The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

Vanity Fair: "... Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times chief book reviewer and Pulitzer Prize winner, who has been, by a wide margin, the most powerful book critic in the English-speaking world, is stepping down.... Kakutani said that she could neither confirm nor comment. But sources familiar with her decision, which comes a year after the Times restructured its books coverage, told me that last year’s election had triggered a desire to branch out and write more essays about culture and politics in Trump’s America." -- CW 

... Washington Post: "... investigators believe they have discovered the 'smoking gun' that would support a decades-old theory that [Amelia] Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.... Gary Tarpinian,  executive producer of the History documentary, told the Today show that they believe the Koshu, the Japanese merchant ship in the photo, took Earhart to Saipan, where she died in Japanese custody." -- CW 

Summer Beach Reading. James Hohmann of the Washington Post suggests Al Franken's Giant of the Senate. Hohmann's column hits some of the highlights. CW: Let us be thankful that Donald Trump is incapable of learning the lessons Franken learned from his team. If Trump were half as bright as Franken, he would be a succesful president & very effective dictator.

Politico: "MSNBC has parted ways with anchor Greta Van Susteren after just six months on air, as her show failed to live up to the network's ratings expectations. An MSNBC executive said the decision to remove the former Fox News host was purely for business reasons, based on ratings." -- CW 

Click on the picture to see larger image.... Low Society News. AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress" CW: which, if you follow Reality Chex, you will know was enhanced by some really costly baubles that remind the bride of Grace Kelly or happy times or something.

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco." -- CW ...

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers." -- CW 

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends." -- CW

Washington Post: "Two months before Monday’s [May 8] announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations.In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that 'some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.' He accuses the national media of publishing 'fake news stories' — a direct echo of President Trump’s frequent complaint — and then asks viewers to visit the station’s website to share 'content concerns.' The piece was a 'must-run,' meaning news directors and station managers from Baltimore to Seattle had to find room for it.... While partisan coverage is a familiar staple of cable networks — Fox News on the right, MSNBC on the left — it remains mostly unheard of in broadcast TV, where it has generally been accepted that public airwaves should be used in the difficult-to-define public interest.” -- CW 

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Saturday
May302015

The Commentariat -- May 31, 2015

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Joseph R. Biden III, the former attorney general of Delaware and the eldest son of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., has died of brain cancer, his father announced on Saturday. The younger Mr. Biden was 46.... A popular Democratic politician in his home state who was known to be very close to his father, Mr. Biden served two terms as Delaware's top law enforcement official before announcing last year that he would not run for a third term so he could make a bid for governor in 2016." ...

... Vice President Biden's statement is here.

... Beau Biden's Washington Post obituary, by Paul Kane, is here. ...

... President Obama's quite moving statement is here.

Manu Raju of Politico: "Rand Paul plans to force the expiration of the PATRIOT Act Sunday by refusing to allow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to expedite debate on a key surveillance bill. In a statement to Politico Saturday, Paul warned that he would not consent to any efforts to pass either an extension of current law or the USA Freedom Act, a reform bill passed overwhelmingly by the House earlier this month. 'So tomorrow, I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program,' Paul said." ...

... Raju's background story is here.

Annals of "Justice," Ctd. Kimberly Kindy, et al., of the Washington Post: "... at least 385 people [have been] shot and killed by police nationwide during the first five months of this year, more than two a day, according to a Washington Post analysis. That is more than twice the rate of fatal police shootings tallied by the federal government over the past decade, a count that officials concede is incomplete. 'These shootings are grossly under­reported,' said Jim Bueermann, a former police chief and president of the Washington-based Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving law enforcement.... About half the victims were white, half minority. But the demographics shifted sharply among the unarmed victims, two-thirds of whom were black or Hispanic.... So far, just three of the 385 fatal shootings have resulted in an officer being charged with a crime -- less than 1 percent."

Mary Troyan of USA Today (May 29): "U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller announced Friday he will resign Aug. 1, almost one year since he was arrested and charged with battery of his wife. By resigning, Fuller, 56, gives up what had been a lifetime appointment. The departure creates another vacancy on the federal bench in Alabama, which is already depleted.... Fuller's caseload was reassigned to other judges after his arrest but he continued to collect his salary.... Most members of Alabama's congressional delegation had publicly urged him to step down within weeks of his arrest, but Fuller resisted while his criminal case worked its way through the courts.... Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, had begun preparing possible impeachment proceedings. And women's advocacy organizations had launched campaigns for his removal."

The Affable Opportunist. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Federal law enforcement agents say [former House Speaker Dennis] Hastert's [R-Ill.] years as a lobbyist and rainmaker explain how he was able to promise $3.5 million in cash to a former student who claims Mr. Hastert sexually molested him decades ago. A former wrestling coach and high school teacher, Mr. Hastert did not enter Congress as wealthy as some of his colleagues. Yet he was still able to amass a small fortune with land deals, one aided by an earmark he secured for a highway interchange. But it was at his own post-Congress lobbying firm and at the professional services firm Dickstein Shapiro that Mr. Hastert swelled his cash flow, working all sides of issues and glad-handing members of Congress for controversial clients.... The Hastert era in the House ... was known for loose reins on spending and the extensive use of earmarks, legislation that directed tax dollars to home-district projects." ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker writes an excellent post, tying together the threads of what has been revealed & surmised in the Hastert case. ...

... CW: I listened to this to hear what vapid gibberish Brooks would spout, and he didn't disappoint, but Mark Shields is worth hearing:

Nicholas Kristof: "In California, 80 percent of water used by humans goes to farming and ranching.... It's time for a fundamental rethinking of America's food factory.... Something good could come from the California drought if it could push this revolution a bit further, by forcing a reallocation of water to the most efficient uses. But remember that the central challenge can't be solved by a good rain because the larger problem is an irrational industrial food system.... You can also calculate your own water footprint at National Geographic's website."

Bill Moyers, in Salon: "... the challenge of journalism today is to survive in the pressure cooker of plutocracy." From "remarks were made by Bill Moyers at the presentation of the Helen Bernstein Book Awards for Excellence in Journalism. The ceremony took place at the New York Public Library on May 26, 2015." CW: If you don't feel like reading something serious today, at least read the Robert Benchley anecdote.

CW: Looking for something else, I came across these remarks by former Supreme David Souter on the Constitution, written as "a great compromise," which is "in a state of inconsistency with the daily practice of politics" & a "culture of intransigence":

Alana Massey's essay in the New Republic on "the white Protestant roots of racism" is a bit disjointed, thus unsatisfying, but she still manages to offer some insights into our racist past & present.

The Quality of Stench. Daniel Politi of Slate: "Anyone hoping that FIFA President Sepp Blatter would take on a more conciliatory tone after his re-election in the midst of a corruption scandal that has shaken global soccer to its core was in for a rude awakening Saturday. As he started his fifth term on Saturday, Blatter directly hit out at the United States, essentially implying that the Justice Department timed its arrests in Zurich and the announcement of a major corruption probe to hurt his chances of re-election. 'No one is going to tell me that it was a simple coincidence, this American attack two days before the elections of FIFA,' Blatter told Swiss television, according to the Guardian. 'It doesn't smell good.'"

Presidential Race

Socialism for Me but Not for Thee. Bob Cesca in Salon: Ted Cruz railed against disaster relief for the Northeast after Hurricane Sandy, but with parts of Texas under water, he's imploring the federal government to "fulfill its statutory obligation" & send aid to Texas. Cesca is under the impression Cruz is asking for "redistribution" of money from all us to Texas. CW: No word on his views about how man-made climate change likely has exacerbated Texas's drought-and-flood cycles.

Ali Breland of Politico: "Sen. Marco Rubio will not participate in the Iowa Straw Poll, his campaign team confirmed Saturday. The Florida senator and 2016 hopeful's decision marks the latest blow to the August event long considered a staple on the Republican road to the presidential nomination. Jeb Bush, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Mike Huckabee have all said they won't participate this cycle. Many, including Gov. Scott Walker. Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz have yet to signal if they will attend."

Beyond the Beltway

AP: "While acknowledging that he cannot appeal an acquittal, an Ohio prosecutor says a judge made serious errors before finding a Cleveland police officer not guilty in the deaths of two unarmed suspects, and he wants an appeals court to order the judge to correct the record. The prosecutor, Timothy J. McGinty of Cuyahoga County, said in court documents that were posted Friday on The Plain Dealer website that Judge John O'Donnell's reasoning in the voluntary-manslaughter trial of Officer Michael Brelo could set a legal precedent that would 'endanger the public.'"

News Ledes

New York Times: Lenny "Merullo, who died on Saturday at 98 in Reading, Mass., played shortstop for the 1945 Cubs, the franchise's last pennant winner, and was the last surviving ballplayer to have worn a Cubs uniform in a World Series."

New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry has cut short his trip to Europe after breaking a leg while bicycling on Sunday and is returning to Boston for medical treatment. The State Department said that Mr. Kerry's bike struck a curb while he was cycling near Scionzier, France. He was taken to a hospital in Geneva and never lost consciousness."

Friday
May292015

The Commentariat -- May 30, 2015

NEW. John Wagner of the Washington Post: "Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley launched his long-shot bid for the presidency on Saturday, offering himself to Democrats as a younger and more progressive alternative to front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton. O'Malley was poised to fly to Iowa, the nation's first presidential nominating state, after announcing his candidacy with a populist address that took jabs at Clinton, big banking and federal immigration policy. He will visit New Hampshire on Sunday."

Fearmongering Alert. White House: "In this week's address, the President addressed critical pieces of national security business that remained unfinished when the Senate left town. This Sunday at midnight, key tools used to protect against terrorist threats are set to expire":

... Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama suggested ominously on Friday that allowing domestic surveillance programs to expire at a Sunday deadline could lead to a terrorist attack on the United States.... Mr. Obama has kept up pressure on the Senate to pass the legislation by arguing that the surveillance it authorizes is vital to thwarting a terrorist attack, despite a lack of evidence that it has ever done so." CW: See also Charlie Savage's NYT report, linked yesterday, which indicates bulk data collection hasn't prevented a single terrorist act. To be fair, however useless & invasive the program may be, the USA Freedom Act (love the name!) does contain enough in the way of reforms that Human Rights Watch supports it. ...

Richard Serrano & Timothy Phelps of the Los Angeles Times: "Indicted former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was paying a former student from Yorkville, Ill., to conceal his alleged sexual abuse of the youth that took place while Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach at a high school there, federal law enforcement officials said Friday. A top official, who would not be identified speaking about the federal charges in Chicago, said investigators also spoke with a second person who raised similar allegations that corroborated what the student said." ...

... BuzzFeed: "A source familiar with the investigation told BuzzFeed News that U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon considered but did not pursue additional charges against former Speaker Dennis Hastert, which would have included a reference to an Individual B, one of potentially several alleged victims of 'prior misdeeds.'" ...

... Pete Williams, et al., of NBC News: "Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert paid a man to conceal sexual misconduct while the man was a student at the high school where Hastert taught, a federal law enforcement official told NBC News on Friday." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Assuming this report is accurate, the term 'abuse' would appear to exclude any consensual adult relationship -- you know, of the type increasingly accepted by most people, if not by all of Hastert's political allies." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "The unassailable moral greatness of the people who wanted Bill Clinton impeached over a blowjob remains striking." ...

... David Corn of Mother Jones cites a 2003 profile of Hastert by Jonathan Franzen for the New Yorker: "He became a born-again Christian in high school, and much of his time at Wheaton College, an evangelical institution, was devoted to religious study... [H]e comes from a religious college that provided instruction in service and submission, rather than in partying and doubt." CW: It would seem people often turn to fundamentalist religions as a means to exorcise or suppress some part of themselves they don't like. ...

... Wheaton College: "Wheaton College has received and accepted the resignation of Wheaton alumnus and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives J. Dennis Hastert from the Board of Advisors of its J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy."

... Monique Garcia of the Chicago Tribune: "The Illinois House has put on hold a proposal to spend $500,000 to put a statue in the state Capitol honoring Republican Dennis Hastert after the former U.S. House speaker declined the offer. Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan filed a bill May 5 to set aside the money, and the measure got out of a committee two weeks ago.... '(Hastert) called a month or so ago and said he appreciated the recognition and honor, but asked us to defer given the state's financial condition,' Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said. Brown would not say whether the effort is now scuttled following Hastert's indictment...." ...

... CW: Why a Democrat would introduce a bill honoring Hastert is beyond me ...

... Tarini Parti of Politico: "Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert ... embarked on what appeared to be a lucrative post-congressional career that involved multiple sources of income.... When he left office in 2007, he was worth between $4 million and $17 million, according to financial disclosure filings. Although most of his wealth was tied to real estate holdings, he had a steady flow of cash from different sources as well. In addition to establishing his own consultancy, Hastert & Associates, Hastert began lobbying on behalf of various major clients for Washington-based lobbying firm Dickstein Shapiro in 2009." His clients included the tobacco company Lorillard & numerous oil companies. He has resigned from Dickstein Shapiro. "The former speaker supplemented his lobbying income with a position on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Hastert, who has been a director since 2008, earned more than $205,000 in total compensation from the CME in 2014 alone, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Hastert has resigned from that position as well." ...

... CW: Sadly, Jesus could not save Denny from abusing high-school boys & working for big tobacco & big oil. Hard to say which is worse. ...

... Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), in a Washington Post op-ed: "Fossil fuel companies and their allies are funding a massive and sophisticated campaign to mislead the American people about the environmental harm caused by carbon pollution.... The parallels between what the tobacco industry did [-- (which were) ... ultimately found by a federal judge to have amounted to a racketeering enterprise -- ...] and what the fossil fuel industry is doing now are striking." ...

... CW: Sheldon WhiteHouse is the guy who ousted then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) in 2006. (See Presidential Race below.) Whitehouse is also among my preferred choices for POTUS. If Clinton wins the nomination, Whitehouse would make an outstanding VEEP choice. Among other qualities, he is a terrific orator, which would help mitigate the fact that Clinton is not.

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The Obama administration on Friday removed Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a crucial step in normalizing ties between Washington and Havana and the latest progress in President Obama's push to thaw relations between the United States and the island nation. Secretary of State John F. Kerry rescinded Cuba's designation as a terrorism sponsor at the end of a 45-day congressional notification period that began on April 14, when Mr. Obama announced his intention to remove Cuba from the list." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Steven Shepard of Politico: "The Federal Communications Commission says it receives more complaints about unwanted phone calls than any other issue. As a response, the FCC is asking phone companies to offer services to their customers that block calls placed by an automatic dialer. Pollsters are asking to be exempted from the new guidelines, arguing that legitimate researchers shouldn't be grouped with telemarketers and debt-collectors. But, for now, the FCC has no plans to establish a carve-out for telephone surveys."

Lydia Saad of Gallup: "Half of Americans consider themselves 'pro-choice' on abortion, surpassing the 44% who identify as 'pro-life.' This is the first time since 2008 that the pro-choice position has had a statistically significant lead in Americans' abortion views.... On a longer-term basis, a higher percentage of women today than in 2001 call themselves pro-choice, while men's identification is about the same." CW: Apparently the wingers' hyperactive efforts to keep the little ladies barefoot & pregnant is finally influencing American women. Keep up the good work, Scotty! Eventually, the only GOP woman left standing will be the ghost of Phyllis Schlafly. ...

... More Bad News for Scotty, et al. Tierney Sneed of TPM: "The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit struck down an Idaho law banning abortions 20 weeks into pregnancy Friday on the basis that the law unconstitutionally prohibits abortions before the point of fetal viability outside of the womb. It also declared unconstitutional Idaho's requirement that women undergo second trimester abortions in hospitals, calling it 'an undue burden' on women seeking abortions.... Friday's decision comes as momentum behind anti-abortion legislation, particularly 20-week abortion bans, grows. Similar prohibitions have been passed in 14 states in the past five years. Supporters of the measures say 20 weeks is when fetuses begin to feel pain, a claim most of the medical community considers to be without scientific basis." ...

... Washington Post Editorial Board: "Enacted in 1973, the Helms amendment stipulates that foreign assistance may not be used 'to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.' It is clear that abortions to end pregnancies caused by rape are not barred by that language. But successive administrations, Democratic and Republican, have treated the amendment as an absolute ban on funding any abortions.... We hope Mr. Obama ... takes the steps needed to ease the suffering of war rape victims by giving them access to the medical care that is their right." CW: What about it, Hillary?

Yesterday Akhilleus linked this excellent NPR report by Wade Goodwyn, who -- as Akhilleus noted -- accidentally forgot to follow NPR's both-sides-do-it rule of "journalism":

Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "The FBI has notified crime labs across the country that it has discovered errors in data used by forensic scientists in thousands of cases to calculate the chances that DNA found at a crime scene matches a particular person, several people familiar with the issue said. The bureau has said it believes the errors, which extend to 1999, are unlikely to result in dramatic changes that would affect cases. It has submitted the research findings to support that conclusion for publication in the July issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences, the officials said."

Matt Apuzzo & Sam Borden of the New York Times: Loretta "Lynch, only one month into her job as attorney general, captured the world's attention this week when she vowed to rid FIFA, soccer's global governing body, of corruption. Her news conference on Wednesday was watched around the world and made her the face of the United States government's crackdown on some of the world's most influential soccer officials. The Argentine newspaper La Nación introduced Ms. Lynch as 'the relentless attorney.' In Paris, Le Figaro called her 'the woman who is rocking FIFA.' In Germany, she was simply called FIFA-Jägerin -- the FIFA hunter.The FIFA indictment capped a month in which Ms. Lynch set in motion a civil rights investigation into the Baltimore Police Department and slapped Wall Street banks with billions of dollars in fines for manipulating currency markets. ...

... Owen Gibson of the Guardian: "Despite the chaos and controversy engulfing world football's governing body, Fifa president Sepp Blatter has secured a fifth term in charge. The 79-year-old defeated his rival, the Jordanian Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, to whoops and cheers from his supporters. Blatter polled 133 votes to Prince Ali's 73, which would have been enough to take the contest to a potential second round but his 39-year-old challenger withdrew." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Presidential Race

Ben Schreckinger & Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee will officially enter the presidential race on June 3...."

Congratulations, Scotty-Boy! Gail Collins: "The 2016 Todd ('Legitimate Rape') Akin Award for Sexual Sensitivity goes to Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.... Last week, Walker was on a radio talk show, praising a law he signed requiring women who want an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. Which they're supposed to watch, while the physician points out the features of the fetus. An ultrasound, he said, was 'just a cool thing.'... His larger point was apparently that the sight of a fetus in an ultrasound is so moving that a woman undergoing an abortion would almost certainly change her mind. This is wrong. There's no evidence these ultrasound laws discourage women who have already decided they want an abortion. And it's incredibly insulting because it presumes that they're making this choice on a kind of whim.... The ability to speak carefully is an attribute we look for when we're trying to decide who we should elect as the most powerful and closely scrutinized human being in the world." ...

... AND, as Victoria D. noted in yesterday's commentary, "The average cost of a fetal ultrasound is $263. Governor Wanker has just mandated that women seeking abortions receive one because they're 'cool.'... So much for limited, small government." See also reports by Lydia Saad of Gallup & Tierney Sneed of TPM, linked above.

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is blasting the Obama administration's decision to formally remove Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism."

Tim Egan: "What bothers [Jeb Bush] is not the threat of megastorms, life-killing droughts, city-burying sea rises -- but experts in the scientific community who are sounding such alarms.... In addressing and assessing the great issues of the day, Jeb Bush has disqualified himself to lead. On top of that, he's politically inept. All he has going for him is a certain arrogance, to use his word, that the name Bush entitles him to be president." Turns out the Smart One is more backward than the Dumb one: when he was President, Dubya said, "that the unsustainable increase in greenhouse gas 'is due in large part to human activity.'"

Alex Isenstadt of Politico: Li'l Randy can't find a billionaire sugar daddy.

Katie Zezima of the Washington Post: "Sen. Ted Cruz said Thursday that universities that boycott Israel should lose their federal funding. Cruz's remarks were aimed at the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which is gaining traction on college campuses. It calls for U.S. companies and universities to divest from Israel. Cruz has spoken against BDS but sharpened his tone Thursday.... 'BDS is premised on a lie and it is antisemitism plain and simple.'" Sheldon & Miriam Adelson were in the house.

Dana Milbank: "... why do mainstream conservatives give the [Duggar] family such a full frontal embrace?... The Duggars' picks in statewide races have fared poorly.... And their views of wifely submission won't help Republicans nationally with their gender gap. The overwhelming majority of Christian conservatives are ... neither racist nor believers in exotic notions of patriarchy and fertility. Surely there is a way for Republican office-seekers to appeal to them without wooing the most extreme."

Gubernatorial Race

Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "A day after a recanvass of the ballot boxes left him still trailing by 83 votes, James R. Comer, the Kentucky agriculture commissioner, conceded the Republican primary race for governor on Friday to Matt Bevin, a wealthy Louisville businessman and Tea Party favorite." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Zack Ford of Think Progress: "North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has vetoed a bill that would have allowed state officials to refuse to officiate marriages. The legislation (SB 2), which passed in the House on Thursday having previously passed in the Senate back in February, would have allowed state magistrates to opt out of conducting marriage ceremonies based on a sincerely held religious objection. Though the bill does not specifically reference same-sex marriage, its purpose was to allow officials to retain their jobs without officiating for same-sex couples.... The legislation did not pass with enough support to override McCrory's veto."

Evan Wyloge of the Washington Post: "About 250 mostly armed anti-Muslim demonstrators -- many wearing T-shirts bearing a profanity-laced message denouncing Islam -- faced-off against a roughly equally sized crowd defending the faith in front of a Phoenix mosque Friday night. Violence never broke out, but the clash was often heated, as demonstrators yelled and taunted one another across a line of police separating the two sides.... Jon Ritzheimer, the organizer of the protest..., first began publicly demonstrating after two Phoenix residents carrying assault rifles were killed by police outside at a Muhammed cartoon-drawing contest in suburban Dallas earlier this month."

News Lede

Washington Post: "The rebel group that has seized power in Yemen has taken at least four U.S. citizens prisoner, according to U.S. officials who said that efforts to secure the Americans' release have faltered."

Thursday
May282015

The Commentariat -- May 29, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Owen Gibson of the Guardian: "Despite the chaos and controversy engulfing world football's governing body, Fifa president Sepp Blatter has secured a fifth term in charge. The 79-year-old defeated his rival, the Jordanian Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, to whoops and cheers from his supporters. Blatter polled 133 votes to Prince Ali's 73, which would have been enough to take the contest to a potential second round but his 39-year-old challenger withdrew."

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The Obama administration on Friday removed Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a crucial step in normalizing ties between Washington and Havana and the latest progress in President Obama's push to thaw relations between the United States and the island nation. Secretary of State John F. Kerry rescinded Cuba's designation as a terrorism sponsor at the end of a 45-day congressional notification period that began on April 14, when Mr. Obama announced his intention to remove Cuba from the list."

Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "A day after a recanvass of the ballot boxes left him still trailing by 83 votes, James R. Comer, the Kentucky agriculture commissioner, conceded the Republican primary race for governor on Friday to Matt Bevin, a wealthy Louisville businessman and Tea Party favorite."

*****

... The underlying story will be juicier than the indictment. Mark Berman & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "J. Dennis Hastert, the longest serving Republican speaker in the U.S. House, was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on charges that he violated banking laws in a bid to pay $3.5 million because of 'past misconduct' against an unnamed individual from their hometown west of Chicago.... The indictment did not spell out the exact nature of the 'prior misconduct' by Hastert against the individual from his hometown, Yorkville, but noted that before entering politics in 1981, Hastert spent more than a decade as a teacher and wrestling coach at the local high school. The unnamed individual has known Hastert for most of that person's life, the indictment states." CW: So, screwing a high-school kid. ...

... John Stanton of BuzzFeed broke the story. ...

... The indictment is here. ...

... Monica Davey of the New York Times: "Mr. Hastert ... was providing money to an unnamed person in order to 'compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct' against that person, according to a federal indictment issued by the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. The indictment says that Mr. Hastert ... paid $1.7 million to the person from 2010 to 2014. Since 2012, the indictment alleges, Mr. Hastert had begun structuring withdrawals of less than $10,000 from various accounts to avoid bank reporting requirements as he made the payments. And in late 2014, Mr. Hastert told federal agents that he was not paying anyone with the money, but was keeping the withdrawals for himself." ...

... Justin Moyer & Fred Barbash of the Washington Post: "Indeed, there was far more media interest in what the indictment didn't say than in what it did.... What kind of 'misconduct' could the Republican from Illinois been a part of as a coach and teacher?" ...

BuzzFeed: "U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon agreed to withhold details of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's alleged 'prior misconduct' against an unidentified individual as part of an indictment against the Illinois Republican, two sources familiar with the case told BuzzFeed News.... Fardon had originally been prepared to move forward with a much more explicit indictment of Hastert...." ...

... Steve M.: "I'd like to be irresponsible and note that rumors about Hastert were being spread in 2006, the last full year of his term as as House Speaker.... At the Huffington Post, Lawrence O'Donnell insinuated that Hastert and a male top aide were more than friends." AMERICAblog's John Aravosis had heard the rumors, too. The rumors began to circulate as a result of the Mark Foley scandal. Foley, a Florida GOP Congressman, had a penchant for male House pages.

Christi Parsons & Brian Bennett of the Los Angeles Times: "The National Security Agency will mothball its mammoth archive of Americans' telephone records, isolating the computer servers where they are stored and blocking investigators' access, but will not destroy the database if its legal authority to collect the material expires on schedule this Sunday, officials said Thursday." ...

... ** To What End? Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "... the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent agency created by Congress, studied classified reports about how the [bulk records collection] program had been used and what the government considered to be its greatest success stories. The board found no instances in which it had been abused, but also none in which it stopped a terrorist attack."

"Bite Me." Hamilton Nolan of Gawker: "Dick Fuld was the head of the investment bank Lehman Bros. in 2008 when the bank collapsed in the biggest bankruptcy in history, kicking off the worst part of the financial crisis. Who can say if Dick Fuld ever did anything 'wrong?' Not Dick Fuld!... As the Wall Street Journal reports..., 'When asked why he didn't simply ride off into the sunset after Lehman's collapse, Mr. Fuld responded, 'Why don't you just bite me?'"

Greg Sargent: If President Obama signed into law Ron Johnson's (R-Wis.) so-called ObamaCare fix (or any of the other GOP version thereof, "A new issue brief from the American Academy of Actuaries finds that the GOP contingency fix plans could actually result in more disruptions to the insurance markets." What a surprise. ...

... Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post: Ron Johnson "says 'The Lego Movie' is part of an 'insidious' propaganda campaign against business owners." Read the whole post. If he weren't a U.S. senator, Johnson would be a just a dimwitted cliche, quite fit as the model for the sort of movie villain who is the source of his complaint. If you wondered, BTW, how suck a dumb cluck could be a "self-made millionaire," Grim has the answer. Also, thanks again, Dick Morris! ...

... CW: In case you're still not convinced Johnson is a clueless boob, read his response to Grim's post. Ron's thesis notwithstanding, there's no hint whatever in Grim's column that he has no idea that fat cats are often portrayed in films as villains.

Paul Krugman: "... it's startling how little room for error there is in many American lives.... There is no such thing as perfect security, but American families could easily have much more security than they have. All it would take is for politicians and pundits to stop talking blithely about the need to cut 'entitlements' and start looking at the way their less-fortunate fellow citizens actually live."

Amtrak has some infrastructure that is so old it was built and put into service when Jesse James and Butch Cassidy were still alive and robbing trains. -- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

In Connecticut we have a bridge that was built when Grover Cleveland was president. -- Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) ...

Gail Collins: "Everybody knows that the government can waste money.... But making money-losing links between different parts of the theoretically United States doesn't seem to be in that category. Fix Amtrak. Connect the country." ...

... Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "Since the days when Jesse James robbed trains in the Old West, obscure police forces run by the nation's railroads have operated with the power to make arrests, issue warrants and perform undercover work.These railroad police officers, who have been licensed by states, have been accused of physical assaults, racial profiling and harassment of railroad employees.... The records and interviews show that there have been numerous complaints and dozens of lawsuits filed against railroad police officers in recent years. While police departments across the country face increasing scrutiny and demand for reform after several cases of brutality, the railroad authorities appear to operate with near impunity.... Since 2009, the railroad police have arrested more than 300 residents in Overtown, a predominantly black neighborhood in Miami, on charges of trespassing. Nearly 90 percent of those charges have been dismissed."

Joe Conason, in Politico, & Jim Fallows of the Atlantic defend their long-time friend Sid Blumenthal.

Neil McFarquhar & Andrew Roth of the New York Times: Russian "President Vladimir V. Putin sought to transform the burgeoning scandal over corruption in soccer's international governing body into an extension of the confrontation between Russia and the West on Thursday, accusing the United States of global overreach while invoking the fates of Edward J. Snowden and Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder.... He used the moment to again portray Russia as under siege -- in this case threatened with the humiliating loss of the right to host the 2018 World Cup, a move considered unlikely." ...

Will Hobson & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Chuck Blazer ... cooperated with the federal investigation into FIFA after he pleaded guilty to crimes including racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion in November 2013." Blazer, a U.S. soccer official, wore a wire & provided evidence that may be used in the cases against FIFA officials.

... "The Human Toll of FIFA's Corruption." Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post (May 27): "The decision to award the 2022 World Cup to the rich Gulf state [of Qatar] with a terrible human rights record was a controversial one right out of the gate. There have been extensive allegations of bribery.... Human rights advocates' worst fears about Qatar seemed to be confirmed as Qatar began building the infrastructure to host the Cup, and reports of migrant worker deaths started to pile up. The numbers, to the extent that we know them, appear startling.... It is hard to know how many of those are specifically World Cup associated."

Carol Morello of the Washington Post: A piece of Iran's "evidence" that WashPo reporter Jason Rezaian is a U.S. spy: he once applied online for a job in the Obama administration. (He got a form-letter rejection.)

AP: Gokul Venkatachalam and Vanya Shivashankar tied to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Vanya's sister Kavya won the title in 2009. "Fourteen-year-old Cole Shafer-Ray of Norman, Oklahoma, making his first appearance in the finals, finished third."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Adam Lerner of Politico: "A Pennsylvania newspaper [-- the Daily Item of Sunbury --] has apologized for publishing a letter to the editor calling for President Barack Obama to be executed.... The nearly 78-year-old paper wrote that it was prompted to apologize by reader outrage." The editorial board wrote that the editor who submitted the letter for publication didn't see anything wrong with it: "no bells & whistles went off." In future the board said the paper will opt for "a higher standard for civil discourse." Very nice.

CW: The other day, I complained about Jonathan Topaz of Politico's lede (and theme): "These weren't your everyday Americans who came out to support Bernie Sanders on Tuesday." Driftglass liked it as much as I did:

Just shoot me right now.... I don't know Jonathan Topaz, nor do I know much about his work. His bio is that of a smart, shining young man out of the Ivy League with a pretty cool name, but this passage should be a career-killer. What, pray tell, young Jonathan, do 'everyday Americans' look like? Perhaps like the Duggars of Springdale, Arkansas? The hayshaking Bible-banging cultists whom I saw gather in Iowa earlier this spring? Sheldon Adelson? But Jonathan should not bear the punishment alone. Every editor, sub-editor, and researcher who read this and didn't say, 'Holy hell, this is some cheap bullshit right here. It's beneath even our standards!' also should find their careers taking on water...

Presidential Race

Patrick Healy of the New York Times: Bernie Sanders is a hit with a good number of voters of his own generation. ...

... Annie Karni of Politico: "One candidate is 73, with a shock of wispy white hair and a famously rumpled demeanor that makes him look more like a mad scientist than a politician.... The other is central casting's image of a presidential candidate: square-jawed, athletic-looking and 52 years old -- the ideal age that Fortune 500 companies look for in a CEO and that voters find appealing in a president. But ... it's Sanders ... that Democratic strategists and Clinton insiders expect to pose a bigger threat to the former secretary of state than the mainstream O'Malley, who has been trying to build a national constituency by positioning himself slightly to her left." ...

... Tim Murphy of Mother Jones profiles young Bernie. Entertaining. (If you can't get to the page directly -- I couldn't -- try going here, then scroll down to the link to the story. ...

... Alex Seitz-Wald of MSNBC highlights interesting stuff from Sanders' 1997 political memoir (written with Huck Gutman). When he was a Congressman, Bernie had Richard Nixon's old office. ...

... Inae Oh of Mother Jones: AND Bernie has the best 404 error page ever. Also, an excellent URL: berniesanders.com/wtf

Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: GOP "presidential hopefuls are scrambling to show who is most aggressive on national security and who is most passive on climate change. The ideal candidate would, presumably, be able to claim both superlatives. But this set of stances is incoherent as a policy platform. Actually it's worse than incoherent. It's an oxymoron. That's because climate change is a national security issue." CW: Rampell goes on to explain why. But she's missing the point: these presidential candidates crave political instability. They're exceptionalist bullies who want to drop bombs on "lesser mortals."

Charles Pierce: "... now that he's moving toward an actual national campaign, [Scott] Walker and his friends are moving on several fronts to make sure that they are seen as doing right by Zygote-Americans. First, back in Wisconsin, his pet legislature is doing him a solid by trying to pass a very restrictive -- as well as non-scientific and likely unconstitutional -- abortion rights bill." ...

... Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast: "... unlike a federal bill on the issue, this legislation doesn't include an exception allowing abortions for victims of rape or incest. [Walker] plans to sign the legislation, Laurel Patrick, a spokeswoman for Walker's office, emailed."

Charles Pierce: Rick Santorum "remains the perfect blend of smug sanctimony and greasy smarm.... Rick Santorum remains a colossal dick. I may have mentioned that.... In his announcement speech, Rick went full wingnut. He wants to 'drive a stake' through Common Core (Hi, 'Bobby' Jindal!). He wants to junk the IRS (Hi, Ted Cruz!) and institute a flat tax (Hi, Steve Forbes!). This, of course, means that you and Bill Gates will pay exactly the same percentage of your income in taxes, and Rick is only doing that because he's 'stands for someone -- the American worker.'"

News Ledes

New York Times: "Ross W. Ulbricht, the founder of Silk Road, a notorious online marketplace for the sale of heroin, cocaine, LSD and other illegal drugs, was sentenced to life in prison on Friday in Federal District Court in Manhattan. Mr. Ulbricht, 31, was sentenced by the judge, Katherine B. Forrest, for his role as what prosecutors described as 'the kingpin of a worldwide digital drug-trafficking enterprise.'"

Washington Post: "The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized pace of 0.7 percent in the first three months of the year, according to government data released Friday morning, a tumble for a recovering nation that until recently seemed poised for takeoff. The contraction, the country's third in the aftermath of the Great Recession, provides a troubling picture of an economy that many figured would get a lift from cheap oil, rapid hiring and growing consumer confidence. Instead, consumers have proved cautious, and oil companies have frozen investment -- all while a nasty winter caused havoc for transportation and construction and a strong dollar widened the trade deficit."

Wednesday
May272015

The Commentariat -- May 28, 2015

ObamaWeb! Rebecca Ruiz of the New York Times: "For 30 years, the federal government has helped millions of low-income Americans pay their phone bills, saying that telephone service is critical to summoning medical help, seeking work and, ultimately, climbing out of poverty. Now, [FCC Chair Tom Wheeler] will propose offering those same people subsidized access to broadband Internet.... While the plan is likely to secure the support of the F.C.C.'s Democratic majority in a vote next month, it is almost certain to also set off fierce debate in Washington." CW: Gosh, whoever would oppose a modest plan designed to reduce income inequality & help American children?

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama will put off a confrontation at the Supreme Court over his immigration executive actions, choosing not to ask for permission to carry out the programs while a fight over presidential authority plays out in the lower courts, officials said Wednesday. As a result, Mr. Obama&'s vast overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, which he announced with great fanfare last November, might not be resolved until just months before he leaves office." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Charles Pierce: The Supreme Court is "now damned close to enshrining in law the principle that any electoral disadvantage -- self-inflicted or not -- that conservatives face is prima facie unconstitutional. First, they turn our elections into a plutocrat's playground (Citizens United, McCutcheon). Then they uphold in the main voter-suppression tactics designed by the candidates the newly corrupt system produces out in the states (Crawford). Then, they gut any remedy that the people against whom these new laws discriminate have in federal court (Shelby County.) And now, it appears, the day of Jubilee having been declared, the circle may be closing for good." ...

... CW: Nonetheless, it would seem that Little Johnnie & the Dancing Supremes could have some difficulty in sidestepping the 14th Amendment, as contributor Patrick pointed out yesterday, to wit: "... Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State...." They will have to declare that children & adult non-voters are not whole persons. That, as I noted yesterday, is the question. ...

     ... However, as several legal commentators have pointed out, the case the Supremes agreed to hear has to do with how the states determine the apportionment of legislative districts within their states, not how many "persons" form the basis for federal representation. ...

... BUT. Marty Lederman of Balkanization notes that when he was assistant solicitor general, John Roberts argued convincingly that one-man-one-vote must be applied to state districting. Lederman: "(Of course I am not suggesting the Chief Justice is or ought to be bound by what he argued as counsel for the government a quarter-century ago; I merely think that the substance of his argument in Garza was, and remains, quite compelling.)" Via Rick Hasen. ...

... Rick Hasen in Slate: "The conservatives behind Evenwel don't seem bothered much by the intrusion on states' rights that a decision in their favor would engender. That's because they are motivated more by the fact that noncitizens are getting representation, and in their belief that this is 'diluting' the voting power of citizens. They are the same people who backed attacks on affirmative action at the Supreme Court in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case and successfully got the Supreme Court to strike down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act in the Shelby County v. Holder case. It is an agenda not about states' rights but about getting the Supreme Court to force states to empower conservatives and force onto all of us the theories of representation and power they envision." ...

... Noah Feldman of Bloomberg provides a helpful -- and easy-to-read -- historical views.

Mark Stern of Slate: The Supreme Court will hear a case contesting a death-penalty jury decision in which Georgia prosecutors left a paper trail showing blatant racism in jury selection. The state supreme court, BTW, saw nothing wrong with that. "A victory for Georgia ... would be a huge setback for the criminal justice system. It could give prosecutors across the country free rein to employ the kind of warped Southern justice that helped send [Timothy Tyrone] Foster to death row."

Jerry Markon of the Washington Post: "As the Department of Homeland Security continues to pour money into border security, evidence is emerging that illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades. The nation's population of illegal immigrants, which more than tripled, to 12.2 million, between 1990 and 2007, has dropped by about 1 million, according to demographers at the Pew Research Center.... Current and former DHS officials acknowledge that a confluence of factors explains the decline in illegal migration, including demographic changes in Mexico, improvements in its economy and Mexico's crackdown on Central American migrants headed to the United States." ...

... Nigel Duara of the Los Angeles Times: "Demonstrations unfolded Wednesday at six Arizona border checkpoints, where protesters complained that the Border Patrol has turned their hometowns into intimidating militarized zones, among other border control issues that threaten the quality of their lives."

Dan Bilefsky of the New York Times: "European soccer officials said on Thursday that they would not boycott an election that is widely expected to lead to a fifth term as FIFA president for Sepp Blatter, despite their intensified opposition to his candidacy. After leading an emergency meeting with representatives from FIFA's six regional confederations to discuss a criminal inquiry by the United States earlier in the day, Blatter rebuffed a call from Michel Platini, Europe's top soccer official, to step down before the election on Friday." ...

... Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times: "Dogged for years by suspicions of corruption, the governing body for the world's most popular sport is now in the center of a sprawling, spiraling scandal.... The FIFA imbroglio, unearthed as part of a joint effort that includes the FBI and IRS, extends far beyond the average sports scandal." ...

... David Graham of the Atlantic reports on the FIFA (football) arrests -- which are now up to 14 & counting. Graham describes FIFA as a Mafia-like organization. ...

Claire Phipps & Damien Gayle of the Guardian: "Fifa sponsors, including Adidas, Visa and Coca-Cola, are calling for the body to reform its practices.... The crisis has also cast doubt over [Sepp] Blatter's leadership of the body. He is seeking a fifth four-year term as president this week, but leading figures in world football have called for him to reconsider his position." ...

... Jackie Kucinich of the Daily Beast: "The Clinton global charity has received between $50,000 and $100,000 from soccer's governing body and has partnered with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association on several occasions, according to donor listings on the foundation's website.... Bill Clinton ... was an honorary chairman of the bid committee put together to promote the United States as a possible host nation for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup."

Some Would Be Heroes. Contributor safari links to the obituary of conservationist Leo Drey. ...

... And Some Would Not. Adam Lerner of Politico: Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, "downplayed the effects of climate change at his company’s annual meeting Wednesday, telling shareholders his firm hadn't invested in renewable energy because 'We choose not to lose money on purpose.'... At the meeting, shareholders sided with the company's board and voted against a measure proposed by Father Michael Crosby and Sister Pat Daly, representatives of a Milwaukee-based Roman Catholic organization, to add a climate change expert to the company's board."

Presidential Race

Say Who? Alexander Burns of the New York Times: Former New York Gov. George Pataki "announced Thursday in a video on his website that he is running for president.... Mr. Pataki, who left office in 2006, is an unlikely match for the Republican Party of 2016. A former Yale debater with an easy public demeanor, he is a supporter of abortion rights and pushed as governor for anti-discrimination rules protecting gays and lesbians."

[Pataki] sees and believes that there's an opportunity in New Hampshire to put himself forth in this race. Its voters are much more moderate on social issues.... Of course he'll be battling Jeb Bush, who is considered the more moderate of the candidates running. But Jeb doesn't know to take a position on Iraq even after the disaster we've seen. -- Former goofball Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R.-N.Y.), a long-time ally of Pataki's

Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "Rick Santorum, who was the runner-up in the Republican primary race four years ago but has never been considered his party's heir apparent, is announcing his second presidential bid on Wednesday." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Dan Balz & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has been actively gauging reactions to a possible campaign for president in 2016, is now moving rapidly to assemble the staff and financial resources for such a bid and is looking to declare his candidacy sometime after June 30, according to knowledgeable Republicans." CW: Apparently god gave Kasich the signal. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Our Moral Dilemma of the Day: Should Christian bakers sell cake to sinners? ....

... Related Test Question: How is a mosque like a KKK march?

Katie Glueck of Politico: "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal lashed out at Sen. Rand Paul for his recent comments about the Islamic State, saying the presidential contender is unfit to be commander in chief and is taking the 'weakest, most liberal Democrat position' when it comes to fighting the militant group. Using unusually harsh rhetoric and an unusual forum, Jindal posted a statement condemning Paul on Wednesday on his 'office of the governor' website." CW: I'm trying to think of what other presidential hopeful is unfit for the job. ...

... Ed Kilgore surmises Bobby is "grabbing every media opportunity available to get the kind of attention that might bump up those polling numbers and earn a spot on the debate stage.... "Perhaps Jindal decided to get energized after reading a Times-Pic piece from Julia O'Donoghue drawing attention to a FiveThirtyEight analysis by Harry Enten of polls showing Bobby running dead last (technically, tied for dead last with John Kasich )among born again/evangelical voters, his obsessive target for many months now." ...

... CW: I sure want Bobby to be in the same circus ring with Li'l Randy during the Fox "News" clown show debates. It would be so fun to watch these pipsqueaks duke it out. ...

... Update. Add Christie to the scrim. Alexander Bolton of the Hill: Chris "Christie accused Paul of siding with the 'criminal' leaker Edward Snowden." ...

... Update 2. Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "... Jeb Bush sought to cast himself as a seasoned leader while faulting other candidates for shifting course to fit public opinion. Bush is not yet an official presidential candidate, but he suggested that others already in the race are being needlessly combative and that the eventual GOP presidential nominee should be 'hopeful and optimistic instead of grumpy and kind of reactionary.'... Bush made his comments as the featured guest on 'Calling Alabama,' a conference call series hosted by the Alabama Republican Party." ...

... Greg Sargent: "It's good that Bush is throwing down the gauntlet in claiming that GOP candidates should show courage in trying to persuade hostile GOP voters that legalization [of undocumented immigrants] is the only solution. But it remains to be see how far he'll go publicly. What's more, Bush does not deserve a pass here -- he, too, has equivocated on legalization."

Dana Milbank: "Ted Cruz, charlatan." Milbank points out how Cruz criticized President Obama for not bombing Syria at the same time Cruz was working against Congressional efforts to grant President Obama approval to bom Syria.

Adam Lerner: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker defended his decision to sign a law in Wisconsin mandating ultrasounds for women before they get abortions.... Defending the legislation against what he called the 'gotcha' media, Walker said, 'Most people I talk to, whether they're pro-life or not, I find people all the time who'll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids' ultrasound and how excited they are, so that's a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, you know we still have their first ultrasound picture. It's just a cool thing out there.'... Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards responded in a statement sent to NPR that 'Women are very clear that forced government ultrasounds are not "cool."'" ...

... CW: I'm pretty sure women will want to share photos of their aborted fetuses. Maybe frame the pix & hang them on the wall. What an asshole. P.S. Once again: thanks, Wisconsin!

Ha Ha. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: Carly Fiorina's attempted ambush of Hillary Clinton at a South Carolina hotel didn't go so well. ...

... Haberman: Meanwhile, Hillary called for a civil campaign, addressing "an unhappy memory from her last campaign in South Carolina, when her battle with Barack Obama grew intense and ugly." ...

... Patrick Healy of the New York Times: So then, in New Hampshire, Bernie takes a jab at Hillary for not taking a position on the TPP trade deal. ...

... Linda Greenhouse: "Hillary Clinton has been telling people ... that as president, she would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the Citizens United decision erasing limits on political spending by corporations.... Litmus tests can be problematic, for sure, but let's be intrigued rather than shocked that opposition to Citizens United has emerged as the latest one. During the presidential debates in 2012, neither candidate was asked a single question about the Supreme Court. If a Citizens United litmus test serves only to put the court on the campaign screen, where it urgently belongs, it will have done some good before the first vote is cast." ...

... Ken Vogel of Politico: "Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime confidant of Bill and Hillary Clinton, earned about $10,000 a month as a full-time employee of the Clinton Foundation while he was providing unsolicited intelligence on Libya to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to multiple sources familiar with the arrangement.... A Clinton loyalist who first earned the family's trust as an aggressive combatant in the political battles of the 1990s, Blumenthal continues to work as a paid consultant to two groups supporting Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign — American Bridge and Media Matters -- both of which are run by David Brock, a close ally of both Clinton and Blumenthal." ...

... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal judge issued an order Wednesday requiring the State Department to make public batches of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails every 30 days starting next month. U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras also set particular targets for the agency to meet each month as it wades through the roughly 30,000 emails totaling about 55,000 pages.... The State Department initially proposed releasing the vast majority of the emails in a single batch by next January, but Contreras rejected that suggestion, citing the public interest in the materials."

Beyond the Beltway

Putting Some Heart in the Heartland. Julie Bosman of the New York Times: "Nebraska on Wednesday became the first conservative state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty, with lawmakers defying their Republican governor, Pete Ricketts, a staunch supporter of capital punishment who had lobbied vigorously against banning it. After more than two hours of emotional speeches at the Capitol here, the Legislature, by a 30-to-19 vote that cut across party lines, overrode the governor's veto of a bill repealing the state's death penalty law. After the repeal measure passed, by just enough votes to overcome the veto, dozens of spectators in the balcony burst into celebration."

Colin Campbell & Ian Duncan of the Balitmore Sun: "Defense attorneys for six police officers facing criminal charges in the Freddie Gray case are seeking to have the case tried elsewhere in Maryland, saying their clients can't get a 'fair and impartial trial' in Baltimore."

Zach Stafford of the Guardian: "An Illinois judge has released a long-concealed picture that shows two Chicago police officers posing over an unidentified black man in antlers while holding rifles as if he had been hunted. The photo, which was given to police by federal prosecutors in 2013, was made public for the first time on Wednesday by Cook county Judge Thomas Allen. It was taken sometime between 1998 and 2003 at the Harrison police district station on the west side. This station is a mile south of Homan Square, the facility where the Guardian earlier this year identified alleged police misconduct and torture as well as other civil rights violations."

James Nord of the AP: "A South Dakota jury on Wednesday convicted former U.S. Senate candidate Annette Bosworth [R] of election law violations. The 43-year-old Sioux Falls physician had been charged with six counts each of perjury and filing false documents stemming from the mishandling of her candidate petitions. Jurors convicted her on all of those counts...."