The Ledes

Friday, August 1, 2014.

New York Daily News: "Eric Garner’s death by chokehold was a homicide. The Staten Island man who collapsed after being placed in the banned restraint by a police officer died from compression of the neck and chest, the New York City Medical Examiner ruled Friday. The 43-year-old victim’s asthma, obesity and high blood pressure were also contributing factors in his death, the autopsy determined. It was the latest development in a case that sparked national outrage after The Daily News obtained video showing Officer Daniel Pantaleo putting Garner in the chokehold."

Miami Herald: "Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled Friday that the Florida Legislature must immediately revise its congressional map and gave it until Aug. 15 to submit a revised map."


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/08/01/4266657/florida-judges-orders-special.html#storylink=cpy

New York Times: "A newly agreed cease-fire in the Gaza conflict collapsed hours after it came into effect on Friday with the Israeli military announcing that a soldier appeared to have been captured by Palestinian militants who emerged from a tunnel near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.Gaza health officials said that 27 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 wounded as Israeli forces bombarded the area." ....

... Hill: "The White House on Friday blasted Hamas for violating a 72-hour cease-fire agreement.... White House spokesman Josh Earnest acknowledged reports that Hamas had used the cease-fire as cover to carry out an attack on Israeli soldiers. 'That would be a rather barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement,' Earnest said on CNN’s 'New Day.' 'Hamas is entirely responsible for upholding their end of the bargain, and it’s apparent that they did not do that.' ...

... New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday urged Qatar and Turkey to use their influence to secure the release of an Israeli soldier who apparently was captured in Gaza shortly after an announced cease-fire went into effect."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, July 31, 2014.

Washington Post: A "confluence of worries sent the Dow Jones industrial average tumbling more than 300 points, its worst one-day drop since February. The plunge snapped a string of five straight monthly gains, and pushed the blue-chip index to a slight loss for the year. But it wasn’t just stocks that suffered. Oil fell to its lowest level since March, gold dropped and even Treasurys edged lower."

New York Times: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said on Thursday that he would not agree to any cease-fire proposal that does not allow the Israeli military to complete its mission of destroying Hamas’s tunnel network in Gaza." ...

     ... ** Washington Post Update: "Israel and Hamas have agreed to an unconditional, 72-hour humanitarian truce to begin Friday morning, diplomats from the United States and the United Nations announced Thursday, potentially paving the way for an end to the 24-day-old conflict. In a joint statement, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said both sides in the conflict are sending delegations to Cairo for negotiations aimed at reaching a lasting cease-fire."

USA Today: "Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released in a prisoner swap with the Taliban two months ago, will meet next week with the senior Army officer investigating the circumstances of his capture in Afghanistan, his lawyer said Wednesday. Bergdahl, who spent five years in captivity, plans to meet with Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, the investigating officer, in San Antonio, where Bergdahl is stationed, according to lawyer Eugene Fidell."

Public Service Announcement

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

White House Live Video
August 1

2:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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Justice Ginsburg on the Tumblr site Notorious R.B.G.:

Washington Post: "Former president George W. Bush has been writing a book about his father, former president George H.W. Bush. The book will be published in November."

"Homophonia." Caroline Moss of Business Insider: "An education blogger in Utah is out of a job today after writing [righting] a blog post explaining 'homophones' for the Nomen Global Language Center. Tim Torkildson said he was fired by [buy] his boss and NGLC owner, Clarke Woodger, for [four] promoting a gay agenda." Here's Torkildson's blogpost on his firing. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times: "New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission would do well to turn down the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion, which imagines replacing a prized garden on East 70th Street in Manhattan with a clumsy addition. The city should avoid another self-inflicted wound, and there are other options." CW: As I recall, the garden is that it is difficult to see from the street. I love the garden court & have spent a good deal of time there.

Martha Stewart has a drone.

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

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

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

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

 

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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-- Constant Weader

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Friday
Aug012014

The Commentariat -- August 2, 2014

David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Obama is preparing to announce new measures that would potentially allow millions of illegal immigrants to remain in the United States without fear of deportation, a politically explosive decision that could jolt Washington just weeks before the midterm elections, according to people who have been in touch with the White House. Administration officials have told allies in private meetings that both the current surge of Central American children crossing the border and Congress’s failure this year to pass a broader immigration overhaul have propelled the president toward taking action on his own by summer’s end."

CW: At 8:35 pm Friday, the House border spending bill has passed. ...

     ... Update: Here's the Washington Post story, by Ed O'Keefe & Robert Costa. ...

... Greg Sargent: "In a statement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemns the House GOP bill":

It is a sad day for our country. A chamber of Congress is poised to send vulnerable children back to danger and possible death. It violates our commitment to human rights and due process of the law and lessens us as a nation. I pray that this legislation never sees the light of day. -- Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami

The changes brought into this are ones I’ve developed and advocated for over the past two years. It’s like I ordered it off the menu. -- Rep. Steve King (RTP-Iowa), who has claimed most immigrant children are "evil" "marijuana smugglers

Yup, on immigration, the GOP is Steve King’s party. — Greg Sargent

Ed O'Keefe, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Obama warned Friday that he likely will have to use his executive authority to address the historic influx of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border as House Republicans moved closer to consensus on legislation that would do little to immediately solve the crisis. Obama said during an afternoon news conference that Republicans are trying to pass the 'most extreme and unworkable portions' of a bill that they know will go 'nowhere' — except to his desk for a presidential veto."

... CW: This is a mighty interesting presser. Worth listening to while you're shucking peas or whatever:

... Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "The Thursday collapse of the border security plan offer by the House Republican leadership was a triumph for conservatives in the House GOP caucus, who see it as a high point in their troubled relationship with House Speaker John A. Boehner and his more centrist leadership team. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), one of those conservatives, described the retreat by Boehner (Ohio) as one of the highlights of her career, because the leadership was forced to mostly capitulate to the conservative demands." ...

... CW: I can see why Bachmann is elated: she has saved these hapless children from a terrible fate. Kyle Mantyla of Right Wing Watch: "Appearing on 'WallBuilders Live' ..., Bachmann ... claim[ed] that President Obama and the medical community want to bring tens of thousands of children from Central America into the United States so that they can be turned over to state governments and then used for medical experiments." Read the post to see how she figured out Obama's diabolical plot. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Hers is just fried.

 

Appearing on "WallBuilders Live" today to promote her law, Bachmann tied the issue to the debate surrounding the treatment of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border, claiming that President Obama and the medical community want to bring tens of thousands of children from Central America into the United States so that they can be turned over to state governments and then used for medical experiments. - See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/michele-bachmann-claims-president-obama-wants-use-unaccompanied-children-medical-experiments#sthash.El8BAsb5.dpuf

Karen DeYoung & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The Senate unanimously passed an additional $225 million in emergency funding for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system Friday, after refusing to do so just hours earlier out of concern that the money hadn’t been offset by spending cuts. Passage appeared directly related to the almost immediate breakdown of a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip that was to begin Friday morning.... The House plans to approve a similar measure later in the day, senior GOP aides said Friday. The vote might be held by unanimous consent, said the aides, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the plans." ...

     ... Update. Christina Marcos of the Hill: "The House late Friday sent a measure to the president that would provide Israel with funding for its Iron Dome missile defense system. The vote was 395-8."

Today in Both-Sides-Do-It, starring Jonathan Weisman & Ashley Parker of the New York Times. The gist of the story is that this is the do-nothingest Congress in history, & both Republicans & Democrats are to blame. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is holding back bills when Republicans threaten to attach amendments designed specifically to hurt Democratic Senators running for re-election. More of the reporters' "evidence" against Democrats: "Senate Democrats, who continue to blame Republicans for failing to reaching any broader immigration deal, were unable to overcome a procedural maneuver to even vote on their own border bill." Translated into language ordinary readers could understand: Republicans filibustered the vote. ...

... Gail Collins looks at the bright side: Both sides passed a short-term highway fund bill, which (1) relies on an "outrageous" accounting gimmick; (2) includes no long-term infrastructure plan; & (3) which represents about half what Europeans spend on infrastructure. (CW: And remember, Europeans already had a pretty good infrastructure in place; they're still traveling the old Appian Way, & there are a few Roman aqueducts still in use.) Anyhow, that's the bright side.

'We Tortured Some Folks." Josh Gerstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama couldn’t have been more blunt in acknowledging that the U.S. crossed a moral line in its treatment of war-on-terror prisoners. 'We tortured some folks,' Obama said during a White House news conference Friday. 'When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line. And that needs to be understood and accepted.'” ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama said on Friday that he has 'full confidence' in John Brennan, the director of the C.I.A., despite Mr. Brennan’s admission this week that his agency improperly searched the computers of the congressional committee that is preparing to release a report on the use of torture in the fight against terror."

... Julian Hattem of the Hill: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Friday became the third senator to publicly call for CIA Director John Brennan to leave office in the wake of the agency’s admission that some officials spied on Senate staffers. In a statement sent to The Hill, Paul, who mounted a 13-hour filibuster against Brennan’s confirmation in March, said that the spy agency chief and everyone else involved with the hacking should be removed from office.... Paul’s call comes after Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who both sit on the Intelligence Committee, on Thursday urged Brennan to step aside." ...

... Charles Pierce calls President Obama's comments on torture "the single most revolting thing this president ever said in public.... Most of the torture went on long after we knew that there weren't going to be follow-up acts of terror. Much of it was used to get information with which to gin up an illegal war of aggression against a country that had not attacked us. The lies of Iraq were seeded with torture, and if the president thinks he can use the word and then just walk away from its profound implication in a cloud of banalities, he's been out on the golf course without a hat too long."

Andrew Zajak of Bloomberg News: "The Obama administration asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to reconsider a three-judge panel’s ruling that customers on the federal marketplace authorized by the health-care overhaul are ineligible for subsidies to buy insurance.... Later today, the appeals court ordered the plaintiffs to file within 15 days a response to the government’s motion. Yesterday, the plaintiffs asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, saying a ruling by the high court would end uncertainty about the IRS provision." ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "The story of whether Congress ever intended to limit Obamacare subsidies to state-based exchanges begins and ends with the Congressional Budget Office. And what it reveals about the latest legal threat to Obamacare dramatically undercuts the arguments against the law.... Every tweak to the law was funneled through the accounting brains of the non-partisan congressional scorekeeper.... Like everybody else on Capitol Hill in 2009 and 2010, from legislators to the journalists who covered them, the CBO's quants never even considered ... factor[ing federal exchange subsidy cuts] into its analyses.... The CBO itself has said, in a December 2012 letter to House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA), that it never considered limited subsidies to only state exchanges...."

Anna Palmer, et al., of Politico: "In his decision to quit Congress altogether, Eric Cantor gave only one reason: so his successor could get a head start.... But several GOP lawmakers and aides suggested to Politico that ... the last thing he wanted ... was to endure the humbling shift from 11 years in the leadership to being a back bencher, even if only for four months. And, they said he was already focused on the next chapter of his life in the private sector. Although members can explore new job opportunities while still in office, his departure from Congress means that Cantor won’t have to disclose any companies or firms with whom he may be negotiating for a job."

Beyond the Beltway

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "The star witness for the prosecution at the corruption trial of former Virginia governor and his wife told jurors Friday that Robert F. McDonnell was not directly involved in soliciting many gifts he gave the first family. Jonnie R. Williams Sr. also acknowledged under questioning from defense attorneys that he was not aware if the former governor was directly involved in arranging things that helped benefit his company or the dietary supplement it was launching. Williams’s testimony concluded the first week of the trial, which could stretch on for four more weeks."

Thursday
Jul312014

The Commentariat -- August 1, 2014

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama blasted congressional Republicans Friday for failing to craft a workable response to the border crisis before leaving Washington for their summer recess, setting the stage for executive actions to address the surge in child migrants from central America. 'House Republicans as we speak are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable version of a bill that they already know is going nowhere, that can’t pass the Senate,' Obama said in a hastily-announced afternoon appearance in the White House press briefing room. 'They're not even trying to to solve the problem,' the president complained. 'This is a message bill….just so they can check a box before leaving town tomorrow'”:

... This Is Getting Hilarious. Mike Lillis, et al., of the Hill: "House GOP leaders are expected to bring a new border package to the floor on Friday that even some of the staunchest opponents of immigration reform said they would support." CW: Do they know the Congress is bicameral? ...

... Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said even if House Republicans get the votes necessary to pass its emergency border spending bill, there isn’t enough support in the Senate for the 'wrong-headed' measure." ...

... Jake Sherman, et al., of Politico: "After a day of embarrassing failures, House Republican leadership inched toward bringing a new border security bill to the floor Friday."

David Rogers of Politico: "Immigrant rights attorneys on the West Coast are seeking a preliminary injunction to block the Justice Department from expediting the deportation of children fleeing Central America without first ensuring they have legal counsel. Filed late Thursday night in federal court in Seattle, the papers build on a suit initiated July 9 arguing that the children can’t get a fair hearing unless given legal representation."

Steve Kenny of the New York Times: "Representative Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican whose last day as House majority leader was Thursday, said on Friday that he would resign his seat effective Aug. 18 in hopes that his successor will be able to participate in the lame-duck session after the November elections. Mr. Cantor, 51, made the announcement in an op-ed article published on The Richmond Times-Dispatch website.... Mr. Cantor, who has served in Congress for 14 years, said that he would ask Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, to call a special election for his seat on Nov. 4 — the same day as the general election — a move that would allow the winner to take Mr. Cantor’s seat immediately rather than wait for the next Congress to be seated in January. He would also enjoy the perks of Mr. Cantor’s seniority.... There was no indication whether [McAuliffe] would honor the request for a special election." ...

... The Richmond Times-Dispatch story, by Markus Schmidt, is here. ...

... Boo-Fucking-Hoo. Paul Kane & Sebastian Payne of the Washington Post: "As Cantor said farewell [in a speech to the House] Thursday, the always emotional Boehner dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief." ...

... In today's Comments, Akhilleus likens Boehner to Al Capone, as depicted in this scene from Brian De Palma's "The Untouchables." Read the whole comment. CW: Seems just right to me:

Josh Hicks & Ashley Halsey of the Washington Post: "In a sprint to the finish line before a five-week break, the Senate on Thursday night approved bills to aid the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs and to extend federal highway funding through May. On veterans affairs, senators voted 91 to 3 to approve legislation injecting more than $16 billion into VA to help deal with extensive treatment delays and a recent record-keeping scandal.... On transportation, the Senate voted 81 to 13 in favor of an $11 billion stopgap highway measure after weeks of squabbling with the House over the scope of the legislation. The bill, which replenishes the Highway Trust Fund, will keep about 6,000 state highway and transit projects rolling through next spring. Both measures now go to President Obama for his signature."

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "Facing a rebellion among their most conservative ranks, House Republicans were forced on Thursday to withdraw an emergency spending measure to address the surge of young Central American migrants at the southern border, in a major embarrassment to the new leadership team. House Republican leaders are expected to hold another meeting with their members on Friday morning to decide how to move forward, though many lawmakers said they would stay in Washington as long as necessary to put the bill on the floor. Some lawmakers had already departed on Thursday for the five-week summer break, and were summoned back to the Capitol." ...

... Jake Sherman & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "The turmoil is stunning considering how far to the right the GOP leadership pulled this bill. Boehner, [new Majority Leader Kevin] McCarthy and [Steve] Scalise, the new GOP whip, crafted a process that would have given the House a vote on legislation to stop the Obama administration from expanding its deferred deportation program. But even that wasn’t enough. The episode is most embarrassing for Scalise, whose allies crowed this week about running a more effective whip organization than McCarthy, the longtime Republican vote counter who will now be the majority leader." ...

It was Senator Cruz calling the shots, and that’s why people around here are calling him ‘Speaker Cruz’ today. It means when Speaker Boehner says he’s going to get something done from now on, he’d better be checking with Senator Cruz to see if he’s gonna get the votes because clearly the new leadership team isn’t up to the task. -- Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), on MSNBC Thursday ...

... The Party of Cruz. Paul Waldman: "Among the people Boehner can thank for this debacle is Sen. Ted Cruz, who encouraged House Republicans not to go along with Boehner’s bill unless it blocked expansion of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy giving the DREAMers deportation relief.... When Obama takes some kind of executive action to address the broader immigration problem, Republican complaints that he’s being tyrannical will be undermined by the GOP’s abysmal failure to offer an alternative.... All they’ve got to show for the end of the session is a lawsuit — one that will probably offer their own right wing nothing but frustration and disappointment, and will validate everything Obama is saying about them." ...

One of the unfortunate things in Washington is how little communication there is between members of House and Senate. For many months, I’ve been periodically hosting gatherings with House members to discuss issues and challenges of the day and our gathering last night was scheduled several weeks ago. -- Ted Cruz, to Robert Costa, Thursday

Sittin’ at my desk, watchin’ the news, rest of the day is up to Ted Cruz. -- Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), via Twitter, Thursday

... Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Cruz’s tight embrace of House conservatives also has given him a powerful network inside and outside of Congress, even as he has been marginalized by Democrats and many of his fellow Republicans in the Senate. Ignoring them, Cruz has turned friendly news media outlets, conservative advocacy groups and House backbenchers into his base." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "In Boehner's House, failure is always an option." ...

We will look back on this moment in Washington as The Week That Irony Died. -- Gail Collins, yesterday

There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries. -- John Boehner, after pulling the House's limited border-funding bill

... Russell Berman of the Atlantic: "On Wednesday, House Republicans sued President Obama for acting on his own without approval from Congress. On Thursday, House Republicans told President Obama he should act on his own to fix the border crisis. The messaging whiplash resulted from Speaker John Boehner's failure – so far – to pass a Republican spending bill that would provide $659 million to help stem the child migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. In a statement following the decision to abruptly scrap a vote on the measure, Boehner and his fellow GOP leaders tried to put the onus back on Obama, saying the president had the power to act unilaterally, 'without the need for congressional action,' to respond to the crisis." ...

     ... Flashback to Earlier That Same Day: Mark Felsenthall of Reuters: "House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday that any unilateral steps by President Barack Obama on immigration would make matters worse and add to a 'legacy of lawlessness. No more unilateral action by the president," Boehner said at a news conference. 'If the president takes these actions, he'll be sealing the deal on his legacy of lawlessness,' he said. 'He'll be violating the solemn oath he made to the American people on the day of his inauguration.'" ...

     ... CW: Got that? Early Thursday morning Boehner said it was illegal/unconstitutional for the President to act unilaterally ("lawless") on the border situation, & a few hours later he said it was legal/within his constitutional powers for the President to act unilaterally on the border situation ("without the need for congressional action"). ...

... Charles Pierce: "Holy mother of god, what a eunuch." ...

... Of course, as Steve M. points out in posts here and here, the House debacle won't make a whit of difference to the electorate. As far as most voters know, there's a border crisis of some kind & Obama hasn't fixed it. ...

... Just as a reminder that not all the Democrats on the Hill are bright lights, either -- Chris Moody of Yahoo! News: "During a floor speech on Wednesday night, Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee voiced her opposition to the House Republican lawsuit against President Barack Obama.... 'We did not seek an impeachment of President Bush, because as an executive, he had his authority. President Obama has the authority.' It's an odd thing for Jackson Lee to say, because it was just six years ago that she helped lead a movement to impeach Bush by co-sponsoring a bill accusing him of high crimes and misdemeanors."

Charlies Pierce on Tyranny: "Jefferson was willing to break with a king he called a tyrant even if it meant facing down the British army. John Boehner is not willing to risk impeaching a president his House called a tyrant if it means a four-point drop in a CNN poll."

NEW. CW: Read the Headline & Lede. Burgess Everett of Politico: "Senate Blocks Aid to Israel. In the end, the Senate couldn’t even agree to deliver emergency aid to one of the United States’ closest allies. A last-ditch effort to deliver aid to Israel during its war with Hamas died on the Senate floor, as Republicans blocked the proposal over concerns that it would increase the debt. After Senate Republicans blocked Democrats’ $2.7 billion border aid package, which also included $225 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and $615 million to fight Western wildfires, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to split off the Israel and wildfire money as a standalone bill, hoping to put aside the dispute over border funding and appeal to Republicans’ deep ties to Israel.... It didn’t work.... First Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) objected to Reid’s request for a straight emergency cash infusion for firefighting and Israel. Then Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) offered an alternative that would deliver money to Israel and the West and offer commensurate spending cuts to international organizations like the United Nations; Reid blocked that. 'Our number one ally — at least in my mind — is under attack. If this isn’t an emergency I don’t know anything that is,' Reid said." ...

     ... CW: The story is accompanied by a huge photo of Harry Reid. Anybody who reads only the headline & lede graf wlll assume Reid is at fault. It isn't that the Senate couldn't agree; Republicans couldn't agree; at best, they might have agreed to blackmail Reid with U.N. funding cuts. Because freeeedom.

Keith Laing of the Hill: "The House on Thursday shot down legislation from the Senate that would have extended federal transportation funding until December. The 272-150 vote puts pressure on Senate Democrats to accept the House-passed transportation bill, which would provide funding until next spring and avert a late summer shutdown of construction projects. Republicans said their $10.9 billion measure is now the only viable path for lawmakers to prevent a bankruptcy in infrastructure spending that has been predicted to occur in August." ...

... Keith Laing: "Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that the House’s plan to strip changes from a Senate bill to extend federal transportation funding and send it back to the upper chamber 'dishonors the rules of the House.' ... Pelosi said Thursday that GOP leaders were blocking Democrats in the lower chamber from bringing up the Senate’s version of the highway bill.... 'You may recall that the rules of the House say that if … the House and the Senate are in true disagreement on legislation, then any member of the House can call for the Senate bill to be brought up on the floor,' she said during a news conference. 'The rule that coming to the floor dishonors the rules of the House that gives that privilege to any member and says only the Majority Leader will have the right to bring it up, which means of course that it will not be brought up, Pelosi continued."

James Downie of the Washington Post: President Obama should fire CIA Director John Brennan for his serial lapses. ...

... New York Times Editors: "One of those heads [that should roll] may need to be Mr. Brennan’s. If he knew about the break-in, then he blatantly lied. If he did not, then apparently he was unaware of the lawless culture that has festered within the C.I.A. since the moment it was encouraged by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to torture suspects and then lie about it. That recklessness extended to the point where agency officials thought nothing of burglarizing their own overseer. Senator Mark Udall of Colorado [D] said the action was illegal and required the resignation of Mr. Brennan." ...

... digby: "And it really is very bad that the CIA hacked into the Senate computers, thus violating the separation of powers. Very bad. But it's not as bad as torturing people and getting away with it!! Jesus H. Christ, Brennan was right in the middle of that whole thing and has been complicit in the cover-up. But the straw that broke the camel's back was leaking and hacking the Senate investigation? ... Whatever. Just as long as they don't do something personally to Dianne Feinstein. That's a bridge too far." ...

... Here's the underlying New York Times story, by Mark Mazzetti & Carl Hulse: "An internal investigation by the Central Intelligence Agency has found that its officers improperly penetrated a computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to prepare its damning report on the C.I.A.'s detention and interrogation program.... When the C.I.A.'s monitoring of the committee became public in March, Mr. Brennan said, 'When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.' Days earlier, he said that lawmakers were making spurious allegations about C.I.A. actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts.'”

Paul Krugman: Even when experts are generally in agreement, "politicians pick and choose which experts — or, in many cases, 'experts' — to believe, [and] the odds are that they will choose badly."

Gene Robinson: "The real objection of those who ridicule [Secretary of State John Kerry's] efforts [in the Israel-Gaza conflict] seems to be that he came up with a plan that Hamas and its key remaining allies — the Islamist governments of Qatar and Turkey — could actually accept.

Fareed Zakaria on "the rise of Putinism." Exhibit No. 1: Hungary, where "Prime Minister Viktor Orban explained that his country is determined to build a new political model — illiberal democracy." So much for the end of history.

Joseph Marks of Politico: "U.S. allies Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, along with Syria, are using malicious email and Facebook messages to track and entrap journalists, dissidents and campaigners, who face jail and torture if identified and arrested, according to a new study. The cyberattacks are often very simple — just a plausible email, Twitter or Facebook message with a malicious link. Clicking that link reveals the IP address of the user, linking a particular computer or home network to targeted email or other account, according to the study from The Citizen Lab, run by the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto."

New York Times Editors: "McDonald’s said it would contest the [NLRB] ruling [that determined that McDonald's is jointly responsible for treatment of workers at its franchises], a process that could end up in the Supreme Court. That would delay any final accord between executives and workers, but it will not change the basic facts. Fast-food companies like McDonald’s and Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, are profitable and lavishly reward their executives — which means there is money available to raise wages. But those raises have not been forthcoming, forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab for food stamps, Medicaid and other public assistance that many McDonald’s workers use to get by." ...

... CW: Yeah, and I can't imagine that the Supremes would rule in favor of the McDonald's corporation person & against the workers' right to unionize. (See Harris v. Quinn.)

Paul Waldman notes that the kindlier, gentler Paul Ryan 2.0 has disavowed Paul Ryan 1.0's "hammock" analogy: "Paul Ryan used to say we didn’t want the safety net to become a 'hammock,' where lucky poor people lounge around drinking margaritas, living the high life on their $133 a month in food stamps." But kindly Paul Ryan 2.0 is not "worried government benefits are a hammock, it’s just that he worries that they’re a kind of netting thing strung loosely between two trees that you nap in."

** Rebecca Traister of the New Republic on reproductive justice: "... the strategy of erasing the female reproductive system from a larger definition of women’s health is part of a long tradition in conservative politics and policy-making. It’s been in place certainly since 1976, when the Hyde Amendment blocked Medicaid funds from being spent on abortion procedures.... These days, conservatives are busy applying the Hyde Amendment’s logic, that reproductive healthcare is different from human health, to ever-broadening areas of reproductive health. The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision extended it to birth control." ...

... Justice Ginsburg on her retirement:


... Justice Ginsburg speaks to Katie Couric about Hobby Lobby:

CW: This post by elections expert Rick Hasan on the Wisconsin supreme court's upholding the state's voter ID law is interesting for two reasons: (1) the Wisconsin supremes cited as the only evidence of voter fraud -- & thus the "proof" of the need for voter IDs -- one guy who was (a) a Scott Walker supporter, & (b) was charged with 13 counts of voter fraud (absent the voter ID law, BTW). (2) In a update, Hasan notes that the fraud committed by the Walker supporter occurred after the case-in-chief, & therefore "was not in evidence before the lower court. I believe it has become increasingly common for appellate courts to cite matters not in the record which the judges or their clerks find from a little googling." A few days ago I noted that Jonathan Gruber's remarks about state exchanges, recorded in 2012, but not in evidence in the Halbig case, would not be part of the record when & if the case goes to the Supremes. But I also said the conservative Supremes would certainly know about Gruber's comments fron reading the Right Wing News & well might raise them during oral arguments. In light of Hasan's observation, I'd say Gruber will get his day in court. Unfortunately.

Alex Seitz-Wald of msnbc: "Ten hours before the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, Bill Clinton allegedly told a group of businessmen in Australia that he had a chance to kill Osama bin Laden, but passed because it would have meant killing hundreds of innocent civilians. That’s according to never-before-released audio of remarks made public by Australian media on Wednesday." The tape is here. The audio clip is at about 5:30 min. in.

Josh Feldman of Mediaite: A Ku Klux Klan wizard has a plan to stop children from crossing into the U.S. via the U.S.-Mexican border: "shoot to kill.... If we can’t turn ‘em back, I think if we pop a couple of ‘em off and leave the corpses laying on the border, maybe they’ll see that we’re serious about stopping immigration." CW: That should be "lying on the border, not "laying."

Beyond the Beltway

Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "The prosecution’s star witness at the corruption trial of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his wife told jurors Thursday he had a simple reason for lavishing gifts on the first family: 'Because they’re helping me.' Jonnie R. Williams Sr. testified in his second day on the stand that he gave the McDonnells vacations, pricey clothes and more in the hopes his relationship with the couple would help him promote a supplement created by his company, Star Scientific." ...

     ... Update. Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "Prosecutors on Thursday unveiled what could be a critical new piece of evidence in their case against former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen: a photograph of the governor, grinning and holding up his wrist to display a watch. Testifying during the McDonnells’ federal corruption trial, businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. said he received the photo by text message in December 2012 in response to one he sent the governor. The watch on McDonnell’s wrist appeared to be the Rolex that Williams had purchased for the governor at the first lady’s request a year earlier. The picture could shatter any assertion that the governor was unaware that Williams ... had provided the expensive timepiece. McDonnell (R) has previously said the watch was a Christmas gift from his wife." ...

... The Post is liveblogging the trial.

Wednesday
Jul302014

The Commentariat -- July 31, 2014

NEW. Ken Dilanian of the AP: "CIA Director John Brennan is apologizing to Senate intelligence committee leaders after his inspector general found that CIA employees acted improperly when the CIA searched Senate computers earlier this year. Agency spokesman Dean Boyd said in an email to The Associated Press that Brennan has convened an accountability board that will investigate the conduct of the CIA officers and discipline them, if need be. The Justice Department has so far declined to pursue criminal charges against the employees, who searched the computers for information gathered in the course of an investigation into the CIA's interrogation techniques."

** Harold Meyerson: "Who is a company?"

Paul Kane & Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "House Republicans voted to proceed with a lawsuit against President Obama on Wednesday, saying that his executive actions are so extreme that they violate the Constitution. The nearly party-line vote — all Democrats voted against it, and all but five Republicans voted for it — further agitated an already polarized climate on Capitol Hill as both parties used the pending suit to try to rally support ahead of the November elections." ...

This isn't about this lawsuit. This is about the road to impeachment. -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), during a briefing immediately after the lawsuit vote

... Amie Parnes of the Hill: "President Obama asked Republicans to stop 'hating' and 'being mad all the time' during a Wednesday speech in Kansas City, Mo., focused on the economy. The president accused GOP lawmakers of needlessly suing him, instead of doing their jobs. He said they should be more focused on the economy":

... Gail Collins on impeachment & the House suit against the President: "Republicans tried to improve their legal prospects by picking a particular executive order. They settled on the one postponing enforcement of part of Obamacare that requires businesses to provide health coverage for their employees.... 'Not a single one of them voted for the Affordable Care Act,' said Louise Slaughter, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee. 'They spent $ 79 million holding votes to kill it. And now they’re going to sue him for not implementing it fast enough.' We will look back on this moment in Washington as The Week That Irony Died." ...

... Dana Milbank: "For procedural reasons, Republicans opted to bring the lawsuit bill to the floor paired in debate with a measure to deregulate pesticides. Linking the two under the same debate rules was fitting, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) judged, because 'one is as ridiculous as the other.' Also, both would make the environment more toxic." ...

     ... CW: We should probably be more worried that our dangerous, irresponsible "representatives" want to deregulate pesticides than that they are about to sue the President in an election-year stunt. I have a feeling Boehner will slow-walk the suit right past November 4. ...

... Michael Memoli of the Los Angeles Times: "Republicans hoped that by filing a lawsuit against President Obama ... they would mobilize conservatives eager for a confrontation with the White House. But so far it appears to be rallying Democrats at least as much as Republicans. Warning that the lawsuit is just the first step toward impeachment, Democrats have turned the GOP strategy into their own fundraising and motivational tool, flooding supporters with emails in recent weeks." ...

... Thanks, Orange Man. Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Here's the big difference between impeaching President Obama and suing him: The former is a pipe dream being pushed by far-right conservatives, while the latter has the full support of the Republican establishment.... In the fall campaign, it will be much easier for Democrats to tether Republican candidates in key races to the push for a lawsuit than it will to tie them to impeachment calls. That's why it could be a bigger problem [for Republicans].... Why do it? Polls had already shown that the Republican base was more enthusiastic about voting in the fall than Democrats. Democrats have desperately been searching for ways to get their voters to go to the polls this fall. Republicans may have just inadvertently handed them a big one." ...

... Jonathan Capehart: "At a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor today, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) delivered remarks so aggressive about how President Obama has 'exceeded his authority' that they are bound to fan the fervor for his impeachment among his fellow Republicans.... It is this kind of high-octane rhetoric that is going to make it all but impossible for Boehner to avoid the political hara-kiri that would be Obama’s impeachment, that is, once his raucous caucus realizes that the lawsuit they are expected to approve late this afternoon will either never get a hearing or won’t have any impact on Obama whatsoever. For many of them, publicly punishing the president is paramount." ...

... Dave Weigel looks at the history of the Impeach Obama movement, which started "early in the Obama presidency." The new Republican party line is that "Democrats at the White House" started the "impeachment scam," but it ain't so: "The conservatives who wanted to impeach Obama are acting like it was never their idea."

** Jake Sherman & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "House Republicans will vote to rein in the Obama administration’s power to halt deportation for undocumented immigrants — a surprise move that comes as they struggle to attract support for their bill to address the crisis at the border. The new plan, described by multiple GOP aides Wednesday evening, comes as House Republicans were unable to lock up 218 GOP lawmakers to vote for the $659 million emergency funding package.... The new House GOP tack takes a page from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)" ...

... Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) ... will meet with a group of House Republicans Wednesday to urge them to oppose House Speaker John A. Boehner’s plan to stem the flow of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to several House members who plan to attend the 7 p.m. gathering at Cruz’s office.... Boehner unveiled legislation Tuesday to make it easier to deport Central American minors who have entered the United States illegally, provide $659 million to federal agencies through the end of the fiscal year, and change a 2008 anti-trafficking law. The funding would be significantly less than the $3.7 billion that President Obama has requested from Congress and less than the $1.5 billion initially floated by Boehner and his allies earlier this month — a figure that was cut due to conservative opposition." ...

... Sahil Kapur of TPM: "The White House formally threatened to veto House Republicans' border funding supplemental for the child migrant crisis, saying it 'could make the situation worse, not better.' ... Even if it passes, the bill is going nowhere in the Democratic-led Senate, which is trying to pass a separate $3.6 billion supplemental package which does not change immigration laws." ...

... Ted Barrett of CNN: "The Senate voted on Wednesday to take up a $2.7 billion Democratic spending bill to address the southern border crisis. Lawmakers voted 63-33 on a procedural vote to begin debate on the emergency measure prompted by the deluge of migrant youth from Central America who have entered the country illegally this year."

Julie Pace of the AP: "The Obama administration condemned the deadly shelling of a United Nations school in Gaza Wednesday, using tough, yet carefully worded language that reflects growing White House irritation with Israel and the mounting civilian casualties stemming from its ground and air war against Hamas. The U.S. frustrations were compounded by a flurry of Israeli media reports this week that appeared aimed at discrediting President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, who spent days trying to negotiate an unsuccessful cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. In unusually blunt language, a State Department spokeswoman on Wednesday repeatedly described one of the reports as 'complete crap.'" ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker comments on Israel's bombing of shelters to which they had advised Palestinian civilians to go. ...

... Dana Milbank assesses Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to broker an end to hostilities in Israel/Gaza: "His predecessor, Hillary Clinton, preserved her political prospects by showing a preference for social media over international hotspots. But Kerry has risked his standing repeatedly, personally leading negotiations over Sudan, Ukraine, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan.... Kerry deserves credit for trying. But his nearly 18 months on the job are a lesson in humility — not just for Kerry but for those in Congress who smugly second-guess the officials they oversee. Leading the world is harder than it looks." ...

... Meanwhile, one of the Washington Post's top wingnuts (they have a stable-full) Jennifer Rubin says Kerry should resign. CW: I didn't read her post & I'm not linking it. I'm sure it's "complete crap." ...

... Anthony Faiola of the Washington Post: Anti-Israel protests springing from the current attacks on Hamas are troubling to German authorities & to the growing Jewish population, as some protesters are making anti-Jewish remarks.

Ferdous Al-Faruque of the Hill: "A series of management failures at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services led to the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov and $840 million in costs, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. 'CMS undertook the development of HealthCare.gov and its related systems without effective planning or oversight practices,' wrote William Woods, GAO director of acquisition and sourcing management, in testimony prepared for a Thursday hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee."

Jonathan Chait: The plaintiffs in the anti-ACA Halbig case argued that "Democrats in Congress made a typo when you wrote Obamacare, so ha-ha, you lose. The card says 'Moops':

     ... BUT "The Gruber video encouraged conservatives to suddenly invent a new and more sweeping argument.... It was Congress’s actual plan to deny tax credits to customers on the federal exchanges.... It is exactly as if conservatives are now insisting not just that we must follow the misprint on the card, but that the people who invaded Spain in the eighth century were actually called 'the Moops.'” ...

... Paul Waldman gives credit where credit is due -- to Simom Maloy of Salon for coming up with the "Moops" analogy. Maloy, who also embedded the "Seinfeld" video, wrote last week that "Republicans [were] gloat[ing] over an Obamacare court case that poached its legal reasoning from "'Seinfeld.' No joke."

CW: House Ways & Means Committee Chair Dave Camp releases some e-mails that he says demonstrate former IRS official Lois Lerner's "disgust with conservatives." While Lerner should not have been using her IRS account for what was evidently a personal contact with a non-IRS employee (IMHO), it's absolutely clear from the context that she was talking about far-right nut jobs who were buy[ing] ammo & food & prepar[ing] for the end." Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP reports on the latest fake "smoking gun" e-mails. Included in his report: "A May 2013 report by the agency's inspector general blamed mismanagement by IRS officials for the way tea party applications were handled. But the report did not provide any proof of political bias on the part of agents. In fact, the report noted that Lerner tried to stop the targeting once she learned that tea party and other conservative groups were being improperly singled out." Of course it will rile the extremist base that Lerner called them "assholes." And Camp -- who is supposed to be a relatively moderate conservative & is retiring -- sure is playing to the assholes.

Rather than letting our faith dictate our politics, we’ve gotten to the point for many of us where we’re letting our politics — typically what the Republican Party says — dictate our faith. Caring about God’s creation and caring about God’s people is entirely consistent with caring for your neighbor. -- Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian and a climate scientist at Texas Tech

... Theodore Schleifer of the New York Times: "The E.P.A. on Wednesday ended two days of public hearings on its proposed regulation to cut carbon pollution from power plants, and mixed in with the coal lobbyists and business executives were conservative religious leaders reasserting their support for President Obama’s environmental policies — at a time when Republican Party orthodoxy continues to question the science of climate change. More than two dozen faith leaders, including evangelicals and conservative Christians, spoke [in favor of the regulation] at the E.P.A. headquarters in Washington by the time the hearings ended."

CW Where's the Outrage? Charles Pierce is as disgusted as I by the FBI's "incompetence or worse," as reported by Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post (& linked here yesterday). And yet, and yet, Hsu's story has received very little attention. Maybe people just can't see themselves as ever being the victims of FBI malfeasance, or maybe it's so horrifying people don't want to think about it. But the government's putting people to death on the basis of false evidence which the government itself produced is the ultimate crime against humanity. In a just world, Hsu's report would put an end to the death penalty.

David Frum says he is very sorry he falsely accused major news outlets of staging photos of Palestinian victims of the Israeli-Gaza conflict: "These images do appear authentic, and I should not have cast doubt on them." Then he excuses himself for his "skepticism.... There is a long history in the region of the use of faked or misattributed photographs as tools of propaganda."" Never mind that he didn't tweet that he was "skeptical" of the authenticity of the photos; he asserted without qualification that they were "faked photos" -- see link in yesterday's Commentariat.

Evan Thomas reviews two books on the Nixon tapes for the Atlantic: "Remarkably, we still do not know who ordered the June 1972 Watergate break-in that led to Nixon’s downfall. There are lots of theories, including CIA plots and convoluted conspiracies about sex rings, but no conclusive evidence. There is, however, recorded proof of Nixon ordering a different break-in — at the Brookings Institution in 1971."

Beyond the Beltway

Jason Stein & Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld Gov. Scott Walker's signature labor legislation Thursday, delivering an election-year affirmation to the governor in just one of the three major rulings issued by the court on union bargaining, election law and same-sex couples.... The court also upheld the state's voter ID law and a 2009 law providing limited benefits to gay and lesbian couples. The state court's decisions on the voter ID and domestic partner registry could still be overtaken by decisions in separate but related cases in federal court. But after more than three years of litigation, the court's seven justices on Thursday put to rest the last of the major legal disputes over Act 10, the 2011 law repealing most union bargaining for most public employees. The decision was 5-2, with Justice Michael Gableman writing the lead opinion, which found that collective bargaining is not a fundamental right under the constitution but rather a benefit that lawmakers can extend or restrict as they see fit."

Laura Vozzella, et al., of the Washington Post: Jonnie R. Williams, Sr., "the man key to proving federal corruption charges against former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, began his testimony late Wednesday afternoon, explaining how he lavished the first family with gifts." ...

Williams testified that he 'sat there and listened, and she said to me, "I have a background in nutritional supplements, and I can be helpful to you with this project with your company. The governor says it’s OK for me to help you, but I need you to help me with this financial situation.’” She said McDonnell asked specifically for a $50,000 loan and another $15,000 to cover costs at her daughter’s wedding.

     ... New Lede: "The wheeling-and-dealing Richmond businessman at the center of the corruption case against former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife stepped into public view Wednesday with a pivotal assertion: For $65,000, he testified, Maureen McDonnell said she would help his company, with her husband’s blessing." ...

... The Washington Post is liveblogging testimony & developments here.

Susanne Craig, et al., of the New York Times: "In an escalation of the confrontation between the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo over the governor’s cancellation of his own anticorruption commission, Mr. Bharara has threatened to investigate the Cuomo administration for possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering. The warning, in a sharply worded letter from Mr. Bharara’s office, came after several members of the panel issued public statements defending the governor’s handling of the panel, known as the Moreland Commission.... At least some of those statements were prompted by calls from the governor or his emissaries...."

Congressional Races

Peyton Craighill & Scott Clement of the Washington Post: "Pretty soon, the country's top pollsters will make a subtle change that even some political junkies won't process: They will shift from reporting results of registered voters to only those most likely to vote in the 2014 election -- a.k.a. 'likely voters.' For those who follow polling closely the distinction between the two is key to understanding the true state of play in a race. It's also likely to cause an apparent shift -- almost certainly in the GOP's favor -- that some will misinterpret as newfound momentum."

Tuesday
Jul292014

The Commentariat -- July 30, 2014

** Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Nearly every criminal case reviewed by the FBI and the Justice Department as part of a massive investigation started in 2012 of problems at the FBI lab has included flawed forensic testimony from the agency, government officials said. The findings troubled the bureau, and it stopped the review of convictions last August. Case reviews resumed this month at the order of the Justice Department, the officials said."

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that if the House passes a $659 million border bill with policy changes, he could use it as a vehicle for comprehensive immigration reform. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is trying to round up enough votes for a pared-down border bill that spends far below the president's request for $3.7 billion and includes policy changes to speed the deportation of illegal minors from Central America. Reid said the policy changes would give him an opportunity to attach the comprehensive immigration reform bill that the Senate passed last year with the support of 14 Republicans." ...

... CW: Gee, I wonder if John Boehner, who has repeated claimed he wanted to pass comprehensive immigration reform, will work with Reid on this? ...

... Steven Dennis of Roll Call: "Speaker John A. Boehner vowed the House would not allow the Senate to add any 'comprehensive immigration reform bill or anything like it, including the DREAM Act' to the House's $659 million border bill Tuesday. 'Senator Reid, embarrassed that he cannot strong-arm the Senate into passing the blank check President Obama demanded, is making a deceitful and cynical attempt to derail the House's common-sense solution,' the Ohio Republican said in a statement...." ...

... Erica Werner of the AP: "Even as they grapple with an immigration crisis at the border, White House officials are making plans to act before November's mid-term elections to grant work permits to potentially millions of immigrants who are in this country illegally, allowing them to stay in the United States without threat of deportation, according to advocates and lawmakers in touch with the administration. Such a large-scale move on immigration could scramble election-year politics and lead some conservative Republicans to push for impeachment proceedings against President Barack Obama, a prospect White House officials have openly discussed."

Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "The Senate on Tuesday sent a highway bill back to the House with changes, putting the legislation up in the air with only three days left to act before the August recess. The Senate voted 66-31 to amend the House's $10.9 billion funding bill so that the funding only lasts until Dec. 19. That would force lawmakers to pass another extension in the lame-duck session after the election."

Richard Oppel of the New York Times: "The Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to confirm Robert A. McDonald, the 61-year-old former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to take the helm of the sprawling and embattled Department of Veterans Affairs after a scandal over the manipulation of patient wait-time data led to the ouster two months ago of Eric Shinseki."

Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that McDonald's is jointly responsible for workers at its franchisees' restaurants, a decision that if upheld would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide. Richard F. Griffin Jr., the labor board's general counsel, said that of the 181 unfair labor practice complaints filed against McDonald's and its franchisees over the last 20 months, he found that 43 had merit on such grounds as illegally firing or threatening workers for pro-union activities."

Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "The European Union on Tuesday overcame months of misgivings about forcefully confronting Russia and unleashed a wave of tough economic sanctions intended to push Moscow into backing down from its destabilizing role in eastern Ukraine. President Obama immediately followed the European action by announcing a new round of U.S. sanctions that he said would impact 'key sectors of the Russian economy,' including 'energy, arms and finance.'"

Bradley Klapper & Donna Cassata of the AP: "Democrats and Republicans in Congress vowed urgent support Tuesday for a $225 million missile defense package for Israel, boosting the likelihood that legislation will clear Congress before lawmakers begin a monthlong vacation at week's end.... Amid a daily barrage of Palestinian rocket fire, Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system has been credited with knocking hundreds of missiles out of the sky. While the Obama administration has pressed for a cease-fire, it also has backed Israel's desire to replenish its missile defense stockpiles. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel extended Israel's request to Congress last week."

William Booth & Ruth Eglash of the Washington Post: "Domestic support for [Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu]'s prosecution of the war in Gaza, which has left more than 1,200 Palestinians dead, has only grown over the past three weeks, as the Israeli public and political class rally behind an aggressive, definitive campaign against Hamas and its rockets and tunnels. The deep support among Israelis, from left to right, for the military's Gaza offensive and Netanyahu's leadership is almost unprecedented, political analysts say.... Analysts say the current Gaza offensive is more popular than past major military campaigns -- in 2008-2009 and in 2012 -- because more Israelis are now under the threat of more powerful rocket fire from Gaza.... But the Israeli military's discovery of more than 30 tunnels, built and used by Palestinian militants to enter Israel and attack soldiers, has particularly shocked the Israeli public and galvanized support for the war." ...

Ilene Prusher of Time: "Israeli officials have said in the past week that their main goal in the war against Hamas in Gaza is to destroy as many of what it calls 'terror tunnels,' the underground passages built by the militant group that have repeatedly been used to infiltrate Israel. But following a day in which Hamas militants managed to kill 10 Israeli soldiers, Israel responded Tuesday with massive air strikes that seemed aimed at both major infrastructure as well as the visible symbols of Hamas's power in the Gaza Strip." ...

... Jonathan Chait writes a thoughtful piece titled, "Why I Have Become Less Pro-Israel." ...

... Paul Waldman in the American Prospect, on being "pro- or anti-Israel": "... once you step outside it and stop worrying about which team you're on, it can become easier to see things clearly."

Oleksandr Savochenko of AFP: "When Ukraine's military offensive to oust pro-Russian rebels from the restive east began in mid-April with humiliated soldiers meekly surrendering their armoured vehicles it looked doomed to failure. But after more than three months of brutal fighting that has claimed some 1,100 lives, a sudden advance by battle-hardened government forces in recent weeks has seen them snatch back a string of key towns and left the once confident insurgents scrambling." ...

... Timothy Heritage of Reuters: "With an about-turn all but impossible for [Russian Presidnet Vladimir] Putin after a fierce media campaign that has demonized the West, painted Ukraine's leaders as fascists and backed the rebels to the hilt, he appears to have passed the point of no-return."

Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "Boehner and other Republican leaders are now trying to walk an impossible tightrope. On one hand, they're arguing that they have no interest in impeaching the president -- they know that it would be a political catastrophe if they did -- and any suggestion to the contrary is nothing but Democratic calumny. On the other hand, they're arguing that Obama is a lawless tyrant who is trampling on the Constitution.... Like so many of their problems, this one has its roots in the uncontrollable Tea Party beast that they nurtured but can't control." ...

... Jonathan Capehart: John Boehner calls impeachment talk a "scam" emanating from the White House, but House GOP leaders refuse to say they've taken impeachment "off the table." ...

... Sahil Kapur of TPM: "President Barack Obama's promised executive actions on immigration are shaping up to put Speaker John Boehner in a bind between the passions of his conservative base and the GOP's long-term viability as a national party."

... Bob Cusack of the Hill: "A Republican congressman opposes legislation that would authorize a lawsuit against President Obama for his executive actions. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) told The Hill that the lawsuit, spearheaded by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), is 'theater, is a show.'

CW Interlude: Hey, Jones sounds like the rare reasonable Republican here, doesn't he? But wait, there's more:

     "'Why not impeach instead of wasting $1 million to $2 million of the taxpayers' money? ... If you're serious about this, use what the founders of the Constitution gave us,' Jones said.... Other Republicans who have expressed support for impeachment include Reps. Louie Gohmert (Texas), Steve Stockman (Texas) and Michele Bachmann (Minn.). Pressed on the lack of support in the House Republican Conference for impeachment, Jones said, 'That's why the Republican Party is in trouble.'" ...

... Steve M. "Boehner is winning this one. He may still lose if Obama makes an immigration move and the crazies howl for impeachment. But he's also giving them a reason not to."

Greg Sargent has a good explanation of how the language on which Halbig hangs ended up in the final bill. This explanation completely undercuts the Halbig plaintiffs' argument. CW: Not that it matters. If this case gets to the Supreme Court, I'll be surprised if the Ideologues show the slightest interest in facts & reason. ...

... Brian Beutler of the New Republic questions the integrity of conservative healthcare reporters who have suddenly become "Halbig Truthers," often contradicting their own earlier reporting.

Sofia Resnick of RH Reality Check: "When a very pregnant Felicia Allen applied for medical leave from her job at Hobby Lobby three years ago, one might think that the company best known for denying its employees insurance coverage of certain contraceptives -- on the false grounds that they cause abortions -- would show equal concern for helping one of its employees when she learned she was pregnant. Instead, Allen says the self-professed evangelical Christian arts-and-crafts chain fired her and then tried to prevent her from accessing unemployment benefits.... Her allegations -- as well as those brought by other former Hobby Lobby employees -- call into question the company's public claims when it comes to protecting life and operating its business with Christian values. Additionally, they highlight a practice by which Hobby Lobby prevents its employees from seeking justice through the courts." ...

... Erik Loomis of Lawyers, Guns & Money: "... forcing employees to sign documents waiving their right to sue the company in order to be hired should be as illegal as the yellow-dog contract. I would ask how something like that is even legal in this nation, but of course I already know why -- because corporations control our lives in ways they have not in a century." ...

... CW: I don't see any inconsistency here. The Hobby Lobby Corporate Person does not believe in unemployment insurance. After all, "the Lord helps them that help themselves." (Okay, that's a Greek [or other ancient] saying with no Biblical equivalent, but the Hobby Lobby Corporate Person has a First Amendment right to its own special beliefs.) Those Hobby Lobby moms should have thought of that. And also too, the HLCP does not believe anyone should sue it, as it believes it is infallible. In support of that theology, I would note that the HLCP has god-like characteristics -- for instance, an ordinary mortal cannot see it & must infer its existence from the testimonials of the Five Dancing Supremes.

David Frum, former Dubya speechwriter, in the Atlantic: "... for all its merits, the [Paul] Ryan [poverty] plan is backward-looking.... The proposal is premised on a way of thinking about poverty that made excellent sense a decade ago -- but that is not equal to the more difficult circumstances of today." [Next,a graf about Bush's marvelous "compassionate conservative..., faith-based initiative."] "Ryan's anti-poverty proposals ... start from an assumption that poverty is an unusual and marginal issue in U.S. society.... Unless Ryan has utterly repudiated his previous budget plans, his ... [proposals] do imply large cuts in other forms of means-tested assistance, most likely food stamps and Medicaid." CW: Frum goes on to make his own proposals, which are TERRIBLE. ...

... More on David Frum from Bag News: "Defending Israel with the objectivity and intensity of the Bush speech writer he once was, David Frum, the Senior Editor at the Atlantic, alleged to his 100k Twitter followers on Thursday (not once, but eight times) that the NYT, Reuters (and AP, apparently in collusion, too) had staged a photo in a Gaza hospital." You'll have to read the whole post to see why Frum just might be wrong. CW: It is quite difficult to take conservatives seriously, even when you try. ...

     ... Kristen Hare of Poynter: "The New York Times says Atlantic senior editor David Frum is incorrect to claim that some photos taken in Gaza last week were faked or staged. 'David Frum's claims are false,' Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told Poynter. Frum sent several tweets last week claiming the photos were faked."

CW: Here's something I missed while driving. Matt George of the National Constitution Center: "Last Saturday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the city [of Washington, D.C.] cannot prohibit individuals from carrying firearms in public."

Not with a Bang but a Whimper. Jake Sherman & Anna Palmer of Politico on Eric Cantor's final days as House Majority Leader.

Beyond the Beltway

Campbell Robertson of the New York Times: "A federal appeals panel on Tuesday blocked a Mississippi law that would have shut down the only abortion clinic in the state. The three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, ruled by 2 to 1 that in closing the state's sole clinic, Mississippi would have shifted its constitutional obligations to neighboring states. Closing the clinic, the court said, would place an undue burden on a woman's right to seek an abortion. The ruling upholds a preliminary injunction...."

Chris Geider of BuzzFeed: "After Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall had been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for more than a month, the Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered her to stop doing so for the time being. Hall's office reported Tuesday that it granted 202 licenses to same-sex couples since starting doing so last month."

Steve Pardo & Christine Ferretti of the Detroit News: Detroit "Mayor Mike Duggan vowed Tuesday to help customers who can't afford to pay their water bills, while holding those who can accountable as he began to take over responsibility for the city's Water and Sewerage Department. Duggan's statements to help 'the truly needy' came after Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr decided Tuesday to let the mayor assume more control over the department -- something the mayor has pursued to help solve regional and city rifts on water policy." ...

... ** Detroit as a Platonic Experiment. Jason Stanley, a philosophy professor, writes a compelling New York Times op-ed on the "emergency management" of Detroit. CW: This might be the best piece of "applied philosophy" I've ever read.

Virginia Is for Extramarital Lovers. Matt Zapotosky & Julian Jouvenal of the Washington Post: "The marriage of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife Maureen had 'broken down' and the first lady had developed a crush on the man who is the star witness at the couple's high-profile corruption trial, her attorney said Tuesday.... [Maureen's attorney William] Burck told jurors Maureen McDonnell was not a wife scheming with her governor husband so they could enrich themselves; she was instead a woman craving attention as her own marriage soured.... It's clear ... that the first couples' deteriorating marriage will be central to their claims of innocence and the trial will delve into painful detail about their relationship." ...

... More from Trip Gabriel of the New York Times on Bob McDonnell's My-Wife-Is-a-Tramp defense.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The United States economy rebounded heartily in the spring after a dismal winter, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday, growing at an annual rate of 4 percent from April through June and surpassing economists' expectations. In its initial estimate for the second quarter, the government cited a major advance in inventories for private businesses, higher government spending at the state and local level and personal consumption spending as chief contributors to growth."

Guardian: "At least 19 Palestinians were killed and about 90 injured early on Wednesday when a UN school sheltering people was hit by shells during a second night of relentless bombardment that followed an Israeli warning of a protracted military campaign. Gaza health officials said at least 43 people died in intense air strikes and tank shelling of Jabaliya, a neighbourhood of Gaza City. The death toll included the people at the school who had fled their own homes." ...

     ... AP Update: "Israel unleashed its heaviest air and artillery assault of the Gaza war on Tuesday, destroying key symbols of Hamas control, shutting down the territory's only power plant and leaving at least 128 Palestinians dead on the bloodiest day of the 22-day conflict. Despite devastating blows that left the packed territory's 1.7 million people cut off from power and water and sent the overall death toll soaring past 1,200, Hamas' shadowy military leader remained defiant as he insisted that the Islamic militants would not cease fire until its demands are met."

Los Angeles Times: "Pacific Gas & Electric was charged Tuesday with lying to regulators during the immediate aftermath of the deadly 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight people and ravaged a San Bruno, Calif., neighborhood. The new indictment includes obstruction charges related to what the company said about its records immediately after the incident, according to a release from the Northern District of California U.S. attorney's office. The filing comes three months after an April indictment claimed that PG&E violated federal pipeline safety laws."

Los Angeles Times: "A top Los Angeles utility official faced tough questions Tuesday night about the response to a massive pipe break that flooded UCLA and surrounding areas with millions of gallons of water and threatened the near-term use of Pauley Pavilion. The rupture of the 90-year-old main sent a geyser shooting 30 feet in the air and deluged Sunset Boulevard and UCLA with 8 million to 10 million gallons of water before it was shut off more than three hours after the pipe burst, city officials said."

Reuters: "Militant fighters overran a Libyan special forces base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday after a battle involving rockets and warplanes that killed at least 30 people. A special forces officer said they had to abandon their main camp in the southeast of Benghazi after coming under sustained attack from a coalition of Islamist fighters and former rebel militias in the city."