The Ledes

Tuesday, July 29, 2014.

AP: "A senior PLO official has called for a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire in the Gaza war, saying he is also speaking in the name of Hamas."

Guardian: "Gaza endured a night of relentless bombardment that brought some of the heaviest pounding since the start of the conflict three weeks ago, in the hours after the Israeli political and military leadership warned of a protracted offensive. Palestinian officials say more than 110 people have been killed in Gaza in the past 24 hours."

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, July 28, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States has concluded that Russia violated a landmark arms control treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile, according to senior American officials, a finding that was conveyed by President Obama to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin in a letter on Monday."

New York Times: "The United States and Europe put aside their differences and agreed on Monday to sharply escalate economic sanctions against Russia in a set of coordinated actions driven by the conclusion that Moscow has taken a more direct role in the war in Ukraine. After months in which European leaders were hesitant to go as far as the Americans, the two sides settled on a package of measures that would target Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors. In some cases, the Europeans may actually leapfrog beyond what the United States has done, forcing Washington to try to catch up."

Guardian: "Dutch and Australian police have failed to reach the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 for a second day as clashes rage in a town on the road to the area." ...

... Washington Post: "The Ukrainian military on Monday captured a strategically important swath of territory close to the debris field of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a spokesman said, dealing a blow to pro-Russian rebels but raising new questions about whether an investigation at the site will ever yield conclusive evidence about the attack on the airliner."

NEW. Washington Post: "Israel will press its air and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, preparing his country for a longer and bloodier campaign and dashing hopes that the three-week-old conflict would end soon." ...

... Washington Post: "International efforts to end the devastating three-week-old Gaza war intensified Monday with the U.N. Security Council calling for an 'immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' in the conflict that has already claimed the lives of more than 1,035 Palestinians and 43 Israeli soldiers. The ravaged coastal enclave was relatively quiet Monday as Palestinians started celebrating the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday that caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Israel mostly held its fire overnight, shelling only a site in the northern Gaza Strip in response to rockets fired from there." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Explosions rocked a major hospital and a neighborhood of Gaza City on Monday, leaving at least 10 people dead, witnesses reported." ...

... New York Times: "On Sunday, however, [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry was having difficulty accomplishing even ... a succession of temporary cease-fires..., despite a phone call in which President Obama, in a sign of mounting impatience, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to embrace an 'immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' while the two sides pursued a more lasting agreement. ...

... A White House readout of the conversation between Obama & Netanyahu is here.

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, May 29:"The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was  eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday."

White House Live Video
July 29

10:10 am ET: White House Agricultural Champions of Change meet

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."

 

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:

 

Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

Heller McAlpin reviews Marja Mills' book The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir of the writer's friendship with Harper Lee & her sister Alice Finch Lee, for the Washington Post.

According to this Daily Beast headline, the "World Awaits LeBron James' Decision." CW: Even though I so often do the sports report, it turns out I am not of this world.

Smart Girls Don't Swear. Vanity Fair "cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed" some of the Nixon tapes, "many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable." The post excerpts a few: Nixon on gays, Jews, swearing.

New York Times: Hillary Clinton's "memoir, 'Hard Choices,' has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein. It is a powerful statement about today’s publishing realities that Mr. Klein’s book, a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages, including one about a physical altercation between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama, has landed atop the New York Times best-seller list, knocking 'Hard Choices' to No. 2." ...

... If by chance you believe the major media are the exclusive haunts of "elite leftists," here's evidence it ain't so. Klein, the Times story notes, is "a former editor at Newsweek  and The New York Times Magazine."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast interviews Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times. Abramson still doesn't know what "management skills" means. Kinda makes you think maybe she doesn't have any.

Tim Egan: American children are too sheltered. The world isn't as scary as we think it is.

... Thanks to Bonita for the link. CW: I except you actually could purchase the materials at Hobby Lobby you'd need to make an IUD. However, Dr. Weader strongly advises against this do-it-yourself project.

New York Times: "The New Yorker is overhauling its website, making all articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers."

The New York Times Magazine publishes excerpts from a few of Warren Harding's love letters to Carrie Phillips. Also, he was a worse poet than he was a president. And Phillips was unfaithful to Harding; then she blackmailed him. Maybe it was because she was so turned off by all those letters where he personified his penis as "Jerry."

Guardian: A Princeton archaeologist has found what may be the world's oldest extant erotic graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia in the Aegean sea. Also, it is so gay.

Wherever in the U.S. you may live, if you missed your local news last night, we have it here. In fact, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, here's what will be on your local news tonight. Thanks to Bonita for the link:

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Monday
Jul282014

The Commentariat -- July 29, 2014

** Juan Williams in the Hill: "A group of top evangelicals — key supporters of the GOP for decades — wrote to ask Congress last week to protect the children and offer them full consideration in court as refugees. But the GOP’s obstructionism of anything the Obama White House proposes now stands in the way of faith-based compassion for these children. 'If Republicans move forward on this, we’re now jumping in right in the middle of President Obama’s nightmare and making it ours,' said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).... Republicans are deaf to calls for mercy for children because they are playing for political gain." Williams puts the lie to all of the GOP's obstructionist arguments re: immigration reform.

Julian Hattem of the Hill: "Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will introduce legislation on Tuesday to put sweeping new limits on U.S. surveillance and peel back the curtain on controversial spying programs."

Andrew Sorkin of the New York Times: "Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, recently said, 'I love America.' Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, wrote an opinion article saying, 'Investing in America still produces the best return.' Yet guess who’s behind the recent spate of merger deals in which major United States corporations have renounced their citizenship in search of a lower tax bill? Wall Street banks, led by JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. Investment banks are estimated to have collected, or will soon collect, nearly $1 billion in fees over the last three years advising and persuading American companies to move the address of their headquarters abroad (without actually moving).... These deals are expected to sap the United States Treasury of $19.46 billion over the next decade...." These are the same Wall Street banks "which received help from American taxpayers in the form of hundreds of billions of dollars in loans." ...  

 

... Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, in a Washington Post op-ed, urges Congress to act immediately to close the loophole that allows businesses to employ this tax inversion scheme. ...

     ... CW: See also Paul Krugman's column, linked yesterday. So who's a better American? Jamie Dimon or the kid at McDonalds? Corporations may be people, my friend, but they are people who do not wish to live in "real America." And, yes, you can blame Congress for letting these fake people get away this real travesty. ...

... Danny Vinik of the New Republic: "It’s obvious why Republicans are so hostile to closing tax loopholes and cracking down on tax cheats: the IRS scandal, in which conservative organizations received inordinate scrutiny from the agency as it vetted groups claiming to be 'social welfare organizations.' Republicans argue that the agency cannot be trusted. 'There’s not a whole lot of confidence right now about what the Internal Revenue Service does among the American people, let alone members of Congress,' Rep. Pat Tiberi told Politico. 'Why should we give them more tools to harass taxpayers?'” ...

     ... The Dog Will Eat My Homework. CW: So the standard excuse for the do-nothing Congress is now, "We can't trust Obama/the IRS/Immigration Services/the EPA/Whoever to properly execute the law, so passing legislation is a waste of time." Never mind that do-nothing fits right into their political scheme.

"Inflation OCD." Paul Krugman: "... there are two topics on which, in my experience, conservatives become completely unhinged, red-in-the-face angry and screaming. One is health care, where the possibility of a successful government-backed program is unacceptable despite the fact that everyone, even America for its seniors, does it, and the other is monetary policy. It’s time to stop pretending that these are rational discussions, and start looking for the roots of the compulsion."

Martin Matishak of the Hill: "House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a $17 billion bill meant to reform the Veterans Affairs Department, setting up a scramble this week to send the legislation to President Obama’s desk. The new bill would provide $10 billion for veterans to seek private care at hospitals and clinics outside the VA, and $5 billion to allow the department to hire more doctors, nurses and medical staff. Another $1.5 billion could be spent on leases to use other medical facilities at 27 sites around the country." ...

... Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Monday that the Senate would vote on the confirmation of Robert McDonald to be Veterans Affairs Secretary at 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday. Last week, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee cleared McDonald’s nomination in a 14-0 vote."

Philip Bump of the Washington Post: It won't be long till we have political campaigns run entirely by superPACS, where "The candidate is just himself, and the PACs do everything else." Chris McDaniel's failed campaign for U.S. Senate in Alabama Mississippi came mighty close: 3/4ths of his campaign chest came from outside groups like Freedom Works & the Club for Growth. And the superPACS like it that way: "'In some ways, this race is kind of a model of what we want to do in other races,' FreedomWorks for America's national political director Russ Walker told us...." 

Paul Waldman in the American Prospect: "Democrats used to marvel at Republicans' political skill. But it's been a decade since the GOP won a victory in policy or elections that wasn't pre-ordained by circumstance." ...

     ... CW: I'm not sure I agree with Waldman. It takes a lot of skill to run campaigns based on disinformation & lies -- and win. GOP candidates do that all the time. Plus, conservatives -- though not necessary party operatives -- have skillfully used the courts to obtain & enhance GOP objectives. Personally, I marvel every day at how such a bunch of dumbclucks & schemers manage to stay in office. It may just be the inertia & inattention of voters that get these morons re-elected, but I've gotta think the party's manipulation of the facts -- and the media -- plays a big part.

Adam Taylor of the Washington Post: "Anyone who has made even a passing glance at the Israeli media in the past few days will have noticed the incredible chorus of criticism being directed at John Kerry right now. The secretary of state has been lambasted by all sides for his apparent failure in attempts to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.... It all became so much that on Monday, the Obama administration was forced to push back against what it said was a "misinformation campaign” against Kerry."

Gillibrand Legitimizes Cruz. Burgess Everett of Politico: "Sens. Ted Cruz and Kirsten Gillibrand united on Monday to push a resolution condemning Hamas in its war against Israel, building on their burgeoning bipartisan alliance. The resolution from the Texas Republican and New York Democrat strongly criticizes Hamas for using 'innocent civilians as human shields,' tags Hamas and other terrorist groups with the blame for thousands of rocket attacks on Israel launched from Gaza and demands that Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemn Hamas’s tactics." ...

... Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Sen. Ted Cruz lifted his hold on State Department nominees after FAA officials briefed him this morning on their decision to bar U.S.-based airlines from flying to Israel for 36 hours last week.... 'Nevertheless, I remain concerned that the Administration was so willing to impose grave economic harm on our friend and ally Israel in order to try to pressure them into acceding to Secretary Kerry’s foreign policy demands,' Cruz said."

** Maya Rhodan of Time: "A new report estimates the cost of mitigating the effects of climate change could rise by as much as 40% if action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is delayed 10 years — immediately outweighing any potential savings of a delay. The White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, U.S. President Barack Obama’s source for advice on economic policy, compared over 100 actions on climate change laid out in 16 studies to extract the average cost of delayed efforts. Released Tuesday, the findings suggests policymakers should immediately confront carbon emissions as a form of 'climate insurance.'” ...

... Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "Failing to adequately reduce the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change could cost the United States economy $150 billion a year, according to an analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisers released on Tuesday." ...

... Ari Phillips of Think Progress: "Going into their annual meeting in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, ALEC — the secretive organization that brings together conservative politicians and major corporate interests — is looking to recalibrate their approach to repealing or obstructing a range of clean energy initiatives after a year of state-level defeats. The 40-year-old group, which has been pushing a corporate-backed, free market-driven agenda for decades, is beholden to a number of utilities and fossil fuel companies that bankroll them...." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) needs no advice from ALEC. He implied the EPA is a terrorist organization.

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) blamed President Barack Obama for a reported increase in uninsured Mississipians. The problem is, Bryant didn't acknowledge that he's been a staunch opponent of expanding Medicaid under Obamacare and refused to encourage enrolling in private coverage through Healthcare.gov." ...

     ... Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "Which is like you offering me an umbrella, me saying, 'No thanks,' and then coming back later and saying, 'Why the hell did you offer me an umbrella? Look how wet I got in the rain! This is all your fault!'”

Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic finds a January 2010 e-mail from a top Congressional staffer working on the ACA which effectively refutes the Halbig plaintiffs' theory that Congress intended to offer Medicaid expansion funds only to residents of states that created their own exchanges.

Jonathan Chait writes a realistic assessment of Paul Ryan's new "anti-poverty plan." Ryan, in trying to reset himself as a compassionate conservative in anticipation of a probable presidential run, still engages in double-speak & non-answers to questions about the apparent central flaw in his plan: throwing money at the states & trusting them to spend that money on the poor:

... over the last few years, the United States has conducted a vast experiment that has proven his assumption wrong in the most horrifying way possible. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts allowed states to opt out of accepting Medicaid money to give health insurance to their poorest citizens. The money is, essentially, free.... In a display of almost fanatical indifference to the well-being of their most vulnerable citizens, nearly every Republican-controlled state government has eschewed this free money. Not only have state-level Republicans failed to display deep concern for the poor, they seem to actually enjoy subjecting them to intense physical and financial distress.

Satanists Have First Amendment Rights, Too. The Satanic Temple has found an amusing way to exploit [link fixed] the Supremes' Hobby Lobby decision,  twisting it to favor abortion rights. Warning: actual science involved! Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress reports.

Meredith Shiner of Yahoo! News exposes the supposedly bipartisan advocacy group No Labels as a partisan lobbying scam. CW: This was pretty obvious from the get-go, but Shiner puts facts to the suspicions.

Black Women All Look Alike. Allie Jones of Gawker: "Buried in a New York Times piece about Rand Paul's efforts to woo black voters is the story of the most Mitt Romney thing Mitt Romney has ever done: confuse two famous black women in media. According to Donna Brazile, Romney called her 'Gwen' [as in Ifill] during the 2012 campaign." CW: Romney also mistook Michelle Obama for Oprah Winfrey & Serena Williams for Venus Williams. Oka-a-ay. We'll give him that last one.

Beyond the Beltway

Dana Milbank: After one of his constituents died partly because the local hospital closed when it couldn't get federal aid, a white Southern Republican mayor went on a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., in support of the Medicaid expansion portion of the ACA. Gov. Pat McCrory (RTP) & the GOP-controlled state legislature -- including House speaker Thom Tillis who is the party's U.S. Senate nominee -- have blocked the expansion. CW: Note how the White House is totally tone-deaf here, ignoring a golden opportunity to demonstrate the importance of this law to Americans of every political persuasion. I never get over my surprise at Democratic incompetence.

Robert Barnes & Jenna Portnoy of the Washington Post: "A federal appeals court panel on Monday upheld a decision that said Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. By a 2 to 1 vote, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond said that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed under the Constitution regardless of sexual orientation." ...

... Andrew Kenney of the Raleigh News & Observer: "N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper [D] believes that Monday’s federal appeals court decision on Virginia’s gay marriage ban eventually will allow gay marriage in North Carolina – and Cooper has no plans to intervene.... However, the ruling won’t immediately affect North Carolina because “no judge has ruled on North Carolina’s law,” Cooper said in a written statement. North Carolina voters in 2012 voted by a wide margin to encode a ban on gay marriage into the state’s constitution. Cooper’s decision will again bring him to loggerheads with the General Assembly’s leadership. The leaders of the state Senate and House last year hired outside lawyers to look over the attorney general’s shoulder in gay-marriage cases.... Cooper previously has said that he personally supports same-sex marriage but would defend the state’s laws."

Thomas Kaplan & Susanne Craig of the New York Times: New York "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday delivered a feisty and unrepentant defense of his handling of an anticorruption panel he created and then abruptly shut down, after five days in seclusion during which he encountered some of the harshest criticism he has faced as governor.... His office had defended its actions in a 13-page response that appeared online along with The Times’s report. On Monday, he echoed many of those points, but also seemed to contradict them. His revised defenses for his office’s handling of the anticorruption panel, called the Moreland Commission, seemed increasingly difficult to untangle." ...

... Lloyd Green of the Daily Beast: Cuomo's "disbanding of an anti-corruption commission was shocking — and his straight-out-of-Nixon justification even more so." Green compares Cuomo's arrogance to that of Louis XIV.

Tina Moore of the Daily News: "Police are investigating whether a cop put a seven-months-pregnant woman in a chokehold while busting her for illegal grilling in Brooklyn — an incident caught on film. Photos released Monday by an East New York advocacy group show Rosan Miller, 27, struggling with a cop who appears to have his arm around her neck. The NYPD prohibits the use of chokeholds." CW: Chokhold aside, this looks like a case of Grilling While Black.

Congressional Races

Nate Cohn of the New York Times notes that polls show that among registered voters (as opposed to likely voters), there is no "Republican wave"; rather, Democrats have gained a bit. This does not mean that Republicans can't take control of the Senate because "This year’s Senate contests are being fought on Republican-leaning turf."

Ben Jacobs of the Daily Beast: "Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, appears to believe states can nullify federal laws. In a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Ernst said on September 13, 2013 at a for[u]m held by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition that Congress should not pass any laws 'that the states would consider nullifying.' As a state senator, Ernst co-sponsoered a "Tenther" resolution "States cannot nullify federal laws, of course. In embracing the concept of nullification, Ernst harkens back to a discredited theory that the Constitution is a compact and states are free to void federal laws that they dislike. This view was widely promoted by John Calhoun, the great Southern advocate of slavery prior to the Civil War and was touted by segregationists in the 1950s and 1960s.” ...

... Steve M. acknowledges that Jacobs' characterization of Ernst's remarks aren't quite fair. Then he produces a partial list of laws that by Ernst's logic -- that the Congress should not pass laws states might consider nullifying -- should never have been passed. Steve begins with the Bill of Rights.

I'm not sure why the National Review's leaking of Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn's old campaign strategy book is such big news, but everybody's reporting on it, so here's the NR story, by Eliana Johnson. ...

... Update. Alex Altman of Time: "... the memos are a classic example of what is known in Washington as a Kinsley gaffe: when a politician errs by accidentally revealing the truth.... The existence of the memos is not a surprise; any campaign worth its salt undertakes a study of its perceived weaknesses. The Nunn memos are remarkable less for their judgments than for the fact that a hapless adviser apparently posted them on the Internet.... When you’re trying to sell a candidate as authentic, a long look at the careful packaging can’t help." ...

     ... CW: Really? I believe I'll pull a Diogenes & go in search of the voter who thinks political candidates are "authentic."

--
Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/28/4035691/ag-roy-cooper-says-federal-decision.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/28/4035691/ag-roy-cooper-says-federal-decision.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/28/4035691/ag-roy-cooper-says-federal-decision.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

Marie's Sports Report

Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times: "A judge gave Shelly Sterling a sweeping victory Monday afternoon and cleared the way for Steve Ballmer’s record $2-billion purchase of the Clippers to proceed. In a tentative oral decision, Judge Michael Levanas ruled in Sterling’s favor on all three counts and rejected virtually all of Donald Sterling’s arguments in the probate trial in Los Angeles Superior Court."

Monday
Jul282014

The Commentariat -- July 28, 2014

NEW. Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "Medicare’s financial health is improving, according to a new official forecast that says that the program will remain solvent until 2030 — four years later than anticipated a year ago — because of the Affordable Care Act and lower-than-expected spending on hospital stays.... The trustees [for Medicare & Social Security] found relatively little change, however, in the finances of Social Security. The forecast says that the program’s trust funds will have enough money to pay all the retirement and disability benefits it owes until 2033"

Apparently Not a Joke. Peter Schroeder & Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "House Republicans want to use their final week in Washington before the August recess to send a signal that they are ready to govern. As the country’s attention turns to the fight for control of the House and Senate, Republicans want to show they are capable of handling two of the nation’s toughest issues: the thousands of children crossing the border, and the veterans in need of healthcare." ...

... David Atkins, in the Washington Monthly: "... it’s remarkable to watch: even as Boehner gives his far right pro-impeachment flank a carrot by initiating a preposterous and unpopular lawsuit, he holds the stick of losing elections to persuade them to actually do something halfway reasonable on immigration and healthcare for veterans." ...

... Jake Sherman & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "House Republicans fear the backlash. They know their summer will be long if they cannot pass a bill to deal with the influx of migrant children at the Texas-Mexico border. Most of them know it’s the right thing to do — especially in an election year. But it’s still far from clear it can get done." ...

... Jim Newell of Salon: "It’s audacious enough for Boehner and company to think that anything they do, at this point, will show that they 'can govern.' What’s worse is how low they’ve set the bar for effective governance with regards to their action on this border bill. Their goal for the week isn’t to reach a compromise with Senate Democrats and get a border bill to the president’s desk by week’s end. It’s simply to pass a piece of legislation out of the House." ...

... Julian Hattem of the Hill: "Leaders in the House and Senate have reached a deal on legislation to reform the Veterans Affairs Department and are poised to unveil it on Monday."

Today in American Oligarchy

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "An explosion of spending on political advertising on television — set to break $2 billion in congressional races, with overall spots up nearly 70 percent since the 2010 midterm election — is accelerating the rise of moneyed interests and wresting control from the candidates’ own efforts to reach voters. In the first full midterm cycle where outside groups have developed a sophisticated infrastructure, the consequences are already becoming apparent: a harshly negative tone dictated by the groups and a nearly nonstop campaign season that could cause voters to tune out before Election Day."

Paul Krugman:on the "Tax Avoidance du Jour: Inversion.... There is ... one big difference between corporate persons and the likes of you and me: On current trends, we’re heading toward a world in which only the human people pay taxes.... The federal government still gets a tenth of its revenue from corporate profits taxation. But it used to get a lot more — a third of revenue came from profits taxes in the early 1950s, a quarter or more well into the 1960s. Part of the decline since then reflects a fall in the tax rate, but mainly it reflects ever-more-aggressive corporate tax avoidance — avoidance that politicians have done little to prevent."

Driftglass has a lovely little essay on the pundits gathering on "Press the Meat" to "sit shiva for David Gregory's career" AND on some excellent examples of Gregory's usual journalistic expertise. CW: Personally, I appreciate Gregory's repeated acts of journalistic malpractice. I tend to feel sorry for anybody about to lose his job, whether deservedly or not. Gregory spares me from having to exercise my natural compassion for his bad turn of luck.

Beyond the Beltway

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "In their much-anticipated federal corruption trial set to begin Monday, former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen ..., will submit themselves to a potentially humiliating spectacle that will showcase an intimate view of their frayed marriage and odd personal relationships.... Together, he and his wife are fighting 14 criminal charges of public corruption and lying on financial documents." ...

... Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "The governor [-- Terry McAuliffe (D) of Virginia -- ] and his Legislature are dug in, engaged in ugly trench warfare. The most powerful member of its congressional delegation, an implacable foe of the president, was tossed out in a primary for being too wishy-washy. And a former governor and his wife go on trial on Monday on charges they used his office as an A.T.M., cashing in for goodies like a Rolex watch and designer clothes. This state, which once took pride in the 'Virginia Way,' a plain-vanilla politics of civility, consensus and relatively clean government, has become a setting of national political melodrama... ."

Monday
Jul282014

What Carlyle Says

That old, arrogant, white Congress is helping us depopulate. We have thousands of children trying to get into the country and the politicos are screaming invasion! We have thousands of educated and loyal "Dreamers", raised in this country that Congress wants to send back to their parents country. Are we nuts? -- Carlyle, Reality Chex contributor, Commentariat July 26

... I’m hoping that my governor will utilize Article 1, Section 10, that allows a state that is being invaded — in our case more than twice as many just in recent months, more than twice as many than invaded France on D-Day with a doubling of that coming en route, on their way here now under Article 1, Section 10, the state of Texas would appear to have the right, not only to use whatever means, whether it’s troops, even using ships of war, even exacting a tax on interstate commerce that wouldn’t normally be allowed to have or utilize, they’d be entitled in order to pay to stop the invasion. -- Rep. Louie Gohmert (RDumb-Texas), ca. July 10, 2014

Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its 'one percent,' namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.' ... This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant "progressive" radicalism unthinkable now? -- Tom Perkins, billionaire venture capitalist, Wall Street Journal op-ed, January 24

... there are 47 percent ... who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.... These are people who pay no income tax.  -- Mitt Romney, GOP presidential nominee, September 18, 2012

We risk hitting a tipping point in our society where we have more takers than makers in society, where we will have turned our safety net into a hammock that lulls able bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency. -- Rep. Paul Ryan, Summer, 2012

Meghan Crepeau of Red Eye Chicago: "More than 1,000 fast-food workers from around the country gathered Friday and Saturday [in Villa Park, Illinois,] to support an agenda including a $15 minimum wage and the right to unionize. The convention was mainly funded by the Service Employees International Union and other labor organizations." One of their biggest targets: McDonalds.

 
From Saturday at noon till Sunday night, I drove 1,520 miles. To keep myself alert, I stopped at no fewer than six McDonalds along the route for iced tea or hot coffee. Every person who served me was a person of color. (So good for McDonalds for its colorblind hiring practices.) Every one of those servers was super-courteous and friendly. They all completed my orders in a matter of seconds, not minutes.

 

The one exception was at my last stop, which I made at around the 1,375 mile-mark. When I arrived, the counterperson was out of sight, though I guessed s/he was preparing the order of a customer who had arrived before I did & seemed to be waiting to collect his Happy Meals or whatever. For reasons having nothing to do with McDonalds, I was a little miffed that I wasn't getting that immediate service to which I had so recently become accustomed. I had not veered into Perkins/Romney territory, but I did think, "Hey, kid, whoever & wherever you are, get with it."

Then the server -- a young man whom I guess to be of Central American origin -- came from the kitchen with the waiting customer's order in hand. He moved quickly, then just as quickly took & filled my order. Like the other servers I met on my trip, he was friendly & cheerful.

Mitt Romney is right about one thing: Those workers should not be "dependent upon government." Instead, they should be receiving a living wage for the hard, stressful work they do with skill & good humor. They should not need to supplement their meager wages with food stamps & other government programs that subsidize the businesses of the one-percenters who employ them. And, yes, these workers should be paying taxes -- because they should be earning enough to pay taxes. As for all that mooching & taxlaxity, not a one of them will ever get a "government handout" of the size Mitt Romney (and likely Tom Perkins) takes every year in Congress-blessed tax breaks & offshore schemes. Every one of those workers, as far as I would guess, has more character than these whiney, resentful, selfish rich guys & those stupid, nasty Congressmen.

Paul Ryan is right, too. We need more makers like the people who work at McDonalds & fewer takers like vulture capitalists & so-called citizen-legislators who spend their time in Congress trying to shaft poor workers & further enrich vultures like Perkins & Romney.

That last server, the one I thought might be a tad too slow to satisfy my ridiculous demand for instant service? When I write, "he took my order in hand," I mean that literally. He had only one arm.

I don't know how that young man lost his arm, but it would not be surprising to find he had been the victim of a Central American gang. Mutiliation & dismemberment are what those gangsters do.

So, yeah, I'm with Carlyle. There's very little question in my mind that the people who served me at McDonalds are better, more productive Americans than the uber-wealthy venture capitalists who liken workers' demands for a reasonable minimum wage to the Kristallnacht mobs or who call underpaid workers moochers. They are better Americans than a life-long government dependent who uses his government "service" to deprive people of the types of benefits he himself received. They are better Americans than a rabblerouser who would wage war on child refugees.

To the young people who have lived in this country most of their lives & want to stay, I say, "Thank you for coming. I hope you didn't make a mistake in choosing to stay." To the children fleeing violence & death, I say, "Bienvenidos." And "Buena suerte."

Friday
Jul252014

The Commentariat -- July 26, 2014

Michael Shear & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "President Obama on Friday urged the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to exercise what he called their 'shared responsibility' to help stem the flow of migrant children toward the United States border, but the Central American leaders said America shares some of the blame for the crisis." The presidents met for 90-minutes in the White House Cabinet Room:

... Chris McGreal of the Guardian: "Three Central American leaders met President Obama on Friday to tell him that billions of dollars poured into attempting to prevent migrant children crossing the US border would be better spent addressing the root causes of the crisis in their countries." ...

... Pamela Constable of the Washington Post: "Some immigration experts and advocates suggest [a major cause of the migrant children influx was] U.S. policies of the 1990s and 2000s that deported thousands of gang members back to Central America. At the time, authorities were attempting to root out Latino gang violence in American cities.... The gangs took new root in Central America, abetted by the push of drug-trafficking routes into Central America from Mexico. The gangs grew more ruthless and expanded into international drug trade and other crimes, leading to escalating violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Critics of proposals to deport the new crop of youths warn that the United States risks making the same mistake twice, accelerating violence over the border by condemning those fleeing the gang explosion to become either gang members or victims."

Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "Over the past several months, [Former CIA Director George Slam-Dunk] Tenet has quietly engineered a counterattack against the Senate committee's voluminous report [on the CIA's detention & interrogation program], which could become public next month. The effort to discredit the report has set up a three-way showdown among former C.I.A. officials who believe history has been distorted, a White House carefully managing the process and politics of declassifying the document, and Senate Democrats convinced that the Obama administration is trying to protect the C.I.A. at all costs."

Yesterday I linked to a story featuring a videotape of a January 2012 talk by Jonathan Gruber -- one of the architects of the ACA, who said, in response to a question, "... if you're a state and you don't set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don't get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill." This is the same argument conservative plaintiffs made in the Halbig case, & the D.C. Circuit Court agreed. In an interview with Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic, Gruber said, "I honestly don't remember why I said that. I was speaking off-the-cuff. It was just a mistake." Both Gruber & Cohn offer evidence that the intention of Congress was always to grant tax subsidies to eligible citizens of every state -- whether the state had established its own exchange or not.

     ... BUT, in an update, Cohn links to a Breitbart audio in which Gruber says the same thing, in another venue, in the same time frame. So, not a mistake. CW: Clearly, this is what Gruber believed at the time. It helps explain, IMO, how the language got into the bill. If Halbig eventually comes before the Supreme Court, the justices won't hear this new information, but you can bet the conservative justices will know about it. Yesterday, I was skeptical that this was a smoking gun; I'm not skeptical any more, unless the Breitbart audio is a mashup of some sort (not an impossibility, given Brietbart's record). ...

     ... Adam Serwer of MSNBC: "Asked over email whether those remarks [in the Brietbart audio] were a mistake, too, Gruber wrote back, 'same answer.'"

     ... Jon Walker of Firedoglake: "Either Gruber was misleading these people earlier, perhaps in an attempt to promote his consulting work or trick more states into adopting exchanges to make the law seem more popular, or he is misleading people now."

** Never Mind. Katie Zavadski of New York: "When the bodies of three Israeli teenagers, kidnapped in the West Bank, were found late last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not mince words. "Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay," he said, initiating a campaign that eventually escalated into the present conflict in the region. But now, officials admit the kidnappings were not Hamas's handiwork after all." Israel now says the kidnapping & murders were committed by members of a "lone cell."

Paternalism doesn't change through the ages. It just dresses differently. -- Charles Pierce, on Paul Ryan's latest granny-starving scheme

Ben Smith of BuzzFeed: "Starting this Wednesday, Twitter users began pointing out instances in which a BuzzFeed writer, Benny Johnson, had lifted phrases and sentences from other websites. After carefully reviewing more than 500 of Benny's posts, we have found 41 instances of sentences or phrases copied word for word from other sites. Benny is a friend, colleague and, at his best, a creative force, but we had no choice other than letting him go." ...

     ... CW: BuzzFeed, not the NYT, fired Johnson for plagiarizing posts, the content of which were intentionally inconsequential; e.g., "15 things to avoid if you don't want to eat horse meat." These were not exactly master's theses. Apparently BuzzFeed is way more serious than the U.S. Senate. Also probably more serious than the Army War College: contributor Citizen 625 invites you to read Senator General John Walsh's "master's thesis": "If you want to read one god-damn lame masters thesis by John Walsh. The Army War College ought to be embarrassed for their obvious support for grade inflation."

Ed Pilkington, et al., of the Guardian: "Leading experts on the use of medical drugs in capital punishment have accused death penalty states of conducting a 'failed experiment' with new drug combinations following a recent run of drawn-out executions in which prisoners have shown signs of distress on the gurney."

One More Way Fox "News" Undermines Democracy. April Sorrow in Science Daily: "When asked who is going to win an election, people tend to predict their own candidate will come out on top. When that doesn't happen, according to a new study from the University of Georgia, these 'surprised losers' often have less trust in government and democracy.... Despite all evidence to the contrary, 78 percent of Mitt Romney supporters during the 2012 election believed he would win.... Among Romney supporters, watching Fox News Channel had a unique effect.... Those who watched Fox News Channel were even more likely to predict Romney would win, and this in turn had an effect on whether or not they thought government posed a threat." Thanks to James S. for the link.

My New Congressman Is Just as Great as My Old Congressman
                          -- Constant Weader

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "In an extraordinary -- and extraordinarily awkward -- failure of basic situational awareness, a U.S. congressman [Curt Clawson (R-Fla.)] apparently mistook American government officials for Indian government officials during a congressional hearing.... 'I'm familiar with your country. I love your country. And I understand the complications of so many languages and so many cultures and so many histories all rolled up in one,' Clawson said. He added: 'Anything I can do to make the relationship with India better, I'm willing and enthusiastic about doing so.' ... Clawson took office on June 25, replacing Rep. Trey Radel (R), who resigned after getting arrested for cocaine possession last fall." ...

     ... CW: Hey, how was Clawson to know? (Well, okay, maybe from cheat sheet on his table that identified all the hearing participants.) The officials didn't "look American." Clawson also told Rep. Colleen Wakako Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) that he was famililar with Japan & loved Godzilla movies. He greeted Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) with a hearty "Hola, Amigo!" & told him he was familiar with Taco Bell. ...

     ... CW Update: Since I can't access Foreign Policy, which was the source for the story, I read secondary sources. I missed this Gawker piece, which cites the FP story (Update update: the FP story is available here):

During the hearing, [Clawson] repeatedly touted his deep knowledge of the Indian subcontinent and his favorite Bollywood movies.

You cannot satirize this guy.

Beyond the Beltway

Meghan Keneally, et al., of ABC News: "A doctor with a semi-automatic gun and a caseworker who was 'nothing short of heroic' were able to wound and then subdue an armed psychiatric patient after he had killed another caseworker and appeared intent of reloading and shooting more people in a Pennsylvania hospital, police said today." After the assailant Richard Plotts killed the caseworker, Dr. Lee "Silverman dove to the floor, pulled a semi-automatic pistol out his pocket and had a furious close range gun battle with Plotts." CW: We'll be hearing about this from the NRA & their supporters, even though the person who actually subdued Plotts was unarmed caseworker John D'Alonzo. Another doctor, also unarmed, assisted him.

Presidential Race

Charles Pierce is not impressed with Aqua Buddha's outreach to the people his former employee & co-author the Southern Avenger asked to apologize to white people for their high crime rate. CW: I'm not sure if it's guts or chutzpah, but Paul's efforts seem okay to me so far.

News Ledes

AP: "The United States shut down its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort amid a significant deterioration in security in Tripoli as fighting intensified between rival militias, the State Department said."

Washington Post: "Large Palestinian protests against Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip spread across the West Bank on Friday, as U.S.-led talks to secure a lasting truce sputtered. But a brief 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire did begin as promised Saturday and ambulances rushed into no-go zones to look for dead and wounded." ...

... AP: "Israeli aircraft struck 30 houses in the Gaza Strip early Friday, killing a leader of the militant Islamic Jihad group and two of his sons, as Israel's Security Cabinet was to decide whether to expand its operation or consider ideas for a cease-fire."

AP: "The European Union on Friday extended its Ukraine-related sanctions to target top Russian intelligence officials and leaders of the pro-Russia revolt in eastern Ukraine, official documents showed."