The Ledes

Sunday, August 2, 2015.

Los Angeles Times: "The Rocky Fire exploded overnight, burning 47,000 acres as of Sunday morning and threatening 6,000 structures in [California's] Lake, Yolo and Colusa counties. The U.S. Forest Service said "fire activity dramatically progressed"  late Saturday, forcing the closure of several state highways in the area. The fire is just 5% contained; about 12,000 people have been ordered to evacuate. Nearly 2,000 firefighters are battling the blaze and more are coming into the area."

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week's address, the President celebrated the fiftieth birthdays of Medicare and Medicaid, which together have allowed millions to live longer and better lives":

The Ledes

Saturday, August 1, 2015.

USA Today: "Staggered by a $72 billion debt load, Puerto Rico was likely to miss a debt payment due Saturday, setting the stage for what could be one of the largest U.S. municipal debt restructurings. Puerto Rico's government said Friday it would not make a $58 million bond payment due over the weekend."

CNN: "Three members of Osama bin Laden's family were among four people killed in a small plane crash in southern England, British police said."

White House Live Video
July 31

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing with Energy Secretary Ernest Munoz

2:00 pm ET: Open government public meeting

Go to


Public Service Announcement

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

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

Washington Post (June 4): "The first-ever 'female Viagra' came one step closer to coming to market, as a key advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday afternoon to recommend that the FDA approve the drug with conditions. The committee voted 18-6 to recommend that the FDA approve flibanserin, a drug designed to boost the low sexual desire of otherwise healthy women."

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

Obama Slept Here

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

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

Jane Hamshire of Firedoglake: "... I have decided to pass the torch on to Kevin Gosztola and Brian Sonenstein, who will launch their own media organization called Shadowproof that will build on the success of FDL."

Dylan Byers: "MSNBC has formally decided to cancel three programs -- 'The Cycle,' 'Now with Alex Wagner' and 'The Ed Show' -- as part of a larger effort to shift its daytime lineup away from opinion programming.... Alex Wagner and Ari Melber, a 'Cycle' co-host and MSNBC's chief legal correspondent, will remain with the network. Ed Schultz, the host of 'The Ed Show,' will leave the network, as will 'Cycle' co-hosts Abby Huntsman, Krystal Ball and Toure.... In September, MSNBC will add a 5 p.m. program hosted by 'Meet The Press' moderator Chuck Todd, while Brian Williams, the former 'Nightly News' anchor, will serve as the network's breaking news and special reports anchor."

If you can memorize & learn to use the University of New Hampshire's long list of "bias-free language," you can be the most politically-correct person in your neighborhood. Via Jonathan Chait. ...

... CW Etiquette Tip: calling out your friends for using outmoded terms like "overweight" & "rich" is not politically correct. Simply try to steer the conversation in a more "inclusive" direction. So if your friend says to you, "My rich neighbor got so overweight he has to use a wheelchair now," you say, "Oh, that person of material wealth has become a person of size who is wheelchair mobile? Wow! He's your neighbor? I remember him when he was a person experiencing homelessness who lacked advantages that others have." It sounds so natural, your friend will never realize you've corrected his biased, dated stereotypes. ...

     ... UPDATE: Turns out the university's president is biased against the bias-free language guide & he was unaware of its existence until this week. Also, a Republican state legislator is "outraged" & finds the guide a good excuse to cut funding for the state university. Naturally. Thanks to MAG for the lead.

Will Oremus of Slate likes Windows 10. CW: I haven't had the courage to try switching over yet. I'll lose EVERYTHING!

Fuck off! I’m done with you. -- Jon Stewart, to Wyatt Cenac

... Alex Jung of New York: Jon Stewart repeatedly yelled at Wyatt Cenac when Cenac questioned a "Daily Show" segment meant to be a defense against Fox "News" allegations that Stewart's Herman Cain imitation was racist. ...

... Maron's WTF podcast of his interview with Cenac is here. ...

... CW: Here's the thing, black people. When you confront white liberals with accusations of racial bias, WE WILL NEVER ADMIT IT. We will remind you that we have been fighting for black civil rights for 50 years (Bernie Sanders). We will tell you all lives matter (Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley). We will tell you that white people are responsible for expanding your rights (Hillary Clinton). We will deny your accusations (Every one of us). And all the while, we will be highly insulted, even if we don't tell you to fuck off. Because white people's feelings matter. And, after all we've done for you, we can't believe you would accuse us of racism.

Even when they're only lip-syncing, some entertainers are pretty damned talented. I'm not much of a fan of Tom Cruise's, but ...

Tech Crunch: "It’s no secret that Google+ didn’t quite work out the way Google envisioned and now, after already moving Google Photos out of the service, it’s starting to decouple Google+ profiles from its regular Google accounts."

Stupid Pet Tricks, Reptile Edition:

Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast: NBC News Chairman Andy Lack is replacing MSNBC's Ed Schultz with -- Chuck Todd. [CW: Excellent decision! Let's change "MSNBC" to "VPN" -- "Village People's Network."] "The only programs that appeared safe from disruption were Morning Joe..., hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski; Hardball ... with Chris Matthews; and The Rachel Maddow Show at 9 p.m. Those programs have performed respectably...." ...

We live in a time when much of the corporate media regards politics as a baseball game or a soap opera. Ed Schultz has treated the American people with respect by focusing on the most important issues impacting their lives.... I am very disappointed that Comcast [the parent company of NBC & MSNBC] chose to remove Ed Schultz from its lineup. We need more people who talk about the real issues facing our country, not fewer.... At a time when a handful of large, multi-national corporations own our major media outlets, I hope they will allow voices to be heard from those who dissent from the corporate agenda. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders

Washington Post: "The latest update from NASA's Kepler space telescope — designed to spot distant exoplanets — adds more than 500 new possible planets to the fray. That's in addition to the 4,175 planets already found by Kepler. And of those 500 new potential planets, scientists say, a dozen could be remarkably Earth-like. That means they're less than twice as large as Earth, are potentially rocky and are at the right distance from their host stars to harbor liquid water." ...

... Guardian: "Scientists on the hunt for extraterrestrial life have discovered 'the closest twin to Earth' outside the solar system, Nasa announced on Thursday."

Worst Person Ratings in the World. Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: Rumors are a'flyin' that MSNBC is headed for another line-up shake-up, which could include the Return of Dr. Olbermann, who is departing ESPN -- again. Because their third place in cable ratings wasn't as bad as their third place is now (sometimes 4th, behind Al Jazeera). And because the New Olbermann is now a suits-licking pussycat, unlike the Old Olbermann from way last week.

Some Would Be Heroes. Washington Post: Coast Guardsman Darren Harrity swims a mile in choppy, fuel-slicked sea to save four men in a leaky lifeboat.

New York Times: "What Pet Should I Get?" -- an aide to Dr. Suess's widow found the manuscript in a box. Dr. Suess -- Theodore Geisel -- died in 1991.

     ... Via BuzzFeed, for the fun of it.

Washington Post: "On Monday, famed physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian tycoon Yuri Milner held a news conference in London to announce their new project: injecting $100 million and a whole lot of brain power into the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, an endeavor they're calling Breakthrough Listen." ...

... CW: What a waste. You know all they'll find is angels hovering around a pantheon of some sort & maybe, if they're lucky, their long-dead pooches floating around Pet Heaven, which is real & wonderful.

New York Times: "In a pair of legal filings on Friday, two nuns who object to [singer Katy] Perry’s proposed purchase of their order’s convent on eight acres [in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles] disclosed an email describing any sale to the saucy pop singer as a breach of their sacred vows.... The court papers include claims by several of five surviving nuns in the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the archdiocese is betraying them and bullying them into supporting a sale other than their preferred transaction with [another buyer]."

NASA: "In the latest data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, a new close-up image of Pluto reveals a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes. This frozen region is north of Pluto’s icy mountains, in the center-left of the heart feature, informally named 'Tombaugh Regio' (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930."

Hill: "President Obama is making a final 'Daily Show' appearance before host Jon Stewart leaves the political comedy program after 17 years. Obama will sit down for his final chat with Stewart on Tuesday, the White House confirmed Friday."

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The Commentariat -- August 3, 2015

The New Kochs, Ctd. Ken Vogel of Politico: "Charles Koch, in a Sunday afternoon speech to conservative donors and GOP dignitaries, compared the causes of his conservative political and policy operation to the American Revolution, the abolitionists, suffragettes and civil rights crusaders. 'They all sought to overcome an injustice. And we, too, are seeking to right injustices that are holding our country back,' Koch said on the second day of a summit he and his brother David Koch convened the at the St. Regis Monarch Beach luxury resort, which drew 450 rich conservatives, as well as numerous leading Republican politicians.... For the Koch network, the cause is reforming the criminal justice system, and reducing government spending and regulation that conservatives believe limits prosperity for all Americans. Or, as Koch put it Sunday, 'we aim … to remove the shackles preventing all Americans, especially the disadvantaged, from pursuing their dreams.'” CW: Yes, the "disadvantaged" should be free to sell arms to Iran, pollute the environment & have offshore accounts, too. ...

... Matea Gold & James Hohmann write the Washington Post story. CW: I'm all dewy-eyed.

Paul Krugman: After writing a post criticizing "crotchety crank" Ron Paul's ever-erroneous wacko economic theories -- which he is now selling in video format! -- "I’ve received some mail from Ron Paul admirers deeply angered by the suggestion that they are not engaged in deep intellectual argument. By and large the mail reads like this:

Dear shmak, Paul Krugman!
Stop insulting Ron Paul!
You are low level Socialist/Liberal who should be jailed
for Life
your insulting writing style.
Ron Paul is Real Man with Capital M
and you are nobody!

     ... CW: I suspect Krugman is unfair to these writers. I'm sure he cleaned up their spelling.

Paul Krugman in the New York Times Book Review: Don't bother to buy Thomas Picketty's "new" book, because it's really 15 years old & doesn't reflect recent economic changes, new data & revised scholarship, even his own.

Presidential Race

Carrie Dann of NBC News: "Days before the first Republican debate, Donald Trump has surged into the national lead in the GOP primary race, with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush following, a new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll shows. Trump is the first choice of 19 percent of GOP primary voters, while 15 percent back Walker and 14 percent back Bush. Ten percent support retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson." ...

... Steven Thomma of McClatchy News: "... the McClatchy-Marist Poll has temporarily suspended polling on primary voter choices out of concern that public polls are being misused to decide who will be in and who will be excluded. The Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducts the national survey, said the debate criteria assume too much precision in polls in drawing a line between candidates just a fraction apart, presume that the national polls being averaged are comparable, and turn the media sponsoring most of the polls from analysts to participants."

Read more here:

Kevin Cirilli of the Hill: "Donald Trump is assembling a team of political strategists and campaign staffers charged with sustaining his lead in the Republican presidential polls. While strategists say Trump still got a ways to go to catch up to his rivals for the White House, he is taking aggressive steps to build a political machine, particularly in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire." ...

... Mistakes Were Made. Emily Atkin of Think Progress: "... Donald Trump said on Sunday that more power should be given to the police. 'It’s a massive crisis,' Trump said on Meet the Press, when asked about the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement. 'Some horrible mistakes are made. At the same time, we have to give power back to the police, because crime is rampant.'” ...

... Black People Are All Alike. Emily Atkin: "In an interview with ABC News on Sunday..., [Donald Trump] said Americans wouldn’t elect another black president for a long time because of Obama’s 'poor standard.'... ' think that he has set a very low bar and I think it’s a shame for the African American people.” CW: Okay, no more white presidents because Warren Harding, Andrew Johnson, George W. Bush, etc. Sorry, Donald. I'm going for the best-qualified Inuit. ...

... Ben Jacobs of the Guardian: "The Trump campaign confirmed to the Guardian on Sunday that longtime aide Sam Nunberg had been fired, after Business Insider reported on an eight-year-old social media post. In 2007, a post on Nunberg’s Facebook page referring to the veteran civil rights campaigner Al Sharpton read: 'Meeting Rev Sharpton today, no joke – he will tell him that his daughter is N---!'” CW: Good to hear that Trump won't abide racism.

Zachary Warmbrodt of Politico: "Donald Trump made clear on Sunday that he’s not ruling out a third-party run if his bid for the Republican presidential nomination falters. In a phone interview on ABC’s 'This Week,' the billionaire businessman-turned-political celebrity said he’d have 'no interest' in running as a third-party candidate if he’s 'treated fairly' by the Republican Party but 'would certainly not give that up' if he felt burned." CW: Since the Republican party is essentially impotent, this is more a warning to Roger Ailes & Fox "News" debate questioners. ...

When people are chopping off other people's heads and then we're worried about waterboarding and we can't, because I have no doubt that that works. I have absolutely no doubt.... When you see the other side chopping off heads, waterboarding doesn't sound very severe. -- Donald Trump, on ABC's "This Week with Whomever"

... CW: There really should be more violence against teachers.

CW: For reasons beyond me, Rick Santorum thinks this fake Hillary site, a product of his own campaign, is hilarious. I'm sticking -- so to speak -- with

Beyond the Beltway

Hedge Clippers: "Hedge funds and billionaire hedge fund managers have swooped into Puerto Rico during a fast-moving economic crisis to prey on the vulnerable island. Several groups of hedge funds and billionaire hedge fund managers have bought up large chunks of Puerto Rican debt at discounts, pushed the island to borrow more, and are driving towards devastating austerity measures. At the same time, they are also using the island as a tax haven.... Known as 'vulture funds,' these investors have followed a similar game plan in other debt crises, in countries such as Greece and Argentina." Via Think Progress. ...

... Alice Ollstein of Think Progress: “'The reason Puerto Rico has such unsustainable debt has everything to do with the policies of austerity and the greed of large financial institutions,' said [Sen. Bernie] Sanders [I-Vt.]. He additionally noted that just seven years ago, Congress 'acted with a fierce sense of urgency to bail out Wall Street,' yet is now dragging its feet on helping the commonwealth of Puerto Rico." ...

... Lizette Alvarez & Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: "On an island where more than 60 percent of residents receive Medicare or Medicaid — an indicator of Puerto Rico’s poverty and rapidly aging population — the dwindling funds have set off outpourings of concern among patients and doctors, protest rallies and intense lobbying in Washington. And while the crisis is playing out most vividly today, its cause dates back decades and stems, in large part, from a vast disparity in federal funding for health care on the island compared with funding for the 50 states. This disparity is partly responsible for $25 billion of Puerto Rico’s $73 billion debt, as Puerto Rico’s government was forced to borrow over time to keep the Medicaid program afloat, according to economists."

AP: "The Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, prepared on Sunday to become the latest powerful state official booked on felony charges. But unlike when Governor Rick Perry smiled for his mugshot last year, Republicans are not rushing to Paxton’s defense."

AP: "A person of 'interest' was taken into custody in connection with the fatal shooting of a police officer during a traffic stop in Memphis, police said on Sunday."

Way Beyond

Washington Post: "Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Sunday called a parliamentary election for Oct. 19, kicking off an 11-week campaign — a marathon in Canada — that is likely to focus on a stubbornly sluggish economy and his decade in power. Polls indicate that Harper’s right-of-center Conservative Party, which has been in office since 2006, could well lose its majority in the House of Commons."


The Commentariat -- August 2, 2015

** Coral Davenport & Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "In the strongest action ever taken in the United States to combat climate change, President Obama will unveil on Monday a set of environmental regulations devised to sharply cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants and ultimately transform America’s electricity industry. The rules are the final, tougher versions of proposed regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2012 and 2014. If they withstand the expected legal challenges, the regulations will set in motion sweeping policy changes that could shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants, freeze construction of new coal plants and create a boom in the production of wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources." CW: Elections matter. ...


... Steve Mufson of the Washington Post: Mitch McConnell "has urged states to rebel against the EPA plan, just as he encouraged states to withhold their cooperation with the Affordable Care Act. In the end, ironically, the states trying to assert their opposition will sacrifice the flexibility they have under the Clean Power Plan. The EPA is setting targets, but states can come up with their own strategies. If the states refuse, only then will federal regulators impose a plan of their own. In the end, the Republican resistance to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan should find little basis in law. Whatever the quality of the EPA’s plan may be, it has a legal responsibility to press ahead."


... Thanks to Victoria D. (oops! did it again) for the reminder. Sadly, Republicans missed the '60s. ...

** William Saletan of Slate covered Congressional hearings about the Iran nuclear deal: "In challenging Kerry and Moniz, Republican senators and representatives offered no serious alternative. They misrepresented testimony, dismissed contrary evidence, and substituted vitriol for analysis. They seemed baffled by the idea of having to work and negotiate with other countries.... The GOP ... seems utterly unprepared to govern." If you don't have time to read the whole article, check out Item 4, an exchange between Ted Cruz & Secretary Moniz. The video below covers Cruz's questioning. Here's his MO: he takes remarks completely out of context or just makes up something, then accuses the witnesses of being ignorant or craven based on his false assertions. On his final attempt to use this pointless technique, John McCain, who chaired the hearing, cut him off:

... ** Heather Richardson, in Salon, goes a long way toward explaining how we got from issues-oriented, reality-conscious senators to Ted Cruz, et al.: "Fox News will air the first Republican presidential debates this week, choosing 10 out of 17 current candidates according to unspecified polls and permitting each candidate just one minute to answer questionsDonald Trump will hold center stage. This scenario, where a TV network calls the shots in a presidential debate and a consummate brand maker is the leading candidate, is the culmination of Movement Conservatism. Politics is no longer about policy or nuance, or even reality. It is simply a storyline designed to appeal to voters’ emotions." ...

... CW: I have been debating with myself about whether or not to watch the Fox "News" "debate" or rely on media reports & analysis. What's your plan?

Nicholas Kristof: "... Conservative Republicans, indignant about abortion, are trying to destroy a government program that helps prevent 345,000 abortions a year. Inevitably in politics there are good ideas and bad ideas. But occasionally there are also moronic ideas — such as the House Republican proposal to kill America’s main family planning program, Title X.... Title X isn’t directly related to the furor over video footage showing Planned Parenthood staff members speaking cavalierly about fetal tissues; the Republican effort to eliminate Title X goes back much earlier."

Sudhim Thanawala of the AP: "A federal judge in San Francisco on Friday blocked the release of any recordings made at meetings of an abortion providers' association by the anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress. Earlier in the week, a Los Angeles County judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the center from releasing any video of leaders of StemExpress, a California company that provides fetal tissue to researchers.... Judge William Orrick ... said absent a temporary restraining order, the federation would likely suffer irreparable injury 'in the form of harassment, intimidation, violence, invasion of privacy, and injury to reputation.' John Nockleby, a professor at Loyola Law School, said California privacy law is stricter than some other states. To record a confidential communication in California, all parties participating in it must agree to the recording."

New York Times Editors: "A recent leak of documents from the Fed shows that its staff economists have forecast more of the same modest growth and inflation for years to come. Nonetheless, the Fed seems determined to raise interest rates before the end of this year.... If it really intends to move ahead soon with interest-rate increases, it needs to explain how an economy in which wages are stagnating is as good as it gets."

Steve Benen: Rather than claim a religious exemption from directly providing contraceptive coverage under the ACA, Wheaton College of Illinois decided to stop providing any health insurance for students. They feel just terrible about it. But Jesus. CW: Yo, Wheaton, Jesus provided healthcare coverage under his trademark Miracle Plan for Believers. The plan also covered believers' family members & gay lovers (see the stories of the Syrophoenician woman & the centurion).

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in a Huffington Post post: "The Times' Executive Editor has suggested that its reporters could not have done anything differently [in erroneously reporting requests for a "criminal investigation" of Hillary Clinton] because they relied on anonymous senior government officials, which the paper's Public Editor later explained included tips from 'Capitol Hill.' I disagree. The Times could have insisted on seeing the documents they were describing. Or, if the Times spoke with Republicans in Congress, even off the record, they could have checked their facts with me or other Committee Democrats. Unfortunately, this rush to print anonymous, unverified claims against Secretary Clinton is not unique." Cummings pretty much fingers Benghaazi! committee chair Trey Gowdy. as the Times' source.

Presidential Race

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his associates have begun to actively explore a possible presidential campaign, which would upend the Democratic field and deliver a direct threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton, several people who have spoken to Mr. Biden or his closest advisers say. Mr. Biden’s advisers have started to reach out to Democratic leaders and donors who have not yet committed to Mrs. Clinton or who have grown concerned about what they see as her increasingly visible vulnerabilities as a candidate." CW: Okay, MoDo gets her way. ...

... Or maybe not. Karen Tumulty, et al., of the Washington Post: "At this point, however, Biden appears to be far from any decision...." ...

MoDo is desperately seeking Not-Hillary; she flirts with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz -- a candidate with all the credibility of Donald Trump -- then settles on Vice President Joe Biden. Along the way, MoDo compares Hillary to patriots QB Tom Brady & his Ballghaaazi stunts.

All the Candidate's Lawsuits. Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal judge has ordered the State Department to ask Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to certify under penalty of perjury that she has turned over some of the work-related emails she kept on a private server during the four years she served as secretary of state. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan issued the order Friday in connection with a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the conservative group Judicial Watch filed in 2013 seeking records about the employment status of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who worked as Clinton's deputy chief of staff but later transferred to a part-time job as a so-called 'special government employee.'... State now faces about 30 lawsuits seeking some or all of the Clinton emails and playing out in front of a variety of different judges."

I will be the greatest jobs president that God every created. I will bring back our jobs from China, Mexico and other places. I will bring back jobs and our money. -- Donald Trump, presidential candidacy announcement

... Mica Rosenberg, et al., of Reuters: "... this month, one of [Donald Trump's] companies, the elite Mar-a-Lago Club resort in Florida, applied to import 70 foreign workers to serve as cooks, wait staff and cleaners. A Reuters analysis of U.S. government data reveals that this is business as usual.... Trump owns companies that have sought to import at least 1,100 foreign workers on temporary visas since 2000, according to U.S. Department of Labor data reviewed by Reuters. Most of the applications were approved.... U.S. government watchdogs have criticized the [work visa] ... programs [the Trump companies use] over the years for failing to protect foreign and American workers alike."


Beyond the Beltway

Ha! Tanya Eiserer of WFAA Dallas-Fort Worth: "A grand jury has indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton [R] on multiple felony charges, according to several sources who are familiar with the complaints. The charges will be unsealed in McKinney on Monday about noon, and a Tarrant County judge has already been appointed to preside over the case, sources told News 8.... All indications are that charge is related to Servergy, a McKinney-based company that has been under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.... This indictment comes after the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice pushed for Paxton to face felony charges beyond the fine he paid to the securities board last year." ...

... Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "In the most serious charges, first-degree securities fraud, Mr. Paxton is accused of misleading investors in a technology company, Servergy Inc., which is based in McKinney, his hometown. He is accused of encouraging the investors in 2011 to put more than $600,000 into Servergy while failing to tell them he was making a commission on their investment, and misrepresenting himself as an investor in the company, said Kent A. Schaffer, one of the two special prosecutors handling the case.... As the state’s top lawyer and law enforcement officer, Mr. Paxton has made headlines for challenging the Obama administration on its immigration and environmental policies and for encouraging county clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples on religious grounds after the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding same-sex marriage."


The Commentariat -- August 1, 2015

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Trade negotiators from the United States and 11 other Pacific nations were headed toward failure Friday, with difficult talks on the largest regional trade agreement ever breaking down over protections for pharmaceutical companies and access to agriculture markets on both sides of the Pacific. Negotiators will return to their home countries to obtain high-level signoffs for a small number of final sticking points on the agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with bilateral talks reconvening soon. But the breakdown is a setback for the Obama administration, which had promoted the talks here as the final round ahead of an accord...."

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "The White House and allied groups are preparing a robust campaign to protect President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran during August recess.... As a method of persuasion, organizers are choosing a two-pronged message. The vote, they will argue, is not just a choice between war and peace; it is also a moment that could torpedo careers years after the fact. 'This is comparable to the Iraq War resolution vote,' said Zack Malitz, campaign manager at CREDO Action, echoing the group's message to lawmakers. 'If you vote the wrong way, it will haunt you for the rest of your career.'" (Hillary Clinton.) ...

... Julian Hattem of the Hill: "Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz appeared to break with President Obama on Friday, by denying that congressional Democrats are getting 'squishy' on the nuclear deal with Iran. Instead, Moniz appeared confident the deal would avoid a death knell on Capitol Hill and would go into effect later this year. 'Squishy? I wouldn’t use that term,' Moniz told reporters at the White House."

Burgess Everett & Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico: "Republicans are rallying behind a bare-knuckle strategy to strip Planned Parenthood’s government support via a must-pass fall spending bill, a momentum shift that dramatically increases the chances of a government shutdown fight this fall. What started out as a push from socially conservative firebrands like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and 18 House members on Wednesday, is spreading to include more centrist members of the Senate GOP. On Thursday, Arizona Republican John McCain, who often tacks to the middle in the Senate, not only backed a plan to link Planned Parenthood defunding with spending legislation, he suggested the move was inevitable.... Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has scheduled a standalone vote on defunding the organization for next week, but it will fail amid Democratic resistance and may only temporarily satisfy the party’s right flank." ...

... Laura Bassett of the Huffington Post: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fast-tracked a bill to defund Planned Parenthood on Friday because of an undercover video of a Planned Parenthood doctor discussing the donation of fetal tissue after abortions. But McConnell was one of many Republicans who voted to lift a ban on fetal tissue donations after abortions in 1993 -- the very move that legalized Planned Parenthood's actions." ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "By they way, McCain supported federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, so this must just be him being all mavericky again." ...

... Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "A budget measure that strips funding from [Planned Parenthood] 'is certainly something that would draw a presidential veto,' press secretary Josh Earnest said. 'We have routinely opposed the inclusion of ideologically driven riders' in budget bills, Earnest added." ...

... ** Mark Stern of Slate: "Stem cells hold terrific promise for the treatment — and, eventually, the defeat — of ALS. The most useful stem cells are found in fertilized embryos and fetuses, where they haven’t yet developed into specialized cells.... The first Food and Drug Administration–approved clinical trials to treat ALS with fetal stem cells are already underway. Any treatment derived from fetal tissue is many years away at best, but the early research has been a success.... One of the many discoveries researchers made in preparing for the first trial was that fetal stem cells seemed to be the best stem cells for ALS treatment.... a woman’s decision to donate her aborted fetus to medical research — and Planned Parenthood’s willingness to transfer the fetal material — is deeply commendable." ...

... Dana Milbank: Senate Republicans have a plan to increase the number of abortions. "There already is a ban on federal funding of abortion, with rare exceptions, at Planned Parenthood or anywhere else. The federal funds Senate Republicans propose taking away from Planned Parenthood are used largely to provide women with birth control.... If Planned Parenthood were denied funding, this means hundreds of thousands of women, if not millions, would over time lose access to birth control." CW: I find a lot to object to in Milbank's column, but his central point -- that Senate Repubicans' overreaction to the sting videos would result in more abortions -- is accurate. ...

... CW: The thread running through all of this is the insane, depraved disregard for human life -- of women, of their male partners, of their families, & of course of people who suffer from or who will later contract debilitating illnesses that embryonic & fetal cell research & treatment has the potential to mitigate or cure. To what end this appalling reckless indifference? Rand Paul gains a percentage point in the GOP presidential polls? Ted Cruz applies this cause in yet another fundraising letter?

     ... Makes me realize another great thing about our nation's libertarian beginnings: early Americans were also unfettered by science & technology. Ah, for those happy days of leeches & covered wagons.

Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "The Justice Department said Friday that the juvenile justice system in St. Louis County, Mo., treats black youths far more harshly than whites, and deprives all low-income youths accused of crimes — no matter what race — of their basic constitutional rights. Youths from poorer families who are accused of crimes get little or no chance to challenge their detention, dispute the charges against them, or receive meaningful help from lawyers, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division reported after a 20-month investigation. Its report is based on data on 33,000 cases over three years."

Anne Blythe of the Raleigh News & Observer: "U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder interrupted attorneys numerous times with questions during closing arguments Friday at the North Carolina voting rights trial.... The trial is the first full test of voting measures adopted after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which invalidated Section 5 of the landmark Voting Rights Act. The judge asked state attorneys why lawmakers had curbed or ended programs that had been so popular among black voters.... Schroeder told the attorneys he struggled to find a baseline for measuring what registration should be." ...

... CW: Based on his questions outlined in Blythe's report, Schroeder -- a Bush II appointee -- seems like a dimwitted (or sly) ole white boy unless many of his questons were rhetorical. Here's an example: "He turned challenger arguments on their head, asking whether the previous legislative votes that established early voting and same-day registration might have been discriminatory to white voters." Yeah, if you let all the black people vote, that's so unfair to white slackers. Once you're a judge, you can say whatever ignorant, bigoted things pops into your head.

Of Big Cats & Fat Cats. An Economics Lesson Courtesy of the Carcass of Cecil. Max Ehrenfreund of the Washington Post: How can a neighborhood dentist afford to go around the world slaughtering animals at $55K a pop? "Dentists in some places ... earn more than the average doctor.... The average general dental practitioner took in $181,000 in 2013, according to the dental association, compared to $175,000 for a family doctor, according to WebMD Medscape's annual compensation report.... [These figures take costs into account.] In the rest of medicine, insurers have an important function in limiting costs and promoting quality. The market power of Medicare and major national insurance companies allows them to insist on better rates for their customers when they negotiate with doctors and hospitals." ...

... Paul Krugman: "For many years conservatives have insisted that the problem with health costs is that we don’t treat health care like an ordinary consumer good; people have insurance, which means that they don’t have 'skin in the game' that gives them an incentive to watch costs. So what we need is 'consumer-driven' health care, in which insurers no longer pay for routine expenses.... As it turns out, many fewer people have dental insurance than have general medical insurance; even where there is insurance, it typically leaves a lot of skin in the game. But dental costs have risen just as fast as overall health spending, and it may be that the reduced role of insurers actually raises those costs.... more skin in the game is not just useless but actually counterproductive." ...

     ... CW: Almost makes you wonder if capitalism is awesome. ...

... Darryl Fears & Elahe Izadi of the Washington Post: "On Friday, officials in Zimbabwe said they intended to press ahead with a request to extradite Palmer for killing a lion known as Cecil just outside a sanctuary where the animal was protected. Later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it had finally contacted Palmer, a dentist who had shuttered his practice in Minnesota a few days ago and disappeared. The Fish and Wildlife agency’s law enforcement office said that a representative for Palmer 'voluntarily reached out to the service' Thursday afternoon and that its 'investigation is ongoing.'... [Palmer] "may have trouble avoiding extradition."

... Adam Raymond of New York: Dr. "Paul Broun, "the former Republican representative for Georgia’s tenth congressional district and 2014 senatorial candidate not only killed a lion, but he ate it.... In a 2010 Roll Call video ... he takes viewers on a tour of his office, which is decorated like an animal graveyard. Among his trophies are a Kodiak brown bear, eland, water buffalo, and yes, a lion." CW: In the video, Broun says, "Hunting is what started my political activism." That's the best anti-hunting argument I've ever heard. As Raymond reminds us, "... Broun was such an unrepentant nut-job — he once said, 'Evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell'..."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Steve Benen: The New York Times' bogus Hillary Clinton criminal story is part of a pattern that journalists should recognize by now: "We’ve already documented one recent instance in which the Benghazi committee leaked deceptive information to Politico, which ran an article that had to be corrected. We’ve also reported on several instances in which House Republicans, in the name of congressional oversight, have also leaked information to news organizations that turned out to be deliberately misleading – some related to Benghazi, some not."

Read more here:

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Presidential Race

of the Washington Post: "More than 50 individuals and entities have shelled out at least $1 million apiece to big-money groups backing presidential candidates — with close to half of the big donors giving to a super PAC aligned with former Florida governor Jeb Bush. With 15 months to go before Election Day, donors have already contributed $272.5 million to independent groups supporting the large Republican field, more than four times the $67 million raised through their official campaigns, according to a tally by The Washington Post.... Never before has so much money been donated by such a small number of people so early." ...

... Jeremy Bowers, et al., of the New York Times: "Today is the deadline for the outside groups known as 'super PACs' to file fund-raising reports for the first half of 2015. For the groups that have filed so far, here are the individuals and corporations that have given $1 million or more." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Janell Ross of the Washington Post: Mike Fernandez disagrees with Jeb Bush on the Affordable Care Act & on normalizing relations with Cuba. Maybe that's why Fernandez gave Jeb! only $3 million.

Ken Dilanian & Lisa Lerer of the AP: "Dozens of emails that traversed Hillary Clinton's private, unsecure home server contain national security information now deemed too sensitive to make public, according to the latest batch of records released Friday. In 2,206 pages of emails, the government censored passages to protect national security at least 64 times in 37 messages, including instances when the same information was blacked-out multiple times. Clinton has said she never sent classified information from her private email server.... There were no obviously stunning revelations in the emails released Friday.... Some of the documents could reflect favorably on Clinton.... There was no indication from emails released so far that Clinton's home computer system used encryption software.... Current and former intelligence officials have said they assume the emails were intercepted by foreign intelligence services." ...

... Dan Roberts of the Guardian : "A third of Hillary Clinton’s top backers made their money from the financial services industry, according to Guardian analysis of new campaign finance disclosures released on Friday.... Separately, Clinton disclosed on Friday evening that she and her husband earned $28m in personal income last year and have paid nearly $44m in federal taxes since 2007." ...

... Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign released a letter from her doctor on Friday attesting to her health and fitness for office, on a day marked by a deluge of other disclosures about her finances and a new batch of emails from her time as secretary of state." The letter is here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Sabrina Siddiqui of the Guardian: "Hillary Clinton on Friday called out her Republican rivals for approaching foreign policy 'through an outdated cold war lens'. In a speech that advocated for greater diplomatic engagement with Latin America, the Democratic presidential frontrunner also called on Congress to lift the 50-year US embargo on Cuba.... On Friday, Clinton publicly argued her case in detail for the first time in Miami – the original home of the Cuban exile community and the backyard of two of her chief Republican opponents, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and US senator Marco Rubio." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Dave Weigel, et al., of the Washington Post: "Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton took a swipe at Republican rival Jeb Bush [in Fort Lauderdale, Florida,] Friday before a mostly African American crowd.... Speaking ahead of Bush, Clinton delivered a speech in which she invoked the Black Lives Matter movement, cited Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and others whose deaths set off controversies. Clinton went after Bush without naming him, saying his policies would not help people trying to improve their lives. 'I don’t think you can credibly say that everyone has a right to rise and then say you’re for phasing out Medicare or for repealing Obamacare,' she said. 'People can’t rise when they can’t afford health care.' 'Right to Rise' is the name of the pro-Bush super PAC operated by his top allies." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: Clinton's remarks caught Jeb! off-guard, & he didn't rebut them when he spoke about an hour later. "Mr. Bush’s aides, however, could barely hide their disgust over Mrs. Clinton’s remarks, which they spoke of, bitterly, as uncivil and uncalled-for.... Despite the broadsides from Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Bush’s speech was well received.... The conference Friday had offered a chance for Senator Bernie Sanders ...  to appeal more directly to black voters. But his speech highlighted just how much work he still has to do." ...

... Annie Karni & Eli Stokols of Politico on why Jeb! didn't need to hit back at Clinton. Also, it would have been stupid to do so before the Urban League.

... Tom Hamburger, et al., of the Washington Post: "The State Department concluded this year that Huma Abedin, one of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s closest aides, was overpaid by nearly $10,000 because of violations of rules governing vacation and sick leave during her tenure as an official in the department. The finding — which Abedin has formally contested — emerged publicly Friday after Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) sent letters to Secretary of State John F. Kerry and others seeking more information about an investigation into possible 'criminal' conduct by Abedin concerning her pay."

Jennifer Senior of New York theorizes that Americans don't really want "authenticity" in a president: "... what voters truly want are candidates ... with a polished public persona, who actually believe their performing selves, to the point that they play those people even in private." Ergo, the steady slide of Rand Paul, "the most interesting man in politics." Senior predicts Donald Trump won't survive the primaries, either: "... he's a pathological personality, yanked straight from the pages of the DSM-5. He always speaks his mind, but the things he says are inappropriate in any context — public, private, on the moon. He may speak to a certain portion of the GOP primary base, but in time, he too will combust ... because the electorate can tolerate screwball, unpredictable behavior for only so long." ...

... Mike Levine of ABC News: "Presidential candidate Donald Trump wants a prominent chef to pay $10 million in damages after the food star bailed on plans to open a new restaurant inside Trump’s latest project in the nation’s capital. A group owned by Trump — Trump Post Office LLC — filed a lawsuit today in federal court.... After Trump made controversial remarks in June suggesting illegal immigrants from Mexico are criminals and 'rapists,' [chef Jose] Andres backed out.... 'Mr. Andres’ offense is curious in light of the fact that Mr. Trump’s publicly shared views on immigration have remained consistent for many years, and Mr. Trump’s willingness to frankly share his opinions is widely known,' the lawsuit states." CW: Hmmm. Apparently, that's an accurate point. Read on. ...

... ** Alexander Burns of the New York Times: "Long before [Donald] Trump announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination..., he had proved himself in New York as an expert political provocateur with an instinct for racially charged rhetoric." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Jeremy Borden of the Washington Post: "The man accused of gunning down nine African Americans inside a historic black church known as 'Mother Emanuel' has told his lawyers that he currently plans to plead guilty to federal hate crime charges, attorney David Bruck told a federal judge Friday. However, Bruck said that because federal officials have not decided whether to seek a death sentence for some of these charges, he did not want to enter a guilty plea yet. As a result, the judge said he would enter a not guilty plea." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Oliver Laughland of the Guardian: "Two officers who witnessed the shooting of unarmed 43-year-old Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati will not face criminal charges, despite seemingly corroborating a false claim that DuBose’s vehicle dragged officer Ray Tensing before he was fatally shot.... On Friday [county prosecutor Joseph] Deters’ office announced that a grand jury had declined to bring any charges against the other two officers, after hearing testimony from both of them.... Deters said on Friday he was in full agreement with the decision." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Anne Saker of the Cincinnati Enquirer: "The union representing the University of Cincinnati police force has filed a grievance on behalf of Raymond Tensing demanding that he get his job back as an officer because the university fired him this week without due process, a union official said Friday.... [Union rep Thomas] Fehr said that Tensing was notified that the union was filing the grievance on his behalf. 'He wanted it done,' Fehr said." ...

... Yesterday Akhilleus asked, "What in the hell are University police officers doing making traffic stops in the first place?" I wondered that, too. So here's the answer: Jason Williams of the Cincinatti Enquirer (July 29): "According to UC's agreement with the city, university police officers have the authority to investigate minor traffic offenses that occur outside the boundaries of the campuses.... [BUT NOW] University of Cincinnati police officers are no longer allowed to patrol off-campus streets – fallout from this week's officer-involved fatal shooting several blocks from the main campus. President Santa Ono and other UC leaders ... said they also are reviewing an agreement between university police and Cincinnati police regarding how the departments patrol streets near UC's campuses." ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: "And I say 'No, no, no' to this Cincinnati Enquirer article on how Officer Ray Tensing, the UC cop that shot and killed Sam DuBose, is such a nice guy."

Antonio Olivo of the Washington Post: "A federal judge ruled Friday that Virginia can stop issuing specialty license plates that show the Confederate flag, following a recent Supreme Court decision that said such a ban does not violate the 1st Amendment. U.S. District Judge Jackson Kiser said he will issue a written order to address whether the nearly 1,700 Confederate license plates currently in use in Virginia may be recalled by the state." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell should lose his pension because of his felony conviction, the state’s attorney general said Tuesday. In an advisory opinion sought by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) said that under a law McDonnell signed in 2011, the ex-governor must relinquish his benefits because he was convicted of a felony related to on-the-job conduct."

AP: "A federal judge said he would dismiss a lawsuit filed by a pregnant prisoner who sought an abortion after the woman told him during a hearing on Friday she had changed her mind and now wants to deliver the child, a reversal called 'highly suspicious' by one of her lawyers. The woman’s change of heart came as a prosecutor said separately the state was shelving an effort to strip her of parental rights over the fetus and delaying prosecution on two drug-related charges while the woman enters in-patient addiction treatment at a state-certified facility."


The Commentariat -- July 31, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign released a letter from her doctor on Friday attesting to her health and fitness for office, on a day marked by a deluge of other disclosures about her finances and a new batch of emails from her time as secretary of state." The letter is here. ...

... Sabrina Siddiqui of the Guardian: "Hillary Clinton on Friday called out her Republican rivals for approaching foreign policy 'through an outdated cold war lens'. In a speech that advocated for greater diplomatic engagement with Latin America, the Democratic presidential frontrunner also called on Congress to lift the 50-year US embargo on Cuba.... On Friday, Clinton publicly argued her case in detail for the first time in Miami – the original home of the Cuban exile community and the backyard of two of her chief Republican opponents, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and US senator Marco Rubio."

... Dave Weigel, et al., of the Washington Post: "... Hillary Rodham Clinton took a swipe at Republican rival Jeb Bush [in Fort Lauderdale, Florida,] Friday before a mostly African American crowd.... Speaking ahead of Bush, Clinton delivered a speech in which she invoked the Black Lives Matter movement, cited Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and others whose deaths set off controversies. Clinton went after Bush without naming him, saying his policies would not help people trying to improve their lives. 'I don't think you can credibly say that everyone has a right to rise and then say you're for phasing out Medicare or for repealing Obamacare,' she said. 'People can't rise when they can't afford health care.' 'Right to Rise' is the name of the pro-Bush super PAC operated by his top allies."

** Alexander Burns of the New York Times: "Long before [Donald] Trump announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination..., he had proved himself in New York as an expert political provocateur with an instinct for racially charged rhetoric."

Jeremy Bowers, et al., of the New York Times: "Today is the deadline for the outside groups known as 'super PACs' to file fund-raising reports for the first half of 2015. For the groups that have filed so far, here are the individuals and corporations that have given $1 million or more."

Jeremy Borden of the Washington Post: "The man accused of gunning down nine African Americans inside a historic black church known as 'Mother Emanuel' has told his lawyers that he currently plans to plead guilty to federal hate crime charges, attorney David Bruck told a federal judge Friday. However, Bruck said that because federal officials have not decided whether to seek a death sentence for some of these charges, he did not want to enter a guilty plea yet. As a result, the judge said he would enter a not guilty plea."

Oliver Laughland of the Guardian: "Two officers who witnessed the shooting of unarmed 43-year-old Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati will not face criminal charges, despite seemingly corroborating a false claim that DuBose's vehicle dragged officer Ray Tensing before he was fatally shot.... On Friday [county prosecutor Joseph] Deters' office announced that a grand jury had declined to bring any charges against the other two officers, after hearing testimony from both of them.... Deters said on Friday he was in full agreement with the decision."

Antonio Olivo of the Washington Post: "A federal judge ruled Friday that Virginia can stop issuing specialty license plates that show the Confederate flag, following a recent Supreme Court decision that said such a ban does not violate the 1st Amendment. U.S. District Judge Jackson Kiser said he will issue a written order to address whether the nearly 1,700 Confederate license plates currently in use in Virginia may be recalled by the state."

There are also two new opinion pieces linked under "Annals of 'Journalism,'" Ctd. below.


Keith Laing of the Hill: "The Senate on Thursday approved an $8 billion extension of federal transportation funding, sending it to President Obama's desk with just one day to go before the nation's road and transit spending expires. The bill, which extends infrastructure spending until Oct. 29, passed in a 91-4 vote, pushing the debate into the fall. Obama, who has advocated for long-term extension of highway funding, is expected to sign the patch to prevent an interruption in funding during the busy summer construction season. The vote Thursday came after the Senate passed its preferred fix, a six-year highway bill negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). House Republicans refused to take up that bill and left town on Wednesday, forcing the Senate to accept the three-month stopgap."

Christine Armario of the AP: "A temporary restraining order has been issued preventing an anti-abortion group from releasing any video of leaders of a California company that provides fetal tissue to researchers. The group is the same one that previously shot viral covert video of a Planned Parenthood leader discussing the sale of aborted fetuses for research. ...

... Tailgunner Ted Finds Another Excuse to Shut Down the Government. Burgess Everett of Politico: "Calling next week's Senate roll call to defund Planned Parenthood a 'legislative show vote,' GOP firebrand Ted Cruz said Republicans should do everything they can to eliminate federal money for the group -- even if it means a government shutdown fight this fall.... On Wednesday afternoon, 18 House Republicans told leadership that they 'cannot and will not support any funding resolution ... that contains any funding for Planned Parenthood.'" ...

... Jessica Glenza of the Guardian: "The anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress released a fourth 'sting' video of Planned Parenthood officials discussing tissue collection from aborted fetuses. The video comes as the White House and top Planned Parenthood officials defend against Republican politicians' attempts to defund the women's health care clinics." ...

... Steve M. thinks the video campaign could have an impact on the 2016 elections including on the presidential race, especially since Hillary Clinton is now officially "disturbed" about them. Also, expect more of this from Republican governors:

     ... Kelli Kennedy of the AP: "Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered state health officials to inspect Planned Parenthood offices that perform abortions, saying he is troubled by videos describing the organization's procedures for providing tissue from aborted fetuses for research."

The New Kochs. Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "After two elections in which Democrats and liberals sought to cast them as the secretive, benighted face of the Republican Party, the Kochs are seeking to remake public perceptions of their family, their business and their politics, unsettling a corporate culture deeply allergic to the spotlight. Even as their donor network prepares to spend extravagantly to defeat Democrats during the 2016 campaign, the Kochs have made cause with prominent liberals to change federal sentencing rules, which disproportionately affect African-Americans, while a Koch-backed nonprofit, the Libre Initiative, offers driving lessons and tax preparation services to Latinos.... Democrats, in the meantime, are preparing to spend millions of their own to paint the Kochs' political efforts as cynical and self-interested."

Tim Egan: "The South is the most violent region in the United States, and also the place with the highest rate of gun ownership.... Most of the states with tighter gun laws have fewer gun deaths.... One America, the slightly safer one..., includes government gun-screened zones like airports, courthouses and many high schools. But more significantly, it also covers property used by our most popular obsession, pro football -- the free market at work. The other America is an open-fire zone, backed by politicians who think it should be even more crowded with average people parading around with lethal weapons.... What we're moving toward ... are regions that are safer than others, and public spaces that are safer than others, led by private enterprise, shunning the gun crazies who want everyone armed. The new reality comes with the inconvenience and hassle of screening and pat-downs similar to the routines at airports -- enforced gun-free zones, not mere suggestions."

Lisa Rein of the Washington Post: "The 49-cent stamp has eight more months of life until the U.S. Postal Service has to roll the price back, the effect of a ruling that allows the post office to collect $1.1 billion to cover its recession-related losses. Wednesday's ruling by postal regulators should be the last word in a long legal dispute between the Postal Service and the mailing industry over the largest rate increase for first-class letters in 11 years."

James Risen of the New York Times: "The board of the American Psychological Association plans to recommend tough ethics rules that would prohibit psychologists from involvement in all national security interrogations, potentially creating a new obstacle to the Obama administration's efforts to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects outside of the traditional criminal justice system."

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "... the emerging details of [Mullah Mohammad] Omar's death may ... help explain the extent to which his ability to remain both influential and invisible was a reflection of the competing and often hidden agendas in the counterterrorism partnership between the United States and Pakistan."

Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post: "Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter will allow more U.S. troops to be armed while stateside and called for other security measures to be put in place following the attack in Chattanooga, Tenn., that killed five service members. The decision was outlined in a two-page memo released at the Pentagon on Thursday." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jonathan Chait on the glaring inconsistencies in confederates' position on the Iran deal. "This double-minded quality allows the Iran hawks to demand the Obama administration ramp up confrontation with Russia right now, even while demanding he hold on to Russian support for Iran sanctions." They argue that somehow, even tho President Obama is totally "feckless," confederates are sure he can bend Vladimir Putin to abandon Russia's interests. Hey, as long as these guys can shout, "We win!" they don't have to make a whit of sense or show any concern for our own national interests.

Paul Krugman: "... China's remarkable success over the past 25 years notwithstanding, the nation's rulers have no idea what they're doing." Why, they're as clueless as Jeb!

Jef Rouner, in the Houston Chronicle, tries to explain to ignoramuses the difference between fact & opinion. CW: It's my opinion that Rouner's explanation has zero probability of having a positive educational impact on his target audience. Last year, in a related & perhaps more helpful post, Rouner suggested the best way to deal with Snopes-deniers.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

** Jonathan Allen of Vox publishes a letter from Hillary Clinton's communications director Jennifer Palmieri to New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet re: the fake "criminal referral" story. Palmieri sent the letter Tuesday. It adds significantly to what we know about how the Times reported & published this report. CW: Palmieri -- correctly, IMHO, schools the editor of perhaps the most prominent daily newspaper in the world on "standard journalistic practices." She wrote, in part,

Not only did the Times fail to engage in a proper discussion with the campaign ahead of publication; given the exceedingly short window of time between when the Times received the tip and rushed to publish, it hardly seems possible that the Times conducted sufficient deliberations within its own ranks before going ahead with the story....

In our conversations with the Times reporters, it was clear that they had not personally reviewed the IG's referral that they falsely described as both criminal and focused on Hillary Clinton. Instead, they relied on unnamed sources that characterized the referral as such. However, it is not at all clear that those sources had directly seen the referral, either.

... NEW. Brian Stelter of CNN (& for a long time, an NYT reporter): "The campaign had wanted the newspaper to publish the roughly 2,000-word critique, at least online. But the paper declined to do so, according to Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon. Instead, the campaign decided to publish it on its own website, ensuring it would receive widespread attention. Fallon said the campaign had sent no other letters of the sort to other news outlets in the past." ...

     ... See also the tweets by Michael Cohen, which Margaret Hartmann republishes here. ...

... NEW. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "Had Baquet & Co. properly accounted for their failures in [Times public editor Margaret] Sullivan's post earlier this week, they perhaps could have killed the issue and watched the Beltway move on to more deserving stories. But no -- they shrugged, exonerated and excusified to the point that the Clinton campaign would have looked silly if it hadn't sent a letter of this stature."

Catherine Thompson of TPM catches Mark Halperin & John Heilemann of Bloomberg News making up "news," according to one of their so-called "Trump supporters": "Bloomberg Politics' 'With All Due Respect' won the morning Thursday with a boffo focus group of New Hampshire Trump supporters singing The Donald's praises as a "classy" commander-in-chief in waiting who is definitely 'one of us.'.... But one of the voters [Jessica DeBurro] featured ... in the focus group told TPM that she's not a Trump supporter at all. And the same went for most of the other participants in the panel, according to the voter.... DeBurro further alleged that interviewer Heilemann, Halperin's co-host, pumped them to think of positive things to say about Trump which could then be edited together into a Trump fawn-a-thon." ...

... CW: Since everybody knows Halperin & Heilemann are hacks, there won't be much fallout from their made-for-Bloomberg-TV fake news.

Presidential Race

Jonathan Easley of the Hill: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) says he will not run for president as an Independent if he falls short in his bid to secure the Democratic 2016 nomination. Speaking at the Newseum in Washington on Thursday, Sanders said that if he ran a third-party campaign, it would draw support away from the Democratic nominee, potentially handing Republicans the White House. 'I would not want to be responsible for electing some right-wing Republican president,' Sanders said."

Docudump Day. Billy House & Ben Brody of Bloomberg: "The State Department is set Friday to post online its next batch of e-mails that Hillary Clinton sent and received on a personal account while she was secretary of state." ...

... Marisa Taylor, et al., of McClatchy News: "The classified emails stored on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private server contained information from five U.S. intelligence agencies.... Two inspectors general have indicated that five emails they have reviewed were not marked classified at the time they were stored on her private server but that the contents were in fact 'secret.'... '... the fact that classified information was identified within the emails is exactly why use of private emails ... is not supposed to be allowed,' said Bradley Moss, a Washington attorney who specializes in national security matters. 'Both she and her team made a serious management mistake that no one should ever repeat.'" ...

... Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Fresh off a meeting with national labor leaders, Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday spoke favorably about legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour, tacitly dismissing proposals by her two leading Democratic competitors who have called for a bigger increase. Speaking with reporters, Mrs. Clinton singled out legislation proposed by Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, that would establish a $12-an-hour minimum nationwide.... As she has in the past, Mrs. Clinton did not explicitly offer a figure she would like to see adopted, but implied that certain measures, like Ms. Murray's, were more realistic than others: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland, Mrs. Clinton's rivals in the Democratic field, both support raising the minimum to $15 an hour."

Ed Kilgore: "... you might think [Erick Erickson] just an inflated bloviater whose chosen style is the bullyboy threat of a political commissar. But the thing is he's going to be the impresario of the Republican presidential cattle call next weekend (the Red State Gathering, in Atlanta) that will come immediately after the first candidate debate, with ten candidates currently confirmed: Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, and yes, even Donald Trump." Erickson is currently demanding that GOP legislators to shut down the government to stop Planned PArenthood from "killing living children who have already been born, cutting them up, and harvesting their organs."

Gabrel Sherman of New York: "The Fox News GOP Debate Could Draw the Biggest Audience in Cable News History -- and Roger Ailes Is Making All the Rules." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Whither Marco? James Downie of the Washington Post: "While it would be tempting to pick one big cause, Rubio's stumble is probably due to a combination of factors: his stumbling answer on the Iraq war, his continued moderation on immigration (an anathema to many GOP voters) and, most recently, [Donald] Trump's entrance into the race. Perhaps the biggest problem is that while he is acceptable to many parts of the GOP base, he is none of those parts' first choice.... Unless things change soon, the one-time GOP front-runner will be a mere footnote in the 2016 campaign." CW: If the winner doesn't tap Marco for the veep spot, which is where I expect him to go unless Jeb! wins the nomination.

Greg Sargent: "Well, it was bound to happen eventually: Donald Trump has finally made a genuinely useful contribution to the public debate. In an interview with CNN, Trump went farther than I've seen any Republican presidential candidate go on immigration, explicitly pledging to carry out the mass deportation of all undocumented immigrants." ...

... Dara Lind of Vox: "... if mass deportation is so popular among Republican voters, why hasn't any Republican presidential candidate -- or policymaker -- embraced it before now? Simple: It is a totally impractical proposal.... Let's start with cost. It's huge." Also, too, what about the U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrants? "If [other GOP candidates] disagree with Trump, they'll pit themselves against the Republican base -- and face pressure to explain what they'd do instead. If they agree with Trump, they'll be making a policy promise that will be very difficult to keep." ...

... Ed Kilgore: speculates on the logistics of Trump's "plan": "... it's just a management problem, and any tycoon worth his salt can figure out a way via universal hourly traffic stops and police raids on workplaces and maybe house-to-house searches to 'find them,' and then it's just a matter of setting up a few thousand transit camps and deploying a few hundreds of thousands of cattle cars to round 'em up and 'get them out... It's time for us all to ask him and other Republicans who won't endorse a path to legalization exactly how much they are willing to spend in money and in lost civil liberties to implement their plans. No sense weaseling around and dog-whistling this issue any more." ...

... CW: One has to wonder about what the Donald's plan is for undocumented immigrants who come from countries other than Mexico. Mexico accounts for nearly 60 percent of the unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., but that leaves more than 40 percent, who come primarily from Central & South America & from Asia. I suppose for Central & South Americans, he could engineer a massive Trump Trail of Tears. What about Asians? Slow boats to China? BTW, according to the Center for American Progress, "In 2012, 4.7 million undocumented adults were parents of minor children, including 3.8 million whose children were U.S. citizens." Will we have thousands of Trump Orphanages? And, not to be too selfish here, but what about the economic contributions undocumented workers make to the U.S.? Esther Lee of Think Progress: "The center-right organization American Action Forum (AAF) found that ... without the 11 million undocumented immigrants, the U.S. labor force would shrink and real GDP would be reduced by $1.6 trillion." As to the cost of rounding them up, as Kilgore facetiously suggests, AAF estimates the cost would be between $400BB & $600BB. To put it into language Trump would understand, his plan is a "huge loser."

... TrumpCare. In his CNN interview, Trump also talked about replacing ObamaCare with "something terrific." Sahil Kapur of Bloomberg: "Trump's Obamacare Replacement Plan Sounds Quite a Bit Like Obamacare... Trump proposed: competing private plans (which Obamacare exchanges provide for); protecting hospitals from catastrophic events (which Obamacare deals with by requiring people to get insurance so they don't pass on their emergency care costs), and government plans for low-income people who get sick and lack options (which Obamacare does by expanding Medicaid). ...

... Representing the center-right wing of the Villagers, Michael Gerson of the Washington Post: "... the success of Trump would be the downfall of the GOP. Any party captured by rage and resentment will fail, and deserve it. Republicans should stand for responsible reform, not reckless populism." ...

... On that note, Marcy Wheeler, in Salon: "Trump's candidacy has proven to be a far bigger problem for the Republican Party than establishment figures ever expected. In coping with such a colossal headache, the Party seems to be following the Kübler-Ross model of grief -- the model frequently used to describe how people come to grips with the death of a loved one." CW: Gerson there provides a good example of Step 4 -- depression, which Wheeler suggests is where the GOP is now on Kübler-Ross path.

... Carlos Lozada, the Washington Post's non-fiction book editor binge-read "the collected works of Donald Trump.... Is there a single word that combines revulsion, amusement, respect and confusion? That is how it feels ... to binge on Trump's writings. Over the course of 2,212 pages, I encountered a world where bragging is breathing and insulting is talking, where repetition and contradiction come standard, where vengefulness and insecurity erupt at random. Elsewhere, such qualities might get in the way of the story. With Trump, they are the story. There is little else."

Emily Flitter of Reuters: Scott "Walker has made [Harley-Davidson] ... a centerpiece of his campaign kick-off tour this month, visiting four dealerships and sometimes showing off his own 2003 Harley Road King as he seeks to harness its appeal to older white male voters. But ... Harley ... is a leading example of a successful company that has a strong relationship with labor unions.... Some of the people who build Harleys - more than a thousand of whom are unionized workers in Wisconsin - are fuming over Walker's prominent use of the bikes in his campaign. 'He's trying to make a name for himself by saying "I took on 100,000 union workers" - and he's on our bikes,' said Andy Voelzke, 57, who works at Harley's plant just outside Milwaukee and is a member of the United Steelworkers union."

Beyond the Beltway

... The Oregonian is liveblogging developments. 5:48 pm PT Thursday: "Police boats are clearing a lane for the MSV Fennica to move down the Willamette River toward the Columbia River. 5:40 pm: "The MSV Fennica has stopped short of the St. Johns Bridge; kayakers continue to block the ship's route out of Portland. 5:55 pm: The MSV Fennica passes under the St. Johns Bridge and past the protesters who have dangled from the bridges frame for more than 40 hours." ...

     ... Update. Steven DuBois & Dan Joling of the AP: "A Royal Dutch Shell icebreaker that was the target of environmental protesters left Portland, Oregon, on Thursday bound for an Arctic drilling operation after a tense standoff ended with kayakers and activists who had dangled from a bridge to block its path. The Fennica left dry dock and made its way down the Willamette River toward the Pacific Ocean soon after authorities forced the demonstrators from the river and the St. Johns Bridge. Several protesters in kayaks moved toward the center of the river as the ship began its trip, but authorities in boats and personal watercraft cleared a narrow pathway for the Fennica."

... Ellen Brait of the Guardian: "A federal judge in Alaska has ordered Greenpeace USA to pay a fine of $2,500 for every hour that protesters continue to block a Royal Dutch Shell icebreaker from leaving Portland, Oregon, for the Arctic.... The activists have been hanging from the bridge since Wednesday at approximately 3am PT, delaying the departure of the oil company's 380ft Fennica icebreaker."

Justin Fenton & Luke Broadwater of the Baltimore Sun: "Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that he will immediately shut down the decrepit Baltimore City Detention Center, moving inmates to nearby facilities and ending a longstanding 'black eye' for the state. The Republican governor said the Civil War-era jail -- which is run by the state -- could be torn down, and there are no plans to build a new facility. Baltimore's jail population has dipped in recent years, making room elsewhere for the inmates from the detention center. The move is expected to save taxpayers $10 to $15 million annually."

Ryan Felton & Oliver Laughland of the Guardian: "Two police officers who corroborated a seemingly false account of the fatal shooting of Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati were previously implicated in the death of an unarmed, hospitalised and mentally ill black man who died after he was 'rushed' by a group of seven University of Cincinnati police officers. Kelly Brinson, a 45-year-old mental health patient at Cincinnati's University hospital, suffered a psychotic episode on 20 January 2010 and was placed inside a seclusion room at the hospital by UC officers. He was then shocked with a Taser three times by an officer and placed in restraints.... [Brinson] then suffered a respiratory cardiac arrest and died three days later." ...

... Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "A judge set bail at $1 million on Thursday for the former University of Cincinnati police officer who shot and killed a motorist, after a traffic stop over a missing license plate." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Update by Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Perez-Pena: "Two University of Cincinnati police officers who were present when a colleague shot and killed a motorist were placed on paid leave, a university spokesman said Thursday, while a judge set bail of $1 million for the officer at the center of the case. That officer, Ray Tensing, appeared briefly in a Hamilton County court in Cincinnati, in gray-and-black striped jail garb, handcuffed behind his back, as his lawyer, William S. Mathews II, entered a plea of not guilty for him. Mr. Tensing, who has been fired by the university, was released from jail on bond later Thursday."

Steve Mistler of the Portland Press Herald: Maine "House Speaker Mark Eves filed a civil lawsuit against Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday, alleging that LePage used taxpayer money and the power of his office to prevent Eves from being hired by a private school in Fairfield. That action violated several of Eves' constitutional and other rights, according to the 27-page complaint.... The lawsuit, filed Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Portland, has been anticipated since the board of directors at Good Will-Hinckley voted to rescind its offer to pay Eves $150,000 a year in salary and benefits to become the organization's next president. The Democrat said the board told him before his contract was terminated that LePage, a Republican, threatened to eliminate $530,000 in annual state funding for the school unless it removed him from the job."

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post: "Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has tapped someone to [the] state's Board of Education who never attended public schools, publicly declared that his children never will either, and actively supported a successful effort to defeat a vote on a school tax in a divisive campaign in his home county".

Farai Mutsaka of the AP: "Zimbabwe intends to seek the extradition of an American dentist who killed a lion that was lured out of a national park and shot with a bow and a gun, and the process has already begun, a Cabinet minister said Friday.... There is an extradition treaty between Zimbabwe and the United States."

News Lede

AP: "Beijing was selected Friday to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, defeating the bid from Almaty[,Kazakhstan,] in a surprisingly close vote to become the first city awarded both the winter and summer games."