for months in Iraq by Islamic State militants were returned to Turkey on Saturday after what Turkey said was a covert operation led by its intelligence agency. The hostages, including diplomats and their families, had been seized in June from the Turkish consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul." ...

     ... Too Good to Be True? AP UPDATE: "Turkish authorities say they have freed 49 hostages from one of the world's most ruthless militant groups without firing a shot, paying a ransom or offering a quid pro quo. But as the well-dressed men and women captured by the Islamic State group more than three months ago clasped their families Saturday on the tarmac of the Turkish capital's airport, experts had doubts about the government's story."


The Commentariat -- Sept. 19, 2014

Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama on Thursday thanked members of Congress from both parties for coming together and acting quickly to approve funding that will aid in the international campaign against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant":

... Jonathan Weisman & Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "The Senate gave overwhelming approval on Thursday to a measure on the training and arming of Syrian rebels, then fled the Capitol for the fall campaign, sidestepping the debate over the extent of American military action until the lame-duck session of Congress later this year. The training measure, pushed hard by President Obama, was tucked into a larger Senate bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30, a maneuver that leaders of both parties favored to ensure as few defections as possible. The Senate's 78-to-22 vote, a day after the House passed the measure, masked the serious doubts that many senators had." ...

... Justin Sink of the Hill: "The White House on Friday strongly disputed suggestions of friction between President Obama and the Pentagon over the strategy for confronting fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). White House press secretary Josh Earnest unloaded on a front-page headline in The Washington Post pointing to skepticism in the military of Obama's plan, calling its conclusions 'wrong.' 'All they do is they misinterpret Chairman Dempsey's testimony, and the rest of the time, they essentially quote either people who are frequent critics or people who supported the previous Iraq conflict,' Earnest said on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe.' 'So the more accurate headline would be, "Supporters of the Bush war in Iraq criticize President Obama's strategy." And that's been true since 2002,' Earnest said." ...

... CW: I saw the piece yesterday & got as far as the first "expert" reporter Craig Whitlock cited: an ex-general. So I didn't link it. I think Earnest's assertion is correct. As I indicated in the Dempsey sensation of a few days ago, it turned out that the headlines & ledes touting Dempsey's supposed concession on American "boots on the ground" was a far-out hypothetical forced by Lindsey Graham's repeated questioning/badgering the witness during Senate testimony. ...

... Ben Hubbard of the New York Times: "In President Obama's strategy of building an international coalition to fight the Islamic State without American troops..., moderate [Syrian] rebels loom large as the best force to fight the extremists in Syria.... At present the rebels are a beleaguered lot, far from becoming a force that can take on the fanatical and seasoned fighters of the Islamic State.... [A] scaled-up training program would be overseen by the Defense Department, unlike the current covert program here and a similar program in Jordan, both overseen by the C.I.A." ...

... we underestimated ISIL and overestimated the fighting capability of the Iraqi army. .... I didn't see the collapse of the Iraqi security force in the north coming. I didn't see that. It boils down to predicting the will to fight, which is an imponderable. -- James Clapper, National Intelligence Director ...

... David Ignatius of the Washington Post: "The United States has made the same mistake in evaluating fighters from the Islamic State that it did in Vietnam -- underestimating the enemy's will, according to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence."

We are supposed to keep the country safe, predict anticipatory intelligence, with no risk, and no embarrassment if revealed, and without a scintilla of jeopardy to privacy of any domestic person or foreign person. We call that 'immaculate collection.' --James Clapper, on the mission of the agencies he oversees

This is what the average voter thinks President Obama should be able to do. If, by some miracle he could perfectly secure the nation, millions of Americans would still oppose him because the weather sucks or their neighbors are jerks. If it turned out Obama was the second coming of Jesus, these people would choose to be "left behind." -- Constant Weader

... Rick Gladstone of the New York Times: "Departing from its serial beheading videos of Western hostages that have outraged the world, the Islamic State released a new video on Thursday featuring a captive British journalist seated behind a desk, explaining the group's message and warning that America and its allies are foolishly heading into another unwinnable war. The Internet video,..., subtitled in Arabic, shows the journalist, John Cantlie, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and apparently reading from a script, recalling how he was captured by the militant group also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL after he arrived in Syria in November 2012." ...

... Andy Greenberg of Wired with an update on those iPhones for Criminals: "A reminder to iPhone owners cheering Apple's latest privacy win: Just because Apple will no longer help police to turn your smartphone inside out doesn't mean it can prevent the cops from vivisecting the device on their own." ...

... Coming Soon! Androids for Criminals! Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "The next generation of Google's Android operating system, due for release next month, will encrypt data by default for the first time, the company said Thursday, raising yet another barrier to police gaining access to the troves of personal data typically kept on smartphones.... The move, which Google officials said has been in the works for many months, is part of a broad shift by American technology companies to make their products more resistant to government snooping in the aftermath of revelations of National Security Agency spying by former contractor Edward Snowden." Currently, Androids have such encryption available, but the user has to install it. ...

... CW: Timberg maintains that both Apple & Google "in most cases will make it impossible for law enforcement officials to collect evidence from smartphones -- even when authorities get legally binding search warrants." This is contrary to what the Wired experts are claiming. My personal theory: this marketing ploy is also a ruse. The NSA will bypass the encryption when they want to, so these big tech announcements may give terrorism suspects a false sense of security. (Probably not true for local police forces, which don't possess NSA-type skillsets, tho I suppose the FBI could occasionally come to their rescue.) Timberg, BTW, can read Wired as well as I can, so one is inclined to suspect that the Post is a knowledgeable co-conspirator. Fine.

Mario Trujillo of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) signed on to legislation Thursday that would remove the nonprofit status of the NFL for promoting the Washington Redskins. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) announced the legislation earlier this week.... Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced a broader bill on Tuesday that would strip the nonprofit status of most professional sports teams, and would use the extra revenue to fund domestic violence outreach." CW: I'm with Booker.

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid paid compliments on Thursday to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz 00 but deferred to President Barack Obama on her future as the head of the party. Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic congresswoman from Florida, is under increasing scrutiny by top Democrats in Washington for her stewardship of the party since 2011. Reid called her a 'friend' but skirted answering a reporter's question on whether she's became a liability for Democrats as they head into a pitched battle to keep the Senate this November."

Alan Blinder & Campbell Robertson of the New York Times: "... a federal judge[, Mark Fuller,] in Alabama on Thursday faced abrupt and potent pressure to resign after he was charged with striking his wife last month at a luxury hotel here.... Judge Fuller, an appointee of President George W. Bush and a frequent target of Democratic ire, has also received harsh criticism from Republican members of Alabama's congressional delegation, including the state's two senators, who both called for him to resign.... The reaction was a remarkable display of how accusations of domestic violence are suddenly being viewed with new urgency far beyond the N.F.L."

Linda Greenhouse: On gay marriage, Judge Posner evolves. Greenhouse does not think the Supremes will take up the issue this year.

"Errors & Emissions." Paul Krugman: "Saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free.... If we ever get past the special interests and ideology that have blocked action to save the planet, we'll find that it's cheaper and easier than almost anyone imagines." CW: Also, kudos to the headline-writer. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "If this research breaks though the wall of false choices, then the second line of defense against action on climate change -- the first is denial, the second is 'we can't afford to do anything about it' -- could begin to crumble, and we can begin to debate 'how' more than 'whether' to act."

Capitalism Is Awesome. WalMart Finds Another Way to Profit off Its Employees. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: WalMart has instituted a new employee "dress code." "Federal law says that employers have to provide workers with required uniforms." But the new WalMart "dress code" -- a white shirt & black pants -- does not include a company logo, so the employees -- not WalMart -- have to pay for the clothing. It's not a uniform! "Walmart has helpfully marked the tags on items that pass muster in case workers want to buy those clothes from Walmart.... Worker group OUR Walmart estimates that the company stands to make $51 million or more in sales to workers buying the new not-quite-uniforms. Walmart will also be supplying workers with a vest they're required to wear -- a vest that, for all the company's big talk about American-made products, is currently being made in Jordan."

Senate Races

** Wichita Eagle: "Democrat Chad Taylor is off the ballot for the U.S. Senate in Kansas. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled late Thursday afternoon that Taylor's letter to the Secretary of State's Office met the requirements for him to withdraw. Secretary of State Kris Kobach had said Taylor had failed to declare that he was incapable of serving as required by Kansas statute and had ruled that his name would remain on the ballot. Taylor took the unprecedented step of suing to have his name removed....[Sen. Pat] Roberts campaign issued a statement decrying the ruling. 'Today, the Kansas Supreme Court deliberately, and for political purposes, disenfranchised over 65,000 voters,'" ...

... Rick Hasen: "This is a unanimous, per curiam (unsigned) opinion from the Court holding that Democrat Chad Taylor's name will not be on the ballot in the Kansas Senate race. This has political implications, as it will likely cause more Democrats to vote for independent Greg Orman instead of incumbent Republican Pat Roberts. It puts the seat, and perhaps the Senate, up for grabs. But there's a wrinkle. There is still possible Court action now to force Democrats to name a new candidate to replace Taylor on the ballot." ...

... NEW. Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "... without a Democrat on the ballot, Mr. Orman will have a real chance to defeat Mr. Roberts. The balance of recent polling suggests that Mr. Orman is probably fairly close to 50 percent without Mr. Taylor or another Democrat on the ballot."

Simon Maloy of Slate: "Earlier this week, Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski reported out the fairly bizarre story [linked in yesterday's Commentariat] of Oregon Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby and the health plan that she plagiarized from Crossroads GPS. Her candidacy has long been a favorite of conservative pundits who convinced themselves that Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon running in a state that had an especially rough experience with the Affordable Care Act rollout, was ideally positioned to campaign hard on health policy and take down Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley.... In May, the Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel called Wehby the 'Democrats' worst nightmare,' citing her alleged health policy chops. 'She's a policy wonk, able to run rings around Oregon's junior senator, especially on health-care reform,' Strassel wrote. The fact that Wehby's health policy was pinched from a poll conducted by Karl Rove is, therefore, hilarious."

Alec MacGillis of the New Republic: Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate "Alison Grimes is trailing [Mitch McConnell] in the polls -- but she might not be if she had used Obamacare to her advantage.... If [the Grimes campaign is] unable to get more voters whose health care McConnell wants to take away to turn out against him in November, the fault belongs to the campaign, not the voters." CW: I agree with MacGillis; Grimes' attempts to hide from ObamaCare make her seem dishonest.

Worse Than Republicans. Alison Montoya of WLWT Cincinnati. "... write-in [U.S Senate] candidate Robert Ransdell said he knows he cannot win against Republican Mitch McConnell or Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes but wants to use the campaign to spread his slogan, 'With Jews We Lose.'... As of Wednesday the signs were gone. Apparently Ransdell did not ask the property owner for permission."

Congressional Race

Hunter of Daily Kos: "The latest candidate to sign up for the hard-fought America's Dumbest Congressman competition is Republican Mark Walker, who's running for North Carolina's deep-red 6th Congressional district.... Walker's answer to undocumented immigrants is to 'go laser or blitz somebody' in Mexico." If attacking Mexico happened to start a war, "Well," Walker says, "we did it before, if we need to do it again, I don't have a qualm about it."

Gubernatorial Race

Well, well. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Large portions of Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke's jobs plan for Wisconsin appear to be copied directly from the plans of three Democratic candidates who ran for governor in previous election cycles.... A spokesman for the Burke campaign told BuzzFeed News an 'expert' named Eric Schnurer who also worked on the other campaigns as responsible for the similar text, a case of self-plagiarism. Schnur[er] is not listed as an advisor to the campaign nor or his ideas attributed to previous campaigns in Burke’s plan." Here's Schnurer's bio-promo. ...

... CW: I wonder if Burke even read "her" jobs "plan." If you are of the impression that candidates in both parties are colossal phonies, yeah, you're right. On the other hand, Mary Burke is Eric Schnurer, not Scott Walker.

... Update. Oh. Good, She's Read It Now. Donovan Slack of USA Today: "... Mary Burke said she is 'disappointed' that a consultant on her campaign, Eric Schnurer, copied text he had used in other campaigns and incorporated it into her jobs plan, but she maintained that the ideas are sound.... She fired Schnurer on Thursday, when Buzzfeed reported Thursday that sections of her plan had been taken verbatim from other Democratic gubernatorial campaigns in Tennessee, Indiana and Delaware."

Presidential Election

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Thursday voted against legislation authorizing President Obama to arm and train Syrian rebels, taking a stand that could distinguish her from Hillary Clinton in 2016.... Warren has a thin foreign policy résumé but by voting against the authority Obama requested, she will earn points with members of the Democratic base who are skeptical about another military campaign in the Middle East. 'I do not want America to be dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, and it is time for those nations in the region that are most immediately affected by the rise of ISIS to step up and play a leading role in this fight,' she said in a statement."

Beyond the Beltway

Charles Pierce: "Everything done by the local police chief, and the local police forces, from the moment [Michael] Brown's body hit the pavement, seemed oriented around a desire to provoke the maximum outrage so as to justify the maximum police response. And now, it appears, the grand jury investigating the case of Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Brown, is headed down the same strange road." ...

... CW: Pierce's post is titled "The Latest from Ferguson," but in fact, the latest -- of which Pierce was unaware -- is that Wilson already has testified before the grand jury. In a Post-Dispatch story I linked yesterday, Robert Patrick wrote that Wilson testified for nearly four hours -- although he was not required by law to appear -- & that his "source said Wilson was 'cooperative.'" IMO, the update supports Pierce's contention. Wilson "cooperated" because he knows damned well the fix is in. If his attorney thought DA Bob McCulloch had any intention to challenge Wilson on "inconvenient facts," the lawyer would not have allowed Wilson to testify.

Will Weissert of the AP: "Amid uproar in conservative circles about perceived anti-American bias in the new [national] Advanced Placement U.S. History course and exam, Texas on Wednesday moved to require its high school students to learn only state-mandated curriculum -- not be taught to the national test.... Conservative activists, though, have decried the new course, the teachers' framework and even the exam itself as rife with liberal themes and focusing on the negative aspects of U.S. history. Some have even likened it to 'mind control' engineered by the federal government."...

... Charles Pierce: "... in a very important state of the union, a state governed by a man who is running around the country pretending he's smart enough to be president, high school students are going to learn American history in a strange, sanitized version unlike that taught anywhere else. Because the Texas Board of Education is opposed to mind control. Good for them." ...

... Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: By the few reliable measures available, it appears U.S. public schools have actually gotten better over the decades. Yet Americans "hate the public school system but like the school they actually interact with." Rampell cites a number of theories -- Diane Ravitch has a good one -- to explain this widening gap between perceptions of the local schools & public education....

     ... CW: I'd add one more theory: increasing tribalism. Parents are part of the rah-rah apparatus -- sports & other extracurricular activities -- that fosters school loyalty. The parents have an actual investment (taxes) as well as an emotional investment in schools that are important community-oriented institutions. At the Friday night football game -- and all through the week -- my school is better than your school.

News Ledes

Guardian: "Alex Salmond declared he will stand down as Scotland's first minister and the lead of the Scottish National party after failing to secure a majority for independence, as the country's vote to remain in the United Kingdom foreshadowed months of constitutional turmoil. After 55% of Scottish voters rejected independence, a higher margin than suggested by the final opinion polls of the campaign, Salmond, who has dominated Scottish politics for the past decade, said he would quit in November."

CBS/AP: "France said Friday it had conducted its first airstrike in Iraq, destroying a logistics depot held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The office of President Francois Hollande's office said Rafale fighter jets struck the depot in northeastern Iraq on Friday morning and the target was 'entirely destroyed.'"

Guardian: "David Cameron has declared a 'clear result' in the Scottish independence referendum after Scotland voted by a 10.6-point margin against ending the 307-year-old union with England and Wales. Earlier, Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, struck a defiant note at a downbeat Scottish National party rally in Edinburgh, saying he accepted Scotland had not 'at this stage' decided to vote for independence. He paid tribute to what he called a 'triumph for democratic politics' and said he would work with Westminster in the best interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK -- warning the leaders of the three main parties to make good on their promises of enhanced devolution for Scotland." ...

... The Scotsman's main story is here.


The Commentariat -- Sept. 18, 2014

David Jackson of USA Today: "During his remarks at the congressional picnic [last night, President] Obama thanked lawmakers for backing his new counterterrorism plan against the Islamic State, and asked for cooperation on other issues":

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "A House divided along unusual and unpredictable lines voted Wednesday to authorize the training and arming of Syrian rebels to confront the militant group Islamic State, backing President Obama after he personally pleaded for support. The 273-to-156 vote was over a narrow military measure with no money attached, but it took on outsize importance and was infused with drama. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, actively and strongly backed the legislation, and both sought to portray it as a modest measure.... Republican and Democratic vote-counting operations said they would not press for 'yes' on what they termed a 'vote of conscience.'" The Senate hopes to pass it as soon as Thursday....

     ... "'The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission,' President Obama said Wednesday in addressing troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. 'I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq'":

... NBC News: "Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in an exclusive interview with NBC News' Ann Curry, denounced ISIS for its savagery but also branded the U.S.-led coalition against the terror group as 'ridiculous.' Speaking from the presidential palace in Tehran ahead of his visit to the United Nations, Rouhani questioned President Obama's decision to go after ISIS with airstrikes." With video. ...

... Bob Gates Is Still Sounding Off. Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday said the U.S. will need troops on the ground to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and spoke out against President Barack Obama's contention that the U.S. aims to degrade and destroy the group."

... AND, It Should Go without Saying, So Is Ted Cruz. Adam Weinstein of Gawker: "Ted Cruz, Princeton '92 and creepy bathrobe enthusiast, is really tired of all these nancyboys who run the military, insisting that there must be political reconciliation and trustbuilding to forge stability in Iraq. Is he gonna have to go over there and bloody up some jihadi ass himself? Whilst comparing hair-care notes with Sean Hannity last night, the grandstanding GOP senator said today's military is not so much an elite fighting force as a bunch of bleeding heart social workers...." Read the whole post. Weinstein gets serious & emphasizes how dangerous Cruz's loose language is.

Dana Milbank: Trey "Gowdy, a former prosecutor, was known for theatrical outbursts in hearings, rank partisanship and a fascination with Benghazi conspiracy theories.... But when the South Carolina Republican chaired his [Benghazi select committee']s first public hearing Wednesday, Gowdy did something completely unexpected: He played it straight.... Gowdy adopted as the theme of his first hearing an idea suggested by one of the committee's Democrats, Adam Schiff of California: How well the State Department has been implementing recommendations to prevent future attacks on U.S. diplomats like the one in Libya two years ago that killed four Americans.... Over three hours, there were so many thank-yous it could have been the Oscars." CW: Stay tuned.

Edward-Issac Dovere of Politico: "Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in a behind-the-scenes struggle with the White House, congressional Democrats and Washington insiders who have lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most. Long-simmering doubts about her have reached a peak after two recent public flubs: criticizing the White House's handling of the border crisis and comparing the tea party to wife beaters." CW: I don't think this is more of the usual Politico breathless speculation. I think Wasserman Schultz is screwing up.

Kendall Breitman of Politico: "Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that it was a 'poor choice of words' for him to use the term 'Shylocks' in a recent speech. On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League's national director,Abraham Foxman, had said the word 'Shylocks' promoted an anti-Semitic stereotype.... 'There is no truer friend of the Jewish people than Joe Biden,' Foxman said in a news release.... He added, 'Clearly there was no ill-intent here, but Joe and I agreed that perhaps he needs to bone up on his Shakespeare.'"

iPhones for Criminals. Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police -- even when they have a search warrant -- taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information. The move, announced with the publication of a new privacy policy tied to the release of Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, amounts to an engineering solution to a legal quandary...."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic: "On Wednesday, Arizona Cardinals backup running back Jonathan Dwyer became the latest NFL player to be arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. Phoenix police arrested Dwyer, 25, on suspicion of aggravated assault on his 27-year-old wife and on suspicion of aggravated assault involving his 1-year-old son, a police spokesman said. The woman suffered a broken bone." Via Margaret Hartmann.

Suicide (Or Murder) by Rented Gun. Adam Weinstein reports: "A new video report by Fusion's Kimberly Brooks highlights the difficulties in preventing gun deaths at rental ranges, where shooters don't need criminal or mental health background checks to take a variety of loaded weapons to the firing line."

So Help Me God. U. S. Air Force: "The Air Force has instructed force support offices across the service to allow both enlisted members and officers to omit the words 'So help me God' from enlistment and officer appointment oaths if an Airman chooses." ...

... Abby Ohlheiser of the Washington Post: "After an airman was unable to complete his reenlistment because he omitted the part of a required oath that states 'so help me God,' the Air Force changed its instructions for the oath. Following a review of the policy by the Department of Defense General Counsel, the Air Force will now permit airmen to omit the phrase, should they so choose. That change is effective immediately, according to an Air Force statement." See also "God News" in Sunday's Commentariat for more context. Among other things, requiring the oath appears to be unconstitutional. But that doesn't always seem to matter ...

... Dahlia Lithwick explains why Constitution Day -- which was yesterday, in case you missed it, as I did -- "might just be the most American holiday of all." Also, Constitution Day is more than likely unconstitutional. God bless America.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. CW: A few weeks ago, a site called Our Bad Media claimed it had found more incidences in which Fareed Zakaria plagiarized the work of others. However, the Washington Post & CNN did reviews & made a pretty good case that the cited passages did not constitute plagiarism. The other day, Our Bad Media brought new charges. Dylan Byers of Politico: "This week, I conducted a review of the reports to determine whether the instances they cited truly qualified as plagiarism. I also asked two journalism ethics experts -- Robert Drechsel..., director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Kelly McBride, the vice president for academic programs of The Poynter Institute -- to review the reports. They came to the same conclusion I did: Fareed Zakaria plagiarized.... There are different degrees of plagiarism, to be sure. Case by case, the examples here qualify more as violations or misdemeanors than serious crimes.... But taken together, they show an undeniable pattern of behavior." ...

... Senate Race

Plagiarism, Senate Candidate-Style. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Large portions of an economic plan released by Oregon Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby appear to be heavily plagiarized from multiple sources, including one section that copies word-for-word from a plan put out by Republican Sen. Rob Portman a month earlier. Likewise, portions of Wehby's plan also copy sections nearly-verbatim from the economic growth plan of a 2012 congressional candidate named Gary DeLong and a survey from Karl Rove's group, Crossroads.... At no point in Wehby's plan is attribution given." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "What makes this striking is that Wehby is a practicing physician.... In her defense, though, the stuff in both Crossroads' poll and in Wehby’s plan is so incredibly hackneyed, such a tired assortment of conservative health policy pet rocks ... that use of the very same words isn't that surprising. It's not like any original thinking is going into this, so why use any original writing to describe it?"

Congressional Races

Gail Collins: Mark Sanford is running for re-election to his House seat unopposed! CW: I'm thinking Sanford would make a great running mate for Li'l Randy. It would be the funniest ticket ever.

Peter Beinart of the Atlantic: "... the security moms are back. And as a result, the levee Democrats were counting on to protect against a GOP hurricane is starting to crumble.... According to a CNN poll last week, women are 18 points more likely [than men] to say they are 'very' or 'somewhat' worried that someone in their family will be the victim of terrorism.... As in 2002, this anxiety about foreign threats is hurting Democrats.... In August, white women favored a Democratic Congress by four points. Now they favor a Republican Congress by eight." ...

... Steve M. "I guess it's 1972 all over again and Barack Obama is George McGovern, and it seems he can't even fight his way out of it. He was just supposed to keep us all safe. Two nasty deaths and it's all over. (How many were hanged on that bridge in Fallujah eight months before Bush's 2004 election victory? How may died in the embassy annex bombing in Lebanon six weeks before Ronald Reagan's [1984] landslide victory?)"

Presidential Election

Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill: "Emails sent by liberal activists and obtained by The Hill reveal significant dissatisfaction with Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.... The Hill reviewed hundreds of emails from a progressive members only Google group called the 'Gamechanger Salon,' a forum where nearly 1,500 activists, strategists and journalists debate issues and craft messaging campaigns. The group includes prominent Democrats, Sierra Club officials, journalists who work for The Huffington Post and The Nation magazine, senior union representatives, leaders at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and the president of NARAL."

Mario Trujillo: "Vice President Biden touched on a number of Democratic campaign themes during a speech in Iowa on Wednesday to help kick off a nationwide tour for a group of Catholic nuns traveling the country to register voters."

The Funniest Presidential Candidate. Rand Paul Is at It Again. David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: Sen. Rand Paul (RTP-Ky.) charged that a recent Post story which highlighted his flip-flops, was "full of inaccuracies." He called it a "hit job," in an interview with the winger publication The Federalist. However, neither Paul nor any of his staff members will reveal what the inaccuracies in the hit job might be. The Post tried several times to get the Paul camp to identify the "inaccuracies," but they refused to do so & would not schedule Paul himself for an interview with the post. "In his interview with The Federalist, Paul also criticized The Post for not providing a response from him or his political team." CW: The link to Fahrenthold's piece is messed up. I'll check again later to see if the Post has straightened it out. Update: Still messed up, but if you give it time, it will load, albeit with an "inappropriate descriptor." ...

Here's the problem. He [Sen. John McCain] did meet with ISIS, and had his picture taken, and didn't know it was happening at the time. -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in an interview with The Daily Beast, Sept. 16

I can't believe Rand is still repeating this stuff, which came from a Hezbollah newspaper in Lebanon! He's getting his information from Hezbollah. It's outrageous.... I don't know if Rand is dishonest or misinformed. -- Sen. John McCain, in response to Paul's charge, to the Daily Beast

Olivia Nuzzi of the Daily Beast: "In an interview with The Daily Beast on Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul discussed the war against ISIS -- and in doing so, repeated a thoroughly debunked rumor about John McCain palling around with the Islamic extremist group. Needless to say, a certain famously hot-tempered five-term senator and former presidential candidate was not at all amused.... Pictures of McCain meeting with members of the Free Syrian Army -- who have historically opposed ISIS -- have been seized upon by conspiracy theorists and McCain skeptics...."

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "There are days when we regret we are limited to just Four Pinocchios. This is one of those days. There is zero evidence that any of the men that McCain met with in Syria are linked to the Islamic State. One can have a legitimate debate about whether it is worth arming the Syrian rebels without resorting to innuendo, fake news reports and invented facts."

Constant Weader: On September 3, a reader sent me these pictures. It took me about a half-hour to debunk them because at that time, no legitimate news organization would even address them. On September 12, Rick Gladstone of the New York Times addressed the false stories & related photos of McCain supposedly palling around with terrorists. McCain should challenge Paul (no, no, John, not to a duel!) on the Senate floor to apologize for spreading the story. BTW, under appropriate circumstances, there's nothing wrong with meeting with terrorists or potential terrorists.

Beyond the Beltway

Robert Patrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson testified ... for almost four hours Tuesday in front of the St. Louis County grand jury investigating his shooting Aug. 9 of Michael Brown, a source with knowledge of the investigation said Wednesday. Wilson was not obligated to appear, and also has spoken with St. Louis County investigators twice and federal investigators once, the source said. The source said Wilson was 'cooperative.'"

Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "A Wisconsin Republican dropped out of the race for a seat on the state assembly on Tuesday after he admitted that he made offensive comments about gay and black people on social media, according to The Gazette. Jacob Dorsey, a 19-year-old candidate challenging Democratic state Rep. Deb Kolste, apologized last week for referring to gay people as 'fags' in a tweet.... In comments on YouTube videos, he used the words 'fags' and 'niggers.'... Dorsey withdrew from the race and will return to school at Brigham Young University-Idaho, from which he took a semester off to campaign for state assembly."

The New Yorker Website main page has pieces by (1) Adam Gopnik & (2) John Cassidy on the Scottish independence vote.

Grant Duncan on the New Zealand parliamentary elections: "We're in the final few days of an election campaign that has had it all -- comedy, conspiracy and claims of dirty politics -- though none of it has dented New Zealand National Prime Minister John Key's chances of winning a third term in power. The predictions market puts 80% odds on a National prime minister after this Saturday's election."

Charles Pierce: "... can we please put a sock in the encomiums to [Ian] Paisley's late-in-life discovery that being a bigot and an enabler of terrorists was no longer a viable political position? ... The Paisleys were very strongly tied to Bob Jones University, the Christianist diploma mill in Greenville, South Carolina. Paisley was friends with Bob Jones himself.... His daughter, Rhonda, is a BJU grad.... Paisley was a terrorist by the very same standards that we applied to Anwar al Awlaki before we droned his ass."

News Ledes

Reuters: "Eight bodies, including those of three journalists, were found after an attack on a team trying to educate locals on the risks of the Ebola virus in a remote area of southeastern Guinea, a government spokesman said on Thursday."

New York Times: "The people of Scotland decide Thursday whether national pride outweighs economic risk.... Economists normally as ideologically disparate and disputatious as Alan Greenspan, Paul Krugman, Adam S. Posen and Niall Ferguson all have predicted a negative economic outlook for an independent Scotland, while expressing anxiety, too, about the impact of such uncertainty on the larger European and global economies."

... The front page of the Edinburgh Scotsman is here. The Guardian has a Scottish independence page here, with lots o'links.

     ... Update: The Guardian is now liveblogging the vote & results. The final poll before voting put the yes votes at 47 percent & the no at 53. ...

     ... Update 2: The Guardian has a new liveblog here. Still no final results (as of 7:45 pm ET).

Guardian: "Toronto mayor Rob Ford has a 'rare and difficult' form of cancer called malignant pleomorphic liposarcoma, doctors treating him at Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto announced on Wednesday." ...

     ... New York Update: Ford has endorsed his brother Doug for mayor.


The Commentariat -- Sept. 17, 2014

Megan Thee-Brenan of the New York Times: "A New York Times/CBS News poll shows that President Obama's approval ratings are similar to those of President George W. Bush in 2006 when Democrats swept both houses of Congress in the midterm elections. A deeply unpopular Republican Party is nonetheless gaining strength heading into the midterm elections, as the American public's frustration with Mr. Obama has manifested itself in low ratings for his handling of foreign policy and terrorism." CW: All the evidence you need that the U.S. public, in the aggregate, is deeply stupid and/or ignorant. For anecdotal evidence, look below for the views of a Kentucky ObamaCare beneficiary.

Slip 'n Slide. Jeremy Peters & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Tuesday that he would recommend deploying United States combat forces against Islamic extremists in specific operations if the current strategy of airstrikes was not successful, offering a more expansive view of the American role in the ground war than that of President Obama. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he said that while he was confident in the ability of the coalition of American, European and Middle Eastern governments to stop the Islamic State, he could not completely close the door to eventually asking Mr. Obama to commit ground troops to fight the group, known as ISIS or ISIL." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Craig Whitlock, is here. ...

... BUT. Justin Sink & Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "The White House and congressional Democrats on Tuesday pushed back against speculation that President Obama could order ground troops into Iraq, after the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said combat forces could fight Islamic militants. Gen. Martin Dempsey was 'referring to a hypothetical scenario in which there might be a future situation in which he might make a tactical recommendation to the president as it relates to ... the use of ground troops,' White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday." ...

... AND, as you read the details -- via Dana Milbank -- of how Dempsey's answer came about (hint: Lindsey "Be Afraid" Graham was his interrogator), the headlines look rather hyperbolic. ...

... ** Dana Milbank: "The sudden desire [among Republicans] for a ground war is a bit suspect, both because many Republicans adopted this view only after Obama came around to their previous view and because many Republicans oppose even the modest funding Obama has requested to train Syrian fighters." ...

... Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "As the Obama administration and the American public have focused their attention on ISIS in recent weeks, conservative groups and leading Republicans have issued stark warnings ... that ISIS and other extremists from Syria are planning to enter the country illegally from Mexico. But the Homeland Security Department, the F.B.I. and lawmakers who represent areas near the border say there is no truth to the warnings. 'There is no credible intelligence to suggest that there is an active plot by ISIL to attempt to cross the southern border,' Homeland Security officials said in a written statement, using an alternative acronym for the group." ...

... AND. Guns for Hire. Lee Fang of the Nation reminds us that many of the former generals & other "experts" who get on the teevee & directly or indirectly promote war against ISIS -- or whoever, what the hell -- "... have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world." Moreover, the listening public wouldn't know that because the media, both print & electronic, who invite & publish the opinions of these paid agitators, seldom reveal the opinionators' conflicts-of-interest. Thanks to safari for the link. ...

... Burgess Everett of Politico: "With the House expected to attach a Syria amendment to the government funding bill and pass the package on Wednesday, the Senate appears on track to vote on the legislation by Thursday and send senators home until November -- a recess key to the reelection chances of [Mitch] McConnell and a number of [Harry] Reid's vulnerable incumbent Democrats." ...

... ** Here's Juan Cole with rational, informed suggestions about what could work to degrade & contain ISIS & what would not -- the latter being the course the U.S. seems to be following. ...

... CW: Contrast the measured actions many experts suggest -- with actual explanations as to why a somewhat cautious makes sense -- with those of the war hawks, who fear-monger the public to gin up support for all-out war (see Michael Schmidt story & Dana Milbank's column linked above). John McCain, Lindsey Graham & other boosters aren't just stupid or dangerous or craven munitions-industry whores; they're anti-American.

Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "President Obama on Tuesday challenged world powers to ramp up the global response to the Ebola outbreak that is ravaging three West African countries, warning that unless health care workers, medical equipment and treatment centers are deployed quickly, the disease could take hundreds of thousands of lives":

... ** Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday said he has 'a few knuckleheads' in his conference. As a result, Boehner described his House majority as being a 'paper majority.' 'On any given day, 16 of my members decide they're going to go this way, and all the sudden I have nothing,' he said. 'You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference.'" Boehner was making a pitch for a bigger majority to neutralize the knuckleheads.

Lucy McCalmont of Politico: "Sen. Maria Cantwell said Tuesday that she will introduce legislation that will aim to strip the National Football League of its tax-exempt status.... The league is organized as a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization, and this status, as well as the other leagues who share it, has been the focus of Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn." CW: I'll be damned if I can see why there even is a 501(c)(6); which exempts from taxes "business leagues," including the NFL & chambers of commerce.

Mike Lillis of the Hill: "A pair of House lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday designed to de-militarize the nation's local police departments. Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) said the Pentagon's 1033 program, which arms local law enforcers with surplus military equipment, goes too far to put the tools of war onto America's streets." CW: I hate to say it, but this bill & Cantwell's will probably go nowhere.

The Word from the Snake Crude Oil Salesman: The reality is right now we've got an administration in the Obama administration that are science deniers when it comes to harnessing America's energy resources and potential to create good-paying jobs for our economy and for our future. Right now we've got an administration whose policies are holding our economy hostage. -- Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.)

... CW: I think maybe Republicans have a new I-Know-You-Are-But-What-Am-I strategy. Yesterday Flip-Flopper Rand Paul called President Obama a flip-flopper, & today evolution-dissembler Jindal is calling Obama a science denier (Jindal does not dispute man-made climate change; he says he just doesn't give a damn. [Jindal is "a Rhodes scholar who studied biology and public policy at Brown University). ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Betcha the authorities at New College, Oxford, are daily regretting the degree they bestowed upon this dude, who daily applies his intellectual gifts to the worst kind of yahooism." ...

... Charles Pierce on Bobby Jay's Keystone XL Kops Energy Plan: "Most of the energy in the plan is to get people talking about what a serious person Jindal is, and not to notice that his state is falling apart, his education plan there is a whopping side dish of theocratic corruption, and that his constituents would be bitterly divided should Jindal be eaten by alligators."

"You Can't Feed a Family with GDP." Neil Irwin of the New York Times: "There are a few sunnier points in [a new U.S. Census] report [on American income]. The poverty rate fell to 14.5 percent, from 15 percent. And as the White House Council of Economic Advisers points out, incomes rose a good bit more in 2013 for the median family -- that is households where people who are related live together -- than they did for the more widely cited measure of households, which includes singles and roommates.... But the new evidence that pay is stagnant for middle-income families strikes us as the most important thing contained in this report.... You can't eat G.D.P. You can't live in a rising stock market. You can't give your kids a better life because your company's C.E.O. was able to give himself a big raise."

The Twisted Ways of Tribalists. Nobody don't care for nobody no more, and I think [Obama]'s got a lot to do with that.... [I was] born and raised Republican. I ain't planning on changing now. -- a Kentucky woman who is "tickled to death" with her new healthcare coverage. She's voting for Mitch McConnell, who did everything in his power to keep her from getting the coverage.

CW: This woman would be more "dead" than "tickled" if her buddy Mitch had his way. Since she can't come up with a logical criticism of someone who made her life immeasurably easier & safer, she grasps for the "Everything Is Obama's Fault" formula: People "don't care for nobody no more" (even though "caring for people" is the explicit purpose of ObamaCare) ... because Obama. ...

PLUS This. William Finnegan of the New Yorker: "Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the Minority Leader, has voted seventeen times against raising the minimum wage; in April, he led a successful filibuster of the $10.10 bill." ...

... CW: The cradle-to-grave Republican woman cited above, who is voting for McConnell, earns $9 an hour. ...

... William Finnegan: The arguments against a fair minimum wage haven't changed much in a century, even though they have "a dismal record as a description of reality."

Unintended Consequence? Hobby Lobby Hobbles FBI. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Citing Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court's decision last June holding that the religious objections of a business' owners could trump federal rules requiring that business to include birth control coverage in its health plan, a federal judge in Utah held last week that a member of a polygamist religious sect could refuse to testify in a federal investigation into alleged violations of child labor laws because he objects to testifying on religious grounds." Judge David Sam, a Reagan appointee, "concludes based on a single paragraph of analysis that the federal government's efforts to obtain [the sect member]'s testimony is a 'substantial' burden on his faith." ...

... Scott Lemieux: "The Supreme Court just created a huge mess."

"Undue Burden." Jeff Toobin in the New Yorker: How the courts -- & Republican-led state legislatures -- are undoing former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's "most important triumph during her long and consequential tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court. Almost single-handedly, O'Connor rewrote abortion law."

Charles Pierce: Judges of the Seventh Circuit laugh Rand Paul's doctor friends right out of court. Pierce summarizes the doctors' legal argument: "'Your Honor, this law unfairly prejudices my clients because of actions they freely took in opposition to it.' It's like seeing the residents of Galt's Gulch appeal to the zoning board."

Vice President Joe Gaffe. Oliver Knox of Yahoo News: "Vice President Joe Biden drew fire from a prominent Jewish group on Tuesday after he described unscrupulous bankers who prey on servicemen and servicewomen deployed overseas as 'Shylocks' -- a term frequently condemned as an anti-Semitic caricature.... The vice president's office did not return a request for comment."

Jon Krawczynski of the AP: "After a day of public pressure from angry fans and concerned sponsors, the Minnesota Vikings have reversed course and placed star running back Adrian Peterson on the exempt-commissioner's permission list, a move that will require him to stay away from the team while he addresses child abuse charges in Texas....Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton [DFL], who spearheaded an effort to secure $477 million in public money to help build the team a new stadium, and Sen. Al Franken were among the many who called for the Vikings to reconsider their position." ...

... Michael Powell of the New York Times details the hypocrisy of pro football sponsors. Also, of NFL fans. ...

... Here's yesterday's Times story, by Ken Belson, on how sponsors & politicians are suddenly all upset about a specific instance of child abuse by an NFL player. ...

... CW: I'm sure the interested parties are calculating correctly that the whole NFL-players-are-abusive scandal is a momentary media phenomenon -- a TMZ story, after all -- & it will get lost in the fog of the next hoohah. Today's big news on TMZ: some actor who cried racism when the LAPD showed up was having sex in her car in the daylight in a public parking lot. Graphic grainy photos! And so it goes. In the meantime ...

... If you're a football fan who foregoes the viewing of violent sporting events for a whole week, tell us your story. I'll pay you in signed back issues of Reality Chex.

Susan Candiotti & Alan Duke of CNN: "The cardiac arrest leading to Joan Rivers' death happened as the comedian's personal doctor began performing a biopsy on her vocal cords, a source close to the death investigation told CNN." Rivers had not authorized the doctor to perform the biopsy, & the doctor was not certified to perform surgery at the clinic. The doctor took a selfie while Rivers was anesthetized. He has not been publicly IDed. "Investigators believe that Rivers' vocal chords began to swell during the allegedly unauthorized biopsy, cutting off the flow of oxygen to her lungs, which led to cardiac arrest on the morning of August 29, the source said."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Steve Benen on Fox "News"'s coverage of Benghaaaazi! In 20 months, the network aired 1,110 segments on the story. Benen notes that obsession with a particular topic isn't necessarily a bad thing -- that's often how dogged reporters break important news. BUT. "... Fox produced no scoops. It aired no new revelations of import. It didn't increase the public's understanding of the Benghazi attack in any meaningful or substantive way. On the contrary, many of the segments arguably did the exact opposite: the network aired 100 segments -- including 43 just from Sean Hannity -- 'promoting the lie that the administration issued a "stand-down order."'"

Senate Race

John Hanna of the AP: "Several Kansas Supreme Court justices expressed skepticism Tuesday about a Republican official's decision to keep the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate on the ballot against his wishes as they reviewed a legal dispute that could affect the national fight for control of the Senate. During arguments before the court, justices focused on whether a formal letter from Democrat Chad Taylor to withdraw from the race required Secretary of State Kris Kobach to remove Taylor's name from the Nov. 4 ballot. Some Democrats nudged Taylor out of the race because they see independent candidate Greg Orman as the stronger rival to three-term Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts.... Four justices -- a majority for the seven member court -- were appointed by former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.... Two others were appointed by Sebelius' predecessor, former moderate GOP Gov. Bill Graves." (A 7th seat is open.) ...

... Here's Bryan Lowry's report for the Wichita Eagle. ...

... OR, if you've got an hour, you can watch the oral arguments yourself:

Beyond the Beltway

Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Most voters who have already returned absentee ballots will have to provide their local clerks with copies of photo identification -- as will thousands of others who have received absentee ballots but not yet submitted them. Kevin Kennedy, the head of the agency that runs state elections, said new steps are being put in place to contact such voters after a Friday ruling by an appeals court that reinstated Wisconsin's long-stalled voter ID law." CW: I'm not too sure this clusterfuck is actually going to help Republicans. Plus, let's see what happens here:

... Also Tuesday, the groups challenging the voter ID law said they would ask the full, 10-member 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse Friday's decision. Friday's order came from a three-judge panel.

     ... CW: I understand en banc re-hearings are unusual, but changing the rules within weeks of an election is mighty unusual -- Rick Hasen wrote the other day that the U.S. Supremes had declared last minutes "new rules" unconstitutional.

News Lede

AP: "Islamic State fighters shot down a Syrian war plane using anti-aircraft guns on Tuesday, the first time the group has downed a military jet since declaring its cross-border caliphate in June, a group monitoring the civil war said."