The Ledes

Sunday, February 7, 2016.

New York Times: "Robin Chandler Duke, a rags-to-riches grande dame who married an ambassador and became one of America’s best known advocates for women by championing reproductive rights and international family planning, died in Charleston, S.C., on Saturday. She was 92."

New York Times: "Defying warnings of tougher sanctions from Washington, North Korea launched a rocket on Sunday that Western experts believe is part of a program to develop intercontinental ballistic missile technologies."

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President discussed climate change and how the most ambitious climate agreement in history is creating private sector partnerships that are advancing the latest technologies in clean power.":

Hill: "President Obama will send a budget to Congress that increases the amount of funding toward clean energy research and development by about 20 percent, he said Saturday."

White House Live Video
February 5

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Timess: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

New York Times: "Twitter is experimenting with introducing a longer form of tweet, according to two people familiar with the company’s plans, in what would be another gradual move away from the simplistic design sensibility that the service was originally founded upon. The project, which internally has been referred to as 'beyond 140,' is still in its testing phase and is not set to be introduced until at least March...."

Washington Post: "Four newly discovered elements managed to squeak their way in[to the periodic table] just before the end of 2015, filling up the table's seventh row and marking the first additions since 2011." CW: Since I know squat about chemistry, let me say here -- in the fullness of my ignorance -- that the periodic table should stick with elements that occur in nature. If chemists want a "sub-periodic table" to show off their lab-created, unstable elements, let 'em have it. I don't see how an "element" can be artificial. Anyone who knows what s/he's talking about is free to set me straight.

TPM: "Twitter announced Thursday it's bringing back Politwoops, the popular gaffe-tracking transparency tool that tracked politicians' deleted tweets, after unceremoniously killing off the service earlier this year.... Twitter revoked developer API access for the project, a venture of The Sunlight Foundation and The Open State Foundation, in August 2015."

If you are interested in what George Lucas thinks about the "Star Wars" series & other stuff, you can find out here, presuming Charlie Rose doesn't monopolize the conversation (okay, silly presumption). ...

... Later Lucas said he was sorry he said some of those nasty things.

... Hank Stuever of the Washington Post: The "final episodes of 'Downton Abbey' are among the show’s best since the first season — and they’ll reassure those hoping for the happiest possible endings for nearly every character."

BBC News: "A monument from a temple in the ancient city of Palmyra destroyed by so-called Islamic State (IS) is to be recreated in London's Trafalgar Square. The 2,000-year-old arch is all that remains of the Temple of Bel, part of the Syrian Unesco World Heritage site, captured by militants in May. It will be recreated from photographs, using a 3D printer. The institute behind the project hopes the arch will draw attention to the importance of cultural heritage." ...

... John Brennan & Sarah Knapton of the (Irish) Independent: "Ireland's saints and scholars were descended from farmers and bronze metalworkers from the Middle East and modern-day Ukraine, scientists have found. Researchers have sequenced ancient Irish human genomes for the first time. They discovered mass migrations to Ireland thousands of years ago resulted in huge changes to the ancient Irish genetic make-up. A team of geneticists from Trinity College Dublin and archaeologists from Queen's University Belfast made the findings, which show a massive shift in our genetic mix over the course of just 1,000 years. They believe the genetic influxes brought cultural change such as moving to settled farmsteads, bronze metalworking - and may have even been the origin of western Celtic language." ...

... CW: One trouble with denigrating certain ethnic groups: we're all cousins. Sorry, "white" people.

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Sunday
Feb072016

The Commentariat -- February 8, 2016

Presidential Race

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Bill Clinton uncorked an extended attack on Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday, harshly criticizing Mr. Sanders and his supporters for what he described as inaccurate and 'sexist' attacks on Hillary Clinton.... What began as a testimonial to Mrs. Clinton’s leadership and a statesmanlike lecture on her approach to issues evolved into an angrier recitation of grievances against Mr. Sanders and his fervent supporters." ...

... Steve Friess of the Washington Post: "... Hillary Clinton made a quick detour Sunday afternoon from the campaign trail in New Hampshire to express her outrage directly to the residents of ... [Flint, Michigan,] over the scandal that poisoned their municipal water supply.... She takes credit for goading the Republican governor to accept federal help...."

Philip Rucker & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: Marco Rubio's "GOP rivals argued Sunday that the debate undercut the central case for Rubio’s candidacy — that his political agility and youthful, charismatic persona make him best positioned to challenge the Democratic nominee. And they claimed a renewed — and seemingly justifiable — rationale to soldier on past New Hampshire, which would mean that the mainstream Republican vote would probably continue to splinter among several candidates."

Sabrina Siddiqui of the Guardian: "Marco Rubio on Sunday defended his performance in Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate, in which he was widely panned for coming off as scripted in a tense exchange with Chris Christie.... 'Actually, I would pay them to keep running that clip, because that’s what I believe passionately,' Rubio said, reiterating once more his point about Obama deliberately harming the country." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... "... Maybe His Ventriloquist Was Stuttering." Charles Pierce: "The general hilarity has tended to obscure what Rubio actually was saying. (And saying, and saying, and saying…) He was accusing the president of monumental and deliberate acts of subversion in office. This is a stunning charge, especially from a one-term pipsqueak whose memory banks jam whenever he steps an inch beyond his actual depth." CW: Haven't read that point elsewhere, & it is equally well-taken. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Chrisco Made the Snowplows Run on Time. Steve M.: "But what was Christie saying here? He was saying that being required to deal with strictly domestic problems makes him more qualified to be president that a U.S. senator, even though senators deal with foreign as well as domestic policy. He was saying that getting the streets plowed is all the job experience a potential president needs." CW: Read the whole post. I haven't seen this point made elsewhere, either. But I do think Steve is right to compare Christie's "qualification" for POTUS with Scott Walker's (remember him?) well-covered gaffe in which he claimed he could handle ISIS terrorists because he had  "taken on 100,000 protesters" (mostly schoolteachers!). (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... E. J. Dionne has quite a different take: "It’s not clear what Christie did for his own candidacy, but he performed a service by reminding his party that running a government is serious work and ought to be respected. That this was revelatory shows how far contemporary conservatism has strayed from the essential tasks of politics."

Beyond the Beltway

Mitch Smith of the New York Times: "The Chicago police officer who fatally shot a black 19-year-old and an unarmed bystander in December has filed a lawsuit seeking more than $10 million in damages from the teenager’s estate, an unusual legal approach based on a claim that the young man’s actions leading up to the gunfire were “atrocious” and have caused the officer 'extreme emotional trauma.'”

Saturday
Feb062016

The Commentariat -- February 7, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Sabrina Siddiqui of the Guardian: "Marco Rubio on Sunday defended his performance in Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate, in which he was widely panned for coming off as scripted in a tense exchange with Chris Christie.... 'Actually, I would pay them to keep running that clip, because that’s what I believe passionately,' Rubio said, reiterating once more his point about Obama deliberately harming the country." ...

... "... Maybe His Ventriloquist Was Stuttering." Charles Pierce: "The general hilarity has tended to obscure what Rubio actually was saying. (And saying, and saying, and saying…) He was accusing the president of monumental and deliberate acts of subversion in office. This is a stunning charge, especially from a one-term pipsqueak whose memory banks jam whenever he steps an inch beyond his actual depth." CW: Haven't read that point elsewhere, & it is equally well-taken. ...

... Chrisco Made the Snowplows Run on Time. Steve M.: "But what was Christie saying here? He was saying that being required to deal with strictly domestic problems makes him more qualified to be president that a U.S. senator, even though senators deal with foreign as well as domestic policy. He was saying that getting the streets plowed is all the job experience a potential president needs." CW: Read the whole post. I haven't seen this point made elsewhere, either. But I do think Steve is right to compare Christie's "qualification" for POTUS with Scott Walker's (remember him?) well-covered gaffe in which he claimed he could handle ISIS terrorists because he had  "taken on 100,000 protesters" (mostly schoolteachers!). ...

*****

Presidential Race, Infotainment Tonight Edition

Patrick Healy & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was hammered as callow, ambitious and lacking in accomplishment during the Republican presidential debate here on Saturday night, as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey led an all-out assault to try to halt Mr. Rubio’s growing momentum ahead of the critical New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. Mr. Rubio ... looked rattled at times and faltered as he pushed back with scripted lines about President Obama that Mr. Christie mocked mercilessly." ...

... The New York Times' transcript of the debate is here. And here's the Washington Post's annotated transcript. ...

... Cute Talking Wind-up Doll Gets Stuck on Anti-Obama Soundbite. Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "Mr. Christie ... derisively called Mr. Rubio nothing more than a programmed deliverer of polished-sounding lines. Seconds later, Mr. Rubio seemed to prove Mr. Christie right.... Pressed to prove that ... he had the experience and skills to be president, Mr. Rubio instead pivoted quickly to a well-rehearsed argument about President Obama’s liberal agenda.... But Mr. Christie had instructed the audience to listen for what he dismissively called the 'memorized 25-second speech,' adding....' When it was his turn to reply, Mr. Rubio — inexplicably — seemed to fulfill Mr. Christie’s prediction, repeating the main idea of that same memorized-sounding speech about Mr. Obama. Almost word for word.... Mr. Christie pounced. 'There it is,' he said icily, turning to Mr. Rubio and jabbing his finger at him. 'There it is, everybody.' Egged on by Mr. Christie’s mocking interruptions, the crowd began to boo Mr. Rubio." ...

... Boy in the Bubble. Philip Rucker & Michael Kranish of the Washington Post: "Rubio repeated similar phrasing two more times more during the night.... It was a difficult night for the freshman senator, who has shown himself in the previous seven debates to be an agile and prepared performer but had never faced such an onslaught from Christie and Bush":

     ... Amazing to behold. ...

... "Marco Malfunctions." McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed: "In a high-profile stumble three days out from the New Hampshire primary, a rattled-looking Marco Rubio retreated from an aggressive grilling during Saturday’s debate in a strange way: by reciting the same line at least four times.... In the post-debate spin room, rival campaigns rushed to pronounce brutal judgements of Rubio’s shaky performance.... Surrogates for both Christie and Jeb Bush, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested Saturday night they had already heard from Rubio donors now signaling an openness to shift their allegiances just days before the primary." ...

... "Rubio Chokes." Shane Goldmacher of Politico: "Marco Rubio knew exactly what he was doing on Saturday night. Marco Rubio knew exactly what he was doing on Saturday night. Marco Rubio knew exactly what he was doing on Saturday night." ...

... Chas Danner of New York posts some Twitter reactions to Rubio's "jammed CD-Rom." ...

... "Stuck on Repeat." Steven Shepard of Politico: "Marco Rubio was stuck on repeat Saturday night, and it threatens his momentum in the New Hampshire primary. The Politico Caucus – a panel of operatives, strategists and activists in the early-nominating states – overwhelmingly judged Rubio the loser of the final debate before the first-in-the-nation primary." ...

... Elias Isquith of Salon: "... perhaps more than any other single traditional element of a presidential campaign, the response to debates — especially primary debates, and especially primary debates on a Saturday night — is influenced by the media. Sometimes it’s a negative influence, granted.... And the media, I promise you, is going to be obsessed with this first, most dramatic Christie-Rubio confrontation. Because not only does it make for good television and good copy..., but it’ll make for great late night jokes and 'Saturday Night Live' skits, too. That’s thanks, in part, to its already fitting a pre-established narrative. Christie, the bully you like despite yourself; Rubio, the young, handsome and über-ambitious empty suit.... If nothing else, it showed that professional bullies like Chris Christie can provide a valuable public service every now and then."...

... Steve M., writing before the debate, opined that the media would pull Rubio through, "in large part because the mainstream media hates both Democratic candidates and will embrace Rubio as a likable fratboy-turned-dad, just the way the press embraced George W. Bush in 2000." Steve relied on a hagiographic piece by Barbaro & Jeremy Peters of the Times. CW: Maybe Marco's debate performance shattered the media's man-crush. Barbaro, at any rate, seemed to take a bit of reportorial glee in Marco's big fail. For the moment, at least. On the other hand, political reporters, more than poets (sorry, T. S. Eliot) have an urgent mandate to "make it new," so after this round of Marco-guffawing, we may encounter a period of "he's alive!" stories, particularly if Marco does all right in the New Hampshire primary, followed by the fawning coverage Steve predicted. ...

... Rucker & Kranish, Ctd. "Asked by co-moderator David Muir whether he supported the use of eminent domain, [Donald] Trump said that he did. 'The Keystone Pipeline, without eminent domain, it wouldn’t go 10 feet, okay? You need eminent domain,' Trump said, adding that 'without eminent domain, you don’t have roads, highways, schools, bridges or anything.' But [Jeb!] Bush interjected to call out Trump for blurring the differences between eminent domain for public and private use. 'What Donald Trump did was use eminent domain to try to take the property of an elderly woman on the strip in Atlantic City,' Bush charged. 'That is not public purpose. That is downright wrong.' From there, Trump and Bush shouted over each other.... Belittling Bush, Trump held his index finger over his lips and said, 'Let me talk. Quiet.' The audience booed Trump":

CNN's Tom Foreman has had enough of Ted Cruz's lie:

... Not Ready for Prime Time. The intro was hilarious:

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "It’s the final Republican presidential debate before voters in New Hampshire head to the polls on Tuesday. Donald J. Trump has decided to take part. Carly Fiorina has been excluded. Since the most recent debate last week, the Republican race has been reordered by the results in the Iowa caucuses, with Senator Marco Rubio on the rise, Gov. Chris Christie on the ropes and Mr. Trump fighting to stay atop the polls. Here’s how to tune in to the Saturday night action.... ABC will air the debate on its network with coverage beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern time and the candidates taking the stage about 15 minutes later." ...  

... CW: As part of my personal anger management program, I'll wait & read all about it in the late-night editions. I admire those of you who have the fortitude to watch & listen without wrecking stuff around the house. Realty Chex Courage Awards to those of you whose teevees are still intact at the end of the debate. ...

Kyle Cheney of Politico on the "11 most explosive moments of the GOP debate."

Fiorina's Revenge:

Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Many donors and influential supporters [of Jeb!], bound by a deep and longstanding connection to the patrician clan, say they will remain with Bush no matter what. Yet others, deeply distressed by the rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and eager for the Republican Party to rally around a mainstream candidate with viability, say they have come to terms with Bush’s long odds and the possibility they will eventually get behind someone else."


"Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright Scold Young Women Backing Bernie Sanders." Alan Rappeport
of the New York Times: "While introducing Mrs. Clinton at a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday, Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state, talked about the importance of electing the first female president. In a dig at the 'revolution' that Mr. Sanders often speaks of, she said that the first female commander in chief would be a true revolution. And she scolded any woman who felt otherwise.... Explaining how women tend to become more active in politics as they become older, [Gloria Steinem] suggested younger women were just backing Mr. Sanders so that they could meet young men. 'When you’re young, you’re thinking, "Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,"’ Ms. Steinem said.... [Bill] Maher recoiled. 'Oh. Now if I said that, "They’re for Bernie because that’s where the boys are," you’d swat me.'”

Women are more for [Clinton] than men are.... First of all, women get more radical as we get older, because we experience.... Not to over-generalize, but ... men tend to get more conservative because they gain power as they age, women get more radical because they lose power as they age. And, when you’re young, you’re thinking, where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.... -- Gloria Steinem, Friday

... chalking young women’s politics up to their desire to meet boys actually is a profoundly sexist thing to do. (It’s also the case that people don’t appear to radicalize, or change much at all politically, strictly due to age.) It’s just too bad that insight had to come from Bill Maher instead of Gloria Steinem.... If Steinem has radicalized with age, her remarks about young women’s politics certainly don’t show it. -- Elizabeth Bruenig of the New Republic

... Tone-Deaf. Janell Ross of the Washington Post: "... despite the predictability of ... [some major criticisms of Hillary Clinton], she often responds to questions and critiques of them in precisely the wrong way. Many times, it seems that Clinton makes them worse -- even far worse. Clinton has, since almost the start of her 2016 presidential campaign, demonstrated a remarkable capacity to escalate rather than effectively address or resolve any question, critique or challenge if the matter at issue is about her." ,,,

... David Herszenhorn of the New York Times: "Emails released last week by the State Department that were found on Mrs. Clinton’s private server show that she was keenly interested in the administration’s push to win passage of the health care law.... The email messages show that throughout the fall of 2009, as the health care push entered a decisive phase, Mrs. Clinton lobbied some members of Congress for votes and even debated sometimes-esoteric policy proposals with aides, some of whom had worked with her in the White House when she was first lady.... Congressional officials who worked on the Affordable Care Act said that Mrs. Clinton was an important and effective advocate." ...

... Maureen Dowd, Well-Paid Professional Clinton-Basher, does a relatively even-handed (for MoDo) job of bashing Hillary Clinton in Sunday's column: "Bernie Sanders may be a dead ringer for Larry David, but Hillary is running the 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' campaign. She can’t fire up young voters by dwelling on what can’t be done in Washington and by explaining that she’s more prose than poetry." ...

... Conservo-columnist Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post: "As speaking fees go, Hillary Clinton’s allegedly scandalous $200,000 per engagement is chump change compared with Donald Trump’s $1.5 million." One problem with Parker's argument: besides Trump & Chelsea Clinton, the other well-paid speakers she cites are former government bigwigs. This is not to suggest that they have no influence over government affairs, but at least they have to lobby in one way or another to get their preferences enacted into laws or woven into regulations. Moreover, I don't think Clinton would get far with the argument, "I'm at least as ethical as Donald Trump."

Bernie initially came out like this was a Republican attack and was extremely defensive about it.... [Sanders’] impulse is to stick up for the little guy — and the V.A. serves a lot of little guys. But he is no dummy. He quickly realized the V.A. was lying, and he turned right around and was all over them. -- Dr. Sam Foote, one of the primary whistleblowers of V.A. hospital delays ...

... Steve Eder & Dave Philipps of the New York Times: "Despite mounting evidence of trouble at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Senator Bernie Sanders, then the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, initially regarded the complaints as overblown, and as a play by conservatives to weaken one of the country’s largest social welfare institutions.... Mr. Sanders eventually changed course, becoming critical of the agency and ultimately joining with Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, and other colleagues to draft a bipartisan bill to try to fix the veterans health care waiting list.... But a review of his record in the job also shows that in a moment of crisis, his deep-seated faith in the fundamental goodness of government blinded him, at least at first, to a dangerous breakdown in the one corner of it he was supposed to police.... Mr. Sanders, who had served on the committee for six years before he became its head, was quick to defend the agency and slow to aggressively question V.A. officials and demand accountability. His major objective as chairman was to expand the menu of veterans benefits." ...

... Finally, a convincing explanation of why Bernie lost Iowa by .2 percent:

Jordan Sargent of Gawker: "On the night that the Republican debate in New Hampshire opened with the candidates unable to follow basic instructions, the liberal end of the political spectrum offered up something that at least aimed to be intentionally funny: Bernie Sandersexpected cameo next to his new impersonator, tonight’s SNL host Larry David":

... CW: I've marveled at President Obama's ability to do comedy (it ain't as easy as it looks), but Bernie Sanders has got talent, too. ...

... Sam Frizell of Time: "At the end of their screen time together, David turns to Sanders and asks him how the campaigning in New Hampshire is going. Sanders repeats David’s signature Curb Your Enthusiasm line. 'It’s pretty, pretty, pretty good'....”

 

Beyond the Beltway

Anne Blythe, et al., of the (Raleigh) News & Observer: "A federal court panel ruled late Friday that two of North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts were racially gerrymandered and must be redrawn within two weeks, sparking uncertainty about whether the March primary elections can proceed as planned. An order from a three-judge panel bars elections in North Carolina’s 1st and 12th congressional districts until new maps are approved. Challengers of North Carolina’s 2011 redistricting plan quickly praised the ruling, while legislators who helped design the maps said they were disappointed and promised a quick appeal."

If President Trump finds himself seeking some like-minded Supreme Court nominees, he need look no further than the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. Laboratries of democracy, my ass (foot, eye).


Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article58756583.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article58756583.html#storylink=cpy

What you are looking at in the picture below is not a flashy display in a Rodeo Drive boutique. It is not even boxes & bags from some of the world's top luxury retailers. Nope, it is a remarkable display of  l'art de fondant. It is an elaborate birthday cake:

CW: While I am only speculating, I would guess that the cake was accompanied by gifts of the real things. Who might give such gifts? Who might order such a cake? Just last week? Take it away, Scott Lemieux: "Today in the New Gilded Age, I present you with the cake Michigan’s governor, who you may remember from such hits as 'lying about my support for right-to-work laws' and 'utter indifference about the citizens of Flint being poisoned by the town’s water supply' — presented to his wife." I know there are a lot of contenders for Most Hated Person in America (Martin Shkreli, Ted Cruz), but Rick Snyder just secured his spot near the top of the pack. These people really can't see themselves as others see them.

Friday
Feb052016

The Commentariat -- February 6, 2016

Norman Schwartz of the New York Times: "After years of scant real gains despite steadily falling unemployment and healthy hiring, wages picked up significantly last month, a sign the job market could be tightening enough to force companies to pay more to attract and retain employees. The half a percentage point increase in average hourly earnings in January was the brightest spot in a generally positive Labor Department report on Friday, which showed job creation slowing from the white-hot pace of late 2015 even as the unemployment rate fell to an eight-year low of 4.9 percent.... President Obama, ... said the jobs numbers were further signs of progress":

I know that's still inconvenient for Republican stump speeches as their doom and despair tour plays in New Hampshire. I guess you cannot please everybody. -- President Obama, during yesterday's White House press briefing ...


Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article58639928.html#storylink=cpy

Sarah Wheaton of Politico: "The White House delivered a low blow on Friday, accusing congressional Republicans who are denying the president a chance to pitch his budget of pulling a 'Donald Trump.' The raw feelings stem from the House and Senate Budget committees' announcement on Thursday that they won’t invite Obama’s budget director to Capitol Hill to discuss the administration's final several-hundred-page proposal, which is to be released on Tuesday. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Republicans' refusal to play ball was just as bad as Trump's refusal to take part in the last GOP debate after getting into a nasty spat with Fox News. 'They’re just not going to show up,' Earnest said during the daily briefing, adding that the maneuver smacked of a 'Donald Trump approach' to the debate over spending priorities."

An Extraordinary Friday Afternoon Docu-dump. Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The Pentagon on Friday released 198 photographs from detainee abuse investigations in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The pictures, taken more than a decade ago during the Bush administration, consist largely of close-up views of scrapes and bruises on detainees’ bodies. However, the military is continuing to block the disclosure of about 1,800 other photos from the same criminal investigations, saying that their release would endanger American service members serving abroad. The photographs are a focus of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in 2004 by the American Civil Liberties Union in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal." The photos are here (slow-loading pdf).

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Hey, remember how the WalMart behemoth killed off local businesses, especially in small towns? Well, now, with its mass closings, Lydia DePillis of the Washington Post reports, there's a realistic fear the loss of revenue & convenience will shut down the towns themselves. "A Washington Post analysis of the stores on the closure list shows that they are in relatively lower-income, less dense census tracts.... Most of the Walmart locations being shuttered are in the Southeast." CW: So screw you, Real America.

Krishnadev Calamur of the Atlantic: "Twitter says that since the middle of last year it has suspended 125,000 accounts 'for threatening or promoting terrorist acts, primarily related to ISIS.'... Twitter added it works with law-enforcement agencies when appropriate and partners with groups that work to counter extremist content online....” Twitter's announcement is here.

Mitch Smith of the New York Times profiles the Virginia Tech team whose persistence helped expose the toxicity of Flint, Michigan's, city water supply.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Liberals Should Not Be Debate Moderators. Howard Kurtz of Fox "News": "Rachel Maddow did a pretty good job in questioning Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at MSNBC’s Democratic debate last night. But she shouldn’t have been on that stage as a moderator, sitting next to Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director and moderator of 'Meet the Press.'... She is an unabashedly liberal commentator who rips the Republicans every night on her program. She should not have been put in that position." CW: But IOKIYAR. Every single Fox "News" moderator of every Fox debate has been a conservative, except all the ones who are ultra-conservative.

Weird Headline of the Week: "Wife crashes her own funeral, horrifying her husband, who had paid to have her killed. Sarah Kaplan of the Washington Post: "The husband, Balenga Kalala, ultimately pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison for incitement to murder, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (the ABC)." The hitmen Kalala hired kidnapped his wife but let her go.

Presidential Race

Politico photo.... This Poitico slide show, titled "Bernie's Vermont," is kind of amusing. CW: I like the guy who says, '“I don't agree with handouts. Except for veterans. People have to work for what they get. Veterans can get whatever they want, but that's all I'll give.' [He] is a Vietnam vet who ... frequently visits the White River VA Medical Center...." He sells maple syrup at a roadside stand. I doubt he's "giving" much to federal coffers today. Everybody's a special interest.

Gail Collins with a few of the things we can all agree on; for instance, "Rick Santorum is the worst friend in the world.... We are enjoying the idea that Donald Trump screwed up the deal.... Hillary Clinton should not have given those speeches for Goldman Sachs.... Jeb Bush is the worst campaigner in the history of campaigns." ...

... CW: Collins also thinks "It’s kind of pathetic they’re not letting Carly Fiorina into the Republican debate." I disagree. Her exclusion (because of her low polling) is a reminder that half of the candidates in the Democratic race are a woman & none of the viable candidates on the Republican side is. And the little kerfuffle that surrounded Fiorina's excusion is a reminder that (a) female Republican candidates suck (Michele Bachmann), & (b) even the wild-assed Republican base has figured that out.

Eliza Collins of Politico: "The Democratic race has dramatically tightened, according to a new Quinnipiac University national poll out Friday that shows Hillary Clinton with a razor-thin lead over Bernie Sanders. Clinton leads Sanders 44 percent to 42 percent, well within the margin of error of the poll, which was conducted after the Iowa caucuses." CW: Remember that national polls aren't particularly dispositive. In October & November, Ole Doc Ben was leading in some GOP national polls. Last neard from, he was in Florida darning his socks & comparing Ted Cruz to Hillary Clinton.

Yamiche Alcindor of the New York Times: "Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont plans to travel to New York this weekend to appear on 'Saturday Night Live,' interrupting his campaign in New Hampshire for some national television exposure, according to a senior campaign official. Larry David, who has played the senator several times on the show to wide acclaim, will host the episode and interview Mr. Sanders." ...

... This is worth reprising (except for the faggy portrayal of Anderson Cooper , which is both insulting & inauthentic):

Philip Rucker, et al., of the Washington Post: Hillary "Clinton is using the closing days of the New Hampshire campaign to set the tone for the contests in Nevada and South Carolina, as well as the dozens of big-state primaries and caucuses that follow in March and beyond."

Steven Myers & Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "... a battle has played out between the State Department and the intelligence agencies — as well as Congress — over what information on Mrs. Clinton’s private server was classified and what was the routine business of American diplomacy.... At the center of that argument ... is a 'top secret' program of the Central Intelligence Agency that is anything but secret. It is the agency’s long effort to track and kill suspected terrorists overseas with armed drones, which has been the subject of international debates, numerous newspaper articles, television programs and entire books. Obama administration’s decision to keep most internal discussions about that program — including all information about C.I.A. drone strikes in Pakistan — classified at the “top secret” level has now become a political liability for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign." ...

Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment. -- Hillary Clinton, during Thursday's Democratic debate ...

... Danielle Allen of the Washington Post: "The problem with the remark is obvious. Clinton does not merely exemplify the establishment. She and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, are the Democratic Party establishment. We’re in the realm of description, not characterization. That candidate Clinton could deliver her line with a straight face goes to the heart of her trustworthiness problem." ...

... In her column, Allen refers to this New York Review of Books article by Simon Head. Head details, based largely on previous reporting, some of it linked on the Commentariat contemporaneously, the Clintons' web of financial contributors.

Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "Iowa Democratic Party officials are reviewing results from the Iowa caucuses and making updates where discrepancies have been found. Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire the day after Monday's caucuses said no review would be conducted, and that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s narrow victory over Bernie Sanders was final. But as errors are being discovered, the final tally is being changed, party officials confirmed to the Des Moines Register on Friday." ...

... Ben Jacobs of the Guardian: "In the Iowa Democratic party’s chaotic attempt to report caucus results on Monday night, the results in at least one precinct were unilaterally changed by the party [from Sanders to Clinton] as it attempted to deal with the culmination of a rushed and imperfect process overseeing the first-in-the-nation nominating contest.... The shift of one delegate at a county convention level would not have significantly affected the ultimate outcome of the caucus, but rather, it raises questions aboutthe Iowa Democratic party’s management of caucus night. The Iowa Democratic party had long been plagued with organizational issues around the caucus and failed to find hundreds of needed volunteers to oversee individual precinct caucuses just over a week before Monday.... Although Andy McGuire, the chair of the Iowa Democratic party, is a longtime Clinton supporter whose license plate once read HRC 2016, no one familiar with the issue has accused the error of being a partisan process. Instead, they have blamed simple mismanagement." ...

     ... Charles Pierce: "In the old days, when Democrats knew how to do politics right, a change like this would have required a substantial bribe of whiskey and strippers, as well as a decent county job for the idiot nephew of the county chairman."

Jack Shafer of Politico Magazine: The press should stop treating Chelsea Clinton as if she's still the teenaged daughter of the POTUS. "Today, Chelsea serves as vice chair of the politically controversial Clinton Foundation, which has raised $2 billion since 2001. She’s a board member at Barry Diller’s IAC (paid a reported $300,000 a year, plus stock awards). She charges $65,000 per speech."

The Swindler. Nicholas Confessore & Sarah Cohen of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump once boasted that he could someday be the only person to turn a profit running for president. He may be closer than anyone realizes.Mr. Trump’s campaign spent just $12.4 million in 2015, according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission, millions less than any of his leading rivals for the Republican nomination. More than half of Mr. Trump’s total spending was covered by checks from his supporters, who have thronged to his stump speeches and bought millions of dollars’ worth of 'Make America Great Again' hats and T-shirts. About $2.7 million more was paid to at least seven companies Mr. Trump owns or to people who work for his real estate and branding empire, repaying them for services provided to his campaign." ...

It's very important. February 9. You've got to get out and vote," an impassioned Trump went on. "Don't think we're going to win, don't think we're going to win. Just go out…No matter how you feel, I don't give a damn. You've got to go out, you've got to get out of bed, you've got to vote. -- Donald Trump, Thursday, at a Portsmouth, New Hampshire rally ...

... The Great White Wimp. Mr. Trump Regrets He's Unable to Rally Today. Charles Pierce: "As unexpectedly heavy snow hit southern New Hampshire [Friday] morning, Trump's campaign sent out this release: 'Due to the weather and the airports being closed, Mr. Trump is unable to attend today's Town Hall at the Londonderry Lions Club.' Understandable, except for the fact that the airports weren't closed this morning.... The man who has promised to 'beat the shit' out of anyone who attacks America has been shovel-whipped by six inches of snow." ...

... CW: Not only that, the snowstorm had been predicted for at least a week. Londonderry is in the populous southeastern part of the state. There are hotels around those parts, & the roads were open.

... Scott Bronstein & Drew Griffin of CNN: "New Hampshire voters may be stunned to hear the latest robocall asking for their vote; it's from white nationalists with a simple, disturbing message. 'We don't need Muslims. We need smart, educated, white people,' according to the male voice on the calls, which began Thursday night and urge voters in New Hampshire to vote for Donald Trump. Three white nationalist leaders have banded together to form their own super PAC in support of Trump, even though Trump doesn't want their support."

Dana Milbank rips Ted Cruz, beginning with convincing evidence that Cruz's dismissive term "New York values" is an anti-Semitic dog-whistle. "Cruz has Joe McCarthy’s knack for false insinuation and underhandedness. What sets Cruz apart is the malice he exudes." CW: I would add to Milbank's evidence. Cruz's campaign manager Jeff Roe used the same tactic against Democrat Kay Barnes in a Congressional race: Barnes favored same-sex marriage; Roe's candidate Sam Graves (who won the election in a landslide) accused Barnes of having "San Francisco values," even though Barnes (as far as I can tell) had no connection to San Francisco. ...

     ... BTW, Arlette Saenz of ABC News reported earlier this week that "Sen. Ted Cruz’s attack on Donald Trump's 'New York values' helped secure him a victory in the Iowa caucuses Monday...." ...

... Looks Like Ted Is the Most Hated Man in His Hometown, Too. Mary Jordan of the Washington Post: "Here in the city where Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was born [Calgary, Alberta], many Canadians give less than a hockey puck about whether their native son is eligible to be the U.S. president. Many of them are just glad he’s not running for anything in Canada.... Many here are bingeing on the U.S. election as if it were an addictive TV drama.... Harry Sanders, a local historian in Calgary, said if Cruz ever comes back to see where he was born, he should know that his big show of renouncing his Canadian citizenship in 2014 as he prepared for his presidential bid is remembered. 'He treated it like some stain that he had to get removed,' he said. 'That got Calgarians’ attention.'” CW: I doubt if the mayor of Calgary, who is Muslim, will be giving Ted a key to the city. ...

... MEANWHILE, Ellie Shechet of Jezebel went looking for Friends of Ted from his undergraduate days. She didn't find many, but most of those she interviewed were horrified by the idea of a Cruz presidency.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Esther Addley, et al., of the Guardian: "A UN panel may have found that Julian Assange is subject to 'arbitrary detention' and called for him to be allowed to walk free, but the WikiLeaks founder remains ... inside Ecuador’s London embassy and locked in a three-nation war of words. Britain and Sweden immediately rejected the UN report.... The British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, described the findings as 'ridiculous' and the Australian as a 'fugitive from justice'.... The Swedish government ... has insisted the report changes nothing, and that it cannot interfere in an independent prosecutor’s ongoing attempt to extradite Assange for questioning over an allegation of rape dating from 2010, which he denies. Meanwhile, for Ecuador ... the findings meant it was time for the two countries to allow Assange to walk free, and to compensate both him and them for the lengthy period he has been holed up in one of its [embassy's] few rooms."

Thursday
Feb042016

The Commentariat -- February 5, 2016

Whiteout. We're having quite a little winter wonderland moment today. If history provides any lesson, I may lose power. For a while. -- Constant Weader

Presidential Race

Michael Memoli of the Los Angeles Times: "A long-simmering battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders burst into public view Thursday, as the former secretary of State denounced her rival for what she said was a campaign of 'innuendo' and 'insinuation' amid a continuing fight over each other's progressive credentials. The first one-on-one debate between the Democratic presidential hopefuls delivered fireworks immediately, as Clinton delivered a spirited rebuke to the charge Sanders has been making on the campaign trail that she is not a genuine progressive." ...

... Here's the first half-hour of the debate, which might be titled "Democrats Yelling at Each Other":

... Eric Levitz of New York thought it was boffo: "One of the Best 10-Minute Exchanges in The History of American Political Debates." CW: That part of the debate, at the end of the clip above (beginning about 26 min. in), was fewer than ten minutes. ...

... Within his column Levitz notes what Jordan Weissman of Slate (and others) have pointed out: "Hillary Just Successfully Attacked Bernie Sanders for Supporting a Bill Her Husband Signed." Bill Clinton has later said his support of the bill -- "the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, a bill that essentially banned the government from regulating derivatives, such as the credit default swaps that helped bring down the global economy during the financial crisis" -- was a mistake.

... MSNBC has a highlights page here. Full debate video, of the pirated sort, is here, for now. ...

... The Washington Post has an interactive annotated transcript, which includes some snark & fact-checking. ...

... David Graham of the Atlantic has a good -- and I think fair -- overview of the debate. The "Who Won?" headline sucks, but Graham isn't very interested in pursuing it. He concludes, "Sanders entered with momentum and did nothing to lose it, meaning he probably gains more from the debate -- but it's hard to make a case that Clinton lost the debate. The big winner from the night might be the American people: After months of overcrowded debates, the chance to see just two serious presidential candidates engage each other was a valuable and refreshing change of pace." Graham's analysis is followed by a fairly useful liveblog of the debate by other Atlantic writers." ...

... Jonathan Chait thinks he has a handle on the essential difference between Clinton's & Sanders' views. CW: I think he's close, but he may be painting Sanders as too much of a one-note candidate while giving Clinton a bit too much credit for a sort of enlightened pluralism, and that may be Sanders' fault as much as Chait's. ...

... Greg Sargent expands on Chait's argument. ...

... Jamelle Bouie: "The big takeaway from the MSNBC debate is that the DNC should have held more debates.... "On the main, anyone who watched the debate had a chance to see two politicians and public servants argue for their vision of the country and its future. This was a real contrast to the Republican debates, which tend to focus less on policy and more on dominance displays (Trump versus Bush, for example) and outright aggression (Cruz on carpet bombing)." ...

... CW: Josh Voorhees of Slate comments on Hillary's claim that she couldn't possibly be an establishment candidate because she's "a woman running to be the first woman president." Voohees misses the point: Clinton did this in 2008, not in 2015 or '16. And her husband helped, a lot. During my lifetime, ante-Clinton, every American president except FDR (who as undersecretary of the Navy attempted to enlist) was a veteran (yeah, even Reagan, sort of). Bill Clinton broke that mold, & not without controversy. But his successful run provided a huge opening to women, few of whom served in the military until recently. Today, even most Republicans & other traditionalists at least pretend that women are as qualified as men to serve as president. Hillary was the trailblazer who establish women's credibility in her first run for president. She deserves full credit for it. But it doesn't make her any less a member of the "establishment" today because -- thanks to her -- there is no longer much of a crusty old counter-revolutionary movement to insist she stay home & bake cookies. (Anyone who wants to cite Bob Woodward's complaint that Clinton has an "unrelaxed" delivery [see Amy Chozick's report on shouting, linked below] as evidence to the contrary would be justified. Woodward is indeed a vestige of the good ole days when women knew their place.) ...

... Elizabeth Bruenig of the New Republic: "Like her 9/11 answer in November, her new strategy on Thursday night to downplay her relationship with Goldman Sachs and to win trust for her plans for Wall Street regulation will likely fail, if not backfire. And despite her insistence that she stridently agrees with Sanders on how to address Wall Street, the two differ in both tone and tactics, something voters aren't likely to miss. Lastly, this particular effort at wrapping up the Wall Street question on Clinton's behalf has the potential to call her opposition to Citizens United into question, given her claim that money in politics shouldn't necessarily be read as a corruption threat." ...

... CW: To me, the Clintons' Wall Street connections are only part of the point. The objections to Bill & Hillary's profiteering should extend to all the corporate entities (here & abroad) who have paid the Clintons. Here's the list of paid speeches Hillary Clinton reported from 2013 to 2015. Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge: "... the disclosure omits an unknown number of speeches that the Clintons delivered while directing the payment or honoraria to the Clinton Foundation, despite instructions on the and guidance from the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, saying that honoraria directed to a charity should be reported. Still, as readers will note, even the 'modest' data that Hillary chose to share is quite stunning." Durden also appended a list of Bill Clinton's speeches during the period. ...

... Amy Chozik of the New York Times seems to do a fair job of reprising Hillary Clinton's relationship with Wall Street. She puts 2008 Clinton to the left of 2008 Obama. (And I would say to later Obama.)

... Steven Cohen of the New Republic: "Bernie Sanders can do better on foreign policy than bringing up Hillary Clinton's Iraq War vote." Cohen points to a moment in the debate which he says contrasts the candidates' basic differences on U.S. foreign policy: "Sanders, in other words, is primarily concerned with proliferation and the possibility of war, while Clinton is preoccupied with a more traditional understanding of American hegemony, and the great power rivalries it implies.... It would be nice if [Sanders] could find a more compelling way of conveying that." ...

... MSNBC is airing a debate at 9:00 pm ET Thursday night, in Durham, New Hamshire, between Bernie Sanders & Hillary Clinton. The New York Times is liveblogging the debate. The Washington Post liveblog is entertaining.

Nia-Malika Henderson of CNN: "Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP, will endorse Bernie Sanders, a source familiar with the campaign told CNN." ...

... Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post on why the kids feel the Bern: "... millennials actually seem to prefer socialism to capitalism.... It's not just Sanders's socialist label that sells; it's his socialist ideas, too. To a generation that's broke, in debt, underemployed and stuck in its parents' basements, promises of a political revolution, more equitable distribution of (other people's) wealth, a more robust social safety net and free college can sound pretty appealing.... It is precisely Sanders's au-naturel-ness that endears him to his young fans: his unkempt hair, his ill-fitting suits, his unpolished Brooklyn accent, his propensity to yell and wave his hands maniacally.... These qualities are what make him seem 'authentic,' 'sincere' even -- especially when contrasted with Clinton's hyper-scriptedness." Rampell says female candidates can't get away with unkempt authenticity. ...

... Or Shouting. Amy Chozick: Critics are criticizing critics of Hillary Clinton's "shouting" voice. CW: I've got news for women & men: shouting is offputting. It bugs me when Bernie shouts; it bugs me when Hillary shouts. It doesn't bug me when Trump or Cruz shouts because I never listen to them anyway. What with the new invention of microphones, it is possible to speak with force & passion without raising one's voice. Neither Angry Hillary nor Angry Bernie is an attractive general election candidate. "Undecided" voters are weighing whether they want a candidate in their living rooms for four years. They don't want a shouter. ...

     ... Update: I've been listening to some of the debate. Both candidates have shouted every word. Why? They're responding to questions posed by people who are not yelling at them. Are they called "moderators" because they don't holler?

Burgess Everett of Politico: "The number of Democratic senators willing to insert themselves in the increasingly divisive contest for the Democratic contest remains slim despite the fact that 39 of the caucus's 46 members have endorsed Clinton. But it is growing."

Outrageous Fortune. Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News: Hillary "Clinton has been fueled by millions from a network of well-connected Washington lobbyists, Wall Street bundlers and billionaire donors. Here is a Yahoo News guide to some of the key players in Clinton's $157 million campaign."

... Karen DeYoung & Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "Hillary Clinton gained an apparent ally Thursday in her fight to limit the political damage from her growing email controversy, as former Republican secretary of state Colin L. Powell said he disagreed with a State Department decision to retroactively classify two emails from his personal account while in office.... Powell has said in the past that he found the State Department computer system, including Internet and email, to be woefully inadequate when he took office there in 2001. He devoted substantial resources to improving it but also made liberal use of his personal AOL account." ...

... Hillary Clinton has another ally who hasn't formally endorsed her (and won't): Paul Krugman. Today's column is Krugman's third in fewer weeks unloading on Bernie Sanders. Krugman starts by slamming Ted Cruz, but he quickly switches to Sanders.

... James Hohmann of the Washington Post on Hillary Clinton's "flip" answer to Anderson Cooper's question about her well-paid Wall Street speeches. "The most problematic part of her answer came when she insisted something that is demonstrably untrue: 'They're not giving me very much money now, I can tell you that much. Fine with me.'... The latest FEC reports reveal that Hillary reached a major milestone during the fourth quarter of 2015: Donors in the financial sector have now given more to support her campaigns than Bill's." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)


Nick Corasaniti of the New York Times: "ABC News made the Republican primary in New Hampshire a single-debate show in a news release on Thursday, and [Carly] Fiorina, who did not meet ABC's polling requirements, was not added. Donald J. Trump will again find himself at the center of the podium on Saturday, making his return to the debate stage after skipping the last debate in Iowa because of a feud with Fox News. On either side of him will be Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida. Rounding out the stage will be Jeb Bush, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Ben Carson. Republican candidates past and present had been arguing for Mrs. Fiorina to make the stage." CW: Because they're feminists.

Arturo Garcia of Raw Story: "Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) campaign called precinct chairs in Iowa to encourage them to misrepresent Ben Carson's campaign status, Breitbart News reported. A precinct captain supporting the senator, who identified herself as Nancy Bliesman, produced two voicemails she received from the campaign telling her to tell Carson supporters he was leaving the race. 'It has just been announced that Ben Carson is taking a leave of absence from the campaign trail,' one voicemail stated. 'So it is very important that you tell any Ben Carson voters that for tonight, uh, that they not waste a vote on Ben Carson, and vote for Ted Cruz. He is taking a leave of absence from his campaign.' The two voicemails were left at 7:07 p.m. and 7:29 p.m. local time, after CNN reported that Carson would be traveling to his home in Florida after the caucuses, but not ending his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination." ...

... Ruthless People. Steve M. has the goods on Cruz's campaign guru Jeff Roe: "Kevin McDermott of the St. Louis Post Dispatch notes that this and other eyebrow-raising Cruz tactics are being ascribed to Jeff Roe, a Kansas City political consultant who's managing Cruz's campaign, and who has a reputation for ruthlessness." Read on. Roe has pulled this very same trick in the past. CW: No wonder Cruz hired him; they're vultures of a feather. ...

... Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) on Thursday slammed Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) presidential campaign for disseminating reports that Ben Carson was planning to drop out of the race during the Iowa caucuses. 'Cruz did some questionable things,' Branstad told Radio Iowa. 'This thing that they distributed on caucus night saying that Dr. Carson was likely to drop out and his supporters should support Cruz, that is, I think, unethical and unfair and I think there'll be repercussions to that. We have a strong sense of fairness in Iowa,' Branstad added. 'Distributing information that was not true about a candidate right at the time people are voting in the caucuses is an inappropriate thing.'"

Michael Kranish of the Washington Post: "In a GOP presidential campaign dominated by anger over illegal immigration, distrust of establishment leaders, and aggressive courtship of evangelicals..., Ohio governor [John Kasich] is trying to turn Tuesday's New Hampshire primary into a test of whether his party has room for a throwback brand of Republicanism.... He opted not to compete in the Iowa caucuses, which were heavily influenced by religious conservatives, and tells New Hampshire voters that he will drop out if he does poorly here."

Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Ben Carson ... will cut more than 50 staff positions Thursday as part of an overhaul and downsizing of his campaign. Salaries are being significantly reduced. Carson's traveling entourage will shrink to only a handful of advisers. And instead of flying on private jets, Carson may soon return to commercial flights." CW: I'm thinking this means he flew a private jet from Iowa to Florida to pick up "a change of clothes." Your donations were well-spent, Carsonites.

Other News

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "President Obama's budget request to Congress will include a new fee on oil companies, requiring them to pay $10 to the federal government for every barrel of oil they produce, the White House said on Thursday. The money, which could bring in up to $32 billion in new federal revenue annually, would be spent on a variety of transportation and infrastructure projects, including bridges and highways, high-speed rail and research on advanced vehicles such as electric and self-driving cars. The proposal to further increase costs for fossil fuel production is part of a broader effort by Mr. Obama to fight climate change.... [CW: Speaking for oil barons everywhere,] The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, attacked the proposal."

Laura Koran of CNN: "President Barack Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, speaking about the need to overcome fear through faith, just one day after making a historic visit to a Baltimore mosque where he delivered a message of religious inclusivity.... Ben Carson ... attended the event but did not address the crowd." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) CW: I expect most of the GOP candidates to express "disappointment" in CNN for allowing a reporter named Koran to report on the Christian nation' prayer breakfast. I listened to the end of President Obama's speech. It was very moving:

 

Ken Dilanian of NBC News: "State Department officials have determined that classified information was sent to the personal email accounts of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the senior staff of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, NBC News has learned. In an interview with NBC News, Powell challenged the conclusion, saying nothing that went to his personal account was secret. A Rice spokeswoman said the emails were about diplomatic communications."

CW: This, if true, is surprising. Jake Sherman & Rachel Bade of Politico: "House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz has been quietly planning a probe into the federal government's record keeping -- an investigation he acknowledges could put Hillary Clinton in the cross hairs. In an interview with Politico published Tuesday, Chaffetz said the probe wouldn't focus on Clinton, but "when she creates her own private email system, she's ensnarled herself.' But on Wednesday evening, Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy summoned Chaffetz (R-Utah) to the Capitol to let him know that he is not permitted to launch an investigation that involves Clinton in any way.... Ryan and McCarthy ... believe the FBI and Justice Department should handle the investigation into Clinton's use of personal email..., and that congressional involvement could disrupt the criminal probe and give the appearance of a GOP witch hunt. Ryan, however, had given Chaffetz a green light to proceed -- with caution -- investigating systematic problems within his committee's broad jurisdiction, while making clear his preference that Chaffetz steer clear of Clinton personally. Now, following the Politico story, GOP leadership says he may not even investigate systematic issues if they involve Clinton."

Andrew Pollack of the New York Times: "In a testy exchange with lawmakers, Martin Shkreli declined to testify before a House committee on Thursday about his actions in increasing the price of a decades-old drug fiftyfold overnight. Mr. Shkreli, who left Turing Pharmaceuticals, the drug company he started, after being indicted on federal securities fraud charges in December, repeatedly exercised his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination, angering various members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. 'I don't think I've ever seen the committee treated with such contempt,' Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican, said after Mr. Shkreli was excused and left the room.... The theatrics surrounding Mr. Shkreli's appearance, which included his smirking at some remarks by committee members and calling them 'imbeciles' on Twitter after he left the hearing, overshadowed some of the more substantial discussion about huge overnight price increases in the prices of old drugs by Turing and another company, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times: "Members of the House Oversight Committee were probably giving each other high-fives Thursday for making Martin Shkreli look like a smug jerk under their questioning about the high drug prices at his former company, Turing Pharmaceuticals.... Some of [the Congressmen] were smug jerks about it themselves. (I'm looking at you, Reps. Jason Chaffetz [R-Utah] and Trey Gowdy [R-Va.]).... Not only is it no big challenge to make Shkreli look like a jerk, but the responsibility for sky-high prices charged even for old generic formulations is entirely their own.... The reason that the U.S. leads the world in stratospheric drug prices is that government policy allows it. For example, the largest single pharmaceutical customer in the U.S., Medicare, isn't permitted by law to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers. U.S. customers are forbidden to acquire their drugs in Canada or overseas, where they're often cheaper.... Why won't Congress act? As always, it comes down to money. Pharmaceutical companies are consistently among the biggest contributors to Washington campaign chests."

CW: By my count, that's two lowlifes who got something right during yesterday's news cycle. (1) Cruz: "Trumpertantrum"; (2) Shkreli: "imbeciles." Maybe we should add Kerry Eleveld's "Crump." And kudos to Gloria, via Akhilleus, for coming up with "the Crumps & the Rubes." Sounds like a couple of street gangs, which is appropriate.

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said late Wednesday that partisan extremism is damaging the public's perception of the role of the Supreme Court, recasting the justices as players in the political process rather than its referees.... Roberts said he thought the public skepticism concerning the court starts with the Senate confirmation process." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

CW: David Brooks gets 800 words a column (I think), and in today's it's worth reading two: "concrete leap." I suspect Brooks missed many of his high-school English classes. Or else his copy editors gave up before she got to the last graf & has departed to some forsaken land in search of saving the needy for her own fulfilment.

Beyond the Beltway

Progress Michigan: "An email obtained by Progress Michigan shows that Harvey Hollins, a principal adviser to Governor Rick Snyder, was aware of an uptick in Legionnaires disease in Genesee County and that a county health official was attributing the cases directly to the Flint River as the source of drinking water in Flint. The email, sent to Hollins by former DEQ Communications Director Brad Wurfel, was sent on March 13, 2015 ten months prior to Governor Snyder informing the public. Governor Snyder claimed he had only recently been informed of the outbreak at his press conference in January."

Way Beyond

Liz Sly & Zakaria Zakaria of the Washington Post: "Syrian rebels battled for their survival in and around Syria's northern city of Aleppo on Thursday after a blitz of Russian airstrikes helped government loyalists sever a vital supply route and sent a new surge of refugees fleeing toward the border with Turkey. The Russian-backed onslaught against rebel positions in Aleppo coincided with the failure of peace talks in Geneva, and helped reinforce opposition suspicions that Russia and its Syrian government allies are more interested in securing a military victory over the rebels than negotiating a settlement."

Andrew Roth of the Washington Post: "Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba for the first time next Friday as part of an effort to heal a schism that has divided Christianity between East and West for nearly 1,000 years. The meeting, the first ever between a sitting pope and Russian patriarch, will take place at José Martí International Airport, where the two will sign a joint declaration."