Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President described the historic understanding the United States – with our allies and partners – reached with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and will make our country, our allies, and our world safer":

The Ledes

Saturday, April 18, 2015.

Washington Post: Thousands of families fleeing Iraq’s western city of Ramadi choked checkpoints leading to Baghdad on Friday, after an Islamic State advance spread panic and left security forces clinging to control."

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, April 17, 2015.

Yahoo! News: "The parents of the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombing are pressing federal prosecutors to drop their quest for the death penalty for convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, arguing that a life sentence without parole would “end the anguish” of a continuing trial and what is likely to be years of appeals. Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son, Martin, was killed by the second of two pressure cooker bombs detonated near the finish line of the 2013 marathon, said in a lengthy statement published in Friday’s Boston Globe that Tsarnaev’s conviction in the guilt phase of the trial earlier this month ensures 'justice will be served' and that it’s time 'to bring the case to a close.'”

Washington Post: "A top aide of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been killed during fighting against Sunni insurgent forces, senior Iraqi officials claimed Friday, in a potential blow to factions opposing the government in Baghdad. But previous reports over the years about the death of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri have proven wrong. Photos purporting to show Douri’s body circulated on social media, but not from any official sources. Iraqi officials said a DNA analysis of the body was planned. It was unclear when results could be released."

Washington Post: "Last week in Milwaukee, a 2-year-old darted into the street and was struck and killed by a motorist. When the motorist got out to aid the child, he was shot and killed by someone in the street. Also shot and killed was the toddler’s 15 year old brother, who had run to the scene after the accident. On Thursday, the child’s uncle, who police suspected opened fire as an apparent act of revenge, took his own life as authorities closed in on him." ...

     The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story is here.

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
April 17

11:50 am ET: President Obama & Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy hold a press conference

1:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the Democratic Coalition PAC retreat (audio only)

3:50 pm ET: President & Mrs. Obama host a poetry reading by U.S. Poet Laureate Elizabeth Alexander

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

Guardian: "Allegations that a 17-year-old was forced to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew, which prompted a crisis at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, have been removed from a federal court case by a judge in the US. Judge Kenneth Marra ordered Virginia Roberts’s accusations about Andrew, the Duke of York, to be struck from the record and denied her attempt to join a lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the prince and a convicted sex offender. 'At this juncture in the proceedings, these lurid details are unnecessary,' Marra wrote in his order, issued at the US district court in southern Florida on Tuesday morning.... Andrew and Buckingham Palace vehemently deny Roberts’s allegations."

Washington Monthly: "Today [April 7] marks the centennial of Billie Holliday’s birth."

Wild Things Interrupt President Obama's reading of "Where the Wild Things Are" at the White House's Easter Egg Roll:

... Don't Worry, Bee Happy. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The pint-sized guests Monday might not have listened to him, but the president’s National Pollinator Initiative will forge ahead. Last June Obama launched an inter-agency task force charged with developing a federal strategy to protect pollinators, which help sustain crops ranging from almonds to blueberries and broccoli, and it should be unveiling a detailed plan in a matter of months."

The Coolest First Lady in the History of the Nation:


Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: "For her forthcoming book, “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House,” Kate Andersen Brower managed to elicit stories from domestic staff who witnessed up close the loneliness of President Nixon as he faced impeachment, the weariness of Hillary Clinton as her husband’s sex scandal exploded and other surprisingly intimate moments involving the first families. Most of these stories — from Nancy Reagan’s tirade over three broken tchotchkes to the tearful hug Jackie and Bobby Kennedy shared with a favorite doorman in an elevator — are attributed to staffers by name, not wrapped in the cloud of anonymous sourcing that usually cloaks reporting about the inner workings of the White House." ...

Here's What $75mm Buys:

... Orange County Register: "President Richard Nixon's Western White House, an oceanfront San Clemente estate owned by retired Allergan CEO Gavin S. Herbert, is for sale at $75 million. Herbert, 83, is selling the 5.45-acre estate after owning the property for 35 years." Includes slideshow.

New York: "Here's a spoiler for people who haven't finished House of Cards season three yet: Frank Underwood doesn't die, because Netflix [April 2] announced that it had renewed Cards for a fourth season."

Los Angeles Times: "On Tuesday afternoon, just about lunch time, a 'flying saucer' was undergoing a spin test in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The saucer is technically a 15-foot wide, 7,000-pound aerodynamic test vehicle. It is designed to help engineers try out new technologies for landing spacecraft, and someday people, on Mars."

Guardian: "Comedy Central is standing by its new Daily Show host Trevor Noah, after the 31-year-old South African comedian set to replace Jon Stewart was criticized for a series of controversial jokes he tweeted before his appointment." ...

... Jessica Winter of Salon: "Not since John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate have the vetting capacities of a powerful political force been cast into such doubt." Besides being a misogynist pig & an anti-Semite, Noah isn't even funny."

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:

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Friday
Apr172015

The Commentariat -- April 18, 2015

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "As world leaders converge [in Washington, D.C.,] for their semiannual trek to the capital of what is still the world’s most powerful economy, concern is rising in many quarters that the United States is retreating from global economic leadership just when it is needed most. The spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have filled Washington with motorcades and traffic jams and loaded the schedules of President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew. But they have also highlighted what some in Washington and around the world see as a United States government so bitterly divided that it is on the verge of ceding the global economic stage it built at the end of World War II and has largely directed ever since." ...

... CW: This should serve to remind Villagers that Republican "leaders"' shenanigans are a huge drag on our economy, not only in terms of their uniformly bad policies but also in the image we present to others around the globe. On Sunday, will Chuck Todd wring his hands at the economic turbulence Republicans have caused? Not a chance; instead, he & the bobbleheads at his roundtable will be assessing Scott Walker's "performance" in New Hampshire or something similarly inane.

Peter Baker & Rick Gladstone of the New York Times: "President Obama on Friday directed his diplomats to use 'creative negotiations' to bridge a sharp divide with Iran over the fate of sanctions if it agrees to curb its nuclear program, signaling flexibility in hopes of keeping a tentative agreement from unraveling.... Mr. Obama said he was 'frankly surprised' that Russia had held back selling the weapons [to Iran] this long, but added that the decision buttressed his argument in favor of a deal because it showed that international solidarity could crumble."

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "African American and other civil rights leaders infuriated over the stalled confirmation vote on Loretta E. Lynch, the first black woman to be nominated for attorney general, are casting the delay as an issue with racial overtones.... Activists across the country are three days into a hunger strike over the Senate’s failure to vote on Lynch. African American groups have also protested outside the offices of senators who oppose her leading the Justice Department.... In his strongest comments to date about the issue — and his most animated remarks during a press conference Friday with the Italian prime minister — [President Obama] called the Senate’s inaction a 'crazy situation.... There are times when the dysfunction in the Senate just goes too far ... Enough. Enough. Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed. Put her in place. Let her do her job. This is embarrassing, a process like that [sic.; this]'”:

     ... CW: Do take the time to listen to the President's remarks. History will remember the moment when the POTUS finally said "Enough!"

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The immediate fate of President Obama’s sweeping immigration overhaul now rests with a three-judge appeals panel after an intense legal clash on Friday between lawyers for the federal government and for a 26-state coalition that has challenged the executive actions."

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "On Wednesday, Justice Samuel Alito temporarily stayed a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upholding Obama administration rules expanding access to birth control. Alito’s order is not particularly surprising, and it only stays the Third Circuit order pending further action by Alito or the Court.... Nevertheless, Alito’s order is a warning that this issue will not remain in the lower courts forever."

Jaime Fuller of New York: "New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced legislation on Wednesday that would recommend that the Treasury Secretary 'convene a panel of citizens' who would debate which woman could replace Andrew Jackson on the $20. A grassroots campaign, Women on 20s, has earned major buzz for pushing this idea — hundreds of thousands of people have voted on the group's website for which woman they would like to see on U.S. currency (Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks are favorites)." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "In a little-noticed radio interview, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) articulated the GOP's biggest fear if the Supreme Court wipes out Obamacare tax credits for millions of Americans who buy insurance from the federal HealthCare.gov exchange. The fear: President Barack Obama and Democrats will be ready with a one-page bill to restore the subsidies, as well as a slew of attack ads telling horror stories about 'individuals that have benefited from Obamacare on the backs of the American taxpayer' and lost their coverage, the Republican said." CW Translation: The only thing we have to fear is the truth itself.

Robin McKie of the Guardian: "... last week, one of the three UK scientists who discovered the hole [in the ozone over Antarctica] in 1985 warned that the real lessons of the story had still not been learned. 'Yes, an international treaty was established fairly quickly to deal with the ozone hole, but really the main point about its discovery was that it shows how incredibly rapidly we can produce major changes to our atmosphere and how long it takes for nature to recover from them,' said Jon Shanklin of the British Antarctic Survey."

Emily Steel & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "The staff lawyers at the Justice Department reviewing Comcast’s proposed $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable have raised concerns about the merger and are leaning toward recommending that it be blocked, according to a person with knowledge of the deliberations."

Presidential Race

Dan Roberts & Nicky Woolf of the Guardian: "Jeb Bush and Chris Christie competed head-to-head to address their perceived character flaws before Republican activists in New Hampshire on Friday during the first big 'cattle call' of the party’s presidential primary race. Speaking within minutes of each other in a small hotel in Nashua, the two heavyweights [(no pun intended) are] seen as closest to the party mainstream.... Inside the room, Christie’s refusal to apologise for who he was appeared to go down better than Bush’s studied humility. Every joke got a laugh. Every applause line landed. Christie spoke like a man enjoying every second, and when he was done the room leapt immediately to their feet. Bush, by contrast, seemed to speak to a spot about 10ft up the back wall. He wandered around the stage as if lost, settling about 5ft to the left of the podium, so the cameras caught him half-offscreen." CW: Maybe Juanito had difficulty because he wasn't speaking Hispanic. ...

     ... CW Award for This Week's Most Awkward Clause in Political Reporting: "... the room leapt immediately to their feet." Also, too, Chris & Jebbie did not "compete head-to-head" inasmuch as they were not in the room at the same time. ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: " Former Florida governor  Jeb Bush on Friday once again defended his decision to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman whose death capped an intense national debate about ethics and politics, but also suggested that Medicare recipients should be required to outline end-of-life care plans before accepting the benefits." ...

... Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Jeb Bush indicated on Thursday night that President Obama’s choice for attorney general, Loretta E. Lynch, ought to be confirmed – putting him at odds with a number of Senate Republicans who’ve said they would try to block the nomination.... 'I think presidents have the right to pick their team,' Mr. Bush said, in response to a questioner.... 'If someone is supportive of the president’s policies, whether you agree with them or not, there should be some deference to the executive,' Mr. Bush said. 'It should not always be partisan.' ... Mr. Bush made the comments in New Hampshire, at the 'Politics and Pie' town hall-style forum in Concord, N.H., where he seemed loose and engaged, joking with questioners and, at one point, getting hectored by over immigration reform." CW: Maybe he just likes pie. ...

... Get Back to Work, You Lazy Old Coots! Shane Goldmacher of the National Journal: "Jeb Bush grabbed one of the third rails of American politics on Friday, declaring that the retirement age for Social Security should be raised and 'in relatively short order.'"

In 2008, while Democrats were declaring that the time was right for national health care reform, Marco Rubio, the speaker of the Florida House, had a ready response: Florida should build a market-based system.... Rubio pushed his no-mandate health insurance exchange, dubbed Florida Health Choices, through the state Legislature that year.... Florida Health Choices, which finally opened last year, now covers 80 people. [Emphasis added.] Obamacare, which Rubio wants to repeal, covers 1.6 million in Florida alone. And 93 percent of them are subsidized.... Rubio spokeswoman Brooke Sammon said the senator continues to support a 'true free-market exchange,' and she blamed Obamacare’s subsidies for luring buyers away from Florida Health Choices." ...

... Charles Gaba: "Divide [those 80 enrollees] into the $2.4 million in taxpayer funding and the cost [of Rubio's program] per enrollee is now back down to a mere $30,000 apiece!" The cost for Healthcare.gov: "That works out to around $210 - $260 per HC.gov enrollee. Let's call it an even $250.... So basically, 7 years after getting started, Rubio and his GOP colleagues have managed to spend 120 times as much per person as the Big Gubm'nt Obamacare." Via Paul Waldman.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told Fox News Friday he would officially announce his presidential campaign plans May 5 in his -- and former President Bill Clinton's -- hometown of Hope, Ark. Speaking with reporters in Washington earlier in the day, Huckabee insisted he had not made a decision yet about running, although he said that 'things are progressing along' in his preparations. He sounded like an all-but-declared candidate, saying a super PAC has been formed to support his likely candidacy and touting his supporter network in Iowa, home to the nation's first presidential caucuses, which Huckabee won in 2008." ...

... John McCormack of the Weekly Standard: "As he gears up for another presidential campaign, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is making a big break with the Republican party on the issue of entitlement reform. Meeting with reporters at a hotel in Washington, D.C. [Friday] morning, Huckabee strongly criticized New Jersey governor Chris Christie's proposal to reform Social Security and said he would not sign Paul Ryan's Medicare reform into law if he were president. 'I don't know why Republicans want to insult Americans by pretending they don't understand what their Social Security program and Medicare program is,' Huckabee said in response to a question about Christie's proposal to gradually raise the retirement age and implement a means test.... 'That's not a reform,' he said. "... We are embracing a government that lied to its people -- that took money from its people under one pretense and then took it away at the time when they started wanting to actually get what they have paid for all these years.'" CW: Huckabee's stance on Social Security & Medicare is reason enough to be glad to see him enter the race. I am looking forward to seeing Huck whack his fellow candidates during debates.

Scooby-Two. Maggie Haberman: "Hillary Rodham Clinton’s finance team will go on a fund-raising road trip next week, holding a series of meetings with hundreds of small donors on the East Coast as a way to engage supporters ahead of larger planned events aimed at those who are expected to bundle donations and collect a larger number of checks. The meetings — in Washington, Virginia, Maryland and New York — reflect the desire of the Clinton campaign to be inclusive and have a slow ramp-up, without major fund-raisers scheduled until May."

AND Donald Trump continues to be the most disgusting person pretending to run for president. CW: I know I'm going to have to keep linking to stories about this pig, but I'm going to do so as sparingly as possible. If you think I've missed some "newsworthy" story about Trump, maybe I've just given it a pass, the way I so often do when Sarah Palin says something stupid enough to garner media attention.

Beyond the Beltway

Tom Dart of the Guardian: "Texas lawmakers are on the brink of passing 'open carry' gun legislation that critics say will put the public at risk. The Texas House voted 96-35 to provisionally approve the bill in Austin on Friday night. It will allow firearms owners in Texas who have concealed handgun permits –some 850,000 people – to openly carry their weapons in public in a hip or shoulder holster."

AP: "Oklahoma became the first US state to approve nitrogen gas for executions under a measure Governor Mary Fallin signed into law Friday that provides an alternative death penalty method if lethal injections aren’t possible, either because of a court ruling or a drug shortage. Executions are on hold in Oklahoma while the US supreme court considers whether the state’s current three-drug method of lethal injection is constitutional."

Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "Clarence W. Habersham Jr., the first officer to arrive on the scene after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man named Walter L. Scott, is drawing intense scrutiny both for the questions surrounding his response to the shooting and for what his role has illuminated about the pressures and expectations black officers face in largely white police departments."

Kathleen McGrory & Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times & Miami Herald: "Republican Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday he will sue the federal government for allegedly coercing Florida to expand Medicaid.... '... it is difficult to understand how suing CMS on Day 45 of a 60-day session regarding an issue the state has been aware of for the last 12 months will yield a timely resolution to the critical health care challenges facing our state," Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said...." ...

... Brian Beutler does an excellent job of explaining the background for the suit. Ultimately, "Scott’s argument is transparently frivolous, but it underscores the extent to which the GOP’s deranged resistance to Obamacare is boomeranging on itself.... Scott is suing the federal government to bail him out of a self-made crisis. This isn’t an anomaly, but a pattern. Across the country, Republican governors are coping with the consequences of their own Obamacare intransigence — staring into a future where their insurance markets get destroyed by virtue of their refusal to help implement Obamacare and their unwillingness to take on the right as it pursued litigation." ...

... From a Flip-Flop-Flip to the Absurd. Steve Benen: "This is actually one of the more amazing political fights in the country right now, and it’s worth appreciating why.... The bottom line in this little farce is that Rick Scott is going to extraordinary lengths – embracing and rejecting money, pitting the GOP-led state House against the GOP-led state Senate, dividing his allies, ignoring the needs of hundreds of thousands of his constituents, undermining his own state budget, even turning down tax cuts – because he finds it necessary to be against 'Obamacare.' There’s no real substance to any of this... The consequences are predictably absurd." ...

... OR, as Joan McCarter of Daily Kos succinctly explains, "Rick Scott says he'll sue to get federal money that doesn't have Obamacare cooties."

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times makes the well-taken point that Gov. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) is using the poor as scapegoats for his terrible economic policies. CW: A person who blames the most vulnerable for his own failings is nothing but a bully.


Re: a comment by Akhilleus in yesterday's thread, here's Shirley Jackson's "The Daemon Lover."

Thursday
Apr162015

The Commentariat -- April 17, 2015

Afternoon News.

Jaime Fuller of New York: "New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced legislation on Wednesday that would recommend that the Treasury Secretary 'convene a panel of citizens' who would debate which woman could replace Andrew Jackson on the $20. A grassroots campaign, Women on 20s, has earned major buzz for pushing this idea — hundreds of thousands of people have voted on the group's website for which woman they would like to see on U.S. currency (Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks are favorites)."

*****

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The leaders of Congress’s tax-writing committees reached agreement Thursday on legislation to give President Obama 'fast track' authority to negotiate an ambitious trade accord with 11 other Pacific nations, beginning what is sure to be one of the toughest legislative battles of his last 19 months in office. The 'trade promotion authority' bill — likely to be unveiled Thursday afternoon — would give Congress the power to vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership once it is completed, but would deny lawmakers the chance to amend what would be the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... The Washington Post story, by David Nakamura & Paul Kane, is here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Adam Behsudi in Politico Magazine: "The most important trade bill in a decade has pitted Harry Reid against President Barack Obama. Liberal Democrat Rosa DeLauro against moderate Democrat Ron Kind. Labor unions against pro-business Democrats. And Elizabeth Warren against virtually everyone who supports a landmark piece of legislation that would allow the president to close what could be the biggest free-trade deal in history. The open warring among Democrats over fast-track trade legislation, and the party’s broader existential crisis on free trade, grew more pronounced Thursday as senior lawmakers announced a breakthrough on the trade bill." ...

... Deirdre Fulton of Common Dreams has more, including a host of objections to the bill. ...

... Russell Berman of the Atlantic: "Don't look now, but congressional Republicans are once again on the verge of handing over more power to President Obama. The announcement Thursday that House and Senate negotiators had struck a deal on 'fast track' trade authority ... could lead to the ratification of the biggest international trade agreement since NAFTA, along with the most significant legislative achievement that the GOP Congress delivers to Obama.... Despite their rhetorical attacks on his imperial presidency, Republicans sometimes see enlarging Obama's authority as the best path to enacting their desired policies."

David Nakamura: "The Obama administration will attempt Friday to convince a federal appeals court to lift a lower-court ruling that has blocked the government from implementing the president’s executive actions to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation and to grant them work permits. In a rare oral argument before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, Justice Department lawyers will have at least one hour to make their case that a federal judge in Texas erred in February when he halted Obama’s deferred-action program as he deliberates over a lawsuit filed by 26 states." ...

     ... The New York Times story, by Michael Shear, is here.

John Bresnahan, et al., of Politico: "House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster is dating a top lobbyist for the leading U.S. airline trade association, an organization that spends millions of dollars trying to influence his panel. The Pennsylvania Republican is currently at the center of high-stakes negotiations to enact the most sweeping overhaul of the Federal Aviation Administration in decades. The package could include changes to the nation’s air travel system, including the privatization of the air traffic control system. Airlines for America’s members — all of the nation’s largest airlines — have a major interest in the legislation. Shuster and Shelley Rubino, vice president for global government affairs for Airlines for America, have been romantically involved since last summer, according to multiple sources familiar with their relationship." ...

... Sleeping with a Lobbyist -- Is Probably Perfectly Legal. Margaret Hartmann of New York elaborates, noting Shuster's close & longstanding relationships with other Airlines for America personnel.

Steve Stromberg of the Washington Post explains why the delay in confirming Loretta Lynch to be attorney general is all Mitch McConnell's fault & has nothing to do with abortion, a provision in a sex trafficking bill or anything else. Reporters & headline writers are getting it wrong by linking -- as McConnell has -- Lynch to the Senate's failure to pass a trafficking bill. 

CW: Rebecca Leber of the National Journal finds some somewhat tenuous evidence, IMO, that Republican leaders aren't really stupid about climate change; they're just pretending to be, as a political expedient -- they're afraid of losing primary challenges to flat-earthers. So is this also true about their far-out stances on war, economics & social issues? If so, does it matter what they really know & think if they continue to push bad policies?

Paul Duggan, et al., of the Washington Post: "Doug Hughes, the under-the-radar postal worker who airmailed himself into the Washington limelight in a putt-putt flying machine, was charged with a felony Thursday and sent home to Florida to await prosecution, a day after he landed his gyrocopter on the U.S. Capitol grounds in a self-described 'crazy' act of civil-aviation disobedience.... Meanwhile, as members of Congress vowed to investigate how the flying mailman managed to penetrate Washington’s air-defense system, the Secret Service on Thursday denied a report that it was tipped off to the impending incursion moments after Hughes’s takeoff."

Somini Sengupta of the New York Times: "With Syria’s neighbors increasingly shutting their borders to refugees and thousands trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of safety, the war in Syria is creating the worst global refugee crisis in decades, putting new pressure on the United States and other Western countries to open their doors — and in turn, prompting domestic political backlash." ...

... AFP: "The UN security council has vowed to take action against those responsible for deadly chemical weapons attacks in Syria after hearing graphic first-hand accounts from doctors working there. The US ambassador, Samantha Power, who said many council members were reduced to tears by the reports, told reporters after the closed-door meeting that the security council would seek to identify those behind the attacks and ensure they faced justice."

So if President Obama expresses disagreement with a person's views, he is apparenlty "suppressing domestic dissent" a la Castro, if not outright violating that person's First Amendment free speech rights, according to Tom Cotton. This we learn from Charles Pierce, in a post titled "Tom Cotton Says Something Dumb: A Continuing Series." CW: As for me, I'm thinking that if Harvard College & Harvard Law concentrated more on educating the kids than on maximizing their endowment, they would not be turning out such dunderheads.

Gimme That Old-Time Macro. Paul Krugman: "If you want to feel really depressed about Europe’s future, read the Op-Ed article by Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, that was published Wednesday by The Times. It’s a flat-out rejection of everything we know about macroeconomics, of all the insights that European experience these past five years confirms. In Mr. Schäuble’s world, austerity leads to confidence, confidence creates growth, and, if it’s not working for your country, it’s because you’re not doing it right.... In recent years..., innovative economic ideas, far from helping to provide a solution, have been part of the problem. We would have been far better off if we had stuck to that old-time macroeconomics, which is looking better than ever."

David Graham of the Atlantic on the revolving door between financial firms & their regulators, today starring Ben Bernanke (with Deval Patrick in a cameo appearance): "Bernanke is going to work for Citadel, a $25 billion hedge fund that is one of the country's largest. While Bernanke is a talented economist, he has also never worked in the industry, so it's fairly clear that what Citadel wants is inside information — either things he knows because he remains close with people in positions of authority, or his insight into ongoing negotiations. That's why he's been in high demand by financial-industry powers ever since stepping down last February.... Perhaps what makes Bernanke's case so worrisome is that he has an almost universal reputation for probity. If the revolving-door system is so powerful that it can make even him look suspect, is it beyond redemption?"

Jonathan Chait writes an interesting piece -- a must for political nerds -- on how "negative partisanship" has changed voting patterns. "... the understandable reliance on the models of the past, and the assumption that nothing ever changes, may be missing the fact that something very important has."

Presidential Race

We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all -- even if it takes a constitutional amendment. -- Hillary Clinton, in Monticello, Iowa

... Charles Pierce: "Of course, Rodham Clinton is absolutely right, but she is stuck with the towering, immortal irony that she might be pitching for this constitutional amendment from atop a billion-dollar presidential campaign that is not going to be funded by widows and orphans." Read the whole post. ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker on the Clinton Foundation's dodgy ethics. "... there is something particularly disorienting about the size and geographic scope of the Clinton operation. And it is strange, going into the 2016 Presidential campaign, that Hillary Clinton isn’t more wary of that.... Presented with a conflict, the Clintons just don’t seem to see why they should have to make a choice." ...

... So this comes as no surprise. Sam Stein & Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post: "Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign will accept donations from lobbyists and political action committees, a difference in policy from the man she's hoping to replace...." ...

... But this is a pleasant surprise, if true. Philip Mattingly of Bloomberg: "Hillary Clinton is planning to name Gary Gensler, a former top federal financial regulator and strong advocate for strict Wall Street rules, as the chief financial officer of her campaign, according to a Democrat familiar with the decision. Gensler, in his role as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, was a leading player in the drafting and then implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act, the financial rules that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010 in the wake of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Gensler also served in President Bill Clinton's Treasury Department. For Clinton, who has been fighting her left flank’s concern that she is too cozy with Wall Street, Gensler is a notable hire."

Dubya Redux. Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "If Jeb Bush is elected president, the United States won’t be on speaking terms with Cuba and will partner more closely with Israel. He’ll tighten sanctions on Iran and urge NATO to deploy more troops in Eastern Europe to counter Vladimir Putin. And he’ll order the U.S. military to root out 'barbarians' and 'evildoers' around the globe. Far from running from or playing down the views once expressed by his brother George W. Bush, Jeb Bush is embracing them — and emphasizing them." CW: Hey, maybe Jeb will assemble the whole team: Cheney, Rummie, Tenet, Yoo, etc.

Jeffrey Frank of the New Yorker compares Marco Rubio -- unfavorably -- to then-Vice President Richard Nixon. Remarkably, Nixon -- who had no abiding interest in Cuba -- had a better handle on Cuba than does Rubio, who has been intimately involved with U.S.-Cuba relations all his life. The quality of today's GOP presidential candidates is scarier than a Nixon Halloween mask. ...

... Arit John of Bloomberg: "A day after being called the 'candidate of yesterday' by CNN's Jake Tapper over his opposition to same-sex marriage during a CNN interview, Rubio told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos on Wednesday that he would participate in a gay wedding involving someone he loves. At the same time, he called homosexuality a choice and compared a gay wedding to a divorcee’s second marriage. 'I’m a member of the Catholic faith,' the Florida senator said. 'It teaches that marriages — after you get married the first time, if you’ve been divorced you can’t be remarried, and yet people attend second marriages all the time.' Rubio ... has said he believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman...." ...

... Oddly enough, Steve M. finds Marco's tap-dancing hypocritical: "Right, Marco. So why not take that a step further? Because I've noticed an interesting thing: Even though you think they're immoral, you and your fellow Catholics aren't trying to make divorce and remarriage illegal."

Lee Bergquist & Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "As Gov. Scott Walker moves closer to a formal announcement that he will run for president, a new poll shows his approval rating in Wisconsin is slipping.... Some of Walker's budget proposals were overwhelmingly unpopular, the poll found. For instance, 78% of voters opposed Walker's plan to cut aid to schools by $127 million. Nearly as many, 70%, oppose Walker's plan to cut $300 million to the University of Wisconsin System. Walker, who is in Europe this week on a trade mission, told reporters in a conference call that he expected to be able to prevent the cut to schools and possibly could reduce the size of the budget reduction for UW." The story ahas info on the Johnson/Feingold poll -- see also Senate Race below.

A Gathering of Awful. Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "With every major Republican presidential hopeful descending on New Hampshire this weekend for the state’s first candidate forum, attention will turn for the moment from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s entry into the campaign to the fluid Republican race.... the audition there offers a chance for one of the 19 prospects expected to attend to break out of the pack in a state where there is no clear favorite."

Senate Race

Wouldn't It Be Lovely. Daniel Strauss of TPM: "A new poll finds former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) beating Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) by double digits in the 2016 race for Johnson's senate seat. The Marquette University Law School poll released Thursday found that 54 percent of registered voters say they would support Feingold in a 2016 matchup, while 38 percent said they would support Johnson.... Johnson defeated Feingold in 2010. Recently Feingold stepped down at the State Department and people close to him have told TPM he's gearing up for a rematch."

Beyond the Beltway

Dylan Stableford of Yahoo! News: "The 73-year-old Oklahoma volunteer sheriff’s deputy who accidentally shot and killed an unarmed suspect after confusing his stun gun with his handgun got firearms certification for field training he never received, the Tulsa World newspaper reports. According to Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz, [Robert] Bates had been certified to use three weapons, including the revolver he fired at Harris. But according to Tulsa World’s report, supervisors at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office 'were ordered to falsify [Bates’] training records, giving him credit for field training he never took and firearms certifications he should not have received.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The image of a sanctimonious bastard.Heartless in the Heartland. There’s nothing fun about being on welfare, and a new Kansas law aims to keep it that way. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed House Bill 2258 into law Thursday. The measure means Kansas families receiving government assistance will no longer be able to use those funds to visit swimming pools, see movies, go gambling or get tattoos on the state’s dime. Those are just a few of the restrictions contained within the law that aims to tighten regulations on how poor families spend their government aid.... Under the new welfare law, TANF recipients can still spend their benefit money on guns, the Wichita Eagle reported." ...

... CW: Meanwhile, many Reality Chex readers, not to mention millions of other taxpaying Americans and me, too, filed our tax returns yesterday, wherein we received breaks -- that is, benefits -- totalling well more than $5,964, the maximum a family of four could receive in Kansas welfare benefits over the course of a year. Nobody shamed us, nobody told us we couldn't go to the movies, nobody said we couldn't get our nails done or go on the next sea cruise out of Wichita. Nope, we're the lucky duckies who take our benefits without Sam Brownback & a bunch of self-righteous dumbfuck legislators getting in our wholesome, shiny faces. "God Bless the USA." I believe I'll get me a tattoo that says just that. Because I can. ...

... CW: My intention was to give Sam Brownback this week's Governor's Cup for Extraordinary Cruelty, but there's a close runner-up. Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "Thanks to a measure that was approved by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) this month, insurance coverage for tens of thousands of his constituents could be placed in serious jeopardy if the Supreme Court decides to limit the availability of Obamacare’s subsidies in the states that haven’t fully implemented health reform. The legislation, House Bill 2643, is being framed in terms of giving the state 'sovereign authority' over its policies. In practical terms, it bars state employees from doing anything to cooperate with the federal law — which may prevent Arizona from setting up its own state-run insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act." Congratulations, Your Royal Sovereignty.

Wednesday
Apr152015

The Commentariat -- April 16, 2015

Afternoon News:

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The leaders of Congress's tax-writing committees reached agreement Thursday on legislation to give President Obama 'fast track' authority to negotiate an ambitious trade accord with 11 other Pacific nations, beginning what is sure to be one of the toughest legislative battles of his last 19 months in office. The 'trade promotion authority' bill -- likely to be unveiled Thursday afternoon -- would give Congress the power to vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership once it is completed, but would deny lawmakers the chance to amend what would be the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement." ...

     ... The Washington Post story, by David Nakamura & Paul Kane, is here.

Dylan Stableford of Yahoo! News: "The 73-year-old Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy who accidentally shot and killed an unarmed suspect after confusing his stun gun with his handgun got firearms certification for field training he never received, the Tulsa World newspaper reports. According to Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz, [Robert] Bates had been certified to use three weapons, including the revolver he fired at Harris. But according to Tulsa World's report, supervisors at the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office 'were ordered to falsify [Bates'] training records, giving him credit for field training he never took and firearms certifications he should not have received.'"

*****

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "President Obama's most far-reaching regulation to slow climate change will have its first day in court on Thursday, the beginning of what is expected to be a multiyear legal battle over the policy that Mr. Obama hopes to leave as his signature environmental achievement. In two separate but related cases to be jointly argued in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the country's two largest coal companies, along with 14 coal-producing states, have challenged a proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulation, which the agency issued under the authority of the Clean Air Act, to curb planet-warming carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. If put in effect as E.P.A. officials have proposed, the rule is intended to fundamentally transform the nation's power sector, shuttering hundreds of coal plants and expanding renewable energy sources such as wind and solar."

Washington Post Editors on "the unconscionably shabby treatment the Senate has shown to Loretta Lynch, President Obama's well-qualified nominee for attorney general. The sitting U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, Ms. Lynch was an outstanding choice who should not have had any trouble getting confirmed -- five months ago. Instead, lawmakers have used the opportunity of her nomination to exert legislative leverage and score political points."

Greg Sargent looks at what effects the Corker-Menendez bill could have on a nuclear deal with Iran; Sargent sees problems "at the front end: It risks derailing a deal before it happens. That is a real threat. But if the deal does happen, under the new Corker framework, Congress probably won't be able to stop it."

Charles Blow: As Wayne LaPierre, Bill O'Reilly & a host of winger commentators bemoan the terrible oppression of white men, "One thing that makes this line of reasoning so grating is the degree to which money and power in this country continue to be dominated by white men."

Linda Greenhouse shares a little of what former Justice John Paul Stevens has been doing since he retired. Stevens will be 95 next week. CW: You are reminded anew of what a "moderate Republican" used to be.

Ravi Somaiya, et al., of the New York Times: "NBC News on Wednesday revised its account of the 2012 kidnapping of its chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, saying it was likely that Mr. Engel and his reporting team had been abducted by a Sunni militant group, not forces affiliated with the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. In a statement posted on the NBC News website Wednesday evening, Mr. Engel said that a review of the episode -- prompted by reporting from The New York Times -- had led him to conclude that 'the group that kidnapped us was Sunni, not Shia.' He also wrote that the abductors had 'put on an elaborate ruse to convince us they were Shiite shabiha militiamen.' Mr. Engel and his team were kidnapped in December 2012 while reporting in Syria. They were held for five days."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "If a reporter and his newspaper know in advance -- months in advance, as it turns out -- that a man intended to undertake a stunt that could sow panic in the nation's capital, are they obligated to alert law-enforcement authorities? And should they be faulted for not doing so until the last minute?" Journalism ethicists see this as a no-brainer. The Tampa Bay Times, however, did not notify authorities of Doug Hughes' intentions -- tho about an hour before Hughes landed on the Capitol lawn they called authorities for comments, had a reporter & a photographer on the scene, & profited from the story. (See also April 15 News Ledes.) ...

... CW: As far as I can tell, the Tampa Bay Times did not share its "ethical dilemma" with readers.

Presidential Race

Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "Along with Internet fund-raising, super PACs are helping to form an alternative campaign finance model that is eroding party control over the primary process.... Fifteen years ago, candidates such as [Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee & Chris Christie] would have had virtually no shot of winning the nomination. It took broad support from party donors to build a large war chest -- there was no way around it. Today, all it takes is Internet star power or the right wealthy benefactors. These candidates still don't have a great shot at winning, but they can't be completely ruled out anymore."

"American Gothic." Frank Rich: "Hillary Clinton's opening gambit is to persuade voters that a candidate of wealth and privilege, who has received fat checks for speaking to Goldman Sachs and will have a projected $2.5 billion campaign war chest, is as simple and down-home and as jus' folks as the Iowa farmers in Grant Wood's American Gothic. It is truly delicious to watch.... Unscripted Hillary still feels scripted."

Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade: "Adrienne Elrod, spokesperson for Hillary for America, affirmed [Hillary] Clinton believes same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in a statement to the Washington Blade. 'Hillary Clinton supports marriage equality and hopes the Supreme Court will come down on the side of same-sex couples being guaranteed that constitutional right,' Elrod said. The response follows uncertainty about Clinton's position on same-sex marriage after she talked about a state-by-state approach to the issue an interview with National Public Radio last year." ...

     ... Sahil Kapur of TPM: "It is a notable shift for Clinton...." ...

... Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "When a reporter asked Clinton about her marriage flip-flop at the end of Wednesday's Norwalk[, Iowa,] event, she ignored the question and walked out of the fruit shed.... After her gathering with small-business owners before the cameras, Clinton held a closed-door meeting with Democratic members of the Iowa general assembly at the state capitol. She gave what one attendee described to the Guardian as 'a very progressive speech', re-emphasizing her liberal talking points on immigration reform and getting money out of politics but also 'listening a lot and being humble'." CW: Ah, the Uriah Heep routine. Fetching, I'm sure. ...

... 'Er 'Umble Roots. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Speaking in Iowa Wednesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that all her grandparents had immigrated to the United States, a story that conflicts with public census and other records related to her maternal and paternal grandparents." Turns out only one of her grandparents, Hugh Rodham, was an immigrant; he came to the U.S. as a child. Maybe while being attacked by snipers. ...

... Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times on how the Democratic presidential primary period could shape the party's policy platform. On a number of policies, Clinton has not taken a position. ...

... Jennifer Epstein of Bloomberg: "The Clinton Foundation will continue taking contributions from six foreign governments while barring those from all others and begin disclosing all donations more frequently, it said Wednesday. It's an attempt by the foundation, now led by former President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton, to tighten its financial policies in response to heightened scrutiny as Hillary Clinton begins her presidential campaign." ...

... Time selected Elizabeth Warren as one of its 100 most influential people & tapped Hillary Clinton to provide the write-up. CW: Whichever Clinton staffer wrote the copy did so pitch-perfectly, I'd say. Via Greg Sargent. ...

... Gail Collins wrote a quiz to help you find out how ready you are for Hillary. There are no wrong answers.

... CW Toljaso. Molly Oswaks of New York: "Cheryl Rios, the Dallas-based CEO of Go Ape Marketing, took to Facebook to express her belief that the only person fit for the presidency is a 'a good, strong, honorable man.... If this [-- Hillary's election --] happens -- I am moving to Canada.'... Let's retire the 'moving to Canada' threat.... Canada elected its first female prime minister over two decades ago." ...

... A Wingnut Faces Reality. David Edwards of the Raw Story: "A conservative video blogger with over a million views on YouTube said this week that he would likely vote for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton because he was terrified that a Republican president would take away his affordable health insurance. James Webb, a 51-year-old YouTube celebrity who devotes his 'Hot Lead' channel to topics like his love of guns and ranting about gay men kissing on The Walking Dead, may have shocked his viewers on Monday.... 'And I'm serious because I asked myself, "Which party has helped me out the most in the last, I don't know, 15 years, 20?" And it was the Democrat [SIC] Party,' Webb lamented. 'If it wasn't for Obama and that Obamacare, I would still be working.'" Includes video. ...

... Scott Kaufman of Salon has more on Webb.

I don't really care. I think they're all losers. -- Harry Reid, when asked to "assess the prospects of the Republican presidential field" ...

... John Harwood of CNBC interviews Harry Reid. Mitch McConnell ... is a lump of coal," says Reid. The whole interview is hilarious:

Marco, the Fresh-Faced Boy of Yesteryear. Steve Peoples of the AP fact-checks Marco, & it isn't pretty. "Florida Sen. Marco Rubio launched a Republican presidential campaign this week with a promise to reject 'the leaders and ideas of the past.' It was a not-so-subtle jab from a 43-year-old fresh-faced, senator at his likely 2016 competitors, Republican Jeb Bush and Democrat Hillary Clinton.... A closer look at Rubio's early priorities, however, suggests that many of his policy prescriptions were born in the same era he's vowing to leave behind." CW: Here's hoping many local papers carry Peoples' analysis.

Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "As his rivals declare their candidacies for the White House with flashy events from Florida to Virginia, [Chris] Christie is pursuing a humbling and painful path of rehabilitation: huddling with aides to plot a comeback, churning through a thick reading list to burnish his shaky command of foreign policy and showing up at intimate venues to convey the message that he is still alive. With the possibility of imminent and embarrassing indictments hanging over his administration, Mr. Christie is turning to a political format, the town hall meeting, that has propelled him through rough patches in the past, and to a state, New Hampshire, whose forgiving and independent-minded voters are known for reviving once-moribund presidential campaigns.... On Wednesday, Mr. Christie showcased the new tone that he plans to strike: hyper-detailed and highly prepared; full of piercing wit, a Christie hallmark, but infused with a deeper level of compassion. He was, by his own admission, 'on my best behavior.'... No bullying, less bluster, and, all things considered, it was a deft performance." But it seems he is best-known for Bridgegate. ...

     ... Barbaro, on Christie's visit to a New Hampshire diner: "It started with a 'Sopranos' joke. And it went downhill from there." ...

... Matt Arco of NJ.com: "Gov. Chris Christie struck a much different tone on vaccinations Wednesday after sparking controversy on the subject a few months ago. The governor, speaking to New Hampshire residents during a town hall meeting here, declared he would not support a 'voluntary vaccination' policy [in response to a question from an anti-vacciner].... Christie added: 'I favor vaccines.' Christie's comments in February were made on the heels of a national conversation about vaccination following a measles outbreak traced to California's Disneyland theme park that spread to more than 100 people. At the time, Christie said: "All I can say is that we vaccinate (our children).... But I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well. So that's the balance that the government has to decide.'"

Beyond the Beltway

Dave Boucher of the Tennessean: "The Holy Bible is the official book of Tennessee in the view of the Tennessee House of Representatives. Despite questions of constitutionality, lawmakers beat back an attempt to make Andrew Jackson's Bible the official book and voted 55-38 in favor of Rep. Jerry Sexton's original bill." The Senate has already passed the bill, but "Gov. Bill Haslam [R] and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey [R] have said they have concerns with the bill."

William Rashbaum, et al., of the New York Times: "Federal prosecutors have begun presenting evidence to a grand jury considering a case against the leader of the New York State Senate, Dean G. Skelos of Long Island, and his son...."

The Door Has Revolved. Andrew Sorkin & Alexandra Stevenson of the New York Times: Former Fed Chair Ben "Bernanke will become a senior adviser to Citadel, the $25 billion hedge fund founded by the billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin."

Nuns Off the Hook. AP: "The Vatican has announced the unexpected conclusion of its crackdown of the main umbrella group of US nuns, ending a controversial takeover of a liberal group and signalling a major shift in tone and treatment of US sisters under the social-justice-minded Pope Francis. The Vatican said it had accepted a final report on its overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and declared that the 'implementation of the mandate has been accomplished'. In a final joint report, the congregation and the LCWR said the group's statutes had been revised to show its focus on Christ and being faithful to church teaching."

News Ledes

AP: "Italy's migration crisis took on a deadly new twist Thursday as police in Sicily reported that Muslim migrants had thrown 12 Christians overboard during a recent crossing from Libya, and an aid group said another 41 were feared drowned in a separate incident. Palermo police said they had detained 15 people suspected in the high seas assault, which they learned of while interviewing tearful survivors from Nigeria and Ghana who had arrived in Palermo Wednesday morning after being rescued at sea by the ship Ellensborg. The 15 were accused of multiple homicide aggravated by religious hatred, police said in a statement."

Reuters: "A Columbus, Ohio man who trained with the Islamic State militant group in Syria has been arrested and charged with supporting terrorism and making false statements, the U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday. Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, 23, a naturalized American, had been instructed by an Islamic State cleric to return to the United States and carry out an act of terrorism, the indictment said. Mohamud's brother was killed fighting with Islamic State in Syria, the Justice Department said."

Tuesday
Apr142015

The Commentariat -- April 15, 2015

Afternoon News:

Disqualified! Robert Barnes & Dan Morse of the Washington Post: "John G. Roberts Jr. showed up for jury duty in Rockville[, Maryland].... [He did not mention] his own line of work, which would be listed on a questionnaire. He then talked with attorneys and the judge privately at the bench. Roberts was not selected, and left court without comment.... Justices are often called for jury duty ... but rarely chosen."

CW: Sorry, I kept meaning to run this NYT story by Patricia Cohen, which is now two days old: "The idea began percolating, said Dan Price, the founder of Gravity Payments, after he read an article on happiness. It showed that, for people who earn less than about $70,000, extra money makes a big difference in their lives. His idea bubbled into reality on Monday afternoon, when Mr. Price surprised his 120-person staff by announcing that he planned over the next three years to raise the salary of even the lowest-paid clerk, customer service representative and salesman to a minimum of $70,000."

*****

Jonathan Weisman & Peter Baker of the New York Times: "The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved legislation granting Congress a voice in negotiations on the Iran nuclear accord, sending the once-controversial legislation to the full Senate after President Obama withdrew his opposition rather than face a bipartisan rebuke. Republican opponents of the nuclear agreement on the committee sided with Mr. Obama's strongest Democratic supporters in demanding a congressional role as international negotiators work to turn this month's nuclear framework into a final deal by June 30. The bill would mandate that the administration send the text of a final accord, along with classified material, to Congress as soon as it it completed. It also halts any lifting of sanctions during a congressional review and culminates in a possible vote to allow or forbid the lifting of congressionally imposed sanctions in exchange for the dismantling of much of Iran's nuclear infrastructure. It passed 19 to 0." ...

... Mke DeBonis & Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "A Senate committee, with tentative White House support, unanimously advanced legislation Tuesday that would give Congress the power to review a potential nuclear deal with Iran but only after negotiations are completed by a June 30 deadline." ...

... Mike Lillis of the Hill: "House Democratic leaders are quickly jumping aboard legislation empowering Congress to review an emerging nuclear deal with Iran. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) endorsed the Senate bill on Tuesday, shortly after it passed unanimously through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had rejected an earlier version of the Senate proposal, said she'll also back the measure." ...

... Karen DeYoung, et al.: "Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that Tehran was negotiating a comprehensive nuclear deal with world powers, not the U.S. Congress, and called a Senate committee's vote to give Congress the power to review any potential deal a domestic U.S. matter. The Iranian leader, speaking in a televised speech in the northern Iranian city of Rasht, also repeated earlier statements that his country will not accept any comprehensive nuclear deal with world powers unless all sanctions imposed against it are lifted." ...

... The New York Times Editors call the Senate panel's move "reckless": "Congress has formally muscled its way into President Obamas negotiations with Iran, creating new and potentially dangerous uncertainties for an agreement that offers the best chance of restraining that country's nuclear program. ...

... Greg Sargent tries to explain why the White House is tentatively supporting the bill. ...

... Dana Milbank: "There are plenty of good reasons to be suspicious about the tentative deal the Obama administration and international partners negotiated with Tehran. But as Secretary of State John Kerry gives classified briefings on the deal to lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week, the criticism coming from Republicans and from Benjamin Netanyahu's government in Israel is tangled by inconsistencies and logic discrepancies. The one constant: They are opposed to what Obama is doing -- whatever it is.... [For example,] in criticizing Obama's agreement last week, Netanyahu said sanctions -- sanctions he had said weren't working -- had 'proven effective' against Iran."

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved sweeping changes in the way Medicare pays doctors, clearing the bill for President Obama and resolving an issue that has bedeviled Congress and the Medicare program for more than a decade. The 92-to-8 vote in the Senate, following passage in the House last month by a vote of 392 to 37, was a major success for Republicans, who devised a solution to a complex policy problem that had frustrated lawmakers of both parties. Mr. Obama has endorsed the bill, saying it 'could help slow health care cost growth.' The bill, drafted in the House in negotiations between Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, also extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program for two years, through 2017."

Karen DeYoung: "President Obama has decided to lift the U.S. designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, a decision that removes a principal impediment to establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and accepts that Havana's role as an agent of revolution has long since slipped into history. The long-awaited action, which was announced by the White House in a message to Congress on Tuesday, follows a pledge made by Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro last December to move toward normalized relations." ...

... The Miami Herald story, by Mimi Whitefield, is here.

Happy Tax Day! Your Tax Dollars at Work. AP: "US Drug Enforcement Administration agents attended sex parties with prostitutes while stationed overseas as far back as 2001, according to a report released Tuesday. Money to pay prostitutes at a farewell party for a high-ranking DEA official was included in an 'operational budget' that used government funds for the party, the report said. DEA agents also rented undercover apartments in Colombia and used them for parties with prostitutes, the DEA said in an internal report. Excerpts of the DEA report were released by the House Oversight committee.... Representative Trey Gowdy, a Republican, called it 'stunning' that no one had been fired in the wake of the allegations. [MIchele] Leonhart, who has been the DEA's top official since 2007 and was deputy for three years before that, responded that civil service protections make it difficult to fire DEA agents." ...

... Happy Tax Day! The House GOP Bill to Ensure a Permanent American Aristocracy. Dana Milbank: "On Tuesday afternoon, the House Rules Committee took up H.R. 1105, the 'Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015,' with plans to bring it to a vote on the chamber floor Wednesday -- Tax Day. It is an extraordinarily candid expression of the majority's priorities: A tax cut costing the treasury $269 billion over a decade that would exclusively benefit individuals with wealth of more than $5.4 million and couples with wealth of more than $10.9 million.... This is the ultimate perversion of the tea party movement, which began as a populist revolt in 2009 but has since been hijacked by wealthy and corporate interests.... Never in the history of plutocracy has so much been given away to so few who need it so little." See also safari's & Patrick's comments in today's thread. CW: Democrats should get every GOP candidate for any federal office on the record on this. Then hammer each & every one of them who favors it, either by vote or declaration.

Max Ehrenfreund of the Washington Post: The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides data on how Americans spend their money, by economic class. Sadly for Republicans, "... the bureau doesn't have data on lobster and filet mignon...."

Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald: "Charged just weeks ago in a political corruption case with a U.S. senator[, Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)], West Palm Beach eye doctor Salomon Melgen was arrested late Tuesday on new Medicare fraud offenses involving more than $190 million in billing to the taxpayer-funded program. Melgen, recognized as one of Medicare's top billers in the nation, collected more than $105 million in reimbursements based on substantial 'fraudulent' claims for eye injections and other treatments between 2008 and 2013, according to an indictment."

Annals of "Justice," Ctd. Charles Pierce: "Something has gone permanently squirrelly with law-enforcement in this country. There is the change in attitude by which police increasingly feel and behave like an occupying army in American cities. There is the preposterous increase in available armament. On a wider scale, there is the triumph at all levels of government of an attitude that we will not tax ourselves, ever, for anything, even our own safety. So we wind up with traffic cops who look on, ahem, certain citizens as resources to be pillaged, or we wind up with septuagenarian insurance salesmen empowered to shoot people in the street under color of law, because they were willing to buy guns and ammo privately for a public purpose. This is Kafka rewritten by Grover Norquist and Bozo The Clown. You get what you pay for, and we're not willing to pay for anything any more." ...

... CW: Actually, Charles, U.S. law enforcement has always been "squirrelly." And much worse. ...

... Michael Miller of the Washington Post: "... as many as 120 African-American men on Chicago's South Side ... were allegedly tortured by [Chicago Police Commander Jon] Burge between 1972 and 1991.... On Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the establishment of a $5.5. million fund for these victims. The compensation would 'close this book, the Burge book on the city's history,' Emanuel said according to the Chicago Tribune."

Todd Frankel of the Washington Post: "Europe's top antitrust czar on Wednesday is expected to formally accuse Google of violating antitrust rules by directing users of its Web search to the company's own products." ...

     ... Update: James Kanter & Mark Scott of the New York Times: "The European Union's antitrust chief on Wednesday formally accused Google of abusing its dominance in web searches to the detriment of competitors and began official proceedings into whether its Android smartphone software forces phone makers to favor the company's own service and applications."

On the 150th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln, if you want to know more, Jaime Fuller of New York provides numerous sources. Oddly enough, Fuller does not include Marco Rubio's op-ed, referenced below.

Presidential Race

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling for changes to the nation's campaign finance system, saying here Tuesday that she would support a constitutional amendment if that's what it takes to fix what she called a 'dysfunctional' system." ...

... Paul Lewis of the Guardian: "Hillary Clinton said campaign finance reform would be a central plank of her presidential bid on Tuesday, revealing a determination to reinvent her political profile as a more humble, populist figure for the 2016 election.... In a sign her advisers want to break with the past, and win over progressives on the left of the party, Clinton incorporated campaign finance reform into what is a solidly populist economic platform." ...

     ... Fun tidbit about Hillary's "road trip" to Iowa, via Lewis: "The former first lady, it turns out, has not driven her own vehicle since 1996." Anne Gearan of the WashPo describes her travel mode as "a chauffeured van." CW: In view of Hillary's long-held preference for "chauffeurs," it's just as well she didn't take my advice to drive the van.

... More Fun & Games. Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "On Monday, graphic designer Rick Wolff created a typeface he calls 'Hillary Bold' or 'Hillvetica.' It uses the same (weird) look and feel of the logo from the Hillary Clinton campaign for president, which became (in)famous shortly after her campaign went public on Sunday.... Wolff ... was kind enough to let us use his typeface (plus a few extra characters) for a little tool that will allow you -- yes, you! -- to make your own Hillary Clinton-style campaign slogan." Fill in the blank near the bottom of the post. ...

... You Are about to Witness a New Brand of Journalism -- Scooby Chasers. Or Maybe Scoobirazzi:

HILLARious. Brian Beutler of the New Republic, who seems at least half-serious: "Because Hillary Clinton is white and no longer young, a strain of political thought holds that she might lack Barack Obama's inherent appeal to new and minority voters.... The challenge, then, is to make sure Clinton's age and ethnicity don't discourage Obamais youthful, diverse supporters from turning out in November 2016. Fortunately, there's an easy way to make sure that doesn't happen. Clinton simply has to select Barack Obama as her running mate." Beutler argues -- along with the aid of some legal scholars -- that it's totally Constitutional. CW: I'm pretty sure this would go down well. ...

... CW: Of course, this could work, and it would be unquestionably Constitutional....

     ... Caveat: I don't doubt there's a contingent in the GOP who would argue that since the founders had men in mind for every elected office, girls are not qualified to run in any contest, save beauty pageants. After all, under Article II of the Constitution, "The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years...." If Hillary is elected president, look forward to suits challenging her chromosomal qualifications. The litigants will accomplish one thing: making birthers appear comparatively rational. ...

... Not That Wingers Are Sexists: "Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: Don Feder of the World Congress of Families is out today [Tuesday] with a column [link fixed ]titled 'Top Ten Reasons Why Hitlery Will Never Be President,' in which he calls the former secretary of state 'a frustrated, middle-aged feminist who's perpetually incensed.' Feder, decrying Clinton as an elitist and a radical ideologue, ends his piece by asserting that Clinton will be brought down by 'the hideousness factor.' The 'pro-family' activist writes that 'Lyndon Baines Johnson was the last profoundly ugly candidate to be elected president,' adding that 'voters don't want a leader who looks frazzled or frumpy.'" See Dreamboat on left. ...

... Eli Stokols of Politico: "... interviews with GOP consultants, party officials and the largest conservative super PACs point to an emerging narrative [portraying Hillary Clinton as] a wealthy, out-of-touch candidate who plays by her own set of rules and lives in a world of private planes, chauffeured vehicles and million-dollar homes. The out-of-touch plutocrat template is a familiar one: Democrats used it to devastating effect against Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. While Hillary Clinton's residences in New York and Washington may not have car elevators, there's still a lengthy trail of paid speeches, tone-deaf statements about the family finances and questions about Clinton family foundation fundraising practices that will serve as cornerstones of the anti-Clinton messaging effort." ...

... Paul Waldman argues this likely won't work: "When you have a rich candidate advocating policies that benefit the rich, the personal details and the policy arguments complement and enhance one another. When there's a dissonance between the two, it isn't quite as compelling.... What Republicans can do, though, is enlist the news media to help them in their task. If they establish this now as one of their key arguments against her, reporters will be on the lookout for events and moments that reinforce it...." (See Anne Gearan's WashPo piece linked above: "She visited a small coffee shop ... in the city of Le Claire.... After greeting the shop owners, Clinton ordered a Masala Chai tea, plus a Caramellow latte and a glass of water.") CW: Masala Chai? Tea? Really? Next time, Hillary, ask for "coffee, regular," even if that might mean with cream (in NYC) because "coffee, black" might seem overly-ethnic. Already, you can see how much Hillary needs me to advise her campaign, my failure to consider road safety in my van-driving advice notwithstanding. ...

... Andy Borowitz: "With a stop in Iowa on Tuesday, the Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton officially embarked on a nineteen-month marathon of looking concerned. Sitting with patrons at Jones Street Java House, in Le Claire, the former Secretary of State listened intently, sipped from a cup of coffee, and nodded her head at appropriate junctures, flawlessly reënacting a brief scene from her first campaign video." ...

(... CW: As we now know, a bit of misreporting on Andy's part. That's not coffee; that's chai tea.) ...

... Michael Schmidt of the New York Times, who is obsessed with has been covering the Benghaaaazi! e-mail story: "Hillary Rodham Clinton was directly asked by congressional investigators in a December 2012 letter whether she had used a private email account while serving as secretary of state, according to letters obtained by The New York Times. But Mrs. Clinton did not reply to the letter. And when the State Department answered in March 2013, nearly two months after she left office, it ignored the question and provided no response." ...

Scranton Times-Tribune: "The grave- stone of Hugh Rodham, Hillary Clinton's father, was found toppled over in the Washburn Street Cemetery, police said."

MEANWHILE, in the Biggest Liar Contest:

And so our leaders put us at a disadvantage by taxing and borrowing and regulating like it was 1999. -- Marco Rubio, campaign announcement speech, Monday

The problem with the senator's statement is that the government is neither taxing, nor borrowing, nor regulating like it did in 1999. In fact, in 1999 there was a surplus, shrinking the debt owned by the public. Taxes were much higher in 1999 -- 19.2 percent of gross domestic product, versus 16.7 percent in 2013, with President Barack Obama agreeing to permanently extend the Bush-era tax cuts for 99 percent of taxpayers at the end of 2012. As for regulating, 1999 was notable in part for repealing key sections of the Glass-Steagall Act. -- Steven Dennis, Roll Call

... Jonathan Chait, who covers the same territory Dennis does: In his latest economic plan, "Rubio's elimination of the estate, interest, dividends, and capital gains taxes would go far beyond the Bush administration's most plutocratic dreams. It is also true that Rubio plans to cut taxes for some middle-class families. But obviously that lost revenue has trade-offs, which he has failed to specify. The massive revenue hit would require very large cuts to existing programs. Given his party's propensity to aim the bulk of its tax-cutting at the programs that direct their biggest benefits to Americans of modest incomes, there is no plausible way to imagine Rubio's plan would do anything but engineer a massive upward redistribution of resources.... Paradoxically, the incoherence of Rubio's plan is an asset. Because its effects cannot be precisely measured, reporters and pundits describe it in vague and frequently positive terms that flatly contradict its actual features. This reality is ... is a feature [of Rubio's plan]. His full, unapologetic embrace of tax cuts for the rich has allowed him to surge back into contention." ...

... CW: Not only is Rubio a fraud, as Brian Beutler outlined the other day, Chait asserts reporters are falling for the scam. ...

... It matters not what century he's reminiscing about, Marco gets his American history assbackwards. Apparently, he penned an op-ed for Monday's USA Today, misremembering Abe Lincoln. Ed Kilgore responds: "Aside from the obvious mischaracterization of Obama;s 'ideas,' it takes a lot of damn gall to lecture an African-American about Lincoln's legacy, which was one of an 'united America' achieved by violent suppression of a rebellion by people who sounded uncomfortably like many of today's Republicans in their conceptions of liberty, states rights and Constitutional originalism." ...

... ** Steve M. The Rubio/Bush Sword Story: Preppiness Made More Ridiculous (and Vaguely Homoerotic)." CW: Once again, Rubio gets "an F in post-World War II history." So does Rubio's secret-society sponsor Jeb Bush. You'll have to read Steve's post. I cannot do justice in a brief graf to the ignorance, vapidity & "vaguely homoerotic tendencies" of these jackasses. Steve, however, has it down. The story would be -hilarious if not for the possibility that one of these clueless ideologues could become POTUS. ...

... Charles Pierce insists that the musical accompaniment here is mandatory. So we'll oblige:

... With unintended irony, Rubio says he is running for president "grounded by the lessons of our history." (See video clip in linked story.)

... Steve M. digs up more startling news about Marco. "Marco Rubio, who defines himself as a Catholic, nevertheless has regularly attended a Protestant Miami megachurch, Christ Fellowship," a virulently anti-gay church where Pastor Rick Blackwood preaches that the theory of "Evolution is fundamentally an attack by Satan on the glory of God." Steve wants to know: "Does Marco Rubio think evolution is satanic? Jeremiah Wright's most intemperate language got hung around Barack Obama's neck -- will anyone ask Rubio if he repudiates the more extreme things Blackwood and his colleagues say? And if not, press corps, why not?" ...

... CW: It's true that Marco is not a scientist, man, & one need not be a scientist to qualify for the Top Job. But the POTUS does have to accept established scientific theory (and have at least a vague grasp of American history). ...

... AND if Rubio ever understood anything about macroeconomics, he used that knowledge to oppress the poor. Perry Bacon of MSNBC: "Marco Rubio aggressively tried to push Florida to the political right during his two-year stint as speaker of the state's House, often warring with the more moderate Republicans who ran the Florida Senate and then-Gov. Charlie Crist, a centrist Republican." His big "legacy" agenda was to abolish Florida's progressive property tax & replace it with a regressive sales tax hike.

Beyond the Beltway

Marc Santora & Nate Schweber of the New York Times: "More than two decades after Rosean S. Hargrave was convicted of murdering an off-duty correction officer in Brooklyn, a judge on Tuesday afternoon ordered him released from prison, saying that his trial was deeply flawed and unfair. The case against Mr. Hargrave was built, in part, on the work of Detective Louis Scarcella and his partner, Stephen W. Chmil, and it is one of dozens of cases that have come under review since accusations emerged that Mr. Scarcella once framed an innocent man."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "U.S. Capitol Police said that a small gyrocopter with one occupant landed on the West Lawn of the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon. One person has been detained, Capitol Police spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider said in an e-mail.... The Tampa Bay Times wrote about Doug Hughes, a 61-year-old mailman from Florida, who planned to fly to the Capitol." Includes Hughes' own video. ...

... Here's more from the WashPo on Hughes' brilliant plan. ...

     ... CW: If this is the kind of mail carrier we have in Florida, no wonder the USPS can't seem to get all my mail to me.

New York Times: "A jury in Fall River, Mass., found Aaron Hernandez guilty of first-degree murder on Wednesday after seven days of deliberation. Mr. Hernandez was sentenced by Judge E. Susan Garsh to the mandatory term of life in prison without the possibility of parole." ...

... The boston.com story is here.