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Oct. 8 2015 2:31 PM

Dick Cheney Midas Touch Strikes Again as McCarthy Endorsement Precedes McCarthy Failure

Dick Cheney isn't good at anticipating future events. This was most famously illustrated when he said that the U.S. forces invading Iraq in 2003 would find weapons of mass destruction and be “greeted as liberators,” but it was also underlined Thursday morning when he endorsed California Republican Kevin McCarthy for the House speakership mere hours before an embattled McCarthy dropped out of the race. From Cheney's statement, via Politico:

I’ve known Kevin McCarthy for many years. He is a good man and a strong leader. As a man of the House and a former member of the House leadership, I know that Kevin McCarthy is the person we need as Speaker in these dangerous and important times.

Dick Cheney has a Midas touch where instead of gold the things he touches turn into failure and chaos.

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Oct. 8 2015 1:29 PM

Will Paul Ryan Jump Into the Speaker’s Race? He Says No.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy just shocked Washington, D.C., by dropping out of the race to become the next speaker of the house. The other declared candidates are Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida, neither of whom were previously thought to have enough support to win. High-profile Benghazi committee chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina has already indicated that he doesn't want the job. Eyes thus turned naturally to Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin rep who one could picture having the combination of fiscal hard-liner bona fides and status within the national party that the job will require. But, in a quickly issued statement, Paul Ryan says no dice:

Kevin McCarthy is the best person to lead the House, and so I’m disappointed in this decision. Now it is important that we, as a Conference, take time to deliberate and seek new candidates for the speakership. While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate. I continue to believe I can best serve the country and this conference as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Current Speaker John Boehner has said he plans to step down by the end of October.

Oct. 8 2015 12:55 PM

The Prosecutor Who Handled the Darren Wilson Case Just Won Missouri’s “Prosecutor of the Year” Award

Bob McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor who oversaw the legal proceedings that led to the non-indictment of Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson in the fall of 2014, was honored Thursday at a Missouri Bar luncheon after the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys named him "Prosecutor of the Year."

McCulloch was the public face of the decision to spare Wilson of any criminal charges in connection with the shooting death of Michael Brown. That decision, which sparked violent clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson, was made by members of a grand jury after prosecutors from McCulloch’s office presented them with evidence during closed-door hearings. McCulloch was criticized at the time for his handling of the case, with many arguing that his office had deliberately gone easy on Wilson out of a desire to protect him and the Ferguson Police Department.

Some Ferguson residents and officials protested McCulloch's involvement in the case in the weeks after the shooting, saying he should recuse himself because his personal history—his father, a police officer, was shot and killed by a black man in 1964—made him biased.   

Wilson was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing by a Department of Justice investigation, which found that there was no reliable evidence that Brown had his hands up in surrender at the time of his death, or that Wilson was wrong to fear for his life during the confrontation.   

Nevertheless, Wilson's non-indictment highlighted how rarely police officers who have killed civilians in the line of duty are charged and taken to trial. McCulloch himself has served as the prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County since 1991, and since that time, his office has been tasked with overseeing five cases involving people who had been killed by police officers; indictments were not handed down in any of them.

A call to the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys was not returned. No one from the Missouri Bar was available to answer questions.

Oct. 8 2015 12:46 PM

Presumed Front-Runner Kevin McCarthy Drops Out of Speaker Race in Bombshell Move

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has dropped out of the race for speaker of the house, according to reporters outside the House Republican conference’s closed door meeting to decide its nominee Thursday afternoon. McCarthy was expected to win the conference’s nomination for speaker but reportedly told members that he was out.

Retiring Speaker John Boehner has postponed the election.

McCarthy lost the faith of some in his conference when he “misspoke” about the nature of the Benghazi committee. And he was never the right match for the most conservative elements of the party, who were withholding their votes until certain demands were met.

McCarthy was being challenged by Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who made a late entry after McCarthy’s Benghazi statement, and Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida, who was backed by the House’s hard-right Freedom Caucus.

Update, 1:30 p.m.: Here is McCarthy's full statement: 

Oct. 8 2015 12:35 PM

Urban Outfitters: Our Salaried Employees Love Weekend “Volunteering” at Rural Shipping Center

Update, 6 p.m.:  Via the Lancaster, Pennsylvania news outlet LNP, here's a choice June quote from URBN CEO Richard Hayne ...

Jobs that pay? “You’re looking at them,” Hayne said at the grand opening for Urban Outfitters’ massive e-commerce fulfillment center in rural Salisbury Township just outside Gap on Route 30.

... and a more recent picture of the shipping-center site (URBN put up a new building at the site after the Google Maps photo was taken):

URBN fulfillment center

Photo by Richard Hertzler/LNP Media Group

Original post, 12:35 p.m.: Good Lord. URBN, the parent company of Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People, got caught by Gawker asking its salaried headquarters employees to "volunteer" on weekends at a rural shipping center an hour-plus away—and responded by claiming that said employees love giving up their Saturdays to do a manual labor job, for free, three counties away from their actual office. Here's URBN's official statement about the program:

After successfully opening our new fulfillment center in June, we asked salaried employees at our home office to volunteer for shifts that would help support the new center through a busy month of October. Unsurprisingly, we received a tremendous response, including many of our senior management. Many hourly employees also offered to pitch in—an offer which we appreciated, but declined in order to ensure full compliance with all applicable labor laws and regulations. The dedication and commitment of URBN employees are second to none, and their response to this request is a testament to their solidarity and continued success.

The volunteering shifts are six hours long and take place on Oct. 17, 18, 24, 25, and 31.

I mean, who wouldn't give up their Halloween to go here—

The site of the Gap, Pennsylvania facility as depicted in a Google Street View image.

Screenshot/Google Maps

—to earn "team player" company morale points that may or may not ever pay off via actual compensation or advancement?

Correction, Oct. 8, 2015: A photo caption in this post originally misidentified the URBN shipping center in question. The Google Maps photo (the third photo in the post) depicts the site the center is built on, but that site is now occupied by a new building (pictured in the second photo in the post).

Oct. 8 2015 11:35 AM

Airman Who Helped Foil French Train Attack in Critical Condition After Sacramento Stabbing

The American airman who received a Purple Heart for helping subdue a heavily armed terrorism suspect aboard a French train is in critical condition after being “repeatedly stabbed,” CBS News reports. The incident took place in Sacramento, which is near Stone's hometown of Carmichael, California. From local station KCRA:

Hometown hero Spencer Stone was stabbed multiple times early Thursday morning near several popular bars in midtown Sacramento, KCRA has confirmed with the U.S. Air Force.
The stabbing happened about 12:45 a.m. near 21st and K streets, Sacramento police said.
A fight in the street allegedly led to Stone being stabbed multiple times in the torso, prompting investigators to block off two blocks in the area, Sacramento police said.

Stone was 23 on Aug. 21 when he and several others (all of whom later received the French Legion of Honor medal) confronted and subdued a 26-year-old Moroccan man named Ayoub el-Khazzani, who was armed with an AK-47, a pistol, and a box cutter on a train traveling from Paris to Amsterdam. Stone was reportedly the first to tackle el-Khazzani and was hospitalized after being slashed during the ensuing struggle. He was given a Purple Heart medal at a Sept. 17 Pentagon ceremony.

Oct. 8 2015 9:33 AM

Democrats to Propose Bill, Which Will Probably Fail, to Close Gun Loopholes

Senate Democrats plan to propose a bill to close a number of loopholes in the background check system for gun purchases, multiple outlets report. The bill will be similar to a bipartisan proposal put forward by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey in 2013 after the Sandy Hook massacre; that bill failed in the Senate by a vote of 54–46 with five Democrats voting against it. Among the reforms outlined by Michigan's Debbie Stabenow and New York's Chuck Schumer in a letter to colleagues:

  • Expanding the background check system to cover guns sold at gun shows and online.
  • Extending the period, which is currently three days, after which a purchaser can get their gun even if a background check is not yet completed. (This is how Charleston, South Carolina, killer Dylann Roof got his weapon.)
  • Adding "abusive dating partners, individuals under a court-imposed restraining order and convicted stalkers" to the list of people banned prohibited from buying firearms.
  • Making it a crime to be a "straw purchaser" who buys a weapon for somebody else.

Senate Dems apparently plan to block action on other bills until the gun control measures are brought to a vote; Republicans hold a 54-seat majority in the chamber.

Oct. 7 2015 9:58 PM

Rupert Murdoch Suggests Barack Obama Is Either Not Really Black or Not Really President

You be the judge. Murdoch, the conservative media scion and occasional Twitter user, is obviously not a fan of the sitting president, but it was revealed Wednesday night he apparently isn’t totally convinced that Barack Obama is the “real” President. The Twitter outburst of absurdity from Murdoch came following "real" Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s appearance on Fox News.

Oct. 7 2015 7:44 PM

French TV Station Promotes Gender Equality (Its Own) With Absurdly Sexist Ad Campaign

Oy vey. Preemptive moral of the story: Taking a victory lap for doing something you should be doing already is never a great idea. Why not? Enter French public broadcaster France 3 and its recent advertisement highlighting that the station employs more female anchors than male. While on-air talent may not be the pinnacle of gender equality in the workplace, it’s certainly not nothing. So France 3 thought it would promote itself with this ad campaign:

The gist of the ad is pretty straightforward. But if your French is a bit rusty here’s the Guardian with the takeway:

As the camera pans around this domestic apocalypse, a famous 1970s French pop song croons: “Where are the women?” Then, as a shot shows a wardrobe full of neatly stacked shoes, a message appears on screen telling us that all the women “are on France 3” where “the majority of our presenters” are female.


“The idea behind the ad—that professional women are neglecting their household duties—‘does not seem like a good way to promote professional equality’, tweeted France's women's minister, Pascale Boistard,” the BBC reports. “Boistard mentioned the new head of France 3, Delphine Ernotte, by name… the company's first female chief, apologized for the ad, saying she had not seen it ahead of its release, and ordered it to be pulled.”

Oct. 7 2015 5:53 PM

Jeb Bush Is Having an Identity Crisis

OSKALOOSA, Iowa—Tired of fighting against the anti-establishment headwinds that have battered his campaign, Jeb Bush this week began to see if he could sail with them at his back.

“What we need to do is disrupt Washington, to challenge every aspect of what it does, to take it on,” the son and brother of two of the past four U.S. presidents said here on Wednesday. “I believe I can disrupt the old order in Washington, D.C.,” the man with the most GOP endorsements in the field added later, “because I did it when I was governor of the state of Florida.”

Disruption, it seems, is the unofficial theme of Jeb’s current three-day swing through the Hawkeye State. He tested out a similar pitch the previous night during a fundraising stop at a county GOP event in eastern Iowa, and did the same in an op-ed he published in the Des Moines Register that evening. “While others in this race pay lip service to reforming Washington,” he wrote in the state’s largest newspaper, “I am the one candidate for president with the strongest record of bringing disruptive change to government.”

This, to put it mildly, will be a difficult needle for Bush to thread. Even if voters are willing to suspend their disbelief that a modern-day political scion can be an outsider who will strike fear into the political establishment, Wednesday’s performance made it clear that they’ll also have to ignore a whole host of contradictions inherent in Jeb’s rebranding effort.

The one-time GOP front-runner opened by telling the crowd that when he was governor, he was above party politics: “It didn’t matter if you had an R by your name or a D by your name,” he said. Before he was done, though, he was decrying the “progressive liberal agenda” that he said was being pushed by Democrats in Washington. His attacks on the status quo, meanwhile, came with the necessary digs at lobbyists and special interest groups, but later while trying to prove his gun-rights bona fides to a questioner, Bush was quick to tout an award he won from the National Rifle Association—which, by almost any definition, is a lobby that holds outsize sway in Washington.

Similarly, Bush continued to try to have it both ways when it came to the intra-party attacks that have come to define a GOP race that has been shaped by the blustery belligerence of Donald Trump. He lamented the sniping that was going on on the trail, but later took his turn subtweeting his rivals. “I don’t believe the people who talk about it, who sit on the back bench and talk about things all the time and go on the talk shows, are necessarily the ones who can do it,” he said in a not-so-veiled shot at less politically experienced candidates like Trump, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz.

It’s hard not to see panic in Bush’s attempts to have it both ways. His donors have made it clear that they are losing patience with his middling performance on the campaign trail, and he knows he must do something to right the ship, and soon. His problem, though, is that by trying to be two very different things—establishment favorite and anti-Washington crusader—to two very different groups of people, he risks becoming a candidate who is nothing to either.