The Ledes

Tuesday, March 31, 2015.

New York Times: "With anger swelling over corruption, inequality and a devastating Islamist insurgency in the nation’s north, Nigerians chose a former general who once ruled with an iron hand to be their next president, according to election results on Tuesday. The election was the most competitive presidential race ever in Nigeria, one of the largest democracies in the world. Now, if power is handed over peacefully, it will be a major shift for the nation — the first transfer of power between civilians of different parties in a country that has spent much of its post-colonial history roiled by military coups."

The Unfortunate Death of a Fool. Washington Post: "What had first appeared to be an attempt to breach security at the [NSA] ... now appears to be a wrong turn by two men who police believe had robbed their companion of his vehicle and perhaps didn’t stop because there were drugs inside. A spokeswoman for the Baltimore office of the FBI, Amy J. Thoreson, said early in the investigation that authorities 'do not believe [the incident] is related to terrorism.' A law enforcement official said: 'This was not a deliberate attempt to breach the security of NSA. This was not a planned attack.'”

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, March 30, 2015.

New York Times: "On Monday, the [U.S.] government charged that in the shadows of an undercover investigation of Silk Road, a notorious black-market site, two federal agents sought to enrich themselves by exploiting the very secrecy that made the site so difficult for law enforcement officials to penetrate. The agents, Carl Mark Force IV, who worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Shaun W. Bridges, who worked for the Secret Service, had resigned amid growing scrutiny, and on Monday they were charged with money laundering and wire fraud. Mr. Force was also charged with theft of government property and conflict of interest."

Guardian: "The personal details of world leaders at the last G20 summit were accidentally disclosed by the Australian immigration department, which did not consider it necessary to inform those world leaders of the privacy breach.... An employee of the agency inadvertently sent the passport numbers, visa details and other personal identifiers of all world leaders attending the summit to the organisers of the Asian Cup football tournament."

Washington Post: "One person was killed and another was injured Monday morning when police with the National Security Agency opened fire on a vehicle whose driver refused commands to stop at a security gate, according to a statement from the agency. The vehicle slammed into a police cruiser after shots were fired." ...

... ABC News: "Sources say the two inside [the vehicle] were men dressed as women. Preliminary information indicated the two men were partying at an area hotel with a third individual when they took that individual's car without permission. However, it's still unclear how or why they ended up at the NSA gate."

New York Times: "Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister who was forced from office under a cloud of corruption, was convicted on Monday of fraud and breach of trust in a retrial of a case involving an American businessman, whose sensational testimony in a Jerusalem court in 2008 was instrumental in Mr. Olmert’s downfall. The American businessman, Morris Talansky, said at the time that he had provided Mr. Olmert with about $150,000 over 13 years, mostly in cash stuffed into envelopes, an assertion Mr. Olmert vehemently denied. Mr. Talansky, known as Moshe, had said that much of the money was earmarked for election campaigns but that some was for Mr. Olmert’s personal expenses."

Public Service Announcement

Reuters: "Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound. While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze."

White House Live Video
March 31

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

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Andrew Sullivan says he quit his blog because blogging is difficult, time-consuming & dehumanizing. CW a/k/a the Blog Nazi: No kidding.

David Graham of the Atlantic: "Trevor Noah's ascent on The Daily Show has been steep — hired on as senior international correspondent four months ago, he'll take over the anchor's desk from Jon Stewart after just three appearances on the show, Comedy Central announced Monday."

If you thought a meerkat was something like a mongoose ... Global News: "Meet Meerkat, the live streaming video service that allows users to host a live broadcast from their smartphones. If you haven’t heard of this new app don’t feel too bad – it’s only been around for about two weeks. But that hasn’t stopped it from garnering an estimated 300,000 active users, US$12 million in funding and even a few controversies."

In Case You Were Wondering... Megan Garber of the Atlantic examines multiple theories on why "men’s dress shirts have their buttons on the right, while women’s have them on the left (to the wearer)."

Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News: "Inside the elaborate, surprisingly unglamorous world of presidential hotel stays." Or Why President Trump Would Resign Shortly after His Inauguration.

New York Times: "After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — 'Richard III, 1452-1485' — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times. With the solemn ceremony laid down for monarchs through the ages, the coffin was borne to a marble tomb adjacent to the cathedral’s altar by a party of 10 British Army pallbearers...." ...

... The Guardian has a full page of stories about Richard III.

Twenty percent more people trust Bill O'Reilly now than trusted O'Reilly before the press reported he was a serial liar:

East Wing Mystery. Washington Post: "There’s still no official comment on why [White House head florist Laura] Dowling is no longer at the White House, but according to a source with close ties to current residence staffers, she was escorted from the building on Friday Feb. 13." ...

     ... UPDATE. Thoroughly Modern Michelle. "Dowling ... left because her 'fussy style' was not in line with the first lady’s emerging modern and clean aesthetics, several sources said.... Recently the first lady has debuted a different aesthetic at the executive mansion. Last month, the White House revealed the newly refurbished and now decidedly modern Old Family dining room.... Mrs. Obama unveiled her 'thoroughly modernized' mark on the White House, featuring a custom-made 1950s-inspired rug and bold artwork, to surprised tourists on Feb. 10. Dowling is said to have been escorted from the White House three days later." ...

Reuters: "Whether it's the earnest Josiah Bartlet from 'The West Wing' or the manipulative Frank Underwood in 'House of Cards,' Americans prefer television presidents to their real-life POTUS, President Barack 'No Drama' Obama.'"

Washington Post: Scientists believe they've found the world's largest asteroid impact zone in Australia.

Washington Post: "King Richard III may have been buried quickly and without pomp the first time, but 530 years later, England is reveling in a final farewell to its long-lost monarch. On a sun-kissed Sunday afternoon on the battlefield where Richard III fell in 1485 — he was the last English king to die in battle — throngs of well-wishers, some dressed in medieval costume and blowing trumpets, gathered to honor England’s last Plantagenet king."

Out of the Parking Lot & into the Cathedral. Guardian: England is preparing to (re)inter a king today (Sunday, March 22). "... the coffin will be transferred to a horse-drawn hearse, to lead the way to a service of compline, with a sermon from a Roman Catholic archbishop, Vincent Nicholls. It will then lie in the cathedral, guarded night and day, until the reburial service on Thursday."

Politico: "The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it has granted Amazon Logistics, a subsidiary of the Internet retail giant, approval for a drone design that the company plans to use for research, development and training."

David Rackoff: "Things people say that irritate Republicans." Click thru. CW: I'll have to try to remember these. So I can say them. To Republicans. I hope I drive them all Rumpelstiltskin. Then I will ask the Flying Spaghetti Monster to forgive me for being so mean.

Prince Charles & the Duchess of Cornwall are in Washington, D.C., & environs.

President Obama hosts a St. Patrick's Day reception:

... CW: Somebody explain to me why apparently-intelligent people don't actually participate in events they attend but instead spend their time taking crappy cellphone videos, even when they know said events will be recorded by professionals & posted online. I get why a person would want to record some side-conversation with, say, the President, but the main event? It baffles me.

Patrick LaForge of the New York Times: "Welcome to a parallel universe. It is a world of tired news language where the verb 'stir' is bound to be followed by 'debate,' where those debates are always 'heated' or 'bitter.' In this world, anything newsworthy is automatically 'controversial,' and a 'hike' involves taxes, not a trail up a mountain. It is often a 'hardscrabble' place, sometimes 'densely wooded,' sometimes graced with 'manicured' lawns and 'leafy' streets. 'Landmark' agreements are 'hammered out' there, while adversaries are 'lambasted' and 'assailed.'” Meet journalese: a strained and artificial voice more common to news reports than to natural conversation." LaForge cites numerous examples of NYT reporters' use of these cliches.

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Monday
Mar302015

The Commentariat -- March 31, 2015

Afternoon News Roundup:

Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "U.S. officials said Tuesday that they might continue negotiating a preliminary Iran nuclear deal past a midnight deadline as they struggled to resolve key issues."

Nicholas Kulish of the New York Times: "The co-pilot at the controls of the German jetliner that crashed last week had informed Lufthansa in 2009 about his depressive episodes, the company said Tuesday. In a statement, Lufthansa said the co-pilot had conveyed the information when he sought to rejoin the airline’s flight school after a monthslong pause in his studies. Lufthansa said that it had shared with prosecutors email correspondence between the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, and the flight training school, which included medical records about a 'deep depressive episode.' Lufthansa is the parent company of Germanwings, the operator of the Airbus 320 on which Mr. Lubitz was co-pilot."

Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) vowed Tuesday morning that the state would alter a religious liberties bill that has drawn widespread criticism, even as he defended the law and insisted it was being unfairly portrayed in the media. Pence urged lawmakers to pass legislation making it clear 'that this law does not give businesses the right to deny services to anyone.'... He did not support a repeal of the legislation, nor did he say that language would be added explicitly protecting gay or transgender people. He also spent a significant portion of the news conference defending the bill and criticizing the media, insisting that the current legislation did not allow for discrimination. 'This law has been smeared,' he said.”

Jack Gillum of the AP: "Hillary Clinton emailed her staff on an iPad as well as a BlackBerry while secretary of state, seemingly contradicting her explanation that she exclusively used a personal email address on a so-called 'homebrew' server so that she could carry a single device, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press." ...

... AFP: "A US congressional panel investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks has called for Hillary Clinton to testify by May 1, following a scandal involving her exclusive use of private emails while secretary of state."

*****

CW: I've been called a lot of things, some I had to look up on account of their, um, vernacularity, but this is the first time I've been called a Nazi (or maybe a Nazi intern; hard to tell), as far as I recall. So from now on, I'll be the "Blog Nazi." Seriously, if you don't like it here, there are LOTS of other options out there on the Internets. Slamming me is sort of a waste of your time. The best you're going to get is that I'll shut down in disgust for a few days, & that doesn't seem a big enough reward for revealing your assholedness. I've got a lot to do, & an unpaid vacation would be welcome. Heads I win, tails you lose.

Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico: "Inside the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, there’s an exact replica of the chamber. Outside, beneath a plastic tent shaking in the chilly wind coming off Boston Harbor, the Washington political world descended Monday, laughing and tearing up, telling their tales of the Massachusetts senator they remembered as the embodiment of a Senate now all but gone." ...

... Eric Levenson & Meagan McGinnes of the Boston Globe: "Kennedy died six years ago, but judging by speeches from a who’s who of political leaders on Monday, the 'Lion of the Senate' remains the chamber’s platonic ideal." ...

... President Obama speaks at the dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute:

... Vice President Biden remembers Ted Kennedy:

Niels Lesniewski of Roll Call: "Having won the backing of the entire leadership team, New York’s Charles E. Schumer might become the next Senate Democratic leader by acclamation. Conference Secretary Patty Murray, D-Wash., has joined in endorsing Schumer for the top job when Nevada Democrat Harry Reid retires at the beginning of 2017, according to a Murray aide." ...

... Manu Raju & John Bresnahan of Politico: "... senators on both sides of the aisle will be watching Schumer — closely — to see how he responds to any deal. As a leading pro-Israel voice among Senate Democrats, Schumer is at odds with the White House on Iran, yet he also needs to maintain good relations with Obama. He has to balance his own views on the negotiations with those of a Senate Democratic Caucus that is, by and large, eager to avoid conflict with Iran and stand with the president. Further complicating the matter is a home-state constituency with very strong feelings about Israel and the threat posed to it by Iran.... Schumer is widely seen as a barometer of whether the White House will have enough support on Capitol Hill to sustain a veto on a bill by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) requiring that Congress review any Iran agreement."

Mean Obama Trolls Birthers. Tracy Walsh of CNN: "Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R) said on Monday during an appearance on Fox News that President Obama is 'inciting' birther conspiracy theorists by planning a trip to Kenya this summer.... 'I personally think he’s just inciting some chatter on an issue that should have been a dead issue a long time ago,' he said.Obama announced Monday morning that he plans to travel to Kenya in July to attend the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit." CW: Thanks, Guv, for upping the Ridiculous Quotient. ...

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: "... Sununu — who was not just a governor but a White House chief of staff under President George. H.W. Bush ... feels that the president should plan his travel to avoid doing anything that will cause far-right nutjobs to embarrass themselves and their party."

Mafia Hit Job, Ctd. CW: The other day, I laughed off a confederate conspiracy theory that Harry Reid's recent injuries were the result of a mob beating. But Matt Yglesias does some serious reporting on the theory: ... "for the Vegas mob — which was largely crushed in the 1980s — to break into the house of a United States senator, evade or overpower his security detail, and rough him up would be quite the trick. It would also be quite peculiar.... It would presumably be more effective ... to threaten his family, or to simply threaten to release evidence of Reid's relationship with the criminal underground to the press." Yglesias also finds evidence that the type of elastic band exercise device that Reid was using has led to numerous serious injuries. "The right's larger frustration stems from the sense that people should be looking more closely at Reid's finances. But the truth here is that the media has looked into this. Extensively.... Reporters just haven't found the kind of career-destroying smoking gun that conservatives want to find."

Basta! Lawrence Hurley of Reuters: "The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a new challenge to President Barack Obama's healthcare law that took aim at a bureaucratic board labeled by some Republicans as a 'death panel' because it was designed to cut Medicare costs. The high court left intact a ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that threw out the lawsuit."

Lawrence Hurley: "The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday left intact an appeals court ruling that school officials in California did not violate the free speech rights of students by demanding they remove T-shirts bearing images of the U.S. flag at an event celebrating the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo. The court declined to hear an appeal filed by three students at Live Oak High School in the town of Morgan Hill, south of San Francisco. School staff at the May 5, 2010, event told several students their clothing could cause an incident. Two chose to leave for home after refusing to turn their shirts inside out."

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Gay Americans simply have too much political power to be afforded equal rights under the Constitution, according to a brief filed by the state of Ohio asking the Supreme Court to permit that state to continue to practice marriage discrimination. Ohio’s claim comes as part of a greater effort to convince the justices that laws which discriminate again gay men, lesbians and bisexuals should not be treated with skepticism by courts applying the Constitution’s guarantee that everyone shall be afforded 'the equal protection of the laws.'” Millhiser argues that laws discriminating against blacks & women, for instance, received "heightened scrutiny" even after the federal government had passed laws designed to protect the groups.

Michael Gordon & David Sanger of the New York Times: "Negotiators from the United States, Iran and five other nations pushed into the night on Monday to try to reach a preliminary political agreement on limiting Iran’s nuclear program. But with a Tuesday deadline, it seemed clear that even if an accord were reached some of the toughest issues would remain unresolved until late June." ...

... Scott Clement & Peyton Craighill of the Washington Post: "By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, Americans support the notion of striking a deal with Iran that restricts the nation’s nuclear program in exchange for loosening sanctions, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds. But the survey — released hours before Tuesday’s negotiating deadline — also finds few Americans are hopeful that such an agreement will be effective." ...

... CW: Huh. So the GOP War Machine hasn't convinced everybody to bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. Looks like Tom Cotton served up a dish only the Republican base finds tasty. If there were any chance at all Democrats would use the warmongers' preferences against them, we could take a tiny step toward democracy. I'm not counting my chickens. And I mean chickens.

Nicholas Kulish & Melissa Eddy of the New York Times: "The co-pilot of the Germanwings jetliner that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday had been treated for 'suicidal tendencies' before receiving his pilot’s license, the office of the public prosecutor in Düsseldorf said Monday. The co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, had been treated by psychotherapists 'over a long period of time,' the prosecutor’s office said, without providing specific dates. In follow-up visits to doctors since that time, the prosecutor said, 'no signs of suicidal tendencies or aggression toward others were documented.' Mr. Lubitz’s medical records show no physical illnesses, the prosecutor said, an apparent reference to vision problems that Mr. Lubitz had been experiencing, which officials said may have been psychosomatic in nature."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd., O'Reilly Edition. David Corn & Daniel Schulman of Mother Jones: Bill "O'Reilly claimed [as recently as 2013] he rescued his bleeding cameraman during a riot in Argentina. But the journo who shot O'Reilly's video says this didn't happen." Corn & Schulman have the details. O'Reilly responded, "... This is nothing more than yet another coordinated attack which predictably comes on the heels of my appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman." CW: Yeah, everybody's picking on Billo. And it's totally not his fault.

Presidential Race

Steve Kornacki of MSNBC: "Hillary Clinton will be opposed by a real, actual, credible Democrat for her party’s presidential nomination. That’s the takeaway from Martin O’Malley’s Sunday appearance on ABC’s 'This Week.'... As a former two-term governor of a major state – and someone who cultivated extensive national fundraising contacts while chairing the Democratic Governors Association in 2012 – he brings serious credentials to the race."

The First Amendment says keep government out of religion. It doesn't say keep religion out of government. -- Rand Paul, to a group of religious activists

... ALSO, gay marriage is the bitter fruit of a "moral crisis." AND what this country needs is more "tent revivals." Charles Pierce disputes Aqua Buddha Man, the part-time Constitutional scholar. CW: I myself would pay to attend an Aqua Buddha tent revival. I hope the worshippers do not ban representations of Aqua Buddha as I have wanted to know since the Beginning what His (or Her!) Holiness looks like.

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "Also Monday, two Republican White House hopefuls, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, defended the [Indiana religious discrimination] law. 'I think Governor Pence has done the right thing,' Mr. Bush told the conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt. 'I think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.'” Eckholm writes a brief history of the evolution of the RFRA. The federal law passed in 1993 was intended to protect minority religions. New state laws, not so much. ...

... Michal Mishak & Patrick Reis of the National Journal: "Sen. Marco Rubio on Monday partially defended a new religious-freedom law in Indiana that critics say sanctions discrimination against same-sex couples." CW: Since Marco spoke with his own brand of mush in his mouth, it's impossible to say what his position might be. But of course that's what Marco finds so tasty in Marco Mush. ...

... Alex Roarty of the National Journal: "With the exception of the libertarian-minded Rand Paul, lockstep support from the rest of the Republican field — most of whom are courting evangelical voters — now looks all but guaranteed. (Sen. Ted Cruz already had introduced legislation in the Senate that would repeal laws in the District of Columbia that force religious institutions such as Georgetown University from recognizing gay and lesbian groups.) The question now is whether the candidates can sell the public on the idea that these laws ward against discrimination rather than facilitating it.... And if they can't, it could pose a problem in the general election, much like the questions of gay marriage that the party was hoping to avoid." ...

... CW: Um, Alex, I don't think teh gays should be counting on "the libertarian-minded Rand Paul." See Charles Pierce post, linked above.

Paul Waldman assesses Carla Fiorina's presidential qualifications & her brilliant ideas, like forcing federal workers to do something more productive than watching porn. Waldman is of the impression that Hewlett-Packard employees watch porn, too. He find's Fiorina's potential bid as ridiculous as that of every other businessperson who has no political experience. CW: Actually, Fiorina's candidacy will be good for people who watches the Sunday shows, because it will preclude her being on those insufferable "round tables" where she is often the most insufferable participant. ...

... Charles Pierce seems equally unimpressed, although he too is bedazzled by the porn thing: "Carly Fiorina, who has failed spectacularly at business and even more spectacularly at politics, is now thinking of running for president based on her staggering career success. She's already the most entertaining harpy the Republicans have produced since Jean Schmidt 's slandering of John Murtha's military service."

Catherine Thompson of TPM: "Tea party darling and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson on Monday connected backlash against Indiana's anti-gay 'religious freedom' law to acts of religious persecution across the globe. 'It is absolutely vital that we do all we can to allow Americans to practice their religious ways, while simultaneously ensuring that no one’s beliefs infringe upon those of others,' Carson told Breitbart News."

Senate Race

Kyle Cheney of Politico: "In a YouTube video posted Monday morning, Illinois Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth announced her bid for Senate against incumbent GOP Sen. Mark Kirk. The two-minute clip describes Duckworth’s hard-luck childhood and her family’s reliance on food stamps. She also describes in detail the injury that cost her both legs in Iraq — when a rocket-propelled grenade tore through the U.S. Army helicopter she was piloting during a combat mission.... Duckworth is the first Democrat to declare for what could be a crowded race against Kirk. Several other members of the Illinois delegation — including Reps. Robin Kelly and Bill Foster — are eyeing candidacies in what is likely to among Democrats’ best pickup opportunities of the 2016 cycle."

Beyond the Beltway

** We Do Not Have to Bake You People a Wedding Cake. Garrett Epps on Indiana's "religious freedom" law: "... sincere and faithful people, when they feel the imprimatur of both the law and the Lord, can do very ugly things.... The Indiana statute has two features the federal RFRA — and most state RFRAs — do not. First, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to 'the free exercise of religion.' ... rights matching those of individuals or churches.... Second, the Indiana statute explicitly makes a business’s “free exercise” right a defense against a private lawsuit by another person, rather than simply against actions brought by government.... Of all the state “religious freedom” laws I have read, this new statute hints most strongly that it is there to be used as a means of excluding gays and same-sex couples from accessing employment, housing, and public accommodations on the same terms as other people.... So — is the fuss over the Indiana law overblown? No. The statute shows every sign of having been carefully designed to put new obstacles in the path of equality; and it has been publicly sold with deceptive claims that it is 'nothing new.'” ...

...When Baking a Cake Was Such a Simple Gesture of Hospitality:

Katie Sanders of PolitiFact on Mike Pence's assertions in his "This Week" explains the context of the Indiana law.

... Ed Kilgore: "The more they talk about it, advocates of broad-based 'religious liberty' laws sound like those conservatives back in the day who offered to accept the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if the public accommodations section was removed. That was, in fact, the position of the 1964 Republican nominee for president, Barry Goldwater, and that’s largely why he became the first Republican since Reconstruction to carry the Deep South, even as he lost catastrophically just about everywhere else." ...

... Brian Eason of the Indianapolis Star: "Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard on Monday called on the Indiana General Assembly to either repeal the divisive Religious Freedom Restoration Act or add explicit protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in state law. Ballard also issued an executive order that anyone who receives money from the city government must abide by its human rights ordinance, which has had such protections in place for a decade." Ballard is a Republican. With video. ...

... Tom Davies of the AP: "Republican legislative leaders said they are working on adding language to the religious-objections law to make it clear that the measure does not allow discrimination against gays and lesbians." ...

     ... CW: That's sweet, but it doesn't make sense. The whole purpose of the law was to facilitate discrimination against gays. Oh, wait. And women. So Indiana isn't going to be anti-gay anymore, but anti-woman is A-Okay. Because Jesus. ...

... The Indy Star Editors wants "Gov. Mike Pence and the General Assembly ... to enact a state law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations on the basis of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity." Women? Meh. You might have to go to Chicago to exercise your reproductive rights.

... Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story: "In a classic case of 'unintended consequences,' the recently signed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indiana may have opened the door for the establishment of the First Church of Cannabis in the Hoosier State. While Governor Mike Pence (R) was holding a signing ceremony for the bill allowing businesses and individuals to deny services to gays on religious grounds or values, paperwork for the First Church of Cannabis Inc. was being filed with the Secretary of State’s office, reports RTV6."

Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "A month after [Missouri state auditor Tom] Schweich died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound amid an alleged political smear campaign focused on his faith, a top aide appears to have committed suicide by the same means, police said. Robert 'Spence' Jackson, who served as Schweich’s media director, was found dead in his bedroom Sunday, Jefferson City police said in a statement." ...

... CW: Sounds to me like the sad end to a star-crossed lovers' affair. No hint of a romantic relationship in Phillip's story, however. I'm just guessing.

Days Inn Fires Employee for Talking to WashPo after Introducing Employee to WashPo Reporter. Chico Harlan of the Washington Post: "Shanna Tippen was another hourly worker at the bottom of the nation’s economy, looking forward to a 25-cent bump in the Arkansas minimum wage that would make it easier for her to buy diapers for her grandson. When I wrote about her in The Post last month, she said the minimum wage hike ... wouldn’t lift her above the poverty line.... After the story came out, she says she was fired from her job for talking to the Post." Tippen worked for Days Inn. The Days Inn manager had introduced Tippen to Harlan & allowed him to interview her. After Tippen reported the manager fired Tippen, someone at the motel (who, um, sounded like the motel manager who fired Tippen) claimed he'd never heard of that manager & threatened to call the police if Harlan "kept bothering" him. The same manager threatened to sue the Post if it published Harlan's original story. Also, the manager opposed the 25-cent hike in hourly wages. Just a class act all around. ...

... Digby: "Maybe if she had a union...." ...

... CW: No such luck, digby. Arkansas has been a "right-to-work" state for all of my long life. Still the Service Employee International Union does have a local in Little Rock. I'd recommend they picket the Pine Bluff Days Inn.

Sunday
Mar292015

The Commentariat -- March 30, 2015

CW: My husband, who was Italian by birth and an American citizen, told me once that the only ethnic group that Americans -- in general -- felt comfortable dissing were Italians. His comment surprised me, & I thought maybe he was a bit overly-sensitive. When I was a child I heard people disparaging Italians, but had not heard such remarks for decades, partly, I suspected because of the efforts of the American-Italian Defamation League & similar groups.

Yesterday, my husband finally won his argument. I made the mistake of responding to a comment that bordered on an Italian slur but didn't go over the line, IMO. I should not have done that, as later in the day, the conversation in which I participated devolved into indisputable ethnic slurs. I bear responsibility for letting this happen, and -- as the saying goes -- I apologize to anyone who was offended. If you weren't offended, you should have been.

(If you're not sure you're delivering an ethnic slur, plug in the word "Negro" & see if you would feel comfortable making the remark to an African-American. If the answer is no, don't share your thought here, please.)

In future, I will endeavor to delete all comments that include a whiff of negative ethnic stereotyping. Again, I am sorry I allowed this to happen here, where bigotry should enjoy no privilege.

*****

Jonathan Weisman & Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "Senate Republicans bolted for a two-week spring recess with the confirmation of Loretta E. Lynch as attorney general in jeopardy, and themselves in a quandary: Accept a qualified nominee they oppose because she backs President Obama’s policies or reject her and live with an attorney general they despise, Eric H. Holder Jr.... Lawmakers have found nothing in Ms. Lynch’s background to latch on to in opposition, and many are loath to reject the first African-American woman put forth to be the nation’s top law enforcement officer. But, they say, their constituents have told them that a vote for Ms. Lynch affirms Mr. Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which she has said she finds lawful." ...

... CW: I really find it unpossible that the Senate would not confirm Lynch. The GOP's behavior is despicable.

Tom Keane in Politico Magazine: “'Can Elizabeth Warren be the new Ted Kennedy?' wonders Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi in a recent column. One answer is that she doesn’t have to be; after all, Ted Kennedy wasn’t always Ted Kennedy either. The second answer is that she already is."

Paul Krugman: Republicans have been forced to think up & disseminate outlandish "facts" to support their anti-ObamaCare mania. "... what we’re looking at here is the impact of post-truth politics. We live in an era in which politicians and the supposed experts who serve them never feel obliged to acknowledge uncomfortable facts, in which no argument is ever dropped, no matter how overwhelming the evidence that it’s wrong."

Kimberly Railey of the National Journal: "... as [Rep. Aaron] Schock [R-Ill.] departs public office, Illinois Republicans are quietly closing up a political machine that distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars around the state. Schock has pumped money into dozens of races in Illinois ... during his rise up the political ladder. Now, the political network Schock formed is unraveling, leaving some in Illinois — especially downstate Republicans — wondering who else might get caught up in a wide-ranging investigation and how much they'll miss Schock's help."

Tim Devaney of the Hill: "A high-stakes legal dispute pitting McDonald’s Corp. against labor unions is set to enter a crucial phase this week, when the National Labor Relations Board takes up consideration of a case with major implications for franchise businesses. An NLRB administrative law judge on Monday will begin weighing whether McDonald’s should be responsible for what employees say are poor working conditions and low pay at many of its franchise restaurants."

... there’s a very real chance that the next president of the United States could replace four justices. --Ian Millhiser ...

... This Supreme Court Is a Lot Like Earlier Supreme Courts. Elias Isquith of Salon: "As [Ian] Millhiser sees it, the Supreme Court has spent most of its existence standing athwart history, yelling, Stop! From gutting the civil rights acts of the post-Civil War era to attacking business regulations to weakening protections for children, minorities and immigrants, the court Millhiser describes has much more often than not worked to return power to those in society who need it least, and abuse it most."

Judith Schaeffer, in Slate, notes that at his confirmation hearings, then-Judge John Roberts essentially spoke in favor of same-sex marriage; that is, that he confirmed that the "right to marry" is broader than any historical prohibitions against it, like miscegenation laws.

** Paul Rosenberg, in Salon, takes a look at the big picture & its historical underpainting to conclude that the GOP really does aim to destroy democracy. "... part of what makes things much easier for Republicans in this era is that — with few exceptions — they’re not going up against FDR-style social democrats, with the full-bodied set of attitudes, assumptions, principles and expectations entailed in that constitutional order, but instead face neoliberal Democrats who desire compromise in a framework of diminished expectations." ...

... CW: Besides the examples Rosenberg provides, you probably can think of others; for instance, the seemingly odd movement to repeal the 17th Amendment, which mandates the direct election of senators.

Brinkman's Strategy. Julian Borger of the Guardian: "There are less than two full days to go before an end-March deadline for agreeing a political framework to contain Iran’s nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief, and the atmosphere in Lausanne has taken on the nervous edge of an endgame.... The negotiations are still stalled within sight of the finishing line. There are still many issues still up in the air in Lausanne, but diplomats here say they believe most would resolve themselves if a couple of obstinate problems could be overcome. Those two issues are the extent to which Iran would be allowed to carry out research and development on new models of centrifuge in the last years of a deal, and – the stickiest problem by far – the lifting of UN security council sanctions." ...

... David Sanger & Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "For months, Iran tentatively agreed that it would send a large portion of its stockpile of uranium to Russia, where it would not be accessible for use in any future weapons program. But on Sunday Iran’s deputy foreign minister made a surprise comment to Iranian reporters, ruling out an agreement that involved giving up a stockpile that Iran has spent years and billions of dollars to amass.... Western officials confirmed that Iran was balking at shipping the fuel out, but insisted that there were other ways of dealing with the material. Chief among those options, they said, was blending it into a more diluted form." ...

... Simon Sturdee, et al., of AFP: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a dire warning Sunday about a possible nuclear accord with Iran as talks in Switzerland towards the outline of a deal intensified days before a deadline. 'The dangerous accord which is being negotiated in Lausanne confirms our concerns and even worse,' Netanyahu said in remarks broadcast on public radio. He said the 'Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis' was 'dangerous for all of humanity' and that combined with Tehran's regional influence, a nuclear deal could allow Iran to "conquer" the Middle East.'" ...

... Juan Williams of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) trip to Israel this week is so blatantly political that even the avowedly impartial Associated Press describes it as looking 'like a jab at the White House.' It is worse than that.... The real issue here is the way Boehner is recklessly sowing division along party lines on Israel. He is also — intentionally or not — heightening the silent but simmering racial tensions that increasingly divide Americans on the subject. The racial division is the most troubling of all to me, as a black American." ...

... Steve Coll of the New Yorker: "After six years in office, and after repeatedly following the advice of his generals, only to see their predictions fail, Obama is choosing the risks of nuclear diplomacy over yet more war. It is the best of bad options, but it could be better still."

Yara Bayoumy & Mahmoud Mourad of Reuters: "Saudi Arabia accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of hypocrisy on Sunday, telling an Arab summit that he should not express support for the Middle East while fuelling instability by supporting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad."

Presidential Race

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley said Sunday that the presidency 'is not some crown to be passed between two families,' sounding more resolute than ever about taking on Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination. O’Malley, who has been aggressively positioning himself as a more liberal and forward-looking alternative to Clinton, said during an appearance on ABC News’s 'This Week' that 'new perspective and new leadership is needed.'”

Ted Cruz Is Still Obnoxious: Evan McMurry of Mediaite: "State of the Union temporary host Dana Bash pointed out to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) Sunday morning that he and President Barack Obama shared notable similarities in their biographies and qualifications before the seeking the White House (an example of the limits of political analogy). Given that the GOP has made so much hay over Obama’s supposed 'inexperience,' how, Bash asked, could they nominate Cruz? Cruz argued that his pre-Senate experience dwarfed Obama’s. 'Unlike Barack Obama, I was not a community organizer before I was elected to the Senate,' he said. 'I spent 5 1/2 years as the solicitor general of Texas…I supervised and led every appeal for the state of Texas in a 4,000-person agency with over 700 lawyers.'" ...

... CW: Cruz falls back on a stupid dog-whistle confederate talking point, ignoring Obama's 12-year career as an Illinois legislator & his side-job as a university lecturer. By Cruz's standard, we should describe Paul Ryan as nothing but a one-time Weinermobile driver & Scott Walker as a former McDonald's burger flipper. ...

... So this is hilarious. Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is swearing off negative campaigning as he begins his run for the White House. “There may be other candidates who choose to throw rocks in my direction,” the GOP presidential hopeful said in an interview aired Sunday on CNN’s 'State of the Union.' 'I’m not going to engage in the personal mudslinging, in the negative attacks on people’s character.'”

Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: Chris Christie was a big promoter of wind energy -- until he met the Koch boys. His "enthusiasm for wind energy appeared to flag around the time he began exploring a run for the Republican presidential nomination. Political opponents say the turning point was a series of meetings in 2011 and 2012 with key Republican donors, including billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, oil-industry magnates who have bankrolled campaigns against renewable energy."

of Reuters: "Former Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N) Chief Executive Carly Fiorina said on Sunday the chances she would run for the U.S. presidency in 2016 were 'higher than 90 percent' and that she would announce her plans in late April to early May." ...

... CW: Fiorina has never held elective office & "frequently has been ranked as one of the worst CEOs of all time." So. An excellent presidential candidate.

Beyond the Beltway

Stephanie Ebbs of ABC News: "Indiana's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act will not be changing despite critics saying it allows business owners to discriminate against members of the LGBT community, state Gov. Mike Pence said [Sunday] during an exclusive interview on ABC's 'This Week.' Pence described the media coverage and opposition to the law as 'shameless rhetoric,' saying it strengthens the foundation of First Amendment rights rather than discriminates. 'We're not going to change the law,' he said, 'but if the general assembly in Indiana sends me a bill that adds a section that reiterates and amplifies and clarifies what the law really is and what it has been for the last 20 years, than I'm open to that.'" With video. ...

... David of Crooks & Liars: Mike Pence refused to answer George Stephanopoulos's repeated question: "And so yes or no, if a florist in Indiana refuses to serve a gay couple at their wedding, is that legal now in Indiana? Yes or no?" CW: So I'm pretty sure we all -- including Pence -- know what the answer is. ...

... John Cole of Balloon Juice: Pence is "stuck, and he doesn’t know what to do, so he will keep denying and deflecting while Indiana loses millions of dollars in business and travel and tourism. It is always important to remember, that when discussing Mike Pence, that he is really, really, stupid...." ...

Saturday
Mar282015

The Commentariat -- March 29, 2015

Jamelle Bouie: "If liberals want someone to lead Senate Democrats, they should look to longtime Washington Sen. Patty Murray, who is the fourth-ranking Democrat in the caucus." Bouie makes the case for Murray, & makes a strong case against Elizabeth Warren, who, he argues, would have to drop her liberal causes as the leader of the entire caucus....

... CW: I would add that a new Senator like Warren -- quick study or not -- does not have the experience & knowledge to negotiate the arcane Senate rules & traditions. I am hardly one to argue that "Well, that's the way we've always done it" has any validity, but I'm not sure Warren even knows the secret handshake yet. ...

     ... Update. Colin Campbell & Hunter Walker of Business Insider interview staffers who pretty much back me up on this by highlighting, among other things, Schumer's "master[y] of Senate procedures" & "the somewhat antiquated culture of the Senate, where 'civility' is often prized." ...

... Harry & the Bloggers. Dave Weigel on how Harry Reid learned to use liberal bloggers to help him stop Dubya's agenda.

William Hartung of the Center for International Policy in Salon: President Obama & hawk-in-chief John McCain both want to raise the Pentagon budget; it's only a question of how much. But the real issue is that the Pentagon "needs" the money only because its so-called "strategy" is to "cover the globe." It's time to think up a new strategy.

CW: Opinion pieces that begin like this tend to annoy me: "In many ways, America deserves Ted Cruz. After all, it’s been nearly eight years since voters (and the Supreme Court) elected a cocksure, right-wing adopted Texan, long on discredited ideology but short on wits, who plunged the United States into a sinkhole of economic and foreign policy chaos from which it has yet to fully emerge." And I'm not even good at arithmetic.

Over there is Right Wing World, they're thinking Harry Reid's New Year's Day injuries were the result of a run-in with mobsters for whom he failed to deliver. CW: Confederates might be sort of stupid, but -- to give them their due -- they do have the imaginations of 14-year-olds & other action-movie fans.

The audio of the oral arguments in Texas v. Sons of Confederate Veterans is here. The page also includes a link to the transcript of the arguments. Adam Liptak of the New York Times has an analysis here (March 23).

Presidential Race

I’m pretty sure New Hampshire’s definition of gun control is kind of what it is in Texas. Gun control means hittin’ what you aim [at]. -- Ted Cruz, to a New Hampshire audience ...

... David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: "There are 15 noteworthy contenders for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Together, they own at least 40 guns.... Former Florida governor Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — don’t own a gun at all.... Nevertheless, their political views on guns are almost all the same. Nearly every GOP contender is broadly opposed to new limits on the purchase or use of guns. In fact, with the exception of Christie — the field’s one true outlier — those who have been rated by the National Rifle Association range from A-plus all the way down to . . . A-minus."

Maureen Dowd has a go at "Bush 45," & her column is worth a read, for once. "Jeb wants it both ways. His litany of foreign policy advisers is a list divided against itself. He wants the money and dynastic privilege that comes with his name, even as he insists he’s a fresh slate."

Invisible Man. AP: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker left a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border without addressing questions being raised about his stance on immigration. The likely Republican presidential contender remained invisible to reporters on Friday during a visit that could have given him a chance to spotlight illegal immigration and border security."

Argumentum Nixonum. Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus blasted Hillary Clinton on Saturday for wiping her server and permanently deleting all emails. 'Even Nixon didn't destroy the tapes,' Priebus said in a statement."

Beyond the Beltway

Tim Swarens of the Indianapolis Star: Indiana "Gov. Mike Pence, scorched by a fast-spreading political firestorm, told The Star on Saturday that he will support the introduction of legislation to 'clarify' that Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians.... [BUT] Asked if that legislation might include making gay and lesbian Hoosiers a protected legal class, Pence said, 'That’s not on my agenda.'” ...

... Tim Evans of the Indy Star: "The continuing blowback over Indiana's new 'religious freedom' law hit home Saturday, with Indianapolis-based Angie's List announcing it is canceling a $40 million headquarters expansion. The decision is a direct result of passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, co-founder and chief executive officer Bill Oesterle said Saturday."

Friday
Mar272015

The Commentariat -- March 28, 2015

Mike DeBonis & Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: Harry Reid's "retirement announcement came Friday accompanied by an almost magical development: a quiet and bloodless succession. Reid's endorsement of his top deputy, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) makes Schumer the heavy favorite to assume the Democratic leader's chair in 2017, forestalling a messy intracaucus battle that would have played out over the next two years.... Schumer is vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, the third-ranking party leader, but has long been seen as more likely to succeed Reid than the No. 2, Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.)." ...

... Manu Raju & Burgess Everett of Politico write what they say is the "inside story" on how Schumer got (or, rather, will get) the leadership job. ...

... Nora Kelly of the National Journal: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid was just finishing up a discussion on collective bargaining during a Friday appearance on Nevada Public Radio when an unexpected fan called in. It was President Obama." ...

... Molly Ball of the Atlantic on Harry Reid & his career. A most enjoyable read.

Alex Ronan of New York: "Long-action reversible contraceptives — which include IUDs and under-the-skin implants ... are the most effective form of birth control aside from sterilization: Failure rates range between .05 percent and .8 percent (by comparison, the failure rate of the pill is 9 percent, and for condoms, 18 percent). LARCs are also invisible to nosy parents. New research shows that when teen girls get LARCs for free, teen pregnancy rates drop dramatically." So naturally, Republican men oppose them. Because IUDS are responsible for "stopping a small child from implanting." CW: I wonder why Republicans promote abstinence, which also "stops a small child from implanting."

President Obama & David Simon, creator of "The Wire," have a conversation about drug-use abatement.

Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "An examination of the server that housed the personal email account that Hillary Rodham Clinton used exclusively when she was secretary of state showed that there are no copies of any emails she sent during her time in office, her lawyer [David Kendall] told a congressional committee on Friday." ...

... Lauren French of Politico: "'While it is not clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department,' Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, said in a statement. Clinton was under a subpoena order from the panel for all documents related to the 2012 attacks on the American compound there.... Gowdy said that Clinton's response to the subpoena means he and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will now contemplate new legal actions against Clinton." ...

... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Responding to controversy over Hillary Clinton's use of a private email account as the nation's top diplomat, Secretary of State John Kerry is asking the agency's internal watchdog to launch a review of how it handles its records and responds to requests for information."

White House: "In this week's address, the President highlighted the progress made protecting American consumers since he signed Wall Street reform into law five years ago, including an important new step taken by the independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this week toward preventing abuses in payday lending":

Emily Flitter of Reuters: "Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren's call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest.... Citigroup has decided to withhold donations for now to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee over concerns that Senate Democrats could give Warren and lawmakers who share her views more power.... JPMorgan representatives have met Democratic Party officials to emphasize the connection between its annual contribution and the need for a friendlier attitude toward the banks...." ...

... Elizabeth Warren responds: "In 2008, the financial sector collapsed and nearly brought down our whole economy. What were the ingredients behind that crash? Recklessness on Wall Street and a willingness in Washington to play along with whatever the big banks wanted.... The biggest banks on Wall Street have made it clear that they expect a return on their investment in Washington.... The big banks have issued a threat, and it's up to us to fight back."

When Being a Do-Gooder May Be Unethical. Anna Palmer & John Brenahan of Politico: "The House Ethics Committee is launching a full-scale investigation into whether Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield improperly aided his wife's lobbying work for the Humane Society Legislative Fund."

Liz Sly of the Washington Post: "The meltdown in Yemen is pushing the Middle East dangerously closer toward the wider regional conflagration many long have feared would arise from the chaos unleashed by the Arab Spring revolts. What began as a peaceful struggle to unseat a Tunisian dictator four years ago and then mutated into civil strife now risks spiraling into a full-blown war between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran over a country that lies at the choke point of one of the world's major oil supply routes."

Melissa Eddy, et al., of the New York Times: "Andreas Lubitz, the pilot at the controls of the Germanwings jetliner that crashed into the French Alps on Tuesday, had a mental illness but kept the diagnosis hidden from his employer, the authorities said Friday.... Prosecutors said Friday that among the items found at Mr. Lubitz's home were several doctors' notes stating that he was too ill to work, including on the day of the crash...." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Andreas Lubitz ... sought treatment for vision problems that may have jeopardized his ability to continue working as a pilot, two officials with knowledge of the investigation said Saturday." ...

... Ben Knight, et al., of the Guardian: "The co-pilot on the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps wanted to ... 'do something' history would remember him by, according to reports. Andreas Lubitz, 27, had hidden a sicknote declaring him unfit to work on the day of the disaster.... According to the German newspaper Bild, a former girlfriend of Lubitz, identified only as Mary W, said he had told her last year: 'One day I will do something that will change the whole system, and then all will know my name and remember it.'" ...

... It didn't take long for confederate Islamophobes to "discover" that Lubitz was a Muslim convert. Even if the "facts" haven't quite been "authenticated," we do know for sure that Lubitz took his pilot training in Bremen, a German town that has a mosque which has been investigated for ties to ISIS. Also, Lubitz took a break from his pilot training six years back when he "probably converted to Islam." ...

... CW: I was going to suggest that if the loon contingent could just peg Tim McVeigh as a Muslim, their absurdist world would be perfect. Oh, they're way ahead of me. According to a 2010 story in the conspiracy-driven Accuracy in Media (great handle!) organization, "Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was in fact a front man for Middle Eastern terrorists. The third terrorist, in addition to the two, McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who were convicted, was an Arab." Turns out Bill Clinton covered up the "real story" for "political reasons."

Mairav Zonszein of the Guardian: "Israel killed more Palestinian civilians in 2014 than in any other year since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip began in 1967, a UN report has said. Israel's activities in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem resulted in the deaths of 2,314 Palestinians and 17,125 injuries...."

... CW: Those Palestinians killed & injured were Israeli citizens, if not by choice. By comparison, imagine if the U.S. government had killed more than 90,000 Americans last year, approximately the same percentage as the percent of its citizens the Israeli government killed. ...

... Jimmy Carter in a Washington Post op-ed: "Ultimately, only a peace agreement that grants freedom to self-governed Palestinians can bring the security that both the Israeli and Palestinian people deserve. As long as Palestinians remain divided, it will be difficult for any leader to sell to the Palestinian people a peace agreement with Israel. Absent such an agreement, lifting the closure and jump-starting Gaza's reconstruction can do much to avert the next war."

Presidential Race

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "When former Secretary of State James A. Baker III accused Israel's leader this week of undermining the chances of peace in the region, he said nothing more than the kinds of things he had said at times when he was in office a quarter-century ago. But the instant backlash from fellow Republicans that prompted Jeb Bush, the son of Mr. Baker's best friend, to distance himself underscored just how much their party has changed on the issue of Israel.... Within minutes, conservatives on Twitter blasted Mr. Baker..., who had just been listed as an adviser to Jeb Bush.... By the next morning, Jeb Bush authorized his spokeswoman to publicly differ, but [billionaire Sheldon] Adelson and other pro-Israel donors are said to remain incensed at Mr. Bush for not stopping the speech or dumping Mr. Baker."

Dylan Byers of Politico: "Former press hound Scott Walker limits media availability in wake of slip ups." CW: When stupid keeps dripping from your mouth, it's a darned good idea to try to keep your lips zipped.

He's still Ted Cruz. -- New Hampshire Republican, on why Cruz won't win the state's primary

James Hohmann of Politico: Political operatives think Ted Cruz has little a chance of winning either the Iowa or New Hampshire primary -- or the nomination. ...

... BUT maybe you'll want to take Gail Collins' Ted Cruz quiz anyway. For one thing, guessing the answers is easy. For another, it made me like avocados (& here I don't mean Spanish-speaking lawyers, especially not Cruz) even more.

Old Randy/New Randy. The Most Interesting Man in Politics Is Now a Confederate Bore. Steve Benen: "Rand Paul seemed to fascinate much of the Beltway media, not through adept legislating, but by taking positions that break with GOP orthodoxy.... He opposed aid to Israel, was open to immigration reform, wasn't crazy about Guantanamo Bay, opposed war with Iran, was eager to cut military spending, was a civil libertarian on issues involving the national security state, and had some libertarian instincts on social issues.... However..., the new [Rand Paul] supports aid to Israel, opposes immigration, wants to keep Guantanamo open, signed onto the Iran sabotage letter, wants to increase military spending, supports the use of domestic drones, and [strongly opposes gay marriage]."

Beyond the Beltway

Michael Barbaro & Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "An Indiana law that could make it easier for religious conservatives to refuse service to gay couples touched off storms of protest on Friday from the worlds of arts, business and college athletics and opened an emotional new debate in the emerging campaign for president.... A similar furor was building in Arkansas on Friday as the State Senate adopted a version of the bill that has inflamed the state's corporate giants, like Walmart, and high-tech companies the state is now wooing."

We've had an epidemic of racism all across our country. Ferguson, Missouri, might be the best-known case. -- David Boren, University of Oklahoma president ...

... Joey Stipek & Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "A racist song that caused a national uproar when it was caught on video was a fixture within a fraternity chapter at the University of Oklahoma and not an anomaly, the university reported Friday, and members first learned it at a gathering of the national fraternity four years ago. 'It was learned by chapter members on a national leadership cruise sponsored by the national organization of Sigma Alpha Epsilon,' the university said in a brief report on the results of its inquiry into the episode. 'Over time, the chant was formalized in the local S.A.E. chapter and was taught to pledges as part of the formal and informal pledgeship process.'" CW: Fraternities usually manage to be a little worse than you imagined.

Andrea Chang, et al., of the Los Angeles Times: "A civil-court jury Friday returned a verdict in the high-profile Ellen Pao gender discrimination case, finding that powerful venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers did not discriminate against her because of her gender and did not retaliate when she protested her treatment."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Arab leaders vowed Saturday to back the embattled Yemeni president as a Saudi Arabia-led coalition intensified airstrikes on Shiite rebel targets across Yemen, escalating a conflict that many residents fear could lead to a land invasion.... The Saudis and their allies think that the Shiite rebels are backed by Iran and that Tehran is trying to exert control over a country that had been an ally of Riyadh and Washington."

Telegraph: "A close media aide to Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, has sought political asylum in Switzerland after travelling to Lausanne to cover the nuclear talks between Tehran and the West.Amir Hossein Motaghi, who managed public relations for Mr Rouhani during his 2013 election campaign, was said by Iranian news agencies to have quit his job at the Iran Student Correspondents Association (ISCA). He then appeared on an opposition television channel based in London to say he no longer saw any 'sense' in his profession as a journalist as he could only write what he was told."