The Ledes

Thursday, July 24, 2014.

New York Times: "A series of explosions at a school run by the United Nations sheltering hundreds of Palestinians who had fled their homes for safety from Israeli military assaults killed at least 16 people on Thursday afternoon and wounded many more. The cause was not immediately clear."

Bloomberg News: "Jobless claims fell by 19,000 to 284,000 in the week ended July 19, the fewest since February 2006 and lower than any economist surveyed by Bloomberg forecast...."

Guardian: "A flight operated by Air Algérie carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early on Thursday, the plane's owner said." ...

... New York Times UPDATE: "An Air Algérie jetliner with 116 people on board crashed early Thursday in a remote area of Mali near the borders with Burkina Faso and Niger, officials said."

The Guardian is liveblogging developments in the Gaza crisis. More than 700 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, many of them children.

Reuters: "A powerful Ukrainian rebel leader has confirmed that pro-Russian separatists had an anti-aircraft missile of the type Washington says was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and it could have originated in Russia. In an interview with Reuters, Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, acknowledged for the first time since the airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday that the rebels did possess the BUK missile system and said it could have been sent back subsequently to remove proof of its presence."

Los Angeles Times: "The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday night lifted its ban on U.S. flights to and from Tel Aviv."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, July 23, 2014.

New York Times: "The United Nations Human Rights Council voted to establish an inquiry into human rights violations in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories at a special session on Wednesday in which the top human rights official, Navi Pillay, said Israel and Hamas had likely committed war crimes with indiscriminate attacks on civilians." ...

... New York Times: "As the death toll mounts and passions spike, the Foreign Press Association in Israel condemned on Wednesday what it called 'deliberate official and unofficial incitement against journalists' who are reporting on the fighting in Gaza. That includes 'forcible attempts to prevent journalists and TV crews from carrying out their news assignments,' the association said."

... New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to Israel on Wednesday, as he pressed his effort to forge a cease-fire to bring a halt to the bitter fighting in the Gaza Strip. Mr. Kerry’s plane touched down at Ben-Gurion International Airport just a day after the United States Federal Aviation Administration suspended American civilian flights to Israel." ...

... Guardian: "International airlines halted flights to and from Israel indefinitely on Tuesday citing security concerns in an unexpected twist to the two-week-old conflict in Gaza." ...

     ... CW: Guess that puts something of a damper on the Summer Vacation Insurance Theory of War. ...

... Washington Post: "As Israel pummels Hamas’s infrastructure inside Gaza, it is also trying to prevent attacks originating from the West Bank and Israel — by obliterating the houses of the relatives of Palestinians who allegedly have harmed Israelis. In doing so, Israel’s military has returned to a controversial policy of punitive demolitions that has displaced thousands of Palestinians over the years."

Washington Post: "Two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down Wednesday over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in the same vicinity as a Malaysian airliner that was downed last week, Ukrainian officials said." ...

... Time: "U.S. intelligence resources tracked the 'specific missile' that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a senior Administration official said Tuesday, saying intelligence adds up to a picture that 'implicates Russia' in helping to bring down the plane." ...

... Washington Post: "The Obama administration, detailing what it called evidence of Russian complicity in the downing of a Malaysian airliner, on Tuesday released satellite images and other sensitive intelligence that officials say show Moscow had trained and equipped rebels in Ukraine responsible for the attack."

Public Service Announcement

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

White House Live Video
July 23

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the NAACP national convention in Las Vegas, Nevada (audio only)

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to


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

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

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

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


New Yorker illustration.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Commentariat -- July 25, 2014

Look Out, Poor People. Paul Ryan Is Here to Help. Theodore Schleifer of the New York Times: "Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, outlined a plan to combat poverty on Thursday that would consolidate a dozen programs into a single 'Opportunity Grant' that largely shifts antipoverty efforts from the federal government to the states." ...

... CW: Sounds like a Tenther Plan to me.

... Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "... it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it’s still driven by the longstanding conservative desire to limit the help we give to the poor.... Ryan’s plan assumes that the same Republican states that rejected the federal government’s offer to insure poor citizens through the expansion of Medicaid — in other words, who would rather see poor people go uninsured than get coverage from the government — are now going to be spectacularly committed and creative in working to help those same poor citizens through their time of need.... One of the real dangers of Ryan’s approach is that it would render the programs unable to deal with economic downturns unless Congress stepped in and supplied more money, which would be unlikely as long as Republicans control at least one house."

Paul Krugman: After years of dysfunctional government, the Democratic majority in the California state legislature grew large enough to override Republican obstruction & impose a mildly "liberal agenda." Conservatives predicted disaster; instead, California is doing very well. And then there's Kansas.

No Surprises Here. Paul Krugman Sen. Rob Portman (R-Wis.), rich guy & "debt disaster dead-ender," has written a Wall Street Journal op-ed on how we must curb entitlements, etc. "And it is an interesting piece — it’s a very good illustration both of the desperate desire to see a debt crisis, and what happens when someone (Portman, or more likely the staffer who wrote it) tries to be a Very Serious Person without actually understanding the numbers or having followed any of the analysis.... The main thing that struck me was the policy recommendations, written as if he knows nothing about the ongoing discussion of these issues over the past decade and more."


The Commentariat -- July 24, 2014

Amie Parnes of the Hill: "State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on Wednesday said blame for the crashed Malaysian Airlines flight 'lies directly at President [Vladimir] Putin's feet,' as the Obama administration looked to raise pressure Russia. Harf said Putin was responsible not just for the downed commercial airliner, 'but every incident we've seen' throughout the conflict. 'Period.'"

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "A decorated veteran of the Iraq war and former adjutant general of his state’s National Guard, [Sen. John] Walsh [D-Montana] offered the Democratic Party something it frequently lacks: a seasoned military man.... But one of the highest-profile credentials of Mr. Walsh’s 33-year military career appears to have been improperly attained. An examination of the final paper required for Mr. Walsh’s master’s degree from the United States Army War College indicates the senator appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution.... The breadth of Mr. Walsh’s apparent plagiarism ... however, is startling...." His explanations/excuses are, well, conflicting. ...

... CW: I thought it was hilarious when Rand Paul got caught plagiarizing a few speeches. This is not hilarious. Walsh should resign.

Mike Lillis of the Hill: "President Obama is flat wrong to seek changes in current immigration law to manage the wave of migrant children at the southern border, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) charged Wednesday.... Obama has urged 'more flexibility' to expedite deportations of the migrant children, and the head of the Homeland Security Department clarified Tuesday that he's seeking changes to a 2008 human trafficking law to speed up the process."

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma are among the most vocal Republican skeptics of the science that burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming, but a new study to be released Thursday found that their states would be among the biggest economic winners under a regulation proposed by President Obama to fight climate change.The study, conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Rhodium Group, both research organizations, concluded that the regulation would cut demand for electricity from coal — the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution — but create robust new demand for natural gas.... The demand for natural gas would, in turn, drive job creation, corporate revenue and government royalties in states that produce it, which, in addition to Oklahoma and Texas, include Arkansas and Louisiana." ...

     ... This is just one of many ways, of course, that the rank ignorance of "leaders" like Perry & Inhofe hurt their states, & in Inhofe's case, hurt all of us.

Wendy Koch of USA Today: "Spurred by a boom in oil-carrying trains and several recent tragic accidents, the Obama administration proposed stricter rules Wednesday for tank cars that transport flammable fuels."

Neither the canons of construction nor any empirical analysis suggests that congressional drafting is a perfectly harmonious, symmetrical and elegant endeavor. . . . Sausage-makers are indeed offended when their craft is linked to legislating. -- Judge Andre Davis, 4th Circuit

... E. J. Dionne: "We are confronted with a conservative judiciary that will use any argument it can muster to win ideological victories that elude their side in the elected branches of our government.... The extreme judicial activism here is obvious when you consider, as the 4th Circuit did, that even if you accept that there is ambiguity in the law, the Supreme Court’s 30-year-old precedent ... held that in instances of uncertainty, the court defers to federal agencies rather than concocting textual clarity when it doesn’t exist." ...

... Everything Is Obama's Fault, Ctd. CW: Re: a link I posted yesterday to an apologia for the D.C. court's decision, I wrote that the author Michael Cannon provided a good preview of "how Republicans will sell the chaos they've engendered." Well, lo & behold, Dave Weigel reports that Cannon is already at it, & in so doing, "drain[ing] the national strategic chutzpah reserve": In a conference call, Cannon told reporters, ""If 5 million people lose subsidies, it is because the administration I think recklessly was offering them subsidies that it had no authority to offer. If that causes dislocation, if that causes disruption, I think that responsibility lies with the administration." Piggybacking Cannon's Blame Obama message, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said, "This means that the President has been misrepresenting the true costs of health coverage to millions of American families." CW: So that's the party line: you people are screwed because Obama promised you something he couldn't deliver legally. ...

... Oh, please, let's not forget Scott Brown, arguably the person most responsible for the legislative screw-up. By Weigel's reckoning, "Scott Brown Has the Single Most Chutzpah-Rich Response to Halbig.... Yesterday, he reacted as if Halbig was now the law of the land and Democrats had just raised taxes on people.

The court’s ruling means that people receiving subsidies for their insurance coverage will lose those subsidies. Either they will have to dig deeper into their own pockets to pay the full cost of their insurance, or taxes will have to be raised on all of us to make up the difference.

     ... According to the Brown campaign, 'in New Hampshire, premiums for those who have subsidies could jump 70-74 percent.' Of course, the state could prevent the subsidy hikes by doing something rather simple. It could create a state exchange. That way, even if Halbig were upheld, New Hampshire residents would continue to get the subsidies. But Brown isn't saying anything about New Hampshire creating its own exchange." ...

     ... Steve M. has a good post on the GOP strategy, which is gearing up now in anticipation of the Supremes siding with the D.C. court.

Frank Rich on the crises in Gaza, Ukraine & the U.S.-Mexico border.

New York Times Editors: "The attorney-client privilege is the oldest, broadest and most important of all privileges in the American legal system.... In recent years, the Bureau of Prisons has made limited email access available to federal inmates, but the price of that access ... is allowing the government to monitor and read all messages sent and received. As the Times reported on Wednesday, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn and around the country are taking advantage of this fact, freely accessing emails between inmates and their attorneys.... If the Justice Department refuses to change its policy, which undermines the constitutional right to counsel..., judges should ... disallow this unprincipled practice."

Nicholas Kristof explains the downsides of inequality to "idiots."

Kendall Breitman of Politico: Bloomberg rips Blitzer for being "insulting to America" & "trying to create dissension" when Blitzer asked him if he thought the State Department (or FAA) had disallowed flights to Tel Aviv "for political reasons." ...

... Keith Laing of the Hill: "The Federal Aviation Administration is extending a ban on U.S. airlines flying to Israel for another 24 hours, despite high-profile objections from politicians in both nations. The ban was originally issued on Tuesday afternoon, after rocket fire diverted aircraft near Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport. Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, argued that the Tel Aviv was safe for passengers, and they complained that the ban would embolden Hamas leaders." ...

     ... Update: The ban has been lifted. See today's Ledes.

... If you listen to Michael Bloomberg's remarks to Blitzer posted here, you'll find he's criticizing the FAA & U.S. air carriers for not doing as good a job as Israel & El Al in providing a safe air travel experience. He never mentions this, which explains a lot ...

     ... Lee Ferran of ABC News: "El Al, the national airline of Israel, has reportedly equipped its planes with some form of anti-missile tech since the mid-2000s, a move that came in response to an attack on an Israeli chartered aircraft in late 2002 in Mombasa, Kenya. Two shoulder-fired rockets narrowly missed their target then, and El Al and other Israeli airlines have been preparing for a repeat ever since. In the years following the failed attack, El Al turned to Flight Guard, a combination of several technologies reportedly including early warning systems and flares designed to confuse any heat seeking missiles." ...

... BTW, if Bloomberg found Blitzer's question "insulting to America," he probably would not think much of fellow Republican Ted Cruz's accusation ...

The facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands. -- Sen. Ted Cruz (Repulsive-Texas)

... AP: "State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf rejected Cruz's comments as 'ridiculous and offensive.' ... Cruz said later Wednesday he would block Senate confirmation on all State Department nominees until his questions were answered. Harf said, 'There's no place for these kinds of political stunts in confirming nominees for critical national security positions.'" ...

     ... Cruz's staff adds a little nah-ne-nah-ne-you-are-too: "Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for Cruz, said the Obama administration's foreign policy was itself 'ridiculous and offensive.'" ...

... CW: I'm not sure if the Bloomberg-Blitzer exchanged occurred before or after Tailgunner Ted made his accusation. If after, Blitzer's question was appropriate, though he should have cited Cruz's charge when he asked Bloomberg if he thought the FAA's decision was "political."

Ted Johnson of Variety: "White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that President Obama and his staff chose not to do an appearance on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' on Wednesday because of 'more serious matters the president is dealing with on the international scene.'”

Beyond the Beltway

Michael Kiefer & Mariana Dale of the Arizona Republic: "The Wednesday afternoon execution of convicted murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood III took nearly two hours, confirming concerns that had been raised by his attorneys about a controversial drug used by the state of Arizona. Wood remained alive at Arizona's state prison in Florence long enough for his public defenders to file an emergency motion for a stay of execution with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, after the process began at 1:53 p.m. The motion noted that Wood 'has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour' after being injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs." ...

... Fred Barbash of the Washington Post: "Executions are 'brutal, savage events' — and if society wants to carry them out, it ought to stop pretending otherwise, forget about lethal injections and return to 'more primitive — and foolproof — methods.' Like the guillotine — or on second thought, the firing squad. That’s the view of Alex Kozinski, one of the nation’s most prominent appeals court judges, a Ronald Reagan appointee generally regarded as a libertarian conservative and, by standards of the judiciary, a bit of a 'troublemaker,' who likes to stir the pot. Kozinski dissented Monday from a decision of the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to stay the execution of Joseph R. Wood until Arizona told Wood more about the drugs that would be used in the execution and the personnel who would carry it out." ...

... Update: Josh Sanburn of Time has more on Wood's attorneys efforts to stop the execution-in-process.

Charles Pierce: "The United Nations treaty regarding the rights of the disabled is back. It went through a Senate committee easily (again) and, therefore, the Congress has another chance to join the rest of the world in being humane to people in wheelchairs, like Bob Dole, who sat there on the Senate floor and watched the nutball paranoid fringe of his party sell him out wholesale.... We have another chance to see if there are 60 votes in the United States Senate against being paranoid. I'm not betting on it either way." ...

     ... CW: Actually, the Constitution requires a 2/3rds vote to ratify treaties, not 60 votes. The rights of the disabled treaty got 61 votes in December 2012. A mere 38 of his fellow Republican Senators sold out Ole Bob Dole.

Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "In what will most likely be one of the last Nazi cases on American soil, an 89-year-old Philadelphia man [Johann Breyer] who served as an armed guard at Auschwitz during World War II died Wednesday, just hours before a judge ordered him extradited to Germany in the murders of 216,000 prisoners at the notorious concentration camp."

Congressional Race

Josh Israel & Scott Keyes of Think Progress: Meet "Baptist pastor and right-wing radio show host Jody B. Hice," the likely next representative of Georgia's 10th Congressional district. He calls the U.S. a "distinctly Christian society"; he supports radical "nullification"; he has "argued that women should receive permission from their husband before running for office"; he thinks people can "leave the homosexual lifestyle" & believes "there is a gay plot to recruit and sodomize children"; he says that Muslims do "does not deserve First Amendment protection”; & he blamed "secularism" for the Sandy Hook massacre. Israel & Keyes say Hice is certain to best his Democratic opponent, Ken Dious. Here's Dious's biography. It's a sad country.

Presidential Election

Bachmann has claimed that in 2012, she was a 'perfect candidate' who 'didn’t get anything wrong' and was literally chosen by God — so she’s setting a pretty high bar when she promises to improve.... Still, it’s unclear why Bachmann would bother to seek a four-year term in the White House. After all, according to her, we’re already in the End Times."


The Commentariat -- July 23, 2014

** Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Two federal appeals court panels issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on whether the government could subsidize health insurance premiums for people in three dozen states that use the federal insurance exchange. The decisions are the latest in a series of legal challenges to central components of President Obama’s health care law. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, upheld the subsidies, saying that a rule issued by the Internal Revenue Service was 'a permissible exercise of the agency’s discretion.' The ruling came within hours of a 2-to-1 ruling by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which said that the government could not subsidize insurance for people in states that use the federal exchange.... The White House rejected the ruling of the court [in D.C.] and anticipated that the Justice Department will ask that the entire appeals court to review it." ...

... Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times reviews the various possibilities of what could happen next. ...

... ** Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "It’s important to understand just who these two [D.C.] Republican [judge]s are. Judge [Raymond] Randolph is a staunchly conservative judge who spent much of the oral argument in this case acting as an advocate for the anti-Obamacare side.... Judge [Thomas] Griffith has a reputation as a more moderate judge, but it is not clear that this reputation is deserved." Millhiser then goes into a lengthy & informative explanation of how utterly fucking stupid the Randolph-Griffith "reasoning" is. Well-worth reading & not difficult to understand. It comes down to this: the only phrase that matters in all the gazillion pages of the ACA is this one-line error -- "an Exchange established by the State" -- which all by itself proves Congress was just kidding about providing healthcare subsidies to all eligible Americans. As one brief filed in support of the ACA put it, "Randolph and Griffith’s decision presumes that 'Congress sought to legislate into existence a massive new social program that it understood would immediately fail.'” ...

... Here's Millhiser's analysis of the Fourth Circuit's three-person unanimous opinion. ...

... Tom Goldstein of ScotusBlog in the Washington Post: "... the courts are required to uphold the [administrative] rule if the law is ambiguous and the administration’s position is reasonable. The Supreme Court will probably uphold the rule under that lax standard.... The parties can ask all the judges of both of the courts of appeals that issued today’s rulings to rehear the case.... It may be that both courts will see that Supreme Court review is inevitable and stand aside to let the Justices decide the issue. ...

I think if you look at simple math, it does. -- Harry Reid, Tuesday, when asked if the D.C. court's decision vindicated his decision to employ the “nuclear option” ...

... Danny Vinik of the New Republic on how Harry Reid's finally imposing the "nuclear option" may have saved the ACA. CW: Credit here really should go to Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) & others who pushed Reid toward modifying the filibuster.

... Paul Waldman: The D.C. court's ruling "demonstrates just how willing Republicans are to lay waste to Americans’ lives if it means they can strike a blow at Barack Obama and his health law.... Here, Republicans literally found a legislative drafting error in the ACA that they hoped could be used to deal a near-fatal blow to the law, and two Republican-appointed appeals court judges agreed with them.... If they succeed at the Supreme Court, people will die." ...

... Charles Pierce: "Millions of our fellow citizens have spent the last several months with a great weight lifted from their shoulders. Every ache and sudden twinge no longer felt like it could be the first step toward personal ruin.... They have been able to pursue happiness, like all of us have a right to do so, without feeling like they're running in leg shackles. All of these people have been tossed into uncertainty -- again -- because their government has been rendered dysfunctional by a political philosophy of nihilistic vandalism, which is being judged now by a judiciary fully politicized through a long game that has extended over decades." (Emphasis added.) ...

... Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "What the challengers have asked judges to do is to ignore the 'fundamental canon' and buy into the idea that the Democrats who passed the law unambiguously structured it to withhold premium subsidies from states that refused to set up their own exchanges, as some sort of high-stakes inducement. This is plainly false. It's the giant whopper underlying the entire theory of Halbig." Beutler sees the decision, if it should hold (& he doesn't think it will) as a huge problem for Republicans. CW Note: TNR has a new annoying subscription program that blocks access to the article. If the link doesn't work for you, just copy & paste some of the quote into Google. Another work-around: open the page in a private window. ...

Another Sad Day for Paul.... Ha Ha. Jon Perr in the Daily Kos: "... as it turns out, the Paul Ryan budget that 95 percent of Congressional  Republicans voted for three years in a row depends on every single dollar Uncle Sam now raises to fund subsidies in all 50 states.... Obamacare reduces the U.S. national debt precisely because its savings and new revenues exceed the cost of the Medicaid expansion and health insurance subsidies that the New England Journal of Medicine found enabled 20 million Americans to get coverage. And without those revenues, the budget Paul Ryan and his math-challenged Republican colleagues in the House and Senate backed utterly falls apart." ...

... CW: So far all the liberal & moderate pundits I've read are in agreement that the D.C. ruling will be struck down. For example, Ezra Klein writes, "The Supreme Court simply isn't going to rip insurance from tens of millions of people in order to teach Congress a lesson about grammar."

     ... BUT Steve M. looks at the politics & predicts a horrifying scenario in which repeal of ObamaCare is inevitable. Given the nature of the Republican character, I find his prediction plausible if not necessarily likely. In another post, Steve explains why the optimistic views of Klein & others are "exceedingly naive." His rationale seems spot-on to me. ...

NEW. CW: Here's what I think conservative judges/justices will do to "justify" their reading of the phrase in question. At least a couple of commentators have suggested that even Justice Scalia would scoff at the D.C. circuit opinion. Why, just last month in an opinion he wrote that, "fundamental canon of statutory construction that the words of a statute must be read in their context and with a view to their place in the overall statutory scheme." But Scalia also has said in interviews that legislation is the way to change the law, not judicial oversight. Ergo, he (& other conservatives) will put on their choirboy faces & argue that if the phrase is so inartfully put that it does not reflect the intent of Congress, then Congress should just change the law. Why, they need only omit or add a few words & the ambiguity would disappear! It is a perfectly logical argument, the intent of which, of course, is to blow up the ACA. ...

... How the "Intellectual" Wingers See It. This post in Forbes, by Michael Cannon, the Cato Institute "scholar" who has been the chief proponent of the case, is so full of illogical thinking you could write a thesis tearing it to pieces. But Cannon's big premise is this: Freeeedom! "Halbig Would Free More than 8 Million People from the Individual Mandate.... Halbig Would Free 250,000 Firms and 57 Million Employees from the Employer Mandate." If you tie Cannon's arguments to Steve M.'s scenario, you can see how Republicans will sell the chaos they've engendered & why Steve' prognostication isn't just a study in pessimism. ...

     ... Here's Cannon arguing that states "should be refusing to create exchanges." Via Dave Weigel:

      ... CW: It's just hard for me to believe that a Koch-funded "intellectual" would be so duplicitous, arguing on the one hand that states should not establish exchanges & on the other that people in states who don't establish exchanges are ineligible for subsidies. Weigel describes Cannons' tactics as "Leninist."

... CW One More Thing. Blame Scott Brown. (Or Martha Coakley for being such a horrible candidate.) As you may vaguely recall, & as Adrianna McIntyre of Vox reminds us, "the law was passed through an unorthodox budgetary process and never went to conference committee, where messy drafting gets cleaned up." Why? Because Scotty's election deprived Senate Democrats of their 60-vote super-majority, so they had to pass the final version of the bill (to correspond with the House bill[s]) via the reconciliation process, which requires only a simple majority vote. (Oh yeah, & then Scotty lied about how the whole thing went down, making himself the hero/victim.)  ...

     ... Update: Turns out that last year, law professor Abbe Gluck explained the Scott Brown factor just as I did above: "Because Senator Ted Kennedy died in the middle of the legislative process and was replaced by Republican Scott Brown, the statute never went through the usual legislative process, including the usual legislative clean-up process.... Because the Democrats lost their 60th filibuster-preventing vote, the version that had passed the Senate before Brown took office, which everyone initially had thought would be a mere first salvo, had to effectively serve as the final version, unchangeable by the House, because nothing else could get through the Senate." Gluck says skipping the conference process was the cause of the wording error & in general made the ACA "a badly drafted statute."

CNN: "More than half the public says Obamacare has helped either their families or others across the country, although less than one in five Americans say they have personally benefited from the health care law, according to a new national poll.... A CNN/ORC International survey also indicates that a majority of Americans oppose the Affordable Care Act.... [But] 'Not all of the opposition to the health care law comes from the right,' said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. 'Thirty-eight percent say they oppose the law because it's too liberal, but 17% say they oppose it because it's not liberal enough. That means more than half the public either favors Obamacare, or opposes it because it doesn't go far enough.'"

Tom Edsall
of the New York Times: "The amount of money flowing into federal campaigns ... doubl[ed] from $3.1 billion in 2000 to $6.3 billion in 2012.... Spending by secretive political nonprofits, which do not disclose donors, has exploded 13-fold, from $24.9 million in 2000 to $335.7 million in 2012.... Just as the Republican Party and Republican candidates moved from reliance on small-to-medium publicly reported donations to large, often undisclosed, contributions, the party’s platform position on campaign finance law began to change [from advocating disclosure to opposing it].... The Republican appointees to the Supreme Court are now unanimously opposed to constraints on large donors.... The three Republican appointees to the Federal Election Commission ... have used their power to block the F.E.C. from issuing rulings that would require disclosure of donors to 501c 'social welfare' organizations." ...

... Edsall concludes, "the inexorably rising costs of campaigns suggest that as long as this situation endures, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will be the party – or represent the interests — of the little guy." Here's an "honest political ad" that makes the same point. Thanks to Bonita for the link:

Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times: "... across the country, federal prosecutors have begun reading prisoners’ emails to lawyers — a practice wholly embraced in Brooklyn, where prosecutors have said they intend to read such emails in almost every case. The issue has spurred court battles over whether inmates have a right to confidential email communications with their lawyers — a question on which federal judges have been divided."

Jonathan Capehart (& President Obama) on "acting white."

Senate Race

Daniel Malloy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Businessman David Perdue stunned Georgia’s Republican political establishment Tuesday by capturing the party’s U.S. Senate nomination in his first run for office. The former CEO of Reebok and Dollar General toppled 11-term Rep. Jack Kingston by a narrow margin, setting up a battle of political newcomers with famous kin in the fall. Perdue’s cousin, Sonny, was a two-term governor and Democratic nominee Michelle] Nunn’s father, Sam, was a four-term U.S. Senator."


The Commentariat -- July 22, 2014

Leslie Larson of the New York Daily News: "President Obama blasted Russia on Monday for failing to yield influence over separaists who have violated the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines plane shot down in eastern Ukraine. 'This is an insult to those who have lost loved ones. This is the kind of behavior that has no place in the community of nations,' Obama said Monday in remarks from the White House":

... Here's the official White House statement. The President took questions from the press after he delivered his remarks (not included in the video above). ...

... Gene Robinson: "The most important lesson U.S. policymakers should learn from this terrible event, I believe, is that sophisticated weapons, once given to combatants in a civil war, are virtually impossible to keep under control. This is true whether those given the arms are Russian-backed rebels or 'moderate' Syrian freedom fighters." CW: Yo, John McCain, are you listening? Nope. ...

As I turned, I was this close to him. I said, 'Mr. Prime Minister, I'm looking into your eyes, and I don't think you have a soul.' ... And he looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, 'We understand one another.' This is who this guy is! -- Joe Biden, recounting a 2011 meeting in the Kremlin with Vladimir Putin

... Julia Ioffe in the New Republic: "As the crisis surrounding the plane crash deepens and as calls for Vladimir Putin to act grow louder, it’s worth noting that they're not really getting through to Putin's subjects. The picture of the catastrophe that the Russian people are seeing on their television screens is very different from that on screens in much of the rest of the world, and the discrepancy does not bode well for a sane resolution to this stand-off." CW: Read the whole post. And we thought our media were mediocre. (Does the term "yellow journalism" come from "media-ochre"?) ...

... Alex Altman of Time: "Since a Malaysian jetliner crashed in a wheat field in eastern Ukraine last week, RT's pro-Putin packaging has been exposed in grim detail. In the aftermath of the tragedy, which killed all 298 souls on board, the outlet -- like the rest of Russian state media -- has seemed as if it were reporting on an entirely different crime. As the international media published reports indicating the plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists, RT has suggested Ukraine was responsible, cast Moscow as a scapegoat and bemoaned the insensitivity of outlets focusing on the geopolitical consequences of the crime." ...

... Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post: "In the agonizing quest to pin down exactly what happened when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 went down over Ukraine last week, Web archivists and other digital sleuths are playing an unusual -- potentially pivotal -- role."

Jonathan Cook: "As we watch the horrifying slaughter unfold in Gaza, bear in mind the Israeli psychosis that fuels and justifies it.... Comments from three rightwing Israelis -- two leading politicians and a professor -- ... very much reflect a strain of mainstream thinking in Israel, one that the international media largely avoids noting. Each, in their different ways, is advocating a genocide of the Palestinians." Via Susie Madrak.

Paul Waldman: "Creative policy thinker Rick Perry has come up with a way to address the problem of those Central American kids coming to the border": he's sending 1,000 Texas National Guard to the border in a move he calls "Operation Strong Safety." "Why not just go ahead and call it Operation America Macho TestosteReagan? Perry seems unaware that the problem isn't one of insufficient strength -- as the head of the National Guard under George W. Bush has said, it's unclear what the Guard is supposed to do in this situation that others couldn't, particularly given the fact that these kids are walking up to Border Patrol agents to turn themselves in." ...

... CW: As you may recall, Fox "News"'s Britt Hume tried to explain this to Gov. Perry. His bumbling response: "It's the visuals." That's right, folks. Would-be President Perry needs "visuals" to convey to people that he is America Macho TestosteReagan. ...

... Manny Fernandez & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The cost of deploying the National Guard was estimated at $12 million a month, a bill that he and other Texas Republicans vowed to send to the federal government." ...

... Christy Hoppe of the Dallas Morning News: "... sheriffs along the border said they have not been consulted and question the wisdom of sending military personnel who are not authorized to stop, question or arrest anyone." ...

... Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Texas Rep. Joaquín Castro on Monday said Gov. Rick Perry is 'militarizing our border' with his reported decision to deploy state National Guard troops there. 'We should be sending the Red Cross to the border not the National Guard to deal with this humanitarian crisis,' the Democratic congressman said in an email. 'The children fleeing violence in Central America are seeking out border patrol agents. They are not trying to evade them. Why send soldiers to confront these kids?'"

Brian Bennett of the Los Angeles Times: "The increasingly costly and divisive border crisis is pushing federal investigators to crack down on money-laundering schemes they say are being used to smuggle thousands of Central American children into the United States.Agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, are targeting suspicious patterns of deposits and withdrawals through "funnel accounts" held at U.S. banks, according to two federal law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the topic." CW: It might work, but it's not nearly as impressive as sending in armed soldiers to try to scare the kiddies. No "visuals."

Jonathan Topaz: "Vice President Joe Biden on Monday said the Obama administration would continue to press Congress on approving Veterans Affairs secretary nominee Robert McDonald and passing legislation to address problems at the VA. 'It's time to get it done now,' Biden, speaking at the Veterans of Foreign Wars conference in St. Louis, said of legislation on Capitol Hill to reform the VA. 'Stop fooling around.'"

I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades. -- Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, on Joe Biden, in his memoir

Bob Gates is a Republican, with a view of foreign policy that is, in many fundamental ways, different from mine. Bob Gates has been wrong about everything! Bob Gates is wrong about the advice he gave President Reagan about how to deal with Gorbachev! That he wasn't real. Thank God the President didn't listen to him. Bob Gates was wrong about the Balkans. Bob Gates was wrong about the bombing. Bob Gates was wrong about the Vietnam War, for Christ's sake. You go back, and everything in the last forty years, there's nothing that I can think of, major fundamental decisions relative to foreign policy, that I can think he's been right about! -- Joe Biden

Mark Stern of Slate: "On Monday morning, President Obama signed an executive LGBT non-discrimination order, barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity among federal contractors.... Crucially, Obama did not include the broad religious exemption that some faith leaders had begged the White House for.... The executive order does, however, preserve a Bush-era exemption that allows religiously affiliated contractors to continue to preference workers of a certain religion":

CW: Kevin Drum disagrees with me (or, specifically, with Thomas Frank. See yesterday's Commentariat.): "Back in 2009, was Obama really the only thing that stood between bankers and the howling mob? Don't be silly. Americans were barely even upset, let alone ready for revolution.... Why were Americans so obviously not enraged? Because -- duh -- the hated neoliberal system worked. We didn't have a second Great Depression. The Fed intervened, the banking system was saved, and a stimulus bill was passed." Read his whole post. I'm not convinced, but since we can't know what might have been if Obama had asserted his inner LBJ, it's a moot point.

Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic: "Millions of Americans are getting health insurance because of Obamacare. But you're a lot less likely to be among them if you live in one of the 'red' states than if you live in one of the 'blue' states -- and there's no great mystery why. It's because the conservative officials who run most of the red states want it that way.... The states where officials are blocking expansion are the ones where residents need help the most, because they are poorer and more likely to have no insurance in the first place." ...

... Bruce Jaspen in Forbes: "While record numbers of Americans sign up for the larger Medicaid health insurance program for the poor, financial issues are emerging for medical care providers in the two dozen states that didn't go along with the expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The moves against expansion are 'beginning to hurt hospitals in states that opted out,' a report last week from Fitch Ratings said." CW: We know these redneck legislators & governors don't care about the poor. Let's see if they care about hospitals, which are businesses. ...

... Mario Trujillo of the Hill: "A federal judge in Wisconsin threw out Sen. Ron Johnson's (R-Wis.) lawsuit challenging an Obama administration rule that allows congressional staffers to continue to receive healthcare subsidies when signing up for ObamaCare. Judge William Griesbach did not rule on the merits of the case, instead dismissing the challenge because Johnson and another staffer on the suit lacked standing because they were not concretely injured by the regulation. The judge, appointed in 2002 by President George W. Bush, said not all disputes warrant a remedy by a federal court."

Maya Rhodan of Time: President "Obama will sign the first significant legislative job training reform effort in nearly a decade on Tuesday. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act passed by Congress on July 9 will streamline the federal workforce training system, trimming 15 programs that don't work, giving schools the opportunity to cater their services to the needs of their region, and empowering businesses to identify what skills workers need for success and help workers acquire them."

AP: "A Pennsylvania congressman's press secretary has pleaded not guilty to a weapons charge after Capitol police say he carried a gun into a federal office building in Washington. An attorney for Ryan Shucard says he entered the plea Saturday in D.C. Superior Court. Lawyer Jason Kalafat called the gun incident unintentional.... Shucard was charged with carrying a pistol outside a home or business, which is a felony." ...

     ... CW: Because if there's anything more responsible than carrying a Smith & Wesson (& ammo) into a restricted area, it's forgetting you're carrying a handgun & magazine into a restricted area. "Oh, I must have left my pistol in the cloakroom. Or maybe it fell out of my jacket when I dropped my daughter off at school."

When is "I have no idea" news? When it's about a Darrell Issa investigation. Here's another extremely useless IRS "scandal" story.

Thanks to P. D. Pepe for this link:

Senate Races

Chris Good of ABC News: "Two months of Republican-on-Republican badmouthing will finally come to an end in Georgia on Tuesday.  Either Rep. Jack Kingston or former Dollar General CEO David Perdue will become the GOP candidate for the state's open Senate seat, to be vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss, kicking off what's expected to be one of the most hotly contested elections in the country." ...

     ... The Atlanta Journal-Constitution story, by Greg Bluestein & Dan Malloy, is here.

PetKoch. Kate Sheppard of the Huffington Post: Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who's running for Michigan's open Senate seat, takes on the Koch brothers, who already have run a massive ad campaign against him.

I think that, for both Joe and for Hillary, they’ve already accomplished an awful lot in their lives. The question is, do they, at this phase in their lives, want to go through the pretty undignifying process of running all over again. -- President Obama

Beyond the Beltway

The Poor Door Is Around Back, Jack. Even if you're not extremely wealthy, you too might be able to live in an upscale Manhattan condo! But you'd have to enter through the "poor door." And maybe you won't be swimming in the pool & working out on the gym equipment with your rich neighbors.

Brent Snavely & Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press: "The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is suspending its water shutoffs for 15 days starting today to give residents another chance to prove they are unable to pay their bills.... The decision comes after the city has put into national spotlight for a policy that has been framed as a human rights issue for low-income residents who can't afford to pay their bills. It also was announced on the same day that a group of Detroit residents filed a lawsuit in the city's bankruptcy case asking U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes to restore water service to residential customers."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday afternoon ordered U.S. carriers to stop flying to or from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, prohibiting them from traveling through Israel's largest airport after a rocket landed nearby."

Reuters: "Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in neighboring Egypt, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Israel later in the day. Both have voiced alarm at mounting civilian casualties."

New York Times: "A train carrying the bodies of victims from the Malaysia Airlines jet downed by a missile last week arrived Tuesday morning in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv after a 17-hour journey out of lawless territory controlled by pro-Russian rebels." ...

... New York Times: "A piece of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 that was shot down in eastern Ukraine last week bears telltale marks of small pieces of high-velocity shrapnel that apparently crippled the jet in flight. Riddled with these perforations and buffeted by a blast wave as it flew high above the conflict zone, the plane then most likely sheared apart."