The Ledes

Thursday, April 17, 2014.

New York Times: "Gabriel García Márquez, the Colombian novelist whose 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' established him as a giant of 20th-century literature, died on Thursday at his home in Mexico City. He was 87."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia emphasized on Thursday that the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament had authorized him to use military force if necessary in eastern Ukraine, and also stressed Russia’s historical claim to the territory, repeatedly referring to it as 'new Russia' and saying that only 'God knows' why it became part of Ukraine....Mr. Putin’s remarks on eastern Ukraine came as officials from Russia, the United States, Europe and the new government in Kiev were meeting in Geneva for four-way negotiations aimed at resolving the political crisis." ...

... Los Angeles Times: "Russia may invade southeast Ukraine to protect the local population, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday." ...

... Washington Post: "President Vladimir Putin, who repeatedly denied Russian troops had entered Crimea before the March referendum there, changed his version of those events Thursday, telling the nation that they had indeed been there all along. But the green-uniformed men observed in eastern Ukraine right now, storming buildings and raising the Russian flag, are not Russian, he said. 'Those are local residents,' he said." ...

... AP: "Ukraine is hoping to placate Russia and calm hostilities with its neighbor even as the U.S. prepares a new round of sanctions to punish Moscow for what it regards as fomenting unrest. The carrot-stick strategy emerged as diplomats from Ukraine, the U.S., the European Union and Russia prepared to meet Thursday for the first time over the burgeoning crisis that threatens to roil the new government in Kiev." ...

... Guardian: "Asked if he was expecting any progress, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, simply shrugged." ...

... Reuters is liveblogging of the Ukraine crisis.

... New York Times: "Ukrainian security forces killed three pro-Russian protesters, wounded 13 and took 63 captive in a firefight overnight in the eastern city of Mariupol, the interim Ukrainian interior minister said on Thursday. The clash was the most lethal so far in the east of the country." ...

... AP: "NATO is strengthening its military footprint along its eastern border immediately in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine, the alliance's chief said Wednesday."

Washington Post: "A Canadian cyber crime unit has arrested and charged a 19-year-old Ontario man for allegedly hacking into the country's tax agency using the Heartbleed Internet security bug."

Washington Post: "About 24 hours after [a South Korean] passenger ferry with more than 450 aboard began to slowly sink off South Korea’s southwestern coast, at least nine are dead and 287 others, many of them teenagers, are unaccounted for. South Korean news media put the number rescued at between 164 and 179, most of whom were brought ashore to the island of Jindo, where they were wrapped in warm towels or treated for minor injuries." ...

... Guardian: "The parents of hundreds of children missing after Wednesday's ferry accident off the coast of South Korea have accused the captain of the vessel of abandoning passengers after it emerged that he and six other crew members were among the first to leave the ship after it started to sink." ...

... Los Angeles Times: "Angry relatives of passengers aboard a sunken South Korean ferry criticized the government’s response Thursday as the ship’s captain made an emotional apology for fleeing the vessel before hundreds of others had a chance to get out."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, April 16, 2014.

AP: "A column of armored vehicles flying Russian flags drove into a Ukrainian city controlled by pro-Russia demonstrators Wednesday, dampening the central government's hopes to re-establish control over restive eastern Ukraine."

AP: "A multi-story ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by ships and helicopters. At least three people were confirmed dead and 55 injured."

Boston Globe: "A shelter-in-place order on Boylston Street has been lifted and a 25-year-old Boston man is facing charges after police executed a controlled detonation of two suspicious bags left near the Boston Marathon finish line. Just after 7 p.m. on Tuesday, on the one-year anniversary of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings, police said two backpacks had been found in the area and immediately ordered people to evacuate. Authorities said the backpacks were tied to a man who goes by Kayvon Edson. Edson was captured in several videos marching down Boylston Street in a black veil, wearing a backpack, and chanting 'Boston strong.'” ...

     ... UPDATE: "A man who was arrested after suspicious bags were found near the Boston Marathon finish line was arraigned today in Boston Municipal Court. Kevin Edson, 25, of Boston is being charged with possession of a hoax explosive, threatening battery, threats to commit a crime, disturbing the peace, disturbing a public assembly, and disorderly conduct, according to the Boston Police Department. Edson is being held on $100,000 bail and is being sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for an evaluation, the Associated Press reports."


Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/04/10/3772409/fbi-rescues-kidnapped-wake-forest.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

Public Service Announcements

Washington Post: "Researchers are reporting that injections of long-lasting AIDS drugs protected monkeys for weeks against infection, a finding that could lead to a major breakthrough in preventing the disease in humans."

New York Times: "General Motors will more than double the size of a recall issued this month for an ignition switch defect in some of its small cars, the automaker said in a news release Tuesday. The expansion brings the number of vehicles covered by the recall to nearly 1.4 million in the United States. The recall is aimed at vehicles with ignition switches that could inadvertently turn off the engine and vehicle electrical system – disabling the air bags – if the ignition key is jarred or the vehicle’s operator has a heavy key ring attached to it."

New York Times: "The essence of [a] disagreement [among experts] comes down to a simple question: Will e-cigarettes cause more or fewer people to smoke? The answer matters. Cigarette smoking is still the single largest cause of preventable death in the United States, killing about 480,000 people a year."

White House Live Video
April 17

11:05 am ET: President Obama & Vice President Biden welcome the 7th annual Wounded Warrior Project's soldier ride

1:45 3:15 pm ET: Jay Carney 's press briefing

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No News, All the Time:

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

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

... This is kinda must-see TV:

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Thursday
Apr172014

The Commentariat -- April 18, 2014

** Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "The United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union reached an agreement [in Geneva] on Thursday evening that calls for armed pro-Russian bands to give up the government buildings they have seized in eastern Ukraine and outlines other steps to de-escalate the crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry described the package of measures as an important first step to avert 'a complete and total implosion' in eastern Ukraine and said that it could be followed by negotiation of more far-reaching steps to ease a crisis in which violence seemed to be growing by the day. [Russian Mininister Sergey] Lavrov said the deal was 'largely based on compromise' and that a settlement of the crisis was primarily the responsibility of Ukraine’s. Mr. Lavrov made the remarks at a news conference that he gave before Mr. Kerry had spoken." ...

... Oren Dorell of USA Today: "World leaders and Jewish groups condemned a leaflet handed out in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk in which Jews were told to 'register' with the pro-Russian militants who have taken over a government office in an attempt to make Ukraine part of Russia, according to Ukrainian and Israeli media. Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city's Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee 'or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,' reported Ynet News, Israel's largest news website, and Ukraine's Donbass news agency." ...

... Julia Ioffe of the New Republic thinks distribution of the flyers is probably a hoax devised by the administration of a nearby town.

** Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama announced Thursday that eight million people had signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and that 35 percent of them were under the age of 35, countering those who predicted it would attract mainly older and sicker people. The final number exceeds by a million the target set by the administration for people to buy insurance through government-run health care exchanges. In addition, the number of young people signing up appears to have surged during the final weeks of enrollment":

... The President began his address by expressing condolences to the people of South Korea because of the ferry sinking. CW: As he began speaking, I thought he was going to offer condolences to the Republican party. Later, in the Q&A, Obama did whack Republicans. Often. And forcefully. Lovely to hear. ...

I find it strange that the Republican position on this law is still stuck in the same place that it has always been. They still can’t bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care Act is working. They said nobody would sign up. They were wrong about that ... They were wrong to keep trying to repeal a law that is working when they have no alternative answer. -- President Obama, at today's press conference

... Paul Krugman: "How did enrollment manage to surge so impressively despite the initial debacle of healthcare.gov? Obviously they fixed the website; but the broader issue ... is that being uninsured is truly terrible." ...

... Jonathan Cohn: "This is probably Obamacare's best news day since March 23, 2010, when the president signed it into law." Cohn explains why. CW: Another good day (and we don't know exactly what date that was): the day John Roberts decided not to overturn the core law. ...

... Jason Millman of the Washington Post: "If we learned one thing from this enrollment period, it's this: Never underestimate the power of procrastination. California's exchange on Thursday reported that April 15, its last day of enrollment, saw 50,000 people sign up — its best day ever." ...

... CW: We'll probably start seeing more confrontations like these -- between a constituent & Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.). Many reps won't handle it as well as Ross did (even tho the so-called replacement he mentions is farcical). Via Scott Keyes of Think Progress:

Decarbonize! Paul Krugman: "Even as the report [by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] calls for drastic action to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, it asserts that the economic impact of such drastic action would be surprisingly small.... To a large extent, it reflects a technological revolution many people don’t know about, the incredible recent decline in the cost of renewable energy, solar power in particular."

Jay Carney on President Obama's toughest interview. (Too bad Kathleen Sebelius didn't realize this.) Via Real Clear Politics:

Laura Myers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal: "U.S. Sen. Harry Reid on Thursday called supporters of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy 'domestic terrorists' because they defended him against a Bureau of Land Management cattle roundup with guns and put their children in harm’s way. 'Those people who hold themselves out to be patriots are not. They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists,' Reid said during an appearance at a Las Vegas Review-Journal 'Hashtags & Headlines' event at the Paris. '… I repeat: what went on up there was domestic terrorism.” CW: I so underestimated Harry Reid. He may not be a liberal's liberal, but he gets an awful lot right.

Floyd Norris of the New York Times: "It seems likely that the gap in tax rates between the superrich and the very rich may be narrowed."

Russia Today: "Russia has 'no mass surveillance in our country,' according to President Vladimir Putin, after he was asked a surprise question by whistleblower Edward Snowden at his Q&A session, adding 'our surveillance activities are strictly controlled by the law.'”

Beyond the Beltway

Aman Batheja of the Texas Tribune: "A Texas political action committee called Boats 'N Hoes PAC will be just a memory by Thursday, according to the Republican political consultant who is the boss of the man who started it.... 'Texas Republicans say they want to reach out to women, to be more inclusive, but actions like this reinforce a pattern of disrespect,' Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Lisa Paul said in a statement. 'There’s no defending the use of a derogatory and offensive term like ‘hoes’. How can women possibly take the GOP rebranding effort seriously? Their consistent contempt towards women is simply unforgivable.'”

Wednesday
Apr162014

The Commentariat -- April 17, 2014

Julia Preston of the New York Times: "New deportation cases brought by the Obama administration in the nation’s immigration courts have been declining steadily since 2009 and judges have increasingly ruled against deportations, leading to a 43 percent drop in the number of deportations through the courts in the last five years, according to Justice Department statistics released on Wednesday. The figures show that the administration opened 26 percent fewer deportation cases in the courts last year than in 2009. In 2013, immigration judges ordered deportations in 105,064 cases nationwide. The statistics present a different picture of President Obama’s enforcement policies than the one painted by many immigrant advocates, who have assailed the president as the 'deporter in chief'....”

Noah Rayman of Time: "President Barack Obama said in an interview that aired Thursday that 'we don’t need a war' with Russia, downplaying the chance of military conflict between the U.S. and Russia over tensions in Ukraine." Here's the part of the interview that aired last night:

Sam Baker of the National Journal: "Obamacare hasn't 'won' — but it's making a pretty impressive run. The headlines about the Affordable Care Act have turned positive lately, and they're starting to pile up. The most dire predictions from the law's critics simply haven't panned out, and now Democrats are headed into another big health care fight — the confirmation of a new Health and Human Services secretary — with stronger real-world evidence than they've had before.There's important information we still don't have about enrollment, and big risks loom on the horizon. Things could change. But right now, the tide seems to be turning in the White House's favor." ...

... CW: Before you get to feeling too hopeful, consider this cautionary note from Krugman, dated April 14: "It’s easy to understand [the ignorance of] ... Fox-watchers and Rush-listeners, who are fed a steady diet of supposed Obamacare disaster stories.... But the real story hasn’t even gotten through to many people who should know better. Over the weekend I had dinner in NYC with some very smart, sophisticated people; yes, all of them liberals. And almost everyone in the group was under the impression that Obamacare is still going badly — they wanted me to tell them whether it could still be turned around." ...

... Jason Millman of the Washington Post: "Gallup reports that states which fully embraced the law by setting up their own exchanges and expanding their Medicaid programs saw their uninsured rate drop this year three times faster than the states that didn’t.... Meanwhile, the Urban Institute ... [found] that the number of uninsured nonelderly adults fell by 5.4 million people between September and early March.... The survey doesn't cover the last few weeks of March enrollment...." Also, the Urban Institute's numbers are extremely squishy; they could be off by 2.2 million either way. ...

... Gabriel DeBenedetti of Reuters: "Americans increasingly think Democrats have a better plan for healthcare than Republicans, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted after the White House announced that more people than expected had signed up for the 'Obamacare' health plan."

Steve Holland of Reuters: "President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden took a trip to a Pennsylvania community college on Wednesday to promote a plan to train workers for skills they need for hard-to-fill jobs":


Matt Viser of the Boston Globe reviews Elizabeth Warren's new memoir, A Fighting Chance.

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker on "the Snowden Pulitzer." ...

... For another Pulitzer controvery, see the Infotainment section. ...

... This probably belongs in Infotainment, too. Caitlan MacNeal of TPM: "MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' co-host Joe Scarborough on Wednesday accused the Obama administration of revising Census Bureau questions concerning health insurance in order to mask the impact of Obamacare on the uninsured. The entire 'Morning Joe' panel followed along by mocking the revised survey, suggesting their own questions that might appear in the census. 'Is Obamacare great, or what?' Scarborough floated as a potential question." (See also yesterday's Commentariat on the Census Bureau questionnaire.) ...

... So Then.... Paul Krugman: "...  it’s really quite vile to have talk-show hosts who quite literally know nothing about the field, other than that they’re against covering the uninsured, casually accusing Census of 'cooking the books' to support Obamacare. But remember, MSNBC is the liberal network, right? Why don’t they just hire Donald Trump and be done with it?" ...

... So Then.... Dylan Byers of Politico: "Joe Scarborough is returning fire on Paul Krugman after The New York Times columnist accused him of being an 'Obamacare truther' who was didn't know his facts and was 'against covering the uninsured.' In an email to Politico, Scarborough suggested that Krugman was merely bitter after his poor showing in a debate the two held last year on 'Charlie Rose,' about the national debt. Krugman, who struggled to keep pace with Scarborough, later referred to his performance in that debate as his 'Denver debate moment.'"

Thomas Edsall: The enduring anti-abortion movement is about controlling the reproductive rights of women. Thanks to MAG for the link.

Andrew DeMillo of the AP: The ACLU "filed suit Wednesday to block a new Arkansas law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls before it is enforced for the first time statewide in the primary election next month."

Senate Races

ConservaDem Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) fights back against his GOP challenger Rep. Tom Cotton with an effective "Mediscare" ad, & Alex Rogers of Time seems a little upset about it. Here's the ad:

     ... CW: Apparently Republicans & their supporters think "it's not fair" when Democrats "tell on them." It's dirty pool for Democrats not to allow Republicans to secretly eviscerate programs Americans have counted on for decades.

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Democrats are dying to have Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius enter the Senate race in Kansas. It seems crazy to Republicans, who see Sebelius as the face of the botched ObamaCare rollout and believe her candidacy would make it even easier for them to win the Senate majority. But Democrats say her candidacy would make Kansas more winnable, would blunt the problems ObamaCare poses to their party and would force Republicans to pour money into a red state."

Presidential Race

Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker: "On Tuesday, the State of New York took a baby step — or maybe a giant leap! — toward making the United States of America something more closely resembling a modern democracy: Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill joining up the Empire State to the National Popular Vote (N.P.V.) interstate compact." ... CW: While I'm all for electing the U.S. president & vice president by popular vote, I remain skeptical of the NPV movement. Should the states actually invoke this mechanism to change the outcome of a presidential election, all hell would break loose. I doubt NPV advocates have given that much thought. And the Supremes, as they have done before, could still settle the election in the highly-principled way they are wont to do.

Modern Family. Katie Glueck of Politico: Jeb Bush may not run for president because his wife Columba, who in 1999 was caught smuggling French fashion items into the U.S., may be against it. Also, one of their children was arrested on drug charges & one for public intoxication. Also, Jeb's brother is a war criminal. (Okay, that's not the way Glueck phrases it.) Also, the GOP base just might not want a Mexican immigrant (Columba) as First Lady.

Andy Kroll of Mother Jones profiles New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, next in line for the mantle of GOP Girl Savior: "Petty. Vindictive. Weak on policy."

Tuesday
Apr152014

The Commentariat -- April 16, 2014

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said. The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said." ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox: "It might not be time to freak out quite yet: What's being missed here is that the Obama administration will use the new survey questions to collect data for 2013, the year prior to Obamacare's health insurance expansion, a senior administration official says.... 2013 and 2014 – the year before and after Obamacare's big programs started – are using the same question set." ...

... Evan McMorris-Santoro of BuzzFeed: "On Twitter, Kaiser Family Foundation vice president Larry Leavitt praised the new survey and said it won’t stand in the way of determining whether Obamacare is working when it comes to the uninsured."

Kyle Cheney & Brett Norman of Politico: "Insurers saw disaster in the fall when Obamacare’s rollout flopped and HealthCare.gov was a mess. But a strong March enrollment surge, along with indications that younger and healthier people had begun signing up, has changed their attitude. Around the country, insurers are considering expanding their stake in the Obamacare exchanges next year, bringing their business to more states and counties. Some health plans that skipped the new marketplaces altogether this year are ready to dive in next year." ...

... Paige Cunningham & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Anti-Obamacare Republicans home on recess are coming face to face this week with newly insured constituents. It could be an interesting encounter. No politician wants to sound eager to take government benefits away from voters — and while public opinion polls show the health care law is still controversial, millions of people are indeed getting assistance. Especially in states where enrollment finished strong, Republicans will need a nuanced message: Even if Obamacare helped you personally, it’s still bad for the country as a whole."

Kathleen Belew, in a New York Times op-ed: "In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security issued a nine-page report detailing the threat of domestic terrorism by the white power movement. This short document outlined no specific threats, but rather a set of historical factors that had predicted white-supremacist activity in the past — like economic pressure, opposition to immigration and gun-control legislation — and a new factor, the election of a black president. The report singled out one factor that has fueled every surge in Ku Klux Klan membership in American history, from the 1860s to the present: war. The return of veterans from combat appears to correlate more closely with Klan membership than any other historical factor.... The report raised intense blowback from the American Legion, Fox News and conservative members of Congress. They demanded an apology and denounced the idea that any veteran could commit an act of domestic terrorism. The department shelved the report, removing it from its website. The threat, however, proved real.... When we interpret shootings like the one on Sunday as acts of mad, lone-wolf gunmen, we fail to see white power as an organized — and deadly — social movement.... Would [Miller/Cross] have received greater scrutiny had he been a Muslim, a foreigner, not white, not a veteran? The answer is clear, and alarming." ...

... Peter Bergan & David Sterman of CNN: "... since 9/11 extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies, including white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists and anti-government militants, have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda's ideology. According to a count by the New America Foundation, right wing extremists have killed 34 people in the United States for political reasons since 9/11.... Terrorists motivated by al Qaeda's ideology have killed 21 people in the United States since 9/11.... The disparity in media coverage between even failed jihadist terrorist attacks and this latest incident in Kansas is emblematic of a flawed division in the public's mind between killing that is purportedly committed in the name of Allah and killing that is committed for other political ends...." ...

... Steve Yaccino of the New York Times: "State prosecutors on Tuesday charged a 73-year-old white supremacist with murder in the killing of three people outside two Jewish community facilities on Sunday. At a news conference in this Kansas City suburb, the authorities announced one count of capital murder and one count of premeditated first-degree murder had been filed against Frazier Glenn Miller of Aurora, Mo., who has for decades espoused anti-Semitic and racist beliefs."

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Michael R. Bloomberg, making his first major political investment since leaving office, plans to spend $50 million this year building a nationwide grass-roots network to motivate voters who feel strongly about curbing gun violence, an organization he hopes can eventually outmuscle the National Rifle Association."

Matt Taibbi: The Bush Justice Department was much tougher on corporate miscreants than the Obama DOJ. The 2008 Wall Street meltdown "was a crisis that was much huger in scope than the S&L crisis or the accounting crisis. I mean, it wiped out 40 percent of the world’s wealth, and nobody went to jail, so that we’re now in a place where we don’t even recognize the importance of keeping up appearances when it comes to making things look equal." This Democracy Now! page has the full transcript, plus video.

Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: "President Obama will announce Wednesday a pair of grant programs designed to bring academic institutions and businesses closer together in preparing the American workforce for jobs that may otherwise go unfilled. The grant programs will total $600 million, money already in the federal budget. The decision to designate the money for these grant programs arose from a review of federal jobs programs by Vice President Biden, who will join Obama at a community college outside Pittsburgh to make the announcement."

Equal Pay & the Single Girl. Igor Volsky: "In an op-ed published by the Christian Post, Phyllis Schlafly — the founder of the Eagle Forum — maintained that increasing the pay gap will help women find suitable husbands.... Schlafly has long been crusader for 'traditional values' within conservative movement and the Republican party, serving as a member of the National GOP Platform Committee as recently as 2012 and as a delegate to the National Convention." Here's Schlafly's op-ed.

Jo Becker in the New York Times Magazine on how President Obama "evolved" to supporting same-sex marriage. And, yeah, thanks, Joe Biden.

Brian Fung of the Washington Post: "Efforts to fix the notorious Heartbleed bug threaten to cause major disruptions to the Internet over the next several weeks as companies scramble to repair encryption systems on hundreds of thousands of Web sites at the same time, security experts say."

Maureen Dowd is worried about Google drones. CW: Her column is silly, but I think her underlying premise might be right.

Eli Lake & Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast: "The Obama administration is now considering a new policy to share more real-time intelligence with the interim government in Kiev after pressure from some in the U.S. military, Congress and U.S. allies in Ukraine. Over the weekend, CIA Director John Brennan met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema to discuss the formation of new, more secure channels for sharing U.S. intelligence with the country now fighting pro-Russian secessionists in its eastern cities, according to U.S. and Western officials briefed on the meeting."

Be Careful What You Wish For. Mike Eckel of the Christian Science Monitor: Life in Crimea is not so dandy since the Russians took it over.

Beyond the Beltway

Matt Apuzzo & Joseph Goldstein of the New York Times: "The New York Police Department has abandoned a secretive program that dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and built detailed files on where people ate, prayed and shopped...."

** Bailey McBride of the AP: "Cities across Oklahoma are now prohibited from establishing mandatory minimum wage or vacation and sick-day requirements under a bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Mary Fallin.... Those against the bill ... say it specifically targets Oklahoma City, where an initiative is underway to establish a citywide minimum wage higher than the current federal minimum wage." ...

... More from Lulu Chang of the National Memo. ...

     ... CW: One of many reminders that the Grand Oligarchs' Party doesn't just have it in for "lazy poor people"; they want to make sure the working poor stay poor. The excuse for this bill: to protect small business owners. Guess what? "The majority of small business owners support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and adjusting it annually to keep pace with the cost of living." More would support it if they understood macroeconomics. Another excuse: "economic homogeneity": how terrible if some cities (where the cost-of-living is likely to be higher than in rural areas) mandated a slightly better wage for the working poor. ...

     ... And finally, from the lips of Fallin: "Most minimum-wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry-level jobs. Many are high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families." Howevah, as the Economic Policy Report documented, "raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would primarily benefit older workers. 88 percent of workers who would be affected by raising the minimum wage are at least 20 years old, and a third of them are at least 40 years old." So fuck the 88 percent to keep a few middle-class kids from getting extra spending money or putting more change in their college funds.

Congressional Races

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: Kathleen Sebelius is considering a run against Kansas GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, an old family friend who done her wrong.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) runs a hard-hitting ad against the Obama administration's energy policy:

Boehner's "Electile Dysfunction." A Tea Party challenger with a sense of humor:

Emily Schultheis of Politico: "Former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who lost to Republican David Jolly in the special election in Florida’s 13th District last month, said she will not run again for the seat — a big blow to Democrats, who now have no obvious contender for the competitive St. Petersburg-area seat."

Unknown Races

Jason Horowitz of the New York Times: San Antonio's Castro twins, Julian & Joaquin, are campaigning hard -- for something.

Monday
Apr142014

The Commentariat -- April 15, 2014

** Tax Day. Andrew Sorkin of the New York Times: "In recognition of Uncle Sam's payday, it's only proper to take note of some of the most egregious corporate tax loopholes and some unexpected beneficiaries." ...

... Susan Page of USA Today: "The Internal Revenue Service is prepared to rewrite a proposed rule regulating the political activities of non-profit groups to address complaints from the right and left that it goes too far, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Monday. 'In all likelihood we will re-propose a redefined rule and ask for more public comment,' Koskinen told USA TODAY's Capital Download. It's a process he predicts will take 'until the end of the year and beyond' to complete. The proposed regulation of groups known as 501(c)(4)s drew a record 150,000 comments before the deadline in late February." With video. ...

... Benjamin Soskis of the New Yorker on paying taxes v. giving voluntarily. ...

... CW: Let me ask you this: what community-spirited citizen wants to see children go hungry or want for other necessities? My guess: hardly any. So if volunteerism worked to resolve our most pressing social problems, it would end (or nearly end) child poverty in the U.S., right? Certainly we would not have the situation Matt Bruenig outlines in the linked story below. ...

... Writing on the single-mother/child-poverty myth, Matt Bruenig of Demos finds that high rates of child poverty in every family type are U.S. policy.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has a file on the long, despicable career of Frazier Glenn Miller a/k/a Cross, the Kansas shooter. Thanks to James S. for the link. ...

... Tina Moore, et al., of the New York Daily News elaborate. ...

... More on the shooting from Laura Bauer, et al., of the Kansas City Star. ...

... Ian Lovett of the New York Times: "Although the shooting suspect, Frazier Glenn Miller, was a known racist and anti-Semite with ties to the Ku Klux Klan, the victims who were gunned down on Sunday were all Christians, devoted to their families, to their churches and to serving their Kansas City communities." ...

... CW: When he was a student at Duke 33 years ago Robert Satloff interviewed Miller, who was then the head of the North Carolina KKK. The worst part of Satloff's account for me is not Miller, but this:

[After the interview,] we drove straight into town to talk to locals and find out what they thought of the Klan living right next door. Sgt. Randy Cooke of the nearby Benson police department summed up what we heard about Glenn Miller: 'I'd call him the good-neighborly type,' he said.

     ... It's all too easy to dismiss Miller/Cross as some rare, aberrant monster without confronting the truth that millions of Americans view his ilk as "the good-neighborly type."

Marc Fisher of the Washington Post: "The Social Security Administration announced Monday that it will immediately cease efforts to collect on taxpayers' debts to the government that are more than 10 years old. The action comes after The Washington Post reported that the government was seizing state and federal tax refunds that were on their way to about 400,000 Americans who had relatives who owed money to Social Security. In many cases, the people whose refunds were intercepted had never heard of any debt, and the debts dated as far back as the middle of the past century."

Greg Sargent: "Jeb Bush's comments about immigration ... have produced a seminal moment in this debate, because they lay bare the fundamental difference between the two parties...: Most Democratic lawmakers want the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country to become a part of American society, while most Republican lawmakers want them to (at best) remain in the shadows of illegality or (at worst) leave." ...

... Nate Silver: "Like Bush, many Republicans are moderate on immigration." Via Paul Waldman.

Philip Bump of the Atlantic: "The Congressional Budget Office has reduced its estimate for how much Obamacare will cost and increased its estimate of how many people will be covered.... One of the interesting developments in Obamacare enrollment spotted by researchers from RAND is that the number of people covered by employers has increased — the opposite of what was expected to happen.... The CBO also [found that] ... 'the ACA’s overall effect would be to reduce federal deficits.'" ...

... "The Right's New Scam: Feigning Anger on Behalf of People They Encouraged to Skip Obamacare." Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "... now that [ACA] enrollment is closed, [Republicans wa]re clamoring to flood the existing insurance markets with high-cost beneficiaries and send premiums skyward. Failing that, they want the people who didn't enroll -- including those who didn't enroll on the advice of ACA opponents -- to be angry at Obamacare for leaving them out in the cold."

CW: Why you should support every Democratic candidate for Senate, even if you think s/he's a jerk: Jonathan Chait: Suppose Republicans do gain control of the Senate, as the odds now suggest. "It may seem implausible that Republicans would simply refuse to allow Obama to appoint any justice [at all].... But such a confrontation is not only a logical outcome but the most logical outcome. Voting to flip the Supreme Court would be, if not a political death warrant for a Republican Senator, then certainly taking one's political life into one's own hands." So Mark Pryor? Yay! Mary Landrieu? You go, girl!

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The United States needs to enact a major climate change law, such as a tax on carbon pollution, by the end of this decade to stave off the most catastrophic impacts of global warming, according to the authors of a report released this week by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But aggressive efforts to tackle climate change have repeatedly collided with political reality in Washington, where some Republicans question the underlying science of global warming and lawmakers' ties to the fossil fuel industry have made them resistant to change. The rise of the Tea Party in recent years has also made a tax increase unlikely." ...

... CW: When they're not killing Americans who need health care or killing people in unnecessary wars, Republicans are killing the whole planet. There is nothing good to say about the GOP. Nothing.

The League of Greedy Bastards. Joe Nocera: "CEO pay goes up, up and away!"

Lucy Nicholson of Reuters: "Google Inc updated its terms of service on Monday, informing users that their incoming and outgoing emails are automatically analyzed by software to create targeted ads. The revisions more explicitly spell out the manner in which Google software scans users' emails, both when messages are stored on Google's servers and when they are in transit, a controversial practice that has been at the heart of litigation."

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "The Washington Post won two Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, including the prestigious public-service medal for a series of stories that exposed the National Security Agency's massive global surveillance programs. A team of 28 Post journalists, led by reporter Barton Gellman, shared the public-service award with the British-based Guardian newspaper, which also reported extensively about the NSA's secret programs. Gellman and Glenn Greenwald, then the Guardian's lead reporter on the NSA pieces, based their articles on classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who has fled to exile in Russia, lending a controversial edge to this year's awards." The AP has the complete list of winners here.

Crazier & Crazier

Everything Is a Conspiracy. Sahil Kapur of Think Progress: "Call them the shoe truthers. Some conservative media figures are openly wondering if Hillary Clinton staged an incident during a speech in Las Vegas on Thursday in which a woman in the audience threw a shoe at her.... The reported thrower, Alison Michelle Ernst, was booked by the authorities. A blog post published Monday at the website of Fox News commentator Bernard Goldberg speculated that Clinton probably 'calculated it beforehand,' as is 'almost always true' with things that happen to her.... Rush Limbaugh entertained the same idea...." ...

... CW: Apparently Hillary also controls the feds, who have brought criminal charges against Ernst (see today's Ledes). That is one powerful woman.

We Block Equal Pay Laws Because We Favor Women's Rights. Caitlan MacNeal of TPM: "Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on Sunday insisted that even though Republican Senators blocked the Democrats' equal pay bill last week, her party is fighting for women's rights.... 'It is Republicans that have led the fight for women's equality. Go back through history, and look at who was the first woman to ever vote, elected to office, go to Congress, four out of five governors.' ... Blackburn voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009." ...

... As Salvatore Aversa points out here, Blackburn has argued that women don't want equal pay laws. Because freeeedom.

Beyond the Beltway

Catherine Thompson of TPM: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Monday addressed the conflict between the federal authorities and anti-government activists over a Nevada cattle rancher's self-proclaimed right to graze his animals.... 'Well, it's not over,' Reid told Las Vegas TV station KRNV. 'We can't have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it's not over.'" ...

... In case you forgot what this was all about, Charles Pierce has a good summary. Here's part of it: "Pretty soon, there was an armed standoff as men with guns assembled around the ranch. The BLM people wisely backed off, and there was a great cock-a-doodle-do'ing all over the right, because Cliven Bundy's inalienable right to get something for nothing from the rest of us had been upheld with Second Amendment enthusiasm. Bear in mind that Bundy's entire position is that he can not pay his bills, and that he can ignore a federal judge, because he feels the federal government is illegitimate." ...

... AND here's more on the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity's support for Bundy's sedition. ...

I believe this is a sovereign state of Nevada, I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing. -- Cliven Bundy, said cattle rancher

... Matt Ford of the Atlantic: Bundy & his militia buddies are also violating the Nevada constitution, written before the Bundy family arrived in Nevada, which specifies the people of Nevada owe "paramount allegiance" to the U.S.:

... whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede from the Federal Union, or forcibly resist the Execution of its laws, the Federal Government may, by warrant of the Constitution, employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority. -- Article 1, Section 2, Nevada Constitition

... CW: As far as I can tell, there's big contingent of wingers, aided & abetted by the billionaire Kochs & Fox "News" hosts like Sean Hannity, not to mention a few GOP lawmakers, who paradoxically equate "patriotism" with rejecting the very existence of the United States.

Zack Ford of Think Progress: "This weekend, the Nevada Republican Party voted to strip opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion from its party platform. Previously, the platform had included the beliefs that marriage should be 'between a man and a woman' and described the party as pro-life/against abortion, but this year, the both planks were left out entirely. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, this was an attempt to make the party more inclusive."

News Ledes

Boston Globe: The Boston Marathon finish line has been evacuated after suspicious packages were discovered. ...

... Washington Post: "Boston and its surroundings braced for an emotional week that begins Tuesday with a large ceremony honoring the victims, first responders, medical personnel and others affected by [last years Boston Marathon bomb] attack. It will be a chance to mourn the dead and remember the bloodshed, but also to proclaim that what is perhaps the world's most famous footrace will continue for a 118th year, and to marvel at the way events have brought this community together."

Los Angeles Times: "President Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of a drug convict, correcting a mistake that had extended his prison time by more than three years and could not be fixed by the courts."

Even in Canada. AP: "Five people were killed and the son of a police officer is in custody after multiple stabbings at a house party attended by university students near the University of Calgary, the police chief said, calling it the worst mass murder in Calgary's history."

CNN: "A new video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years. And the CIA and the Pentagon either didn't know about it or couldn't get a drone there in time to strike." With video.

Detroit Free Press: "Two members of General Motors' senior leadership team are leaving the company three months after a transition to a new CEO and amid a crisis over the automaker's failure to fix an ignition switch defect."

AP: "Federal authorities have lodged two criminal charges against a Phoenix woman accused of throwing a shoe at Hillary Rodham Clinton while she gave a convention speech at a Las Vegas Strip resort."

New York Times: "After days of failing to enforce its own ultimatums, the Ukrainian government on Tuesday began what the president called a military operation to confront pro-Russian militants in the east of the country." ...

... Washington Post: "... Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that Ukraine was descending into civil war." ...

     ... Update: "The Ukrainian government said its forces had repelled an assault by pro-Russian militiamen at a military airfield, hours after announcing the start of a staged counteroffensive Tuesday to reclaim control of the eastern part of the country."

BBC News: "Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi must do one year's community service over tax fraud, a Milan court has ruled. He was convicted of tax fraud last year in connection with TV rights purchased by his firm Mediaset in the 1990s. The alternative to community service had been house arrest. It is not yet clear what form his community service will take."