The Ledes

Thursday, March 26, 2015.

Guardian: "The UK supreme court has cleared the way for the publication of secret letters written by Prince Charles to British government ministers, declaring that an attempt by the state to keep them concealed was unlawful. The verdict – the culmination of a 10-year legal fight by the Guardian – is a significant blow for the government, which has been battling to protect the Prince of Wales from scrutiny over his 'particularly frank' interventions on public policy."

Washington Post: "Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes early Thursday in neighboring Yemen, heading a coalition of Arab nations in an effort to dislodge Houthi rebels sweeping through that country. The strikes were a startling turn of events that came as the Houthis, in control of Yemen’s capital for months, barreled south toward the coastal city of Aden, seizing an air base along the way that was evacuated by U.S. Special Operations forces­ last week." ...

     ... New York Times UPDATE: "Egypt said Thursday that it was prepared to send troops into Yemen as part of a Saudi-led campaign to drive back the Iranian-backed Houthi advance, signaling the growing likelihood of a protracted ground war on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula."

New York Times: "As officials struggled Wednesday to explain why a [Germanwings] jet with 150 people on board crashed amid a relatively clear sky, an investigator said evidence from a cockpit voice recorder indicated one pilot left the cockpit before the plane’s descent and was unable to get back in." ...

     ... ** UPDATE: "The co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525 deliberately crashed the aircraft, French officials said Thursday, pointing to voice recorder evidence that he had locked the captain out of the cockpit, ignored his pleas for re-entry and steered down into the French Alps as passengers were heard screaming. The assertions instantly changed the nature of the Tuesday crash, which obliterated the Airbus A320 and killed all 150 aboard, into a wide-ranging criminal investigation that focused on the co-pilot, a 28-year-old German with no obvious reason to commit mass murder, who had been hired less than two years ago." ...

     ... The Guardian's live updates are here.

... Washington Post: "A mother and daughter from Prince William County were among three Americans who perished when an Airbus jet plunged into a frozen ridge in the French Alps this week, officials said Wednesday. Yvonne Selke, a longtime government contractor, and Emily Selke, a recent graduate of Drexel University, died Tuesday along with 148 others on the Germanwings flight from Spain to Germany."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, March 25, 2015.

New York Times: "On Wednesday, the Army announced that it was charging Sergeant [Beau] Bergdahl with misbehavior before the enemy and desertion, raising the possibility that he could be imprisoned again, this time for life."

New York Times: "Rescuers on Wednesday resumed the difficult task of searching for the 150 victims of a deadly plane crash in the French Alps, as France’s interior minister said that terrorism was not at the top of the list of potential causes."

Washington Post: "Yemen’s embattled president was pushed deeper into crisis Wednesday after fleeing a last-ditch refuge as advancing Shiite rebels seized a key air base in a push to overrun the country’s second-largest city. The whereabouts of Western-allied President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was not immediately clear."

Put Some Ketchup on that Velveeta. New York Times: "Kraft Foods and H. J. Heinz, two icons of the American food industry, are merging in a blockbuster deal involving the billionaire Warren E. Buffett and the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital, creating what will be the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world.... Heinz, which is owned by 3G Capital and Mr. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, will control 51 percent of the combined company, while Kraft shareholders will own 49 percent."

AP: "Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will be released from a federal prison on Thursday and will serve out the remainder of his term in a Washington, D.C., halfway house, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy told The Associated Press after visiting Jackson. Kennedy said he spoke with Jackson at the minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, where the son of the civil rights leader has been serving a 2 ½-year sentence after pleading guilty to illegally spending $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items."

CBS New York: "The Connecticut home of the man who carried out the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has been demolished, Newtown officials said Tuesday. The 2-acre lot where the 3,100-square-foot house once stood in a leafy, suburban neighborhood will be left as open space under a plan approved by town officials.... Everything inside the home, including rugs and lighting fixtures, had previously been removed and incinerated so that no remnants were available to become memorabilia."

Public Service Announcement

Reuters: "Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound. While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze."

White House Live Video
March 26

4:10 pm ET: President Obama speaks about the economy in Birmingham, Alabama

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Twenty percent more people trust Bill O'Reilly now than trusted O'Reilly before the press reported he was a serial liar:

East Wing Mystery. Washington Post: "There’s still no official comment on why [White House head florist Laura] Dowling is no longer at the White House, but according to a source with close ties to current residence staffers, she was escorted from the building on Friday Feb. 13." ...

     ... UPDATE. Thoroughly Modern Michelle. "Dowling ... left because her 'fussy style' was not in line with the first lady’s emerging modern and clean aesthetics, several sources said.... Recently the first lady has debuted a different aesthetic at the executive mansion. Last month, the White House revealed the newly refurbished and now decidedly modern Old Family dining room.... Mrs. Obama unveiled her 'thoroughly modernized' mark on the White House, featuring a custom-made 1950s-inspired rug and bold artwork, to surprised tourists on Feb. 10. Dowling is said to have been escorted from the White House three days later." ...

Reuters: "Whether it's the earnest Josiah Bartlet from 'The West Wing' or the manipulative Frank Underwood in 'House of Cards,' Americans prefer television presidents to their real-life POTUS, President Barack 'No Drama' Obama.'"

Washington Post: Scientists believe they've found the world's largest asteroid impact zone in Australia.

Washington Post: "King Richard III may have been buried quickly and without pomp the first time, but 530 years later, England is reveling in a final farewell to its long-lost monarch. On a sun-kissed Sunday afternoon on the battlefield where Richard III fell in 1485 — he was the last English king to die in battle — throngs of well-wishers, some dressed in medieval costume and blowing trumpets, gathered to honor England’s last Plantagenet king."

Out of the Parking Lot & into the Cathedral. Guardian: England is preparing to (re)inter a king today (Sunday, March 22). "... the coffin will be transferred to a horse-drawn hearse, to lead the way to a service of compline, with a sermon from a Roman Catholic archbishop, Vincent Nicholls. It will then lie in the cathedral, guarded night and day, until the reburial service on Thursday."

Politico: "The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it has granted Amazon Logistics, a subsidiary of the Internet retail giant, approval for a drone design that the company plans to use for research, development and training."

David Rackoff: "Things people say that irritate Republicans." Click thru. CW: I'll have to try to remember these. So I can say them. To Republicans. I hope I drive them all Rumpelstiltskin. Then I will ask the Flying Spaghetti Monster to forgive me for being so mean.

Prince Charles & the Duchess of Cornwall are in Washington, D.C., & environs.

President Obama hosts a St. Patrick's Day reception:

... CW: Somebody explain to me why apparently-intelligent people don't actually participate in events they attend but instead spend their time taking crappy cellphone videos, even when they know said events will be recorded by professionals & posted online. I get why a person would want to record some side-conversation with, say, the President, but the main event? It baffles me.

Patrick LaForge of the New York Times: "Welcome to a parallel universe. It is a world of tired news language where the verb 'stir' is bound to be followed by 'debate,' where those debates are always 'heated' or 'bitter.' In this world, anything newsworthy is automatically 'controversial,' and a 'hike' involves taxes, not a trail up a mountain. It is often a 'hardscrabble' place, sometimes 'densely wooded,' sometimes graced with 'manicured' lawns and 'leafy' streets. 'Landmark' agreements are 'hammered out' there, while adversaries are 'lambasted' and 'assailed.'” Meet journalese: a strained and artificial voice more common to news reports than to natural conversation." LaForge cites numerous examples of NYT reporters' use of these cliches.

"In March 2015, Robert Kenner, the Director of 'Food Inc' and other acclaimed documentaries, will debut his newest, 'Merchants of Doubt'. Based on the book by Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway, the film follows the development of sophisticated methods for distorting science, used by the Tobacco industry to hide the poisonous nature of their products, and adapted by the Fossil Fuel industry to distort the science around climate change":

... Michael O'Sullivan of the Washington Post discusses the documentary: "... Marc Morano, a professional climate-change denier and founder of the Climate Depot Web site ... is, arguably, the star of Kenner’s film. After a stint in the 1990s reporting for Rush Limbaugh, Morano worked briefly as a flack for Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), who famously called global warming a 'hoax.' He also plays dirty. In 'Doubt,' Morano recounts with glee how he has published the e-mail addresses of climate scientists, subjecting them to intimidation and flaming attacks from anonymous critics. (Several of the abusive e-mails are read aloud in the film by their recipients...."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker on true-crime documentaries like "The Jinx," the story of Robert Durst: "In the past several decades, true-crime documentaries have emerged as a kind of secondary appeals system...."

New York Times: "Marilynne Robinson won the National Book Critics Circle Award on Thursday for her novel 'Lila,' the final book in her trilogy set in the fictional Gilead, Iowa." The story names the other winners of this award, which -- at least among writers -- is more prestigious than the Pulitzer.

Guardian: "A presenter on the Spanish-language network Univision has defended himself after he was fired for making comments which appeared to compare US first lady Michelle Obama to 'something from the cast of Planet of the Apes'.... The situation is slightly murkier than it may have at first appeared. In the segment of the show in question, [Rodner] Figueroa had been discussing the work of a Filipino makeup artist named Paolo Ballesteros, who specialises in transforming himself into celebrities.... In a letter released through his PR firm, in Spanish and translated by the Guardian, Figueroa apologised but argued his remarks had been misinterpreted, saying he had been disparaging Ballesteros’s makeup talent, not making a slur about the first lady." ...

... CW: For what it's worth (not much), I would not have fired Figueroa. This seems to be a rare instance in which the excuse "I used a poor choice of words" is accurate.

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Thursday
Mar262015

The Commentariat -- March 26, 2015

CW: Probably no more links today. No problems, just lots of commitments. Add what you like.

Rod Nordland & Peter Baker of the New York Times: "American warplanes began airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Tikrit late Wednesday, finally joining a stalled offensive to retake the Iraqi city as American officials sought to seize the initiative from Iran, which had taken a major role in directing the operation.The decision to directly aid the offensive was made by President Obama on Wednesday, American officials said, and represented a significant shift in the Iraqi campaign."

John Bresnahan, et al., of Politico: "After two weeks of backroom negotiations with fiscal conservatives and defense hawks, the House approved a spending blueprint that would balance the budget in a decade, transform Medicare and Medicaid, prevent tax increases and repeal Obamacare.... The Senate is slated to vote on its budget Thursday night or in the early hours of Friday morning, after an hours-long 'vote-a-rama' to consider amendments." CW: All this is meaningless, but WTF? House members got a chance to repeal the ACA again (even as most of them get their insurance through it.)

For some odd reason, Charles Pierce sees the dead hand of Lee Atwater in Republicans' holding up Loretta Lynch's confirmation vote. Also, too, the lady opinionators of the Washington Post are dolts.

Maya Rhodan of Time: "Companies that provide special treatment for a large percentage of their injured workers should do the same for pregnant women, the Supreme Court decided on Wednesday. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of former UPS employee Peggy Young, who challenged a company policy that did not allow her to take on lighter duties during her pregnancy, even though the company provided alternative work to some employees with injuries or other circumstances that prevented them from doing their regular jobs." The decision, writeen by Justice Breyer, is here. Justice Alito wrote a separate, concurring opinion. Justices Scalia, Kennedy & Thomas dissented.

If you want to know the implications of the Alabama racial gerrymandering decision, Rick Hasen, writing in ScotusBlog, says it might be consequential (Justice Scalia called the decision “a sweeping holding that will have profound implications for the constitutional ideal of one person, one vote, for the future of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and for the primacy of the State in managing its own elections”), or it might not mean much.

Jonathan Chait has a brief e-mail conversation with Larry Tribe regarding his sellout to advocacy for the coal industry. Chait pretty much whacks Tribe.

Presidential Race

Obama & Clinton, this week.Julie Pace & Ken Thomas of the AP: "Rather than keeping him at arm's length, Hillary Rodham Clinton is embracing President Barack Obama — sometimes even literally. Clinton had been expected to look for some ways to separate herself from the president to avoid the impression that having her in the White House would amount to a third Obama term. But as she prepares for another presidential campaign, Clinton has aligned herself with Obama far more often than not."

AP: Jeb "Bush was an aggressive chief executive throughout his tenure as Florida governor, pushing the limits of executive authority, bristling at legislative oversight and willing to work around the courts.... But as Bush draws closer to launching his campaign for president in 2016, he's aggressively criticizing President Barack Obama's own use of executive power, accusing him of 'trampling on the Constitution.'" ...

Pick the smarter brother.... Alexandra Jaffe of CNN: "Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's fundraising swing through Texas this week will be a family affair. Both former Bush presidents will reportedly attend fundraising events for the expected presidential hopeful in Jeb Bush's home state. According to The Dallas Morning News, George W. Bush and his wife Laura will both attend a Wednesday evening reception at the home of wealthy Dallas Banker Gerald Ford. Donors have reportedly been asked to contribute $100,000 per couple for the event...."

In an Effort to Make Himself Seem Presidential, Chris Christie Joins Immigrant-Suppression Suit. of the Elise Foley of the Huffington Post: "After months of staying out of the legal battle over the president's executive actions on immigration, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) finally -- but quietly -- waded in this week. Christie joined Republican Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota in filing a brief on Monday that asked an appeals court to maintain an injunction that has prevented the Obama administration from moving forward with deportation relief programs it proposed in November 2014." CW: This should make Chris even less popular in New Jersey, which has a large immigrant population. ...

... Mark Hensch of the Hill: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s political action committee on Wednesday hired a digital firm in the latest sign of the Republican's likely presidential run." Because Christie is so presidenty.

Philip Bump of the Washington Post does a lovely job on Ted Cruz's anti-science views on climate change, including his claim that Galileo Galilei had a conflict with "flat-earthers." (I just ignored this the other day & referred to Galileo's geocentric opponents, I think, but I should have pointed out -- as Bump does -- that Cruz, who somehow sees himself as a modern-day Galileo, was confused about Galileo's work, too.) Bump's piece is a pretty good read.

Ian Hanchett of Breitbart "News": "Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)  said that he would not take a subsidy for Obamacare on Tuesday’s'Mark Levin Show.'... He ... accused CNN of playing 'gotcha' over him complying with the law." ...

    ... Update. Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Ted Cruz hasn’t made a final decision on whether he will sign up for Obamacare but will make up his mind 'in the coming days,' a spokesman said Wednesday." CW: He has to decide whether he can best continue to demagogue the ACA from within or without. Such are the dilemmas of a principled man. ...

... James Downie of the Washington Post: "With [Ted] Cruz’s wife, Heidi, stepping away temporarily from her job at Goldman Sachs, the Cruz family has to get its insurance somewhere, and the Texas senator has decided that 'somewhere' is HealthCare.gov." Other insurance options are available to him. Cruz "not only thinks that Obamacare ... is a bad policy; he thinks that it is such an existential threat to the United States and its health-care system that it was worth shutting down the government in an attempt to undermine the law. But suddenly the law and the health system it created is not scary enough for his family? If Cruz really wants to run as the candidate of righteous convictions, he’ll have to do a better job of following his own." ...

... CW: Does this even make sense? The difference in cost between a policy obtained thru the ACA (without the subsidy for members of Congress) & private insurance, including one via Heidi's COBRA benefit, should not be all that great. If therei s a great difference, then ObamaCare is obviously terrific, & Ted is making a tacit admission that, even without the subsidy, obtaining insurance thur the ACA exchange is a sweet deal.

Senate Race?

Vicki Needham of the Hill: "Liberal groups are threatening to back a primary challenge to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a key member of the Senate Finance Committee, in 2016 if he helps Obama secure a new trade pact that would stretch from the Asia-Pacific to Latin America. Activists have protested for months at Wyden’s home in Portland and his offices in Oregon and Washington, D.C., demanding that the senator oppose the “fast track” authority that the White House says is essential for a deal."

Beyond the Beltway

Anita Chabira of the Guardian: "California’s attorney general will go to court to stop a controversial proposed ballot initiative that calls for the legalized execution of gay people.... Kamala Harris, who recently announced her bid to succeed Barbara Boxer as US senator, had earlier appeared powerless to stop the Sodomite Suppression Act, a ballot initiative filed last week by Huntington Beach lawyer Matt McLaughlin. "Controversial," Anita? This is journo-hack beyond the pale. Get out your dictionary & find a better adjective. "Heinous" or "appalling" would do.

John Hanna of the AP: "Kansas is poised to join a handful of other states that allow their residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit after the Legislature gave final approval Wednesday to a bill backed by the National Rifle Association. The measure was headed to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback's office didn't say what his plans are, but he's signed every other major gun-rights measure sent to him since taking office in January 2011."

AP (March 16): "While the Keystone project awaits a final decision..., almost every week ... lesser-known developments ... have quietly added more than 11,600 miles of pipeline to the nation’s domestic oil network. Overall, the network has increased by almost a quarter in the last decade. And the work dwarfs Keystone. About 3.3 million barrels per day of capacity have been added since 2012 alone — five times more oil than the Canada-to-Texas Keystone line could carry if it’s ever built.... During the long wait for Keystone, the petroleum industry has pushed relentlessly everywhere else to get oil to market more efficiently, and its adversaries have been unable to stop other major pipelines."

Jack Jenkins of Think Progress: The Disciples of Christ, "A Christian denomination with historic ties to Indiana, is threatening to boycott the Hoosier state if the governor approves an exclusionary 'religious liberty' bill, the latest in a growing wave of criticism over legislation that could be used to discriminate against LGBT people."

Tuesday
Mar242015

The Commentariat -- March 25, 2015

NEW. Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with black challengers who said Alabama’s redistricting plan improperly relied on race to draw legislative districts. The court voted 5 to 4 to send the plan back for further judicial review. Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the opinion, and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy sided with the court’s liberals to make up the majority." ...

... The opinion & dissents are here.

Kali Borkoski of ScotusBlog: "On Monday afternoon Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer testified before the House Appropriations Committee. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the Court’s budget for the next fiscal year and the federal judiciary, but the legislators also took full advantage of the occasion to touch on other topics as well."

*****

Sarah Ferris & Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) stands as the biggest hurdle to a rare bipartisan deal on Medicare backed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The political maneuvering is even more unusual because it is splitting Pelosi and the House Pro-Choice Caucus from Planned Parenthood. The abortion-rights advocacy group on Tuesday slammed the deal, which would repeal a formula used to pay physicians under Medicare. It argued the legislation would also extend the reach of the Hyde Amendment, which restricts the use of federal funds for abortions.... Pelosi on Tuesday sharply disputed that point, arguing the legislation, would do nothing to further restrict abortion rights.... Senate Democrats' ... objections include the fact that the package would only extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years instead of four."

Michael Shear & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The United States will halt the withdrawal of 9,800 troops from Afghanistan, half of whom were scheduled to leave in the months ahead, and instead keep them in the country through the end of 2015. President Obama’s decision not to pull American military forces out of Afghanistan as quickly as planned came after a direct entreaty from the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, who has been visiting the United States this week." ...

... Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "President Obama on Tuesday said that the possibility of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians seems 'very dim' in the wake of comments Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made before his reelection last week.... While Obama was careful to dismiss suggestions that there was a personal issue between the two leaders, calling their relationship 'very businesslike,' he was still sharply critical of his Israeli counterpart." ...

... Matt Duss of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, in Slate: "... as in any negotiation, incentives to change course must be coupled with disincentives for not doing so. Carrots alone don’t work. You need some sticks. And up until now, it’s basically been all carrots for Israel. 'I know what America is,. Netanyahu said in ...2001.... 'America is a thing you can move very easily.' This is what he’s still banking on, because up until this point, he has been correct. Let’s hope he’s wrong now." Duss suggests some "sticks."

David Sanger & Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "If an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear capability is reached by deadline in the next seven days, one thing may be missing: an actual written accord, signed by the Iranians. Over the past few weeks, Iran has increasingly resisted any kind of formal 'framework' agreement at this stage in the negotiations, preferring a more general statement of 'understanding' followed by a final accord in June, according to Western diplomats involved in the talks."

Nobody Ever Tells Him Anything. Scott Wong of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday he was 'shocked' and 'baffled' by [a Wall Street Journal report] the Israeli government had spied on sensitive U.S.-Iran nuclear talks and passed information to members of Congress to whip up opposition to a potential deal.... 'There was no information revealed to me whatsoever.'"

Adam Davidson in the New York Times Magazine: "Few of us are calling for the thing that basic economic analysis shows would benefit nearly all of us: radically open borders. And yet the economic benefits of immigration may be the ­most ­settled fact in economics.... The chief logical mistake we make is something called the Lump of Labor Fallacy: the erroneous notion that there is only so much work to be done and that no one can get a job without taking one from someone else.... Immigrants bring long-term benefits at no measurable short-term cost.... Whenever an immigrant enters the United States, the world becomes a bit richer.... For me, [our immigration policy is] close to proof that we are, collectively, still jealous, nervous creatures, hoarding what we have, afraid of taking even the most promising risk, displaying loyalty to our own tribe while we stare, suspiciously, at everyone else." ...

... CW: And no group better demonstrates this "jealous, nervous, hoarding, fearful, tribal, suspicious" syndrome better than the base of the Republican party, not to mention their so-called leaders.

Eliot Smilowitz of the Hill: "The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will listen to oral argument April 17 in the administration’s attempt to overturn a ruling last month by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen. Hanen put a temporary hold on Obama’s attempts to slow deportations and grant benefits to some people in the country illegally, saying the administration overstepped its authority. The White House’s appeal seeks to end the temporary hold...."

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Shailagh Murray, a former political reporter who has spent the last four years as a senior adviser to the vice president, will move to the West Wing as the top message strategist for President Obama, the White House announced on Tuesday. Ms. Murray will replace Dan Pfeiffer as one of the president’s senior advisers, and will help coordinate the president’s agenda during the final two years of his term."

During a committee hearing yesterday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz narrated video of Secret Service drunk-driving incident:

... ALSO, he got really pissed off at Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy:

 

... Kurtis Lee of the Los Angeles Times: "Leaders of a House panel on Tuesday called for more transparency from the Secret Service and criticized the agency's director for being the sole official to testify about an incident earlier this month in which two agents allegedly drove into a White House barricade and disrupted an investigation."

Tom Hamburger & Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Not long before he became governor of Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe received special treatment on behalf of his electric-car company from a top official at the Department of Homeland Security, according to a new report from the department’s inspector general.... Intervention on behalf of McAuliffe’s GreenTech Automotive company by Alejandro Mayorkas, now the department’s No. 2 official, 'was unprecedented,' according to the report. The long-anticipated report found no evidence of law-breaking.... In addition to the case involving McAuliffe’s car company, the inspector general focused on actions Mayorkas took on behalf of a film project in Los Angeles that was backed by former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, and on the construction of a casino in Las Vegas supported by [Harry] Reid, who was Senate majority leader at the time." ...

... More Hillary Baggage. Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The report also draws attention to the role played by [Tony] Rodham, who ran an EB-5 visa investment known as Gulf Coast Funds Management, which directed funds to GreenTech. Rodham’s sister [Hillary Clinton] was secretary of state during much of the time that Gulf Coast and GreenTech were pressing USCIS for approvals to accept investments that could lead to green cards for foreigners willing to front up more than $550,000 in principal and fees. Rodham wrote directly to Mayorkas in January 2013 about approval delays, the report said, and Mayorkas forwarded the email to other staffers 'with a "high importance" designation.'”

Presidential Race

Bill Press in the Hill: "It’s a huge mistake to treat the 2016 nomination as the coronation of Queen Hillary. Clinton’s got a lock on the White House, her supporters rhapsodize, because she has more experience and a more powerful political machine than anyone else. But this is exactly what we were told in 2008. Instead of gleefully climbing aboard the Hillary Express, Democratic leaders should be encouraging other Democrats to run in 2016 — not against Clinton, but for president."

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: The Progressive Change Campaign Committee "is starting a campaign Tuesday aimed at pushing Hillary Rodham Clinton to adopt a full-throated liberal agenda in her all-but-certain presidential campaign, signaling that even some on the far left of the Democratic Party are now more focused on shaping Mrs. Clinton’s eventual platform than they are on finding an alternative to her. Over 200 Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats signed a petition at ReadyForBoldness.com, a website that plays on the name of the pro-Clinton group 'Ready for Hillary.'”

Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico: The Hillary camp is happy to see "wacko-bird" Ted Cruz getting the spotlight & are counting on him to attack other GOP candidates.

Conservatives Weigh in on Ted Cruz

... for all his obvious talent Cruz’s rhetorical style frankly makes my hair curl a little. Striking a pose that lands somewhere between the oleaginousness of a Joel Osteen and the self-assuredness of a midwestern vacuum-cleaner salesman, Cruz delivers his speeches as might a mass-market motivational speaker in an Atlantic City Convention Center.... There is always a touch of condescension in the pitch -- a small whiff of superciliousness that gives one the unlovely impression that Ted Cruz believes his listeners to be a little bit dim. -- Conservative Charles C. W. Cooke of National Review. Via Steve M.

... Luke Brinker of Salon: "In a Tuesday editorial, the [Wall Street Journal]’s opinion editors cast significant doubt on the Texas Republican’s ability to assemble a winning coalition, arguing that Cruz’s assumption that he can win by turning out more white conservative voters is fundamentally flawed and warning that the Tea Party firebrand’s hardline stance on immigration makes him 'a dream come true for Hillary Clinton,' the likely Democratic nominee in 2016. Blaming Cruz for 'plunging' the GOP’s favorability by leading the 2013 government shutdown — part of a botched attempt to derail health care reform — the Journal depicts Cruz as a polarizing figure all too willing to reflexively oppose anything the Obama administration proposes." CW: Yes, once again the liberal media bash the most righteous true conservative. ...

... Matt Wilstein of Mediaite: “'We need intelligent debate in the country. Ted Cruz may be an intelligent person, but he doesn’t carry out an intelligent debate,' [Rep. Peter] King [R-N.Y.] said [to CNN's Wolf Blitzer]. 'He oversimplifies, he exaggerates and he basically led the Republican Party over the cliff in the fall of 2013. He has shown no qualifications, no legislation being passed, doesn’t provide leadership and he has no real experience. So, to me, he is just a guy with a big mouth and no results.' But would King support Cruz if he ended up becoming the Republican Party nominee for 2016? 'I hope that day never comes,' King told Blitzer. 'I will jump off that bridge when we come to it.'”


... Hahahahaha. Ted Cruz Will Be Signing up for ObamaCare & Getting an Insurance Tax Subsidy. Erik Wemple
of the Washington Post: "CNN’s Dana Bash asked Sen. Ted Cruz ... how his family would get health insurance now that his wife has taken an unpaid leave from her job at Goldman Sachs. 'We’ll be getting new health insurance and we’ll presumably do it through my job with the Senate, and so we’ll be on the federal exchange with millions of others on the federal exchange,' the Texas Republican told her. Yes, there’s irony there, as Bash noted in her interview. Cruz’s statement means that he’ll be getting insurance through the Affordable Care Act, the same law he has committed himself to repealing.... Will he take the federal 'subsidy' that others on Capitol Hill accept to defray their costs? asked Bash. 'We will follow the text of the law,' Cruz said." How conveeenient. ...

     ... Too bad for Ted, the story made the Des Moines Register. "Congress pays most of the premium. But Cruz won't be getting any extra benefit under the Affordable Care Act that a member of Congress wouldn't have gotten before the ACA became law." CW: That's right. Congressional Republicans don't mind repealing ObamaCare because they've always given themselves practically free healthcare coverage, & you can bet they would do so again if they repealed the ACA. Too bad for the rest of the country. ...

... Steve M.: "Heidi Cruz is entitled to continue [her Goldman Sachs healthcare policy] for her family for 18 months under the federal COBRA law. Yes, that would be expensive for the Cruzes, undoubtedly more so than an Obamacare plan. But if Ted Cruz thinks Obamacare is worse than Stalin and Hitler combined, then you'd think he and his family would do anything to avoid it.... Why not take the COBRA option for as long as possible? Answer: It's all for effect." ...

... Greg Sargent: Ted Cruz has made his pitch to be the "evangelical Christian candidate," but his hardline position against immigration reform runs counter to the beliefs of many evangelicals, who "have advocated for reform on the basis of 'biblical imperatives' that require us to 'seek justice for immigrants.'...”

Wherein Ted Cruz Compares Himself to Galileo "who was branded a denier." Eric Dolan of the Raw Story: In an interview with the Texas Tribune, Cruz said, “'If you look at global warming alarmists, they don’t like to look at the actual facts and the data. Cruz claimed satellite data contradicted scientists’ climate models, which was a 'real problem for the global warming alarmists.'... Cruz claimed Al Gore and climate scientists were merely using the issue to enrich themselves financially, while the solutions they proposed would hurt 'millions of hardworking men and women.'” ...

... Cruz has made this claim before. Lauren Carroll of Politifact (March 20): On March 17, for instance, he said, "'... satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years, there’s been zero warming. None whatsoever.'... [Satellite data show] temperatures spiked about 17 years ago in 1998 and have plateaued at similarly high levels ever since.... By starting his 17-year count with 1998 -- an abnormally hot year because of the El Nino -- Cruz exaggerated the nature of the pause.... Not only is one anomalous period not enough to undercut longer-term projections, but other types of measurements do show evidence of continued global warming over the past two decades, including rising ocean temperatures and shrinking sea ice." ...

...

... Chris Mooney of the Washington Post: Satellite scientist whom Ted cites disagrees with him on climate change. "Cruz doesn’t say why we should trust satellite data over, say, ground-based weather station data, or sea-based buoy data. Based on such surface temperature measurements, NASA and NOAA both called last year the warmest on record.... If you look at [physicist Carl] Mears’s blog  post [which Cruz's spokesperson cited as the basis for Cruz's claim], while he agrees there has been a slowdown in the 'rate of warming' — which, again, is not at all the same thing as 'zero warming' — he disagrees that this undermines global warming concerns.

So in sum: In claiming the globe hasn’t warmed in 17 years, Cruz selectively highlighted satellite temperature data, rather than other data (which NASA and NOAA recently used to call 2014 the hottest year on record). He also selectively focused on one year (1998), rather than examining the aggregate temperatures of many years or decades. And finally, a key scientist who studies this type of satellite data, and whose work was cited by Cruz’s spokesman (as backup), criticizes Cruz’s approach and conclusions.

... CW: So in Cruz's pretentious analogy, he is not Galileo, but the geocentric Pope Urban VIII, who excommunicated Galileo for his proofs that the Earth revolved around the sun.

Al & the Climate Change God. Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he didn't know what the Republican party's environmental platform is, but he does know that GOP inaction on climate change is Al Gore's fault.... 'I said that [climate change is] real, that man has contributed to it in a substantial way,' Graham continued. 'But the problem is Al Gore's turned this thing into religion. You know, climate change is not a religious problem for me, it's an economic, it is an environmental problem.' The senator then said that Republicans do not have a clear stance on climate change, or a plan to address it."

Perry Bacon of NBC News dissects Scott Walker's standard stump speech. It isn't exactly peppered with lies, but he leaves out a lot of inconvenient facts. "... Walker's most accurate selling point" In an era of celebrity, millionaire candidates, Walker is truly an exception. He does not have any close relatives in politics. He did not graduate from college (a detail he sometimes leaves out of his speeches). He is truly a self-made pol." Via Paul Waldman.

Tim Murphy of Mother Jones: Mike Huckabee has been criticizing Hillary Clinton for her handling of emails, "But he might not be the best man to make that case. As Mother Jones reported in 2011, [the former Arkansas governor] destroyed his administration's state records before leaving office in 2007.... Huckabee responded at the time by attacking Mother Jones.... Even before he destroyed his hard drives rather than grant the public access to his records, Huckabee took a combative approach to public records requests. When Arkansas Times editor Max Brantley (who has also weighed in on Huckabee's transparency record) requested documents from Huckabee in 1995, the then-lieutenant governor flipped out."

Paul Waldman: "... in recent years [the flat tax has] become something most Republicans agree to without much thought. It's notable that an idea about taxes that by definition involves a large tax cut for the wealthy is so popular in a party constantly struggling against its image as the party of the rich.... A flatter system means one of three things: Either those with high incomes pay less, those with low incomes pay more, or both. And in practice, it's always both." Waldman provides a list of likely Republican presidential candidates who apparently "genuinely believe it would be good for America if rich people paid less in taxes, while everyone else paid more."

Senate Race

Cameron Joseph of the Hill: "Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) on Tuesday announced that he will not run for reelection in 2016.... Coats's decision to retire may set off a Republican scramble for the open seat. While the GOP would seem to have the early edge, it is now another state they must defend in a presidential year where they're almost entirely playing defense to protect their new Senate majority."

Beyond the Beltway

Caleb Bonham of Campus Reform: "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and the Republican Party represent 'extremist' political movements hell-bent on rescinding civil rights protections for minority groups, according to a course curriculum assigned to students at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. The course, Politics of the 1960s to Now, is taught by Chris Hamilton, a professor of political science and a two-time Fulbright Scholar. The course curriculum ... declares that Republicans are resurrecting 'discrimination' and the 'political battle over the Civil Rights laws,' and concludes that 'racism' and 'bigotries' in society are part of 'ultra right [sic] politics.' 'Neo-Confederacy movements which are part of Big Money ultra-right powers (Koch Industries, co-founders of the John Birch Society) which is part of the broad New White Nationalist movement,' the outline reads." CW: This is supposed to be an exposé of Hamilton's lefty class. I say, good for Hamilton. I'd love to take his course.

Monday
Mar232015

The Commentariat -- March 24, 2015

Julian Borger & Mairav Zonszein of the Guardian: "The US has accused Israel of spying on international negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme and using the intelligence gathered to persuade Congress to undermine the talks, according to a report on Tuesday. The Wall Street Journal cited senior administration officials as saying the Israeli espionage operation began soon after the US opened up a secret channel of communications with Tehran in 2012, aimed at resolving the decade-long stand-off over Iran's nuclear aspirations." ...

... According to the WSJ report, "The espionage didn't upset the White House as much as Israel's sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran's nuclear program, current and former officials said."

I know the things I said a few days ago hurt some citizens in Israel, the Israeli Arab citizens. This was not my intention and I am sorry. -- Benjamin Netanyahu, Monday

His expression of regret is nothing more than an empty gesture intended to enable his and his government's continued racist governance. -- Joint List, Israel's Arab parties coalition, via a spokesperson

Jodi Rudoren & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel apologized on Monday for making what were widely condemned as racist comments last week in saying that Arab citizens were voting in 'droves.' But even as he spoke with a group of Israeli Arabs gathered at his Jerusalem residence, the White House issued a new signal that it remained furious with Mr. Netanyahu for campaign comments that also appeared to close the door on a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict." ...

... ** Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico: "Blasting 'diplomatic missteps and political gamesmanship,' former Secretary of State James Baker [Bush I ]laid in hard to the Israeli prime minister on Monday evening, criticizing him for an insufficient commitment to peace and an absolutist opposition to the Iran nuclear talks.... Baker ... is now advising Jeb Bush on his presidential campaign." ...

... CW: Will some enterprising reporter now asks Jebbie if he agrees with his advisor's opinion of Netanyahu?

Kathleen Miller of Bloomberg Politics: "U.S. attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch probably won't get a Senate confirmation vote until at least mid-April, five months after she was nominated, because the chamber plans to spend this week debating its budget proposal."

Old Senators Just Say No. Burgess Everett of Politico: "A high-wattage trio of junior senators -- Democrats Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand plus GOP presidential contender Rand Paul -- is mounting an ambitious effort to have the federal government bless the use of marijuana in the 24 jurisdictions (23 states and the District of Columbia) that have voted to legalize the drug for medical purposes. Their legislation would also allow banks to handle transactions involving marijuana and force the federal government to recognize that marijuana has a medical use, rather than lumping it in with heroin and LSD.... But the Senate Judiciary Committee is emerging as a serious buzz kill for the pro-reform set. The powerful panel is stacked with some of the most senior lawmakers in Congress, many of whom came to power during a tough-on-crime era of the drug wars...."

Barney Frank talks to Marty Moss-Coane Radio Times. Thanks to contributor Whyte O. for the the link:

Presidential Race

Disturbed.Nick Corasaniti & Patrick Healy of the New York Times: "Senator Ted Cruz of Texas announced on Monday morning that he would run for president in 2016, becoming the first Republican candidate to declare himself officially in the race."

"I Can't Breathe, Cruz Version." Kendall Breitman of Politico: Ted Cruz "blitzes" the morning shows today, says, "I'll tell you, the energy and the exhilaration there yesterday and we're seeing on the trail takes your breath away."

Here's the transcript of Ted's Excellent Speech, complete with (APPLAUSE) & (LAUGHTER) indicators. He seemed to expend a lot of effort trying to get the kids to imagine Imaginary President Cruz. ...

... New York Times Editors: "Of course, if you know Mr. Cruz, or are familiar with how government is supposed to work, or with reality in general, you'll find some of his imaginaries problematic, like abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, sealing the border, or 'repealing every word of Obamacare.'... Mr. Cruz's speech was an exercise in crowd-pleasing dissonance; the contradictions slip by if you're not paying attention. America is great but needs to be made great again. Privacy is sacrosanct, and government should not get between you and your doctor, unless you're a woman who wants to avoid or end a pregnancy.... His federalist views are incoherent: he wants states to be free to experiment with marijuana legalization, but attacked Mr. Obama for not cracking down on states that do so.... Mr. Cruz, whose oratory captures so many Republican paradoxes and idiocies, especially on immigration and health care, has set a solid baseline for the messy job ahead."

Ed Kilgore: "All this imagining gets very labored and tedious -- particularly since Cruz takes a detour between his biographical and ideological sections into the late eighteenth century and the Holy Founders charged by God with forever limiting government (a staple of Con-Con revisionist history). But in a way it's appropriate, too, since Cruz is the self-designated champion for those who really don't like America as it is and prefer an imagined version where the Calvin Coolidge administration is the wave of the future."

This Cruz speech is the weirdest cover of John Lennon's "Imagine" ever.

— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) March 23, 2015

"President Cruz" Will Always Be Imaginary. Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "The most interesting question about Mr. Cruz’s candidacy is whether he has a very small chance to win or no chance at all.... Mr. Cruz is not an outsider, grass-roots version of President Obama in 2008. He is unacceptable to many conservative officials, operatives, interest group leaders and pundits. If they don't take him seriously, voters won't either. The elites would rally to defeat such a candidate if he ever seemed poised to win."

Hillary Clinton, who met with President Obama Monday, remarks via Twitter on Ted's imaginary repeal of the ACA:

#ACA@5: 16m covered. Young ppl. Preexisting conditions. Women get better coverage. Repeal those things? Embrace them! pic.twitter.com/OI1m2VxD4W

— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 23, 2015

Manu Raju of Politico: John "Cornyn [R-Texas], the Senate majority whip, said in an interview Monday that he would stay neutral in the Republican primary, declining to endorse Cruz just hours after he became the first candidate to officially declare his presidential run.... 'You know, we've got a lot of Texans who are running for president, so I'm going to watch from the sidelines,' Cornyn said when asked if he would back Cruz. (Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is considering a run as well.) Cornyn denied his position was retribution for Cruz's refusal to back him during his Senate primary last year."

Kay Steiger of Think Progress: "Ted Cruz just laid out the most anti-woman agenda yet."

Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "Sen. Ted Cruz says he wants to get rid of the Internal Revenue Service. This is a phenomenally bad idea, one so obviously wrongheaded it's hard to believe he really means it.... Someone has to collect the money that keeps our government up and running.... The IRS is a cash-flow-positive agency, collecting an estimated $255 for every $1 appropriated to it.... Yet the view that the IRS's budget should be minimized, and perhaps zeroed out entirely, is peculiarly popular on the right.... As Cruz likes to point out, we 'have more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible.'... This is Congress's fault, for it is Congress that writes the Internal Revenue Code and clutters it with myriad carve-outs, loopholes, preferences, deductions and complicated categories...."

Danny Vinik of the New Republic: "... above all, one particular position should disqualify Cruz -- or anyone else who holds it -- from the presidency: using the debt ceiling as a hostage device.... Beyond his policy positions, Cruz has demonstrated himself to be particularly un-presidential.... Throughout his time in the Senate, Cruz has shown a distinct lack of interest in policymaking or governing. Instead, he has calculated every move to prepare for a 2016 run. [He's been a senator only since 2013.] Cruz's role in the Republican primary will likely benefit Democrats. He'll pull the rest of the party to the right on immigration, taxes and health care.... The Senator who would hold the government hostage has become the candidate doing the same to his party."

Dave Weigel: "Announcing his presidential bid at Liberty University is giving Ted Cruz something that some candidates dream of: A massive crowd that has to be there. The Texas senator is speaking at the Christian university's convocation, a mandatory event for the school's students, held in the made-for-TV Vines center. Not everyone enrolled at Liberty University ... is thrilled by this.... Young Americans for Liberty ... took the Cruz visit as an opportunity to start promoting [Rand Paul] and signing up their peers." ...

... A. J. Feather of ABC News: "Several students wearing 'Stand With Rand' shirts made their way into seats directly behind Cruz on stage this morning. The students' shirts were blurry yet visible in many of the shots during Cruz's speech." ...

Those red shirts to the right of the picture are Rand Paul shirts. In much of the televised speech, they surrounded Cruz.

Steve M.: "Ted Cruz announced today that he's a candidate for president -- and because (according to a campaign spokesperson) he spoke without reading from a prepared text, 'Teleprompter' is now trending on Twitter."

Malice Is of the Essence of the Scheme. Jonathan Chait: "In his announcement speech, Cruz ticked through his plans for America: repealing Obamacare, a flat tax, securing the border, banning abortion, preserving traditional marriage, opposing Common Core, and unyielding support for Israel and opposition to terrorism.... The substance is unremarkable standard-issue Republicanism.... Because he agrees with the policy goals of figures like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, all he can do to distinguish himself from them is stoke the suspicions of the base that those goals have been undermined from within... . He is the one Republican too brave and pure to submit to the Obama agenda. If his tactics fall short, it merely serves to dramatize his colleague's fecklessness.... This is why so many Republicans despise Cruz, and it will make it difficult for him to win the nomination. But the loathing between Cruz and his party is not some failing of etiquette. It is his entire plan."

Trump Goes Birther on Cruz. David Knowles of Bloomberg Politics: "In an interview with MyFoxNY, [Donald] Trump said that Cruz's birthplace, Canada, could be a problem for the Texan's presidential bid. 'Well he's got, you know, a hurdle that nobody else seems to have at this moment," said Trump, who was born in Queens [CW: to a Scottish mother]. 'It's a hurdle and somebody could certainly look at it very seriously. He was born in Canada ... if you know ... and when we all studied our history lessons ... you're supposed to be born in this country, so I just don't know how the courts would rule on it. But it's an additional hurdle that he has that no one else seems to have.'" ...

... CBS News: "The Constitution says that only 'natural-born citizens' can be president, but it does not clearly define the term. Most legal scholars argue that a natural-born citizen is one who does not have to be naturalized.... Still, it's a legal question that has never been answered because the Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue.... Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona..., was born in Panama, while his father was serving in the U.S. Navy. But he was born on a U.S. military base, and both of his parents were U.S. citizens. That didn't stop the lawsuits -- there were, the Washington Post noted at the time, three cases against McCain's candidacy based on questions about his status as a natural-born citizen. In order to settle the matter..., Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, who were both senators at the time, co-sponsored a resolution which stated, 'John Sidney McCain, III, is a "natural born Citizen" under Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States.'"

Ted Practices Kissing Wife. Michael Falcone of ABC News: On Sunday, "An Associated Press photographer captured a series of shots of a would-be First Family in training. They show Cruz ... during a walk-through at Virginia's Liberty University, a Christian college in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he will make his White House bid official Monday morning. In some of the photos, Cruz walks hand-in-hand with his wife, Heidi, and the couple's two daughters -- apparently practicing everything from their wave to a kiss." ...

... The kiss, BTW, violates Liberty U.'s code of conduct, & the kiss was "a four-reprimand offense." Since the Cruzes kissed twice, once in rehearsal & once after Ted's Excellent Speech, I guess that would be eight reprimands.

Does Not, Never Did, Play Well with Others. As a reminder, Ted has always been "abrasive, arrogant & creepy" (Princeton) & "arrogant. pretentious, & nakedly ambitious" (Harvard Law).

A CW Warning to All Readers Inclined to Donate to Ted's Campaign: according to his Website, Ted sometimes self-identifies as nigerian-prince.com. (I thought Ted was born in Calgary, Canada, not Nigeria. Something for the Donald to investigate.) So that credit card donation you make (and the number on the card) might be headed for Nigeria. In fact, Ted's crack tech team has since removed his Nigerian prince alter-ego. Also, had I known those e-mails telling me about my multi-mlllion-dollar Nigerian bank account were coming from Ted, I would have taken them less seriously. ...

... Mike Masnick of Tech Dirt: "A few hours after this was first noticed, the Cruz campaign appears to have removed nigerian-prince.com from its certificate, but it still raises some questions about just who he has hired to build his websites. I guess that's what happens when even the technologists in your own party openly mock Ted Cruz's ignorance when it comes to technology issues like net neutrality." ...

... Apparently the Nigerian prince ID was CloudFlare's doing. ...

... FINALLY, if you're in the mood to support Ted, you might want to go to tedcruz.com . It doesn't say much: just "Support President Obama. Immigration Reform Now!"

Marco Gets Everything Wrong

... [the White House] will comment on the elections of an ally [Israel], calling the rhetoric of the election divisive, but when Iran has a fraudulent election and kills people that protest against it, we can't comment. -- Marco Rubio, Senate speech, March 19

Rubio appears to have created a cartoon version of the White House reaction to the Green Revolution. While the administration did cite a need to respect Iran's sovereignty, the president did more than simply decline to comment. He deplored the violence and eventually condemned the regime's reaction to the protests. -- Glenn Kessler, Washington Post

I wish people would quit referring to Marco as "smart," because he isn't. -- Constant Weader

Dan Merica of CNN: "When [Hillary Clinton] was asked to headline an event with hundreds of political reporters, editors and executives, she recounted thinking, 'What could possibly go wrong?' 'I am all about new beginnings,' Clinton said at the Toner Prize event in Washington. 'A new grandchild, another new hair style, a new email account, why not a new relationship with the press? So here goes, no more secrecy, no more zone of privacy. After all, what good did that do me?'"

Charles Pierce thinks libruls should quit begging Elizabeth Warren to run for president. CW: I'm with him till he wraps it up with a conspiracy-theory-lite. I do think that whoever wins the nomination should beg Warren to share the ticket.

News Ledes

Burlington Free Press: "Robert Durst, the real estate millionaire who has been charged with murder and weapons offenses following an HBO documentary, has been linked to the 1971 disappearance of a Middlebury College female student, town police say. 'We are aware of the connection between Robert Durst and the disappearance of Lynne Schulze,' Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley said in a statement."

Washington Post: "An Airbus plane flying from Barcelona to Duesseldorf has crashed in southern France in a rugged mountain region. French President François Hollande said he did not expect survivors among the 148 people on board the flight operated by Germanwings, the budget airline run by Lufthansa. Le Monde reported that 142 passengers were aboard the A320, along with six crew members." ...

     ... The Guardian has live updates here. ...

     ... An UPDATED New York Times story is here.

New York Times: "Just over six weeks before seeking a second term in May's general election, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain has ruled out serving a third, in a declaration that provoked surprise as well as criticism and put his Conservative Party on the defensive."

Sunday
Mar222015

The Commentariat -- March 23, 2015

Doc Fix. Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "The House is inching closer to a major deal on Medicare payments that could help cement a legacy for Speaker John Boehner. Boehner has spent two months quietly working with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to finally solve a Medicare payment problem that has eluded congressional leaders for more than 20 years. The House leaders are expected to unveil their $200 billion Medicare deal early next week. Facing little opposition so far, the proposal is bringing Boehner closer than ever to tackling his long-time goal of entitlement reform."

Surprise! "Jobs-killing" ObamaCare is actually an "unprecedented" jobs-creator. Alex Wayne of Bloomberg Business: "More than 90 new health-care companies employing as many as 6,200 people have been created in the U.S. since Obamacare became law, a level of entrepreneurial activity that participants say may be unprecedented for the industry."

E. J. Dionne: "It would be wonderful if conservatives really wanted to deal constructively with the predicament [of income inequality] they so passionately describe. But thanks to the House and Senate GOP budgets, we now know that conservatives and Republicans (1) aren't serious about the plight of working-class and lower-income Americans and (2) would actually make their situations much worse. Their spending plans fail even on conservative terms: They are not fiscally responsible.... I'd respect these folks a lot more if they said what they clearly believe: They think more inequality would be good for us. It almost makes you nostalgic for the candor of the Mitt Romney who spoke about the '47 percent' and the Paul Ryan who once divided us between 'makers' and 'takers.'"

Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Republicans continue to excuse Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's anti-Arab remarks and open repudiation of the two-state solution, despite decades of bipartisan agreement that an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel is the only way to resolve the Israel/Palestinian conflict." ...

... Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "John McCain slammed President Obama on Israel on CNN's State of the Union this morning, telling the president to 'get over your temper tantrum' with Benjamin Netanyahu because 'the least of your problems is what Bibi Netanyahu said during an election campaign.'" ...

... CW: What to do when John McCain lectures you about having a temper tantrum? Laugh your head off. ...

Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "'I really do not need a lessons from people like Steve King on what it is to be Jewish or a Democrat,' [Rep. Steve] Israel [D-N.Y.] said on CNN's 'State of the Union.'... 'Steve King, who said America is a Christian nation, should not be lecturing Jews about how we should be Jewish,' Israel said.... King said during an interview Friday..., "... I don't understand how Jews in America can be Democrats first and Jewish second and support Israel along the line of just following their president.'" (See also yesterday's Commentariat.)

Devlin Barrett of the Wall Street Journal (published in Market Watch: "Federal investigators are preparing to file criminal charges against Sen. Robert Menendez [D-N.J.] as early as this week, following a legal battle over how much the Constitution shields lawmakers and their aides, according to people familiar with the investigation."

Michael Shear & Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times: "When President Obama meets this week with Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan's new president, he will finally be sitting across from an Afghan leader who is not brooding, agitated, suspicious or openly belligerent toward his American allies."

Ben Brody of Bloomberg Politics: "If the government rejects a Confederate flag license plate, does that violate the First Amendment? What about one taking a strong stand on abortion, or something even more controversial? Those are questions that Supreme Court justices will take up on Monday when they hear argument in Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, a case originating in Texas that will test whether it is the government or drivers who are 'speaking' on specialty license plates -- and what either might be allowed to say.... Texas -- which does celebrate an annual Confederate Heroes Day -- asserted in a case brief that it 'is fully within its rights to exclude swastikas, sacrilege, and overt racism from state-issued license plates 14 that bear the State's name and imprimatur.'" ...

... CW: Seems to me that any racist boob has a First Amendment right to fly the Stars & Bars, but s/he shouldn't be able to force a government entity to tacitly sanction it by printing it up on official items. We'll see what the Supremes say. In addition, one wonders if a state has the constitutional right to emblazon officials items with the flags of "foreign" countries. ...

... Robert Barnes of the Washington Post has more on the suit. Adam Liptak of the New York Times on Texas's decision to disallow the plates.

Paul Krugman: "Unfortunately, economic discourse in Britain is dominated by a misleading fixation on budget deficits. Worse, this bogus narrative has infected supposedly objective reporting; media organizations routinely present as fact propositions that are contentious if not just plain wrong.... Simon Wren-Lewis of Oxford University has dubbed this narrative 'mediamacro.'... An election [-- coming up in six weeks --] that should be about real problems will, all too likely, be dominated by mediamacro fantasies."

Coffee, Black, Please. Margaret Hartmann of New York: "As of today, Starbucks employees will no longer be writing '#RaceTogether' on cups, so it looks like you've missed your opportunity to end racism by harassing your local barista." Apparently they have some other great ideas to end racism in the U.S. Maybe you can come up with some suggestions. Maybe baristas could wear T-shirts that read, "You might be a racist if you ____(various)____. For example: ... "want a Confederate license plate so much you took it to the Supreme Court."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Today, the New York Times published an article about Hillary Clinton's e-mails which in all likelihood is based solely on Republican sources. And a Fox "News" host called them out on it. (Via Evan McMurry of Mediaite) ...

The emails have not been made public, and The New York Times was not permitted to review them. But four senior government officials offered descriptions of some of the key messages, on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to jeopardize their access to secret information. -- Michael Schmidt, New York Times

Can't the NY Times do better than this? No named sources and they didn't see the emails themselves and we are suppose to accept this as the facts?... This is what is wrong with journalism -- American people are fed what amounts to as gossip and the NYT is happy to feed it. And other journalists as they read this? Do they call the NYT out? nope, because for the most part this is so common no one sees it as a problem and / or they do it themselves. Anonymous sources should be used rarely, not routinely.... -- Greta Van Susteren of Fox "News"

Presidential Race

Boston Globe Editors: "Democrats wouldbe making a big mistake if they let Hillary Clinton coast to the presidential nomination without real opposition, and, as a national leader, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren can make sure that doesn't happen. While Warren has repeatedly vowed that she won't run for president herself, she ought to reconsider. And if Warren sticks to her refusal, she should make it her responsibility to help recruit candidates to provide voters with a vigorous debate on her signature cause, reducing income inequality, over the next year." ...

... John Wagner of the Washington Post: "As [former Maryland Gov. Martin] O'Malley positions himself to challenge Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination, he is competing for support not only with the former first lady and secretary of state but with [Elizabeth] Warren, a onetime Harvard law professor whose devotees haven't given up on a White House bid despite her repeated pledges that she is not running. For O'Malley, the advantage of wooing Warren supporters was clear as he spoke to big and small crowds on his first visit to Iowa this year: They are among the most energized Democrats, and they are hungry for an alternative to the more centrist Clinton. What was less clear is whether O'Malley, who barely registers in most polls, will become their natural fallback if Warren stays out."

Anne Applebaum in Slate: "There were a number of odd things about the Hillary Clinton email debate, but to me this was the oddest: the widespread conviction that the secretary of state's communications personal or otherwise -- would have been 'safe' in the hands of the State Department." Besides the spectacular leaks by Chelsea Manning & Ed Snowden, "Last week, even while Clinton was defending her decision to delete her email, the State Department was quietly shutting down its servers in an attempt to clean them, once and for all, of the Russian malware that has plagued the whole system for months."

Katie Zezima & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Hours ahead of an expected Monday morning announcement at Liberty University, Ted Cruz told supporters just after midnight that he was launching a White House bid. 'I'm running for president, and I hope to earn your support!' he tweeted." ...

... Hey, you can watch Ted's Biggest Moment live! I'll pass. (Somebody was singing God music as I linked this.) ...

... Fred Barbash of the Washington Post lays out a number of reasons why Liberty "University" is the perfect venue for Cruz's announcement & March 23 the perfect day to do it. ...

... CW: An excellent piece, Fred, but Twitter -- the repository of millions of brief, trivial banalities -- is a good place, too. ...

... Charles Pierce is pretty pumped about Cruz's big announcement: "Ted Cruz is an extremist fanatic. He represents politics and a vision of government that was out of date in 1860. He is connected, rhetorically for the most part, to the darkest manifestations of the American political Id. And he combines that with a kind of unendurable self-righteousness that has alienated even the other extremist fanatics in the conservative leadership elite. From an early age, Cruz has been taught that he is the hidden golden child of a fundamentalist America redemption.... The 2016 election has begun. The bar is set where you need a metal detector to find it." ...

(CW Note: I see where Fox "News"'s Chris Wallace "grilled" CIA Director John Brennan on why the Obama administration refused to call ISIS "Islamic extremists." So why is it left to Charles Pierce & Akhilleus to call Ted Cruz [or Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee, etc.] an "extremist fanatic"? Or, if you like, "extremist Christian fanatic.") ...

I just came back from New Hampshire where there's snow and ice everywhere. -- Ted Cruz, citing conclusive proof that climate change is not happening ...

... David Cohen of Politico: "California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday called Sen. Ted Cruz not qualified to be president, citing what he called his ignorance on climate change. Brown, a Democrat, was appearing on NBC's 'Meet the Press' to discuss California's severe drought. His appearance coincided with news that Cruz, a Texas Republican, will announce his candidacy for president Monday at Liberty University in Virginia. 'That man betokens such a level of ignorance and a direct falsification of the existing scientific data. It's shocking and I think that man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office,' Brown said after host Chuck Todd had played him a clip of a Cruz interview." CW: But, Jerry, it's snowing in New Hampshire! ...

... Andy Borowitz: "A disturbed Canadian man wants to try to get into the White House, according to reports. The man, who was born in Calgary before drifting to Texas, has been spotted in Washington, D.C. in recent years exhibiting erratic behavior, sources said.... Despite a record of ... bizarre episodes and unhinged utterances, observers expressed little concern about his plans to get into the White House, calling them 'delusional.'" CW: When I searched for an image of Cruz looking "disturbed," I had a lot of choice.

Charles Blow: Louisiana Gov. Bobby "Jindal has gone from being one of the most popular governors in the country to one of the least popular.... And in a desperate attempt at relevancy -- and press -- he has lately been sliding further into Islamic hysteria."

Senate Race

Marc Caputo of Politico: "Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy formally announced his campaign for Senate on Monday, saying he's ready to fight for the highly competitive seat regardless of whether or not Marco Rubio runs for reelection.... The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid have both signaled they support Murphy."

Beyond the Beltway

Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "A judge in Wisconsin struck down on Friday a state law that requires doctors performing abortions to secure admission privileges to nearby hospitals, temporarily blocking it. U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled that the measure, signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker (R) in July of 2013, violated the 14th amendment. 'The marginal benefit to women's health of requiring hospital admitting privileges, if any, is substantially outweighed by the burden this requirement will have on women's health outcomes due to restricted access to abortions in Wisconsin,' Conley wrote.... A spokesperson for Walker promised to appeal the decision."

News Ledes

Politico: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has secured the requisite majority of parliamentary members to form a government.... Israeli President Reuven Rivlin continues to meet with factions Monday, with an announcement tasking Netanyahu to form his government expected later in the day. Representatives from Kulanu -- a crucial centrist swing party -- met with Rivlin to recommend that the Likud party's Netanyahu be tasked with forming a new government, giving the current prime minister the absolute majority of 61 votes in his favor."

Guardian: "The governor of a southern Japanese island, home to tens of thousands of American troops, has triggered a potentially bitter confrontation with Tokyo and Washington after he ordered a halt to the construction of a controversial US marine base. Takeshi Onaga, who was elected governor of Okinawa last December on the back of vowing to block construction of the base, instructed Japan's defence ministry to suspend work at the site after local officials found builders had damaged coral reefs when they laid concrete blocks to help conduct underwater boring surveys."

New York Times: "The evacuation of 125 United States Special Operations advisers from Yemen in the past two days is the latest blow to the Obama administration's counterterrorism campaign, which is already struggling with significant setbacks in Syria, Libya and elsewhere in the volatile region, American officials said Sunday."

Guardian: "Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, who led the city-state for more than three decades, has died aged 91. Lee's son and current prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, announced the news in the early hours of Monday morning local time, prompting a flurry of tributes from world leaders."