The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, April 22, 2014.

AP: "In the most high-level visit of a U.S. official since crisis erupted in Ukraine, [Vice President] Biden told leaders from various political parties that he brings a message of support from President Barack Obama as they face a historic opportunity to usher in reforms." The Guardian story is here.

CNN: "The first American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983 crossed the finish line Monday, triumphant in a storied race that has become a national symbol of resiliency and determination. Meb Keflezighi, 38, won the men's division with an official time of 2:08:37, according to the Boston Marathon's Facebook page. With video.

AP: "Although [a] 15-year-old [airplane stowaway] apparently wanted nothing more than to run away, his success in slipping past layers of security early Sunday morning made it clear that a determined person can still get into a supposedly safe area and sneak onto a plane.... In San Jose, airport officials said they were reviewing how the boy slipped through security that includes video surveillance, German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday took the rare step of urging doctors to stop performing a surgical procedure used on tens of thousands of women each year to remove uterine growths, saying the practice risks spreading hidden cancers within a woman’s body. The procedure, known as power morcellation, has long been used in laparoscopic operations to remove fibroid tumors from the uterus, or to remove the uterus itself. It involves inserting an electric device into the abdomen and slicing tissue in order to remove it through a small incision. The surgery is far less invasive than traditional abdominal operations."

White House Live Video
April 21

All Day: White House Easter Egg Roll. There's a schedule of events here, plus live video.

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

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New York Times: "David Letterman introduced his successor, Stephen Colbert, on his 'Late Show With David Letterman' Tuesday night on CBS with a monologue joke and some cordial conversation — but no measuring of the drapes."

HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa. Paul Fahri of the Washington Post: The ratings for "Meet the Press" are so bad that NBC hired a psychologist to analyze Greggers. ...

     ... CW: Here's the rub. Fahri writes, "The impossible burden for Gregory, of course, has been to follow the beloved Russert. As one NBC colleague describes it, Russert is a 'ghost' who still haunts Gregory’s tenure at 'MTP' six years into his run." This is strictly VSP bull. Russert was a mediocre interviewer, who continually let politicians get away with evasive answers. He left big shoes to fill only because he had big feet.

MoDo loves her '65 Mustang.

USA Today: "Chelsea Clinton announced Thursday that she's pregnant with her first child."

New York Times: "It is a bit bigger and somewhat colder, but a planet circling a star 500 light-years away is otherwise the closest match of our home world discovered so far, astronomers announced on Thursday. The planet, known as Kepler 186f, named after NASA’s Kepler planet-finding mission, which detected it, has a diameter of 8,700 miles, 10 percent wider than Earth, and its orbit lies within the 'Goldilocks zone' of its star, Kepler 186 — not too hot, not too cold, where temperatures could allow for liquid water to flow at the surface, making it potentially hospitable for life."

Jason Zinoman of the New York Times argues that the real king of late-night comedy is Jon Stewart.

Whose Pulitzer Is It Anyway? Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity was awarded the Pulitzer Prize this week for his multipart series on denials of benefits to black lung victims. ABC News, which used Hamby's work for a "Nightline" segment, now wants a piece of the Pulitzer, even though the Pulitzer Prize is given for print journalism. ...

... J. K. Trotter of Gawker has more: "Journalist-on-journalist carnage is rarely so open, or so bilious, especially when obituary-worthy awards are on the line. Then again, television news has never attracted, or rewarded, humble folk. According to Poynter, an ABC spokesperson repeatedly 'threatened [{Bill} Buzenberg {executive director of CPI}] and the Center saying they would make this very "messy" ... unless they got what they wanted.'” ...

... Dylan Byers of Politico has more on the feud. ...

... Capital New York: "Fresh off a Pulitzer win for his investigative work at The Center for Public Integrity, Chris Hamby is jumping ship to join Mark Schoofs' investigations desk at Buzzfeed...."

Washington Post: Investigative reporter Michael Isikoff is leaving NBC News, by mutual consent. Isikoff told Erik Wemple that "this was a situation that was no longer working out."

Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Thursday night was a deft marriage of the best of the two Colberts: He didn’t break character, but the deference and affable nature that marks his out-of-character interviews was stamped all over the writing." With video. ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "Rush Limbaugh framed CBS's decision to replace retiring 'Late Show' host David Letterman with professional conservative skewer Stephen Colbert in some decidedly apocalyptic terms. 'CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America," Limbaugh said Thursday on his radio show. 'No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values. Now it's just wide out in the open.'" ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "CBS made its choice, quickly and definitively: Stephen Colbert is the successor to David Letterman as the star of 'Late Show,' the late-night franchise created by Mr. Letterman. CBS made the announcement Thursday, exactly one week after Mr. Letterman announced on his program that he would be leaving his post after one more year on the air."

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "A faded fragment of papyrus known as the 'Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,' which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery. Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: 'Jesus said to them, "My wife..."' Too convenient for some, it also contained the words 'she will be able to be my disciple,' a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests." ...

... CW: Sorry, purists. Followers (& non-followers) had all kinds of ideas about what Jesus was like. Married Jesus & sexy Jesus (Gospel of Thomas, "Lost" Gospel of Mark) were among them. The Roman Catholic Church decided, beginning late in the 2nd century what was canon & what was not. And every story, IMHO, is fictional. BTW, the Egyptologist in Goodstein's story who insists the fragment is a fake uses some extremely shaky -- i.e., bogus -- rationales for his opinion.

CW: I think it's my job to run this:

... The full "Today" show segment is here, & it's mildly interesting (CW: NBC's embed code is screwed up, so I can't run it here).

Josh Dickey of Mashable: "Stephen Colbert is CBS' top choice to replace the retiring David Letterman, and has indicated that he's willing to take over the Late Show when the time comes, people familiar with both sides of the discussions tell Mashable." Via New York.

Lauren Moraski of CBS "News": "David Letterman announced Thursday that he's retiring from CBS' 'Late Show' sometime next year. He made that announcement during the taping of his program Thursday afternoon at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater."

No News, All the Time:

Igor Bobic of TPM: "In its wall-to-wall coverage of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, CNN has raised the possibility of the supernatural, blackholes, and North Korea; it has interviewed a psychic, tried but failed to rent its own 777 jet, and finally settled on a flight simulator it is using to 'search' for the plane.On Tuesday the network finally turned its attention to garbage."

Washington Post: "Stephen Colbert and his writing staff were in fighting form Monday night, after a controversy stemming from an out-of-context tweet had hashtag activists calling for his head." ...

... This is kinda must-see TV:

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Tuesday
Apr222014

The Commentariat -- April 23, 2014

They Don't See Race. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "In a fractured decision..., the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities. The 6-to-2 ruling effectively endorsed similar measures in seven other states. It may also encourage more states to enact measures banning the use of race in admissions or to consider race-neutral alternatives to ensure diversity. States that forbid affirmative action in higher education, like Florida and California, as well as Michigan, have seen a significant drop in the enrollment of black and Hispanic students in their most selective colleges and universities.... Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in the longest, most passionate and most significant dissent of her career, said the Constitution required special vigilance in light of the history of slavery, Jim Crow and 'recent examples of discriminatory changes to state voting laws.' Her opinion, longer than the four other opinions combined, appeared to reflect her own experiences...." ...

... ** Charles Pierce: "The decision was written by Anthony Kennedy, who lives in that wonderful world where the law is a pure crystal stream running through green meadows, unsullied by the grit and silt that piles up in the actual lives of actual human beings.... What we are seeing, over and over again, is what happens when you combine the inebriate effect of American Exceptionalism in the philosophy of the law. Race does not exist as an issue in our country anymore because we have overcome it, because we are America and , therefore, Exceptional." ...

... Emily Bazelon of Slate: "In another context — gay rights — Kennedy has worried a lot about how a majority’s display of 'animus,' or prejudice, can hurt the minority. But he’s not concerned that’s what drove Michigan’s voters to ban affirmative action. This time he sees only an entirely valid democratic process. The single point on which Scalia and Sotomayor agree is that Kennedy has reinterpreted the 1960s and 1970s rulings beyond recognition."

Adam Liptak: "The Supreme Court signaled on Tuesday that it was struggling with two conflicting impulses in considering a request from television broadcasters to shut down Aereo, an Internet start-up they say threatens the economic viability of their businesses." ...

... David Carr of the New York Times: "... the Aereo case ... has a little bit of everything: legacy media hanging on to cherished business models, an insurgent with a crafty workaround and perhaps most important, the first big test of who owns and has rights to things that are stored in the cloud."

Campaign Money & Junk Food. Mark Bittman of the New York Times: "... the majority of Supreme Court members don’t see it that way; they believe that campaign finance limits restrict 'free speech.' This is the same argument used to defend the marketing of junk food to children. It goes like this: 'Anyone can say anything they want, but if you can afford to say it louder and more publicly than anyone else, that’s O.K.' It’s clear that this is true even if it harms the general public."

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: Science proves it: "... Supreme Court justices cannot be trusted with our Constitution, at least as long as they are selected by political officials with a strong motivation to ensure that the justices are themselves highly partisan." They just can't wrap their brains around information that conflicts with their strongly-held beliefs.

Jaime Fuller of the Washington Post: "Everything you didn’t even think you wanted to know about Supreme Court retirements."

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "After conducting an investigation, the Army inspector general rebuked [Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison Sr., the commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan] in August for protecting the colonel [from investigations of multiple accusations of bad conduct, including sexual assault,] and failing to take appropriate action. But the Army kept the results under wraps until this week, when it released a heavily redacted copy of the investigative report in response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by The Post.... The Army suspended Harrison in June for mishandling the case involving the Japanese woman but only after she took her frustrations outside the chain of command.... The general’s handling of the case provides a textbook example of the Pentagon’s persistent struggle to get commanders to take reports of sexual misconduct seriously."

Maureen Dowd: "... next Sunday, in an unprecedented double pontiff canonization, Pope John Paul II will be enshrined as a saint in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican had a hard time drumming up the requisite two miracles when Pope Benedict XVI, known as John Paul’s Rasputin and enforcer of the orthodoxy, waived the traditional five-year waiting period and rushed to canonize his mentor.... Given ven that [John Paul] presided over the Catholic Church during nearly three decades of a gruesome pedophilia scandal and grotesque cover-up, he ain’t no saint.... Perhaps trying to balance the choice of John Paul, who made conservatives jump for joy because he ran a Vatican that tolerated no dissent, the newly christened Pope Francis tried to placate progressives by cutting the miracle requirement from two to one to rush John XXIII’s canonization." ...

    ... CW: While the entire notion of sainthood -- as defined by the Roman Catholic Church -- is nonsense, the "miracle requirement" is exceptionally absurd. Could we please, in the 21st century, dispense with the notion that anyone can perform a miracle, which by definition is a supernatural event? There is no such thing. I suppose it's "progress" that one so-called miracle will now suffice to affirm a person's sainthood.

Senate Races

New York Times: "Although the Democrats currently have a 51 percent chance [of holding onto their majority in the Senate], that doesn’t mean we’re predicting the Democrats to win the Senate — the probability is essentially the same as a coin flip. The Republicans’ chances have been declining in recent weeks, falling from a recent high of 54 percent. This is mostly due to some unfavorable polls in Arkansas and Iowa."

Beyond the Beltway

Academic Freedom, South Carolina Style. Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "The state’s House of Representatives recently voted to cut $52,000 in funding for the College of Charleston as punishment for assigning students to read 'Fun Home,' the graphic novel [about a woman coming to terms with her closeted gay father’s suicide] that formed the basis for [a] play [performed on campus]. House lawmakers endorsed a similar budget cut for the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg for using a different book with gay themes in its reading program.... [There is] a worsening political battle between South Carolina’s public universities and conservative Republican lawmakers, who argue that campus culture should reflect the socially conservative views of the state."

Monday
Apr212014

The Commentariat -- April 22, 2014

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration is beginning an aggressive new effort to foster equity in criminal sentencing by considering clemency requests from as many as thousands of federal inmates serving time for drug offenses, officials said Monday. The initiative, which amounts to an unprecedented campaign to free nonviolent offenders, will begin immediately and continue over the next two years, officials said. The Justice Department said it expects to reassign dozens of lawyers to its understaffed pardons office to handle the requests from inmates." CW: Pretty terrific. ...

... Jane Hamsher comments on Jon Walker's Firedoglake story on the potential pardons: "Obama’s legacy is a bit thin at the moment — a neoliberal insurance bill that transfers millions from already burdened young people to the insurance industry, continued international interventionism, unprecedented domestic spying, exactly zero banksters prosecuted — but if he actually frees massive numbers of people from the clutches of the prison industrial complex would qualify as a significant achievement." ...

... John Cole of Balloon Juice: "... this is great news, and long overdue, but the only reason it is happening is because of local activists on the ground who changed the [marijuana] laws in their states."

Justin Sink of the Hill: "President Obama on Monday said he has selected W. Neil Eggleston to become chief counsel, adding the expertise of a veteran attorney who was involved in some of the most heated legal battles of the Clinton administration. Eggleston, a white-collar defender who is now at Kirkland & Ellis, will replace departing White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler in mid-May." ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "In choosing a veteran of Washington’s recurring oversight wars, the White House may be signaling that it expects the final two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency to be defined by politically charged hearings, demands for information by Republicans in Congress and legal battles over the scope and limits of executive authority."

Timothy Cama of the Hill: "Environmental groups are marking the 44th Earth Day on Tuesday with an assault on the Keystone XL pipeline, greenhouse gas emissions and other issues related to climate change. Activists hope to use the day to press the case against Keystone, which they say would worsen climate change, while spotlighting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) upcoming rule to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants." ...

... Darren Goode of Politico: "Horses, Daryl Hannah, sacred fires and Neil Young — these are some of the things you’re likely to see on the National Mall starting Tuesday as part of the latest protest against the Keystone XL pipeline. The 'Reject and Protect' protest is a weeklong event hosted by the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, a group of ranchers, farmers and leaders of seven Native American tribes." ...

... Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "Experts say that Mr. Obama’s eventual decision on the [Keystone XL] pipeline will have a marginal impact on global warming emissions, while ... dull-sounding E.P.A. rules and treaty talks will determine his enviromental legacy." ...

... Peter Bell & Brian McGill of the National Journal: "In April 2010, Democrats spoke of Earth Day over 150 times, mostly in commemoration of its 40th anniversary. But no Republican has uttered the words 'Earth Day' on the House or Senate floor since 2010. The last to do so was Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, in support of expanding nuclear-power generation."

Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: Most Americans who have opted not to get health insurance cited the cost of insurance, but others said they objected to the government requirement, or to President Obama, or claimed they didn't need it. Some said it was because they had trouble signing up. ...

... Jonathan Cohn: Healthcare costs are rising. Cohn says the rate of increase is likely to taper off.

Kirk Johnson of the New York Times: "The Boy Scouts of America, which voted last year to allow gay scouts but not openly gay scout leaders, has revoked the charter of a church-sponsored troop [in Seattle, Washington,] for refusing to fire its adult gay scoutmaster. The decision, which one gay rights organization said was a first since the policy change last year, essentially bars the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church and its 15 scouts from using logos, uniforms or names associated with the Boy Scouts as long as the scoutmaster and Eagle Scout Geoffrey McGrath, 49, remains in charge."

Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "A federal appeals panel in Manhattan ordered the release on Monday of key portions of a classified Justice Department memorandum that provided the legal justification for the targeted killing of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who intelligence officials contend had joined Al Qaeda and died in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. The unanimous three-judge panel, reversing a lower court decision, said the government had waived its right to keep the analysis secret in light of numerous public statements by administration officials and the Justice Department’s release of a “white paper” offering a detailed analysis of why targeted killings were legal."

Cecelia Kang & Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments in a civil case filed against the two-year-old private firm [Aereo] by ABC, CBS, NBC and other major broadcasters alleging that Aereo is no different from cable and satellite firms that are required to pay hefty fees to rebroadcast their shows.... Aereo uses thousands of tiny antennas to capture broadcast television programs, then converts the shows into online video streams for subscribers in 11 cities.... Aereo argues that it is entitled to draw freely from programs transmitted on public airwaves. If successful, the argument has the potential to blow apart the expensive channel bundles that have been forced on American cable consumers and to radically reduce the cost of watching television." ...

... Andrew Cohen of the Atlantic analyzes the arguments in the Aereo case. Plus, "Whatever else it represents, this case is a sign that the industry can no longer control its future the way it once could. It's a sign that technology is once again pushing up against the law. And if the history of this country teaches us anything, it is that the law cannot hold back technology for long."

Paige Cunningham of Politico: "The Supreme Court will consider Tuesday whether an anti-abortion group can challenge an Ohio law that could have restricted it from publicly accusing a political candidate of voting for taxpayer-funded abortions in Obamacare. The justices aren’t likely to decide whether the law chills free speech — although Susan B. Anthony List and even the Ohio attorney general say that it does. They’re instead being asked to decide whether SBA List has standing to challenge the law since the group was never prosecuted under it." ...

     ... CW: I hate to say it, but I think the lying liars have the better argument. Giving the state the right to decide which political ads are "true" and which are not gives the party that appoints the "deciders" an incalculable advantage. 

David Savage of the Los Angeles Times: "In a case that could strengthen truth-in-labeling laws, Supreme Court justices on Monday voiced deep skepticism about Coca-Cola's Pomegranate Blueberry juice that is 99.4% apple and grape juice, saying the name would probably fool most consumers, including themselves. The high court is hearing an appeal from Stewart and Lynda Resnick of Los Angeles, makers of a rival pomegranate juice called Pom Wonderful, who complained that the name of the Coca-Cola product, sold under the Minute Maid brand, is false and misleading."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times interviews Justice John Paul Stevens.

And let’s face it, Obama, whether deservedly or not, does have a — I’ll say it crudely — but a manhood problem in the Middle East. -- David Brooks (See video in yesterday's Commentariat)

You know who had a 'manhood' problem? George W. Bush. He acted childishly, wantonly invading Iraq without a shred of international legality, because Saddam 'tried to kill my daddy.' He even adopted the diction of a 4-year-old as he initiated the mass slaughter of several hundred thousand people and the displacement of millions. You see, the opposite of 'manly' is not, as Brooks imagines, 'cautious.' It is childish petulance.... As 9/11 should have signaled to us, there is a price to pay for recklessly inserting ourselves into quagmires in global backwaters. It isn’t worth it, and Obama is a man because he knows that, whereas Brooks is an insecure little boy. -- Juan Cole

Michael Roppolo of CBS "News": "Overall, Americans show more skepticism than confidence in the scientific concept that a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 billion years ago. There was also considerable doubt about the science behind global warming and the age of the Earth..., according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll." ...

... Alexis Madrigal of the Atlantic points out that the wording of the question could have scewed the results toward dumb. Here's his lede, though: "A majority of Americans don't believe in even the most fundamental discovery of 20th century physics, which 99.9 percent of members of the National Academies of Sciences do: that our universe began with an enormous explosion, the Big Bang." ...

... CW: Isn't everything that passes for knowledge really just hypothesis or opinion? What about the .1 percent of scientists there who don't cotton to the Big Bang theory? The richest Americans -- the top one-tenth of one-percent -- control almost 40 percent of the nation's wealth. So the way I figure it, that .1 percent of scientists has a 40% chance of being right. I'm pretty sure this brand of logic would fly on Fox "News." ...

Via AkhilleusPhyllis Schlafly's Bra. Twelve-year-old Madison Kimrey explains to Schlafly why women should have choices & not center their lives around appealing to boys & men. Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link.

Massimo Calabresi of Time: The New York Times' early reporting (2005!) on Cobalt ignition problems is trouble for GM executives who claimed they had no knowledge of the shut-off problem. One of those execs who could feel the blowback: Debbie Dingell, wife of longtime Rep. John Dingell (D-Michigan). Debbie was PR director in 2005, & she is now running for her husband's Congressional seat.

"Uneasy lies the head that wears the propeller beanie." Charles Pierce anoints pajama-boy Rep. Blake Farenthold (RTP-Texas) Royal Regent of the Crazy. Sometimes titles of nobility are appropriate, even in a country where they are unconstitutional.

Be Careful What You Wish For, Ctd. Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times: "One month after the lightning annexation, residents of [Crimea] find themselves living not so much in a different state, Russia, as in a state of perpetual confusion. Declaring the change, they are finding, was far easier than actually carrying it out. In Crimea now, few institutions function normally. Most banks are closed. So are land registration offices. Court cases have been postponed indefinitely. Food imports are haphazard. Some foreign companies, like McDonald’s, have shut down." ...

... Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "Russian forces skillfully employed 21st-century tactics that combined cyberwarfare, an energetic information campaign and the use of highly trained special operation troops in its annexation of Crimea."

Beyond the Beltway

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "The Oklahoma Supreme Court stayed the imminent executions of two murderers late Monday, ending a Kafkaesque legal showdown in which courts argued over jurisdiction even though the prisoners had successfully challenged the legality of the state’s secrecy in obtaining lethal drugs. On Monday, lawyers for Clayton Lockett, who was to be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and Charles Warner, who was to be executed at 6 p.m. next Tuesday, filed the latest of several appeals to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, asking it to set aside its odd jurisdiction battle and grant a delay while there was still time."

Sunday
Apr202014

The Commentariat -- April 21, 2014

Steven Erlanger of the New York Times interviews economist Thomas Piketty: Piketty's "book punctures earlier assumptions about the benevolence of advanced capitalism and forecasts sharply increasing inequality of wealth in industrialized countries, with deep and deleterious impact on democratic values of justice and fairness." ...

 

... Piketty & Hitler. Chrystia Freeland, in Politico Magazine, on why Piketty's thesis is such a threat to plutocrats. ...

... Alexander Burns & Alex Byers of Politico: Napster billionaire Sean Parker gears up his political operation. CW: If you don't see the connection between Parker & the reviews & commentary on Piketty's work, you aren't paying attention. ...

... Ben Mauk of the New Yorker: "Today, the Ludlow massacre [of April 20, 1914]..., remains one of the bloodiest episodes in the history of American industrial enterprise.... The struggle that Ludlow embodied and that, historically, unions have taken up -- is a contemporary one, even if unions are no longer playing as public a role."

... Paul Krugman: "Whatever their motives, sadomonetarists have already done a lot of damage. In Sweden they have extracted defeat from the jaws of victory, turning an economic success story into a tale of stagnation and deflation as far as the eye can see. And they could do much more damage in the future. Financial markets have been fairly calm lately -- no big banking crises, no imminent threats of euro breakup. But it would be wrong and dangerous to assume that recovery is assured: bad policies could all too easily undermine our still-sluggish economic progress. So when serious-sounding men in dark suits tell you that it's time to stop all this easy money and raise rates, beware: Look at what such people have done to Sweden."

Walter Hamilton of the Los Angeles Times: "For seven years through 2012, the number of Californians aged 50 to 64 who live in their parents' homes swelled 67.6% to about 194,000, according to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. The jump is almost exclusively the result of financial hardship caused by the recession rather than for other reasons, such as the need to care for aging parents, said Steven P. Wallace, a UCLA professor of public health who crunched the data.

Jamelle Bouie of Slate: "The right has always been against race-conscious remedies to racial discrimination, touting 'colorblindness' as the 'constitutional' approach to making policy. But it's only been in the last five years -- since the election of Barack Obama -- that it's scored significant victories.... Circumstances change and ideologies shift, but the message from conservatives stays the same: What happens on the ground doesn't matter; equality under the law is sufficient for civil rights.... But if you see racism as a force to fight -- if, in other words, you think the facts matter -- then you'll reject this 'colorblindness' for what it is: a reactionary excuse for doing nothing." ...

     ... CW: Stephen Colbert epitomizes this view with his "Colbert Report" character who "doesn't see color," and only surmises he is white because he "is told" that's so. ...

... Digby, in Salon: "... to constantly bring up the fact that Democrats can't win if they don't have the votes of racial minorities and young people[, as Republicans do,] implies that there's something not quite legitimate about it."

** Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama departs Tues­day for a week-long, four-nation tour of Asia, where he and his top aides will be less focused on any big policy announcements than on reassuring jittery allies that America remains committed to bolstering its security and economic ties to the region. The trip -- rescheduled from October, when Obama canceled his plans because of the government shutdown -- includes two of the countries on his original itinerary, Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as Japan and South Korea."

The Village Idiots Are Still Idiots

Forget Marxism. Ross Douthat: "... what's felt to be evaporating could turn out to be cultural identity -- family and faith, sovereignty and community -- much more than economic security." CW: Also, doesn't know "data" is plural. ...

     ... Steve M.: "Yes! Of course! We need a whole lot more of Jesus and a lot less rock 'n' ro-- er, progressive taxation.... The way Douthat sees it -- if I correctly understand a Scott Winship post he cites approvingly -- people are getting way too much in Social Security and Medicare and employer-provided health care to be suffering from any sort of real increase in equality." ...

     ... Mark Sumner of Daily Kos: "Ross Douthat is really determined to prove that he can write just damn anything and still get paid.... Douthat writes a whole column in which seeing all the wealth go to the 1% is perfectly fine so long as the 99% aren't starving so badly that they are rioting in the streets, and the real threat is that people might attack those institutions that keep people living under the rule of the 1%. Because, you know, that might lead to instability."

     ... Via Ben Armbruster of Think Progress. AND, playing right along, Chuck Todd remains firmly Tuck Chodd.

CW: ALSO, I'm not sure Nino understands much about how a representative democracy is supposed to work. You know, where citizens try to effect policy change through nonviolent means like voting, protesting, etc. CBS DC: "Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told a crowd of law school students that if taxes in the U.S. become too high then people 'should revolt.'"

Suffer the Little Children. At least veteran Village Idiot Cokie Roberts gets something right. Evan McMurry of Mediaite: Cokie spars with Ralph Reed & Franklin Graham over gay adoptions. It was Easter, but the Righteous Men could not come up with coherent responses. Well, maybe this one:

... Aaron Barlow in Salon: "Backseat driving in the clown car: That's what pundits are about, today. In the New York Times, David Brooks tries to turn that around, making out that it is those who disagree with him who have the red noses and squeeze horns. He mounts a defense of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) based on the idea that those he shills for are the wise and considerate and caring -- and that everyone else is either raw material or the lunatic fringe (both left and right)."


William Rhoden
, in a New York Times column, remembers Rubin Carter: "Carter offers a reminder that one's deeds on the court or on the field will be quickly forgotten; contributions to society resonate across decades. Carter's name endures not because he had a great left hook but because of the principles he represented until the day he died." See also Sunday's News Ledes.

Noah Shachtman of the Daily Beast: "NSA leaker Edward Snowden instantly regretted asking Russian President Vladimir Putin a softball question on live television about the Kremlin's mass surveillance effort, two sources close to the leaker tell The Daily Beast.... 'He basically viewed the question as his first foray into criticizing Russia. He was genuinely surprised that in reasonable corridors it was seen as the opposite,' added Ben Wizner, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who serves as one of Snowden's closest advisers.... Even Jesselyn Radack, one of Snowden's American lawyers, instantly acknowledged that the interchange was a misstep."

Beyond the Beltway

Times-Picayune Editors: "Gov. Bobby Jindal [R-La.] remains unmoved by the plight of hundreds of thousands of uninsured Louisiana residents, by pressures on hospitals left to treat those patients in emergency rooms, by the loss of thousands of new health care jobs, by the good that Medicaid coverage has done for poor children here.... [State] Sen. [Ben] Nevers' [D] Senate Bill 96 would put a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot.... The amendment would direct Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals to file everything necessary by Jan. 1, 2015, to receive the federal funding to provide Medicaid to residents who are at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty rate.... Lawmakers should pass Sen. Nevers' bill...." Via Greg Sargent.

Presidential Race

Katie Glueck of Politico: Rick Perry gets an "extreme makeover." This time around, advisors are working to try to ensure he isn't such a dolt. CW: Good luck with that. ...

... Andy Borowitz: "With an eye toward a Presidential run in 2016, Rick Perry, the Texas governor, is hoping that a two-pronged strategy of wearing glasses and not speaking will make him appear smarter to voters, aides to the Governor confirmed today." ...

... BUT there's this:

... Paul Weber of the AP: "A judge seated a grand jury in Austin [last] week to consider whether [Texas. Gov. Rick] Perry, who is weighing another run for the White House, abused his power when he carried out a threat to veto $7.5 million in state funding for public corruption prosecutors last summer. Aides to Perry say he legally exercised his veto power. Others say Perry was abusing his state office and is finally getting his comeuppance." ...

... Christy Hoppe of the Dallas Morning News: "The grand jury is looking at potentially three state statutes: whether ... [Perry] tried to bribe a public official into stepping down; if he abused his position by misusing public funding 'to obtain a benefit'; or whether -- and prosecutors believe this could be the strongest charge -- he tried to coerce [Travis County D.A. Rosemary] Lehmberg into taking 'a specific performance of [her] official duty."

Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "But his efforts to capitalize on his résumé and reputation have thrust [Jeb Bush] into situations that may prove challenging to explain should he mount a Republican campaign for the White House." Besides associating himself with a number of shady operations, "At one point, Mr. Bush sat on the boards of six companies, twice as many as leading corporate governance experts recommend given the time and fiduciary responsibilities of such a position."

News Ledes

New York Times: "American drones and Yemeni counterterrorism forces killed more than three dozen militants linked to Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen over the weekend in one of the largest such attacks there in months, officials from both countries said Monday. At least three airstrikes were carried out against Qaeda fighters in a convoy and in remote training camps in southern Yemen. They were militants who were planning to attack civilian and military facilities, government officials said in a statement."

Guardian: "Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has accused Ukraine of violating an accord reached in Geneva last week aimed at averting a wider conflict. Lavrov also told a news conference that a deadly gunfight on Sunday near Slavyansk, a Ukrainian city controlled by pro-Russian separatists, showed Kiev did not want to control 'extremists'." ...

... Washington Post: "Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow will intervene if bloodshed continues -- even as Ukrainian officials accuse Russia of stirring it up."

Washington Post: "South Korean President Park Geun-hye castigated the captain and some crew members of a sunken ferry on Monday, saying their actions in abandoning a vessel with hundreds of passengers still aboard were 'tantamount to murder.' Park's comments came in the face of steady criticism about her government's response to the disaster amid a growing sense of fury in South Korea about alleged criminal incompetence aboard the ferry Sewol."

Saturday
Apr192014

The Commentariat -- April 20, 2014

Cliven Bundy, Writ Large. Kristen Moulton of the Salt Lake Tribune: "It's time for Western states to take control of federal lands within their borders, lawmakers and county commissioners from Western states said at Utah's Capitol on Friday. More than 50 political leaders from nine states convened for the first time to talk about their joint goal: wresting control of oil-, timber -and mineral-rich lands away from the feds.... The summit was in the works before this month's tense standoff between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management over cattle grazing, [Utah Speak Becky] Lockhart said. 'What's happened in Nevada is really just a symptom of a much larger problem,' Lockhart said." ...

... Kieran Suckling of the Guardian has more on Bundy.

... CW: For those who want to see the environment go to hell, turning federal lands over to the states is an excellent way to go. ...

... ** Evan Halper of the Los Angeles Times: "The Koch brothers and large utilities have allied to reverse state policies that favor renewable energy. Environmentalists are pushing back, but the fight is spreading and intensifying." Surprise, surprise -- ALEC & other usual suspects are in there, too, fighting renewable energy policies. CW: Read the whole story. Fuckin' greedy bastids.

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "... President Obama and his national security team are looking beyond the immediate conflict to forge a new long-term approach to Russia that applies an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment. Just as the United States resolved in the aftermath of World War II to counter the Soviet Union and its global ambitions, Mr. Obama is focused on isolating President Vladimir V. Putin's Russia by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world, limiting its expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood and effectively making it a pariah state. Mr. Obama has concluded that even if there is a resolution to the current standoff over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, he will never have a constructive relationship with Mr. Putin, aides said."

Sarah Kliff of Vox: "15 charts show our health care prices are totally insane."

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: Common Core, which sets national education standards, is dividing the Republican party, ever since Barack Obama embraced it. (CW: Although Martin doesn't mention it, President Bush advocated it again in his speech at the LBJ Library. Bush linked national education standards to the civil rights movement. See yesterday's Commentariat.) ...

... Jonathan Martin: "Many of those helped by the health care law — notably young people and minorities -- are the least likely to cast votes that could preserve it, even though millions have gained health insurance and millions more will benefit from some of its popular provisions." And Democratic candidates are still conflicted about it.

White Houses Hosts Young Plutocrats Society. Jamie Johnson of the Johnson & Johnson family, in the New York Times "Style" section: "On a crisp morning in late March, an elite group of 100 young philanthropists and heirs to billionaire family fortunes filed into a cozy auditorium at the White House. Their name tags read like a catalog of the country's wealthiest and most influential clans: Rockefeller, Pritzker, Marriott. They were there for a discreet, invitation-only summit hosted by the Obama administration to find common ground between the public sector and the so-called next-generation philanthropists, many of whom stand to inherit billions in private wealth.... Policy experts and donors recognize that there's no better time than now to empower young philanthropists." CW: Right. Because young billionaires just don't have enough power. ...

... Kathy Geier: The whole article is creepy beyond belief. ...

... Digby: "It's very nice that many of these young idealistic aristocrats want to do good deeds. But this is really nothing more than good old fashioned noblesse oblige which basically leaves the betterment of man to the whims of rich people." ...

... CW: Both Digby & Geier home in on this graf by Johnson: "(Disclosure: Although the event was closed to the media, I was invited by the founders of Nexus, Jonah Wittkamper and Rachel Cohen Gerrol, to report on the conference as a member of the family that started the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company.)" ...

... Matt Murphy of Gawker: "At a conference for such refined people as these, not just any reporter will do. No, it must be a writer who intimately knows the struggles of the young and wealthy, and who can accurately transmit the ways in which they're saving the planet to the unwashed Times-reading masses."

... CW: Reality Chex readers may remember Jamie Johnson from his documentary dissing "The One Percent," which I embedded here some months back.

     ... If Mitt Romney thinks the only appropriate place to talk about income inequality is "in quiet rooms," Barack Obama does his pandering to the .01 percent "in quiet rooms." I guess that's the difference between Republicans and Democrats -- a difference without much of a distinction.

Danielle Ivory, et al., of the New York Times: "G.M.'s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, has called the company's slow response [to replace faulty ignition switches] an 'extraordinary' situation. But an analysis by The New York Times of the automaker's recalls since it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 shows its handling of the ignition problem was not an isolated event: G.M. has repeatedly used letters, called technical service bulletins, to dealers and sometimes to car owners as stopgap safety measures instead of ordering timely recalls, The Times found." ...

... AP: "General Motors waited years to recall nearly 335,000 Saturn Ions for power steering failures despite getting thousands of consumer complaints and more than 30,000 warranty repair claims, according to government documents released Saturday."

John Milburn of the AP: "A furor over what the Topeka school district considers an honor has erupted after plans were announced for [Michelle] Obama to address a combined graduation ceremony for five area high schools next month an 8,000-seat arena. For some, it was the prospect of a tight limit on the number of seats allotted to each graduate. For others, it was the notion that Obama's speech, tied to the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools, would overshadow the student's big day." CW: And whaddaya bet many of those parents think Brown v. Board of Ed, which outlawed segregated schools, was a horrible decision. ...

... Digby: "Well, they aren't lining up in front of the courthouse to block her entrance so I suppose they've evolved. I think we know what's really going on here don't we? Yes, the people they interviewed said they were all very upset because it took the spotlight off the kids. And that might even make sense if having guest speakers at graduations wasn't something you see all over the nation every single year." ...

... Steve M. disagrees. ...

... Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker: "... sixty years after Brown, it is clear that the notion of segregation as a discrete phenomenon, an evil that could be flipped, like a switch, from on to off, by judicial edict, was deeply naïve. The intervening decades have shown, in large measure, the limits of what political efforts directed at desegregation alone could achieve, and the crumbling of both elements of 'separate but equal' has left us at an ambivalent juncture."

Oh, Jesus. Sarah Jones of Americans United: "An Oklahoma school district has approved the use of a Bible curriculum designed by Steve Green, the controversial owner of Hobby Lobby. The Mustang public schools will begin offering the curriculum next academic year.... [Based on a speech Green made in 2013,] this class isn't intended to teach the Bible. It's intended to teach Christian apologetics and promote a fundamentalist view of that tome. And there lies the trouble." Via Steve Benen.

Marsha Shuler of the Advocate: "Louisiana legislators advanced a bill Thursday that would make the Holy Bible the official Louisiana state book, despite concerns the move could prompt litigation." Also via Benen.

News Lede

New York Times: "Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, a star prizefighter whose career was cut short by a murder conviction in New Jersey and who became an international cause célèbre while imprisoned for 19 years before the charges against him were dismissed, died on Sunday morning at his home in Toronto. He was 76."