The Ledes

Tuesday, May 26, 2015.

Guardian: Texas governor Greg Abbott has expanded the emergency disaster zone in his state, adding 24 counties to a list of 13 affected by storms and flooding. Three people were reported dead and 12 missing as Oklahoma was also hit hard, while a tornado left 13 dead in a Mexican town just beyond the border." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Flooding brought Houston[, Texas,] to a near-standstill Tuesday, sending normally tame rivers and bayous surging out of their banks, inundating streets and homes, and leaving highways littered with hundreds of abandoned, ruined cars. As much as 10 inches of rain lashed the Houston area overnight, and added to floodwaters flowing downstream from areas of central Texas that were swamped over the holiday weekend, causing waterways to rise from trickle to torrent faster than people could get out of the way."

... See also Jeanne Pitz's comment on this in today's Commentariat.

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, May 25, 2015.

New York Times: "Texas marked 24 counties as disaster areas on Monday as drenching rains and violent weather swept through that state and Oklahoma, forcing thousands of people from their homes and killing at least three."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 26

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

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

New York Times: "Charter Communications is near a deal to buy Time Warner Cable for about $55 billion, people with direct knowledge of the talks said on Monday, a takeover that would create a new powerhouse in the rapidly consolidating American cable industry.... The potential acquisition of Time Warner Cable completes a lengthy quest by Charter and its main backer, the billionaire John C. Malone, to break into the top tier of the American broadband industry. If completed, the transaction would be the latest in a series of mergers remaking the market for broadband Internet and cable television in the United States." ...

     ... Update: "Charter Communications agreed on Tuesday to buy its much larger rival Time Warner Cable for $56.7 billion in a deal that would transform the company into one of America’s largest cable and broadband operators."

Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the Realtor.com page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

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Tuesday
May262015

The Commentariat -- May 27, 2015

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court said Tuesday that it will decide an important 'one person, one vote' case next term to determine whether states should consider total population — or only eligible voters — when drawing roughly equal legislative districts. A shift from using total population would have an enormous impact in states with large immigrant populations, where greater numbers are children or noncitizens. It would shift power from urban areas to more rural districts." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... David Savage of the Los Angeles Times: "The case was brought to the high court by Edward Blum, a conservative activist who two years ago won the Supreme Court ruling that struck down part of the Voting Rights Act. Blum also launched a constitutional challenge to the affirmative action policy at the University of Texas that is still pending." ...

... Here's more on Blum by Morgan Smith of the New York Times (February 2012). Thanks to Victoria D. for the link.

... The New York Times story on the case, by Adam Liptak, is here. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "To put it another way, the plaintiffs in the case are attempting to replace the doctrine of 'one person, one vote' with 'one voter, one vote.'... In litigation going back to the early 1960s, when the “one person, one vote” principle was first implemented under SCOTUS’ direction, no federal court has previously held counting only voters (or voting-age people, or voting-eligible people) is required. So yeah, it would be a pretty big deal if that were to change.” ...

... Erik Loomis of LG&M: "... if Republicans get their way, treating Latinos as non-persons in politics will be a lot easier...."

Julia Preston of the New York Times: "A federal appeals court on Tuesday denied the Obama administration’s request to lift a hold on the president’s executive actions on immigration, which would have granted protection from deportation as well as work permits to millions of immigrants in the country illegally. Two of three judges on a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, left in place an injunction by a Federal District Court judge in Brownsville, Tex. The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by Texas and 25 other states against actions President Obama took in November. Many of the initiatives were scheduled to take effect this month."

Lori Aratani of the Washington Post: "Amtrak will install inward-facing video cameras on a majority of its Northeast Corridor trains by the end of this year, officials announced Tuesday, another in a series of safety measures the rail company has taken since a fatal May 12 derailment that killed eight people and injured more than 200. In a conference call with reporters, Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman said the cameras will allow railroad officials to monitor the actions of engineers while they are on the job." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Lisa Rein & Jonelle Marte of the Washington Post: "Hackers gained access to personal information of 104,000 taxpayers this spring, downloading an online service the Internal Revenue Service uses to give Americans access to their past tax returns, the agency said Tuesday. The information included several years’ worth of returns and other tax information on file with the IRS, Commissioner John Koskinen said in a press conference. The thieves hacked into a system called “Get Transcript,” clearing a security screen that requires users to know the taxpayer’s Social Security number, date of birth, address and tax filing status."

Joe Heim of the Washington Post: "... Indian American kids have placed a stranglehold on the Scripps National Spelling Bee, winning it now for seven years in a row and all but four of the last 15 years.... Bee organizers were appalled by the reaction to last year’s contest, when Sriram, then 14, and his co-winner Ansun, then 13, were greeted with a barrage of racist comments on Facebook and Twitter." CW: Hay reel American kids arent dum. Sumbuddys cheeting. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Presidential Race

Ben Jacobs of the Guardian: "Vermont senator Bernie Sanders formally launched his long-shot bid to unseat Hillary Clinton from the left on Tuesday in a Burlington, Vermont, park. Sanders ... will mount a populist campaign focused on income inequality, campaign finance reform and fighting climate change. He told the crowd of flag waving attendees on the sunny shore of Lake Champlain, 'Today, with your support and the support of millions of people throughout this country, we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally.'” ...

... Here are Sanders' full remarks. ...

Dana Milbank: Rand Paul's "new book, 'Taking a Stand,' came out Tuesday, and it is chock-full of lines that would position Paul well — if he were running against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.... And though Paul may think his Republican Party’s brand sucks, the primary voters don’t necessarily share his view that the party is too old and too white. His candidacy has so far failed to ignite — and, indeed, he seems to be fading as a force within the party."

Beyond the Beltway

Julie Bosman of the New York Times: "Gov. Pete Ricketts [R] of Nebraska vetoed a bill on Tuesday that would abolish the death penalty in the state, testing the strength of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who said they would try to override his decision.... Lawmakers quickly scheduled a vote to try to override the governor’s veto for Wednesday afternoon.... In Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature, three rounds of voting are required to approve a bill before it can reach the governor’s desk. Last week, in the third round, the Legislature voted 32 to 15 in favor of abolition, two votes more than needed to override a veto."

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "The city of Cleveland has agreed to have its police department overseen by an independent monitor and subject its officers to strict and explicit new rules on the use of force, under a settlement with the Justice Department that was announced Tuesday. The agreement ... imposes some of the toughest standards in the nation on the department. It lays out an array of prohibitions in an effort to reduce violent encounters between the police and the community — particularly its minorities — and ingrain 'bias-free policing principles' throughout the department." ...

... Cleveland.com has a full page of links to related stories.

Monday
May252015

The Commentariat -- May 26, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court said Tuesday that it will decide an important 'one person, one vote' case next term to determine whether states should consider total population — or only eligible voters — when drawing roughly equal legislative districts. A shift from using total population would have an enormous impact in states with large immigrant populations, where greater numbers are children or noncitizens. It would shift power from urban areas to more rural districts."

Lori Aratani of the Washington Post: "Amtrak will install inward-facing video cameras on a majority of its Northeast Corridor trains by the end of this year, officials announced Tuesday, another in a series of safety measures the rail company has taken since a fatal May 12 derailment that killed eight people and injured more than 200. In a conference call with reporters, Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman said the cameras will allow railroad officials to monitor the actions of engineers while they are on the job."

Joe Heim of the Washington Post: "... Indian American kids have placed a stranglehold on the Scripps National Spelling Bee, winning it now for seven years in a row and all but four of the last 15 years.... Bee organizers were appalled by the reaction to last year’s contest, when Sriram, then 14, and his co-winner Ansun, then 13, were greeted with a barrage of racist comments on Facebook and Twitter." CW: Hay reel American kids arent dum. Sumbuddys cheeting.

*****

** "The Myth of the Hero Cop." David Feige in Slate: "... if you compare the murder rate among police officers with the murder rate in several American cities, you find that it is far safer to be a NYPD officer than an average black man in Baltimore or St. Louis.... Arguments about the dangerous nature of police work drive the increasing militarization of police departments. The life-and-death nature of the job is used to push for extremely generous medical leave, overtime, and pay packages. Most insidious of all, the exaggerated danger and trumped-up heroism drives an us-versus-them mentality that suffuses contemporary big-city policing and bleeds into the criminal justice system, causing systemic imbalances that chronically favor the police over citizens. Together, this creates a sense of invincibility and righteousness among the police that is used to justify even outrageous behavior while simultaneously creating the perception among the public that the police are untouchable."

** Robert Pear of the New York Times: "They are only four words in a 900-page law [the Affordable Care Act]: 'established by the state.'... Who wrote them, and why?... The answer, from interviews with more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law, is that the words were a product of shifting politics and a sloppy merging of different versions. Some described the words as 'inadvertent,' 'inartful' or 'a drafting error.' But none supported the contention of the plaintiffs, who are from Virginia.” Read the whole article. And hope Roberts & Kennedy do, too. ...

... Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP: "A Supreme Court ruling due in a few weeks could wipe out health insurance for millions of people covered by President Barack Obama's health care law. But it's Republicans — not White House officials — who have been talking about damage control. A likely reason: Twenty-six of the 34 states that would be most affected by the ruling have Republican governors, and 22 of the 24 GOP Senate seats up in 2016 are in those states." ...

... “Eerrrrrrntt!” Jennifer Haberkorn & Rachel Bade of Politico: "Preparing for a Supreme Court decision that could strike down Obamacare’s subsidies for nearly 7.5 million people this summer, Senate Republicans are coalescing around a plan to resurrect them — at a steep price for the White House. With several Senate Republicans facing tough reelections, and control of the chamber up for grabs, 31 senators have signed on to a bill written by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that would restore the subsidies for current Obamacare enrollees through September 2017. But the administration would have to pay a heavy price — the bill would also repeal Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates and insurance coverage requirements... But even if Johnson could somehow persuade Obama and Senate Democrats to accept his plan — a herculean task — the bigger problem will be his Republican colleagues in the House."

Michael de la Merced of the New York Times: 'The Daily Show' developed [a five-week industry boot camp designed to bring young veterans into the television business] over the last three years without publicizing it, but now, because [Jon] Stewart is preparing to leave the show, he has taken it into the open, urging other shows to develop their own programs to bring more veterans into the industry. 'This is ready to franchise. Please steal our idea,' Mr. Stewart said in an interview at his Manhattan studio recently."

Darlene Superville of the AP: "President Barack Obama on Monday saluted Americans who died in battle, saying the country must 'never stop trying to fully repay them' for their sacrifices. He noted it was the first Memorial Day in 14 years without U.S. forces engaged in a major ground war." (Also linked yesterday afternoon):

Charles Pierce wrote quite a nice piece on the way to celebrate Memorial Day. CW: While Pierce does not speak ill of parades, one has to wonder how many of the dead would like to be celebrated in a noisy parade. I suppose it's better than being celebrated by a sale on electronics, as I was urged by Best Buy to do today.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "A pair of grad students surveyed 2,000 state legislators and asked them what they thought their constituents believed on several hot button issues. They then compared the results to actual estimates from each district derived from national surveys.... Both liberal and conservative legislators — thought their districts were more conservative than they really were." CW: So why are these hip liberal voters choosing Neanderthals to represent them? (As usual, apologies to actual Neanderthals, who were definitely smarter than the average Republican.)

Sinan Salaheddin of the AP: "Iraq on Tuesday announced the launch of a military operation to drive the Islamic State group out of the western Anbar province, where the extremists captured the provincial capital, Ramadi, earlier this month. Iraqi state TV declared the start of the operation, in which troops will be backed by Shiite and Sunni paramilitary forces...." ...

Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "American and allied warplanes are equipped with the most precise aerial arsenal ever fielded. But American officials say they are not striking significant — and obvious — Islamic State targets out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians.

... Nahal Toosi of Politico: "Vice President Joe Biden is trying to calm tensions with Iraq’s leaders after the U.S. secretary of defense [Ash Carter] accused Iraqi troops of lacking the 'will to fight' Islamic State. Biden spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi on Monday to reaffirm U.S. support for Iraq’s government and to recognize 'the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces,' according to a White House statement.”

Thomas Erdbrink of the New York Times: "Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post correspondent accused by Iran of espionage who has been imprisoned for more than 10 months, went on trial in a Tehran courtroom on Tuesday morning, state news media reported. The trial, which is not open to the public, began at 10:30 a.m. at Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported. Mr. Rezaian’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and a photojournalist also went on trial alongside Mr. Rezaian, according to the state news agency IRNA." ...

     ... UPDATE: "The trial was adjourned after two hours, and the judge in the case, Abolghassem Salavati, will announce a date for the resumption of the proceedings...." ...

     ... NEW. The Washington Post report, by Carol Morello, is here. ...

... Here's a statement from Martin Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post.

Jeff Amy of the AP: "U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran — the Mississippi Republican whose 2014 primary campaign drew national attention over an aspiring blogger’s photos of his bedridden wife — has married his longtime aide, his office said Monday. The wedding to Kay Webber took place privately Saturday in Gulfport. The senator’s former wife, Rose Cochran, died in December at age 73 from dementia after living in a nursing home for 13 years. Political blogger Clayton Kelly took pictures of a bedridden Rose Cochran in April 2014, and officials say he intended to use the images to advance allegations that the senator was having an inappropriate relationship with Webber." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Presidential Race

Ken Thomas of the AP: Bernie "Sanders, who is opening his official presidential campaign Tuesday in Burlington, Vermont, aims to ignite a grassroots fire among left-leaning Democrats wary of Hillary Rodham Clinton. He is laying out an agenda in step with the party's progressive wing and compatible with [Elizabeth] Warren's platform — reining in Wall Street banks, tackling college debt and creating a government-financed infrastructure jobs program." ...

Hadas Gold of Politico: "Hillary Clinton may feel like the press hounds and harasses her, but there’s one segment of the media from which she’s getting the kind of coverage you just can’t buy: women’s magazines.... A Politico review of several of the magazines’ past few months of coverage suggests that readers will be getting a heavy dose of liberal cheerleading this campaign season along with their skincare, makeup and fashion tips.... It’s enough to make Republicans scream."

Ringmasters Aim to Kick Some Clowns off the Car Running Board. Paul Waldman: "By saying they’re going to support several candidates in the primaries, the Kochs are pledging to accelerate the winnowing process, by which the race’s chaff can be sloughed off and the focus can stay on the serious contenders.... If the Kochs are ready to put some of their ample resources into the primary campaign, it’s a sign that the enormous size of the primary field is generating some serious concern at the top of the GOP."

Is the Pope Catholic? Ben Schreckinger of Politico: Pope Francis is causing consternation among conservative Republican Roman Catholics & their pandering presidential candidates. "Like so much else about [Jeb] Bush, his embrace of Francis places him in sync with a majority of Americans but at odds with large swaths of the Republican primary electorate."

Beyond the Beltway

Mitch Smith & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "The city of Cleveland has reached a settlement with the Justice Department over what federal authorities said was a pattern of unconstitutional policing and excessive use of force, people briefed on the case said Monday. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)"

See today Comments, near the end:

Sunday
May242015

The Commentariat -- May 25, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Mitch Smith & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "The city of Cleveland has reached a settlement with the Justice Department over what federal authorities said was a pattern of unconstitutional policing and excessive use of force, people briefed on the case said Monday."

Darlene Superville of the AP: "President Barack Obama on Monday saluted Americans who died in battle, saying the country must 'never stop trying to fully repay them' for their sacrifices. He noted it was the first Memorial Day in 14 years without U.S. forces engaged in a major ground war."

Jeff Amy of the AP: "U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran — the Mississippi Republican whose 2014 primary campaign drew national attention over an aspiring blogger’s photos of his bedridden wife — has married his longtime aide, his office said Monday. The wedding to Kay Webber took place privately Saturday in Gulfport. The senator’s former wife, Rose Cochran, died in December at age 73 from dementia after living in a nursing home for 13 years. Political blogger Clayton Kelly took pictures of a bedridden Rose Cochran in April 2014, and officials say he intended to use the images to advance allegations that the senator was having an inappropriate relationship with Webber."

Charles Blow: "Memorial Day may be a time for us to consider the evolution of this day: a day established by a disadvantaged population to honor war heroes who now belong to a military whose members are increasingly being drawn from a disadvantaged population." ...

Emmarie Huetteman of the New York Times: "Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Sunday that Iraqi forces had demonstrated 'no will to fight' against the Islamic State, blaming them for a retreat that led to the terrorist group’s victory in capturing the Iraqi city of Ramadi. While that critical assessment of Iraqi security forces has been voiced in Congress and by policy research institutes, Mr. Carter’s remarks on CNN’s 'State of the Union' were some of the administration’s strongest language to date about Iraq’s repeated inability to hold and take back territory from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. 'They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force and yet they failed to fight and withdrew from the site,' he said."

Patricia Cohen of the New York Times: "Because blacks hold a disproportionate share of [government] jobs, relative to their share of the population, [local, state & federal] cutbacks [since 2008] naturally hit them harder." ...

... CW: Cohen's story illuminates an important aspect of conservatives' hatred of government: they see it as of black people, by black people, & for black people. As far as they're concerned, government jobs are egregious means of raising blacks into the middle class, & in confederates' limited worldviews, they figure raising one group lowers everybody else. Confederates don't hate only "lazy black people living on the dole"; they despise working black people, too, especially those mid-or high-level bureaucrats who can exercise some power over white people. Breitbart's attack on Shirley Sherrod is a classic example: obviously, Breitbart knew Sherrod's real message was a lesson in nondiscrimination, so they edited out that real message to turn her into -- however briefly -- a symbol of government of, by and for black people. In addition, their purposeful edit was meant to make her into a surrogate for President Obama -- the black dude in the White House who would lower the boom on white people.

Paul Krugman: "A growing number of economists, looking at the data on productivity and incomes, are wondering if the technological revolution has been greatly overhyped — and some technologists share their concern.... A funny thing happened on the way to the techno-revolution. We did not, it turned out, get a sustained return to rapid economic progress." CW: Oddly, Krugman does not mention the fact that U.S. workers' productivity has skyrocketed, but the corporate bosses -- not the workers -- have scooped up the lions' share of the gains:

Via Mother Jones.

Presidential Race

On this Memorial Day, Sam Tanenhaus of the New York Times, in Blumberg, relates the history of the Party of War (not that many in the party actually have participated in these wars). As the GOP presidential candidates all scramble to be the most muscular advocates for American military might, Tanenhaus writes, "Welcome back George W. Bush. Put down the paintbrush and grab the bullhorn. It’s your party again." Thanks to safari for the link.

Matt Viser of the Boston Globe: "Jeb Bush, who has a longtime relationship with [Kennebunkport, Maine,] where generations of Bushes have vacationed, is having a house built for him at the family compound on Walker’s Point, with a wraparound porch and expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean. The home, on a 1.3-acre site assessed by the town at $1.4 million, was initiated for him by his mother and father.... But as he tries to appeal to middle-class Americans in his likely Republican presidential campaign — and distinguish himself as his own man ... — having a vacation home erected on a spit of land in coastal Maine could be a vivid reminder of the complications facing his campaign." CW: I don't see a place for a car elevator.

The Jeb Cottage, under construction.

Beyond the Beltway

Ralph Ellis & Eliott McLaughlin of CNN: "Cleveland police tried to give peaceful protesters the space to exercise their First Amendment rights following the Michael Brelo verdict, but some of them crossed the line several times, resulting in 71 arrests, city officials said Sunday."

Tom Boggioni in AlterNet: "Saying he did nothing wrong, a Virginia police officer resigned from the Fredricksburg[, Virginia,] Police Department after body-cam video showed him using his Taser, and then pepper-spray, on an unresponsive black man sitting in his car. According to the WHOP,  34-year-old David Washington was having a stroke at the time of the incident.... In the video, [Officer Shaun] Jurgens is seen walking up to Washington’s car and using his Taser on him, without warning, as he sits at the wheel of his car staring forward. After another officer opens the door of the car, Jurgens sprays a massive amount of pepper spray into the face of Washington, who barely flinches. Jurgens can then be heard yelling, 'Get out the car. Get out the car, or I’m going to f*cking smoke you. Get out the car, right now. We ain’t playing.'” ...

    ... CW: The whole world has been watching the shame of police violence against black Americans, yet so many cops are oblivious to all (or else they're defiantly brutal). Still today, there's "nothing wrong" with tasing, pepper-spraying & threatening the life of a person of color. ...

... AND speaking of racist cops, Maricopa, Arizona, County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is emailing his "followers" to send him cash to help him pay personal legal bills he says he is accumulating on accounta his failure to notice a few little court orders "that slipped through the cracks" & which prohibited him from targeting Latinos in various creative "policing" tactics. CW: Well, count me out, Joe. 

Saturday
May232015

The Commentariat -- May 24, 2015

Aw, Poor Mitch. As Ye Sow, so Shall Ye Reap: the Misadventures of Mitch. Jennifer Steinhauer & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: ... as senators raced for the airport on Saturday after a six-week session that ended in disarray, they left behind a wreck of promises made by Mr. McConnell on how a renewed Senate would operate. Mr. McConnell has found himself vexed by Democratic delaying tactics he honed in the minority, five presidential aspirants with their own agendas and a new crop of conservative firebrands demanding their say." CW: Quite an enjoyable read. Steinhauser & Weisman really let McConnell have it. ...

... Dustin Volz & most of the National Journal's reporting staff, though more circumspect than the Times reporters, demonstrate how McConnell screwed up the vote. As Harry Reid remarked, "'That's what happens when you try to jam everything in just a short period of time.'... When asked if anything would change next Sunday, Reid said, 'I don't know, you'll have to ask Rand Paul [and] the Republicans.'" CW: I kind of enjoy the fact that this is an All-Kentucky Show. And, BTW, Li'l Randy's amendments -- for which McConnell refused/didn't have time to schedule a vote -- sound like pretty good ones. They certainly deserved Senate consideration. Also, both stories suggest that Randy is just grandstanding for fun & profit -- and he is doing that, too -- but I think there's a big measure of sincerity here, at least by politicians' standards.

... Julian Hattem & Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "The Senate is preparing for a last-minute attempt to save expiring portions of the Patriot Act, but it may already be too late. The Obama administration is already starting to end the National Security Agency's (NSA) bulk collection of Americans' phone records, after legislative inaction forced the upper chamber to kick the can until next Sunday -- mere hours before the laws expire. Without congressional approval, the White House failed to ask the secretive Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court to renew the program by a Friday deadline." ...

... Salon excerpts a portion of a book titled After Snowden, etc." by Hodding Carter III, in which Carter, a long-time journalist & former Carter (no relation) administration official, reveals that he has changed his mind about Ed Snowden. He blames much of the mainstream media for attacking, rather than embracing, Snowden's contributions.

Anna Palmer of Politico: "Unions are keeping their fight against a trade bill alive. The AFL-CIO and its allies are organizing dozens of events over the Memorial Day recess to keep the pressure on House Democrats and Republicans as the chamber nears consideration of 'fast track' trade legislation."

Campbell Robertson & John Schwartz of the New York Times: A new peer-reviewed report puts most of the blame for the failure of New Orleans' levees during Hurricane Katrina on the Army Corps of Engineers, largely, though not entirely, absolving local politicians, lobbyists & Congress.

Chris McGreal of the Guardian: "A judge in Las Vegas has ruled that a lawsuit involving accusations of graft and organised crime ties to casinos owned by the multibillionaire and Republican party funder, Sheldon Adelson, will be heard in the US. The decision raises the prospect of Adelson facing difficult questions about his business practices following allegations by a former chief executive of his highly profitable casinos in the Chinese enclave of Macau that a well-known triad crime figure was used to bring in high-rolling gamblers and of influence peddling with Chinese officials.... [The case could] have a bearing on the 81-year-old billionaire's considerable political influence." CW: Yeah, because Scott Walker, et al., won't take his money.

God News

Joan Walsh of Salon: Last week was a bad week for the family-values crowd. "The entire Republican field is united on the inferiority of gay families, but hails parents like the Duggars, who let their son prey on his sisters for a year without going to authorities. Meanwhile, Fox News remains silent about the behavior of [Bill] O'Reilly, [who ignored & abused his own family,] because his angry white patriarch shtick is the core of its brand. The NFL is now more sensitive to the concerns of women’s rights advocates than Fox is." ...

... Emma Margolin of MSNBC: Mike Huckabee is standing by the Duggar parents, who covered up their son's sexual abuse of his sisters and other young girls. Akhilleus wrote about this last week. Because god will forgive them or something. CW: I hate that this "news" has crept into the political sphere, but when you have an entire political party that has aligned itself with the fundamentalist right, it seems inevitable.

Steve Benen: The religious right doesn't seem to care about First Amendment freedoms when a minister is arrested & taken into custody by exercising her religious freedom to officiate at a same-sex wedding in Alabama where "a federal judge ruled Thursday that same-sex couples have the right to marry in every Alabama county, but the ruling is on hold pending the Supreme Court's verdict in a related case." Yo, Ben Carson, where are you? (See story linked under Presidential Race.) ...

Presidential Race

Patrick Healy & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "As President Obama grapples with the unnerving territorial gains of the Islamic State last week, the Republicans eyeing the White House are struggling to put forward strategies of their own. The most detailed ideas have come from [Lindsey] Graham, a United States senator from South Carolina who is on the Armed Services Committee, yet he ranks so low in polls that it is unclear if he will qualify to participate in the coming candidate debates."

Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Ben Carson won the straw poll at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference Saturday, demonstrating his popularity among conservative activists at one of the party's traditional presidential cattle call events. Carson... finished first with 25 percent. He was followed by Scott Walker, who received 20 percent, and Ted Cruz at 16 percent. Chris Christie and Rick Perry tied at 5 percent, with Jeb Bush narrowly behind. Marco Rubio tied with Bobby Jindal and Rand Paul at 4 percent." ...

... Christian Nation. Ahiza Garcia of TPM: "Ben Carson ... told Republicans on Saturday that they shouldn't allow the government to encroach on their religious liberties. Carson's comments came during the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City. 'Don't let the secular progressives drive God out of our lives,' Carson said. 'We have to stop letting them bully us.... We back down too easily. It's an important part of who we are.'"

Beyond the Beltway

Ida Lieszkovszky of Cleveland.com: "A judge ruled Saturday morning that Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo is not guilty of two charges of voluntary manslaughter in connection with the Nov. 29, 2012 police chase and shooting that ended in the deaths of two people. Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge John P. O'Donnell said that while Brelo did fire lethal shots at Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, other officers did as well. O'Donnell also concluded that Brelo was not guilty of the lesser included offense of felonious assault because he was legally justified in his use of deadly force." ...

... Adam Ferrise of Cleveland.com: "Demonstrators on Saturday reacted with anger after the not guilty verdicts in Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo's trial. Some three to four dozen protestors carrying signs outside the Cuyahoga County Justice Center expressed anger but said they would remain calm following the verdicts." ...

... Patrick Cooley of Cleveland.com has the backstory. ...

... Kimbriell Kelly & Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post write more about how the killings of Russell & Williams went down & on the history of the case. "The Department of Justice began investigating Cleveland police in March 2013 following a string of 'highly-publicized' use-of-force incidents. The investigation ended in 2014, concluding that the department 'engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force.' Officials with Justice and Cleveland are working to develop reforms overseen by a monitor. After the judge's verdict, the Civil Rights Division at Justice, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office issued a joint statement that said they would review testimony and evidence from the trial and 'collaboratively determine what, if any, additional steps are available and appropriate.' That review is independent, the statement said, of the federal pattern and practice investigation."

Timothy Phelps of the Los Angeles Times: "Subtle changes made in the criminal charges against six Baltimore police officers could reflect weaknesses in the hurriedly filed case arising from the death of Freddie Gray, legal experts say. A grand jury on Thursday presented its indictment against the officers. Though it largely mirrored the original charges filed by State's Atty. Marilyn Mosby, the revisions renewed complaints that Mosby moved too quickly and overcharged the officers."

Way Beyond

Danny Hakim & Douglas Dalby of the New York Times: "Ireland became the first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote, sweeping aside the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church in a resounding victory Saturday for the gay rights movement and placing the country at the vanguard of social change. With the final ballots counted, the vote was 62 percent in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, and 38 percent opposed." ...

... It's worth checking out the front page of the Irish Times.

Sondos Asem, an Egyptian political activist, in a Washington Post op-ed, discusses her work in Egypt & the death sentence which an Egyptian court imposed upon her & others, including former President Mohamed Morsi. Asem is in Britain.