The Ledes

Thursday, January 29, 2015.

Washington Post: Three American contractors and an Afghan national were killed in a shooting at a military base at Kabul’s airport Thursday, said a U.S. defense official."

New York Times: "Colleen McCullough, a former neurophysiological researcher at Yale who, deciding to write novels in her spare time, produced 'The Thorn Birds,' a multigenerational Australian romance that became an international best seller and inspired a hugely popular television mini-series, died on Thursday on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, where she had made her home for more than 30 years. She was 77."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, January 28, 2015.

U.S. Air Force: "Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, in coordination with the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, has determined the Boeing 747-8 will serve as the next presidential aircraft, commonly known as Air Force One."

AP: "A disgruntled, former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist promised to build 40 nuclear weapons for Venezuela and design a bomb targeted for New York City in exchange for 'money and power,' according to secret FBI recordings released Wednesday.... The recordings were played Wednesday in US District Court in Albuquerque before a federal judge sentenced [Pedro Leonardo] Mascheroni, 79, to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release as part of a plea agreement." CW: Um, isn't this guy just a crazy old coot? He hasn't worked at Los Alamos since 1988.

Jacksonville, Florida, Channel 4: "Marissa Alexander, a woman whose case helped bring national attention to Florida's stand your ground and minimum sentencing laws, was allowed to leave jail late Tuesday afternoon to spend the rest of her sentence on house arrest." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the lead.

Washington Post: "On Tuesday, two years after the attack, a jury in Nashville convicted two former Vanderbilt University football players of aggravated rape and related charges. They were among four players who allegedly participated in the assault. Two others, who have pleaded not guilty, will be tried later. Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, both 21, now face 15 to 80 years in prison. They were convicted after a 12-day trial and about three hours of jury deliberation." The Tennessean story is here.

Weather Channel: "Winter Storm Juno pounded locations from Long Island to New England with heavy snow, high winds and coastal flooding late Monday into Tuesday. The storm is now winding down. The National Weather Service has dropped all winter storm and blizzard warnings for Juno.... In Massachusetts, up to 36 inches of snow has been measured in Lunenburg, while Boston has seen 24.4 inches. Juno was a record snowstorm for Worcester, Massachusetts (34.5 inches). Incredibly, 31.9 inches fell in Worcester on Jan. 27, alone!... uno's most severe coastal flooding occurred in eastern Massachusetts, in areas most exposed to north to northeast winds gusting from 50-80 mph, at times."

White House Live Video
January 29

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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

Public Service Announcement

Get Off Your Ass! Los Angeles Times (Jan. 19): "New research that distills the findings of 47 studies concludes that those of us who sit for long hours raise our average risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and early death."

Surprise! December 19: Dr. Oz is a quack.

This is a real bill. Consumer advocate Christopher Elliott verified it. Check out the customer name on the account:

Is "Asshole" the customer's real given name? Well, no. Comcast got mad at the family for wishing to cancel the cable part of their Comcast service. Comcast not only refused to cut the cable, as it were, they changed the primary customer's name from "Ricardo" (his parents' idea) to "Asshole." When Ricardo's wife tried to get Comcast to change the account back to her husband's real name, both Comcast's local & regional "customer service" (Comcast's idea) offices refused. After Elliott took up the Browns' case, Comcast relented on both.   

Oh, lawdy, what will they think up next?

... www.cicret.com

In the New York Times, Barry Bearak remembers Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks.

Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, New Hampshire): "After going through the drive-through at Burger King [in Rochester, N.H.] Friday, a local woman discovered that instead of the sweet tea and junior spicy chicken sandwich that she ordered, she got a bag full of money. Rather than keeping the cash — totaling $2,631 — she came back to the restaurant with her husband and returned it."

Gawker: "Bill Clinton took repeated trips on the 'Lolita Express'—the private passenger jet owned by billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein — with an actress in softcore porn movies whose name appears in Epstein's address book under an entry for 'massages,' according to flight logbooks obtained by Gawker and published today for the first time. The logs also show that Clinton shared more than a dozen flights with a woman who federal prosecutors believe procured underage girls to sexually service Epstein and his friends and acted as a 'potential co-conspirator' in his crimes."

New York Times: Director Martin "Scorsese’s partly finished documentary about [former president Bill] Clinton — which once seemed likely to be released as Hillary Rodham Clinton was navigating a presidential run — has stalled over disagreements about control, people briefed on the project said. Though parts of the film were shot over the last two years as Mr. Clinton made a philanthropic visit to Africa and elsewhere, the project is now indefinitely shelved, partly because Mr. Clinton insisted on more control over the interview questions and final version than Mr. Scorsese was willing to give, those people said."

Jessica Roy of New York: "Now that he's been released from jail after his kidnapping-conspiracy conviction was overturned, Gilberto Valle — the former NYPD officer dubbed 'Cannibal Cop' for allegedly planning to kidnap, kill, and eat women — is hungry for love on Match.com. Unfortunately for him, the online dating service told us that they've deleted Valle's alleged profile, even though frankly he can't be any worse than the other dudes you might find on there.... Also, he listed cooking as a favorite hobby!"

CW: Not sure why this is news. As a disconsolate Windows 8 user, I heard this -- in re: Windows 8 -- two months ago. New York Times: "Microsoft said people using the two earlier versions of its operating system, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, would be able to update their computers to Windows 10 free for the first year after the new software is introduced."

Ellen's Gay Agenda. Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link:

The French discover Ken & Barbie News Fox "News." For some reason the journalistes at "Le Petit Journal" don't find it credible. With English subtitles. Thanks to Creegr for the link:

New York Times: "A person close to the Barack Obama Foundation, which is overseeing plans for the [presidential] library, anonymously told local reporters last month that foundation officials had 'major concerns' with proposals from the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Foundation officials were said to be alarmed that the University of Chicago does not yet control the land where the university wants to build the library. To the shock and horror of residents here, that left Columbia University in New York, where Mr. Obama received his undergraduate degree, as the apparent front-runner. And suddenly a fait accompli has become an open question."

Washington Post: Two treasure hunters may have found the Griffin, a ship that disappeared in the Great Lakes in mid-1679.

And the Winner Is ... A White Person! Tatiana Siegel of the Hollywood Reporter: "For only the second time in nearly two decades, the 20 Academy Awards acting nominations went to a group made up entirely of white actors and actresses. Among the notable snubs was David Oyelowo, who received praise for his turn as the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma." ...

... Scott Mendelson of Forbes: "... the most egregious omission is the sadly not-entirely-surprising absence of Selma’s Ava DuVernay from the five contenders nominated for Best Director.... She deserved a nomination." ...

... Steve M.: Given the sorry state of most of Hollywood's output -- the CGI roman-numeral blockbusters and comedies about farting boy-men, greenlighted mostly by white males -- and given the near-total freeze-out of women in directorial roles (or in most acting roles beyond male stars' arm candy), I guess I know the answer. And it's pathetic."

... Todd VanDerWerff of Vox: "Selma was snubbed because the average Oscar voter is a 63-year-old white man. VanDerWerff also lists other factors he thinks worked against Selma.

... CW: I don't think I linked to this essay by Chris Rock, published in the Hollywood Reporter last month. Subject: The movie biz is "a white industry." I guess so.

Dick Poop. USA Today: "Dick Pope..., the cinematographer for Mr. Turner, made international news after Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science President Cheryl Boone Isaacs mispronounced his name during the nominations, calling him 'Dick Poop.'"

Here's the L.A. Times story covering the Oscar nominations.

New York Times: "Amazon announced on Tuesday that it had signed [Woody] Allen to write and direct his first television series. The company said it had ordered a full season of half-hour shows, as yet untitled, which will make their debut on the service next year. It provided few other details."

Jareen Imam of CNN: "Jeweler Tiffany & Co., for the first time, is featuring a gay couple in an ad campaign. The new 'Will You?' campaign, shot by fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh, features seven scenes of couples. One in particular is drawing widespread praise for showing a same-sex couple. The pair, shown sitting on a stoop in New York City, are a couple in real life, Tiffany spokeswoman Linda Buckley said."

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Wednesday
Jan282015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 29, 2015

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "During an all-day confirmation hearing that highlighted Republican anger with the administration, [attorney general nominee Loretta] Lynch declined repeated opportunities to disavow actions taken by the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Instead, the first African American woman nominated to be attorney general cast herself as a career federal prosecutor determined to uphold the rule of law and willing to provide honest counsel to the president even when he might disagree." ...

... Lynch's opening remarks:

... Dana Milbank: Republicans "who figured they could take out their frustrations on Lynch had misjudged her: The nominee has a long and impressive résumé as a no-nonsense prosecutor, and she managed at Wednesday’s hearing to be both assertive and anodyne in her testimony, expert in the law but opaque about controversial legal matters. As important, Lynch, with the help of committee Democrats, painted an unassailable biography: This daughter of a fourth-generation minister and a segregation-fighting mother from the South would be the first African American woman to be the nation’s top law enforcement official.... Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) toned down his prepared statement as he read it.... Even the dyspeptic Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) acknowledged that his legal friends in New York describe her as 'a U.S. attorney who honored and respected the law.'” ...

... Nia-Malika Henderson of the Washington Post: "Why is Sharyl Attkisson testifying at Loretta Lynch's confirmation hearing? Henderson lists some of the other witnesses Republicans have called: they all have zip to do with Lynch. Zip. These twisted old farts are going to pass Lynch out of committee. They don't give a whup about her. Their purpose is to hammer Holder & Obama.

Dana Milbank: “'Yes, there have been a couple of stumbles,' John Boehner acknowledged Tuesday.... What has happened since Republicans took full control of Congress three weeks ago has been less a stumble than a pratfall involving the legislative equivalent of a banana peel, flailing arms, an upended bookcase, torn drapes and a slide across a laden banquet table into a wedding cake.... Chaos could be found around every corner of the Capitol on Tuesday morning." ...

... CW: When all else fails, Dana, there is but one answer: vote to repeal ObamaCare. Ergo, that's exactly what Boehner has scheduled for next week. Hey, it passed the first 50 times, so there's little reason to think there will be a snafu this time.

The Bibi Bonus. Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "The decision by the Israeli prime minister to accept an unusual invitation from House Republicans to address a joint session of Congress has had the unintended effect of helping the [President Obama] rally Democrats as his administration negotiates a delicate nuclear deal with Iran. For months, the issue of imposing sanctions on Iran has split many Democrats from the president.... But Mr. Netanyahu’s planned speech — a provocation of the president that many Democrats found distasteful and undiplomatic — has helped shift the political dynamic." ...

... Julie Davis of the New York Times provides some background on Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., who was born in the U.S. & who began his political career as a GOP operative. Dermer arranged Netanyahu's speech before Congress & kept it secret from Secretary of State John Kerry, with whom Dermer met the day before John Boehner announced the speech. ...

... Mike Lillis of the Hill: "Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) this week warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his coming speech before Congress threatens to sink the nuclear talks between Iran and the United States, the Democratic leader said Wednesday. 'I think that such a presentation could send the wrong message,' Pelosi told reporters during the Democrats' annual issues retreat in Philadelphia. 'That's my view, and I shared that with the prime minister today.'" ...

** Juan Cole: "The audacity of Speaker of the House John Boehner colluding with the prime minister of a foreign country to undermine a sitting president is, I think, still not entirely appreciated. And the whole point of the plot with Binyamin Netanyahu is to stop a sitting president from successfully making an opening to a former enemy, reducing the likelihood of war.... And frankly I don’t think a Speaker would have dared try to treat a white president that way." Read the whole post on how "Israel went from being a Democratic to a Republican project."

Law professor Eric Segall looks at the alternate history created by the instigators of King v. Burwell, the case claiming that residents of states which have not established their own health insurance exchanges are not entitled to subsidies: "... as of this moment, there is not a shred of evidence that, in 2010, when the law was passed, any member of Congress or the Administration believed federal subsidies would be unavailable on federal exchanges.  If anyone can demonstrate otherwise, then we can have the argument. So far, no one has come close." ...

     ... Via Paul Waldman: "It’s going to take a titanic act of disingenuousness for the Supreme Court to accept the plaintiffs’ absurd argument in this case. But worry not: there are at least four justices, and maybe even five, who are up to the task." ...

... Brian Beutler: "It’s not sufficient at least for political purposes, and probably for legal purposes for conservatives hoping to gut Obamacare to argue that 'the plain text of the ACA reflects poor statutory draftsmanship....' So they have concocted a theory of intent, wherein a few in-the-know Democrats drafted the law this way on purpose, and confusion reigned until a handful of conservative lawyers swooped in to inform the world.... King v. Burwell now rests on an argument that has crossed the fuzzy line dividing revisionist history from X-Files-style conspiracy theory." ...

... Steve Benen: "The rationale behind the King v. Burwell case at the Supreme Court – the final Republican effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act – has slowly unraveled in recent weeks, but just over the last couple of days, the entire anti-ACA argument has effectively become gibberish.... Left with no evidence or connection to reality, the people supporting this lawsuit – which is to say, the people who pretend to believe the lawsuit has merit – have resorted to an alternative-universe theory in which they see a reality no one else can see." ...

... Sam Baker of the National Journal: "Health insurance companies and hospitals mounted an aggressive defense of Obamacare's insurance subsidies Wednesday, warning the Supreme Court that eliminating the payments would be 'grossly inequitable' to millions of Americans. Both industries have a lot on the line as the court prepares to hear oral arguments in a lawsuit that aims to cut off the Affordable Care Act's premium subsidies in most of the country. In an amicus brief filed Wednesday, health insurers said a ruling against the subsidies would have widespread and severe ripple effects, potentially throwing states' entire insurance markets into chaos." ...

     ... CW: I doubt the confederate Supremes will carefully read (much less heed) briefs filed by Democratic legislators (you know, the people who wrote the law) & governors (who administer it), but surely they will care what captains of the insurance industry have to say. It seems to me these briefs could matter. ...

... AND This Is Rich. Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter Wednesday to the head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), demanding the administration show its hand in case the court rules against ObamaCare this summer.... [HHS Secretary Sylvia] Burwell has repeatedly said she remains confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the subsidies. When asked about how the administration is preparing states for the worst-case scenario, Burwell has flatly declined to discuss the plan." CW: Republicans in Congress has been promising for, what, five years?, to develop a plan to replace ObamaCare, & they still don't have anything you couldn't scribble on a cocktail napkin. But they want the administration to immediately devise a contingency plan in case the Supremes rule in favor of the plaintiffs in a GOP-endorsed nonsense lawsuit to undermine the ACA. ...

... Oh, Excuuuuse Me. Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner: "House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on Wednesday night that after nearly five years of opposing President Obama’s healthcare law, Republicans were preparing to release an alternative in this Congress. 'There will be an alternative and you’ll get to see it,' Boehner told Fox News' Brett Baier. This is a worthy goal that’s long overdue, but one that’s easier said than done. As I detail in my new book, Overcoming Obamacare, the problem isn’t that Republicans haven’t released any healthcare plans, but that they’ve had trouble rallying around a single one due to some fundamental differences."

Gail Collins on drone control. Here's a part about Congressional oversight: "Take Representative Sean Patrick Maloney [D] of New York, whose wedding photographer had a drone taking pictures during the happy occasion. When critics accused him of violating F.A.A. rules[, which prohibit commercial uses], Maloney said he 'wasn’t up-to-date on the lack of regulations around the emerging technology.' The same thing was true, the congressman argued, of 'most people who are about to get married.' Excellent point! Although most people who are about to get married are not serving on the House transportation subcommittee on aviation.... 'They better beware, because I’ve got a shotgun,' said Senator Rand Paul [R], when asked about drones after the White House incident." ...

... CW: If I'm not mistaken, both parties disqualify potential candidates who do too well on party-tailored intelligence tests. Sample question on both: Which of these people is least like the others? (a) Oil company lobbyist, (b) Eccentric billionaire, (c) SuperPac CEO, (d) Ordinary citizen. (See comment threads from yesterday & the day before for context.)

It Depends upon What the Meaning of "Rich" Is. Josh Barro of the New York Times on why President Obama's proposal to end tax benefits for college tuition accounts was doomed. ...

     ... CW: This also explains one of the major reasons ObamaCare remains unpopular despite all the people it has helped. Americans who are paying for the ACA -- both in insurance premiums & in taxes -- are those whom Barro labels the "merely affluent." ACA opponents are not just ignorant Tea party wahoos who actually benefit from the ACA; they are people whose incomes are -- not coincidentally -- in the range of many members of Congress, their staffs & professional political activists.

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: Wingers are so over Sarah Palin. Tumulty runs down what some of the more influential confederates are saying now about Palin, & contrasting their comments today with their over-the-moon hype of 2008. CW Note: Poor Palin is so dumb that she has bought into the media myth that here teleprompter failed during her coherent 2008 convention speech. She told Sean Hannity that whopper just this week. And it is a whopper. ...

... Confederate Matt Lewis in the Daily Beast has had a teeny crisis of conscience: "... it does feel like we have finally reached a tipping point where criticizing Palin isn’t only acceptable for conservative opinion leaders, it’s now almost expected.)... Before most Americans had ever heard of her, I was among the few suggesting she’d make a fine veep pick. My intern at the time even started the Draft Sarah Palin movement. A few years later, I edited a book of Palin quotes, titled The Quotable Rogue.... It’s probably time to concede that the early critics of Sarah Palin had a point, and that they shouldn’t have been tarred and feathered and (in some cases) nearly purged from the conservative movement." ...

... CW: Here's what I really don't get. How is it possible for anyone who can write a newspaper column not to have realized Sarah Palin was a dimwit? How about, as a ferinstance, comparing Loretta Lynch's opening remarks with Palin's Iowa Freedom Summit speech, one for which "interested" presidential candidate Palin had months to prepare. Which of these women seems qualified for high public office? ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Charlies Pierce: "That a man under criminal indictment [-- Rick Perry --] can zip around the country, selling T-shirts off his own alleged wrongdoing, and do so full in the knowledge that his criminal indictment is treated in the coverage as less important than the fact that he wears glasses now, is a dreadful verdict on journalistic malpractice. The fact that Scott Walker is under investigation (again) for crimes in (another) office really ought to count more than the fact that he's learned how to yell at people on the stump."

Charles Pierce finds a few flaws in a Politico report on Joni Ernst. CW: I'm curious to see how long reporters give Ernst the Palin benefit-of-the-doubt pardon. Will it be long enough for Ernst to remake herself into a sane person? Or will she remain "unavailable for comment" forevah? Or must we wait five or six years for the MSM to start writing stories that put "Ernst" & "unhinged" in close proximity?

The Accidental Journalist. Catherine Thompson of TPM: In a Fox "News" interview, host Megan Kelly sort of called out the fellow she accidentally called "Fuckabee" on-air for saying that New York women -- presumably Fox "News" employees -- were "trashy." “'Well I do have some news for you before I let you go,' Kelly ribbed her former colleague. 'We're not only swearing. We’re drinking, we’re smoking, we’re having premarital sex with birth control before we go to work, and sometimes boss around a bunch of men.' 'Oh, I just don't want to hear that,' Huckabee responded."

Steve M.: Over at Breitbart News, the folks are outraged that fundamentalist American Muslims resolve intrafaith conflicts pretty much the same way fundamentalist American Jews & Christians do. CW: Now all the confederate ladies will worry they'll soon be forced to wear burkas over their splendid Gone with the Wind hairdos, even if Michelle Obama doesn't have to. ...


... Ben Kamisar
of the Hill: "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) praised Michelle Obama on Twitter Wednesday for not wearing a head covering while visiting Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. 'Kudos to @FLOTUS for standing up for women & refusing to wear Sharia-mandated head-scarf in Saudi Arabia. Nicely done'.”

Elias Isquith of Salon: "The long game [the Koch brothers are playing] is a House of Representatives that is, thanks in part to Citizens United and the 2010 census, almost guaranteed to stay Republican for the foreseeable future. The long game is a GOP establishment that knows it can only diverge from the Tea Party in style (and not substance) if it wants to survive a primary challenge from a Koch-funded opponent. The long game is a new era of almost unprecedented dominance on the part of the GOP when it comes to politics on the state level. And the long game is a feeder system that sends those far-right state-level conservatives to Congress — while threatening to replace them with someone else if their time in D.C. weakens their devotion to the cause." ...

Presidential Election

Marco Wins Billionaires' Bowl. Ken Vogel & Tarini Parti of Politico: "In an informal straw poll of some conference donors, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida came out ahead of four other would-be GOP presidential candidates who had been invited, according to an attendee familiar with the results. The poll was conducted by Frank Luntz, a veteran GOP pollster [& Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer's former boss], during a break-out session of the conference, which wrapped up Tuesday after a long weekend of presentations and discussions at the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage, Calif." Rand Paul came in last." CW: Maybe it was a beauty pageant. Hair matters. ...

... Steve M.: "These people are rich, influential CEOs, but they watch Fox News just like every other wingnut. If you want their money, before you open your mouth in their presence, ask yourself: Would Sean Hannity say this? If the answer is no, shut up."

The Many Mansions of Mitt. Matt Visor of the Boston Globe: "Two years ago, Mitt Romney didn’t think he would run for political office again. And in the aftermath of his bitter defeat in the presidential campaign, he embarked on something of a real estate spree. He simultaneously began building two multimillion-dollar homes, one [in La Jolla, California,] and another outside Salt Lake City. He also bought a third, a slopeside ski chalet in Park City, Utah.... Romney ... may recognize the trouble his real estate holdings could cause in another campaign. He is taking steps to shed some of his property, including retaining a broker who is currently showing the La Jolla home to potential buyers...." Entertaining reading. ...

... Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the economy and foreign policy during a speech at Mississippi State University on Wednesday night. According to speech excerpts obtained by NBC, Romney, who has indicated if he decides to run for president again one of the pillars of his campaign would be inequality, will ask 'How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn't know where jobs come from in the first place?'" ...

     ... Update: Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: Mitt "Romney ... made clear that his prospective 2016 bid would focus squarely on foreign affairs and poverty — and that [HIllary] Clinton ... was in his sights."

The reason I’m Republican is because I want to help the poor, the middle class. The rich in America, by the way, are fine. -- Mitt Romney, 2015

I’m not concerned about the very poor — we have a safety net there.... I’m not concerned about the very rich — they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling. -- Mitt Romney, 2012

Most of former Gov. Flip-Flop's flipflops are not true flipflops. His underlying political philosophy is consistent; only his rhetoric changes. And much of that rhetoric is disingenuous. The poor & middle-class he's so "concerned" about would definitely get the shaft if we all lived in RomneyWorld. -- Constant Weader 

Ali Elkin of Bloomberg Politics: "With few other presidential prospects emerging in her party, Hillary Clinton is considering waiting until July to announce her candidacy, Politico reported Thursday, citing top Democrats."

Beyond the Beltway

Reuters: "The US supreme court on Wednesday agreed to temporarily block the execution of three Oklahoma prisoners who are challenging the state’s lethal injection procedure. The court’s action means that convicted killers Richard Glossip, John Grant and Benjamin Cole will not be put to death using the sedative they object to until after the supreme court decides whether the procedure violates the US constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The court’s brief order leaves open the possibility that the state could try to proceed with the executions using a different combination of drugs."

Steve Barnes of Reuters: " A bid to end Arkansas' practice of honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the same day failed in a state legislative committee on Wednesday.... [The] legislation was criticized by Confederate legacy organizations that saw it as a slight to an important figure in the South's history." CW: Once again, confederates carry the day. I think you'll agree it is right hard to see any difference between Confederates & confederates.

Tuesday
Jan272015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 28, 2015

Carl Hulse & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "Loretta E. Lynch on Wednesday will cast herself as an apolitical career prosecutor who is a departure from Eric H. Holder Jr. when she faces a new Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee that includes some of the administration’s fiercest critics in Congress." ...

     ... NEW LEDE: "Loretta E. Lynch, the nominee to become attorney general, on Wednesday defended the legality of President Obama’s immigration policy at the start of a confirmation hearing in which the new Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee promised tough questions."

Field Guide to Outsmarting the Secret Service. Step 1. Borrow a toy drone. Step 2. Get drunk. ...

... Michael Schmidt & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "In the process of what officials describe as nothing more than a drunken misadventure with a drone, [an off-duty government intelligence agency] employee managed to highlight another vulnerability in the protective shield that the Secret Service erects around the White House complex. The drone, which measures about two feet by two feet, evaded White House radar that is calibrated to warn of much bigger threats, like an airplane or a missile. It was the latest in a string of incidents that have raised questions about how secure President Obama and his family are." ...

... Jeremy Diamond of CNN: "One day after a drone crashed at the White House, President Barack Obama reiterated the need to regulate the industry as the recreational and commercial use of drones expands. 'The drone that landed in the White House you buy in Radio Shack,' Obama said Tuesday in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria in India":

... CNN has a different plan:

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "President Obama, facing angry reprisals from parents and from lawmakers of both parties, will drop his proposal to effectively end the popular college savings accounts known as 529s, but will keep an expanded tuition tax credit at the center of his college access plan, White House officials said Tuesday."

Deb Reichmann of the AP: "Senate Democrats on Tuesday put the brakes on new Iran sanctions legislation, ending for now a looming showdown between Congress and President Barack Obama over negotiations to prevent Tehran from having the capability to make a nuclear weapon. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., a leading proponent of the legislation, says he remains skeptical a deal will materialize, but says he and nine other Democrats now won't push the bill at least until the end of March. Menendez' concession to the White House is good news for Obama, who has threatened to veto any new sanctions legislation." CW: But it's bad news for House Speaker Bibi Netanyahu.

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to bring to the Senate floor next week a House-passed bill reversing President Obama’s executive actions shielding millions of illegal immigrants from deportation." ...

... BUT. Seung Min Kim of Politico: "In a letter to be released later Tuesday, the Senate Democratic Caucus will press Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to put up a funding bill for DHS free of provisions rolling back President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration or other controversial riders. The fact that all members of the Senate Democratic Caucus are endorsing a clean funding bill is critical, since McConnell will need the aid of at least half a dozen Democrats to advance any legislation. In the letter, Senate Democrats also ruled out other potential Plan B’s for the DHS bill, such as passing a series of short-term funding measures – also highly opposed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson." ...

... Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg View: "The Republican House majority, which recently passed a series of bills to strip undocumented immigrants of protections, is building a fortress on shifting sand.... The paradox of this nation of immigrants is that it is often bitterly anti-immigrant.... Yet immigration was a tide not easily turned back even in eras when the public stood resolutely opposed to it.... Anti-immigrant rhetoric is growing more acceptable among Republican politicians. Its main effect is to polarize a previously bipartisan issue ... and to mobilize competing constituencies. However, it’s unlikely to reverse the trend toward greater acceptance of immigrants."

Daniel Newhauser of the National Journal: "Speaker John Boehner is finalizing a plan to sue President Obama again, this time over the administration's decision to grant work visas to millions of undocumented immigrants. Boehner told his conference at a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning that he has a team exploring the best options to challenge last year's executive action, under which the Homeland Security Department will begin granting legal working status to millions of immigrants, according to sources in the room." Thanks to safari for the link. ...

... Russell Berman of the Atlantic: "For a party with a history of railing against activist judges and frivolous lawsuits, Republicans sure do like to litigate.... What this is really about is Republicans looking to the courts to do what they have not been able to do legislatively.... The Republican maneuvering over Obamacare followed a similar pattern, only over a longer period of time.... Just a day before Boehner informed his members of the lawsuit, Republican leaders scrapped plans to vote on legislation bolstering border security.... The reality is that both Obama and Boehner have run out of patience with the legislative process. The president has chosen to do what he could himself, while the speaker, again, is turning to the courts."

Emily Bazelon in the New York Times Magazine analyzes Chief Justice John Roberts' modus operandi to make something of a prediction: gay marriage wins, ObamaCare loses. CW: I don't doubt her theory, but I'll make a different -- & optimistic -- guess on how the rulings come down: (1) Kennedy joins the four centrist justices to rule for national gay marriage, with all four of the confederates (see today's comments) dissenting; (2) Roberts (& maybe even Scalia) rule for the government in King v. Burwell. Nonetheless, the sheer cruelty of Roberts' apparent methodology is stunning: as Bazelon lays it out, it's okay if people get sick & die as long as the Supreme Court does well in public opinion polls.

Benghaaazi! New Clinton Edition. Martin Matishak of the Hill: "Hillary Clinton is willing to testify before the House Select Committee that is investigating the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, according to the panel’s top Democrat. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on Tuesday said he has spoken to Clinton about the possibility of testifying at the request of Rep. Trey Gowdy (S.C.), the panel’s Republican chairman, and she 'did not hesitate for one second. She said ... I’ll do it, period,' Cummings said after the committee's third hearing."

"The Netanyahu Disaster." Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, a sometime-Bibi fan: "Faced with this conundrum — an American president who he believes is willing to strike a flawed deal with Iran — Netanyahu has made the second-worst choice he could make. He has not attacked Iran, which is good — an Israeli attack holds the promise of disaster — but he has decided to ruin his relations with Obama.... A sitting [U.S.] president cannot be written off by a small, dependent ally, without terrible consequences.... [Netanyahu's] His recent actions suggest that he doesn't quite know what he's doing." ...

... Jeremy Ben-Ami, president and founder of J Street, at CNN International: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and House Speaker John Boehner's latest gambit -- arranging an address to a joint session of Congress by the Prime Minister just two weeks before the Israeli election -- is severely taxing our special relationship.... Although the Republican Party is clearly hoping to hobble the current president's agenda, the real impact of the speaker's political stunt is likely to be a further erosion of the bipartisan nature of support for Israel, at a time when Israel increasingly needs America's backing as a bulwark against its growing international isolation." ...

... A Brief Note of Sanity. Jim Fallows: Neither a U.S. nor an Israeli war against Iran is feasible. "It can be shrewd to keep an opponent guessing about what you might do if provoked. This negotiating stance could be useful, as long as it doesn't spill over from fooling the Iranians to fooling ourselves. (A la, 'we'll be greeted as liberators!') Letting Iran's leaders think the U.S. is contemplating a strike might pay off. Actually contemplating it could be disastrous."

FreakOutNation: "First lady Michelle Obama did not cover her hair with a veil during a brief visit in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday with the President.... Saudi Twitter users took to their Twitter accounts in disbelief, because veils. A Liberal Saudi Blogger is to receive 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam and they’re concerned about a veil." Politico reported that Laura Bush did not wear a veil when meeting with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia in 2006. "It will be interesting to see how Republicans spin this. They can’t say that Obama bows down to Islam, while saying his wife isn’t respecting their culture."

Your Louie Gohmert Weekly Reader

"Our Republican Female Members." David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Tuesday accused GOP congresswomen — who he called 'Republican females' — of sending 'entirely the wrong message' when they derailed a 20-week abortion ban because it did not have an acceptable exception for rape.... '... There was an exception put on there that unless there was a case of reported rape — reported to authorities,' Gohmert continued. 'Well, that became the dividing factor among some of our female members of the House, Republican female members. But some were adamant they didn’t want any exceptions, some were saying, no, we [should] not require it be reported to authorities.'” ...

... CW Note: Please, my friends, do not amuse us with any of the obvious howlers about "Republican female members." I'm already chuckling.

"Louis Gohmert, the Bibi Whisperer." Dave Weigel: "Before it was an international incident, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress was just a twinkle in Louie Gohmert's eye. The conservative east Texas congressman has been sending letters to colleagues, asking for Netanyahu to be invited to address the people's House, for five years.... Whatever Boehner says about Netanyahu, he cannot match the ardor of Gohmert. He's described the prime minister as a new King David, a figure of historical and religious import."

Scott Keyes of Think Progress: "Mike Huckabee channeled his internal Ned Flanders last week, lamenting the fact that he doesn’t just hear cuss words in the office these days, but he even hears them coming from women.... 'In Iowa, you would not have people who would just throw the f-bomb and use gratuitous profanity in a professional setting,' Huckabee said. 'In New York, not only do the men do it, but the women do it! ... This would be considered totally inappropriate to say these things in front of a woman.' But 'for a woman to say them in a professional setting,” Huckabee went on, “that’s just trashy!”

Nullification, Alabama-Style. Mike Cason of Alabama Online: "Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore has released a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley saying that he intends to continue to recognize the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and urging the governor to do so. Moore's office released the three-page letter that was delivered to the governor this morning in response to a federal judge's ruling Friday striking down the ban. Bentley issued a statement today after Moore's letter was released. '... "The people of Alabama voted in a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between man and woman. As governor, I must uphold the Constitution. I am disappointed in Friday's ruling, and I will continue to oppose this ruling. The Federal government must not infringe on the rights of states.'... David Kennedy, an attorney for Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand, the couple who successfully challenged the same-sex ban, ... mentioned the fact that in 2003, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary removed Moore from the state Supreme Court after he refused to obey a federal judge's order to remove a Ten Commandments monument that he had placed in the state judicial building." CW: Thou shalt not covet another man's husband. BTW, legal scholar Ned Flanders' alter-ego there would say Moore's move was totally Constitutional. ...

... Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "It comes as no surprise that Moore, who founded a Religious Right group called the Foundation for Moral Law, has taken such a dogmatic stance on gay rights. Moore has gone so far as to claim that marriage equality is a Satanic plot to destroy America and likened homosexuality to bestiality. Moore previously admonished 'oppressive' judges who rule in favor of marriage equality for “warping the law,” arguing that a constitutional convention may be necessary to add an amendment banning same-sex marriage to the U.S. Constitution. He also said that marriage equality is literally the work of the Devil, alleging that it is leading to divine wrath in the form of economic and societal suffering."

Shari Rudavsky & Maureen Groppe of the Indianapolis Star: "After months of wrangling between Gov. Mike Pence and the Obama administration, Indiana won approval to expand its own brand of Medicaid that injects personal responsibility into the healthcare program for the poor. About 350,000 low-income Hoosiers who lack insurance could benefit from the program, whose approved expansion was announced Tuesday, the day enrollment began. Coverage could start as early as Feb. 1. Pence said the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, a revamped version of a program started by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels, goes beyond standard Medicaid expansion by requiring that participants contribute to the cost of their care." ...

     ... CW: I'm looking forward to reading all about it in the taxpayer-funded "Mike Pence News."

Rick Rojas & Motoko Rich of the New York Times: "This month, Arizona became the first state to pass a law requiring its high school students to pass the [standard] citizenship exam [given to immigrants], stipulating that they must answer at least 60 of 100 questions correctly to receive a diploma. (Immigrants are given 10 of the 100 questions and must correctly answer six to pass.) Other states may follow suit: North Dakota’s House of Representatives has passed a comparable bill, and its Senate approved it Tuesday; legislators in Indiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and seven other states have recently introduced similar initiatives."

Jesse McKinley, et al., of the New York Times: "Sheldon Silver, who faces federal corruption charges, is being replaced as speaker of the New York State Assembly next week, Democratic lawmakers said on Tuesday, paving the way for them to choose a new leader in an election to be held Feb. 10. A Rochester-area assemblyman, Joseph D. Morelle, who is the majority leader and a top contender to succeed Mr. Silver, will become interim speaker on Monday, officials said.... [The change] came after he mounted a last-ditch effort to keep the leadership position he had held since 1994, a tenure spanning five governors."

Presidential Race

Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose speech to activists in Iowa last weekend drew strong reviews, has taken the first formal step toward a presidential candidacy in 2016, establishing a committee that will help spread his message and underwrite his activities as he seeks to build his political and fundraising networks in the months ahead.... The steps come after a busy weekend of pre-presidential events that included his address at the Iowa Freedom Summit, a later appearance at a gathering in California hosted by the billionaire Koch brothers and a stopover in Denver for additional fundraising." ...

     ... CW: Excuse me, Dan. Wasn't kissing up to the Koch brothers the "first formal step"?

Since 2000 there have been 6 million net new jobs created in America. … How many of those net new jobs are held by people who were not born in this country? All of them. -- Rick Santorum, Iowa Freedom Summit 

Actually, no. -- Michelle Lee of the Washington Post

Fact-checking just this one Iowa Freedom Summit speeches could become a full-time, life-long career. -- Constant Weader

RE: a discussion in the comments section yesterday & today:


Monday
Jan262015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 27, 2015

Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "Barack Obama is travelling with a 27-strong delegation to cement ties with the new king of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday as concerns over Yemen and the Islamic State take centre stage in the increasingly volatile region. Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan, Republican hawk senator John McCain and General Lloyd Austin, head of US Central Command forces in the region, are among the surprise additions to a hastily organised trip that has drawn critical comparisons with the US failure to send any senior figures to Paris following recent terrorist attacks."

Christi Parsons & Shashank Bengali of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama urged support for religious tolerance and human rights in a speech Tuesday in New Delhi, India, drawing on the American experience and his own personal ones to soften a message with the potential to give offense to his Indian hosts, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi."

Peter Baker & Ellen Barry of the New York Times: "President Obama pressed India on Tuesday to do more to curb the pollution that is choking its capital and contributing to global climate change, as he wrapped up a visit that yielded no meaningful breakthrough on the issue."

Elana Schor of Politico: "Republicans' Keystone XL pipeline push was stopped short by the first Senate filibuster of 2015 as Democrats blocked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's bid to end debate on the bill. The new Senate majority will now extend its debate on approving Keystone -- a measure that was seen as an easy GOP win just weeks ago -- as Democrats pressed McConnell to hold more amendment votes as proof of his commitment to a more open process in the chamber than their own party used while it was in power." ...

... Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "It was a small victory for Democrats, now the minority in the Senate, but it was a procedural vote that is highly unlikely to stop Republicans from eventually approving the pipeline.... President Obama is expected to veto the measure should it reach his desk."

Coral Davenport: "The Obama administration on Tuesday will announce a proposal to open up coastal waters from Virginia to Georgia for oil and gas drilling, according to a person briefed on the plan. At the same time, in Alaska, the administration will ban drilling in some portions of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.... Opening the Eastern Seaboard to oil companies is a prize the industry has sought for decades and is a blow to environmental groups." ...

... "Obama's Arctic Power Grab." (Yep, that the Politico headline). Andrew Restuccia: "Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the powerful Energy and Natural Resources Committee, rarely starts political fights on Capitol Hill, but she came out swinging on Monday, saying that the Obama administration has 'effectively declared war on Alaska.' And she doubled down on her previous statement that the administration is 'willing to negotiate with Iran, but they won't negotiate with Alaska.'" ...

... Andrew Restuccia: "The White House struck back at Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Monday, calling her reaction to the administration's proposal to protect millions of acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge overblown. 'So we hope that we can find cooperation so that that wilderness designation ultimately can go through in the Congress. But we don't think that the reaction that particularly Senator Murkowski had to this announcement was warranted,' White House counselor John Podesta told reporters traveling with President Barack Obama." CW: They might have struck back at Politico, too.

Michael Shear & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "The small drone that crashed into a tree on the South Lawn of the White House early Monday morning was operated by a government employee who has told the Secret Service that he did not mean to fly it over the White House fence or near the president's residence, according to law enforcement officials. The employee -- who does not work for the White House -- has told the Secret Service that he was flying the drone for recreational use at about 3 a.m. in the area around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when he lost control of it. So far, the Secret Service said it believed the man's account. In a second statement about the incident Monday afternoon, the Secret Service said an individual had called them at about 9:30 Monday morning to report that he had been the one controlling the drone when it crashed on the White House grounds." ...

     ... New Lede: "A White House radar system designed to detect flying objects like planes, missiles and large drones failed to pick up a small drone that crashed into a tree on the South Lawn early Monday morning, according to law enforcement officials. The crash raised questions about whether the Secret Service could bring down a similar object if it endangered President Obama."

... CW: Please don't tell me drones are not a threat to the President & to countless others: Shear & Schmidt: "The Secret Service also released a photo of the partially broken drone on the ground. It appears to be a version of the DJI Phantom Aerial UAV Drone Quadcopter that is sold on Amazon.com starting at $448. Models equipped with HD cameras sell for as much as $1,258 on the website." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Carol Leonnig & others is here.

Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "A former CIA officer involved in a highly secretive operation to give faulty nuclear plans to Iran was convicted Monday of giving classified information about his work to a New York Times reporter and author. Jeffrey Sterling, 47, of O'Fallon, Mo., was convicted of nine counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and other related charges for leaking materials that prosecutors said put lives at risk and compromised one of the U.S. government's few mechanisms to deter Iran's nuclear aspirations." ...

... Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was convicted of espionage charges Monday, for telling a journalist for The New York Times about a secret operation to disrupt Iran's nuclear program. The conviction is a significant victory for the Obama administration, which has led an unprecedented crackdown on officials who speak to journalists about security matters without the administration's approval. Prosecutors prevailed after a yearslong fight in which the journalist, James Risen, refused to identify his sources."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "A federal judge ruled in 2007 that the U.S.A. Patriot Act empowered the National Security Agency to collect foreigners' emails and phone calls from domestic networks without prior judicial approval, newly declassified documents show. The documents -- two rulings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- fill in a chapter in the history of the N.S.A.'s warrantless surveillance program. They show the agency's secret moves in the months before Congress authorized the spying by enacting the Protect America Act in August 2007."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a chemical company may be able to cut the health benefits of its retired workers, unanimously reversing an appeals court ruling that said the benefits had vested for life. 'Courts should not construe ambiguous writings to create lifetime promises,' Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court."... The Supreme Court returned the case to the appeals court, telling it to use ordinary principles of contract interpretation.... In a concurrence, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the case that the retirees could prevail under the new, stricter standard. 'No rule requires "clear and express" language in order to show that parties intended health care benefits to vest,' she wrote.... Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Justice Ginsburg's concurrence."

Timothy Williams of the New York Times: "Oklahoma officials asked the United States Supreme Court on Monday to stay the execution of three inmates on death row until the court rules on the constitutionality of the state's lethal injection process. The court agreed on Friday to decide a case on the constitutionality of the new combinations of drugs that some states are using to execute prisoners, which critics say cause intense suffering."

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "More US prisoners were exonerated of crimes that they did not commit in 2014 than in any year since records began in 1989, indicating new resolve on the part of prosecutors and law enforcement to tackle the scourge of wrongful convictions across America. Some 125 inmates were exonerated and released last year, marking the first time that the number has risen above 100 in a single 12-month period. In 2013, the total number of exonerations was 91."

AFP: "An intellectually disabled death row inmate in the US state of Georgia is scheduled to die Tuesday, as lawyers and advocates petition for his life to be spared. On Thursday, lawyers for Warren Hill, 54, filed an appeal with the US Supreme court to stop the execution based on his intellectual disability. Hill's intellectual disability has been certified by numerous psychiatric experts and his execution has been postponed several times previously."

Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Loretta Lynch will set off the first major confirmation battle of the new GOP-led Senate when she goes before the Judiciary Committee this week. But the attorney general nominee also presents Republicans with a challenge -- finding a way to express their ire at the Obama administration without going too far.... Top Republicans concede she's likely to be confirmed -- unless she messes up." ...

... Bring on the Reactionaries. Julian Hattem of the Hill: Sharyl Attkisson, "a A former CBS investigative reporter who has filed a $35 million lawsuit against the Obama administration for hacking. will be among the witnesses at a hearing on President Obama's attorney general nominee.... Also testifying will be Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of the Tea Party-aligned True the Vote, which she has said was unfairly targeted by the IRS when it attempted to seek tax-exempt status.... Both Attkisson and Engelbrecht have sued the Obama administration over the actions. A federal judge tossed out the case brought by Engelbrecht and other groups last October. Attkisson filed her lawsuit just this month...." CW: AG nominee Loretta Lynch had nothing to do with either of these women. So stupid AND irrelevant. Excellent.

Rebecca Shabad of the Hill: "The annual budget deficit will fall to $468 billion in fiscal 2015, the lowest level of President Obama's tenure, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported Monday. Lower government spending and the improving economy are driving down the annual deficit, the CBO reported, with the shortfall for the year projected to be 2.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the lowest level since 2007.... The nation's debt load is steadily increasing. By the end of September, the CBO estimates U.S. debt will be 74 percent of GDP -- more than twice the level at the end of 2007 and higher than in any year since 1950." ...

... Sarah Farris of the Hill: "The total price tag for ObamaCare's insurance programs will be 20 percent less than expected, the government's budget office said Monday. The law's insurance provisions are now expected to cost $571 billion through 2019 -- a drop of about $139 billion from the government's earliest estimates five years ago, according to new estimates by the ... CBO." (See also, "It's okay if people die" below. ...

... Elise Viebeck of the Hill: "Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Monday announced an ambitious new effort to reward quality medical care and phase out payments based solely on the volume of services provided in the Medicare program. For the first time, the agency is setting an explicit timetable for transitioning Medicare away from its dominant fee-for-service model." ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox explains how the HHS plan is intended to work -- and revolutionize health care delivery.

Yes, There Are More Pressing Deficits. Rebecca Shabad: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is flipping the script on the GOP with a seven-step plan to address national 'deficits' through increases in spending. Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said lawmakers must address deficits in jobs, income equality, infrastructure, trade, retirement security and education in their next budget blueprint. 'These deficits must be immediately address by the Budget Committee,' he said in an eight-page report."

Andrew Kaczynski & Ilan Ben-Meir of BuzzFeed: "Rep. John Yarmuth says Republican House Speaker John Boehner inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to the House of Representatives is ;close to subversion.' Speaking with the Stephanie Miller Show on Friday, the Kentucky Democrat added some Congress members' strong support for Israel 'had to do with fundraising.' Yarmuth noted that he was Jewish & a "strong supporter of Israel." ...

... Joel Greenberg of McClatchy News: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing growing criticism in Israel for a planned speech to the U.S. Congress about Iran, accused by his political rivals of damaging ties with Washington to promote his election campaign." ...

... Sins of the Leader: Brian Tashman of Right Wing News: "Rep. Louie Gohmert warned President Obama last week that his 'disdain' for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may cause God to punish America, insisting that the president 'would have that same disdain for anyone who was a strong leader for the nation of Israel and especially if they didn't bow down and worship at the altar of the White House.'"

Non-Profitism is Awesome, Too! Scott Higham & Steven Rich of the Washington Post: "The U.S. Agency for International Development announced Monday that it has suspended one of its largest nonprofit contractors [-- International Relief and Development --] from federal work after investigators found 'serious misconduct' in the nonprofit's performance and management of taxpayer money.... The suspension comes after months of internal USAID reviews of IRD's performance in the field and reports from the agency's inspector general that the nonprofit allegedly mischarged millions of dollars in overhead costs. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and the FBI are also investigating the organization.... Many of the allegations were contained in a Washington Post investigation published last May." (Because Actual Journalism Is Awesome." ...

This sweet little old lady looks so happy because she has no idea she just got robbed. The guy to the right? He's a little savvier.Also Awesome: "Scam PACS." Ken Vogel: "Since the tea party burst onto the political landscape in 2009, the conservative movement has been plagued by an explosion of PACs that critics say exist mostly to pad the pockets of the consultants who run them.... A Politico analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission covering the 2014 cycle found that 33 PACs that court small donors with tea party-oriented email and direct-mail appeals raised $43 million -- 74 percent of which came from small donors. The PACs spent only $3 million on ads and contributions to boost the long-shot candidates often touted in the appeals, compared to $39.5 million on operating expenses, including $6 million to firms owned or managed by the operatives who run the PACs."

Steve M.: No, Sarah Palin did not "wing" the latter half of her 2008 vice-presidential acceptance speech. The teleprompter was working the whole time. ...

... Conservative columnist Byron York of the Washington Examiner is all worried about Palin's continued participation in the campaign. CW: A sensible person would be worried about most of the other candidates, who are capable of reading their prepared speeches, but whose ideas & ideology are as wacko as Palin's.

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times: "Rarely do conservative opponents of the Affordable Care Act acknowledge the real human consequences of their campaign to overturn the healthcare reform law. But an astonishing op-ed published Friday by the Washington Post does just that. [See Sunday's Commentariat.]... You can see [author Michael] Strain placing his thumb on the scale.... The U.S. may be a land of 'finite resources,' but there's no indication that the ACA breaches the resource ceiling. On the contrary, the signs are that the ACA is lowering healthcare's demand on resources.... The most important factor Strain ignores is that a key role of government is to moderate the impact of pure market economics.... Trying to dress up the argument for repeal as a cost-benefit balancing in which the cost can be counted in lost lives ... is crass, crude and spectacularly immoral." ...

... Erik Loomis of LG&M: "I guess I shouldn't be surprised that 'kill the poor' is now something you can say in the op-ed section of the Washington Post. I look forward to this argument becoming a central tenet of the 2016 Republican primaries." ...

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: "Strain's whole argument boils down to 'screw the little people,' though he works hard to erect enough straw men and redirections to pretend that what he's really talking about is a viable replacement that would bring FREEDOM and not direct so many scarce resources to useless crap like health care."

... Jonathan Chait explains in detail to confused ideologues (who also happen to have good health insurance coverage) -- like maybe to Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt -- why killing the poor is not a morally-correct option. ...

... CW: Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Personally, I'd like to thank the WashPo headline writer who came up with: "End Obamacare, and people could die. That's okay." S/he really exposed Strain's disgusting argument.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. AND/OR Capitalism Isn't So Awesome, After All. Tom LoBianco of the Indianapolis Star: "Gov. Mike Pence [R-Ind.] is starting a state-run taxpayer-funded news service that will provide pre-written news stories to Indiana news outlets, as well as sometimes break news about his administration, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star. Pence is planning to launch 'Just IN' in late February, a website and news service that will feature stories written by state press secretaries and is being overseen by a former Indianapolis Star reporter, Bill McCleery.... The news agency is being overseen by a governance board, made of communications directors, and an editorial board made of McCleery and the governor's communications staff.... The starting of Pence's news agency comes as he considers a run for the White House." CW: Gee, Mike, whatever happened to the free-enterprise system & independent journalism & pro-America Constitutional stuff? A government-run news agency sounds suspiciously like, um, TASS. ...

... Media critic Jim Romenesko (and others) are alarmed.

The Purchase of the Government 2016

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "The political network overseen by the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch plans to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaign, an unparalelled effort by outside groups to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history. The goal, revealed Monday at the Kochs' annual winter donor retreat near Palm Springs, Calif., would effectively allow their political organization to operate at the same financial scale as the Democratic and Republican parties. In the last presidential election, the Republican National Committee and the party's two congressional campaign committees spent a total of $657 million. The network's $889 million budget includes spending on both the presidential campaign and congressional races, and would be financed by donors as well as the Koch brothers themselves." ...

... Ken Vogel of Politico: "... while the leaked details seemed in part a show of defiance to Democrats, who had targeted the brothers as bogeymen, the spending goal also appeared to be a show of dominance to rival factions on the right, including the RNC.... Some Republicans, however, quietly grumbled about the continued migration of power and money from the political parties and their candidates to super-rich donors emboldened by recent court decisions loosening campaign finance restrictions." ...

... Hamilton Nolan's lede graf in Gawker sums up the news for the kidz: "Cartoonish evil billionaires The Koch Brothers have told their allies that the groups they support plan to spend $900 million to influence the 2016 elections. That's a lot!" ...

... digby: "They are willing to spend whatever it takes to fulfill their vision. Yes, that will undoubtedly end up making them more money. But that's no longer their prime motivation. They are so rich that they've become Bond villains. They want to run the world." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Engorged with profits, and unencumbered by any real limits on what they can spend, they are determined to shut down progressive politics for the foreseeable future. And it's yet another reason a lot of Republicans don't think they need to moderate their policies. Money covereth a multitude of sins, and the people providing it don't want moderation." ...

... Steve M.: "According to USA Today, a new political hero shot to stardom over the weekend because he [he, being Scott Walker] bargain-shops [at Kohl's].... The Kochs, who've given a hell of a lot of money to Ms. Bread Bag and (especially) to Mr. Kohl's Sale Rack, were born with silver spoons in their mouths. They've never had to scrimp or make do. So even if we get a Walker/Ernst ticket in 2016, I don't want to hear about the 'Main Street values' of the post-Romney GOP. The puppets were once of modest means. The puppet masters never were."

Presidential Race

Philip Bump: "Rick Perry wins the all-important Iowa Twitter primary," at least by Bump's calculation. And, as he quite fairly points out, his "methodology is at least as scientifically sound as the Iowa Straw Poll."

Harry Enten of 538: Chris "Christie's net favorable rating is more than two standard deviations below what we'd expect from a candidate like him.... Christie's relatively low popularity is one of the main reasons my colleagues at FiveThirtyEight and I aren't very high on his chances of capturing the Republican nomination."

Beyond the Beltway

Amanda Terkel of the Huffington Post: "Alabama's only openly gay legislator is putting her anti-gay colleagues on notice: If they keep espousing family values rhetoric as a reason to oppose marriage equality, she'll start making their marital infidelities public. 'I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about 'family values' when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have,' wrote state Rep. Patricia Todd (D) on Facebook over the weekend, as reported by the TimesDaily in Alabama. 'I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out.' Todd's post came after a federal judge ruled Friday that Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. She told The Huffington Post that she decided to issue her threat after reading some of the anti-gay rhetoric coming from certain elected officials in the state."

Judd Legum of Think Progress: "On Thursday, 17-year-old Kristiana Coignard was shot dead by three police officers in the lobby of the Longview[, Texas,] Police Department. Coignard arrived at the station around 6:30 p.m. and asked to talk to an officer. Police say the girl was 'brandishing a weapon' before she was shot four times.... The incident, at this point, is shrouded in mystery. Officials could not 'confirm the type of weapon Coignard brandished at the officers.' Beyond the alleged, unspecified weapon, virtually no details about the events that immediately preceded Coignard's death have been released." According to relatives, Coignard suffered from mental illness. "Coignard's death also raises questions about use of force protocols in the United States. British citizens, for example, 'are about 100 times less likely to be shot by police,' according to the Economist." ...

... Elizabeth Brown of Reason: "Longview Mayor Jay Dean said he was told that Coignard was carrying a knife. A knife is certainly not nothing. But it is also not a gun. And one can't help but wonder why three cops, in the middle of their own lobby, were unable to subdue a knife-wielding teen girl without the use of lethal force.... In 2014, we saw a bevy of tragedies involving mentally troubled teens killed by police officers. Last January, for instance, a 90-pound schizophrenic teen with no weapon whatsoever was fatally shot less than two minutes after North Carolina police entered his home; his parents had called the cops for help subduing the agitated boy. Last August, a 19-year-old with bipolar disorder was fatally shot in Florida after police mistook a cordless drill she was holding for an Uzi and a suicidal Kansas teen was shot by police more than a dozen times."

News Ledes

Reuters: "The U.S. Army on Tuesday denied that a decision had been made to bring desertion charges against Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was released last year in a controversial prisoner swap after disappearing from his base in Afghanistan in 2009.NBC News said earlier on Tuesday that Bergdahl would be charged with desertion, citing senior defense officials. Major General Ronald Lewis, the Army's head of public affairs, said that report, and another from Fox News, were 'patently false.'"

Guardian: "Greece's prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has lined up a formidable coterie of academics, human rights advocates, mavericks and visionaries to participate in Europe's first anti-austerity government. Displaying few signs of backing down from pledges to dismantle punitive belt-tightening measures at the heart of the debt-choked country's international rescue programme, the leftwing radical put together a 40-strong cabinet clearly aimed at challenging Athens's creditors."

Guardian: "Moscow has condemned the arrest of a Russian man in New York on espionage charges as yet another instance of unfair persecution by the US. Yevgeny Buryakov, an employee of state-owned VEB bank, was href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jan/26/us-charges-alleged-russian-spies-new-york">arrested on Monday and charged with gathering 'economic intelligence' along with two other Russian men who had already left the United States."

New York Times: "The first major storm of the winter blasted across eastern New England on Tuesday, unleashing whiteout conditions driven by gale-force winds that left the island of Nantucket without power. The storm may not have lived up to its billing in New York City, but it more than delivered in New England. It cut off Nantucket, where almost all 12,000 year-round residents lost power and telephone service, and it flooded the Atlantic coastal town of Scituate, where a car floated downtown." ...

... Portland Press Herald: "Harsh winds and heavy snow marched into Maine overnight, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency early Tuesday morning. The slow-moving storm is dropping 2 to 4 inches of snow an hour, with north winds of 25 to 35 mph, gusting to 55." ...

... Boston Globe mid-morning report: "The persistent heavy band of snow continues over the Route 495 belt where the heaviest accumulations will likely end up once the storm is over. Snowfall rates of 2 inches per hour or more continue." ...

... Weather Channel: "Winter Storm Juno was pounding New England with moderate to heavy snow, high winds and coastal flooding Tuesday morning. Parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts have seen more than a foot of snow. Snow amounts in the New York City metro area have ranged from a half foot in Central Park to more than 18 inches on central Long Island near Islip. Wind gusts have topped 70 mph in parts of eastern Massachusetts. Coastal flooding has also closed some roads in eastern Massachusetts. Thundersnow was reported in coastal portions of Rhode Island and Massachusetts late Monday night and early Tuesday." ...

... Yahoo! News has area-wide live updates here.

AP: "Gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Libya's capital Tuesday, killing at least five foreigners and three guards, authorities said. The attack, which included a car bombing, struck the Corinthia Hotel, which sits along the Mediterranean Sea." ...

     ... Washington Post UPDATE: "Among the victims in the attack was an American contractor, said two U.S. officials...."

Sunday
Jan252015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 26, 2015

Jim Avila & Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama took in the elaborate pageant of military power and cultural pride from a viewing platform under steady drizzle in the capital New Delhi. They spent much of the day beneath umbrellas as a colorful display passed before them, including bejeweled camels ridden as cavalry, brigades of arm-swinging troops, cultural dancers, marching bands, and motorcycle stunt men." ...

... Peter Baker & Ellen Barry of the New York Times: "President Obama swept aside past friction with India on Sunday to report progress on climate change and civilian nuclear power cooperation as he sought to transform a fraught relationship marked by suspicion into an enduring partnership linking the world's oldest and largest democracies."

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration will propose setting aside more than 12 million acres in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, the White House announced Sunday, halting any chance of oil exploration for now in the refuge's much-fought-over coastal plain and sparking a fierce battle with Republicans, including the new chair of the Senate Energy Committee." ...

... Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "If the proposal is enacted, the area would be the largest wilderness designation since Congress passed the Wilderness Act over 50 years ago. But the proposal seems unlikely to find support in Congress, now with a Republican majority in both houses and a leadership that has consistently rebuffed Mr. Obama's environmental agenda."

Worse than Most Third-World Countries. Margaret Talbot of the New Yorker: "Papua New Guinea, Oman, and the United States of America ... are the only three countries in the world with no paid-maternity-leave law.... The majority of U.S. employers do not offer paid family leave, for the simple reason that they don't have to.... Obama's new proposals don't offer sweeping changes, but they are significant as the first real expansions of family-friendly -- people-friendly, really -- policies in a long time.... If conservatives oppose these policies now, they will have to explain why American workers, virtually alone in the world, must struggle on without such basic protections. And that won't be easy." ...

... CW: Now let's think about how there Republicans' refusal -- and they will refuse -- to mandate paid maternity and sick leave -- squares with their strict anti-abortion policy.

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "There are nine justices on the Supreme Court. It takes four votes to hear a case, but it takes five to stay an execution. That can leave a lethal gap. A death penalty case can be important enough to claim a spot on the court's docket of perhaps 75 cases a year. But the prisoner who brought it may not live to see the decision. In agreeing on Friday to hear a challenge to the chemicals Oklahoma uses to execute condemned prisoners, the court brought fresh attention to the life-or-death importance of a single vote."

Charles Pierce Blow relays a harrowing incident his son, a student, experienced at Yale. A campus cop, for reasons the cop refused to state, pulled a gun on Pierce's son, who we can feel safe to assume is a young black man. [Thanks to safari for the author-error catch.] ...

... CW: This makes me weep. When I worry somebody will screw something up, I am the somebody I worry about. That is the luxury of being white. If you're a young male of color, you have to worry about everybody else, especially those who are or may be armed. This, BTW, is a big piece of the tyranny of the NRA. By pushing for & succeeding in getting (white) legislators to pass concealed-carry, [NEW: stand-your-ground (see Nisky Guy's comment below)] & other "Second Amendment" laws, the NRA & their legislator-enablers effectively terrorize every person of color. Men of color walk through life knowing that at any time & for no apparent reason, a stranger may pull a gun on them. The type of gun laws that have been passed over the last decade or more are not anti-crime laws; they are racist laws. We should quit pretending otherwise. The Second Amendment, since its proposal & ratification, has been one of the racist parts of our Constitution. The other parts were repealed. The Second Amendment is all the racists have left. And they are pushing it as far as they can. It's no surprise that Dick Heller, the plaintiff in Heller v. the District of Columbia -- the case in which the Supremes decided in a 5-4 decision that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm -- is a white guy (and a special D.C. police officer) who lives in a majority-black town. ...

     ... Update: Pam McLoughlin of the New Haven Register reports on the Blow story. ....

     ... Update 2: See JJG's "natural reflex" comment in today's thread re: my thinko-typo.

Ed Pilkington & Dominic Rushe of the Guardian: "Google took almost three years to disclose to the open information group WikiLeaks that it had handed over emails and other digital data belonging to three of its staffers to the US government, under a secret search warrant issued by a federal judge. WikiLeaks has written to Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, to protest that the search giant only revealed the warrants last month, having been served them in March 2012."

Max Fisher of Vox: "... two prominent Fox News hosts, Chris Wallace and Shepherd Smith, harshly criticized Boehner and Netanyahu on Friday for secretly arranging a Netanyahu speech to Congress that is transparently aimed at undermining President Obama, and set up without the White House's knowledge." Watch it:

... David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: "Where was all the outrage when Republicans literally lied the country into war with Iraq? Or repeatedly cut food stamps for no reason? Or shut down the government? Or voted over 50 times to prevent people with pre-existing conditions from having access to health insurance? Or voted for the Paul Ryan budget? Or refused to acknowledge human-made climate change? Somehow all of those crucial things that harm millions of people and weaken our national security became partisan issues for the Village Center to tut tut about and ask for compromise. But Boehner and Netanyahu's social snub is somehow the last straw. That says a lot about the Washington elite and where their misplaced priorities are."

Dan Diamond of Forbes on Scott Pelley's "60 Minutes" interview of Mitch McConnell & John Boehner. You can watch the interview here. Thanks to Forrest M. for the lead.

Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast on the case for the estate tax. An excellent post to send to your selfish, ignorant Tea party friends who think the gummit will steal their imaginary big inheritance from them. Thanks to Victoria D. for the link.

Brooks Barnes of the New York Times: "'The Hunting Ground,' set for release in theaters and broadcast on CNN, was billed by the Sundance Film Festival as a 'piercing, monumental exposé of rape culture on campuses.' Judging by viewer reaction at the film's premiere and the comments of two United States senators [-- Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) & Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) --] afterward, festival programmers might have undersold it."

CW: Wish I'd picked this up for Sunday's God News. Lawrence Krauss in the New Yorker: "Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a piece with the surprising title 'Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.' At least it was surprising to me, because I hadn't heard the news. The piece argued that new scientific evidence bolsters the claim that the appearance of life in the universe requires a miracle, and it received almost four hundred thousand Facebook shares and likes. The author of the piece, Eric Metaxas, is not himself a scientist. Rather, he's a writer and a TV host, and the article was a not-so-thinly-veiled attempt to resurrect the notion of intelligent design, which gives religious arguments the veneer of science -- this time in a cosmological context." Krauss, an astrobiologist, takes down Metaxas' claims one-by-one.

Iowa Freedom Summit -- the Aftertaste

Via Bloomberg Politics.

Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "No one seemed to regret the absence of Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush from the stage during a marathon session of conservative political theater in Iowa, as a string of GOP speakers urged Iowa Republicans not to buckle to the establishment. A parade of nine Republicans who are considering presidential bids engaged in an all-out battle for the conservative vote at U.S. Rep. Steve King's inaugural Iowa Freedom Fest. While the 1,500-member audience, made up predominantly of constitutional and religious conservative activists, seemed plenty happy with the speeches by Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Carly Fiorina, it was Scott Walker and Ted Cruz who were best received."

Steve M.: "Dear Republican Party: This weekend, the press was at the Iowa Freedom Summit trying to help Americans figure out whether you're ready to run the country. What we found out was that you're more interested in roasting the country, or at least roasting whoever in the country isn't Republican (or isn't your type of Republican)." Steve provides "some examples of Republican insult comedy.... Wait -- these are the folks who thought Obama's State of the Union address was undignified? No -- these folks are Don Rickles."

It is good that we have a deep bench and its primary competition that will surface the candidate who's up to the task and unify and this person has to because knowing what the media will do throughout all of 2016 to all of us it's going to take more than a village to beat Hillary. -- Guess Who

... Freakout Nation: "Unhinged Woman Climbs Onstage At Iowa Freedom Summit, Starts Rambling Incoherently. At the 'Iowa Freedom Summit,' Sarah Palin delivered one of her strangest speeches yet and even Scott Conroy from RealClearPolitics, described it as the 'strangest speech I've ever seen Sarah Palin deliver.'... Toby Har[n]den, a Conservative columnist, described Palin's speech as 'Bizarro.'" ...

... Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story reports on some Twitter responses to the unhinged woman's speech. CW: Now, & for the past six years or so, I have felt a little sorry for Palin, because I think she may be actually unhinged. Thanks, John McCain!

Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic: "If [Donald] Trump takes the steps necessary to qualify on the ballot in even a single significant primary state, the political press should cover him as a candidate.... Barring that, there are so many people more worthy of political coverage than Trump that a blanket ban on stories about him would serve major news organizations better than the present approach, which I defy any of them to persuasively defend." ...

... CW: Friedersdorf is right. Barring Trump's saying or doing something extremely hilarious, I'm taking Friedersdorf's advice. Ergo, if you're looking for the Trump Daily Report, look elsewhere. Bad Hair Days must be super-duper bad. ...

... Presidential Race

Americans used to think Iowa and New Hampshire held the first caucus and primary in the nation every four years. Not anymore. Now the 'Koch brothers primary' goes first to determine who wins the blessing and financial backing of the billionaire class. This is truly sad and shows us how far Citizens United has gone to undermine American democracy. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are all speaking at the winter meeting of the so-called Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Bernie Sanders: "To end the ability of billionaires to buy elections, Sanders on Wednesday introduced a constitutional amendment that would undo the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That narrow 5-4 decision and subsequent court cases struck down decades-old laws that had limited how much money wealthy individuals and corporations may contribute to campaigns. Vermont and 15 other states along with voters and city councils in more than 600 cities and towns already have passed measures supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. 'People across the political spectrum are demanding that billionaires not be able to buy American democracy,' Sanders said."

Rick Klein of ABC News: "The first 2016 presidential forum of the year revealed sharp divisions on foreign policy Sunday night, with Sen. Rand Paul breaking with his colleagues on both Iran and Cuba -- a split that's likely to play out in detail over the next year. Flanked by Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio, Paul joked when the panel's moderator, ABC's Jonathan Karl, asked a question about Cuba, 'I'm kinda surrounded on this one.' He was right. The night's liveliest moments came when Paul said his colleagues in Congress should give the president negotiating space with Iran before imposing new rounds of sanctions. 'They're saying you want 535 negotiators, not the president,' said Paul, R-Kentucky. 'Diplomacy is better than war, and we should give diplomacy a chance.' His fellow senators pounced.... Sunday night's panel was sponsored by the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a not-for-profit connected to Charles and David Koch that is holding a donor conference at an exclusive resort in Palm Springs. The 75-minute forum featuring the three senators and Karl was the only portion of the conference that wasn't shielded from the press and the public." ...

     ... CW: Worth noting: Paul's ability to be affable even when facing off demagogues in a high-stakes battle. This is an important political talent which I'm afraid Scott Walker shares. Candidates who can maintain their composure while Chris Christie or Rick Santorum goes ballistic have a huge advantage. As they should. In the "Annals of 'Journalism,' Ctd." department, I'm not surprised to find Jonathan Karl of ABC News has obtained the Koch Seal of Approval. ...

... David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: "Rand Paul wants to lead the United States. On Saturday in Texas, his father was speaking at a conference about how to leave it.... This weekend was a crucial one for Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky and un-declared candidate for the presidency. He was in California, trying to line up donors at an opulent retreat organized by the billionaire Koch brothers. At the same time, his father ... was in the ballroom of an airport hotel [in Houston, Texas], the final speaker at 'a one-day seminar in breaking away from the central state.' He followed a series of speakers who said that the U.S. economy and political establishment were tottering and that the best response might be for states, counties or even individuals to break away." CW: So is it okay if the First Father is a raving secessionist?

Ali Elkin of Bloomberg Politics: "New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has formed a political action committee called Leadership Matters for America as he prepares for a likely presidential campaign, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday." ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "Christie also referred to himself as a 'candidate' at the Iowa Freedom Summit this weekend, though he never specified what he's running for. 'I'm sure you'll not agree with me or any other candidate on every single issue,' Christie told Iowans. 'If you want a candidate who agrees with you 100 percent of the time, I'll give you one suggestion: Go home and look in the mirror.' Kind of aggressive for a job interview." ...

... Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "As [Chris] Christie explores a White House run built around personality, pugnacity and spontaneity, there may be no better laboratory for studying that unconventional approach than his radio call-in show, 'Ask the Governor,' a high-wattage rumpus that beams his many moods into the kitchens, cars and smartphones of those he governs.... On any given night, as many as 50,000 people call in. The show serves another function: public accountability. The governor has ordered his entire cabinet to listen, and he assigns commissioners tasks, by name, during the broadcast.... The show has offered a glimpse into Mr. Christie's preoccupation with power, hierarchy and popularity." ...

     ... The Times publishes summaries of some of the call-ins, responses & resolutions (or not).

Beyond the Beltway

Susanne Craig & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "Sheldon Silver, the longtime speaker of the New York State Assembly, agreed on Sunday to relinquish his duties on a temporary basis as he fights federal corruption charges. His decision came amid mounting pressure from his fellow Democrats in the Assembly.... In an unusual arrangement, Mr. Silver would not quit his post. Instead, he would temporarily delegate his duties as speaker to a group of senior Assembly members."

Today in Responsible Gun Ownership. Elizabeth Harris & Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times: "Two people were killed in a shooting at a Manhattan Home Depot on Sunday in what appeared to be a dispute between two employees, the authorities said. Gunfire erupted in the lighting department at the Home Depot store on West 23rd Street in Chelsea about 2:45 p.m., police officials said, sending workers and shoppers streaming out of exits and into the street." ...

... Pervaiz Shallwani & Heather Haddon of the Wall Street Journal: "A former employee of a Fox station in Texas shot and killed himself outside the front doors of the News Corporation building shortly before 9 a.m. Monday, a law-enforcement official said. The building houses 21st Century Fox and News Corporation, which owns The Wall Street Journal. The man, Phillip Perea, 41 years old, of Irving, Texas, shot himself once in the chest outside of 1211 Avenue of the Americas, the official said. Mr. Perea had previously worked for a Fox station in Austin, Texas, police said. Mr. Perea had also been handing out fliers, which criticized his employer for having 'ended my career,' moments before he shot himself...." ...

... CW: It's too late for these unfortunate individuals, but let me suggest that getting fired or hassled by your boss should not end your world or his/hers. A major network once fired me, & I am happy to have lived to tell about it (which I think I've done on Reality Chex at some time in the past). It's hurtful & sometimes confusing to lose your job or have to take crap at work, but this should be a small part of your life, not something that ends it. Take a lesson from Ernie Banks (see Infotainment). I guess he never got fired, but he sure got criticized on the job.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Matt Schiavenza of the Atlantic: "The apparent victory of the far-left Syriza party in Greece ... presents the troika -- a consortium consisting of the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund -- with a series of unappetizing options. If the troika gives in and writes down Greek debt, then other, larger countries -- such as Spain -- will have an incentive to negotiate a similar deal, triggering a major financial headache in Brussels and Frankfurt. If the troika refuses, then Greece is likely to default on its debt obligations this year and be forced to exit the eurozone...." ...

... Paul Krugman: "If anything, the problem with Syriza's plans may be that they're not radical enough. Debt relief and an easing of austerity would reduce the economic pain, but it's doubtful whether they are sufficient to produce a strong recovery. On the other hand, it's not clear what more any Greek government can do unless it's prepared to abandon the euro, and the Greek public isn't ready for that. Still, in calling for a major change, Mr. Tsipras is being far more realistic than ['troika'] officials who want the beatings to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country's nightmare."

News Ledes

Politico: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid successfully underwent a lengthy surgery on Monday to repair broken bones in his face suffered in a New Year's Day exercise injury, according to his office. The Nevada Democrat was released from George Washington University Hospital on Monday afternoon following the surgery. Surgeons removed a blood clot and pooled blood in Reid's right eye and mended several bones in Reid's face, injuries that have caused Reid blindness in his right eye."

New York Times: "Marcus J. Borg, a scholar who popularized a liberal intellectual approach to Christianity with his lectures and books about Jesus as a historical figure, died on Wednesday at his home in Powell Butte, Ore. He was 72."

Bloomberg News: "Russia's foreign-currency credit rating was cut to junk by Standard & Poor's, putting it below investment grade for the first time in a decade, as policy makers struggle to boost growth amid international sanctions and a drop in oil prices."

Hill: "The U.S. has closed its embassy in Yemen's capital because of security concerns, the State Department said Monday. The closure comes after the resignation of Yemen's president, pressured by rebel forces."

The New York Times is continually updating its snowfall map for the Northeast. ...

... New York Times: "As millions of residents in the Northeast prepared for a powerful storm bearing down on the region, bringing with it near hurricane-force winds along the coast and as much as three feet of snow, officials from New Jersey to Maine urged people to get off the roads and stay indoors. Even before the worst of the storm hit, thousands of flights were grounded, public transportation was suspended or curtailed and travel bans were put in place in the half dozen states in the path of what was expected to be a blizzard. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced on Monday afternoon that all subway and bus service in New York City would stop at 11 p.m." CW: Sorry to say the forecast pictured above still holds. ...

... "The Times is providing free unlimited access to storm coverage on NYTimes.com and its mobile apps." ...

Washington Post: "Blizzard warnings and winter storm warnings blanket the Northeast on Sunday night in anticipation of [a major] storm. Over 29 million people are under a blizzard warning through at least Tuesday afternoon, and 14 million people are under a winter storm warning. 24 to 36 inches of snow is expected from northern New Jersey to southern New England, in addition to the 50 to 60 mph wind gusts that could severely reduce visibility." ...

... USA Today: "Airlines reacted to a major snowstorm that's expected to wallop parts of the Northeast by cancelling more than 5,200 flights through Wednesday. Of those, at least 3,200 were already announced by Sunday -- a day before the storm's first flakes fell along the East Coast." ...

... The Weather Channel story is here. ...

... Boston Globe: "This storm will cripple travel through Tuesday afternoon and it will take until Thursday before things start to get back to normal. These types of storms can shut Logan Airport down for at least a day even after the worst of the storm has ended. Everything will be closed tomorrow and many schools will be closed Wednesday and some the rest of the week, because the sidewalks won't be clear."

... CW Prediction: This potentially historic storm should be the final nail in the coffin of any silly global warming theories. Those GOP senators who admitted climate change was "real"? Just pulling Democrats' chain.