The Ledes

Thursday, July 31, 2014.

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

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

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 31

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

1:20 pm ET: President Obama signs an executive order

3:40 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the Department of Housing & Urban Development

7:25 pm ET: President Obama speaks at a celebration of the Special Olympics

8:30 pm ET: President Obama attends a performance celebrating the Special Olympics

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

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

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

Martha Stewart has a drone.

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

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

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

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

 

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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Wednesday
Jul302014

The Commentariat -- July 31, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congressional Races

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

Tuesday
Jul292014

The Commentariat -- July 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Defending Israel with the objectivity and intensity of the Bush speech writer he once was, David Frum, the Senior Editor at the Atlantic, alleged to his 100k Twitter followers on Thursday (not once, but eight times) that the NYT, Reuters (and AP, apparently in collusion, too) had staged a photo in a Gaza hospital. - See more at: http://www.bagnewsnotes.com/2014/07/david-frum-accuses-nyt-and-reuters-of-staging-gaza-hospital-photos/#sthash.hKbX7AnU.dpuf

Beyond the Beltway

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday
Jul282014

The Commentariat -- July 29, 2014

** Juan Williams in the Hill: "A group of top evangelicals -- key supporters of the GOP for decades -- wrote to ask Congress last week to protect the children and offer them full consideration in court as refugees. But the GOP's obstructionism of anything the Obama White House proposes now stands in the way of faith-based compassion for these children. 'If Republicans move forward on this, we're now jumping in right in the middle of President Obama's nightmare and making it ours,' said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).... Republicans are deaf to calls for mercy for children because they are playing for political gain." Williams puts the lie to all of the GOP's obstructionist arguments re: immigration reform.

Julian Hattem of the Hill: "Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will introduce legislation on Tuesday to put sweeping new limits on U.S. surveillance and peel back the curtain on controversial spying programs."

Andrew Sorkin of the New York Times: "Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, recently said, 'I love America.' Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, wrote an opinion article saying, 'Investing in America still produces the best return.' Yet guess who's behind the recent spate of merger deals in which major United States corporations have renounced their citizenship in search of a lower tax bill? Wall Street banks, led by JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. Investment banks are estimated to have collected, or will soon collect, nearly $1 billion in fees over the last three years advising and persuading American companies to move the address of their headquarters abroad (without actually moving).... These deals are expected to sap the United States Treasury of $19.46 billion over the next decade...." These are the same Wall Street banks "which received help from American taxpayers in the form of hundreds of billions of dollars in loans." ...

... Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, in a Washington Post op-ed, urges Congress to act immediately to close the loophole that allows businesses to employ this tax inversion scheme. ...

     ... CW: See also Paul Krugman's column, linked yesterday. So who's a better American? Jamie Dimon or the kid at McDonalds? Corporations may be people, my friend, but they are people who do not wish to live in "real America." And, yes, you can blame Congress for letting these fake people get away this real travesty. ...

... Danny Vinik of the New Republic: "It's obvious why Republicans are so hostile to closing tax loopholes and cracking down on tax cheats: the IRS scandal, in which conservative organizations received inordinate scrutiny from the agency as it vetted groups claiming to be 'social welfare organizations.' Republicans argue that the agency cannot be trusted. 'There's not a whole lot of confidence right now about what the Internal Revenue Service does among the American people, let alone members of Congress,' Rep. Pat Tiberi told Politico. 'Why should we give them more tools to harass taxpayers?'" ...

     ... The Dog Will Eat My Homework. CW: So the standard excuse for the do-nothing Congress is now, "We can't trust Obama/the IRS/Immigration Services/the EPA/Whoever to properly execute the law, so passing legislation is a waste of time." Never mind that do-nothing fits right into their political scheme.

"Inflation OCD." Paul Krugman: "... there are two topics on which, in my experience, conservatives become completely unhinged, red-in-the-face angry and screaming. One is health care, where the possibility of a successful government-backed program is unacceptable despite the fact that everyone, even America for its seniors, does it, and the other is monetary policy. It's time to stop pretending that these are rational discussions, and start looking for the roots of the compulsion."

Martin Matishak of the Hill: "House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a $17 billion bill meant to reform the Veterans Affairs Department, setting up a scramble this week to send the legislation to President Obama's desk. The new bill would provide $10 billion for veterans to seek private care at hospitals and clinics outside the VA, and $5 billion to allow the department to hire more doctors, nurses and medical staff. Another $1.5 billion could be spent on leases to use other medical facilities at 27 sites around the country." ...

... Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Monday that the Senate would vote on the confirmation of Robert McDonald to be Veterans Affairs Secretary at 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday. Last week, the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee cleared McDonald's nomination in a 14-0 vote."

Philip Bump of the Washington Post: It won't be long till we have political campaigns run entirely by superPACS, where "The candidate is just himself, and the PACs do everything else." Chris McDaniel's failed campaign for U.S. Senate in Alabama Mississippi came mighty close: 3/4ths of his campaign chest came from outside groups like Freedom Works & the Club for Growth. And the superPACS like it that way: "'In some ways, this race is kind of a model of what we want to do in other races,' FreedomWorks for America's national political director Russ Walker told us...."

Paul Waldman in the American Prospect: "Democrats used to marvel at Republicans' political skill. But it's been a decade since the GOP won a victory in policy or elections that wasn't pre-ordained by circumstance." ...

     ... CW: I'm not sure I agree with Waldman. It takes a lot of skill to run campaigns based on disinformation & lies -- and win. GOP candidates do that all the time. Plus, conservatives -- though not necessary party operatives -- have skillfully used the courts to obtain & enhance GOP objectives. I marvel every day at how such a bunch of dumbclucks & schemers manage to stay in office. It may just be the inertia & inattention of voters that get these morons re-elected, but I've gotta think the party's manipulation of the facts -- and the media -- plays a big part.

Adam Taylor of the Washington Post: "Anyone who has made even a passing glance at the Israeli media in the past few days will have noticed the incredible chorus of criticism being directed at John Kerry right now. The secretary of state has been lambasted by all sides for his apparent failure in attempts to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.... It all became so much that on Monday, the Obama administration was forced to push back against what it said was a "misinformation campaign' against Kerry."

Gillibrand Legitimizes Cruz. Burgess Everett of Politico: "Sens. Ted Cruz and Kirsten Gillibrand united on Monday to push a resolution condemning Hamas in its war against Israel, building on their burgeoning bipartisan alliance. The resolution from the Texas Republican and New York Democrat strongly criticizes Hamas for using 'innocent civilians as human shields,' tags Hamas and other terrorist groups with the blame for thousands of rocket attacks on Israel launched from Gaza and demands that Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemn Hamas's tactics." ...

... Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Sen. Ted Cruz lifted his hold on State Department nominees after FAA officials briefed him this morning on their decision to bar U.S.-based airlines from flying to Israel for 36 hours last week.... 'Nevertheless, I remain concerned that the Administration was so willing to impose grave economic harm on our friend and ally Israel in order to try to pressure them into acceding to Secretary Kerry's foreign policy demands,' Cruz said."

** Maya Rhodan of Time: "A new report estimates the cost of mitigating the effects of climate change could rise by as much as 40% if action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is delayed 10 years -- immediately outweighing any potential savings of a delay. The White House's Council of Economic Advisers, U.S. President Barack Obama's source for advice on economic policy, compared over 100 actions on climate change laid out in 16 studies to extract the average cost of delayed efforts. Released Tuesday, the findings suggests policymakers should immediately confront carbon emissions as a form of 'climate insurance.'" ...

... Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "Failing to adequately reduce the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change could cost the United States economy $150 billion a year, according to an analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisers released on Tuesday." ...

... Ari Phillips of Think Progress: "Going into their annual meeting in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, ALEC -- the secretive organization that brings together conservative politicians and major corporate interests -- is looking to recalibrate their approach to repealing or obstructing a range of clean energy initiatives after a year of state-level defeats. The 40-year-old group, which has been pushing a corporate-backed, free market-driven agenda for decades, is beholden to a number of utilities and fossil fuel companies that bankroll them...." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) needs no advice from ALEC. He implied the EPA is a terrorist organization.

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) blamed President Barack Obama for a reported increase in uninsured Mississippians. The problem is, Bryant didn't acknowledge that he's been a staunch opponent of expanding Medicaid under Obamacare and refused to encourage enrolling in private coverage through Healthcare.gov." ...

     ... Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "Which is like you offering me an umbrella, me saying, 'No thanks,' and then coming back later and saying, 'Why the hell did you offer me an umbrella? Look how wet I got in the rain! This is all your fault!'"

Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic finds a January 2010 e-mail from a top Congressional staffer working on the ACA which effectively refutes the Halbig plaintiffs' theory that Congress intended to offer Medicaid expansion funds only to residents of states that created their own exchanges.

Jonathan Chait writes a realistic assessment of Paul Ryan's new "anti-poverty plan." Ryan, in trying to reset himself as a compassionate conservative in anticipation of a probable presidential run, still engages in double-speak & non-answers to questions about the apparent central flaw in his plan: throwing money at the states & trusting them to spend that money on the poor:

... over the last few years, the United States has conducted a vast experiment that has proven his assumption wrong in the most horrifying way possible. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts allowed states to opt out of accepting Medicaid money to give health insurance to their poorest citizens. The money is, essentially, free.... In a display of almost fanatical indifference to the well-being of their most vulnerable citizens, nearly every Republican-controlled state government has eschewed this free money. Not only have state-level Republicans failed to display deep concern for the poor, they seem to actually enjoy subjecting them to intense physical and financial distress.

Satanists Have First Amendment Rights, Too. The Satanic Temple has found an amusing way to exploit [link fixed] the Supremes' Hobby Lobby decision, twisting it to favor abortion rights. Warning: actual science involved! Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress reports.

Meredith Shiner of Yahoo! News exposes the supposedly bipartisan advocacy group No Labels as a partisan lobbying scam. CW: This was pretty obvious from the get-go, but Shiner puts facts to the suspicions.

Black Women All Look Alike. Allie Jones of Gawker: "Buried in a New York Times piece about Rand Paul's efforts to woo black voters is the story of the most Mitt Romney thing Mitt Romney has ever done: confuse two famous black women in media. According to Donna Brazile, Romney called her 'Gwen' [as in Ifill] during the 2012 campaign." CW: Romney also mistook Michelle Obama for Oprah Winfrey & Serena Williams for Venus Williams. Oka-a-ay. We'll give him that last one.

Beyond the Beltway

Dana Milbank: After one of his constituents died partly because the local hospital closed when it couldn't get federal aid, a white Southern Republican mayor went on a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., in support of the Medicaid expansion portion of the ACA. Gov. Pat McCrory (RTP) & the GOP-controlled state legislature -- including House speaker Thom Tillis who is the party's U.S. Senate nominee -- have blocked the expansion. CW: Note how the White House is totally tone-deaf here, ignoring a golden opportunity to demonstrate the importance of this law to Americans of every political persuasion. I never get over my surprise at Democratic incompetence.

Robert Barnes & Jenna Portnoy of the Washington Post: "A federal appeals court panel on Monday upheld a decision that said Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. By a 2 to 1 vote, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond said that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed under the Constitution regardless of sexual orientation." ...

... Andrew Kenney of the Raleigh News & Observer: "N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper [D] believes that Monday's federal appeals court decision on Virginia's gay marriage ban eventually will allow gay marriage in North Carolina -- and Cooper has no plans to intervene.... However, the ruling won't immediately affect North Carolina because 'no judge has ruled on North Carolina's law,' Cooper said in a written statement. North Carolina voters in 2012 voted by a wide margin to encode a ban on gay marriage into the state's constitution. Cooper's decision will again bring him to loggerheads with the General Assembly's leadership. The leaders of the state Senate and House last year hired outside lawyers to look over the attorney general's shoulder in gay-marriage cases.... Cooper previously has said that he personally supports same-sex marriage but would defend the state's laws."

Thomas Kaplan & Susanne Craig of the New York Times: New York "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday delivered a feisty and unrepentant defense of his handling of an anticorruption panel he created and then abruptly shut down, after five days in seclusion during which he encountered some of the harshest criticism he has faced as governor.... His office had defended its actions in a 13-page response that appeared online along with The Times's report. On Monday, he echoed many of those points, but also seemed to contradict them. His revised defenses for his office's handling of the anticorruption panel, called the Moreland Commission, seemed increasingly difficult to untangle." ...

... Lloyd Green of the Daily Beast: Cuomo's "disbanding of an anti-corruption commission was shocking -- and his straight-out-of-Nixon justification even more so." Green compares Cuomo's arrogance to that of Louis XIV.

Tina Moore of the Daily News: "Police are investigating whether a cop put a seven-months-pregnant woman in a chokehold while busting her for illegal grilling in Brooklyn -- an incident caught on film. Photos released Monday by an East New York advocacy group show Rosan Miller, 27, struggling with a cop who appears to have his arm around her neck. The NYPD prohibits the use of chokeholds." CW: Chokehold aside, this looks like a case of Grilling While Black.

Congressional Races

Nate Cohn of the New York Times notes that polls show that among registered voters (as opposed to likely voters), there is no "Republican wave"; rather, Democrats have gained a bit. This does not mean that Republicans can't take control of the Senate because "This year's Senate contests are being fought on Republican-leaning turf."

Ben Jacobs of the Daily Beast: "Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, appears to believe states can nullify federal laws. In a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Ernst said on September 13, 2013 at a for[u]m held by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition that Congress should not pass any laws 'that the states would consider nullifying.' As a state senator, Ernst co-sponsored a "Tenther" resolution "States cannot nullify federal laws, of course. In embracing the concept of nullification, Ernst harkens back to a discredited theory that the Constitution is a compact and states are free to void federal laws that they dislike. This view was widely promoted by John Calhoun, the great Southern advocate of slavery prior to the Civil War and was touted by segregationists in the 1950s and 1960s." ...

... Steve M. acknowledges that Jacobs' characterization of Ernst's remarks aren't quite fair. Then he produces a partial list of laws that by Ernst's logic -- that the Congress should not pass laws states might consider nullifying -- should never have been passed. Steve begins with the Bill of Rights.

I'm not sure why the National Review's leaking of Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn's old campaign strategy book is such big news, but everybody's reporting on it, so here's the NR story, by Eliana Johnson. ...

... Update. Alex Altman of Time: "... the memos are a classic example of what is known in Washington as a Kinsley gaffe: when a politician errs by accidentally revealing the truth.... The existence of the memos is not a surprise; any campaign worth its salt undertakes a study of its perceived weaknesses. The Nunn memos are remarkable less for their judgments than for the fact that a hapless adviser apparently posted them on the Internet.... When you're trying to sell a candidate as authentic, a long look at the careful packaging can't help." ...

     ... CW: Really? I believe I'll pull a Diogenes & go in search of the voter who thinks political candidates are "authentic."

Marie's Sports Report

Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times: "A judge gave Shelly Sterling a sweeping victory Monday afternoon and cleared the way for Steve Ballmer's record $2-billion purchase of the Clippers to proceed. In a tentative oral decision, Judge Michael Levanas ruled in Sterling's favor on all three counts and rejected virtually all of Donald Sterling's arguments in the probate trial in Los Angeles Superior Court."

News Ledes

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Jesse Ventura won his defamation case against the estate of author Chris Kyle, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who said he punched out the former Minnesota governor for criticizing the SEALs' role in the Iraq war. The jury awarded a total of $1.845 million: $500,000 in defamation damages and $1.345 million for 'unjust enrichment.' ... Jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict, as instructed. Instead, with the consent of both sides, they voted 8 to 2 in Ventura's favor."

AP: "A senior PLO official has called for a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire in the Gaza war, saying he is also speaking in the name of Hamas."

Guardian: "Gaza endured a night of relentless bombardment that brought some of the heaviest pounding since the start of the conflict three weeks ago, in the hours after the Israeli political and military leadership warned of a protracted offensive. Palestinian officials say more than 110 people have been killed in Gaza in the past 24 hours."

Monday
Jul282014

The Commentariat -- July 28, 2014

NEW. Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "Medicare's financial health is improving, according to a new official forecast that says that the program will remain solvent until 2030 -- four years later than anticipated a year ago -- because of the Affordable Care Act and lower-than-expected spending on hospital stays.... The trustees [for Medicare & Social Security] found relatively little change, however, in the finances of Social Security. The forecast says that the program;s trust funds will have enough money to pay all the retirement and disability benefits it owes until 2033"

Apparently Not a Joke. Peter Schroeder & Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "House Republicans want to use their final week in Washington before the August recess to send a signal that they are ready to govern. As the country's attention turns to the fight for control of the House and Senate, Republicans want to show they are capable of handling two of the nation's toughest issues: the thousands of children crossing the border, and the veterans in need of healthcare." ...

... David Atkins, in the Washington Monthly: "... it's remarkable to watch: even as Boehner gives his far right pro-impeachment flank a carrot by initiating a preposterous and unpopular lawsuit, he holds the stick of losing elections to persuade them to actually do something halfway reasonable on immigration and healthcare for veterans." ...

... Jake Sherman & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "House Republicans fear the backlash. They know their summer will be long if they cannot pass a bill to deal with the influx of migrant children at the Texas-Mexico border. Most of them know it's the right thing to do -- especially in an election year. But it's still far from clear it can get done." ...

... Jim Newell of Salon: "It's audacious enough for Boehner and company to think that anything they do, at this point, will show that they 'can govern.' What's worse is how low they've set the bar for effective governance with regards to their action on this border bill. Their goal for the week isn't to reach a compromise with Senate Democrats and get a border bill to the president's desk by week's end. It's simply to pass a piece of legislation out of the House." ...

... Julian Hattem of the Hill: "Leaders in the House and Senate have reached a deal on legislation to reform the Veterans Affairs Department and are poised to unveil it on Monday."

Today in American Oligarchy

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "An explosion of spending on political advertising on television -- set to break $2 billion in congressional races, with overall spots up nearly 70 percent since the 2010 midterm election -- is accelerating the rise of moneyed interests and wresting control from the candidates' own efforts to reach voters. In the first full midterm cycle where outside groups have developed a sophisticated infrastructure, the consequences are already becoming apparent: a harshly negative tone dictated by the groups and a nearly nonstop campaign season that could cause voters to tune out before Election Day."

Paul Krugman:on the "Tax Avoidance du Jour: Inversion.... There is ... one big difference between corporate persons and the likes of you and me: On current trends, we're heading toward a world in which only the human people pay taxes.... The federal government still gets a tenth of its revenue from corporate profits taxation. But it used to get a lot more -- a third of revenue came from profits taxes in the early 1950s, a quarter or more well into the 1960s. Part of the decline since then reflects a fall in the tax rate, but mainly it reflects ever-more-aggressive corporate tax avoidance -- avoidance that politicians have done little to prevent."

Driftglass has a lovely little essay on the pundits gathering on "Press the Meat" to "sit shiva for David Gregory's career" AND on some excellent examples of Gregory's usual journalistic expertise. CW: Personally, I appreciate Gregory's repeated acts of journalistic malpractice. I tend to feel sorry for anybody about to lose his job, whether deservedly or not. Gregory spares me from having to exercise my natural compassion for his bad turn of luck.

Beyond the Beltway

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "In their much-anticipated federal corruption trial set to begin Monday, former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen ..., will submit themselves to a potentially humiliating spectacle that will showcase an intimate view of their frayed marriage and odd personal relationships.... Together, he and his wife are fighting 14 criminal charges of public corruption and lying on financial documents." ...

... Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "The governor [-- Terry McAuliffe (D) of Virginia -- ] and his Legislature are dug in, engaged in ugly trench warfare. The most powerful member of its congressional delegation, an implacable foe of the president, was tossed out in a primary for being too wishy-washy. And a former governor and his wife go on trial on Monday on charges they used his office as an A.T.M., cashing in for goodies like a Rolex watch and designer clothes. This state, which once took pride in the 'Virginia Way,' a plain-vanilla politics of civility, consensus and relatively clean government, has become a setting of national political melodrama...."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The United States has concluded that Russia violated a landmark arms control treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile, according to senior American officials, a finding that was conveyed by President Obama to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin in a letter on Monday."

New York Times: "The United States and Europe put aside their differences and agreed on Monday to sharply escalate economic sanctions against Russia in a set of coordinated actions driven by the conclusion that Moscow has taken a more direct role in the war in Ukraine. After months in which European leaders were hesitant to go as far as the Americans, the two sides settled on a package of measures that would target Russia's financial, energy and defense sectors. In some cases, the Europeans may actually leapfrog beyond what the United States has done, forcing Washington to try to catch up."

Guardian: "Dutch and Australian police have failed to reach the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 for a second day as clashes rage in a town on the road to the area." ...

... Washington Post: "The Ukrainian military on Monday captured a strategically important swath of territory close to the debris field of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a spokesman said, dealing a blow to pro-Russian rebels but raising new questions about whether an investigation at the site will ever yield conclusive evidence about the attack on the airliner."

NEW. Washington Post: "Israel will press its air and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, preparing his country for a longer and bloodier campaign and dashing hopes that the three-week-old conflict would end soon." ...

... Washington Post: "International efforts to end the devastating three-week-old Gaza war intensified Monday with the U.N. Security Council calling for an 'immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' in the conflict that has already claimed the lives of more than 1,035 Palestinians and 43 Israeli soldiers. The ravaged coastal enclave was relatively quiet Monday as Palestinians started celebrating the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday that caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Israel mostly held its fire overnight, shelling only a site in the northern Gaza Strip in response to rockets fired from there." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Explosions rocked a major hospital and a neighborhood of Gaza City on Monday, leaving at least 10 people dead, witnesses reported." ...

... New York Times: "On Sunday, however, [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry was having difficulty accomplishing even ... a succession of temporary cease-fires..., despite a phone call in which President Obama, in a sign of mounting impatience, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to embrace an 'immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' while the two sides pursued a more lasting agreement. ...

... A White House readout of the conversation between Obama & Netanyahu is here.