The Ledes

Friday, May 29, 2015.

New York Times: "Ross W. Ulbricht, the founder of Silk Road, a notorious online marketplace for the sale of heroin, cocaine, LSD and other illegal drugs, was sentenced to life in prison on Friday in Federal District Court in Manhattan. Mr. Ulbricht, 31, was sentenced by the judge, Katherine B. Forrest, for his role as what prosecutors described as 'the kingpin of a worldwide digital drug-trafficking enterprise.'”

Washington Post: "The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized pace of 0.7 percent in the first three months of the year, according to government data released Friday morning, a tumble for a recovering nation that until recently seemed poised for takeoff. The contraction, the country’s third in the aftermath of the Great Recession, provides a troubling picture of an economy that many figured would get a lift from cheap oil, rapid hiring and growing consumer confidence. Instead, consumers have proved cautious, and oil companies have frozen investment — all while a nasty winter caused havoc for transportation and construction and a strong dollar widened the trade deficit."

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

White House Live Video
May 29

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

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday
May292015

The Commentariat -- May 30, 2015

Richard Serrano & Timothy Phelps of the Los Angeles Times: "Indicted former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was paying a former student from Yorkville, Ill., to conceal his alleged sexual abuse of the youth that took place while Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach at a high school there, federal law enforcement officials said Friday. A top official, who would not be identified speaking about the federal charges in Chicago, said investigators also spoke with a second person who raised similar allegations that corroborated what the student said." ...

... BuzzFeed: "A source familiar with the investigation told BuzzFeed News that U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon considered but did not pursue additional charges against former Speaker Dennis Hastert, which would have included a reference to an Individual B, one of potentially several alleged victims of 'prior misdeeds.'” ...

... Pete Williams, et al., of NBC News: "Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert paid a man to conceal sexual misconduct while the man was a student at the high school where Hastert taught, a federal law enforcement official told NBC News on Friday." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Assuming this report is accurate, the term 'abuse' would appear to exclude any consensual adult relationship  — you know, of the type increasingly accepted by most people, if not by all of Hastert’s political allies." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "The unassailable moral greatness of the people who wanted Bill Clinton impeached over a blowjob remains striking." ...

... David Corn of Mother Jones cites a 2003 profile of Hastert by Jonathan Franzen for the New Yorker: "He became a born-again Christian in high school, and much of his time at Wheaton College, an evangelical institution, was devoted to religious study... [H]e comes from a religious college that provided instruction in service and submission, rather than in partying and doubt." CW: It would seem people often turn to fundamentalist religions as a means to exorcise or suppress some part of themselves they don't like. ...

... Tarini Parti of Politico: "Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert ... embarked on what appeared to be a lucrative post-congressional career that involved multiple sources of income.... When he left office in 2007, he was worth between $4 million and $17 million, according to financial disclosure filings. Although most of his wealth was tied to real estate holdings, he had a steady flow of cash from different sources as well. In addition to establishing his own consultancy, Hastert & Associates, Hastert began lobbying on behalf of various major clients for Washington-based lobbying firm Dickstein Shapiro in 2009." His clients included the tobacco company Lorillard & numerous oil companies. He has resigned from Dickstein Shapiro. "The former speaker supplemented his lobbying income with a position on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Hastert, who has been a director since 2008, earned more than $205,000 in total compensation from the CME in 2014 alone, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Hastert has resigned from that position as well." ...

... CW: Sadly, Jesus could not save Denny from abusing high-school boys & working for big tobacco & big oil. Hard to say which is worse. ...

... Monique Garcia of the Chicago Tribune: "The Illinois House has put on hold a proposal to spend $500,000 to put a statue in the state Capitol honoring Republican Dennis Hastert after the former U.S. House speaker declined the offer. Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan filed a bill May 5 to set aside the money, and the measure got out of a committee two weeks ago.... '(Hastert) called a month or so ago and said he appreciated the recognition and honor, but asked us to defer given the state's financial condition,' Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said. Brown would not say whether the effort is now scuttled following Hastert's indictment...."

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The Obama administration on Friday removed Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a crucial step in normalizing ties between Washington and Havana and the latest progress in President Obama’s push to thaw relations between the United States and the island nation. Secretary of State John F. Kerry rescinded Cuba’s designation as a terrorism sponsor at the end of a 45-day congressional notification period that began on April 14, when Mr. Obama announced his intention to remove Cuba from the list." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Steven Shepard of Politico: "The Federal Communications Commission says it receives more complaints about unwanted phone calls than any other issue. As a response, the FCC is asking phone companies to offer services to their customers that block calls placed by an automatic dialer. Pollsters are asking to be exempted from the new guidelines, arguing that legitimate researchers shouldn’t be grouped with telemarketers and debt-collectors. But, for now, the FCC has no plans to establish a carve-out for telephone surveys."

Lydia Saad of Gallup: "Half of Americans consider themselves 'pro-choice' on abortion, surpassing the 44% who identify as 'pro-life.' This is the first time since 2008 that the pro-choice position has had a statistically significant lead in Americans' abortion views.... On a longer-term basis, a higher percentage of women today than in 2001 call themselves pro-choice, while men's identification is about the same." CW: Apparently the wingers' hyperactive efforts to keep the little ladies barefoot & pregnant is finally influencing American women. Keep up the good work, Scotty! Eventually, the only GOP woman left standing will be the ghost of Phyllis Schlafly. ...

... Tierney Sneed of TPM: "The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit struck down an Idaho law banning abortions 20 weeks into pregnancy Friday on the basis that the law unconstitutionally prohibits abortions before the point of fetal viability outside of the womb. It also declared unconstitutional Idaho's requirement that women undergo second trimester abortions in hospitals, calling it 'an undue burden' on women seeking abortions.... Friday's decision comes as momentum behind anti-abortion legislation, particularly 20-week abortion bans, grows. Similar prohibitions have been passed in 14 states in the past five years. Supporters of the measures say 20 weeks is when fetuses begin to feel pain, a claim most of the medical community considers to be without scientific basis."

Yesterday Akhilleus linked this excellent NPR report by Wade Goodwyn, who -- as Akhilleus noted -- accidentally forgot to follow NPR's both-sides-do-it rule of "journalism":

Owen Gibson of the Guardian: "Despite the chaos and controversy engulfing world football’s governing body, Fifa president Sepp Blatter has secured a fifth term in charge. The 79-year-old defeated his rival, the Jordanian Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, to whoops and cheers from his supporters. Blatter polled 133 votes to Prince Ali’s 73, which would have been enough to take the contest to a potential second round but his 39-year-old challenger withdrew." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Presidential Race

Ben Schreckinger & Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee will officially enter the presidential race on June 3...."

Tim Egan: "What bothers [Jeb Bush] is not the threat of megastorms, life-killing droughts, city-burying sea rises — but experts in the scientific community who are sounding such alarms.... In addressing and assessing the great issues of the day, Jeb Bush has disqualified himself to lead. On top of that, he’s politically inept. All he has going for him is a certain arrogance, to use his word, that the name Bush entitles him to be president." Turns out the Smart One is more backward than the Dumb one: when he was President, Dubya said, "that the unsustainable increase in greenhouse gas 'is due in large part to human activity.'”

Gubernatorial Race

Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "A day after a recanvass of the ballot boxes left him still trailing by 83 votes, James R. Comer, the Kentucky agriculture commissioner, conceded the Republican primary race for governor on Friday to Matt Bevin, a wealthy Louisville businessman and Tea Party favorite." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Thursday
May282015

The Commentariat -- May 29, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Owen Gibson of the Guardian: "Despite the chaos and controversy engulfing world football’s governing body, Fifa president Sepp Blatter has secured a fifth term in charge. The 79-year-old defeated his rival, the Jordanian Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, to whoops and cheers from his supporters. Blatter polled 133 votes to Prince Ali’s 73, which would have been enough to take the contest to a potential second round but his 39-year-old challenger withdrew."

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The Obama administration on Friday removed Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a crucial step in normalizing ties between Washington and Havana and the latest progress in President Obama’s push to thaw relations between the United States and the island nation. Secretary of State John F. Kerry rescinded Cuba’s designation as a terrorism sponsor at the end of a 45-day congressional notification period that began on April 14, when Mr. Obama announced his intention to remove Cuba from the list."

Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "A day after a recanvass of the ballot boxes left him still trailing by 83 votes, James R. Comer, the Kentucky agriculture commissioner, conceded the Republican primary race for governor on Friday to Matt Bevin, a wealthy Louisville businessman and Tea Party favorite."

*****

BuzzFeed: "U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon agreed to withhold details of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s alleged 'prior misconduct' against an unidentified individual as part of an indictment against the Illinois Republican, two sources familiar with the case told BuzzFeed News.... Fardon had originally been prepared to move forward with a much more explicit indictment of Hastert...." ...

... The underlying story will be juicier than the indictment. Mark Berman & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "J. Dennis Hastert, the longest serving Republican speaker in the U.S. House, was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on charges that he violated banking laws in a bid to pay $3.5 million because of 'past misconduct' against an unnamed individual from their hometown west of Chicago.... The indictment did not spell out the exact nature of the 'prior misconduct' by Hastert against the individual from his hometown, Yorkville, but noted that before entering politics in 1981, Hastert spent more than a decade as a teacher and wrestling coach at the local high school. The unnamed individual has known Hastert for most of that person’s life, the indictment states." So, screwing a high-school kid. ...

... John Stanton of BuzzFeed broke the story. ...

... The indictment is here. ...

... Monica Davey of the New York Times: "Mr. Hastert ... was providing money to an unnamed person in order to 'compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct' against that person, according to a federal indictment issued by the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. The indictment says that Mr. Hastert ... paid $1.7 million to the person from 2010 to 2014. Since 2012, the indictment alleges, Mr. Hastert had begun structuring withdrawals of less than $10,000 from various accounts to avoid bank reporting requirements as he made the payments. And in late 2014, Mr. Hastert told federal agents that he was not paying anyone with the money, but was keeping the withdrawals for himself." ...

... Justin Moyer & Fred Barbash of the Washington Post: "Indeed, there was far more media interest in what the indictment didn’t say than in what it did.... What kind of 'misconduct' could the Republican from Illinois been a part of as a coach and teacher?" ...

... Steve M.: "I'd like to be irresponsible and note that rumors about Hastert were being spread in 2006, the last full year of his term as as House Speaker.... At the Huffington Post, Lawrence O'Donnell insinuated that Hastert and a male top aide were more than friends." AMERICAblog's John Aravosis had heard the rumors, too. The rumors began to circulate as a result of the Mark Foley scandal. Foley, a Florida GOP Congressman, had a penchant for male House pages.

Christi Parsons & Brian Bennett of the Los Angeles Times: "The National Security Agency will mothball its mammoth archive of Americans' telephone records, isolating the computer servers where they are stored and blocking investigators' access, but will not destroy the database if its legal authority to collect the material expires on schedule this Sunday, officials said Thursday." ...

... ** To What End? Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent agency created by Congress, studied classified reports about how the [bulk records collection] program had been used and what the government considered to be its greatest success stories. The board found no instances in which it had been abused, but also none in which it stopped a terrorist attack."

"Bite Me." Hamilton Nolan of Gawker: "Dick Fuld was the head of the investment bank Lehman Bros. in 2008 when the bank collapsed in the biggest bankruptcy in history, kicking off the worst part of the financial crisis. Who can say if Dick Fuld ever did anything 'wrong?' Not Dick Fuld!... As the Wall Street Journal reports..., 'When asked why he didn’t simply ride off into the sunset after Lehman’s collapse, Mr. Fuld responded, Why don’t you just bite me?'”

Greg Sargent: If President Obama signed into law Ron Johnson's (R-Wis.) so-called ObamaCare fix (or any of the other GOP version thereof, "A new issue brief from the American Academy of Actuaries finds that the GOP contingency fix plans could actually result in more disruptions to the insurance markets." What a surprise. ...

... Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post: Ron Johnson "says 'The Lego Movie' is part of an 'insidious' propaganda campaign against business owners." Read the whole post. If he weren't a U.S. senator, Johnson would be a just a dimwitted cliche, quite fit as the model for the sort of movie villain who is the source of his complaint. If you wondered, BTW, how suck a dumb cluck could be a "self-made millionaire," Grim has the answer. Also, thanks again, Dick Morris! ...

... CW: In case you're still not convinced Johnson is a clueless boob, read his response to Grim's post. Ron's thesis notwithstanding, there's no hint whatever in Grim's column that he has no idea that fat cats are often portrayed in films as villains.

Paul Krugman: "... it’s startling how little room for error there is in many American lives.... There is no such thing as perfect security, but American families could easily have much more security than they have. All it would take is for politicians and pundits to stop talking blithely about the need to cut 'entitlements' and start looking at the way their less-fortunate fellow citizens actually live." Read the whole column.

Amtrak has some infrastructure that is so old it was built and put into service when Jesse James and Butch Cassidy were still alive and robbing trains. -- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

In Connecticut we have a bridge that was built when Grover Cleveland was president. -- Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) ...

Gail Collins: "Everybody knows that the government can waste money.... But making money-losing links between different parts of the theoretically United States doesn’t seem to be in that category. Fix Amtrak. Connect the country." ...

... Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "Since the days when Jesse James robbed trains in the Old West, obscure police forces run by the nation’s railroads have operated with the power to make arrests, issue warrants and perform undercover work.These railroad police officers, who have been licensed by states, have been accused of physical assaults, racial profiling and harassment of railroad employees.... The records and interviews show that there have been numerous complaints and dozens of lawsuits filed against railroad police officers in recent years. While police departments across the country face increasing scrutiny and demand for reform after several cases of brutality, the railroad authorities appear to operate with near impunity.... Since 2009, the railroad police have arrested more than 300 residents in Overtown, a predominantly black neighborhood in Miami, on charges of trespassing. Nearly 90 percent of those charges have been dismissed."

Joe Conason, in Politico, & Jim Fallows of the Atlantic defend their long-time friend Sid Blumenthal.

Neil McFarquhar & Andrew Roth of the New York Times: Russian "President Vladimir V. Putin sought to transform the burgeoning scandal over corruption in soccer’s international governing body into an extension of the confrontation between Russia and the West on Thursday, accusing the United States of global overreach while invoking the fates of Edward J. Snowden and Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder.... He used the moment to again portray Russia as under siege — in this case threatened with the humiliating loss of the right to host the 2018 World Cup, a move considered unlikely." ...

Will Hobson & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Chuck Blazer ... cooperated with the federal investigation into FIFA after he pleaded guilty to crimes including racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion in November 2013." Blazer, a U.S. soccer official, wore a wire & provided evidence that may be used in the cases against FIFA officials.

... "The Human Toll of FIFA's Corruption." Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post (May 27): "The decision to award the 2022 World Cup to the rich Gulf state [of Qatar] with a terrible human rights record was a controversial one right out of the gate. There have been extensive allegations of bribery.... Human rights advocates' worst fears about Qatar seemed to be confirmed as Qatar began building the infrastructure to host the Cup, and reports of migrant worker deaths started to pile up. The numbers, to the extent that we know them, appear startling.... It is hard to know how many of those are specifically World Cup associated."

Carol Morello of the Washington Post: A piece of Iran's "evidence" that WashPo reporter Jason Rezaian is a U.S. spy: he once applied online for a job in the Obama administration. (He got a form-letter rejection.)

AP: Gokul Venkatachalam and Vanya Shivashankar tied to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Vanya's sister Kavya won the title in 2009. "Fourteen-year-old Cole Shafer-Ray of Norman, Oklahoma, making his first appearance in the finals, finished third."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Adam Lerner of Politico: "A Pennsylvania newspaper [-- the Daily Item of Sunbury --] has apologized for publishing a letter to the editor calling for President Barack Obama to be executed.... The nearly 78-year-old paper wrote that it was prompted to apologize by reader outrage." The editorial board wrote that the editor who submitted the letter for publication didn't see anything wrong with it: "no bells & whistles went off." In future the board said the paper will opt for "a higher standard for civil discourse." Very nice. Also a good way to keep the Secret Service from calling.

CW: The other day, I complained about Jonathan Topaz of Politico's lede (and theme): "These weren't your everyday Americans who came out to support Bernie Sanders on Tuesday." Driftglass liked it as much as I did:

Just shoot me right now.... I don't know Jonathan Topaz, nor do I know much about his work. His bio is that of a smart, shining young man out of the Ivy League with a pretty cool name, but this passage should be a career-killer. What, pray tell, young Jonathan, do 'everyday Americans' look like? Perhaps like the Duggars of Springdale, Arkansas? The hayshaking Bible-banging cultists whom I saw gather in Iowa earlier this spring? Sheldon Adelson? But Jonathan should not bear the punishment alone. Every editor, sub-editor, and researcher who read this and didn't say, 'Holy hell, this is some cheap bullshit right here. It's beneath even our standards!' also should find their careers taking on water...

Presidential Race

Patrick Healy of the New York Times: Bernie Sanders is a hit with a good number of voters of his own generation. ...

... Annie Karni of Politico: "One candidate is 73, with a shock of wispy white hair and a famously rumpled demeanor that makes him look more like a mad scientist than a politician.... The other is central casting’s image of a presidential candidate: square-jawed, athletic-looking and 52 years old — the ideal age that Fortune 500 companies look for in a CEO and that voters find appealing in a president. But ... it’s Sanders ... that Democratic strategists and Clinton insiders expect to pose a bigger threat to the former secretary of state than the mainstream O’Malley, who has been trying to build a national constituency by positioning himself slightly to her left." ...

... Tim Murphy of Mother Jones profiles young Bernie. Entertaining. (If you can't get to the page directly -- I couldn't -- try going here, then scroll down to the link to the story. ...

... Alex Seitz-Wald of MSNBC highlights interesting stuff from Sanders' 1997 political memoir (written with Huck Gutman). When he was a Congressman, Bernie had Richard Nixon's old office. ...

... Inae Oh of Mother Jones: AND Bernie has the best 404 error page ever. Also, an excellent URL: berniesanders.com/wtf

Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: GOP "presidential hopefuls are scrambling to show who is most aggressive on national security and who is most passive on climate change. The ideal candidate would, presumably, be able to claim both superlatives. But this set of stances is incoherent as a policy platform. Actually it’s worse than incoherent. It’s an oxymoron. That’s because climate change is a national security issue." CW: Rampell goes on to explain why. But she's missing the point: these presidential candidates crave political instability. They're exceptionalist bullies who want to drop bombs on "lesser mortals."

Charles Pierce: "... now that he's moving toward an actual national campaign, [Scott] Walker and his friends are moving on several fronts to make sure that they are seen as doing right by Zygote-Americans. First, back in Wisconsin, his pet legislature is doing him a solid by trying to pass a very restrictive -- as well as non-scientific and likely unconstitutional -- abortion rights bill." ...

... Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast: "... unlike a federal bill on the issue, this legislation doesn’t include an exception allowing abortions for victims of rape or incest. [Walker] plans to sign the legislation, Laurel Patrick, a spokeswoman for Walker’s office, emailed."

Charles Pierce: Rick Santorum "remains the perfect blend of smug sanctimony and greasy smarm.... Rick Santorum remains a colossal dick. I may have mentioned that.... In his announcement speech, Rick went full wingnut. He wants to 'drive a stake' through Common Core (Hi, 'Bobby' Jindal!). He wants to junk the IRS (Hi, Ted Cruz!) and institute a flat tax (Hi, Steve Forbes!). This, of course, means that you and Bill Gates will pay exactly the same percentage of your income in taxes, and Rick is only doing that because he's 'stands for someone -- the American worker.'"

Wednesday
May272015

The Commentariat -- May 28, 2015

ObamaWeb! Rebecca Ruiz of the New York Times: "For 30 years, the federal government has helped millions of low-income Americans pay their phone bills, saying that telephone service is critical to summoning medical help, seeking work and, ultimately, climbing out of poverty. Now, [FCC Chair Tom Wheeler] will propose offering those same people subsidized access to broadband Internet.... While the plan is likely to secure the support of the F.C.C.’s Democratic majority in a vote next month, it is almost certain to also set off fierce debate in Washington." CW: Gosh, whoever would oppose a modest plan designed to reduce income inequality & help American children?

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama will put off a confrontation at the Supreme Court over his immigration executive actions, choosing not to ask for permission to carry out the programs while a fight over presidential authority plays out in the lower courts, officials said Wednesday. As a result, Mr. Obama’s vast overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, which he announced with great fanfare last November, might not be resolved until just months before he leaves office." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Charles Pierce: The Supreme Court is "now damned close to enshrining in law the principle that any electoral disadvantage — self-inflicted or not — that conservatives face is prima facie unconstitutional. First, they turn our elections into a plutocrat's playground (Citizens United, McCutcheon). Then they uphold in the main voter-suppression tactics designed by the candidates the newly corrupt system produces out in the states (Crawford). Then, they gut any remedy that the people against whom these new laws discriminate have in federal court (Shelby County.) And now, it appears, the day of Jubilee having been declared, the circle may be closing for good." ...

... CW: Nonetheless, it would seem that Little Johnnie & the Dancing Supremes could have some difficulty in sidestepping the 14th Amendment, as contributor Patrick pointed out yesterday, to wit: "... Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State...." They will have to declare that children & adult non-voters are not whole persons. That, as I noted yesterday, is the question. ...

     ... However, as several legal commentators have pointed out, the case the Supremes agreed to hear has to do with how the states determine the apportionment of legislative districts within their states, not how many "persons" form the basis for federal representation. ...

... BUT. Marty Lederman of Balkanization notes that when he was assistant solicitor general, John Roberts argued convincingly that one-man-one-vote must be applied to state districting. Lederman: "(Of course I am not suggesting the Chief Justice is or ought to be bound by what he argued as counsel for the government a quarter-century ago; I merely think that the substance of his argument in Garza was, and remains, quite compelling.)" Via Rick Hasen. ...

... Rick Hasen in Slate: "The conservatives behind Evenwel don’t seem bothered much by the intrusion on states’ rights that a decision in their favor would engender. That’s because they are motivated more by the fact that noncitizens are getting representation, and in their belief that this is 'diluting' the voting power of citizens. They are the same people who backed attacks on affirmative action at the Supreme Court in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case and successfully got the Supreme Court to strike down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act in the Shelby County v. Holder case. It is an agenda not about states’ rights but about getting the Supreme Court to force states to empower conservatives and force onto all of us the theories of representation and power they envision." ...

... Noah Feldman of Bloomberg provides a helpful -- and easy-to-read -- historical views.

Mark Stern of Slate: The Supreme Court will hear a case contesting a death-penalty jury decision in which Georgia prosecutors left a paper trail showing blatant racism in jury selection. The state supreme court, BTW, saw nothing wrong with that. "A victory for Georgia ... would be a huge setback for the criminal justice system. It could give prosecutors across the country free rein to employ the kind of warped Southern justice that helped send [Timothy Tyrone] Foster to death row."

Jerry Markon of the Washington Post: "As the Department of Homeland Security continues to pour money into border security, evidence is emerging that illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades. The nation’s population of illegal immigrants, which more than tripled, to 12.2 million, between 1990 and 2007, has dropped by about 1 million, according to demographers at the Pew Research Center.... Current and former DHS officials acknowledge that a confluence of factors explains the decline in illegal migration, including demographic changes in Mexico, improvements in its economy and Mexico’s crackdown on Central American migrants headed to the United States." ...

... Nigel Duara of the Los Angeles Times: "Demonstrations unfolded Wednesday at six Arizona border checkpoints, where protesters complained that the Border Patrol has turned their hometowns into intimidating militarized zones, among other border control issues that threaten the quality of their lives."

Dan Bilefsky of the New York Times: "European soccer officials said on Thursday that they would not boycott an election that is widely expected to lead to a fifth term as FIFA president for Sepp Blatter, despite their intensified opposition to his candidacy. After leading an emergency meeting with representatives from FIFA’s six regional confederations to discuss a criminal inquiry by the United States earlier in the day, Blatter rebuffed a call from Michel Platini, Europe’s top soccer official, to step down before the election on Friday." ...

... Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times: "Dogged for years by suspicions of corruption, the governing body for the world's most popular sport is now in the center of a sprawling, spiraling scandal.... The FIFA imbroglio, unearthed as part of a joint effort that includes the FBI and IRS, extends far beyond the average sports scandal." ...

... David Graham of the Atlantic reports on the FIFA (football) arrests -- which are now up to 14 & counting. Graham describes FIFA as a Mafia-like organization. ...

Claire Phipps & Damien Gayle of the Guardian: "Fifa sponsors, including Adidas, Visa and Coca-Cola, are calling for the body to reform its practices.,,, The crisis has also cast doubt over [Sepp] Blatter’s leadership of the body. He is seeking a fifth four-year term as president this week, but leading figures in world football have called for him to reconsider his position." ...

... Jackie Kucinich of the Daily Beast: "The Clinton global charity has received between $50,000 and $100,000 from soccer’s governing body and has partnered with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association on several occasions, according to donor listings on the foundation’s website.... Bill Clinton ... was an honorary chairman of the bid committee put together to promote the United States as a possible host nation for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup."

Some Would Be Heroes. Contributor safari links to the obituary of conservationist Leo Drey. ...

... And Some Would Not. Adam Lerner of Politico: Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, "downplayed the effects of climate change at his company’s annual meeting Wednesday, telling shareholders his firm hadn’t invested in renewable energy because 'We choose not to lose money on purpose.'... At the meeting, shareholders sided with the company’s board and voted against a measure proposed by Father Michael Crosby and Sister Pat Daly, representatives of a Milwaukee-based Roman Catholic organization, to add a climate change expert to the company’s board.”

Presidential Race

Say Who? Alexander Burns of the New York Times: Former New York Gov. George Pataki "announced Thursday in a video on his website that he is running for president.... Mr. Pataki, who left office in 2006, is an unlikely match for the Republican Party of 2016. A former Yale debater with an easy public demeanor, he is a supporter of abortion rights and pushed as governor for anti-discrimination rules protecting gays and lesbians."

[Pataki] sees and believes that there’s an opportunity in New Hampshire to put himself forth in this race. Its voters are much more moderate on social issues.... Of course he’ll be battling Jeb Bush, who is considered the more moderate of the candidates running. But Jeb doesn’t know to take a position on Iraq even after the disaster we’ve seen. -- Former goofball Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R.-N.Y.), a long-time ally of Pataki's

Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "Rick Santorum, who was the runner-up in the Republican primary race four years ago but has never been considered his party’s heir apparent, is announcing his second presidential bid on Wednesday." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Dan Balz & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has been actively gauging reactions to a possible campaign for president in 2016, is now moving rapidly to assemble the staff and financial resources for such a bid and is looking to declare his candidacy sometime after June 30, according to knowledgeable Republicans." CW: Apparently god gave Kasich the signal. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Our Moral Dilemma of the Day: Should Christian bakers sell cake to sinners? ....

... Related Test Question: How is a mosque like a KKK march?

Katie Glueck of Politico: "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal lashed out at Sen. Rand Paul for his recent comments about the Islamic State, saying the presidential contender is unfit to be commander in chief and is taking the 'weakest, most liberal Democrat position' when it comes to fighting the militant group. Using unusually harsh rhetoric and an unusual forum, Jindal posted a statement condemning Paul on Wednesday on his 'office of the governor' website." CW: Hmmm. I'm trying to think of what other presidential hopeful is unfit for the job. ...

... Ed Kilgore surmises Bobby is "grabbing every media opportunity available to get the kind of attention that might bump up those polling numbers and earn a spot on the debate stage.... "Perhaps Jindal decided to get energized after reading a Times-Pic piece from Julia O’Donoghue drawing attention to a FiveThirtyEight analysis by Harry Enten of polls showing Bobby running dead last (technically, tied for dead last with John Kasich) among born again/evangelical voters, his obsessive target for many months now." ...

... CW: I sure want Bobby to be in the same circus ring with Li'l Randy during the Fox "News" clown show debates. It would be so fun to watch these pipsqueaks duke it out. ...

... Update. Add Christie to the scrim. Alexander Bolton of the Hill: Chris "Christie accused Paul of siding with the 'criminal' leaker Edward Snowden." ...

... Update 2. Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "... Jeb Bush sought to cast himself as a seasoned leader while faulting other candidates for shifting course to fit public opinion. Bush is not yet an official presidential candidate, but he suggested that others already in the race are being needlessly combative and that the eventual GOP presidential nominee should be 'hopeful and optimistic instead of grumpy and kind of reactionary.'... Bush made his comments as the featured guest on 'Calling Alabama,' a conference call series hosted by the Alabama Republican Party." ...

... Greg Sargent: "It’s good that Bush is throwing down the gauntlet in claiming that GOP candidates should show courage in trying to persuade hostile GOP voters that legalization [of undocumented immigrants] is the only solution. But it remains to be see how far he’ll go publicly. What’s more, Bush does not deserve a pass here — he, too, has equivocated on legalization."

Dana Milbank: "Ted Cruz, charlatan." Milbank points out how Cruz criticized President Obama for not bombing Syria at the same time Cruz was working against Congressional efforts to grant President Obama approval to bom Syria.

Adam Lerner: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker defended his decision to sign a law in Wisconsin mandating ultrasounds for women before they get abortions.... Defending the legislation against what he called the 'gotcha' media, Walker said, 'Most people I talk to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time who’ll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, you know we still have their first ultrasound picture. It’s just a cool thing out there.'... Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards responded in a statement sent to NPR that 'Women are very clear that forced government ultrasounds are not "cool."'” ...

... CW: I'm pretty sure women will want to share photos of their aborted fetuses. Maybe frame the pix & hang them on the wall. What an asshole. P.S. Once again: thanks, Wisconsin!

Ha Ha. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: Carly Fiorina's attempted ambush of Hillary Clinton at a South Carolina hotel didn't go so well. ...

... Haberman: Meanwhile, Hillary called for a civil campaign, addressing "an unhappy memory from her last campaign in South Carolina, when her battle with Barack Obama grew intense and ugly." ...

... Patrick Healy of the New York Times: So then, in New Hampshire, Bernie takes a jab at Hillary for not taking a position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. ...

... Linda Greenhouse: "Hillary Clinton has been telling people ... that as president, she would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the Citizens United decision erasing limits on political spending by corporations.... Litmus tests can be problematic, for sure, but let’s be intrigued rather than shocked that opposition to Citizens United has emerged as the latest one. During the presidential debates in 2012, neither candidate was asked a single question about the Supreme Court. If a Citizens United litmus test serves only to put the court on the campaign screen, where it urgently belongs, it will have done some good before the first vote is cast." ...

... ** Ken Vogel of Politico: "Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime confidant of Bill and Hillary Clinton, earned about $10,000 a month as a full-time employee of the Clinton Foundation while he was providing unsolicited intelligence on Libya to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to multiple sources familiar with the arrangement.... A Clinton loyalist who first earned the family’s trust as an aggressive combatant in the political battles of the 1990s, Blumenthal continues to work as a paid consultant to two groups supporting Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign — American Bridge and Media Matters — both of which are run by David Brock, a close ally of both Clinton and Blumenthal." ...

... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal judge issued an order Wednesday requiring the State Department to make public batches of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails every 30 days starting next month. U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras also set particular targets for the agency to meet each month as it wades through the roughly 30,000 emails totaling about 55,000 pages.... The State Department initially proposed releasing the vast majority of the emails in a single batch by next January, but Contreras rejected that suggestion, citing the public interest in the materials."

Beyond the Beltway

Putting Some Heart in the Heartland. Julie Bosman of the New York Times: "Nebraska on Wednesday became the first conservative state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty, with lawmakers defying their Republican governor, Pete Ricketts, a staunch supporter of capital punishment who had lobbied vigorously against banning it. After more than two hours of emotional speeches at the Capitol here, the Legislature, by a 30-to-19 vote that cut across party lines, overrode the governor’s veto of a bill repealing the state’s death penalty law. After the repeal measure passed, by just enough votes to overcome the veto, dozens of spectators in the balcony burst into celebration."

Colin Campbell & Ian Duncan of the Balitmore Sun: "Defense attorneys for six police officers facing criminal charges in the Freddie Gray case are seeking to have the case tried elsewhere in Maryland, saying their clients can't get a 'fair and impartial trial' in Baltimore."

Zach Stafford of the Guardian: "An Illinois judge has released a long-concealed picture that shows two Chicago police officers posing over an unidentified black man in antlers while holding rifles as if he had been hunted. The photo, which was given to police by federal prosecutors in 2013, was made public for the first time on Wednesday by Cook county Judge Thomas Allen. It was taken sometime between 1998 and 2003 at the Harrison police district station on the west side. This station is a mile south of Homan Square, the facility where the Guardian earlier this year identified alleged police misconduct and torture as well as other civil rights violations."

James Nord of the AP: "A South Dakota jury on Wednesday convicted former U.S. Senate candidate Annette Bosworth [R] of election law violations. The 43-year-old Sioux Falls physician had been charged with six counts each of perjury and filing false documents stemming from the mishandling of her candidate petitions. Jurors convicted her on all of those counts...."

Tuesday
May262015

The Commentariat -- May 27, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama will put off a confrontation at the Supreme Court over his immigration executive actions, choosing not to ask for permission to carry out the programs while a fight over presidential authority plays out in the lower courts, officials said Wednesday. As a result, Mr. Obama's vast overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, which he announced with great fanfare last November, might not be resolved until just months before he leaves office."

Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "Rick Santorum, who was the runner-up in the Republican primary race four years ago but has never been considered his party's heir apparent, is announcing his second presidential bid on Wednesday."

Dan Balz & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has been actively gauging reactions to a possible campaign for president in 2016, is now moving rapidly to assemble the staff and financial resources for such a bid and is looking to declare his candidacy sometime after June 30, according to knowledgeable Republicans." CW: Apparently god gave Kasich the signal.

*****

Today's Existential Question:
Are You Still a Person if You Don't Vote?

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

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

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

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

Richard Pildes in Election Law Blog: "In 1966, in the earliest days of the reapportionment revolution, the Court did hold that states could choose between equalizing population or eligible voters (Burns v. Richardson, 384 U.S. 73 (1966)). But a lot has happened in the maturation of the law in the ensuing 50 years; in general, the Court has placed greater emphasis on the use of more concrete, precise standards.... In practice, most states have used residents, not voters, for the baseline, but the doctrine leaves open the possibility that states could use other baselines. And as long as the baseline remains constitutionally undefined, states can manipulate the districting system by choosing one baseline over another...."

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

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

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

... Ian Millhiser explains.

Sean Cockerham & Lesley Clark of McClatchy News: "President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged the Senate to renew National Security Agency surveillance powers before they expire at midnight Sunday, as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul vowed to keep working to block the Patriot Act and the bulk collection of Americans' phone records.... White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, asked what Obama was doing to round up votes, suggested, without naming him, that Paul needs to put the country first as he runs for the Republican nomination for president." ...

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

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

Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "... it looks like all the time Democrats wasted on negotiating with [former Sen. Olympia] Snowe [R-Maine], and allowing her to help shape the legislation, has paid off. Snowe has, to my knowledge, become the first contemporaneous Republican senator, current or former, to acknowledge that a Supreme Court challenge meant to cripple Obamacare is built on a tissue of lies. If the Court sides with Obamacare opponents, her comments will become incredibly relevant to the ensuing political shitstorm." ...

... CW: Nonetheless, the confederate Supremes can & will (a) go with a "textual" reading -- i.e., what that one phrase says -- & (b) either cite comments by some of the many Republican legislators who have been pretending that the intent of the clause was to coerce the states into setting up their own exchanges, OR these so-called justices will ignore intent altogether. The only thing we don't know is whether Roberts &/or Kennedy have enough integrity to rule against this farce. It would not surprise me if all of the confederate Supremes ruled for the plaintiffs & hid behind the Congress-can-just-fix-it ruse. ...

... Charles Pierce: "The case itself is preposterous, a creature of the alternate universe of conservative epistemic closure come to blunder around in the lives of real people with real problems. And it's still a damn toss-up."

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

Bryan Bender & Philip Ewing of Politico: "... when [Secretary of Defense Ash] Carter showed up for work on Monday, according to top aides, he was hailed as a hero of sorts by the top brass for bluntly saying what they have been privately warning for months. 'This is Carter calling it the way he sees it,' said a senior Pentagon official..., explaining that his public rebuke, in a brief interview aired on CNN's 'State of the Union' program, was not coordinated with the White House. 'There is a lot of people here who think that is an important message....' White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Carter's comments were 'consistent with the analysis that he's received from those who are on the ground,' but he also stressed that in many cases Iraqi troops had shown bravery in their battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant."

Rick Gladstone of the New York Times: "... if history is a guide, [the] fate [of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who is on trial in Iran on espionage & other charges,] may be tied to Iranian political tensions and calculations in the estranged relations between Iran and the United States that may have nothing to do with the accusations, according to political experts, relatives of prisoners and former prisoners."

Nick Gass of Politico: In compliance with a Freedom of Information Act request, the FBI has just released its file on Ben Bradlee, the legendary Washington Post editor-in-chief. It seems J. Edgar Hoover didn't like him much. The complete release is here.

We will now take a break from our regularly-scheduled links to legitimate news, analysis & opinion pieces to find out

What Terrible Things the Gays Are Doing Today

Gays Are Self-Indulgent Whiners. Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "The Nazi regime threw thousands of gay people into prison and concentration camps, and according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 'homosexuals were among the most abused groups in the camps,' where the Nazis subjected them to medical experiments 'designed policies to "cure" homosexuals of their "disease" through humiliation and hard work.'... But because gays weren't persecuted as harshly as European Jews, BarbWire columnist Christopher Ziegler claims today, Nazi persecution of gay people was a 'myth' propping up a contemporary 'pity party.'"

Gays Are Pedophiles Bent on Recruiting Wholesome Little Heterosexual Boys. Miranda Blue of Right Wing Watch: "... the American Family Association is urging its members to pull their sons from the Boy Scouts out of fear that gay troop leaders will sexually molest them and recruit them into homosexuality. Former AFA official Bryan Fischer, who hosts a daily program on the organization's radio network, called Boy Scouts head Robert Gates' support for admitting gay troop leaders 'a disaster, a moral catastrophe.' If gay men are allowed to lead Boy Scout troops, he said, 'It's no longer going to be Boy Scouts of America, it's going to be Gay Pedophiles Scouting For Boys.'"

Gays Are Gearing up to Persecute Christians. Miranda Blue: "Family Research Council President Tony Perkins wrapped up his group's annual 'Watchmen on the Wall' pastors' conference [last week] by warning the conservative pastors in the audience that although they 'may have five years' before they are dragged 'kicking and screaming' out of their churches if the Supreme Court strikes down same-sex marriage bans, they should start preparing their congregations for 'persecution.'" Also, too, it's already working in the Middle East because American gays are encouraging ISIS & other groups to persecute Christians.

Gays Are Threatening Democracy Itself. Brian Tashman: "In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, [Sen. Marco] Rubio [R-Fla.] warned that gay marriage represents 'a real and present danger' to America because gay rights advocates are bent on labeling any anti-gay messages, including those from churches, as 'hate speech.'" ...

     ... Tim Teeman of the Daily Beast: "Does Marco Rubio have any idea of the toxicity of the phrase he is flinging around to score some cheap political capital? Does he have any idea of the true 'hate speech' LGBTs have suffered, not just on political platforms at the hands of people like Marco Rubio in their stoking of their Christian voting base -- words like 'unnatural,' 'pretend families,' words of exclusion that seek to put us outside the boundaries of family, home, and love?"

Gays Are Defeating Humanity. Stephanie Kirchgaessner of the Guardian: "A senior Vatican official has attacked the legalisation of gay marriage in Ireland. The referendum that overwhelmingly backed marriage equality last weekend was a 'defeat for humanity', he claimed.... The remarks by the Vatican's top diplomat, [Cardinal Pietro Parolin,] who is seen as second only to the pope in the church's hierarchy, represent the most damning assessment of the Irish vote by a senior church official to date. It was a far more critical response than the circumspect reaction offered by archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin...."

CW: Congratulations, gay people. I had no idea you had so much power. Very impressive.

Marie's Sports Report

Matt Apuzzo, et al., of the New York Times: "Swiss authorities conducted an extraordinary early-morning operation [in Zurich] Wednesday to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges. As leaders of FIFA, soccer's global governing body, gathered for their annual meeting, more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel, an elegant five-star property with views of the Alps and Lake Zurich. They went to the front desk to get room numbers and then proceeded upstairs." ...

... Jere Longman of the Times provides some background. ...

... The Washington Post report, by Michael Miller & Fred Barbash, is here. The sports news sites don't have much of anything yet.

** Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Ryan Cooper of the Week: "... when it comes to Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and the 2016 race, it's clear that he's getting a raw deal. It's long since time the press gave him the respect he deserves.... The constant presumptions about the electoral viability of some candidate amounts to an attempt to influence the outcome of the election, whether it's intentional or not. That might be a justifiable enterprise with someone like former Rep. Ron Paul, who has an extensive history of racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism. But while Sanders has odd hair, and can be grouchy at times, he ... is a sitting United States senator who could easily finish second in the Democratic presidential primary.... Indeed, if anything Sanders is more credible than the likes of Paul and Cruz ..." who have received extensive & front-page MSM coverage even though they are doing poorly in GOP polls.

Presidential Race

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

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

... Steve Kornacki of MSNBC argues that Sanders will prove to be Clinton's most effective opponent. (CW: Bernie says he's not running against Clinton; he's running for president.) "A recent Iowa poll put Sanders at 14%, more than O'Malley, Webb and Chafee combined; and a New Hampshire poll gave him 18%, more than doubling up the other three. (That said, he still trails Clinton by around 50 points.)" ...

... CW: However, even if Sanders does much better than 14 percent in some primaries, Hillary will get almost all the "super-delegate" votes, so she's a cinch for the nomination. The whole idea of the super-delegate system is to assure there will never be another George McGovern-type nominee -- & this time around, that means Bernie. As an aside, the reason I started Reality Chex (which I intended to shut down after the 2008 election) was that I had to look all over the place to find out how Obama was doing in the super-delegate count, & I wanted there to be one place where readers could keep track. Initially Obama was way behind Hillary. (I used to write thank-you notes to the super delegates who came out for Obama. Especially in the early months, that took guts.) My best source, I must admit, was Mark Halperin.) ...

... AND what's not to love in Politico's characterization of Bernie's backers? Jonathan Topaz: "These weren't your everyday Americans who came out to support Bernie Sanders on Tuesday. The self-described democratic socialist kicked off his long-shot run for the White House in his adopted hometown of Burlington, Vt., a lakeside city full of characters who might not have passed the pre-selection process for Hillary Clinton's tour of roundtables.' ...

CW: Seems quite a number of Extraordinary Americans showed up for Bernie's announcement (or maybe they're mostly aliens from another planet or Canada):

Steve M.: "I defend Hillary Clinton because we have a horrible electoral system in which billions will be spent against the Democratic presidential candidate, so billions will be needed to keep the Supreme Court from being restocked with four fortysomething Scalias. I think she's all that's standing in the way of that. But I like what Bernie Sanders says."

ISIS didn't exist when my brother was president. Al Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out when my brother was president. -- Jeb Bush (R), remarks during a business rountable in Portsmouth, N.H., May 20

Bush seems to have fallen prey to Washington conventional wisdom, in which ISIS suddenly emerged into consciousness in the past year or so. That may be fine for armchair analysts or journalists. But that's little excuse for a presidential candidate.... Bush flatly stated as fact that ISIS did not exist when his brother was president -- and that al-Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out when Obama took office. Both statements are false...." -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post

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

... Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "Sen. Rand Paul(R-Ky.) on Wednesday blasted members of his party for sending arms to the Middle East that have ended up in the hands of Islamic militants. Paul ... faulted GOP lawmakers for helping the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)."

Senate Race

Emily Kahn of Roll Call: "Arizona [Democratic] Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick will challenge Republican Sen. John McCain, according to a source with knowledge of Kirkpatrick's plans, giving Democrats a top recruit and a potential pickup opportunity. Kirkpatrick made calls Monday to inform people of her plans, the source told CQ Roll Call. Her bid also opens up Arizona's 1st District, a GOP-leaning seat spanning the northeast quadrant of the state."

Beyond the Beltway

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

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

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

News Ledes

Hill: "The Defense Department accidentally sent live anthrax to labs in nine states and is working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to contain it, the Pentagon said Wednesday. 'The Department of Defense is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their investigation of the inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis, also known as anthrax, from a DoD lab in Dugway, Utah, to labs in nine states,' said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman."

AP: "A second submariner has pleaded guilty to sharing videos of female officers undressing for a shower, continuing a case that a prosecutor calls a 'black eye' for the Navy's integration of women into the nation's sub fleet.... Electronics technician Joseph Bradley entered pleas Wednesday in a court-martial trial. He was sentenced to 30 days' confinement and a reduction in rank.... On Tuesday, missile technician Charles Greaves received two years in prison and a dishonorable discharge for making the videos. Five more male sailors face charges in the case."