The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, March 1, 2015.

New York Times: "Minnie Minoso, the hugely popular All-Star outfielder from Cuba who was the major leagues’ first black player out of Latin America and a treasured figure in the history of the Chicago White Sox, died on Sunday in Chicago. His true age was never entirely clear, but by an account in his autobiography, he would have been 89 when he died." ...

For South Siders and Sox fans all across the country, including me, Minnie Minoso is and will always be ‘Mr. White Sox.' -- President Obama, in a statement

New York Times: "Tens of thousands of people from a wide range of political parties and movements turned out in central Moscow on Sunday to honor the opposition leader Boris Y. Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Friday near Red Square. Many of the mourners walked right past the Kremlin walls, holding signs saying 'I am not afraid.'”

Public Service Announcement

The Hill: "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden on Sunday [Feb. 1] warned that the U.S. could see a 'large outbreak' of measles.... There are at least 102 reported cases in 14 states, according to the CDC. Frieden said that the U.S. is 'likely to see more cases.'... The said the best way to prevent the spread of measles was vaccination.Frieden said despite the U.S.'s 92 percent vaccination rate, there is growing evidence more parents are not vaccinating their children."

Get Off Your Ass! Los Angeles Times (Jan. 19): "New research that distills the findings of 47 studies concludes that those of us who sit for long hours raise our average risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and early death."

White House Live Video
February 27

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

5:00 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the portrait unveiling ceremony for AG Eric Holder

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

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

Adam Goodheart of the Atlantic reviews a book by historian Eric Foner that sheds new light on the Underground Railway that helped Southern black Americans escapes slavery, even though the participants were violating federal law -- openly, too: "It is a little-known historical irony that right up until the eve of Southern secession in 1860, states’ rights were invoked as often by Northern abolitionists as by Southern slaveholders."

CW: How I'll Spend My Weekend. Season 3 of "House of Cards" is up on Netflix now:

Deadline: ESPN suspends Keith Olbermann for engaging in an "inappropriate" "Twitter War" with some Penn State students. ...

... CW: Hard to believe something like this hasn't happened sooner.

Buzz Aldrin during a spacewalk, November 1966. Last year Aldrin described the photo as the "BEST SELFIE EVER." CW: I'd say he's right.

New York Times: "Hundreds of photographs from the early years of the space age are for sale. That includes the first image taken from space — from an altitude of 65 miles by a camera on a V-2 rocket launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on Oct. 24, 1946. (The boundary to outer space is generally placed at 100 kilometers, or 62.1 miles.) The prints are vintage — dating from that era, not modern reproductions — and come from the collection of a single European collector, said Sarah Wheeler, head of photographs at Bloomsbury Auctions in London."

** Charles Pierce comments on wingers' Twitter reactions to the Oscars.

Actor Patricia Arquette accepts her Academy Award & calls for women's wage equality:

... Which sparked outrage on the right. And dismay on the left.

#OscarsSoWhite. Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Sunday was a study in contradictions; there was overwhelming emphasis on the visibility of black people in Hollywood, yet their peers hadn’t deemed their work fit for nomination in any of the major individual categories."

Common & John Legend accept the award for the song "Glory" from the film "Selma":

The Los Angeles Times' Academy Awards page is here. The main story is here. The list of winners is here.

Los Angeles Times: "A Palm Springs home built using Joseph Eichler’s original blueprints is under contract to sell for $1.29 million. The newly built Modernist design, considered the first true Eichler home developed in 40 years, came to market on Tuesday. According to real estate brokers and developers Troy Kudlac and Ross Stout of KUD Properties Inc., which handled the listing side, it sold that day for the asking price." With slideshow.

If you just can't get enough of the Academy Awards, the L. A. Times has a guide to Oscar-related TV shows. If you want to watch the Oscars online, here's where & how.

D. R. Tucker in the Washington Monthly: "... give [Jon] Stewart his props for the positive things he has done over the years. He has inspired a new generation of commentators who will continue to call out political perversity and media mendacity. However, the man was not without his flaws — and the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was a gigantic one. As Olbermann, Maher and Maddow have long argued, sanity has to defeat fear, not figure out some way to get along with it."

Matt Wilstein of Mediaite: "In addition to canceling Joy Reid‘s daytime show The Reid Report, which MSNBC sources confirmed to Mediaite earlier today, the network is also canceling Ronan Farrow’s show and moving Way Too Early’s Thomas Roberts back to a dayside role, anchoring a straight news show from 1-3 p.m. ET daily. Neither Reid nor Farrow have been fired by the network."

USA Today: "Random House Children's Books said Wednesday it will publish a recently discovered manuscript with Dr. Seuss sketches, called What Pet Should I Get?, on July 28. The publisher plans at least two more books based on materials found in 2013 by his widow, Audrey Geisel, and his secretary...."

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-- Constant Weader

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Sunday
Mar012015

The Commentariat -- March 2, 2015

Mike DeBonis & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "House Republican leaders will face a familiar dilemma this week when they try again to approve funding to keep the Department of Homeland Security functioning through the end of September: They know their party is too divided to resolve the crisis on its own but fear the political fallout if they rely on Democrats to get them out of the jam." ...

... Oliver Laughland of the Guardian: "House speaker John Boehner on Sunday dismissed reports that conservative rivals are planning to oust him following a deal to avert a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), amidst rumours that he promised a vote on a 'clean bill' on the issue next week." ...

... Rebecca Shabad of the Hill: "House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Sunday rejected rumors that GOP leaders struck a deal with Democratic leaders to bring a 'clean' Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill to the floor for a vote this week. 'There is no such deal and there’s no such bill,' Scalise said on 'Fox News Sunday.' 'On Friday, there was a bill on the House floor to pass a clean funding bill. We rejected that because we said we’re fighting the president on what he’s doing illegally on immigration.'”

Jose DelReal of the Washington Post: "Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Sunday addressed perceived tensions between the Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insisting that the two parties are committed to working together on international security." ...

... Ruth Eglash & William Booth of the Washington Post: "Hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set off Sunday for Washington, a group of 180 retired Israeli generals and former top security officials warned that his upcoming address to a joint meeting of Congress on Iran’s nuclear program will cause more harm than good." ...

... Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly has a roundup of U.S. commentary on Bibi's Big Ploy. ...

... Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Switzerland to meet again with Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister who earned a Ph.D in international law and policy from the University of Denver, to try to negotiate the very accord that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel arrived in Washington that same day to denounce." CW: As I said last week, if Iran has any intention of ever signing an agreement, now would be the moment to do it. Bibi might do a Rumpelstiltskin & rend himself in two in front of the U.S. Congress. ...

... Julia Edwards of Reuters: "President Barack Obama would veto a bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate allowing Congress to weigh in on any deal the United States and other negotiating countries reach with Iran on its nuclear capabilities, the White House said on Saturday." ...

... Mark Langfan of Israel National News: "The Bethlehem-based news agency Ma’an has cited a Kuwaiti newspaper report Saturday, that US President Barack Obama thwarted an Israeli military attack against Iran's nuclear facilities in 2014 by threatening to shoot down Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran. Following Obama's threat, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was reportedly forced to abort the planned Iran attack. According to Al-Jarida, the Netanyahu government took the decision to strike Iran some time in 2014 soon after Israel had discovered the United States and Iran had been involved in secret talks over Iran’s nuclear program and were about to sign an agreement in that regard behind Israel's back."

** Workers Are People, My Friend. Paul Krugman: "... extreme inequality and the falling fortunes of America’s workers are a choice, not a destiny imposed by the gods of the market. And we can change that choice if we want to."

Jeff Toobin in the New Yorker: "This week, the Court will hear arguments in a momentous case, King v. Burwell, a challenge to a central feature of the Affordable Care Act. But, in contrast to other landmarks in Supreme Court history, the King case is notable mostly for the cynicism at its heart. Instead of grandeur, there is a smallness about this lawsuit in every way except in the stakes riding on its outcome." ...

... Digby: "Also too: these same lawyers [who brought the King suit] heavily lobbied the Republican states not to build exchanges."

E. J. Dionne: "The absurdity of going to the wire on funding the Department of Homeland Security tells us that many in the party, particularly right-wingers in the House, do not care how their inability to govern in an orderly fashion looks to citizens outside the conservative bubble."

Charles Blow: "There remains in the Republican Party, as evidenced by the speakers at [CPAC] , a breathtaking narrowness of vision and deficit of creative thought.... [At CPAC, there] was too much rhetoric about defending, defeating, defunding, deauthorizing. There was so much anti-Obama and anti-Hillary obsessing that the 'pro' alternatives — to the extent that a case could be made — were obscured." ...

... Brian Schatz of Mother Jones: "Rep. Barry Loudermilk, a Georgia Republican who recently became the chair of a key congressional subcommittee on science and technology, didn't vaccinate most of his children, he told a crowd at his first town hall meeting last week.... 'I believe it's the parents' decision whether to immunize or not…Most of our children, we didn't immunize. They're healthy.' Loudermilk's comment sparked sharp criticism, including from Rick Wilson, a prominent Republican strategist who called for the congressman's resignation. Having 'healthy,' unvaccinated kids does not mean that they aren't at risk, or that they won't put others at risk later...." CW: Sorry I forgot to link this last week. Don't worry; I'm sure Loudermilk is still stupid.

Perversion of the Principle of Eminent Domain. Josh Israel & Katie Valentine of Think Progress: "... the groups that usually are vocal proponents of property rights, including the Institute for Justice, have been silent when it comes to [Keystone XL's seizure of private property]. 'I have not seen a single group that would normally rail against eminent domain speak up on behalf of farmers or ranchers on the Keystone XL route,' said Jane Kleeb, founder of the anti-Keystone group Bold Nebraska.... Oil pipelines like Keystone XL are often classified as common carriers — both in Texas and in other states.... The pipeline, [environmentalists] say, is an example of ... 'private to private' transfer — it’s a privately-owned pipeline that will use private land to transport oil, and that oil will end up benefiting private interests." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

"Elected by the People." Garrett Epps of the Atlantic on the language of the Seventeenth Amendment. Where it isn't clear, expect legislators & governors to abuse it.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Tape Debunks O'Reilly's JFK Tale. Tom Kludt of CNN: "... phone recordings indicate that [Bill] O'Reilly learned of the suicide second-hand and was in a different location at the time. Years later, however, O'Reilly would repeatedly claim to have been at the scene. In his 2012 book 'Killing Kennedy,' O'Reilly wrote that he knocked on the door of a South Florida home when suddenly he 'heard the shotgun blast that marked the suicide' of George de Mohrenschildt, a Russian immigrant who knew Lee Harvey Oswald. While promoting the book, O'Reilly said on Fox News that he 'was about to knock on the door' when de Mohrenschildt 'blew his brains out with a shotgun.'" CW: Kludt has produced a good-quality audio tape in which an investigator informs O'Reilly of the suicide. It is absolutely clear that O'Reilly had no first-hand information & that he was not in Florida at the time de Mohrenschildt killed himself; O'Reilly doesn't even know the town where de Mohrenschildt died. ...

... Digby: "... at what point does Fox have to deal with this? Ever?  Isn't it time for people to start asking the allegedly straight reporters Brett Baier, Ed Henry and Chris Wallace what they think about this?"

Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times: "Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Rupert Murdoch’s media holdings in Britain, acquitted last year on charges related to the phone hacking scandal, is likely to return to News Corporation to focus on new avenues for digital and social media, people familiar with the company’s plans said."

Presidential Race

Now He's Severely Confederate. Leigh Munsil of Politico: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says his views have changed on immigration — and he doesn’t support amnesty for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S." CW: Because Obama.

Beyond the Beltway

Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "The Justice Department has nearly completed a highly critical report accusing the police in Ferguson, Mo., of making discriminatory traffic stops of African-Americans that created years of racial animosity leading up to an officer’s shooting of a black teenager last summer, law enforcement officials said.According to several officials who have been briefed on the report’s conclusions, the report criticizes the city for disproportionately ticketing and arresting African-Africans and relying on the fines to balance the city’s budget. The report, which is expected to be released as early as this week, will force Ferguson officials to either negotiate a settlement with the Justice Department or face being sued by it on civil rights charges."

Saturday
Feb282015

The Commentariat -- March 1, 2015

David Newhauser of the National Journal: "Reports of Speaker John Boehner's demise have been greatly exaggerated." ...

... Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senate Republicans are fuming over the House GOP’s decision to extend the standoff over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a move that they say uses up political oxygen and burns precious time on the legislative calendar."

Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: U.S. "Immigration officials are moving to deport at least 150 Bosnians living in the United States who they believe took part in war crimes and “ethnic cleansing” during the bitter conflict that raged in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. In all, officials have identified about 300 immigrants who they believe concealed their involvement in wartime atrocities when they came to the United States as part of a wave of Bosnian war refugees fleeing the violence there. With more records from Bosnia becoming available, the officials said the number of suspects could eventually top 600."

Shahien Nasiripour of the Huffington Post: "The U.S. Department of Education, under fire for its lackluster oversight of student loan contractors, said Friday it will terminate its relationship with five debt collectors after accusing them of misleading distressed borrowers at 'unacceptably high rates.' The surprise announcement follows years of complaints about allegedly illegal debt-collection practices by Education Department contractors, the department's seeming lack of interest in ensuring that borrowers are treated fairly, and the relative opacity of the entire operation." CW PS: Arne Duncan is the most corrupt tool in Obama's box. If you're looking for a cabinet-level department to eliminate, go for Education.

Love in the Age of Feminism. Jeb Lund of the Guardian on CPAC's side in the "War on Women," where the strategy is, "To win the War on Women, you better put a ring on it." Also, "vague problems demand vague solutions." Thanks to James S. for the link. ...

... Love in the Age of Gilded. Lund's column led me to this year-plus-old column by Jill Filipovic of the Guardian: "... stable marriages – the kind that are most likely to produce successful, socially mobile, healthy children – are disproportionately available to people who are already financially stable and well-educated.... Accessible family planning tools, coupled with a reason to delay childbearing, means that when middle and upper-class women give birth, their child has a series of advantages." ...

... AND, Filipovic's column led me to Dana Goldstein's 2013 column in the Daily Beast on why the poor have children outside of marriage. ...

... So here's the thing, Mitt Romney, et al., in your notion that poor people should marry to pull themselves & their children out of poverty: you're putting the cart before the horse. Marriage doesn't fix poverty; poverty fixes marriage.

Lauren Gambino of the Guardian: "Gun-rights advocates are up in arms over a new proposal by Barack Obama’s administration that aims to ban a popular 'armor-piercing' bullet used in AR-15 semiautomatic rifles. The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) this month quietly unveiled a proposal that would ban the popular 5.56mm green tip rifle bullets, in a move that the bureau said would help protect police officers. But pro-gun supporters, from Congress to NRA leader Wayne LaPierre pushing on Friday to 'take back the country', cast the administration’s plans as an attempt to undermine the manufacture and sale of AR-15 rifles themselves." Thanks to safari for the link.

The FCC just voted for government to sensor all content distributed onto the web. Prepare to be brainwashed with Liberal propaganda, and the word Freedom stripped from our vocabulary. -- Fox "News" Commenter

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. If you'd like to know the starting point of this outlandish claim, look only to Fox "News" itself: Here's their Twitter "report." via Scout Finch of the Daily Kos: "Breaking News: The Federal Communications Commission, in a party-line vote, approves sweeping 'net neutrality' plan allowing broad regulation of how Americans use the Internet. http://fxn.ws/1BhIA5S" So, yes, the commenter, & others Finch highlights are somewhere between misinformed & outright insane, but Fox "News" helped make them that way. It's no wonder Fox doesn't care that Bill O'Reilly is a serial liar. Serial lying is their business model. Thanks to contributor Barbarossa for the link.

Sergei Loiko & Carol Williams of the Los Angeles Times: "World leaders on Saturday joined allies of slain Russian opposition leader Boris Y. Nemtsov in mourning the loss of a tireless advocate for democracy in a country increasingly dominated by an autocratic ruler." ...

... The Guardian story, by Shaun Walker & Chris Johnston, is here. ...

... Michael Birnbaum of the Washington Post: "Russia’s imperiled opposition movement on Saturday accused the Kremlin of being linked to the gangland-style murder of a towering figure of post-Soviet politics, amid the first signs that the true culprits may never be known. The killing of Boris Nemtsov — at the Kremlin’s doorstep and beneath the colorful domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral — stunned the opposition." ...

... Julia Ioffe, in the New York Times Magazine, reports on more reactions of Russian liberals about Nemtsov's assassination.

Zack Beauchamp of Vox: "After ISIS's seemingly unstoppable rampage from June to August of 2014, the Iraqi government and its allies have turned the tide. Slowly, unevenly, but surely, ISIS is being pushed back."

Presidential Race

Nicholas Confessore & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Long before the season of baby-kissing and caucus-going begins in early primary states, a no less decisive series of contests is playing out among the potential 2016 contenders along a trail that traces the cold-weather destinations of the wealthy and private-jet-equipped. In one resort town after another — Rancho Mirage, Calif.; Sea Island, Ga.; Las Vegas — the candidates are making their cases to exclusive gatherings of donors whose wealth, fully unleashed by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, has granted them the kind of influence and convening power once held by urban political bosses and party chairmen." ...

     ... CW: Corruption is so much more chic these days. Thanks, Supremes!

Ariana Cha of the Washington Post: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)  took the top spot for the third year in a row at Saturday’s Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll, edging out Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) as the favorite in the last CPAC presidential preference contest before primary voting begins. Paul had been the prohibitive favorite heading into this year’s balloting, which featured 17 candidates. More than 3,000 attendees voted, a 20 percent increase over 2014's turnout."

CW: Yesterday I linked to two stories, one in Jezebel & one in the Daily Beast, about how the Scott Walker administration had used the state budget to remove sexual assault reporting requirements from state universites. Both publications have retracted their stories. The Jezebel correction reads, in part,

Walker delete[d] the requirements because efforts were redundant with their compliance of the Clery Act. Scott Walker's camp assures that he's committed to protecting victims. We reported this piece without full context, and while this piece conveys factual information, omission of that context for that information presents an unfair and misleading picture.

... I've updated the stories in yesterday's Commentariat. Here's the AP story that prompted the corrections.

Today, as is every Sunday, is a light posting day.

Friday
Feb272015

The Commentariat -- Feb. 28, 2015

David Espo & Erica Werner of the AP: President Obama signed the one-week extension into law just before midnight. ...

... Night of the Jackasses. Sean Sullivan & Michael DeBonis of the Washington Post: "Congress passed a one-week stopgap funding measure late Friday to avert a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security at midnight, sending the bill on to President Obama for his expected signature. The last-minute deal came together after a whirlwind day of negotiations in which House Republicans suffered a humiliating defeat when their 20-day funding bill was rejected. After the House bill went down, the Senate sought to pull DHS back from the brink by swiftly passing the one-week bill. The House followed suit shortly thereafter." ...

     ... "Democrats to the Rescue." Daniel Newhauser, et al., of the National Journal report some of the Democrats' behind-the-scenes manuevering & grumbling. Democrats should use their headline in campaign ads. ...

... Gail Collins: "There was absolutely no agreement on what will happen next. We look back with nostalgia on the era when congressional leaders would get together in secret and make deals to pass big, mushy pieces of legislation that were littered with secret appropriations for unnecessary highways and a stuffed-owl museum in some swing vote's district. We complained a lot at the time, but that was because we didn't realize it was the golden age." ...

... Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "Republicans vowing to govern effectively as a congressional majority failed a fundamental test Friday evening, when House leaders could not pass a temporary measure to avert a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, leaving lawmakers scrambling for a solution before money was to run out at midnight. In a stunning and humiliating setback for Speaker John A. Boehner and his leadership team, the House voted 224 to 203 against their plan to extend funding for the department for three weeks. The bill was defeated during a tense evening vote on the House floor, despite leadership optimism that, after a day of arm-twisting behind the scenes, they had the muscle to win a narrow victory." Story has been updated several times. ...

... Banner headline at Politico right now (9 pm ET 2/27/15): "Boehner Fails Again." ...

... John Bresnahan, et al., of Politico: "After 52 GOP lawmakers brought down a three-week spending bill for the agency, House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team were scrambling Friday to find a way to keep the Department of Homeland Security from shutting down at midnight.... The speaker's aides said he had no plans to give up his position, but there was widespread speculation in private among Republican lawmakers and aides about his future." ...

... Josh Hicks of the Washington Post: A "Democratic measure, sponsored by Reps. Brad Ashford (Neb.), Gwen Graham (Fla.), Scott Peters (Calif.) and Ami Bera (Calif.), would halt pay for members of Congress if they don't agree to a new round of funding for the agency by Friday.... The legislation is similar to several bills that would have halted lawmakers' salaries during the government-wide shutdown of 2013. Those measures never made it out of committee.... Federal statute only allows lawmakers to change the salaries of future members of Congress, so the new House bill would put their wages in an escrow account until the potential Homeland Security shutdown ends." ...

     ... CW: Hicks is understating/misstating the case. It isn't "federal statutes" that prohibit Congress from diddling with Congressional salaries; it's the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, "No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened." Were the restriction a statute, Congress could change it with a new statute.

Natasha Singer of the New York Times: "The Obama administration on Friday proposed a wide-ranging bill intended to provide Americans with more control over the personal information that companies collect about them and how that data can be used, fulfilling a promise the president had talked about for years. But some privacy advocates immediately jumped on the proposed legislation, saying it failed to go far enough, particularly given the broad statements President Obama had made on the issue. They said the bill would give too much leeway to companies and not enough power to consumers."

Be Careful What You Wish For. Sandhya Somashekhar, et al., of the Washington Post: "Officials in several Republican states that balked at participating in President Obama's health-care initiative are now revisiting the issue, amid mounting panic over a possible Supreme Court decision that would revoke federal insurance subsidies for millions of Americans.... At least six states where Republican leaders had previously refused to set up state marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act are now considering what steps they might take to preserve the subsidies being paid to their residents. Efforts to try to hold on to the subsidies are even under consideration in South Carolina, which supported the challenge now before the Supreme Court. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) said in an interview that her state may consider setting up a marketplace...." ...

... Be Careful, Addendum. Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "Former Arizona county sheriff Richard Mack, a fierce opponent of Obamacare and a leader in the 'constitutional sheriff' movement, is struggling to pay his medical bills after he and his wife each faced serious illnesses. The former sheriff and his wife do not have health insurance and started a GoFundMe campaign to solicit donations from family and friends to cover the costs of their medical care." Thanks to Haley S. for the link. Also, see yesterday's comments thread for a discussion of this story. ...

     ... CW: For more discussion, scroll down to the comments on Mack's GoFundMe page. (Better do it fast; I'd expect the comments to be disabled/disappeared at any moment). ...

... Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times: "Even if you don't receive Obamacare subsidies, you could still be harmed by the Supreme Court case that could take them away. A court ruling for the plaintiffs in the case, King v. Burwell ... could [cause] surging prices and reduced choice for health insurance shoppers across the income spectrum.... The loss of all those low-income, relatively healthy people could destabilize the individual health insurance markets for everyone else."

White House: "In this week's address, the President reiterated his commitment to middle-class economics, and to ensuring that all hard-working Americans get the secure and dignified retirement they deserve":

Portrait by Simmie Knox. CLICK ON PICTURE TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.Timothy Phelps of the Los Angeles Times: "As he prepares to leave office in the next week or two, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. called for new civil rights legislation, warned of the mounting threat of terrorism and described his worst day in office [-- the day of the Sandy Hook murders --] in a round of farewell media interviews Friday. Noting that the Justice Department said this week it would not prosecute George Zimmerman for shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black youth in Sanford, Fla., Holder said the law needed to be changed to make such prosecutions easier. Before he steps down, Holder is expected to announce that the Justice Department will not seek to prosecute Darren Wilson, the police officer in Ferguson, Mo., who shot and killed Michael Brown last year in a confrontation over a jaywalking offense. The case sparked widespread public protests and clashes with police." ...

... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Obama shed tears and soul legend Aretha Franklin gave a surprise performance as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. bid farewell to the Justice Department on Friday after a 39-year career, including the past six as the nation's top lawyer. During a ceremony to unveil his official portrait, Holder, 64, said he was proud of his accomplishments and praised hundreds of colleagues who turned out to honor him. He was the country's third-longest serving attorney general":

     ... CW: My favorite moment: when President Obama adjusted the stand for Franklin. A President and a Gentleman.

... Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "Attorney General Eric Holder is conducting exit interviews with many major news outlets -- CNN, ABC, NBC, CNN, and Politico -- but not Fox News. And Fox is not happy about this." Why Holder would pass up an opportunity to be on the O'Reilly Channel is beyond me, although Fox "News" veep Michael Clemente had a supposition: "Ultimately, however, we're not surprised that Holder would try to evade a thorough accounting of his record in office, including his decision to investigate our Chief Washington correspondent, James Rosen through an illegal seizure of emails and phone records of Rosen and his parents." ...

... In fact, Holder has said that he "regrets" his wording of the Rosen subpoena.

Prebuttal. David Sanger & Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "Just four days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to a joint meeting of Congress, the Obama administration sought on Friday to refute the Israeli leader's expected critique, arguing that he has failed to present a feasible alternative to American proposals for constraining Iran's nuclear program. In a briefing for reporters, senior administration officials contended that even an imperfect agreement that kept Iran's nuclear efforts frozen for an extended period was preferable to a breakdown in talks that could allow the leadership in Tehran unfettered ability to produce enriched uranium and plutonium." ...

... AFP: "The United States set out what it called its 'bottom lines' to reach a deal with Iran to rein in its nuclear program ahead of new talks next week. Washington had stuck to its guns that it wanted a 'good deal' and had agreed to several extensions of the negotiations 'because we have held firm to certain bottom lines,' a senior US administration official said." ...

... CW: If Iran's negotiators were smart, they would agree to the deal 15 minutes before Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to give his big speech to the U.S. Congress. ...

... Michael Cohen of the Boston Globe on why Congressional Democrats should boycott Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress: Natanyahu has cast his lot with Republicans. "... his vision for Israel is hardly one that Democrats in the United States should be embracing. Netanyahu is ... an opponent of the two-state solution. He has unabashedly -- and in opposition to long-standing US policy -- expanded Israeli settlements in the West Bank." Democrats should not sit & allow themselves to be used as props in a campaign ad for a politician whose views they don't share.

Paul Singer of USA Today: "Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., has repaid the government $35,000 from his personal funds to cover the cost of redecorating his House office in the style of the PBS drama Downton Abbey.... Schock did not tell the Post or other news organization that his office had already paid $35,000 [from federal government funds to his decorator Annie Brahler] through the end of December.... After the Post story, [published Feb. 2,] Brahler reimbursed the U.S. Treasury $35,000, the documents show, and Schock then paid her the same amount from his personal account.... USA Today has reported that Schock had spent more $100,000 than of his taxpayer-funded account on office renovations in prior years. The expenses included thousands for leather furniture, hardwood floors and marble countertops for his offices in his central Illinois congressional district." ...

... Anna Palmer, et al., of Politico: "Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock is canceling fundraising events as he continues to face scrutiny about his spending and whether he accepted improper gifts." ...

... See also yesterday's Commentariat.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. USA Today Editors: Bill "O'Reilly stands exposed of the same kind of puffed-up truth-bending he so regularly derides on his show.... By journalism ethics, Fox should distance itself from its truth-challenged employee. But that's not likely to happen because for Fox and its fans..., having common enemies matters more than factual detail. That's why Fox has left a canyon-wide gap between its standards and those of NBC.... It's unfortunate that neither the network nor its star sees a need for allegiance to the truth. But for O'Reilly and Fox, the perceived vast liberal conspiracy that helped create the network two decades ago means not having to say you're sorry today." ...

... CW: There are two excellent things about the USA Today op-ed: (1) Rather than tiptoeing in with they-said/he-said qualifiers, the editors presents O'Reilly's lying as a given; (2) the paper's readership includes a lot of FoxBots.

Presidential Race

CPAC ♥ Randy. Ben Schreckenger of Politico: "A day after other Republicans tossed out hawkish lines that clashed with his own brand of more cautious foreign policy, the raucous response to [Rand] Paul's Friday afternoon speech from a standing-room-only crowd proved that CPAC remains friendly territory for the Kentucky senator. As he warned against an 'inept' government venturing overseas, he received standing ovations and supporters chanted 'President Paul.'"

Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Jeb Bush survived his Conservative Political Action Conference appearance here on Friday, holding his own on immigration and education in front of activists who see him as the GOP's most moderate potential 2016 candidate. On immigration, Bush ... said the country 'first and foremost' must secure its borders. Still, he also defended his record of supporting in-state tuition and driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants in Florida." ...

... It's So Easy to Say "President Bush." Chris Cillizza, the Washington Post's Permanent Cub Reporter, swoons, "Jeb Bush was very, very good at CPAC today.... Bush was energetic -- maybe due at least in part to nervousness in facing a testy crowd -- and informed. He refused to back down -- particularly on immigration -- from positions that he knew would be unpopular with the crowd. He insisted that Republicans were good at opposing things but bad at 'being for things.' He was composed. He was up to the moment. He looked, in a word, presidential." CW: Remember, people, the Post fired Dan Froomkin & promoted this guy. ...

... CW: For a more comprehensive report on Jeb's performance, go to Andrew Desiderio of Mediaite. That's right, the personality-driven site Mediaite does a better job of reporting the story than does the Washington Post's Cuddly Cub Reporter. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "So Jebbie’s long-awaited Q&A session at CPAC has come and gone, and a lot of people who aren't conservative movement types (e.g., the entire WaPo contingent at the event seemed to be very impressed.) You can expect Jeb's many Beltway fans to make this a Game Changing moment in the 2016 cycle.... But he's still got a 'base problem' that cannot be conjured away, much as his fans wish he could." Also hilarious, Jeb dodges a question on the Congressional hoohah re: funding the DHS by saying, "I'm not an expert on the ways of Washington." ...

... Dana Milbank: "Bush, preceded onstage by 'Duck Dynasty's' Phil Robertson, who gave a speech that rambled from genital herpes to Nazis, deserves big points for bravery -- both for choosing to speak at CPAC and for standing up for his controversial views in his 20-minute tête-à-tête with Hannity.... The two men chose to stand on the stage, awkwardly.... Bush's attempt to affect a casual manner, by inserting a hand into a pants pocket, didn't help. He shifted and fidgeted his way through the performance, at one point losing control of his syntax by suggesting that we 'put ISIS around a noose.' Asked about securing the border, Bush replied with a jovial 'Let's do it, man!' And when Hannity said he had a final question, Bush blurted out, 'Boxers!'" ...

... Mollie Reilly of the Huffington Post reports on Robertson's rant. Robertson was at CPAC "to accept the Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award from Citizens United." ...

... Brendan Bordelon of the National Review: "... Robertson told a CPAC crowd on Thursday that the U.S.A. should be run by Christians, and not any others -- adding ominously that 'we got too many 'any others' in the White House.'" ...

... CW: If Bush wanted to demonstrate some actual "bravery," Dana, he could have remarked that Robertson was a hateful, ignorant crackpot bigot. ...

     ... Update: Looks like Bush let close ally & advisor Ana Navarro do the brave part. Luke Brinker of Salon has the details. Also, turns out Wayne La Pierre of the NRA spoke between Robertson's & Bush's appearances. What a warmup! (Bush, BTW, is a typical GOP Second Amendment-hugger. He signed Florida's notorious stand-your-ground bill into law, though after George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, he said the law did not apply to that case since Zimmerman chased Martin. He opined that "it's always good to review laws," suggesting some applications of the stand-your-ground law were, um, overkill.)

Marco's "Epic Error." Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Potential 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) inexplicably told a conservative audience on Friday that President Barack Obama lacked a military strategy to confront ISIS because he feared upsetting Iran.... There's just one problem: Iran has been fighting ISIS just like the United States and has publicly urged America to take a larger role in the operation. Obama has even sent a letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggesting anti-ISIS cooperation." ...

... CW: Marco likes to differentiate himself from many of the other GOP presidential candidates by claiming that unlike many of them, he has foreign policy "experience": he sits on both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee & Senate Intelligence Committee. I guess "sits" is the operative word, because he sure hasn't been paying attention. This wasn't a "gaffe" on Marco's part; it was an extended display of ignorance. ...

... Steve Benen: "... for Rubio to criticize Obama for adopting a policy Rubio endorses, all while getting Iran's position backwards, is a bad sign for a guy whose 'clear view of what's happening in the world' is supposed to set him apart from his GOP rivals."

James Downie of the Washington Post: "... even [Scott] Walker knew that compari[ng Wisconsin union members to terrorists] was in poor taste: Afterward, he told reporters, 'There's no comparison between the two, let me be perfectly clear.' But what Walker said right after that clarification -- 'I'm just pointing out the closest thing I have to handling a difficult situation was the 100,000 protesters I had to deal with' -- shows just how deep the GOP's foreign policy problem goes. Across the board, the Republican field has no serious candidates with real foreign policy experience." ...

... Paul Waldman: "... what's alarming isn't that [Scott Walker] 'compared' a bunch of Wisconsinites to ISIS, which of course he wasn't trying to do. What's alarming is that he thinks that you need the same skills and approach to dealing with unhappy constituents as you do with terrorists.... All the Republican candidates ... will all be eager to tell you that on this problem, Barack Obama is weak and indecisive, whereas if you're sufficiently tough, the problem can be solved. But you know who was tough, uncompromising, and brimming with the 'confidence' Walker cites? George W. Bush." ...

... YEAH BUT. Laura Ingraham notices Scott Walker is just like Reaganus Maximus (even if maybe she had to make up the Reagan story). Also, too, never forget: the media hate conservatives. Steve M. comments. ...

... Scott Walker, the Pro-Rapist Candidate. Natasha Vargas-Cooper of Jezebel: "Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's proposed budget -- which would cut $300 million dollars out of the state's beloved public university system -- has a non-fiscal bombshell tucked in between its insane pages. Under Walker's budget, universities would no longer have to report the number of sexual assaults that take place on a campus to the Department of Justice. Under Walker's plan, university employees who witness a sexual assault would no longer have to report it. There are no policy recommendations in Walker's budget how or what would replace these reporting mechanisms." ...

     ... **UPDATE: The story is not true. The Walker budget removes the wording at the request of the University, because it was redundant.

... Brian Weidy of the Daily Beast: The language "may be the governor's ploy to pick a fight with the federal government. Under the Clery Act, any school that receives public funding must report sexual assault incidences to the federal Department of Justice, so Walker's proposal goes just short of explicitly violating Title IX regulations -- and it still may be crossing a legal line.... Even Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has expressed reservations about Walker's proposal." ...

     ... **UPDATE: This story is not true. See Jezebel correction above.

... CW: Now ask yourself -- Is seeking to nullify a portion of major federal civil rights law a good political move? Will the general public see standing up for rapists as a heroic effort by a little guy fighting evil federal regulations?

Simon Maloy of Salon on Rick Perry's "border security" scam. Yeah, he's still telling people -- including the CPAC crowd -- that he secured the border when Obama wouldn't. Facts, be damned.

Beyond the Beltway

** David Sirota, in a story republished in Raw Story, has figured out why former presidential contender Chris Christie settled with Exxon for a teeny fraction of the amount the state had sued for in a $9BB environmental disaster case. If you pay taxes in New Jersey, you should be outraged at the sheer audacity of this legalized theft. P.S. Christie has done this before. ...

... Here's more from Scott Fallon & James O'Neill of the Bergen Record. ...

... CW: Bridgegate was a prank. The deals with Exxon, Occidental & other comprise a multi-billion-dollar scandal.

Kevin McDermott of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Tom Schweich, Missouri's Republican state auditor and a leading contender for the governor's office in next year's election, died Thursday after apparently shooting himself in his Clayton home.... A 911 call was made from Schweich's home at 9:48 a.m., seven minutes after Schweich had left a voicemail requesting an interview with a Post-Dispatch reporter.... The Post-Dispatch interview, which was also to include an Associated Press reporter, was set at his Clayton home for later in the day.... On Tuesday morning, Schweich confided in Post-Dispatch Editorial Page Editor Tony Messenger that he believed that John Hancock, the newly elected chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, had spread disinformation about Schweich's religion. That topic was what Schweich wanted to discuss with reporters for the Post-Dispatch and the Associated Press Thursday. In several conversations via text and phone in the days leading up to Thursday morning, Schweich told Messenger that Hancock mentioned to people in passing that Schweich was Jewish. Schweich wasn't Jewish. He was a member of ... an Episcopal congregation in Clayton.... He said his grandfather was Jewish, and that he was 'very proud of his connection to the Jewish faith.'"

News Lede

AP: "The trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev can stay in Massachusetts, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said any high-profile case would receive significant media attention but that knowledge of such case 'does not equate to disqualifying prejudice.'... In its 2-1 ruling, the appeals court found that the defense did not meet the standards necessary to have the trial moved."

Thursday
Feb262015

The Commentariat -- Feb. 27, 2015

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "The Senate on Friday passed a bill to finance the Department of Homeland Security, sending the legislation to the House with just hours to avert a partial shutdown of the agency at midnight. The spending bill, which removed restrictions on President Obama's executive action on immigration that were included in a bill passed by the House, easily passed the Senate, 68 to 31. Democrats also blocked a separate bill to undo the president's action." ...

... At 11:00 am ET, Reuters has a breaking news banner which reads, "House of Representatives approves rule for three-week funding extension of homeland security funding." No link. ...

     ... Update. Here's the brief, by David Lawder: "A Republican bill to provide a three-week funding extension for the Department of Homeland Security cleared a procedural hurdle in the House of Representatives on Friday, indicating support for final passage in the chamber.The House voted 240-183 along strict party lines...." ...

... Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "House Republicans on Thursday presented a plan for a stopgap bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security for three weeks, raising hopes of averting a looming shutdown of the agency. The plan, which the leaders pitched to rank-and-file Republicans in a closed-door meeting, was the first sign they were willing to pass a new bill after passing another one weeks ago that takes aim at President Obama's executive actions on immigration and has been blocked in the Senate. But the plan faces an uncertain outlook, as House Democratic leadership decided to marshal support against it." ...

... John Boehner really doesn't give a fuck anymore:

... Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday doubled down on his promise to block a conference committee with the House on funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). House Republicans on Friday are poised to vote on a short-term bill to fund DHS through March 19, along with a motion to go to conference with the Senate to negotiate a final funding deal. In the conference committee, Republicans could decide whether the bill should reverse President Obama's executive actions on immigration. With the Senate poised to approve a 'clean' bill that funds DHS through September, Reid is vowing that Democrats will filibuster to ensure the conference committee never takes place."

Rebecca Ruiz & Steve Lohr of the New York Times: "The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to regulate broadband Internet service as a public utility, a milestone in regulating high-speed Internet service into American homes. Tom Wheeler, the commission chairman, said the F.C.C. was using 'all the tools in our toolbox to protect innovators and consumers' and preserve the Internet's role as a 'core of free expression and democratic principles.' The new rules, approved 3 to 2 along party lines, are intended to ensure that no content is blocked and that the Internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes...." ...

... Cecilia Kang & Brian Fung of the Washington Post: "Cable and telecommunications companies, as well as GOP lawmakers, quickly condemned the move as an overreach of government intervention into their businesses, and lawsuits are expected to follow." ...

... Jeff Roberts of Gigaon: "It took four million public comments and a pitched political fight invoking everything from civil rights to Presidential power, but the FCC has finally passed new rules on net neutrality."

... Stacey Higgenbotham of Gigaon has a brief take on experts' responses to the FCC move. ...

... CW: Speaking of "experts," I've been reading some right-wing comments about the new FCC ruling. As nearly as I can tell -- because the writers aren't particularly articulate -- they think that the "secret" regulations which will guarantee "net neutrality" are ones that will allow the "liberal media" to steal the airwaves or Internets waves or something from the more popular, free-market Fox "News." So "net neutrality" = "free stuff for liberals." I despair.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), in a Washington Post op-ed, explains why she will not be attending Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before the U.S. Congress.

Chutzpah. If they're [the Obama administration] not looking at some kind of contingency plan, I think that's irresponsible. It's kind of like hostage-taking. Jonathan Adler, an architect of King v. Burwell

The problem with the argument is that Adler [is] both taking and shooting the metaphorical hostages, and ... asking Obama to tell the public that everyone is fine while the hostage-takers look for a getaway car. -- Scott Lemieux, in LG&M

... BTW, law professor Eric Segall does a close (or maybe even a cursory) reading of the ACA & finds that the plain text of the law -- not just a reasonable interpretation -- makes clear that federal insurance exchanges are to be treated just like exchanges established by states. The King plaintiffs' lawyers' interpretation is what's absurd, not the IRS's correct reading. Via Greg Sargent.

Lucia Mutikani of Reuters: "U.S. economic growth braked more sharply than initially thought in the fourth quarter amid a slow pace of stock accumulation by businesses and a wider trade deficit, but the underlying fundamentals remained solid." ...

     ... CW: Hard to believe. The big political news of the 4th quarter was that Republicans won big in the November elections, as expected. According to Mitch McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor just after the new, improved Congress was sworn in, the new, improved economy "appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama Administration's long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress." (Brian Beutler: "Parse McConnell carefully, and he's actually selling Republicans a little short. The uptick doesn't just 'appear' to coincide with the expectation of a new Republican Congress. It absolutely does coincide with the expectation of a new Republican Congress. Relatedly, things that coincide are called 'coincidences.'") Shall we hold our breaths till McConnell explains that "economic grown braked more sharply" because businesses were reflecting their "expectation of a new Republican Congress"?

Josh Barro of the New York Times: "The big challenge for President Obama -- and for Republicans seeking their own agenda to woo the middle class -- is that middle-income economic fortunes are driven mostly by private employers.... Right now, the best middle-class economic agenda might be to do no harm: Let the positive trends on job growth and gas prices continue, watch them flow through to wages, and hope the Federal Reserve doesn't get in the way and that Congress and the president can keep policy at an approximate status quo...." ...

... CW: Barro is a conservative (but not the usual crazy type). So not a word about, say, passing legislation to empower unions, which would help drive up worker wages; nothing about enacting tax legislation that would make it more financially attractive for businesses to invest in workers as opposed to stockholders, executives & financial instruments; no acknowledgment that driving up the minimum wage will lead to higher wages for better-paid workers; no acknowledgment that infrastructure spending would help middle-class workers, etc. This is a New York Times columnist advocating for Republican do-nothing policies, & you should be aware of that. ...

... New York Times Editors: "In a nation where the long decline in unions has led to a pervasive slump in wages, Republicans' support for anti-union legislation is at odds with their professed commitments to helping the middle class. Right-to-work laws do not attract businesses and create jobs, as proponents claim. Rather, they are linked to lower wages, fewer benefits and higher poverty. They win support among conservative lawmakers not because they are in the public interest but because cutting labor costs is a priority of far-right groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is tied to the Koch brothers. The Wisconsin bill is almost verbatim from a model provided by ALEC."

In case you were wondering, Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is still stupid:

... Jaime Fuller of New York: "Although Inhofe is not the first lawmaker to question global warming by looking out the window on any given day, many scientists and science journalists have shown that 'polar vortex' conditions may be a result of climate change, not a refutation of it. And although we have had a few unexpected chances to make snowballs in the U.S., the trend has been toward more and more unseasonably warm days."

Randal Archibold of the New York Times: "Cuba's spot on the American list of states that sponsor terrorism is emerging as a major sticking point in the effort to restore diplomatic ties with the United States and reopen embassies that have been closed for nearly five decades. On Friday, Cuban and American officials will meet in Washington for a second round of talks -- the first were in Havana in January -- aimed at carrying out the vow of President Obama and President Raúl Castro to restore diplomatic relations as a prelude to more normal ties. But whether Cuba should be removed from the state terrorism list is a particularly nettlesome issue...."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

** This Is LOL-Funny. Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "Former colleagues of Bill O'Reilly ... have disputed his account of surviving a bombardment of bricks and rocks while covering the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. Six people who covered the riots with O'Reilly in California for Inside Edition told the Guardian they did not recall an incident in which, as O'Reilly has claimed, 'concrete was raining down on us' and 'we were attacked by protesters'.... Several members of the team suggested that O'Reilly may instead be overstating a fracas involving one disgruntled Los Angeles resident, who smashed one of their cameras with a piece of rubble. Two of the team said the man was angered specifically by O'Reilly behaving disrespectfully after arriving at the smoking remains of his neighbourhood in a limousine, whose driver at one point began polishing the vehicle. O'Reilly is said to have shouted at the man and asked him: 'Don;t you know who I am?'"

If Fox "News" Does It..., Homina Homina. Andrewl Kirell of Mediate: Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) "has been a fierce advocate in encouraging websites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to police its users posting videos or images that promote or support ISIS actions in any way.... CNN anchor Carol Costello led the lawmaker into a trap of self-contradiction by getting him to agree that ISIS execution videos should 'absolutely' be banned from websites like YouTube":

... Costello begins the exchange about Fox "News" at about 4:25 min. in.

Aaron Schock's knockoff Downton.

Downton Abyss. Marin Cogan of New York: "How Downton Abbey Office Décor Morphed Into a D.C. Spending Scandal." The accidental story of Aaron Schock's (R-Ill.) lavish spending. A thoroughly enjoyable read about a thoroughly obnoxious little twit who is getting his comeuppance for wasting your money. He's lawyered up! ...

... MEANWHILE, Politico found a new & apropos ethics violation: Schock dined at Buckingham Palace with Prince Charles & Duchess of Cornwall, & attended some other toney London events without paying or receiving the approvals required. He also held a fundraiser last September & failed to pay for the facility or for services that included -- massages & custom-rolled cigars for the guests. ...

... Now, thanks to revelations of Schock's taxpayer-funded hedonistic jaunts, all stemming from the Downton story ...

... Anna Palmer, et al., of Politico: "Rep. Aaron Schock has hired two prominent Washington defense attorneys and a public relations firm to respond to the swirling controversy and a potential ethics probe over how he has financed his lavish lifestyle." CW: Are we paying his lawyers & PR firm, too?


Souad Mekhennet & Adam Goldman
of the Washington Post have some sketchy details on the brutal ISIS killer "Jihada John," who is "Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton from a well-to-do family who grew up in West London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming." ...

... Anne Barnard of the New York Times writes a heartbreaking piece on ISIS's barbaric rampages in Northern Syria & Iraq: "... to residents, it ... seems to be part of the latest effort by the Islamic State militants to eradicate or subordinate anyone and anything that does not comport with their vision of Islamic rule -- whether a minority sect that has survived centuries of conquerors and massacres or, as the world was reminded on Thursday, the archaeological traces of pre-Islamic antiquity." CW: To me, too.

Barbarians Everywhere. AP: "A prominent Bangladeshi-American blogger known for speaking out against religious extremism was hacked to death as he walked through Bangladesh's capital with his wife, police said Friday. The attack Thursday night on Avijit Roy, a Bangladesh-born U.S. citizen, occurred on a crowded sidewalk as he and his wife, Rafida Ahmed, were returning from a book fair at Dhaka University. Ahmed, who is also a blogger, was seriously injured."

Paul Krugman: "Provisionally, at least, Greece seems to have ended the cycle of ever-more-savage austerity. And ... in so doing, Greece has done the rest of Europe a favor."

Scott Kaufman of the Raw Story: Liberals & smartasses take over CPAC's "Ask a Speaker a Question" hashtag." Typical question: "@SenMikeLee In your opinion Senator, who is the laziest minority group?" ...

Presidential Race

I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their [sic.] power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil.... We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on a 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world. -- Gov. Scott Walker, Thursday

If Scott Walker thinks that it's appropriate to compare working people speaking up for their rights to brutal terrorists, then he is even less qualified to be president than I thought. -- DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee, Thursday

The protesters in Wisconsin ... earned plenty of legitimate criticism. But they're not ISIS. They're not beheading innocent people.... They don't deserve to be compared to murderous terrorists. -- Jim Geraghty of the National Review, Thursday ...

... Because Schoolteachers Are a Lot Like Terrorists. Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Thursday said that his experience with protests over his law eliminating collective bargaining rights for public employees has prepared him to confront terrorists." ...

... Reversal of Fortunes. Jonathan Martin & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "In the early stages of the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is the hot property, his poll numbers rising and the chatter from activists and contributors growing steadily more positive. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is the mirror opposite, his political stock falling along with his standing in surveys of Republicans." It showed at CPAC. ...

... Shushannah Walshe of ABC News: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie continued to bash the media [Thursday] at the Conservative Political Action Conference, playing into a popular topic among the activists in the crowd, saying 'elite folks from the media' cover him 'every day.'... This is the second day in a row Christie has taken on the media, specifically The New York Times, possibly laying out a theme that tends to be popular with the conservative primary voting base and something he can return to in a 2016 stump speech. On his monthly radio call-in show, 'Ask the Governor,' he ... blamed the bad headlines on 'the national media following you around trying to justify their air fare going over there.'" ...

... Paul Krugman: "Gail [Collins (column linked here yesterday)] thinks [the New Jersey pension brouhaha] is the end of [Chris] Christie’s presidential ambitions; I think this gives his party too much credit for caring about reality. Christie probably is toast ... because ... he apparently doesn't know when to stop bellowing -- you do need to make nice to the big money, and he hasn't.... The Christie affair is yet another demonstration that there are no true fiscal hawks on the right, only deficit peacocks who strut around and preen themselves on their supposed fiscal virtue, but never show themselves willing to make any sacrifices for the cause."

Olivia Nuzzi of the Daily Beast: "Ted Cruz, CPAC's favorite travelling salesman, was back and selling his favorite product: himself." With an assist from ruthless interrogator sidekick Sean Hannity.

Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "On Friday..., [Jeb Bush ]will appear at the Conservative Political Action Conference, taking part in a Q&A with Fox News host Sean Hannity. How the crowd reacts could indicate just how steep a challenge Bush will face in winning over the GOP grass roots, especially during the primary. CW: I wonder of Hannity will ask him why he loves America.

McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed: "To an extent that would have been unthinkable in past elections, one of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination has stocked his inner circle with advisers who are vocal proponents of gay rights. And while the Bush camp says his platform will not be shaped by his lieutenants' personal beliefs, many in the monied, moderate, corporate wing of the GOP -- including pragmatic donors, secular politicos, and other members of the establishment -- are cheering the early hires as a sign that Bush will position himself as the gay-friendly Republican in the 2016 field."

Nick Gass of Politico: "Ben Carson kicked off the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference with a speech that laid out his vision for the economy, foreign policy and domestic issues. The retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon offered up red meat to the early-morning crowd...."

Beyond the Beltway

There is no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you. -- Will Rogers

... Tim Egan: "Oklahoma ... is facing a $611 million budget shortfall. So, of course, the politicians who run this fine piece of the prairie are busy with legislation to keep children ignorant, and to protect gay conversion therapy -- the emotionally abusive and psychologically unsound attempt to, you know, fix the homosexuals. The push against professional educators is part of a larger national effort by conservatives to get rid of the history they don't like.... The party of science denial is now getting into history denial.... If you believe in American exceptionalism, then empower students with critical thinking skills so they can defend it. Don't give them a Bible lesson."

Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "A long-fought legal battle to recover $8.9 billion in damages from Exxon Mobil Corporation for the contamination and loss of use of more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, marshes, meadows and waters in New Jersey has been quietly settled by the state for around $250 million.... Richard B. Stewart, a New York University law professor and a former head of the Justice Department's environmental division, noted the 'striking disparity between the damages claimed, which have been exhaustively litigated, and the settlement amount,' particularly with a judicial ruling expected soon." ...

... CW: Exxon always wins. Big.

Missouri state Auditor Tom Schweich, a leading Republican candidate for governor in 2016, died Thursday in 'an apparent suicide,' police said. Schweich, 54, was hospitalized earlier Thursday following a single self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in suburban St. Louis. He was pronounced dead at Barnes Trauma Center, according to Clayton, Mo., Police chief Kevin Murphy."

News Ledes -- R.I.P.

Guardian: "Prominent Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has been shot dead in Moscow. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and a sharp critic of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was reportedly shot four times in the chest by a killer in a passing car. The killing took place in the very centre of Moscow late on Friday evening on a bridge near St Basil's Cathedral and the Kremlin, two days before Nemtsov was due to lead a major opposition rally in Moscow."

New York Times: "Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut 'Star Trek,' died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83."

New York Times: "The Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, the scrappy former president of the University of Notre Dame who stood up to both the White House and the Vatican as he transformed Catholic higher education in America and raised a powerful moral voice in national affairs, died late Thursday. He was 97."

New York Times: "Earl Lloyd, who became the first black player to appear in an N.B.A. game when he took the court for the Washington Capitols in October 1950, three and a half years after Jackie Robinson broke modern major league baseball's color barrier, died on Thursday in Tennessee. He was 86."