The Ledes

Monday, August 31, 2015.

New York Times: "Former Gov. Marvin Mandel, whose record of modernizing Maryland’s state government was overshadowed by a messy divorce and a fraud conviction for helping associates profit from a racetrack deal, died on Sunday in St. Mary’s County, Md. He was 95." While in office, he left his wife for another woman. Of the other woman, whom Mandel married, his first wife Bootsie asked, “How can she be a first lady when she isn’t a lady first?” ...

     ... The Washington Post obituary is here. The Baltimore Sun's obituary is here.

NBC News: "Dr. Wayne Dyer, the self-help guru whose best-seller 'Your Erroneous Zones' was adopted by millions as a guide to better living, has died at 75, his family and publisher said Sunday."

New York Times: "Wes Craven, a master of horror cinema and a proponent of the slasher genre best known for creating the Freddy Krueger and 'Scream' franchises, died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 76."

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, August 30, 2015.

New York Times: "Iran’s judiciary sentenced two people to 10 years in prison on Sunday for spying for the United States and Israel, but their names were not released, local media reported. It was not clear if the Iranian-American reporter Jason Rezaian, who faces similar charges, was one of them." ...

     ... AP Update: "Leila Ahsan..., The lawyer for Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who was tried for espionage in a Revolutionary Court..., says the court has yet to issue its verdict on Rezaian."

New York Times: "Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and acclaimed author who explored some of the brain’s strangest pathways in best-selling case histories like 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,' using his patients’ disorders as starting points for eloquent meditations on consciousness and the human condition, died Sunday at his home in New York City. He was 82." ...

... Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times: "Dr. Sacks ... was a polymath and an ardent humanist, and whether he was writing about his patients, or his love of chemistry or the power of music, he leapfrogged among disciplines, shedding light on the strange and wonderful interconnectedness of life — the connections between science and art, physiology and psychology, the beauty and economy of the natural world and the magic of the human imagination."

AP: "Los Angeles and the U.S. Olympic Committee have struck a deal that will make the city America's 2024 Olympic bidder pending approval by the city council next week. If the council approves the deal at a meeting Tuesday, the USOC will announce Los Angeles as its candidate, a person familiar with the process told The Associated Press."

AP: "Turkish fighter jets have carried out their first air strikes as part of the US-led coalition against Islamic State in Syria. A Turkish foreign ministry statement said that late on Friday the jets began attacking Isis targets across the border in Syria that were deemed to be threats to Turkey."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times [Aug. 20]: "As many as 60,000 American women each year are told they have a very early stage of breast cancer — Stage 0, as it is commonly known — a possible precursor to what could be a deadly tumor. And almost every one of the women has either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, and often a double mastectomy, removing a healthy breast as well. Yet it now appears that treatment may make no difference in their outcomes."

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

White House Live Video
August 28

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

Go to


Maureen Dowd: Trump has got the best of Jeb! & Hillary: "Trump’s 'gusto,' as he likes to call it, has thrown into sharper relief the grinding-it-out, impatient entitlement, the overthinking and overcorrecting of Jeb and Hillary. Both campaign like they are owed, not because of their great national achievements, but because of their byzantine family dynamics."

The Oliver Brief. We do note, however, that the so-called 'Insular Cases,' which established a less-than-complete application of the Constitution in some U.S. territories, has been the subject of extensive judicial, academic, and popular criticism. See, e.g., Juan Torruella, The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid, 77 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 1 (2008); Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories, Youtube (Mar. 8, 2015), -- Footnote, Paeste v. Guam, Ninth Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon

Jordan Golson of Wired: "Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage. The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars — there’s no flying beams of light, no 'pew! pew!' sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down. People keep flying their drones where they shouldn’t.... Luckily, there haven’t been any really bad incidents — that is, no one has been killed by a civilian quadcopter or plane, yet."

"The cream cheese is too damn much." Scott Lemieux and I agree.

Sunday Morning Come-Down. Politico: "Al Sharpton is leaving MSNBC's weekday dayside lineup, and moving to Sunday mornings. Sharpton's last weekday 'PoliticsNation' will be Sept. 4. He moves to Sundays a month later on Oct. 4, according to a memo sent to MSNBC staff by the channel's president Phil Griffin Wednesday evening."

Washington Post: "Stephen Hawking believes he’s solved a huge mystery about black holes."

Washington Post: "The case for canonizing [Sister Blandina Segale,] the 19th century Italian-born nun, whose run-in with Old West outlaw Billy the Kid is the stuff of legend, was presented at a ceremonial 'first inquiry' in Albuquerque on Tuesday. If approved, her name will be sent to the Vatican, where it will head down the long (and somewhat secretive) path toward sainthood."

New York Times: Can't sidewalk scaffolding be attractive? Yes, it can.

Terror in Toledo! ABC News: "A man caught on video the moment a public art installation in Toledo, Ohio -- a giant, 250-pound red ball -- decided to run away and start rolling down streets lined with parked cars. Part of a Toledo Museum of Art exhibit, the RedBall Project had been wedged between Roulet Jewelers and Ice Restaurant in downtown Toledo when a thunderstorm and strong winds this past Wednesday evening knocked the ball loose and caused it to start rolling away, according to Kelly Garrow, the museum's director of communications."

... AP: "America’s two foremost Democratic families, the Obamas and the Clintons, mingled on Saturday[,August 15,] as politics mixed with summer repose on swanky Martha’s Vineyard."

Washington Post: "Offering such perks as 'free' bags and 'free' airline tickets, [some credit] cards are big on promises, but they often fall short on the delivery. And although these financial instruments are legal, experts say they are not always worthwhile."

Kori Schulman of the White House: "Today (August 14), the White House joined Spotify — and our inaugural playlist was hand-picked by none other than President Obama. When asked to pick a few of his favorite songs for the summer, the President got serious. He grabbed a pen and paper and drafted up not one, but two separate summer playlists: One for the daytime, and one for the evening." ...

... CW: If you're subscribed to Spotify, you can play the President's list from the linked story (at "Today".)

Washington Post: "Google, one of the best-known brands on the planet, on Monday[, August 10,] radically restructured itself under the corporate name Alphabet, an almost unprecedented shift that reflects the company’s far-reaching ambitions and the vast Web it helped evolve. The move represents Google’s biggest push yet to ... turn the company into a multifaceted General Electric for the digital age."

Bureaucracies Move in Mysterious Ways. New York Post: "The city [of New York] moved to fire an employee for missing about 18 months of work, even though he had the best excuse of all time — he was dead. Bureaucrats at the Human Resources Administration filed charges against Medicaid-eligibility specialist Geoffrey Toliver accusing him of going AWOL — even though his death by cancer was reported in an online obituary.... 'It is my understanding that . . . his employer was fully aware that he was not able to come back to work,' Toliver’s brother Anthony told The Post. 'It is my understanding that my brother’s family spoke directly to his supervisor during his long hospitalization and informed them of his death.'” ...

... CW: Doesn't surprise me at all. When I lived in Manhattan, my mother sent me a gift which came directly from the catalog company from which she had bought it. My father had died a few years earlier, but my mother was still getting these catalogs in his name. So my father's name, not hers, appeared on the package as the giftor. He had never lived in New York City. He was not the addressee on the package. The package didn't come from New York City. And my father was dead. But never mind all that. A few months after I received the gift, I got a letter at my New York home addressed to my father. It was a notification from the city ordering my father to show up for jury duty. Or else.


Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "For years and years, plenty of websites (Mediaite included) have written about the many times Jon Stewart has 'destroyed,' 'annihilated,' or 'eviscerated' anything from terrorism to race relations to Fox News. Well..., on his penultimate night, Stewart discovered that he didn’t actually do any of that":

Exit Laughing. John Koblin of the New York Times: "Since [Jon] Stewart started hosting 'The Daily Show' 16 years ago, the country’s trust in both the news media and the government has plummeted. Mr. Stewart’s brand of fake news thrived in that vacuum, and turned him into one of the nation’s most bracing cultural, political and media critics. With his over-the-top presentation of the news — his arms swinging wildly, his eyes bulging with outrage, followed by a shake of the head and a knowing smile — Mr. Stewart attracted a generation of viewers ready to embrace an outlier whose exaggerations, in their view, carried more truth than conventional newscasts." ...

...Stewart hasn't done any interviews prior to ending his run on the "Daily Show," but he did sit down with "Daily Show" producers for an "exit interview" on Episode 20 of the "Daily Show Podcast without Jon Stewart." You can listen to it here.

Los Angeles Times: "Donald Sterling filed for divorce Wednesday[, August 5] in Los Angeles Superior Court, almost a year after a contentious legal fight with his wife, Shelly, led to the sale of the Clippers.... However, the court later rejected Wednesday’s filing because it was incomplete, according to a spokeswoman. The matter is expected to be re-filed."

New York Times: "Jason Fine, the editor of Men’s Journal, will take over as the managing editor of Rolling Stone as part of what the magazine’s publisher, Jann S. Wenner, described as a 'shake-up.'”

"Where Are My Pancakes?"

The Word Salad King. If Donald Trump's good friend & possible running mate Sarah Palin is the Word Salad Queen, it stands to reason that the Donald would be the king. Slate challenges you to diagram this "sentence." To help you out, Slate has transcribed the words in the order delivered. Not that the order delivered matters much:

Obama Slept Here

For a mere $22.5MM this Martha's Vinehard house on 10 acres can be yours. The Obamas stayed in the house for 8 days in 2013. The current owner bought the property, which has expansive views of the Atlantic & Chilmark Pond, in 2000 for about $3MM. So, hey, the price is negotiable. Slide show.

The Birth of Franklin. Washington Post: After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Glickman, a white California mother wrote to cartoonist Charles Schultz urging him to introduce a black character to his "Peanuts" cartoon strips. When Schultz demurred, saying he was afraid "it would look like we were patronizing our Negro friends," Glickman got two of her "Negro friends" who backed the idea to write to Schultz. A short time later, Schultz introduced Franklin. Oh, yes, & strips showing Franklin in an integrated! classroom upset Southern editors, according to Glickman.

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The Commentariat -- August 31, 2015

Elections Matter. Noam Scheiber of the New York Times: "With little fanfare, the Obama administration has been pursuing an aggressive campaign to restore protections for workers that have been eroded by business activism, conservative governance and the evolution of the economy in recent decades. In the last two months alone, the administration has introduced a series of regulatory changes. Among them: a rule that would make millions more Americans eligible for extra overtime pay, and a guidance suggesting that many employers are misclassifying workers as contractors and therefore depriving them of basic workplace protections.... A little more than a week ago, a federal appeals panel affirmed an earlier regulation granting nearly 2 million previously exempted home care workers minimum wage and overtime protections. And on Thursday, President Obama’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board issued an important ruling that makes it easier for employees of contractors and franchises to bargain collectively with the corporations that have sway over their operations."

Steven Mufson of the Washington Post: "President Obama in Anchorage on Monday will announce the renaming of Mount McKinley, honoring the 25th president, to Mount Denali, an Athabascan name used by generations of Alaska Natives that means 'the great one.' The White House said Obama would rename the continent’s tallest peak in order to improve relations with Native Americans. As a central part of the Athabascan creation story, Denali carries cultural importance to many Alaska Natives."...

Maria La Ganga of the Los Angeles Times on Kivalina, Alaska: "This is what climate change looks like, up close and personal. In this town of 403 residents 83 miles above the Arctic Circle, beaches are disappearing, ice is melting, temperatures are rising, and the barrier reef Kivalina calls home gets smaller and smaller with every storm. There is no space left to build homes for the living. The dead are now flown to the mainland so the ocean won't encroach upon their graves. Most here agree that the town should be relocated; where, when and who will pay for it are the big questions. The Army Corps of Engineers figures Kivalina will be underwater in the next decade or so."

Nahal Toosi of Politico: "Dozens of former members of Congress want lawmakers on the job to know they sympathize with the stress they feel over the Iran nuclear deal, but that they should vote for it anyway. The message is contained in the latest in a slew of letters being sent to Congress by both opponents and supporters of the nuclear deal ahead of the mid-September vote. It warns that the risks of scuttling the agreement 'include the increased likelihood of a military confrontation.'... Notable signatories include former Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, a Republican who has long been active in promoting nuclear non-proliferation, and former Sen. George Mitchell of Maine, a Democrat who served as a special envoy to the Middle East."

Nick Gass of Politico: "Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley on Sunday announced his support for the Iran nuclear deal, becoming the 31st Democratic senator to back President Barack Obama on the issue. Just two Senate Democrats have come out against the deal -- New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez. Just three more senators are needed in the Senate to sustain any veto of a resolution of disapproval." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Julian Hattem of the Hill: "The father of one of the journalists murdered live on the air in southwest Virginia is pledging to keep up a sustained fight to enact new gun restrictions.  'I am going to be working on this for a long time,' Andy Parker, whose 24-year-old daughter, Alison, was shot to death last week while reporting on camera, said on CNN’s 'State of the Union.'”

Steve M. notices that two NYT columnists -- Ross Douthat & Maureen Dowd -- look at Donald Trump and see "a reflection of themselves! Funny how that works." CW: It's also evidence of brilliant politics. Voters looked at Barack Obama the same way. Sadly, it took him five or six years to give more than a hint of the guy I thought he was. He wasted all of his first term making nice with the scum on Capitol Hill, & he's still being pretty damned nice to the dirty rats of Wall Street. ...

Presidential Race

** Paul Krugman: "... those predicting Mr. Trump’s imminent political demise are ignoring the lessons of recent history, which tell us that poseurs [like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Walker & Bobby Jindal] with a knack for public relations can con the public for a very long time. Someday The Donald will have his Katrina moment, when voters see him for who he really is. But don’t count on it happening any time soon."

George Packer's "Comment" in this week's New Yorker compares & contrasts the populism of Donald Trump & Bernie Sanders. CW: I don't think Packer gets what populism is. How can it be "populist" to pit one large segment of the population against another? Populism must have broad appeal, & that's what Sanders offers; moreover, he has workable ideas on how to achieve some of the public's goals. He is not ashamed to be a politician & he believes popular leaders can undo the influence of wealthy elites on political hacks. Although Trump has some achievable goals -- likely fairly taxing hedge funds -- his appeal is in reinforcing the fears & bigotry of poor & middle-class white people. Trump actually wants to eradicate (deport) one huge group of people. For the most part, he is as naive in his own way as Obama was when he ascended to the presidency & thought he could "reason" with Republcans. Both Trump & Obama think/thought they could persuade kept politicians to repudiate their elite owners. ...

... Paul Rosenberg in Salon (August 16), does a better job, IMO, of describing the ideological differences between Sanders & Trump: where Sanders is a true poulist, Rosenberg argues, Trump bends toward fascism.

Niall Stanage of the Hill: "Donald Trump tops The Hill’s rankings of 2016 GOP candidates for the first time, as the race cranks up to a new level of intensity with debate season underway. Trump has utterly transformed the race, challenging conventional wisdom every step of the way. The Hill did not even rank Trump when we first assessed the field in May, and he came in eighth in our most recent version in early July. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has also risen sharply, from tenth place to third. Meanwhile, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee have all slid downward."

Like Democrats in 2007 who looked for their savior in Barack Obama, Republicans in 2015 seem to be looking for their savior in Trump. -- Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register

That pretty much tells you all you need to know about the difference between Democratic & Republican voters. -- Constant Weader

Peter Beinart of the Atlantic (August 28): "Calling Trump a bigot misses the point. It implies that he has genuine convictions. He’s an opportunist using bigotry to feed his megalomania." CW: This rings true. It's why it is not a contradiction for Trump to say he'll "deport all the illegals" & at the same time claim, "I love Mexicans." It's why he could simultaneously embrace the ridiculous, racist birther movement & tout his "good relationship with the blacks." In Trump's view, everybody is a pawn to be gamed. If he has to lose some pawns to win his game, so be it.


Once we’ve secured the border, once we’ve proven we can do this, once we’ve stopped the Obama administration’s policy of releasing 104,000 violent criminal illegal aliens in one year. Sen. Ted Cruz, interview on Fox News, Aug. 25, 2015

Cruz is combining two other statistics: convicted criminal aliens from detention who were awaiting the outcome of deportation proceedings, and deportable aliens released under the administration’s guidelines for 'prosecutorial discretion.'... [Cruz's numbers] add up to slightly more than 104,000, but it also mixes up two years.... Cruz’s statistic falls apart with the emphasis on 'violent criminals.' The percentage of violent criminals among the 68,000 who were released is unclear, but said to be relatively small. The detailed list of 30,000 released from detention turns up relatively few who actually were charged with violent crimes. -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post

Whatever Happened to Scottie? Dan Balz & Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: Scott "Walker’s backers see a campaign discombobulated by Trump’s booming popularity and by his provocative language on immigration, China and other issues. They see in Walker a candidate who — in contrast to the discipline he showed in state races — continues to commit unforced errors, either out of lack of preparation or in an attempt to grab for part of the flamboyant businessman’s following. These supporters say ... there also needs to be a clear acknowledgment inside the campaign that the governor has yet to put to rest questions about his readiness to handle the problems and unexpected challenges that confront every president." CW: Maybe these "backers" should also acknowledge that their candidate is a dunce & a nasty piece of work. ...

... Scott Walker says he's "looking 'em [-- voters, that is --] in the eye & telling 'em what I'm going to do" because that's the kind of "leadership' "Americans want." So it's a little hard to understand why he's too skeert to give a straight "leadership" answer on birthright citizenship. ...

Crazy Immigration Idea o' the Day. Julian Hattem of the Hill: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is open to the idea of building a wall along America’s northern border with Canada, he said on Sunday. Given that the northern border poses a potential risk for terrorists to bleed into the U.S., the Republican presidential candidate said that he would not rule out a wall to increase security there. 'That is a legitimate issue for us to look at,' Walker said on NBC’s 'Meet the Press.'" CW: Hey, at least it would create a honking-big jobs stimulus for the next 20 years. Meanwhile, can't we just immediately incarcerate anyone who speaks with a suspected Quebecois accent? (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Crazy Clinton Slam o' the Day. Mark Hensch of the Hill: "With Hillary Clinton, it just seems to be one scandal after another,” [Bobby Jindal] told host Martha Raddatz on ABC’s 'This Week.' 'She’s literally one email away from going to jail,' Jindal said. 'What I fear is that maybe we’ll have to go to the Chinese and the Russians to actually see her emails.'” CW: Literally one email? I think it must be that one where she did a blast-mailing of the nuclear codes.

Standard-Issue Clinton Slam: Mark Hensch: Chris "Christie argued on Sunday that [Hillary] Clinton’s actions as secretary of State flaunted her disregard for the laws governing transparency and national security. He added that she is now presenting a haughty attitude.... 'The worst part about this is her arrogance,' Christie said.... 'This is not royalty in the United States,' he said, referring to Clinton as 'queen.' 'This is not a familial ascendancy.' 'She’s wiped away tens of thousands of emails that have relevant information because she feels entitled to do that,' Christie added.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the popular Democrat from New Hampshire and the first woman to be elected senator and governor in the state, will publicly endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton next Saturday, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign said."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The roiling controversy over Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state looks likely to intensify Monday with the State Department set to release the largest batch of her messages made public thus far."

Julian Hattem: "Sen. Bernie Sanders is arguing that his record makes him the best qualified presidential candidate to push through new limits on guns. Despite criticism that the independent Vermonter has been to the right of many liberals on gun rules, Sanders said on CNN’s 'State of the Union' that he is best positioned to negotiate new restrictions preventing mentally ill people from acquiring weapons.... 'In fact, coming from a rural state that has almost no gun control, I think I can get beyond the noise and all of these arguments and people shouting at each other and come up with real constructive gun control legislation which, most significantly, gets guns out of the hands of people who should not have them,' he said."


The Commentariat -- August 30, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Nick Gass of Politico: "Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley on Sunday announced his support for the Iran nuclear deal, becoming the 31st Democratic senator to back President Barack Obama on the issue. Just two Senate Democrats have come out against the deal -- New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez. Just three more senators are needed in the Senate to sustain any veto of a resolution of disapproval."

Crazy Immigration Idea o' the Day. Julian Hattem of the Hill: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is open to the idea of building a wall along America’s northern border with Canada, he said on Sunday. Given that the northern border poses a potential risk for terrorists to bleed into the U.S., the Republican presidential candidate said that he would not rule out a wall to increase security there. 'That is a legitimate issue for us to look at,' Walker said on NBC’s 'Meet the Press.'" CW: Hey, at least it would create a honking-big jobs stimulus for the next 20 years. Meanwhile, can't we just immediately incarcerate anyone who speaks with a suspected Quebecois accent?

Crazy Clinton Slam o' the Day. Mark Hensch of the Hill: "With Hillary Clinton, it just seems to be one scandal after another,” [Bobby Jindal] told host Martha Raddatz on ABC’s 'This Week.' 'She’s literally one email away from going to jail,' Jindal said. 'What I fear is that maybe we’ll have to go to the Chinese and the Russians to actually see her emails.'” CW: Literally one email? I think it must be that one where she did a blast-mailing of the nuclear codes.

Standard-Issue Clinton Slam: Mark Hensch: Chris "Christie argued on Sunday that [Hillary] Clinton’s actions as secretary of State flaunted her disregard for the laws governing transparency and national security. He added that she is now presenting a haughty attitude.... 'The worst part about this is her arrogance,' Christie said.... 'This is not royalty in the United States,' he said, referring to Clinton as 'queen.' 'This is not a familial ascendancy.' 'She’s wiped away tens of thousands of emails that have relevant information because she feels entitled to do that,' Christie added.”



Dan Balz & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz prevented consideration of a resolution at the party’s summer meeting here that praised President Obama and offered backing for the nuclear agreement with Iran, according to knowledgeable Democrats.... As a fallback, James Zogby, the co-chair of the Resolutions Committee, led a move to prepare a letter of support for the president and the Iran agreement that eventually gained signatures from a sizable majority of the members of the national committee."

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "Four years after nearly collapsing amid the financial crisis, Amalgamated [Bank] has aggressively carved out a position as the left’s private banker, leveraging deep connections with the Democratic establishment to expand rapidly in a niche long dominated by larger but less nimble financial institutions. The bank’s rise has been driven not only by the pace and complexity of modern campaigns, which demand increasingly specialized financial services, but by their vastly expanded scale: Billion-dollar presidential campaigns are expected for both parties in 2016, bolstered by super PACs raising hundreds of millions of dollars more.... Founded and still principally owned by labor unions, the 92-year-old bank has signed up hundreds of new political clients, including most of the Democratic Party’s major committees, the progressive organizations that align with them, and several of their top Senate recruits."

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "Whether California’s application of the death penalty is so drawn out and arbitrary that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment will be argued on Monday before a federal appeals court in Pasadena. If the lawyers for a condemned man are victorious, the case could bring a reprieve to more than 740 prisoners now on death row at San Quentin State Prison and send legal ripples across the country."

Josh Lederman of the AP: "With melting glaciers and rising seas as his backdrop, President Barack Obama will visit Alaska next week to press for urgent global action to combat climate change, even as he carefully calibrates his message in a state heavily dependent on oil." ...

... Steven Myers of the New York Times: "Some lawmakers in Congress, analysts, and even some government officials say the United States is lagging behind other nations, chief among them Russia, in preparing for the new environmental, economic and geopolitical realities facing the [Alaskan] region."

** Roberto Ferdman of the Washington Post: "... over the next two years, bottled water is expected to eclipse soda as the most consumed packaged drink in the United States.... [Peter Gleick, a sustainable-water researcher, estimates that] only about a third of all bottles of water consumed in the United States are recycled, meaning that about two-thirds end up in the garbage.... As of 2006, it took 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water, according to the Pacific Institute. In other words, before even including the energy required to produce the actual bottles — which is significant — bottled water was already three times as inefficient as its unpackaged alternative."

Presidential Race

Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "... Bernie Sanders, riding an updraft of insurgent passion in Iowa, has closed to within 7 points of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential race." ...

... Steve M.: "... Ben Carson is only 5 points behind Trump -- and at 18%, he's 10 points ahead of the next two guys, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz, who are at 8%. (Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are tied for fifth, at 6%.) What's more, Carson has the highest favorable rating among Republicans, at 79%.... He's not an obnoxious sexist blowhard like Trump, but he's the one other candidate in the race who seems as unqualified and ill-informed as Trump, and, in his quiet way, he says plenty of imprudent, outrageous things. Abortion is comparable to human sacrifice! Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery! President Obama acts like a psychopath! The Advance Placement history curriculum is so bad it would inspire students to sign up for ISIS! Who's waiting to seize the GOP lead if Trump falters? Not Bush or Kasich or Rubio or Walker. This guy."

Pied Piper. Ben Schreckinger of Politico: "Donald Trump says it’s not all about him. No, seriously. Campaigning in Nashville, Tennessee, Trump on Saturday paid homage to his supporters.... 'This is a movement,' said Trump, who often speaks about himself in campaign appearances. 'I don’t want it to be about me. This is about common sense. It’s about doing the right thing.'” ...

... James Hohmann of the Washington Post: "Sharpening his pitch to what he calls 'the silent majority,' Donald Trump presented himself Saturday as the 'law and order' candidate in the 2016 presidential race, pledging to 'get rid' of gangs and give more power to police officers. Speaking to the National Federation of Republican Assemblies for more than an hour, in the heart of a Southern city where student sit-ins helped launch the 1960s-era civil rights movement, the Republican complained that cops are afraid to be tough in the face of more scrutiny over their tactics." ...

Are there any women in this room who are in love with their husbands who wouldn’t be telling them everything? -- Donald Trump, on why Hillary Clinton aide Human Abedin should not be trusted with classified information ...

... Jennifer Shutt of Politico: "... Donald Trump alleged late Friday that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin shared classified information with husband Anthony Weiner, while also referring to the former congressman as a pervert.... 'Who is Huma married to? One of the great sleezebags of our time: Anthony Weiner. So now — think of it — Huma is getting classified secrets. She is married to Anthony Weiner, who is a perv,' Trump said during a campaign rally in Norwood, Massachusetts.... 'So she's married to Anthony Weiner. Do you think there is even a 5 percent chance she is not telling Anthony Weiner — now of a public relations firm — what the hell is coming across?" Trump said. Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill called Trump's comments about Abedin and her marriage 'patently false.'... Hillary for America Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri [wrote,] 'Trump repeated bizarre attack on Huma today. Lots of married men worked at State, why is Huma the one who would pass on secrets to spouse?'" ...

... CW: Wouldn't it be good for a presidential candidate to have, say, a shred of evidence before he accuses someone of espionage?

... Welcome to Dystopia. Rebecca Shabad of the Hill: "To create a system that tracks illegal immigrants in the United States, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants to look to the way FedEx tracks packages.... 'So here's what I'm going to do as president: I'm going to ask Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express, to come work for the government for three months at Immigration and Custom Enforcement and show these people,' Christie added. 'We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in, and then when your time is up ... however long your visa is, then we go get you. We tap you on the shoulder and say, 'Thanks for coming. Time to go."'... Christie’s campaign spokeswoman, Samantha Smith, is Fred Smith’s daughter." CW: Freeedom for me; ankle bracelets for thee. ...

... CW: Saturday while I was doing some gruntwork, I occupied myself with thinking up ludicrous ways Republican could enforce thier ideology. People-tracking chips came to mind. Meanwhile, not far up the road from me, a GOP presidential candidate was actually proposing to physically track visitors "from the moment they come in" into this country. Christie makes the Patriot Act look like a milquetoast measure. Republicans are scary. ...

... Daniel Politi of Slate: "The United States issued 9,932,480 nonimmigrant visas last year, according to the State Department." CW: Richard Nixon had only 20 people on his infamous enemies list; Christie plans to put 10 million ordinary people on his. ...

... Peter Whoriskey of the Washington Post: "In 2010, in his first months as governor, [Christie] favored securing the border as well as 'a common sense path to citizenship for people.' But earlier this year, Christie said he no longer supported the path to citizenship for undocumented residents and, in fact, criticized Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton's plan as 'pandering.'"

Jessica Winter of Slate: "Wisconsin governor Scott Walker — who has framed the fight for equal pay as 'pit[ting] one group of Americans versus another,' who has called abortions performed to save a woman's life the result of a 'false choice,' who has indicated support for forcing C-sections on women who require a medically necessary abortion, and who has cited his assault on teachers' and nurses' unions as preparation for taking on ISIS as president — has a gift designed just for the ladies.... It's a shirt!" CW: Yeah, who wants equal pay & reproductive rights when she can get a shirt (that reportedly will really show her curves as it runs two sizes too small) in Reagan Red.

Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly was upset by all the GOP hatemongering, so she turned to a source of hope & inspiration: President Obama.

Beyond the Beltway

Rebecca Santana & Kevin McGill of the AP: "The Gulf Coast and New Orleans observed the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest storms in American history, in ways both devout and festive. Church bells rang and brass bands played as people across the storm-ravaged coast remembered the past and looked to the future."

Liam Stack & Nate Scwerber of the New York Times: "A bystander accidentally shot by an undercover New York City police officer on Friday afternoon during an illegal firearms sting gone awry has died, the Police Department said on Saturday. The bystander, identified as Felix Kumi, 61, was shot twice in the torso as the officer fired at a man involved in the botched sting. That man, a 37-year old who was not immediately named, was hit three times and hospitalized in serious condition. Mr. Kumi died early Saturday at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, according to the police. The New York Police Department said that in the midst of the sting, a suspect pulled a gun on the undercover officer, stole the cash changing hands in the transaction and ran. When the officer opened fire, police officials and witnesses said, he shot the suspect, but he also hit Mr. Kumi, 61, who was walking to retrieve his van from a nearby repair shop."

AP: "The Kentucky clerk at the centre of a conflict over same-sex marriage closed her office on Saturday, ahead of a rally protesting her refusal to issue marriage licenses. The protest came a day after Rowan County clerk Kim Davis asked the US supreme court to grant her 'asylum for her conscience'.”

Manny Fernandez & David Montgomery of the New York Times: "Law enforcement officials said Saturday that a 30-year-old Houston man had been arrested in the fatal shooting the night before of a sheriff’s deputy as he filled the gas tank of his patrol car.... Even as officials at an earlier news conference stressed that they had not established a motive, they tied the attack to the wave of protests across the country over police shootings, including the demonstrations after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner on Staten Island." ...

     ... Update: St. John Barned-Smith & John D. Harden of the Houston Chronicle: "Shannon J. Miles was arrested and charged in the death of Deputy Darren Goforth after authorities spent much of the day questioning him. Miles walked up behind Goforth at the gas station at Telge and West at about 8:20 p.m. Friday and shot him repeatedly in the back without any apparent provocation or motive, said Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman...."

Way Beyond

Griff Witte & Anthony Faiola of the Washington Post: "The smugglers responsible for driving 71 migrants to their deaths in the back of a cramped, unventilated truck in Austria were part of a vast international syndicate that has been a subject of multiple criminal investigations, a leading European law enforcement official said Saturday. So far, just four relatively low-level operatives have been arrested in connection with the deaths...."


The Commentariat -- August 29, 2015

Campbell Robertson & Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "Returning [to New Orleans] Friday 10 years after this city was inundated, former President George W. Bush painted a rosy picture of the recovery since Hurricane Katrina, saying that the devastation had 'sparked a decade of reform' in public schools and declaring, 'New Orleans is back, and better than ever.' Visiting one of the schools that became a charter in those early years after the storm, Mr. Bush focused on education, citing the failings of the city’s public schools before Hurricane Katrina, and the marked improvement since." ...

... Campbell Robertson: In Mississippi, then-Gov. Haley Barbour took from the poor & uninsured to give to a pet project: renovating & expanding the Port of Gulfport. Barbour's administration "projected 2,586 permanent maritime jobs by 2015" in the renovated port. "According to its most recent federal filing, the port has roughly 470 fewer jobs than it had at the time of Mr. Barbour’s 2007 request. Of the 1,300 direct new jobs the port is supposed to have created, it can claim 99." ...

... CW Projection: This is precisely the kind of "jobs success" we can expect if the Keystone XL pipeline goes in. "A study by the Perryman Group, a firm commissioned by TransCanada to examine the potential economic impact of the project, predicts that anywhere between 250,348 and 553,235 permanent jobs will be created." Politifact puts the number of permanent jobs Keystone XL is likely to create at 50. So it's somewhere around half-a-million or 50. ...

... Peter Whoriskey of the Washington Post: "Starchitects" can't design cheap housing. Actor Brad Pitt's project to create affordable, attractive housing for New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward was a fail when it came to the contributions of top architects. "... the vast majority of the homes built so far came from designs created by other, lesser-known architects that Pitt hired." ...

... Here's a 2011 critique of the Pitt project by San Francisco architect Mark English. (Rebecca Firestone of English's firm did the write-up.) CW: I'm pretty damned sure that with a quadrille pad & a trip to the neighborhood & chats with residents, I could come up with a much cheaper, more pleasing design than any of these big shot pros did. And I wouldn't build them on site; I'd prefab them in a big old, convertible warehouse right there in the Ninth. In fact, Habitat for Humanity & other charity groups did just that (albeit they used Chinese drywall, & eventually did major renos to remove & replace the corrosive sheetrock.)

Ha Ha! Just kidding. Occupants way more equal than you.Mark Sherman & Sam Hanenel of the AP: "The Supreme Court ... can keep protesters off its marble plaza without violating their constitutional rights, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. The inviting 20,000-square-foot, open-air plaza can remain a protest-free zone because the court has an interest in preserving decorum and the idea that judges are not influenced by public opinion and pressure, said a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.... The decision reversed a lower court ruling that declared unconstitutional a law prohibiting protests on the plaza." ...

... CW: Funny how it's okay for protesters to right smack-dab get in the faces of private individuals entering a Planned Parenthood clinic to seek medical attention, but it's not okay to get even within potential earshot of the public officials who are the Supremes. Because decorum. There's an inverse relationship between the power of the protested & the free-speech rights of the protester.

Julian Hattem of the Hill: "A federal appeals court on Friday overturned a lower court ruling against the National Security Agency’s controversial collection methods. The ruling from the three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses the lower court’s decision, which in December of 2013 declared that the NSA’s bulk phone data collection was unconstitutional." CW: Two of the judges on the three-judge panel are Reagan appointees (one an infamous partisan) & one a Dubya appointee well-known for her winger views.

Timothy Easley of the AP: Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis wants the Supreme Court to absolve her from having to do her job of issuing marriage licenses. Because gay people. According to her lawyer, Davis wants "asylum for her conscience." "Davis cannot be fired because she is an elected official. The Legislature could impeach her, but that is unlikely given that many state lawmakers share her beliefs. The Republican president of the state Senate spoke at a rally last week in support of Davis." CW: Oh, please. If you're a vegan clerk, should you be granted "asylum for your conscience" so your county can quit granting fishing & hunting licenses? Should a Roman Catholic building inspector be "forced" to grant a church construction permit to a band of heathen Baptists? Davis has a right to her bigoted beliefs & her religious convictions, but she does not have the right to enforce them on others. It's that simple.

Jennifer Liberto of Politico: "As a tumultuous week in the markets came to a close, central bankers meeting in the Grand Tetons on Friday to discuss inflation confronted an unfamiliar sight: Hundreds of critics from the left and right gathering to attack the central bank's policies at its summer getaway in the mountains. The shocking appearance of activists at the usually quiet retreat is a sign of a growing battle over when and whether the Fed should raise interest rates."

CW: I haven't been covering Bobby Jindal much because he's as likely to be our next president as are Jim Gilmore and I, but I'm sorry I missed this:

It is therefore with disappointment that I read of the White House's plans to make this visit part of a tour for your climate change agenda. I understand that your emphasis in New Orleans will – rightly – be an economic development, the temptation to stray into climate change politics should be resisted.... While you and others may be of the opinion that we can legislate away hurricanes with higher taxes, business regulations and EPA power grabs, that is not a view shared by many Louisianans. -- Bobby Jindal, in a letter to President Obama, reported August 26

... Well, President Obama disappointed Bobby, & Charles Pierce is very unkind to the governor with an advanced degree in science from Oxford U.

Griff Witte & Anthony Faiola of the Washington Post: "Pressure to change Europe's dysfunctional asylum system grew on Saturday as the continent awoke to an impassioned call from the United Nations Secretary General [Ban Ki-moon] for governments to do more to address a never-before-seen influx of men, women and children that shows no sign of abating despite the rising risks.... In an implicit rebuke to European leaders who have squabbled for months while doing little to resolve the crisis, he called for governments to offer 'comprehensive responses, expand safe and legal channels of migration and act with humanity, compassion and in accordance with their international obligations.'" ...

... The New York Times series on the migrants continues.

White House staff say the boss is having an eventful late-term presidency. CW: They're not wrong:

... CW: Your Weekly Hagiography is usually so saccharine that I don't embed it, but if you can ignore the rah-rah, these videos -- which usually are published on Fridays -- are often fairly interesting.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. CW Mea Culpa. Orin Kerr of the Washington Post, with whom I often disagree, is right about this: Adam Liptak's New York Times story, linked here yesterday, on Justice Clarence Thomas's heavy reliance on other people's writing was misleading. I looked at Liptak's "evidence" & thought so, too, but I linked the story anyway because I'm a partisan hack. I should have at least noted that where Liptak presented the basis for his analysis, the data showed that while Thomas was the most-copying justice, the difference between his practices & those of other justices was pretty small, in fact, no more than "a rounding error," as Kerr puts it, in one statistical analysis. So I apologize. Liptak was unfair. So was I. This was crap journalism & crap linking. And I know better.

Presidential Race

Patrick Healy of the New York Times: "Hillary Rodham Clinton staked her claim on Friday to lead Democrats in 2016 and beyond, delivering a fiery speech to hundreds of party officials in which she attacked Donald J. Trump and other Republicans for 'hateful' remarks — 'The party of Lincoln has become the party of Trump,' she said acidly — and pledged to rebuild the Democratic political machine to help candidates win races nationwide. But if Mrs. Clinton was seeking to unify Democrats behind her, two of her rivals for the nomination — Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont — ... used their speeches at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting to aim unusual broadsides at the party overtly and Mrs. Clinton implicitly." ...

... Patrick Healy: "Taking his outsider message into the heart of the Democratic establishment, Senator Bernie Sanders ... challenged hundreds of the party’s leaders on Friday to embrace his candidacy, warning that the huge crowds of supporters he has drawn may not vote for Democratic candidates in 2016 unless he is at the top of the ticket." ...

... Patrick Healy & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Martin O’Malley ... deliver[ed] a fiery speech Friday that condemned his party’s leadership for what he called a process 'rigged' to help Hillary Rodham Clinton — namely, curtailing the number of presidential primary debates. Accusing party leaders of trying to keep Democratic ideas hidden as the Republican presidential candidates spew 'racist hate' from their debate lecterns, Mr. O’Malley ... questioned the decision to hold 'four debates and four debates only' before the first four states finish voting." ...

... Bradford Richardson of the Hill: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) believes the Democratic Party is using its limited primary debate schedule to rig the nomination process. 'I do,' Sanders reportedly responded when asked Friday whether he agrees with former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s assertion that the debate system is 'rigged.' The two Democratic presidential candidates were speaking at the summer meeting of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in Minneapolis on Friday. 'This sort of rigged process has never been attempted before,' O’Malley said in his speech earlier Friday."

Nick Gass of Politico: Hillary Clinton told reporters she was trying to do a better job of "explaining to people what's going on" with her e-mails. CW: Yeah, the press could do a better job of this, too.

Eugene Scott of CNN: "Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told reporters Thursday that he attends a church in Manhattan, but the church released a statement saying the real estate developer is not an 'active member.'" CW: Despite Trump's & the media's history of scrutinizing & hypothesizing on President Obama's religious beliefs & practices, I find "investigative journalism" of this sort creepy & invasive even when Trump is the subject. It's true that Trump's attempts to bolster his religious creds deserve attention, but I think the Marble Collegiate Church erred in releasing information about Trump's affiliation with the church. Besides, one could attend a church every Sunday & not be a member, so the church statement isn't even dispositive. Also, many people "feel" they're affiliated with a certain religion or particular church, even if they never or seldom show up for services.

Ed Kilgore: Peggy Noonan talked to three Americans -- well, one of them is a Dominican-born deli-worker, & another a DJ on a Spanish-language station, so iffy Americans -- & found out "Trump is the Tribune of the People [Kilgore's characterization]. But it’s not real clear which side she’s on. Maybe neither, being an objective journalist and all." Also, the Dominican guy "says the Spanish-language call-in radio station he listens to is a hotbed of Trjump support, and that listeners sided with The Donald in his altercation with Jorge Ramos, because they’re legal immigrants and they hate the illegal kind." The DJ backed up Domincan guy. CW: Now, I'm sure Trump was right: he's going to get the Hispanic vote. All the "legals" -- the only ones who can vote except for all the "illegals"/voter-fraudsters -- love him! ...

... Keith Brekhus of PoliticsUSA: "On the same morning [Wednesday] that Trump was bragging that he would win the Hispanic vote, a newly released Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 81 percent of Hispanic voters had an unfavorable opinion of Trump, compared to just 13 percent who viewed him favorably." ...

... Still Feeling Those Good Vibrations. CW: Sorry, pollsters. I totally trust Pegs on this. Just as I did when, the day before the 2012 election, she predicted Romney would win, no matter what the Nate Silvers were saying because "All the vibrations are right.... There’s the thing about the yard signs. In Florida a few weeks ago I saw Romney signs, not Obama ones. From Ohio I hear the same. From tony Northwest Washington, D.C., I hear the same." The Trump movement is not just vibes; it's fucking tectonic plate shifts: "Something is going on, some tectonic plates are moving in interesting ways."

Governor Yahoo!. Mark Katz of the WNYC: "Gov. Chris Christie has criticized Hillary Clinton in recent days over her use of private email to do State Department business. But the only email he provided to the Legislature last year came from his private Yahoo account.... Both New Jersey and federal guidelines say government business should not be conducted over personal email accounts.... But Christie insists Clinton's transgression is unique in that she maintained a private server...." CW: IOKIYAR. Also, too, a Yahoo! account could never be hacked & Yahoo would never share your e-mails with the NSA even if it cost them $250K a day in fines. I have no idea if Clinton's private server is "more private" than Christie's, but the odds are it is.

Rats Abandoning the Sinking Ship Doofus. Alex Isenstadt & Marc Caputo of Politico: "Three top Jeb Bush fundraisers abruptly parted ways with his presidential campaign on Friday, amid internal personality conflicts and questions about the strength of his candidacy, Politico has learned. There are different versions of what transpired."

Beyond the Beltway

Erik Ortiz of NBC News: "A former New Hampshire prep school student accused of raping a freshman girl as part of a campus tradition was acquitted Friday of the most serious charges against him. Owen Labrie ... was acquitted of the three felony rape charges and of misdemeanor simple assault. He was convicted on three counts of misdemeanor sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child and a felony count of using a computer to seduce a minor under 16, which requires him to register as a sex offender." ...

... Mark Stern of Slate explains how New Hampshire's statutory rape law determined the verdict.

Annals of "Justice," Ctd. Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "A young black man arrested by police in Portsmouth, Virginia, on the same day that one of the city’s officers fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year-old, has been found dead in jail after spending almost four months behind bars without bail for stealing groceries worth $5. Jamycheal Mitchell, who had mental health problems, was discovered lying on the floor of his cell by guards early last Wednesday, according to authorities. While his body is still awaiting an autopsy, senior prison officials said his death was not being treated as suspicious." CW: No, I guess not.

"Guns Everywhere." AP: "Authorities are investigating after a shooting at Savannah State University killed a student and prompted a lockdown at the Georgia school Thursday night. A statement posted on the university's website identified the deceased as Christopher Starks, a 22-year-old junior from the Atlanta area. The statement says he died at a hospital of gunshot wounds sustained during an altercation at the student union." ....

... Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "


The Commentariat -- August 28, 2015

Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "President Obama came to ... [New Orleans] on Thursday to make a case for his entire presidency: that when disaster strikes, the federal government should help not only to rescue the stranded but also to rebuild better and fairer than before. 'The project of rebuilding here wasn't just to restore the city as it had been,' Mr. Obama said to several hundred people at a new community center in the once-devastated Lower Ninth Ward. 'It was to build a city as it should be -- a city where everyone, no matter what they look like, how much money they've got, where they come from, where they're born, has a chance to make it.' The president explicitly linked New Orleans's recovery from Hurricane Katrina, which struck 10 years ago this month, to the nation's recovery from the 2008 recession":

Lydia DePillis of the Washington Post: "... the National Labor Relations Board ... voted Thursday to redefine the employee-employer relationship granting new bargaining powers to workers caught up in an economy increasingly reliant on subcontractors, franchisees and temporary staffing agencies.... In a case that drew intense lobbying by both business and union groups, Democratic appointees on the panel split 3-2 with Republicans to adopt a more expansive definition of what it means to be an 'joint employer,' making it more difficult for companies to avoid responsibility through various forms of outsourcing."

Timothy Cama of the Hill: "A federal judge in North Dakota acted late Thursday to block the Obama administration's controversial water pollution rule, hours before it was due to take effect. Judge Ralph Erickson of the District Court for the District of North Dakota found that the 13 states suing to block the rule met the conditions necessary for a preliminary injunction, including that they would likely be harmed if courts didn't act and that they are likely to succeed when their underlying lawsuit against the rule is decided. The decision is a major roadblock for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers, who were planning Friday to begin enforcing the Waters of the United States rule, expanding federal jurisdiction over small waterways like streams and wetlands."

Sandhya Somashekhar of the Washington Post: "Officials at Planned Parenthood mounted an aggressive defense in a letter to Congress on Thursday, offering evidence from an outside investigator that undercover videos targeting the women's health organization were heavily edited and should be considered unreliable. The letter, written by the ­organization's president, Cecile Richards, comes as four congressional committees are pursuing investigations into allegations that Planned Parenthood sells ­fetal tissue for profit, which is prohibited by law, and that it has changed its abortion procedures to extract better specimens. The accusations stem from an elaborate undercover investigation by antiabortion activists, who recorded Planned Parenthood employees while posing as representatives of a tissue procurement company." ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "The investigators looked at the first four of the videos released ... and concluded that 'the manipulation of the videos does mean they have no evidentiary value in a legal context and cannot be relied upon for any official inquiries' unless C.M.P. provides investigators with its original material, and that material is independently authenticated as unaltered.' Their analysis suggests that even the long, supposedly unedited versions of the video also show signs of manipulation, as do the transcripts. In one case, the transcript provided by CMP omits as many as 4,000 words.... That should be enough to stop congressional investigations. It won't be." ...

... digby: "The Planned Parenthood jihad is underway and fact[s] don't matter to the Republicans.... Here are the facts as they see them. Women are the worst mass murderers in the history of the world":

Supreme Plagiarist. "A Supreme Court Justice of Few Words, Some Not His Own." Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "Justice Clarence Thomas has not asked a question from the Supreme Court bench since 2006. His majority opinions tend to be brisk, efficient and dutiful. Now, studies using linguistic software have discovered another Thomas trait: Those opinions contain language from briefs submitted to the court at unusually high rates.... In the last decade, nine majority opinions shared 25 percent or more of their language with one party's brief. Justice Thomas signed five of them. Taking account of both parties' briefs in those cases, four opinions overlapped more than 30 percent of the time. Justice Thomas signed all four." CW: Let's face it; this guy hasn't even been phoning it in for the last decade.

Amy Tsang & Peter Eavis of the New York Times: "Every major stock market in the world surged higher on Thursday, helped by an unexpectedly strong economic report in the United States and a late rally in Chinese stocks." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama's sanctions chief will arrive in Israel on Friday to defend the nuclear containment deal with Iran and try to reassure a government and public deeply opposed to the accord that the United States is still prepared to inflict severe financial penalties on Tehran for its sponsorship of terrorism and support for military proxies. The Obama aide, Adam J. Szubin, the top Treasury Department official who helped negotiate the accord between Iran and six world powers, will meet with Israeli government officials and foreign policy experts to make his case during a three-day trip...."

Anemona Hartocollis & others of the New York Times continue their reporting on the thousands of "migrants and refugees ... fleeing unrest in the Middle East and Afghanistan" on their way to Europe. CW: These are amazing stories of greater-than-Biblical proportions. ...

... Anthony Faiola of the Washington Post: "Austrian authorities launched an international probe Thursday into the deaths of more than 70 suspected migrants, with white-suited forensic experts still struggling to count the decomposed corpses left by a tragedy that immediately touched off a new round of recriminations over Europe's handling of an escalating refugee crisis." ...

     ... Update: "Austrian officials announced that three suspects were taken into custody in Hungary in connection with the decomposing bodies found in the back of a truck parked on the side of the main highway between Vienna and Budapest on Thursday. Those arrested included an unnamed Bulgarian national believed to be the truck's owner. Another Bulgarian citizen and a third man with a Hungarian identity card were also taken into custody."

Ad Fail. How Many DNC Staff Does It Take to Screw up a Web Page? Leo Shane of the Military Times: "Democrats' election outreach efforts to veterans may need to start with a refresher course on what U.S. troops look like. For starters, they don't wear Polish military uniforms. Until Thursday, the Democratic National Committee's 'Veterans and Military Families' website had as its only picture a shot from White House photographers during President Obama's visit to Warsaw in 2011."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Matthew Yglesias of Vox: "New poll showing Clinton beating everyone is reported as bad news for Hillary." ...

... AND the Reality Chexie for the Stupidest Poll Report by a News Outlet Goes to Julian Hattem of the Hill: "A vast majority of the public would oppose the White House moving forward with the nuclear deal with Iran without the support of Congress, according to a new survey released by an organization critical of the deal. The poll, released by Secure America Now, found that 82 percent of Americans -- including large majorities in both parties oppose the White House granting billions of dollars in sanctions relief 'without the approval of Congress.' The survey also showed that, when informed about 'secret side deals between Iran and the U.N. monitoring agency,' 61 percent of people thought that Congress should vote to kill the deal. Just 16 percent said it should be approved, despite the existence of the side deals. The results could be troubling for supporters of the agreement.... Secure America Now has run television ads urging Congress to oppose the deal." ...

... The pollsters, BTW, were McLaughlin & Associates (a bit on their track record here) & Caddell Associates, with too many mentions to mention, but here's one. Anyhoo, congrats, Julian. Now go back to journalism school.

Confederates Were Right -- Science Is Bunk. Jacob Kastrenakes of the Verge: "A huge, collaborative research project attempted to recreate 100 studies that were recently published in major psychology journals, and it found that only 39 of those studies' results could be replicated. That could mean that the studies were wrong in the first place, but researchers say that the findings tell more about the difficulty of designing a reproducible study than the accuracy of the studies themselves. Studies need to be reproducible so that scientists can confirm their effects.... In part, that's to catch scientific fraud, but it's also simply to make scientific findings more trustworthy."

Presidential Race

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "All of the Democratic Vice-Presidents that Biden grew up watching eventually became Democratic nominees for President: Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, and Al Gore. If Biden decides to forego a run for the Oval Office, he will be the first Democratic Vice-President unable to secure his party's nomination in sixty-three years." Lizza goes on to explain numerous reasons that Biden would fare poorly against Clinton in a primary race. "It's much more likely that the Vice-President is not actually preparing a campaign against Clinton, but rather readying himself as a replacement if something wildly unexpected destroys her candidacy. In that sense, Biden is being shrewd. He can't beat Clinton, but he can set himself up as the Party's insurance policy in case of her collapse."

Betty Cracker of Balloon Juice: "Hillary Clinton talked about women's issues, comparing the views of backwards, Bible-humping, god-bothering, patriarchal fanatics in the GOP race with the views of anti-modern, Koran-thumping, god-bothering, patriarchal fanatics in terrorist groups.... She specifically name-checked Bush, Rubio and Kasich." ...

Extreme views about women? We expect that from some of the terrorist groups. We expect that from people who don't want to live in the modern world. But it's a little hard to take coming from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States.... They espouse out of date and out of touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st Century America. -- Hillary Clinton, Thursday

CW: Jonathan Martin, et al., of the New York Times have a big story currently on the NYT's front page about how "Democratic leaders are increasingly frustrated by Hillary Rodham Clinton's failure to put to rest questions about her State Department email practices and ease growing doubts among voters about her honesty and trustworthiness." Blah-blah. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) But a version of the AP story I linked yesterday, which demonstrates that Clinton was treating classified documents the same way everyone at State did and had done in past administration, doesn't get a front-page link (I had to find it in a search) & doesn't appear to have made the print editions of the paper. ...

... David Ignatius of the Washington Post: "Does Hillary Clinton have a serious legal problem because she may have transmitted classified information on her private e-mail server? After talking with a half-dozen knowledgeable lawyers, I think this 'scandal' is overstated. Using the server was a self-inflicted wound by Clinton, but it's not something a prosecutor would take to court.... 'It's common knowledge that the classified communications system is impossible and isn't used,' said one former high-level Justice Department official.... There's no legal difference whether Clinton and her aides passed sensitive information using her private server or the official '' account that many now argue should have been used. Neither system is authorized for transmitting classified information."

GOP Candidates = "Crash Test Dummies." Paul Krugman: "Nowhere is there a hint that any of the G.O.P. candidates understand [sic!] the problem [causing global market swings], or the steps that might be needed if the world economy hits another pothole.... Scare stories involving Chinese ownership of U.S. debt have been a Republican staple for years.... And you can see why. 'Obama is endangering America by borrowing from China' is a perfect political line, playing into deficit fetishism, xenophobia and the perennial claim that Democrats don't stand up for America! America! America! It's also complete nonsense, but that doesn't seem to matter.... One side of the political aisle has been utterly determined to learn nothing from the economic experiences of recent years."

Tierney Sneed of TPM: "Attendees at a Republican fundraiser in Colorado Wednesday say that House Speaker John Boehner called Sen. Ted Cruz a 'jackass,' the Daily Caller reported.... Boehner said that the 2016 presidential race kept 'that jackass' away from Washington....Cruz has long had a reputation for being a thorn in Boehner's side, having led a government shutdown over Obamacare for 2013 and publicly causing leadership headaches on various occasions." CW: See, even the Orange Man can be right once in awhile. ...

... Jackass Returns to Washington, Brings Jackass Buddy, Plans Huge Jackass Rally. James Hohmann of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump revealed Thursday that he's been coordinating with Ted Cruz for a joint appearance at an event opposing the Iran deal in Washington. 'We are talking to Ted Cruz, who is a friend of mine and a good guy, about doing something very big over the next two weeks in Washington,' the billionaire businessman said after a rally in South Carolina. 'It's essentially a protest against the totally incompetent deal that we're making with Iran.'" ...

... Not to worry, the Anti-Trump is coming to town, too. Tim Egan contrasts Trump with Pope Francis.

Hunter Walker of Bloomberg: "Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump recently called the Bible his 'favorite book' while on the campaign trail, but he apparently doesn't want to discuss it in interviews. Trump was asked to name 'one or two of your most favorite Bible verses' during an interview on Bloomberg's television show 'With All Due Respect' Wednesday.... 'I wouldn't want to get into it because to me that's very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible, it's very personal, so I don't want to get into verses,' Trump said.... Later in the interview, host John Heilemann asked Trump if he was 'an Old Testament guy or a New Testament guy.' 'Probably equal,' Trump said."

     ... CW: Okay, let's assume Trump has never actually read his "favorite book." It's still stupid to ask a presidential candidate to pick a "most favorite" Bible verse. If you're not sure it's stupid, let me just add that the questioner was Mark Halperin. Case closed. ...

After Donald Trump kicked journalist Jorge Ramos out of his press conference in Iowa earlier this week, this is what happened in the hall outside the meeting room:

... Evan Osnos of the New Yorker: "Trump's range as a performer is often described as vaudevillian, and that description should be applied to his world view as well. He often appears to be reënacting conversations about other countries that took place a century or two ago." ...

Negotiating with Japan, negotiating with China, when these people walk into the room, they don't say, 'Oh, hello, how's the weather, so beautiful outside, isn't it lovely? They say, 'We want deal.' -- Donald Trump, in Dubuque, Iowa, mimicking Asians ...

Margaret Hartmann of New York: "Former House majority leader Eric Cantor, who lost his seat last year in a shocking primary upset, has returned to the world of national politics by endorsing Jeb Bush for president.... According to Time, Cantor was wooed by Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie before he settled on Bush." ...

Who wants the endorsement of a guy (@EricCantor) who lost in perhaps the greatest upset in the history of Congress? -- Donald Trump, in a tweet

Dana Milbank on Jeb!'s congenital "misspeaking" syndrome. Also, Jeb! complains with each new gaffe that it "was taken out of context." A nice trip down the Bush family malapropism lane.

Margaret Hartmann: "... on Thursday in Little Rock, Arkansas, Ben Carson made an interesting admission. "They tell you that there's a war on women," he said. 'There is no war on women. There may be a war on what's inside of women, but there is no war on women in this country.'... Ladies, take comfort in the fact that politicians aren't fighting you, they're just waging war on some of your non-vital organs."

Beyond the Beltway

Finally, an L.A. car chase with a happy ending, I guess:

... KTLA: "The woman was booked for felony evading and allegedly driving a stolen vehicle."