The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, July 31, 2015.

AP: "Beijing was selected Friday to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, defeating the bid from Almaty[,Kazakhstan,] in a surprisingly close vote to become the first city awarded both the winter and summer games."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

Washington Post (June 4): "The first-ever 'female Viagra' came one step closer to coming to market, as a key advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday afternoon to recommend that the FDA approve the drug with conditions. The committee voted 18-6 to recommend that the FDA approve flibanserin, a drug designed to boost the low sexual desire of otherwise healthy women."

White House Live Video
July 31

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing with Energy Secretary Ernest Munoz

2:00 pm ET: Open government public meeting

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

The Birth of Franklin. Washington Post: After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Glickman, a white California mother wrote to cartoonist Charles Schultz urging him to introduce a black character to his "Peanuts" cartoon strips. When Schultz demurred, saying he was afraid "it would look like we were patronizing our Negro friends," Glickman got two of her "Negro friends" who backed the idea to write to Schultz. A short time later, Schultz introduced Franklin. Oh, yes, & strips showing Franklin in an integrated! classroom upset Southern editors, according to Glickman.

Jane Hamshire of Firedoglake: "... I have decided to pass the torch on to Kevin Gosztola and Brian Sonenstein, who will launch their own media organization called Shadowproof that will build on the success of FDL."

Dylan Byers: "MSNBC has formally decided to cancel three programs -- 'The Cycle,' 'Now with Alex Wagner' and 'The Ed Show' -- as part of a larger effort to shift its daytime lineup away from opinion programming.... Alex Wagner and Ari Melber, a 'Cycle' co-host and MSNBC's chief legal correspondent, will remain with the network. Ed Schultz, the host of 'The Ed Show,' will leave the network, as will 'Cycle' co-hosts Abby Huntsman, Krystal Ball and Toure.... In September, MSNBC will add a 5 p.m. program hosted by 'Meet The Press' moderator Chuck Todd, while Brian Williams, the former 'Nightly News' anchor, will serve as the network's breaking news and special reports anchor."

If you can memorize & learn to use the University of New Hampshire's long list of "bias-free language," you can be the most politically-correct person in your neighborhood. Via Jonathan Chait. ...

... CW Etiquette Tip: calling out your friends for using outmoded terms like "overweight" & "rich" is not politically correct. Simply try to steer the conversation in a more "inclusive" direction. So if your friend says to you, "My rich neighbor got so overweight he has to use a wheelchair now," you say, "Oh, that person of material wealth has become a person of size who is wheelchair mobile? Wow! He's your neighbor? I remember him when he was a person experiencing homelessness who lacked advantages that others have." It sounds so natural, your friend will never realize you've corrected his biased, dated stereotypes. ...

     ... UPDATE: Turns out the university's president is biased against the bias-free language guide & he was unaware of its existence until this week. Also, a Republican state legislator is "outraged" & finds the guide a good excuse to cut funding for the state university. Naturally. Thanks to MAG for the lead.

Will Oremus of Slate likes Windows 10. CW: I haven't had the courage to try switching over yet. I'll lose EVERYTHING!

Fuck off! I’m done with you. -- Jon Stewart, to Wyatt Cenac

... Alex Jung of New York: Jon Stewart repeatedly yelled at Wyatt Cenac when Cenac questioned a "Daily Show" segment meant to be a defense against Fox "News" allegations that Stewart's Herman Cain imitation was racist. ...

... Maron's WTF podcast of his interview with Cenac is here. ...

... CW: Here's the thing, black people. When you confront white liberals with accusations of racial bias, WE WILL NEVER ADMIT IT. We will remind you that we have been fighting for black civil rights for 50 years (Bernie Sanders). We will tell you all lives matter (Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley). We will tell you that white people are responsible for expanding your rights (Hillary Clinton). We will deny your accusations (Every one of us). And all the while, we will be highly insulted, even if we don't tell you to fuck off. Because white people's feelings matter. And, after all we've done for you, we can't believe you would accuse us of racism.

Even when they're only lip-syncing, some entertainers are pretty damned talented. I'm not much of a fan of Tom Cruise's, but ...

Tech Crunch: "It’s no secret that Google+ didn’t quite work out the way Google envisioned and now, after already moving Google Photos out of the service, it’s starting to decouple Google+ profiles from its regular Google accounts."

Stupid Pet Tricks, Reptile Edition:

Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast: NBC News Chairman Andy Lack is replacing MSNBC's Ed Schultz with -- Chuck Todd. [CW: Excellent decision! Let's change "MSNBC" to "VPN" -- "Village People's Network."] "The only programs that appeared safe from disruption were Morning Joe..., hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski; Hardball ... with Chris Matthews; and The Rachel Maddow Show at 9 p.m. Those programs have performed respectably...." ...

We live in a time when much of the corporate media regards politics as a baseball game or a soap opera. Ed Schultz has treated the American people with respect by focusing on the most important issues impacting their lives.... I am very disappointed that Comcast [the parent company of NBC & MSNBC] chose to remove Ed Schultz from its lineup. We need more people who talk about the real issues facing our country, not fewer.... At a time when a handful of large, multi-national corporations own our major media outlets, I hope they will allow voices to be heard from those who dissent from the corporate agenda. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders

Washington Post: "The latest update from NASA's Kepler space telescope — designed to spot distant exoplanets — adds more than 500 new possible planets to the fray. That's in addition to the 4,175 planets already found by Kepler. And of those 500 new potential planets, scientists say, a dozen could be remarkably Earth-like. That means they're less than twice as large as Earth, are potentially rocky and are at the right distance from their host stars to harbor liquid water." ...

... Guardian: "Scientists on the hunt for extraterrestrial life have discovered 'the closest twin to Earth' outside the solar system, Nasa announced on Thursday."

Worst Person Ratings in the World. Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: Rumors are a'flyin' that MSNBC is headed for another line-up shake-up, which could include the Return of Dr. Olbermann, who is departing ESPN -- again. Because their third place in cable ratings wasn't as bad as their third place is now (sometimes 4th, behind Al Jazeera). And because the New Olbermann is now a suits-licking pussycat, unlike the Old Olbermann from way last week.

Some Would Be Heroes. Washington Post: Coast Guardsman Darren Harrity swims a mile in choppy, fuel-slicked sea to save four men in a leaky lifeboat.

New York Times: "What Pet Should I Get?" -- an aide to Dr. Suess's widow found the manuscript in a box. Dr. Suess -- Theodore Geisel -- died in 1991.

     ... Via BuzzFeed, for the fun of it.

Washington Post: "On Monday, famed physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian tycoon Yuri Milner held a news conference in London to announce their new project: injecting $100 million and a whole lot of brain power into the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, an endeavor they're calling Breakthrough Listen." ...

... CW: What a waste. You know all they'll find is angels hovering around a pantheon of some sort & maybe, if they're lucky, their long-dead pooches floating around Pet Heaven, which is real & wonderful.

New York Times: "In a pair of legal filings on Friday, two nuns who object to [singer Katy] Perry’s proposed purchase of their order’s convent on eight acres [in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles] disclosed an email describing any sale to the saucy pop singer as a breach of their sacred vows.... The court papers include claims by several of five surviving nuns in the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the archdiocese is betraying them and bullying them into supporting a sale other than their preferred transaction with [another buyer]."

NASA: "In the latest data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, a new close-up image of Pluto reveals a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes. This frozen region is north of Pluto’s icy mountains, in the center-left of the heart feature, informally named 'Tombaugh Regio' (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930."

Hill: "President Obama is making a final 'Daily Show' appearance before host Jon Stewart leaves the political comedy program after 17 years. Obama will sit down for his final chat with Stewart on Tuesday, the White House confirmed Friday."

For an actual feel-good moment, Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post tells the story of 16-year-old small-plane crash survivor Autumn Veatch. Veatch, who was injured in the crash that killed her grandparents, walked untold mild through rough terrain until she came to a public road & parking area.

Washington Post: "Nearly two months after a molestation scandal prompted TLC to pull reruns of the popular reality program '19 Kids and Counting' from the air and online, the network announced that it has officially canceled the program."

Washington Post: "Filmmaker George Lucas, singer-songwriter Carole King and dancer-actress Rita Moreno are among an unprecedented six honorees to be saluted at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors. Seventies rockers the Eagles, actress Cicely Tyson and conductor Seiji Ozawa will also be honored at the Dec. 6 event, Kennedy Center officials said Wednesday. A major fundraiser for the arts center, the gala celebration will be televised on CBS on Dec. 29."

Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker reviews Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman. ...

... Laura Marsh of the New Republic: "Scolars have been pointing out Atticus Finch's racism for years."

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Saturday
Jun082013

The Commentariat -- June 9, 2013

Glenn Greenwald & Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian: "The National Security Agency has developed a powerful tool for recording and analysing where its intelligence comes from, raising questions about its repeated assurances to Congress that it cannot keep track of all the surveillance it performs on American communications. The Guardian has acquired top-secret documents about the NSA datamining tool, called Boundless Informant, that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks." ...

... James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence: "Over the last week we have seen reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe. In a rush to publish, media outlets have not given the full context -- including the extent to which these programs are overseen by all three branches of government -- to these effective tools." ...

... Robert O'Harrow, et al., of the Washington Post: "The statement from Clapper is both an affirmation of PRISM and the government's strongest defense of it since its disclosure by The Post and the Guardian on Thursday. On Wednesday, the Guardian also disclosed secret orders enabling the National Security Agency to obtain data from Verizon about millions of phone calls made from the United States." ...

... Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed: "The main author of a string of stories revealing large-scale top secret spying on American citizens by the National Security Agency says that there are parts of the story that have been withheld for legal reasons and that the goal is not to execute an unedited document dump. 'We're not engaged in a mindless, indiscriminate document dump, and our source didn't want us to be,' said Glenn Greenwald ... in an email to BuzzFeed Saturday. 'We're engaged in the standard journalistic assessment of whether the public value to publication outweighs any harms.'" ...

... Timothy Gardner & Mark Hosenball of Reuters: "A U.S. intelligence agency requested a criminal probe on Saturday into the leak of highly classified information about secret surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency, a spokesman for the intelligence chief's office said. Confirmation that the NSA filed a 'crimes report' came a few hours after the nation's spy chief, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper launched an aggressive defense of a secret government data collection program." ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Senior Obama administration officials, including the directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and national intelligence, have held 13 classified hearings and briefings for members of Congress since 2009 to explain the broad authority they say they have to sweep up electronic records for national security purposes, a senior administration official said Saturday. The administration, by disclosing the briefings to lawmakers, sought to push back on claims by Democrats and Republicans in Congress that they were either not aware of programs to mine vast amounts of Internet data and business telephone records or were insufficiently briefed on the details. Lawmakers said that what they knew was vague and broad -- and that strict rules of classification prevented them from truly debating the programs or conducting proper oversight." ...

... I Guess He's Not Obambi Any More. Maureen Dowd: "Back in 2007, Obama said he would not want to run an administration that was 'Bush-Cheney lite.' He doesn't have to worry. With prisoners denied due process at Gitmo starving themselves, with the C.I.A. not always aware who it's killing with drones, with an overzealous approach to leaks, and with the government's secret domestic spy business swelling, there's nothing lite about it." ...

... Rob Taylor & Naomi Tajitsu of Reuters: "Unease over a clandestine U.S. data collection program has rippled across the Pacific to two of Washington's major allies, Australia and New Zealand, raising concerns about whether they have cooperated with secret electronic data mining. Both Canberra and Wellington share intelligence with the United States, as well as Britain and Canada. But both Pacific neighbors now face awkward questions about a U.S. digital surveillance program that Washington says is aimed primarily at foreigners."

Jackie Calmes & Steven Myers of the New York Times: "President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China said that they were building 'a new model' of more cooperative relations after 40 years of diplomatic ups and downs, as they wound down a second day of talks on Saturday that included discussion of a nuclear-armed North Korea, cyberespionage, climate change, free trade and human rights. Mr. Xi said he and Mr. Obama 'reached important consensus on these issues' when they spoke to reporters during a break late Friday, after meeting for more than the planned three hours and before a nearly two-hour working dinner." ...

     ... Update. New Lede: "Even as they pledged to build 'a new model' of relations, President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China ended two days of informal meetings here on Saturday moving closer on pressuring a nuclear North Korea and addressing climate change, but remaining sharply divided over cyberespionage and other issues that have divided the countries for years." ...

... Steven Mufson of the Washington Post: "The agreement between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday to wind down the production and consumption of a class of chemicals commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners could mark a key step toward eliminating some of the most potent greenhouse gases. The United States and roughly 100 other countries have already pledged to seek substitutes. For the first time, the United States and China will work together to persuade other countries, most notably holdouts such as Brazil and India, to join the effort to slash or eliminate the use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs."

Sometimes members of Congress have good ideas. WCBS reports that Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) will introduce legislation to repeal dishonorable discharges that were ordered because servicemembers were gay. Changing dishonorable discharges to honorable would allow the gay former servicemembers to receive medical & other benefits.

Congressional Race

Kate Zernicke of the New York Times: "Cory Booker, who has built national celebrity from his perch as mayor of this beleaguered city [Newark], brought another of the state's most famous political figures here on Saturday as he officially declared his campaign for United States Senate. At the announcement, former Senator Bill Bradley, who like Mr. Booker is a Democrat who entered politics as an Ivy League-educated former Rhodes scholar, introduced the mayor-turned-candidate as 'the right person for the right office at the right time,' one who sees politics as 'a noble enterprise, not a dirty business.'"


Remember those GOP "autopsy reports"? Now Republicans are beginning to act on the recommendations. First step: ratchet up their outreach to evangelicals! Pete Hamby of CNN reports. CW: the New GOP is just like the Old GOP, except worse.

News Ledes

AP: "A heavy equipment operator who is accused of being high on marijuana when a downtown building collapsed onto a thrift store, killing six people, is in custody after surrendering to face charges in the deaths, police said. Sean Benschop, who has a lengthy police record, surrendered Saturday and faces six counts of involuntary manslaughter, 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person and one count of risking a catastrophe. A warrant had been issued for his arrest and police had been searching for him. He is awaiting arraignment." The Philadelphia Inquirer story is here. CW: so the contractor who hired the guy & the building's owner who hired the contractor have no culpability?

Boston Globe: "Argeo Paul Cellucci, a Hudson, [Massachusetts,] native who rose from a small-town selectman to become governor of Massachusetts and ambassador to Canada, died at his home in Hudson [Saturday] afternoon after a five-year battle with Lou Gehrig's disease, according to two close family friends. He was 65. Mr. Cellucci, who served as governor from 1997 to 2001, died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a degenerative and incurable neurological condition."

Reuters: " Jury selection begins on Monday in the murder trial of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012 and then famously walked free for 44 days, triggering nationwide protests and calls for his arrest."

AP: "Government delegates from North and South Korea began preparatory talks Sunday at a 'truce village' on their heavily armed border aimed at setting ground rules for a higher-level discussion on easing animosity and restoring stalled rapprochement projects."

Friday
Jun072013

The Commentariat -- June 8, 2013

The President's Weekly Address:

Christi Parsons of the Los Angeles Times: "The United States and China are economic competitors who face 'a whole range of challenges on which we have to cooperate,' President Obama said late Friday as he welcomed his Chinese counterpart to a two-day summit in this California desert town." ...

... Rory Carroll of the Guardian: "President Barack Obama has brushed aside the outcry over surveillance operations by the US government to tell China's President Xi Jinping he wants a world order where all countries play by the same rules on cybersecurity.

Glenn Greenwald & Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian: "Barack Obama has ordered his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber-attacks, a top secret presidential directive obtained by the Guardian reveals. The 18-page Presidential Policy Directive 20, issued in October last year but never published, states that what it calls Offensive Cyber Effects Operations (OCEO) 'can offer unique and unconventional capabilities to advance US national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging'". The directive is here. ...

... Max Fisher of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration, based on these documents, seems to see offensive cyber attacks as most appropriate when used to preempt a possible incoming attack. In this sense, their cyber doctrine bears a striking resemblance to Obama's case for the use of drone strikes, which he articulated in a recent speech." ...

... Nick Hopkins of the Guardian: "The UK's electronic eavesdropping and security agency, GCHQ, has been secretly gathering intelligence from the world's biggest internet companies through a covertly run operation set up by America's top spy agency, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal. The documents show that GCHQ, based in Cheltenham, has had access to the system since at least June 2010, and generated 197 intelligence reports from it last year. The US-run programme, called Prism, would appear to allow GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos from an internet company based outside the UK." ...

... Josh Gerstein & Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama defended his administration's data-gathering programs Friday, calling them necessary for national security and well within the bounds of the law, and saying he believed his administration had 'struck the right balance' between privacy and security." ...

Oversight?

... (1) Jonathan Easley of the Hill: "Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on Friday disputed a claim President Obama made at a press conference only moments earlier, when the president said that every member of Congress had been briefed on the National Security Agency's (NSA) domestic phone surveillance program. Merkley said only select members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had been briefed on the program, and that he was only aware of it because he obtained 'special permission' to review the pertinent documents after hearing about it second-hand." ...

... (2) Burgess Everett & Jake Sherman of Politico: "Several Republican lawmakers said they had not been briefed on the Obama administration's classified programs to monitor cellphone and Internet traffic. That's in direct contradiction to President Barack Obama's assertion. The president said on Friday that 'every member of Congress' has been briefed on the programs led by the National Security Administration." ...

... (3) Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: "Despite President Obama's reassurance today that there is strict oversight of the government's data collecting activities, the federal court meant to provide a check against such espionage overreach hasn't denied a single request in almost four years -- and rarely rebuffs intelligence agencies' desires to conduct electronic or physical surveillance -- records reveal."

... Mark Hosenball of Reuters: "A secret U.S. intelligence program to collect emails that is at the heart of an uproar over government surveillance helped foil an Islamist militant plot to bomb the New York City subway system in 2009, U.S. government sources said on Friday. The sources said Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, was talking about a plot hatched by Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan-born U.S. resident, when he said on Thursday that such surveillance had helped thwart a significant terrorist plot in recent years." ...

... David Sanger & Charlie Savage of the New York Times on Zazi & on the broader question of whether or not catching a few Zazis merits indiscriminate mining of communications. ...

... Larry Page & David Drummond of Google: "... we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government -- or any other government -- direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a 'back door' to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.... We provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law." ...

... Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook: "Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers. We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received. And if we did, we would fight it aggressively. We hadn't even heard of PRISM before yesterday." ...

... Henry Blodgett of Business Insider: "Most of the major companies have now explicitly denied participating in such a program. Apple, Facebook, and Google have denied all knowledge of it.... These denials are explicit, vehement, and detailed, and they do not leave much room for parsing (except by diehard conspiracy theorists).... The assertion that the country's biggest Internet companies are voluntarily giving the government direct open access to their user data in real-time looks increasingly like bunk. The Washington Post has now changed and hedged its original story. The 'direct access' claim is now just attributed to a government document that, at least on this score, is likely inaccurate." ...

... Actually, No. Claire Miller of the New York Times: "... Internet companies, increasingly at the center of people's personal lives, interact with the spy agencies that look to their vast trove of information -- e-mails, videos, online chats, photos and search queries -- for intelligence.... The ... government and tech companies work together.... Instead of adding a back door to their servers, the companies were essentially asked to erect a locked mailbox and give the government the key, people briefed on the negotiations [between the government & the tech companies] said.... Details on the discussions help explain the disparity between initial descriptions of the government program and the companies' responses." Twitter refused to negotiate the government. ...

... Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who helped draft the PATRIOT Act, is exploring options to narrow a provision of the law that allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to obtain telephonic metadata on nearly all Americans. The comments are the first indication that Congress may act to restrict the government's ongoing data collection since the Guardian published a secret court order compelling Verizon to turn over its records on a 'on an ongoing daily basis' and the Wall Street Journal reported that AT&T and Sprint are also sending their records to the government.... Sensenbrenner indicated that he will draft legislation to 'change that part of the business records part of the Patriot Act before it expires in 2015' ... and will question FBI Director Robert Muller about the program when he appears before Congress next week. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) also plans to offer a bill designed to close the 'business records' provision." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... Stephen Braun of the AP: "For years, top officials of the Bush and Obama administrations dismissed fears about secret government data-mining by reassuring Congress that there were no secret nets trawling for Americans' phone and Internet records. 'We do not vacuum up the contents of communications under the president's program and then use some sort of magic after the intercept to determine which of those we want to listen to, deal with or report on,' then-CIA Director Michael Hayden told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in July 2006. But on Friday, President Barack Obama himself acknowledged the existence of such programs...." CW: perjury in the name of national security? ...

... CW: I agree with contributor P. D. Pepe: Alec MacGillis of The New Republic provides a refreshing perspective on all the hoo-hah, not that some of it isn't merited. ...

... He's a Constitutional Scholar! Gail Collins: "Do you remember how enthusiastic people were about having a president who once taught constitutional law? I guess we've learned a lesson."

... Charles Pierce: "Listen very closely, Mr. President, because I voted for you twice and, given the alternatives, I would do so again. OK? Here it is. I...don't...believe...you." ... Thanks to James S. for the link. ...

... Pierce again: "We are a less free people. We are a people who have decided, en masse, and through our choice of leaders, to be a less free people. We should at least own that, and not talk about "trading" things that were not ours to give away." ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: Rand Paul = boy hero; Barack Obama = George W. Bush.

... Jonathan Salant of Bloomberg News: "President Barack Obama should end the broad surveillance of telephone calls and Internet usage, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said today ... in an interview on 'Political Capital with Al Hunt,' airing this weekend on Bloomberg Television.... Manchin, 65, also indicated that Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been criticized for targeting news organizations, among other issues, should consider resigning." ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times: "What the public never learns is how many of those patterns [the NSA searches] lead to wiretaps of innocent citizens. The Guardian reported that the Internet-search program, known as PRISM, results in 2,000 further reviews of messages every month, which means that government investigators read the actual contents of tens of thousands of messages. That number undoubtedly includes many false hits on people who were not communicating about terrorist plots. But even in the unlikely case that the government never eavesdrops on the wrong people, the cost to civil liberties is still too high. The tiny chance of a useful match cannot justify collecting everyone's phone records, or running searches on millions of e-mail messages and Internet chats." ...

... Philip Ewing of Politico: "The National Security Agency pushed for the government to 'rethink' the Fourth Amendment when it argued in a classified memo that it needed new authorities and capabilities for the information age. The 2001 memo, later declassified and posted online by George Washington University's National Security Archive, makes a case to the incoming George W. Bush administration that the NSA needs new authorities and technology to adapt to the Internet era."

Katherine Skiba of the Chicago Tribune: "Federal prosecutors urged today that former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. be sent to prison for four years and his wife, Sandi Jackson, be incarcerated for 18 months. In making the recommendation, prosecutors suggested the prison terms could be structured so that the Jacksons, who have two children ages 9 and 13, are not behind bars at the same time. Prosecutors asked that Sandi Jackson be imprisoned first."

** Chumpbait. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone: "... a lot of editorialists at the [Bradley] Manning trial, who have decided that the 'real story"'in the Manning case is what this incident showed about our lax security procedures, our lack of good due diligence in vetting the folks we put in charge of our vital information.... If you can convince the American people that this case is about mental state of a single troubled kid from Crescent, Oklahoma, then the propaganda war has been won already.... This case is entirely about the 'classified' materials Manning had access to, and whether or not they contained widespread evidence of war crimes. This whole thing, this trial, it all comes down to one simple equation. If you can be punished for making public a crime, then the government doing the punishing is itself criminal.... The debate we should be having is over whether as a people we approve of the acts he uncovered that were being done in our names."

For those of you who think AG Eric Holder is "just right" in his representation of the Obama administration, David Ignatius of the Washington Post disagrees: "The problem with Holder is the plain fact that, in the judgment of a wide range of legal colleagues, he has been a mediocre attorney general. Holder's mistakes in management and judgment are clear in the current controversy about leak investigations. He was silent as zealous prosecutors overrode the Justice Department's guidelines for subpoenaing reporters; he recused himself from the case but bizarrely doesn’t seem to have kept a written record of the recusal; and he failed utterly to anticipate the political flap that erupted when Justice informed the Associated Press that it had collected the call records for more than 20 phone lines." (Links original.) CW: Read the whole column. I'm with Ignatius. Holder has always blown with the wind, & (except as evidenced by his tepid & tardy pushbacks against 2012 voter suppression efforts, which could easily be seen as simply pragmatic) he doesn't seem to have any strongly-held principles. A cynic might think President Obama chose him because of his shortcomings, not in spite of them.

Air Force Damage Control. Hayes Brown of Think Progress: "The Air Force on Friday announced that it had named a woman to head its troubled Sexual Assault Prevention program, herself a much higher rank than the former director who was himself arrested on charges of sexual assault. Maj. Gen. Margaret H. Woodward was named the new director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office within the Air Force on Friday afternoon.... According to her official biography, Woodward has served in the Air Force since 1983...." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Ellen Sturtz, in a Washington Post op-ed, explains why she heckled Michelle Obama. "... it's been almost 40 years since similar legislation to ENDA was first introduced in Congress. And being polite hasn't gotten us any closer to it becoming a reality." She writes that when Obama said, "Right now, today, we have an obligation to stand up for those kids," she (Sturtz) felt she had to speak up for LGBT kids. Also, she adds that the First Lady is always asking for money from LGBT groups, so the government should pay up by providing them more protection.

Ed Kilgore provides three reasons why Republicans and conservatives obsess over ObamaCare. "Given their premises about government and their very low opinion of their own country, the Obamacare Derangement Syndrome makes abundant sense for conservatives." CW: there's a 4th reason that Kilgore doesn't mention: they're afraid it will be as successful & popular as Social Security & Medicare. Here again, they're probably right.

No Strategy. Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post: Republican Senators are "all over the map" in their reactions to President Obama's three nominations for the D.C. Circuit Court.

News Ledes

Reuters: "The Ohio man accused of kidnapping three women and holding them captive in his Cleveland home for a decade will plead 'not guilty' to several hundred charges that also include rape and aggravated murder, his attorney said on Saturday. Former school bus driver Ariel Castro was indicted on Friday on 329 criminal counts in connection with the imprisonment of Gina DeJesus, 23, Michelle Knight, 32, and Amanda Berry, 27. The women were freed from Castro's house on May 6."

KTVK Phoenix: "A 4-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his father at a home in Prescott Valley Friday, according to a spokesman for the Prescott Valley Police Dept. Police have identified the victim as 35-year-old Justin Stanfield Thomas of Phoenix, a military veteran who served in the Army Special Forces. Detectives say he and his son were from Phoenix and they were visiting a friend at that home. The boy found a gun in the living room and accidentally shot his father."

AP: "Former South African President Nelson Mandela is in 'serious but stable' condition after being taken to a hospital to be treated for a lung infection, the government said Saturday, prompting an outpouring of concern from admirers of a man who helped to end white racist rule."

AP: "The FBI says a Texas< woman admitted sending ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but only after trying to pin it on her husband. Shannon Guess Richardson was charged Friday with mailing a threat to the president. The federal charge carries up to 10 years in prison.... No charges have been filed against her husband. His attorney says the couple is divorcing and the letters were a setup."

Reuters: "Police on Saturday were investigating what prompted a man dressed in black to embark on a string of shootings in the beach community of Santa Monica, killing four people before police gunned him down in a community college library. Five other people were wounded in the shooting rampage, which unfolded just a few miles from where President Barack Obama was speaking at a political fundraiser elsewhere in Santa Monica.... The bloodshed did not appear to be related to Obama's visit to Santa Monica and the Secret Service called it a 'local police matter.'" ...

     ... AP Update: "The gunman who went on a chaotic rampage killing four people before being fatally shot by police at a college campus planned the attack and was capable of firing 1,300 rounds of ammunition, the police chief said Saturday."

AP: "Soaking rains that spawned numerous flood warnings pushed some streams and creeks over their banks throughout the Northeast, yet the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season sped up the Eastern Seaboard without causing major damage. Andrea was centered over eastern Long Island in New York by 5 a.m. Saturday, with winds of 45 mph, and flood warnings were in effect for parts of New England. The storm was expected to reach Canadian waters by Sunday."

Reuters: "Syrian government troops backed by Hezbollah guerrillas seized the western village of Buwayda on Saturday, extinguishing final rebel resistance around the town of Qusair in a fresh success for President Bashar al-Assad. The swift fall of Buwayda came just three days after rebels were swept out of Qusair, denying them a previously important supply route into neighboring Lebanon and giving renewed momentum to Assad's forces battling a two-year civil war."

Thursday
Jun062013

The Commentariat -- June 7, 2013

Josh Lederman & Donna Cassata of the AP: "Moving to tamp down a public uproar spurred by the disclosure of two secret surveillance programs, the nation's top intelligence official is declassifying key details about one of the programs while insisting the efforts to collect America's phone records and the U.S. internet use of foreign nationals overseas were legal, limited in scope and necessary to detect terrorist threats. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in an unusual late-night statement Thursday, denounced the leaks of highly classified documents that revealed the programs and warned that America's security will suffer. He called the disclosure of a program that targets foreigners' Internet use 'reprehensible,' and said the leak of another program that lets the government collect Americans' phone records would change America's enemies behavior and make it harder to understand their intentions." ...

... Here's Clapper's full statement. ...

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "New disclosures about top-secret government programs to collect data on Americans' phone calls and Internet activity are likely to overshadow President Obama's two-day summit this weekend with the president of China. Mr. Obama is set to meet with President Xi Jinping on a 200-acre estate in Southern California on Friday and Saturday, a historic visit that was expected to be a venue for Mr. Obama to raise concerns about Chinese cyber attacks and spying. But now, that diplomatic conversation will take place in the midst of striking revelations about the United States's surveillance operations on its own citizens." ...

... Barton Gellman & Laura Poitras of the Washington Post: "The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track one target or trace a whole network of associates, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post. The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind." ...

... Glenn Greenwald & Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian broke the story at about the same time. (Apparently, the two papers worked together on the story.) ...

... Charlie Savage, et al., of the New York Times: "The federal government has been secretly collecting information on foreigners overseas for nearly six years from the nation's largest Internet companies like Google, Facebook and, most recently, Apple, in search of national security threats, the director of national intelligence confirmed Thursday night." ...

... Siobhan Gorman, et al., of the Wall Street Journal: "The National Security Agency's monitoring of Americans includes customer records from the three major phone networks as well as emails and Web searches, and the agency also has cataloged credit-card transactions, said people familiar with the agency's activities." ...

... Noam Cohen & Leslie Kaufman of the New York Times profile Glenn Greenwald. "The article [on Verizon], which included a link to the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] order, is expected to attract an investigation from the Justice Department, which has aggressively pursued leakers."

"President Obama's Dragnet." New York Times Editors: "To casually permit this surveillance [of Americans' phone records] -- with the American public having no idea that the executive branch is now exercising this power -- fundamentally shifts power between the individual and the state, and repudiates constitutional principles governing search, seizure and privacy. The defense of this practice offered by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is supposed to be preventing this sort of overreaching, was absurd.... This stunning use of the [Patriot Act] shows, once again, why it needs to be sharply curtailed if not repealed." ...

     ... Margaret Hartmann & Joe Coscarelli of New York: "On Thursday afternoon (even before the world learned of 'PRISM'), the New York Times published a blistering editorial on the developing government surveillance scandal that declared, 'The administration has now lost all credibility.' The phrase was soon all over Twitter and appeared prominently on websites ranging from Politico to Drudge -- everywhere but the New York Times. As cataloged by NewsDiffs, by the evening, the phrase had been modified to read, 'The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue.' (Emphasis added.)"

... Ellen Nakashima & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration and key U.S. lawmakers on Thursday defended a secret National Security Agency telephone surveillance program that one congressman ... House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) ... said had helped avert a terrorist attack in recent years."

... Elspeth Reeve of the Atlantic: "The NSA spying is bigger than Verizon." Way bigger. P.S. NSA workers think your phone sex is, well, fucking hilarious. ...

... Jane Mayer of the New Yorker: "... it's worse than many might think." ...

... William Saletan of Slate is sanguine: "The government's phone surveillance isn't Orwellian. It's limited and supervised." ...

... Adam Serwer of NBC News: Judge Roger Vinson was so worried that the federal government could force him to eat broccoli that he declared the Affordable Care Act an unconstitutional violation of the commerce clause, yet somehow Vinson is with shredding the Fourth Amendment. CW: I guess Vinson is not concerned that the Feds can find out who is mistress & bookie are.

... Not as Bad as John Yoo! Scott Lemieux in the American Prospect: "At the very least, the indiscriminate nature of the Verizon order indicates flaws with the FISA framework established by Congress in 2007 and recently extended until 2017." That the Obama administration acted "legally" and "that the Supreme Court probably won't hear a challenge to current FISA arrangement and would probably uphold it if it did doesn't make the Court right." ...

 ... Atrios: "It's totally not a big deal and that's why it needs to be completely secret and free from meaningful oversight." ...

... Marcy Wheeler: "Here's the question, though: if this program is no big deal, as the Administration and some members of Congress are already claiming in damage control, then why has the Administration been making thin non-denial denials about it for years? If it is so uncontroversial, why is it secret?... The secrecy has been entirely about preventing American citizens from knowing how their privacy had been violated.... [Its purpose is to] undercut separation of powers to ensure that the constitutionality of this program can never be challenged by American citizens." ...

... John Sides: "... the presence of a fairly sturdy bipartisan elite consensus on domestic surveillance -- whether it is motivated by partisanship (Republicans defended Bush, Democrats defend Obama) or by a sincere belief in the value of the policy -- makes it hard to imagine that revelations about the NSA-Verizon agreement will lead to dramatic changes in policy."

... Matt Apuzzo of the AP has a pretty good -- and simple -- Q&A on the NSA's sweep of Verizon (and most likely other company) phone records. ...

... Timothy Lee of the Washington Post also has a good post explaining what the NSA is probably doing. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... for the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, a civil libertarian who has been fighting a long war against national security surveillance practices, it has to be a peak moment to be the public conduit for leaked documents establishing what he had long suspected."

"The Spite Club." Paul Krugman: "... the only way to understand [Republican-dominates states'] refusal to expand Medicaid is as an act of sheer spite. And the cost of that spite won't just come in the form of lost dollars; it will also come in the form of gratuitous hardship for some of our most vulnerable citizens.... The rejectionist states would lose more than $8 billion a year in federal aid, and would also find themselves on the hook for roughly $1 billion more to cover the losses hospitals incur when treating the uninsured."

Alan Fram & Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: Faris Fink (his real name), "an Internal Revenue Service official whose division staged a lavish $4.1 million training conference and who starred as Mr. Spock in a 'Star Trek' parody shown at the 2010 California gathering, conceded to Congress on Thursday that taxpayer dollars were wasted in the episode.... [The IRS Inspector General's] report concluded that rather than saving money by negotiating lower room rates with ... three Anaheim hotels, the IRS paid a standard government rate of $135 per room but accepted perks in return. Asked why the IRS didn't negotiate for lower room rates, Fink said, 'I was not aware we had the ability to do that.'" CW: really? This guy is definitely not smart enough to audit my taxes. ...

... Another IRS training video surfaces, this one supposedly an attempt to parody Don Draper, the "Mad Man" character. (I think the actor sounds more like Rod Serling of "The Twilight Zone"):

William Gibson of the Orlando Sentinel: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says he's working really, really hard to pass immigration reform legislation even though "Both sides accuse him of playing political games. Some speculate that his shifting stance -- going from cheerleader to occasional critic, and back again -- is part of a strategy to enact a signature piece of legislation without political damage while preparing to run for president in 2016."

"Big Pot." Tim Egan on nascent efforts of big-name capitalists to make big pots of gold selling legalized pot in Washington state & Colorado.

Congressional Race

Jenna Portnoy of the Star-Ledger: New Jersey "Gov. Chris Christie today named New Jersey attorney general Jeffrey Chiesa to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the death of U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Chiesa said he won't seek election later this year." The article includes a brief biography of Chiesa. The New York Times story is here. ...

... Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: "In appointing state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to fill the seat vacated by deceased Sen. Frank Lautenberg, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has come as close to appointing himself -- without actually doing so -- as possible. Chiesa is a longtime loyalist and friend of the governor -- with little public profile or known ideological agenda -- following Christie from private practice, to the U.S. attorney's office, to the governor's mansion, making one wonder if his Senate office will effectively function as an extension of the governor's office in Washington." ...

... Times of Trenton: "U.S. Rep. Rush Holt ended the speculation this morning that he might run for the U.S. Senate seat left open by the death of Frank Lautenberg by officially asking his supporters to help collect signatures for the race.... Holt, a Democrat, has represented New Jersey's 12th Congressional District since 1999." CW: Holt was briefly -- and surprisingly -- my Congressman. I like him. He's liberals, he's a physicist, and he's smarter than the computer Watson! (Really.)

Local News

Bob Warner, et al., of the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Despite multiple complaints, shoddy demolition work at 22d and Market Streets went uninspected for more than three weeks before the deadly collapse of a building Wednesday, raising basic questions about the city's competence regulating demolition projects.... Mayor [Michael] Nutter and Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Carlton Williams acknowledged Thursday that the city had granted a demolition permit for that project without any inquiry into the contractor's qualifications for demolition work. The city does not require demolition contractors to establish their qualifications.... Although the city began fielding citizen complaints about the Center City project as early as May 7, city inspectors reported no problems at a May 14 visit and did not follow up.... Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald, said the city relied on OSHA to look into safety issues at active demolition sites." ...

... Mark Faziollah, et al., of the Inquirer: "The contractor hired to demolish the building at 2136-38 Market St. has a criminal record stemming from a phony car-wreck scheme with a Philadelphia police officer, according to court records. And his demolition work next to a Salvation Army thrift shop worried neighbors, workers, and others in the days before Wednesday's fatal collapse, because an adjoining wall was left unsupported.... Griffin Campbell ... has city permits to demolish six other properties, including three Market Street properties owned by STB Investments Corp., the owner of the collapsed building. The principal of STB is Richard Basciano, owner of many seedy properties and once dubbed 'the undisputed king of Times Square porn.'" ...

... Kathy Matheson, et al., of the AP: "The search for victims of a building collapse that killed six people wound down Thursday amid mounting questions about whether the demolition company that was tearing down the structure at the time caused the tragedy by cutting corners."

Vital International News

Secret of the Kremlin Revealed! Ellen Barry of the New York Times: Russian "President Vladimir V. Putin announced on Thursday that he plans to divorce his wife of 29 years, Lyudmila, who for years has barely appeared in public, prompting widespread chatter about the secretive leader's private life. The couple made the announcement to a television crew after attending a ballet performance at the Kremlin together -- an unusual event in itself, since in recent years Lyudmila Putin has appeared in public only rarely."

News Ledes

AP: "A pregnant Texas actress who told FBI agents her husband had sent ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been arrested for orchestrating the scheme herself, law enforcement officials said Friday. It was not immediately clear what charges would be filed against Shannon Guess Richardson of New Boston, Texas, a mother of five who has played bit roles in television shows. Two U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed her arrest to The Associated Press...."

Cleveland Plain Dealer: "A Cuyahoga County grand jury returned a 329-count indictment this afternoon against Ariel Castro, charging the 52-year-old Cleveland man with the kidnapping and rape of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. Castro was indicted for one act of aggravated murder -- for purposely and with prior calculation and design causing the unlawful termination of another's pregnancy,said County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty."

Reuters: "At least four people were wounded when gunfire erupted near Santa Monica College west of Los Angeles on Friday, about 3 miles from where President Barack Obama was attending a political fundraiser, and a suspect was arrested, authorities said. A spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol told Reuters the highway patrol had received a report of a man armed with multiple weapons, including a shotgun, firing at passing cars and a bus at two locations near the college campus." ...

     ... CBS News Update: "A gunman with an assault-style rifle killed at least six people in Santa Monica on Friday before police shot him to death in a gunfight in the Santa Monica College library, authorities said." ...

... AP: "Two people were found dead Friday in a burned home near Santa Monica College, where someone sprayed a street corner with gunfire, wounding at least four people, authorities said."

AP: "Richard Ramirez, the demonic serial killer known as the Night Stalker who left satanic signs at murder scenes and mutilated victims' bodies during a reign of terror in the 1980s, died early Friday in a hospital, a prison official said."

Reuters: "U.S. employers stepped up hiring in May, a sign the economy was growing modestly but not strong enough to convince the Federal Reserve to scale back the amount of cash it is pumping into the banking system. The United States added 175,000 jobs last month, just above the median forecast in a Reuters poll, Labor Department data showed on Friday."

AP: "After bringing rains, heavy winds and even tornadoes to parts of Florida, Tropical Storm Andrea moved quickly across south Georgia and was speeding through the Carolinas on Friday morning...."

Wednesday
Jun052013

The Commentariat -- June 6, 2013

Julian Pecquet & Daniel Strauss of the Hill: "Two key Republican senators [John McCain & Bob Corker {Tenn.}] on Wednesday muted their criticism of Susan Rice, saying they would welcome the opportunity to work with her when she assumes the post of President Obama's national security adviser.... Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who previously had been softer on Rice than many of his colleagues over Benghazi, said the choice reflects poorly on Obama." ...

... Oh, speaking of the NSA. Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian: "The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon ... under a top secret court order issued in April. The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an 'ongoing, daily basis' to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.... The communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk -- regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing. The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19." Thanks to Dave S. for the link. ...

... The New York Times makes this their top story this morning, crediting the Guardian (i.e., Greenwald) for publishing the court order. Charlie Savage & Edward Wyatt report. ...

... Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post (where Greenwald's scoop is also the top story): "A senior Obama administration official said Thursday that the purported order 'does not allow the government to listen in on anyone's telephone calls' but relates only to 'metadata, such as a telephone number or the length of a call.' The official said such information 'has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States.' The official added that 'all three branches of government are involved in reviewing and authorizing intelligence collection' under the secret court, and Congress 'is regularly and fully briefed' on how the information is used."

David Graham of the Atlantic: "No more Mr. Nice President. For a brief few weeks this spring, the president was on what was universally, and rather uncreatively, described as a 'charm offensive.' But a series of high-profile power plays this week show suggest a White House that has either lost faith in the value of reaching out or is simply annoyed at a series of scandal investigations and isn't going to take it anymore. The moves may also reflect a concern that if the president doesn't move to set the tone for his second term, it may end up being defined by Republican-driven scandals. Whatever the case, the Obama Administration has this week dropped the 'charm' but is sticking with the 'offensive.'" ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "The unapologetic selections reflect a conclusion in the West Wing that when it comes to choosing personnel, the president can never satisfy Republicans who will find almost anyone objectionable. But his choices also highlight the complicated second-term balancing act for a president unconstrained by re-election concerns and therefore freer to challenge Congress, yet still hoping to forge deals by courting the opposition with dinners and White House meetings." ...

     ... CW: what Baker doesn't say is that Obama's so-called "controversial" nominations may reflect a deal with Harry Reid to break the filibuster of presidential nominations. We'll find out this summer.

Zeke Miller of Time: "On Thursday President Barack Obama will take his second trip back to North Carolina since the November election. The visit to the swing state he won by a hair in 2008 but lost last time around is to announce a new program called ConnectED, a five-year initiative to bring high speed Internet to 99 percent of American students. But the repeat state visit -- one of only a handful so far in the second term -- also highlights the Democratic Party's frustrations in North Carolina, its toehold into the South."

Matt Miller, in the Washington Post: "Republican nihilism and intransigence -- huge problems, so please don't arrest me, false equivalency police! -- can't explain the Democratic ambition gap. In fact, it's not clear that anything in my depressing inventory above would be meaningfully different if the GOP had vanished or capitulated. Rare instances aside, this means Democrats aren't offering ideas equal to the magnitude of our problems. Republicans, meanwhile, can't even see what the problems are." ...

... Kevin Drum: "I just don't know any longer what I'm supposed to think about a political movement whose primary raison d'être, one they no longer even bother to conceal, is an almost gleeful immiseration of the poor for the benefit of the rich. How is it that the wealthiest country on earth has come to this?"

Jim Avila & Serena Marshall of ABC News: "Bipartisan meetings in the House of Representatives on a comprehensive immigration reform bill have failed.... The stumbling block is GOP insistence that newly legalized workers now working in the shadows have no access to government-sponsored health care during their 15-year pathway to citizenship.... Democrats say that since these newly legalized immigrants would be paying taxes they should be eligible for benefits. The stalemate is not expected to be solved and any immigration legislation from the House would likely proceed in piecemeal fashion." ...

... Meghashyam Mali of the Hill: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Tuesday threatened to vote against the Gang of Eight immigration bill he helped draft unless there are further changes to the legislation.... On Monday, Rubio warned that the bill still did not have the 60 votes needed, contradicting his Gang of Eight colleagues Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) who said they hoped to win 70 votes, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who said he believed he had the numbers to pass the bill." ...

... Marco's "Self-Fufilling Prophecy." Ed Kilgore: "So when Sen. Marco Rubio disagreed with the prevailing assumption that the Gang of Eight immigration bill had at least the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster by his GOP colleagues, he knew something the rest of us didn't know: he was counting himself as a 'no' vote. And it turns out he's been working behind the scenes with John Cornyn (who voted against the bill in the Judiciary Committee) to draft an omnibus conservative 'poison pill' amendment to the bill that if passed would by all accounts unravel the whole bipartisan coalition...."

... Marco's Get-out-of-Immigration-Reform Card. David Drucker of the Washington Examiner: "Democrats are signaling their rejection of Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn's proposed amendment to the 'Gang of Eight' immigration reform bill. The Texas Republican on Wednesday unveiled a proposal he described as the 'antidote' for Republican concerns that the bill is too weak on border security. 'The Cornyn amendment ... would subject immigrants to a "trigger" that is unworkable - period,' [a Democratic] aide said. "This effort to make the pathway to citizenship unattainable is a bridge too far and it undermines a key principle of the reform bill.'" ...

... Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post: "The story on immigration reform remains very simple: Republicans, at some point, will have to decide whether they want it to pass or not. Not whether they'll vote for it -- most of them won't. But Democrats are happy to supply the bulk of the votes on this one, so all that matters is whether Republicans choose to let them or not."

Have Cake, Eating It, Too. So yesterday we heard that the GOP leadership loves Darrell Issa's attacks on the Obama administration. Today we hear from John Bresnahan & Jake Sherman of Politico that "Issa has earned the ire of Republican leadership with personal broadsides against the president and his aides." ...

... "Shameful." Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post: "Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) will hold a hearing [Thursday] on what he says is lavish spending at the Internal Revenue Service.... But as with most things involving the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, you have to separate fact from fiction, hyperbole from the ordinary." Ferinstance, "Issa is right about the number of conferences and their expense between 2010 and 2012. There were 225 conferences with a total price tag of $48,631,799. What Issa doesn't tell anyone is that spending on these IRS jamborees during that same period plummeted by 80 percent and that the number of conferences fell from 152 in 2010 to 24 in 2012." ...

... Stephen Ohlemacher & Alan Fram of the AP: "Internal Revenue Service officials can expect a grilling when they face lawmakers over the latest controversy to rock the agency: lavish spending at employee conferences. The IRS, however, is planning a robust defense at a congressional hearing Thursday. The agency has already imposed strict regulations to prevent expensive conferences in the future." ...

... Lisa Rein of the Washington Post: "The Internal Revenue Service said Wednesday that two managers who attended a conference the agency held in Southern California in 2010 have been placed on administrative leave for accepting free gifts in violation of government ethics standards. Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel said he has begun the process of firing the employees, who allegedly had free food delivered to their private hotel suites for a party during the three-day conference." ...

... According to John Stanton of BuzzFeed, one of the managers put on leave was "a top official in charge of implementing Obamacare." ...

... John McKinnon & Dionne Searcey of the Wall Street Journal: "Two Internal Revenue Service employees in the agency's Cincinnati office told congressional investigators that IRS officials in Washington helped direct the probe of tea-party groups that began in 2010. Transcripts of the interviews, viewed Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal, appear to contradict earlier statements by top IRS officials, who have blamed lower-level workers in Cincinnati." ...

... AND, following up on a Politico story linked yesterday, David Burghart in the National Memo: "When a gaggle of local Tea Party leaders came before the House Ways and Means Committee, complaining that their organizations had been unfairly and unconstitutionally 'targeted by the Internal Revenue Service for their personal beliefs,' the reception by the Republicans who control the committee was predictably credulous. Once more the June 4 hearings provided Tea Party groups an opportunity to play the victim and listen to politicians praise their courage and patriotism. But a closer examination of these particular Tea Party outfits by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights found copious evidence of political activity that might well have disqualified their requests for 501(c)(4) non-profit status.... The Republican leadership demonstrated no interest in ascertaining the actual facts of Tea Party involvement in prohibited political activity.... The unaddressed scandal is that the IRS let so many of these groups get away with what appear to be severe violations of the law. Toward the hearing's conclusion, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) indicated that the IRS' flagging of groups by name had been wrong but noted, 'No one has a God-given right to a tax-exempt status.' Tell that to the Tea Party."

Richard Lardner & Donna Cassata of the AP: "The outcry over the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military is spurring Congress to act, with a House panel moving ahead on Wednesday on stripping commanders of the ability to overturn convictions in rape and assault cases....The full House is expected to vote on the bill next week."

Ricardo Lopez of the Los Angeles Times: "In addition to the expected demand for more nurses and doctors to treat millions of newly insured patients, the federal Affordable Care Act is feeding a cottage industry in call centers. The law ... has spawned a hiring blitz by the state, major health insurers and many community groups that have to decode a lot of insurance lingo in a short amount of time to an incredibly diverse population. Before it rolls out its health insurance marketplace, called Covered California, the state is hiring hundreds of people at three call centers set to open this fall when enrollment begins Oct. 1. The state also needs an additional 20,000 enrollers across the state to inform consumers about their new health insurance options and the new penalties under the federal law if they don't get coverage starting in January. Those enrollers, who will earn $58 for each sign-up, will primarily work for nonprofit and community groups assisting the state."

Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post: "The White House has lost its bid to delay a ruling that makes emergency contraceptives available to women and girls of all ages. Three judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit did grant the White House its requested delay to keep one-pill products, like Plan B One-Step, restricted to females 15 and over. The court will not, however, allow any age restrictions on other two-pill emergency contraceptive products."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed the name of the Navy SEAL unit that carried out the Osama bin Laden raid and named the unit's ground commander at a 2011 ceremony attended by 'Zero Dark Thirty' filmmaker Mark Boal, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general's report obtained by a watchdog group. Panetta also disclosed classified information designated as 'top secret' and 'secret' during his presentation at the awards ceremony, says the draft IG report published Wednesday by the Project on Government Oversight.... The report does not make clear whether Panetta was aware that Boal was present at the ceremony.... The release of the findings in the draft report may also raise questions about why the document has been under wraps for so long, and which of its conclusions were known to White House officials prior to last November's election."

Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: "Since the [Affordable Care Act]'s passage in March 2010, critics have spent a total of about $400 million on television ads that refer to it, according to a new analysis by the Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media, which tracks such spending. Supporters have spent less than a quarter of that -- about $75 million -- on ads that cast the law in a positive light, according to the analysis. The biggest advertiser in support of the law has been the Department of Health and Human Services, which has run educational ads that mention it. Most of the negative ads have come from Republican outside groups, including Crossroads GPS, which was founded by Karl Rove and other top Republican strategists, and the National Republican Congressional Committee." ...

... Steve Benen: "With a public-relations imbalance like that, it's hardly a surprise that the public remains skeptical."

Aaron Blake & Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "As is befitting for a man known for his sense of humor, Frank Lautenberg's funeral was full of funny moments. But Vice President Biden outdid other speakers with a humorous tribute." Blake & Weiner publish some of Biden's punchlines.

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "On Friday, John Dingell, 86, [of Michigan] the former Democratic powerhouse who asserted jurisdiction over vast expanses of federal policy as the intimidating chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, will become the longest-serving member of Congress in history with his 20,997th day as a representative, surpassing the record held by Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia."

Jamie Stengle of the AP: "Susan G. Komen for the Cure is canceling half of its 3-day charity races next year because of a drop in participation levels, a spokeswoman for the ... breast cancer organization said Wednesday. The announcement comes about a year and a half after Komen experienced intense backlash after news became public of its decision to stop giving grants to Planned Parenthood for breast screenings. The funding was restored days later, though it didn't quell the controversy."

Lindsey Graham Isn't Sure About Me. Brian Fung of the National Journal: "'Who is a journalist is a question we need to ask ourselves,' he said. 'Is any blogger out there saying anything -- do they deserve First Amendment protection? These are the issues of our times.' The verbal slipup aside (of course bloggers are covered under the Bill of Rights!), Graham's riffing on constitutional law exposes one of the age-old tensions between journalism as a product and journalism as an activity. What Graham really meant to ask was whether bloggers deserve the specific protections of the First Amendment that are granted to the press.... But as the line between blogger and journalist has blurred, a far more relevant challenge is figuring out whether those protections apply to the behavior of finding and passing on (sometimes secret) information, or if they apply only to people with little plastic ID badges to prove their affiliation." CW: I thought all I needed was a cheap computer. Now I find I may need a plastic card, too.

Gail Collins: "... nothing major is going to happen for early-childhood education without an enormous groundswell of public demand. This is a cause that's extremely popular in theory. But its advocates have no power to reward or punish. Lawmakers who labor on behalf of preschool programs may get stars in heaven, but they don't get squat in campaign contributions. And the ones who eliminate money for infant care programs have no fear whatsoever that they'll lose an election over it."

CNN has the video of Michelle Obama's encounter with a heckler (see yesterday's Commentariat & Comments):

Right Wing World

Will Weissert of the AP: " A coalition of civil rights organizations filed a judicial misconduct complaint Tuesday against a conservative federal judge for comments she allegedly made during a speech that are seen as discriminatory. Judge Edith Jones of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans addressed the University of Pennsylvania law school on Feb. 20. Her comments were not recorded, but five students and one attorney who were in attendance signed affidavits on what was said.... Jones is accused of saying that certain 'racial groups like African-Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime,' and are 'prone to commit acts of violence' and be involved in more violent and 'heinous' crimes than people of other ethnicities.... Jones, who was believed to be on President George H.W. Bush's short list for the Supreme Court [Bush nominated David Souter instead], has been an outspoken critic of the Supreme Court and judges who do not adhere to a constructionist view of the law." Ronald Reagan appointed her to the Fifth Circuit. ...

... Ethan Bronner of the New York Times has more. ...

... AND Jordan Smith of the Austin Chronicle has even more.

David Crary of the AP: "In suburban Atlanta, northern Idaho and a number of other places, churches have moved swiftly to sever ties with the Boy Scouts of America in protest over the vote last month to let openly gay boys participate in Scouting. To date, it's far from the mass defection that some conservatives had predicted before the vote by the BSA's National Council. But the exodus could soon swell, depending on the outcome of the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting next week in Houston. Baptist leaders say the agenda is likely to include a resolution encouraging SBC-affiliated churches to phase out their sponsorships of Scout units."

Congressional Race

Here are analyses of the Markey-Gomez debate in the U.S. Senate special election to replace John Kerry of Massachusetts: Jim O'Sullivan of the Globe suggests neither was ready for prime-time. David Bernstein of the Boston Daily says both "passed their tests."

Local News

Mary Walsh of the New York Times: "Jefferson County, Ala., took a big step toward resolving its historic bankruptcy case on Tuesday, saying it had reached an agreement to refinance most of the debt at the heart of its financial breakdown.... JPMorgan [Chase] was widely expected to make big concessions as part of any bankruptcy settlement, because some former officials of the bank were found to have been involved in improprieties in connection with a county debt refinancing in 2002 and 2003.... A lawsuit by the county against JPMorgan over the improprieties, still active in state court, would be resolved as part of the proposed agreement." ...

... Charles Pierce: "What gets missed then, of course, is how these minor crooks got played by the big-league crooks in the financial-services sector, who look at other people's money the way other creatures look at carrion, and who look at people outside their industry as prey. Of course, Morgan found Jefferson County. It smelled easy money the way sharks smell blood, and of course it drained Jefferson County dry and threw away the husk. That is the system we have learned to tolerate, and even, in many cases, applaud."

News Ledes

NBC News: "Two Massachusetts men filed a lawsuit against The New York Post on Wednesday, saying they were falsely portrayed as the suspects behind the deadly Marathon bombing."

New York Times: "Esther Williams, a teenage swimming champion who became an enormous Hollywood star in a decade of watery MGM extravaganzas, died on Thursday in Beverly Hills, Calif. She was 91."

Philadelphia Inquirer: "A woman was found alive late last night amid the rubble of the collapse of two buildings in Center City that left five women and one man dead in one of Philadelphia's biggest tragedies in recent memory. The collapse occurred as shoppers fatefully filled the Salvation Army thrift story on a busy Wednesday morning, unaware that an excavation crew ripping down walls at a gutted building next door was about to yank a beam with heavy machinery. Bystanders rushed to help...."

AP: "Commemorations of the 69th annniversary of D-Day have begun with the stars-and-stripes being raised in a quiet ceremony at the American cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. Tourists, many from the U.S. and Britain, gathered in the still morning under a brilliant spring sky to witness the flag-raising amid the neat rows of thousands of white marble crosses and Stars of David marking the graves of U.S. servicemen and women fallen in the Allied invasion of Normandy that began June 6, 1944."

AP: "Heavy rain was pouring across much of Florida early Thursday as the first tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season headed toward the state's western coast and a new tropical storm warning was issued for a swath of the U.S. East Coast. Tropical storm warnings were in effect for a large section of Florida's west coast from Boca Grande to Indian Pass and for the East Coast from Flagler Beach, Fla., all the way to Cape Charles Light in Virginia." CW: it sure did pour in Fort Myers.

Reuters: "Syrian rebels seized a U.N.-manned crossing between Syria and Israeli-occupied territory on Thursday, opposition sources said, but Israeli security sources reported Syrian troops later retook it after heavy fighting. The rarely used crossing, in a U.N.-patrolled demilitarized zone on the Golan Heights, is the only transit point between Syrian and Israeli disengagement lines set in 1974. Battles for its control seemed likely to heighten Israeli security concerns stoked by Syria's civil war."

Reuters: "North and South Korea announced on Thursday they were planning to hold talks for the first time since February 2011, signaling attempts to repair ties that have been ruptured for months."