The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, September 1, 2015.

Washington Post: "Overwhelmed by thousands of asylum-seekers, Hungarian authorities Tuesday briefly halted rail traffic from their nation’s main train station, the latest blow to borderless movement in Europe.... The asylum-seekers, many of whom are fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, hope to make it onward to Germany, which has promised shelter and sustenance for Syrians. By midday in Budapest, the train station had been reopened, but migrants were being kept away, Hungary’s state-owned news agency reported."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times [Aug. 20]: "As many as 60,000 American women each year are told they have a very early stage of breast cancer — Stage 0, as it is commonly known — a possible precursor to what could be a deadly tumor. And almost every one of the women has either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, and often a double mastectomy, removing a healthy breast as well. Yet it now appears that treatment may make no difference in their outcomes."

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."

White House Live Video
August 28

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

New York Times: "Bloomberg News laid off as many as 90 journalists on Tuesday[, Sept. 1,] in its newsrooms in New York, Washington and across the world, part of a plan to refocus the organization’s coverage on business, finance, economics, technology and politics. The rationale for the dismissals was outlined in a lengthy memo to the staff from Bloomberg’s new editor in chief, John Micklethwait."

Maureen Dowd: Trump has got the best of Jeb! & Hillary: "Trump’s 'gusto,' as he likes to call it, has thrown into sharper relief the grinding-it-out, impatient entitlement, the overthinking and overcorrecting of Jeb and Hillary. Both campaign like they are owed, not because of their great national achievements, but because of their byzantine family dynamics."

The Oliver Brief. We do note, however, that the so-called 'Insular Cases,' which established a less-than-complete application of the Constitution in some U.S. territories, has been the subject of extensive judicial, academic, and popular criticism. See, e.g., Juan Torruella, The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid, 77 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 1 (2008); Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories, Youtube (Mar. 8, 2015), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CesHr99ezWE. -- Footnote, Paeste v. Guam, Ninth Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon

Jordan Golson of Wired: "Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage. The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars — there’s no flying beams of light, no 'pew! pew!' sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down. People keep flying their drones where they shouldn’t.... Luckily, there haven’t been any really bad incidents — that is, no one has been killed by a civilian quadcopter or plane, yet."

"The cream cheese is too damn much." Scott Lemieux and I agree.

Sunday Morning Come-Down. Politico: "Al Sharpton is leaving MSNBC's weekday dayside lineup, and moving to Sunday mornings. Sharpton's last weekday 'PoliticsNation' will be Sept. 4. He moves to Sundays a month later on Oct. 4, according to a memo sent to MSNBC staff by the channel's president Phil Griffin Wednesday evening."

Washington Post: "Stephen Hawking believes he’s solved a huge mystery about black holes."

Washington Post: "The case for canonizing [Sister Blandina Segale,] the 19th century Italian-born nun, whose run-in with Old West outlaw Billy the Kid is the stuff of legend, was presented at a ceremonial 'first inquiry' in Albuquerque on Tuesday. If approved, her name will be sent to the Vatican, where it will head down the long (and somewhat secretive) path toward sainthood."

New York Times: Can't sidewalk scaffolding be attractive? Yes, it can.

Terror in Toledo! ABC News: "A man caught on video the moment a public art installation in Toledo, Ohio -- a giant, 250-pound red ball -- decided to run away and start rolling down streets lined with parked cars. Part of a Toledo Museum of Art exhibit, the RedBall Project had been wedged between Roulet Jewelers and Ice Restaurant in downtown Toledo when a thunderstorm and strong winds this past Wednesday evening knocked the ball loose and caused it to start rolling away, according to Kelly Garrow, the museum's director of communications."

... AP: "America’s two foremost Democratic families, the Obamas and the Clintons, mingled on Saturday[,August 15,] as politics mixed with summer repose on swanky Martha’s Vineyard."

Washington Post: "Offering such perks as 'free' bags and 'free' airline tickets, [some credit] cards are big on promises, but they often fall short on the delivery. And although these financial instruments are legal, experts say they are not always worthwhile."

Kori Schulman of the White House: "Today (August 14), the White House joined Spotify — and our inaugural playlist was hand-picked by none other than President Obama. When asked to pick a few of his favorite songs for the summer, the President got serious. He grabbed a pen and paper and drafted up not one, but two separate summer playlists: One for the daytime, and one for the evening." ...

... CW: If you're subscribed to Spotify, you can play the President's list from the linked story (at "Today".)

Washington Post: "Google, one of the best-known brands on the planet, on Monday[, August 10,] radically restructured itself under the corporate name Alphabet, an almost unprecedented shift that reflects the company’s far-reaching ambitions and the vast Web it helped evolve. The move represents Google’s biggest push yet to ... turn the company into a multifaceted General Electric for the digital age."

Bureaucracies Move in Mysterious Ways. New York Post: "The city [of New York] moved to fire an employee for missing about 18 months of work, even though he had the best excuse of all time — he was dead. Bureaucrats at the Human Resources Administration filed charges against Medicaid-eligibility specialist Geoffrey Toliver accusing him of going AWOL — even though his death by cancer was reported in an online obituary.... 'It is my understanding that . . . his employer was fully aware that he was not able to come back to work,' Toliver’s brother Anthony told The Post. 'It is my understanding that my brother’s family spoke directly to his supervisor during his long hospitalization and informed them of his death.'” ...

... CW: Doesn't surprise me at all. When I lived in Manhattan, my mother sent me a gift which came directly from the catalog company from which she had bought it. My father had died a few years earlier, but my mother was still getting these catalogs in his name. So my father's name, not hers, appeared on the package as the giftor. He had never lived in New York City. He was not the addressee on the package. The package didn't come from New York City. And my father was dead. But never mind all that. A few months after I received the gift, I got a letter at my New York home addressed to my father. It was a notification from the city ordering my father to show up for jury duty. Or else.

 

Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "For years and years, plenty of websites (Mediaite included) have written about the many times Jon Stewart has 'destroyed,' 'annihilated,' or 'eviscerated' anything from terrorism to race relations to Fox News. Well..., on his penultimate night, Stewart discovered that he didn’t actually do any of that":

Exit Laughing. John Koblin of the New York Times: "Since [Jon] Stewart started hosting 'The Daily Show' 16 years ago, the country’s trust in both the news media and the government has plummeted. Mr. Stewart’s brand of fake news thrived in that vacuum, and turned him into one of the nation’s most bracing cultural, political and media critics. With his over-the-top presentation of the news — his arms swinging wildly, his eyes bulging with outrage, followed by a shake of the head and a knowing smile — Mr. Stewart attracted a generation of viewers ready to embrace an outlier whose exaggerations, in their view, carried more truth than conventional newscasts." ...

...Stewart hasn't done any interviews prior to ending his run on the "Daily Show," but he did sit down with "Daily Show" producers for an "exit interview" on Episode 20 of the "Daily Show Podcast without Jon Stewart." You can listen to it here.

Los Angeles Times: "Donald Sterling filed for divorce Wednesday[, August 5] in Los Angeles Superior Court, almost a year after a contentious legal fight with his wife, Shelly, led to the sale of the Clippers.... However, the court later rejected Wednesday’s filing because it was incomplete, according to a spokeswoman. The matter is expected to be re-filed."

New York Times: "Jason Fine, the editor of Men’s Journal, will take over as the managing editor of Rolling Stone as part of what the magazine’s publisher, Jann S. Wenner, described as a 'shake-up.'”

"Where Are My Pancakes?"

The Word Salad King. If Donald Trump's good friend & possible running mate Sarah Palin is the Word Salad Queen, it stands to reason that the Donald would be the king. Slate challenges you to diagram this "sentence." To help you out, Slate has transcribed the words in the order delivered. Not that the order delivered matters much:

Obama Slept Here

For a mere $22.5MM this Martha's Vinehard house on 10 acres can be yours. The Obamas stayed in the house for 8 days in 2013. The current owner bought the property, which has expansive views of the Atlantic & Chilmark Pond, in 2000 for about $3MM. So, hey, the price is negotiable. Slide show.

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.

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Monday
Jul082013

The Commentariat -- July 9, 2013

... sex sells on Reality Chex, too, and best of all to me, it was free. -- Ken Winkes, on yesterday's Comments thread

Okay, Ken, closed for business. This bitch will not be servicing you people today. -- Constant Weader

Mark Mazzetti & Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times: "Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a 'zero option' that would leave no American troops there after next year, according to American and European officials." CW: this piece exemplifies the strategic leak.

David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times: "Seeking to reassure Egyptians and the world about its intention to return to civilian democracy, the military-led interim government on Tuesday laid out a brisk timetable to overhaul Egypt's suspended Constitution, elect a new Parliament and choose a new president, all in the space of about six months." ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told reporters that the Obama administration would study the events in Egypt to determine whether the military seizing of power constitutes a military coup d’état under law. But he added that the administration planned to take its time in making such a determination and ruled out any suspension of aid in the near term." ...

... Matthew Lee of the AP: "While not directly ordering a pre-cooked outcome of a legal review into Mohammed Morsi's ouster last week, [U.S.] officials said Monday that the White House has made clear in inter-agency discussions that continued aid to Egypt's military is a U.S. national security priority that would be jeopardized by a coup finding."

Ginger Gibson of Politico: "House Speaker John Boehner is sticking to his position: The House will not vote on the Senate-passed immigration bill." CW: hilariously, he also said, "It's time for Congress to act."

The Menu. Kevin Drum on the House Republicans' latest debt-ceiling hostage-taking plan: "The tea partiers have painted themselves into a corner. The economy is slowly recovering, and the deficit is falling, but they've promised ever more hostage taking anyway, and now they have to follow through. But their proposals combine arrogance and amateur-hour theatrics in a way that practically guarantees failure. They sound like a bunch of eight-year-olds who think they've come up with an oh-so-clever way to trap dad into raising their allowance or something." ...

... Alain Sherter of CBS News: "The White House on Monday revised downward its forecast for U.S. economic growth this year, citing government spending cuts, the ongoing recession in Europe, and slowing expansion in China and other emerging markets.... The federal budget deficit is shrinking faster than forecast, the budget office also said. The White House estimates the current budget gap at $759 million, or 4.7 percent of GDP, down from its April estimate of $973 million. 'That is down from a deficit of 10.1 percent four years ago -- representing the fastest period of deficit reduction since the years immediately following World War II,' wrote OMB chief Sylvia Mathews Burwell...." ...

... Katrina vanden Heuvel, in the Washington Post: "Few commentators even mention that most of the 195,000 jobs added last month, as well as the ones added in the last few years, are low-paying, temporary, part time and usually without benefits. Much of the job growth we have seen is in restaurant, retail and temporary work -- the sort of jobs that rarely offer basic security, let alone a foothold for people to climb into the middle class.... The crisis is disproportionately affecting minorities and younger Americans.... The Congressional Progressive Caucus has stitched together an array of strong proposals in its Back to Work Budget, which ought to be a starting point for a serious jobs push by Congress."

ACLU: " The Senate Judiciary Committee should thoroughly examine the record of James Comey, President Obama's choice to be the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, during his first confirmation hearing tomorrow, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. As deputy attorney general during the Bush administration, Comey twice approved memos authorizing torture, including waterboarding, which President Obama outlawed when he took office in 2009."

Hayley Tsukayama of the Washington Post: "The Electronic Privacy Information Committee has filed a complaint with the Supreme Court on Monday questioning whether the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had the authority to order Verizon to turn over data from domestic phone records.... The privacy group joins several other organizations that have filed lawsuits objecting to the NSA's surveillance program. In addition to several cases filed by the American Civil Liberties Union at state and district levels, Google and Microsoft have both challenged gag orders that prevent them from disclosing what data they are forced to give the government under a separate surveillance program, called PRISM. The companies say that the gag order inhibits their First Amendment right to free expression." ...

... The Ed Snowden Interview, Part 2:

... The accompanying Guardian story, by Glenn Greenwald & others, is here. ...

... Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake has the full transcript of the interview.

... Tom Hamburger & Robert O'Harrow, Jr., of the Washington Post: "... if the past is a guide, the government is not likely to scale back its reliance on Booz Allen or other large contractors anytime soon.... Although intelligence agency reliance on outside firms has declined some in recent years, the latest available estimates still show that about 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget is spent on contractors. And big, well-established companies continue to have outsize influence. That is particularly true for Booz Allen.... Nearly half of the company's 24,500 workers have top-secret clearance. The company also has deep connections within the defense and intelligence communities, including James R. Clapper Jr., a former Booz Allen executive who is the current director of national intelligence, and R. James Woolsey, the former director of the CIA, who was a senior vice president at the firm until 2008. The man currently heading Booz Allen's intelligence operations, retired Vice Adm. John Michael McConnell, was the head of the National Security Agency in the mid-1990s and was appointed in 2007 by President George W. Bush to lead the government's newly established Office of the Director of National Intelligence...."

Asad Hashim of Al Jazeera: "Following the [bin Laden] operation, which [the U.S.] deliberately conducted without the knowledge of the Pakistani government or its military, a Commission was set up in Pakistan to examine 'how the US was able to execute a hostile military mission, which lasted around three hours, deep inside Pakistan', and how Pakistan's 'intelligence establishment apparently had no idea that an international fugitive of the renown or notoriety of [Osama bin Laden] was residing in [Abbottabad]'.... The Commission's 336-page report is scathing, holding both the government and the military responsible for 'gross incompetence', leading to 'collective failures' that allowed Bin Laden to escape detection, and the United States to perpetrate 'an act of war'." ...

... Noah Rayman of Time summarizes the commission's major findings.

AND Driftglass summarizes whatever it was David Brooks wrote for today's NYT.

Local News

Jonathan Tilove of the Austin American Statesman: "Gov. Rick Perry announced Monday he won't seek re-election as governor." With video. ...

... Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "Texans will likely not go into mourning. In a poll conducted in February by the University of Texas, only 26 percent said they'd vote for Mr. Perry, a third said they would vote against him and another third said it depended on his opponent." Rosenthal highlights some of Perry's reactionary actions, remarks & policies.

Pictured below: "The Washington Monument is encased in 500 tons of scaffolding while it undergoes repairs. Starting this week, the obelisk will glow at night, with 488 lamps illuminating the 1.4 acres of blue fabric that have been draped on the metal braces that encase the structure." AP photo. What a perfect day to republish the double image of a well-lit phallic icon.

** Frank Bruni: Anthony Weiner is a delusional prick. ...

... Michael Barbaro & David Chen of the New York Times: "From corporate boardrooms to the headquarters of the city's Democratic political campaigns, phone lines lighted up and strategy sessions were organized on Monday with a single mission in mind: stopping Eliot Spitzer.... Some of the leaders expressed acute regret over their failure to swiftly undercut the mayoral campaign of former Representative Anthony D. Weiner.... They quickly zeroed in on what they claimed were Mr. Spitzer's vulnerabilities: an out-of-control ego; his lawbreaking patronization of prostitutes, which led to his resignation as governor in 2008; and his combative, go-it-alone style." ...

... Michael Barbaro, et al., of the Times: Eliot "Spitzer ... spent nearly an hour fielding questions from journalists and voters, enduring hecklers and unsolicited compliments as he made an awkward return to retail politics after a five-year hiatus." Here, Barbaro reports excerpts of a Times interview with Spitzer, conducted Sunday night. ...

... Kenneth Lovett of the New York Daily News: "In an odd twist, the ex-governor -- who resigned in 2008 amid a high-priced call girl scandal -- will be competing against Kristin Davis, the ex-madam who says she supplied him with hookers and who is running on the Libertarian line.... 'This is going to be the funnest campaign ever,' said Davis, who went to prison for three months for her role in running a high-end escort service.... 'I've been waiting for my day to face him for five years,' Davis said. 'I sat ... in Rikers Island, I came out penniless and nothing happened to him. The hypocrisy there is huge.'" CW: you can't make up this stuff. ...

... M. J. Lee of Politico: "As comptroller [Spitzer] could play the role of activist investor while managing the city's almost $140 billion in pension funds, pressure money managers to accept reforms if they want to do business with New York and audit city agencies' various dealings with financial companies and make headlines if he thinks the taxpayer is getting a raw deal." ...

... Josh Barro of Business Insider: "He'll probably win. And fortunately for those of us who live in New York City, he'll probably be good at it.... It sounds like he intends to set up a shadow mayor's office. Given the mayoral administration that we're likely to get with any of the front-running candidates -- lacking imagination and hemmed in by tight fiscal and political constraints -- a prominent shadow mayor could be very useful." ...

... Ben Smith of BuzzFeed: "Eliot Spitzer is nothing like Anthony Weiner."

Greg McCune of Reuters: "... Illinois, the only one in the United States to have a law prohibiting the carrying of concealed guns, could lift the ban on Tuesday when lawmakers are expected to vote on the measure." The Chicago Tribune story is here.

Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "After a hastily called hearing, a federal judge Monday put a 10-day freeze on a new state law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital-admitting privileges. In a 19-page opinion issued Monday evening, U.S. District Judge William M. Conley cited a 'troubling lack of justification' for the law and said he would stay enforcement of the admissions provision until July 18, a day after a more deliberate courtroom hearing scheduled before him next week."

Rob Christensen, et al., of the Raleigh News & Observer: "Speaking several days after his administration shut down a Durham abortion clinic for health violations, [North Carolina Gov. Pat] McCrory [R] said he would move aggressively to protect women's health. But he acknowledged a campaign promise that he would not support new restrictions on abortions.... McCrory left in doubt whether he would support the bill" passed by the Senate last week -- an anti-Sharia-law bill onto which Republicans attached anti-abortion amendments in the final hours. ...

... Marti Maguire of Reuters: "North Carolina's 'Moral Monday' protesters, now in their tenth week, objected to a bill that could limit abortion access - the latest move to counter a conservative shift by the state's first Republican-led government in more than a century. The rally at the state capitol in Raleigh on Monday night was one of the largest since the protests began this spring, drawing about 2,000 people, including 64 protesters who refused to leave the legislative chambers and were arrested." The News & Observer story, by Anne Blythe & John Frank, is here.

Anne Blythe & Lynn Bonner of the News & Observer: "North Carolina's legislative and congressional boundaries were upheld Monday by a three-judge panel, a decision lauded by state Republicans who oversaw the drafting of the maps in 2011. The unanimous ruling came as a blow to Democrats, civil rights groups and voting rights advocates who contend the districts are racial gerrymanders designed to weaken the influence of black voters across North Carolina. Though they have 30 days to decide, attorneys representing the groups say the case is likely to be appealed to the state Supreme Court and possibly to the U.S. Supreme Court."

AP: "The American Civil Liberties Union said it will file the first known legal challenge today seeking to overturn a state law effectively banning same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania, the only northeastern state that doesn't allow it or civil unions. The lawsuit, to be filed in federal court in Harrisburg, also will ask a federal judge to prevent state officials from stopping gay couples from getting married."

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "Officials said 30,000 California inmates refused meals Monday at the start of a prison strike involving two-thirds of the state's 33 lockups, as well as four out-of-state facilities.... The protest was organized by a small group of inmates held in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison near the Oregon border. Their complaints focus on policies that put inmates in isolation indefinitely, some for decades, if they are suspected of having ties to prison gangs."

New York Times: "Egypt's military-led interim government laid out an accelerated six-month timetable on Tuesday for a return to civilian democracy, and chose a liberal economist as temporary prime minister, part of an intensified effort to assure Egyptians and the world about its intentions in the aftermath of the mass killing of more than 50 Islamist protesters."

Las Vegas Sun: "Firefighters had a 'break-even' kind of day Monday in battling the vast wildfire at Mount Charleston, getting some containment in some areas, losing ground in others, but so far managing to save every structure, according to an official in charge of the operation. However, as drier and hotter weather settled into the area on Monday, along with strong southwest winds, officials also said they don't expect to contain the fire until July 19 -- almost three weeks from when it was first sparked by lightning."

Cleveland Plain Dealer: "For the first time, we see the faces and hear the words of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight in a four-minute video in which they thank the community for its support after their escape from a decade of captivity." Includes video.

Sunday
Jul072013

The Commentariat -- July 8, 2013

Daniel Strauss of the Hill: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi a coup d’etat and pressed the Obama administration to suspend aid to the country on Sunday." ...

... CW: Read today's News Ledes & you'll likely find yourself agreeing with McCain.

Jennifer Valentino-Devries & Siobhan Gorman of the Wall Street Journal: "The National Security Agency's ability to gather phone data on millions of Americans hinges on a secret court ruling that redefined a single word: 'relevant.' This change -- which specifically enabled the surveillance recently revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden -- was made by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a group of judges responsible for making decisions about government surveillance in national-security cases. In classified orders starting in the mid-2000s, the court accepted that 'relevant' could be broadened to permit an entire database of records on millions of people, in contrast to a more conservative interpretation widely applied in criminal cases, in which only some of those records would likely be allowed, according to people familiar with the ruling." CW Note: the article is firewalled. You won't get it via the link provided unless you're a WSJ subscriber; if you're not, copy & paste the title "Secret Court's Redefinition of 'Relevant' Empowered Vast NSA Data-Gathering" into a Google search box. ...

... James Risen of the New York Times: "A privacy rights group plans to file an emergency petition with the Supreme Court on Monday asking it to stop the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program that collects the telephone records of millions of Americans. The group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, says it is taking the extraordinary legal step of going directly to the Supreme Court because the sweeping collection of the phone records of American citizens has created 'exceptional circumstances' that only the nation's highest court can address.... Alan Butler, a lawyer for the group, said the judge 'lacked the authority to require production of all domestic call detail records.' He noted that the Patriot Act provision cited by the FISA court required that the business records produced be 'relevant' to an authorized national security investigation. 'It is simply implausible that all call detail records are relevant,' Mr. Butler said." ...

... Ian Traynor of the Guardian: "Britain has blocked the first crucial talks on intelligence and espionage between European officials and their American counterparts since the NSA surveillance scandal erupted. The talks, due to begin in Washington on Monday, will now be restricted to issues of data privacy and the NSA's Prism programme following a tense 24 hours of negotiations in Brussels between national EU ambassadors. Britain, supported only by Sweden, vetoed plans to launch two 'working groups' on the espionage debacle with the Americans.'" ...

... John Stanton of BuzzFeed profiles Judge Reggie Walton, the chief judge of the FISA court. ...

... In a Washington Post op-ed, Daniel Ellsberg argues that Ed Snowden made the right call when he fled the U.S. ...

... Peter Orsi of the AP: Cuban President "Raul Castro stood shoulder-to-shoulder Sunday with Latin American countries willing to take in NSA leaker Edward Snowden, but made no reference to whether Cuba itself would offer him refuge or safe passage. Venezuela and Bolivia both made asylum offers to Snowden over the weekend, and Nicaragua has said it is also considering his request." ...

... Charles Pierce ties Eric Lichtblau's piece on the extreme reach of the FISA court (see yesterday's Commentariat) to President Obama's "preposterous public claim that the rubber-stamp FISA court qualified as 'oversight.'" CW: either President Obama is wilfully ignorant of the court's rulings & practices -- which is possible -- or he lied on the teevee to you & me. ...

... T. Steelman of Addicting Information (a liberal site) questions Ed Snowden's motives. Steelman reviews some of Snowden's 2009 chatroom entries in which he railed against Social Security: "they [seniors] wouldn't be fucking helpless if you weren't sending them fucking checks to sit on their ass and lay in hospitals all day"; various Obama policies; leakers: "those people should be shot in the balls"; and chatters who disagreed with him: "I hope you're killed by a drunk driver on Halloween." Snowden also expressed his support for warrantless wiretapping, Ron Paul & the NRA. Steelman finds it curious that Snowden's views changed when the administration changed from Bush to Obama. "Is this whole thing a ruse to make the President look bad? If so, who is funding it -- who is paying for all his travel and hotels? Or is Edward Snowden, a man who has completely destroyed his own life, just stupid?" ...

... CW: I wrote a comment on this earlier, but this site was hacked & the comment deleted. This is the second time this particular hacker has hacked this site. I didn't figure it out the first time, but I get it now. ...

... Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post has an interesting piece on a Somali-American (he recently acquired U.S. citizenship), who has been a target of "a shadowy Pentagon counterpropaganda campaign." The FBI went calling on the young man, a fundamentalist Muslim named Abdiwali Warsame who runs a Website which posts controversial stories & opinions of interest to Somalis.

Alex Altman of Time: "Just two weeks ago, Republican Senators were boasting about big plans to spend $46 billion over the next 10 years to enhance security on the southern border.... But as the bill moves to the House, the excess is beginning to look like a liability. The deal ... is unlikely to sway House Republicans who insist on securing the border before some 11 million undocumented immigrants can begin the naturalization process. And it is alienating allies who are vital to immigration reform's chances in the House, including a prominent Latino advocacy group and at least one Democratic Representative." ...

... New York Times Editors: "Mr. Boehner has a choice. He can let [immigration] reform go forward with bipartisan support -- House Republicans and Democrats together could pass a good bill. This would infuriate the hotheads in his caucus but save the Republican Party from itself. Or he can stand back and let his party kill reform. As the issue festers, a nation is watching to see whether the Republicans can work out their Steve King problem and do something difficult for their own good, and the country's."

Paul Krugman: "Someday, I suppose, something will turn up that finally gets us back to full employment. But I can't help recalling that the last time we were in this kind of situation, the thing that eventually turned up was World War II."

Erin McClam of NBC News: "... as legal scholars ... examine the [Supreme Court] term in full, they say the court leaned unmistakably to the right -- and came down consistently on the side of big business. The justices made it more difficult to bring class-action suits against companies, raised the bar for workers to win discrimination claims and protected pharmaceutical companies against people who say they were harmed by defective generic drugs."

In a compelling New York Times op-ed, Beth Merfish urges women who have had abortions to speak out. ...

... Washington Post Editors: "On Wednesday, just before the Fourth of July holiday, North Carolina Republicans added a slew of anti-abortion restrictions at the last minute to a bill otherwise concerned with banning Sharia law (already a questionable endeavor, but never mind that now). Any law that will limit women's access to abortion and to much other health care deserves a public hearing. Honesty about the true motivation of these laws would be welcome, too."

Another GOP 2012 Post-Mortem, This Time Featuring the Wisdom of Brownback. AP: " Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Friday that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney focused too narrowly on economic issues during last year's campaign and that the GOP needs to stick to its principles on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion."

Local News

Michael Barbaro & David Chen of the New York Times: "Eliot Spitzer, who resigned as governor of New York five years ago amid a prostitution scandal, is re-entering political life, with a run for the citywide office of comptroller and a wager that voters are ready to look past his previous misconduct." CW: Weiner for mayor & Spitzer for comptroller. What a lineup. Should we really embrace politicians because they have managed to refrain from sexually exploiting young women for a couple of years? ...

... Andy Borowitz: "In a stunning bid for a political comeback, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said today that he was considering running for office in New York City.... Mr. Berlusconi said that he was unconcerned by rumors of a possible bid for office in New York by another former European politician, Dominique Strauss-Kahn."

Corey Johnson of the Center for Investigative Reporting: "Doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 female inmates from 2006 to 2010 without required state approvals.... The women were signed up for the surgery while they were pregnant and housed at either the California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, which is now a men's prison. Former inmates and prisoner advocates maintain that prison medical staff coerced the women, targeting those deemed likely to return to prison in the future." ...

     ... Update. Charles Pierce comments.

News Ledes

AP: "Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and heir to a ketchup company fortune, was hospitalized in critical but stable condition Monday, a day after showing symptoms consistent with a seizure, a person in close contact with the family said." ...

     ... Boston Globe Update: "The health of philanthropist Teresa Heinz Kerry has improved at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where the wife of Secretary of State John F. Kerry is now considered to be in fair condition, an improvement from the critical condition she was in on Sunday."

New York Times: "Egyptian soldiers opened fire on hundreds of unarmed supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi early Monday as they were praying before dawn outside the facility where he is believed to be detained, dozens of witnesses said. At least 43 civilians were killed, all or most of them shot, and more than 300 wounded, doctors and health officials said. Security officials said one police officer died as well. The massacre marked a sharp escalation in the confrontation between the generals who forced out the president and his Islamist supporters in the streets." ...

... The Al Jazeera story is here. The Al Jazeera liveblog is here. ...

... New York Times: "A party of ultraconservative Islamists that emerged as an unexpected political kingmaker in Egypt after the military's ouster of President Mohamed Morsi said on Monday that it was suspending its participation in efforts to form an interim government. A spokesman for the Al Nour party said its decision was a reaction to a 'massacre' hours earlier at an officers' club here in which security officials said more than 40 people had been killed." CW: the Times should take "massacre" out of quotation marks. It was a massacre, if news reports are accurate.

AP: "An air taxi crashed Sunday at a small Alaska airport, killing all 10 people on board and leaving the aircraft fully engulfed in flames before firefighters could get to it, authorities said." With video.

San Francisco Chronicle: "An autopsy was being conducted Sunday to determine whether one of the two teenage passengers killed on the Asiana Airlines flight had been run over by a San Francisco fire rig at the crash scene. The 16-year-old girl was found near the evacuation slide from the left side of Asiana Flight 214 that crashed Saturday while landing at San Francisco International Airport. The girl was not identified. San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said Sunday that her injuries are consistent with having been run over."

Saturday
Jul062013

The Commentariat -- July 7, 2013

David Kirkpatrick & Mayy El Sheikh of the New York Times: "The abrupt end of Egypt's first Islamist government was the culmination of months of escalating tensions and ultimately futile American efforts to broker a solution that would keep Mr. Morsi in his elected office, at least in name, if not in power."

** Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation's surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say.... The court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny.... The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come.... Unlike the Supreme Court, the FISA court hears from only one side in the case -- the government -- and its findings are almost never made public." ...

... CW: guess who chooses the judges who sit on the FISA court? Without anybody else having any say-so whatsofuckingever? Chief Justice John Roberts, that's who. And before him, of course, Chief Justice William Rehnquist. I'll bet those two fellows just loaded the FISA court with flaming civil libertarians. As Michael McGough writes in the Los Angeles Times, "Presidential nomination and Senate confirmation of judges for the FISA court would allow senators to question nominees about their view of the 4th Amendment and constitutional privacy rights." ...

I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email. -- Ed Snowden, to the Guardian, June 2013

... CW: if Snowden really could wiretap & read the personal e-mail of "a federal judge," then it would have been a damned good idea if he had proved it by revealing some of the personal love notes or other embarrassing hoohah written by a few FISA court judges. What better way to cause them to rethink their cavalier rulings? ...

... Jeff Rosen of the National Constitution Center, in a Washington Post op-ed: "Repeatedly, our government has chosen technologies, policies and laws that reveal innocent information without making us demonstrably safer. The massive telephone and Internet surveillance programs disclosed last month are the most recent examples. But the tendency goes back at least as far as the USA Patriot Act, passed in the anxious weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, with only one dissenting vote in the Senate [Russ Feingold].... A better Patriot Act might have avoided national scandals over not only airport scanners and phone metadata but also wiretapping and library records. A better law could have dispensed with the 'trust us' mentality and mitigated the erosion of trust in government. It could have put us in a better position to detect terrorism and other serious crimes without threatening privacy." Rosen, a lawyer, goes on to suggest some improvements in the law. ...

David Mindich, in a New York Times op-ed -- citing President Lincoln & his Secretary of War Edwin Stanton's establishment of a draconian surveillance state -- argues that the problem isn't the surveillance as much as it is the duration of the amorphous war on terror....

... CW: Mindich has a point. Perhaps it's not coincidental that Snowden's leaks came precisely at the time President Obama announced it was time to wind down the war on terror. Would the Post & the Guardian have been willing to publish the same type of information in November 2001? Nonetheless, Mindich is not considering two important factors: (1) inertia, and (2) special interests, both of which encourage, at the very least, continuance of the surveillance state. The federal government has never been good at cutting back military-related programs (do you think Sen. Orrin Hatch [R-Utah] wants to shut down the NSA facility in Utah?), & private contractors' interest in maintaining & extending their multi-billion-dollar contracts (easily effected by greasing Congress) only exacerbates administration officials' desires to enhance their fiefdoms. ...

... Deadline. Daniel Arkin & Brinley Bruton of NBC News: "Venezuelan officials say they have not heard from Edward Snowden since the country offered the professed NSA leaker asylum, but would wait until Monday to hear if he would take up the offer." ...

... Add Bolivia to the list of countries that have offered asylum to Ed Snowden. So that's three: Nicaraqua, Venezuela & Bolivia. Hope the duty-free shop at the Sheremetyevo Airport sells Spanish-language Berlitz tapes. ...

... Catch 22? Nataliya Vasilyeva of the AP: "Because Snowden's U.S. passport has been revoked, the logistics of him departing are complicated. Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have made asylum offers over the past two days, but the three countries haven't indicated they would help Snowden by issuing a travel document, which he would need to leave Russia."

Frank Bruni: "Protecting assets and massaging facts, Cardinal Dolan and other Catholic leaders have responded to the abuse crisis the way the cunning chieftains of a corporation might.... Over the last few decades we've watched an organization that claims a special moral authority in the world pursue many of the same legal and public-relations strategies -- shuttling around money, looking for loopholes, tarring accusers, massaging the truth -- that are employed by organizations devoted to nothing more than the bottom line."

The American Jihad. Historian James Byrd, in the Washington Post: "When colonists declared their independence on July 4, 1776, religious conviction inspired them. Because they believed that their cause had divine support, many patriots' ardor was both political and religious. They saw the conflict as a just, secular war, but they fought it with religious resolve, believing that God endorsed the cause.... Whatever century it is, our leaders often include some suggestion of the same biblical themes that filled revolutionary-era sermons, including sacrifice, courage for the fight and appeals for God's providential blessings on America."

Mackenzie Weinger of Politico profiles liberal talk-radio host Thom Hartmann.

Brian McFadden of the New York Times goes to journalism summer camp.

Congressional Race

It's All About Liz. Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: Liz Cheney "has made it clear that she wants to run for the Senate seat now held by Michael B. Enzi, a soft-spoken Republican [Wy.] and onetime fly-fishing partner of her father. But Ms. Cheney's move threatens to start a civil war within the state's Republican establishment, despite the reverence many hold for her family. Mr. Enzi, 69, says he is not ready to retire, and many Republicans say he has done nothing to deserve being turned out."

News Ledes

AP: "Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, is in critical but stable condition in a hospital in Nantucket, Mass." It's worth noting that a few days ago, wingers were berating John Kerry for "vacationing" during the Egyptian crisis. ...

     ... Boston Globe Update: "Teresa Heinz Kerry, leading philanthropist and wife of US Secretary of State John F. Kerry, was at Massachusetts General Hospital tonight after being rushed this afternoon to Nantucket Cottage Hospital, where a hospital spokesman had said she was in critical but stable condition."

Al Jazeera: "The continuing chaos in Egypt in the aftermath of last Wednesday's military coup has been compounded further after the choice of liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei as interim prime minister was thrown into doubt by objections from conservative groups." Al Jazeera's profile of ElBaradei is here. ...

     ... Update: "A polarised Egypt entered a second week of political crisis, as opponents and supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi held rival demonstrations in Cairo and cities across the country. The rallies on Sunday came as a coalition that backed Morsi's removal wavered over the choice of Mohamed ElBaradei as interim prime minister."

Al Jazeera: "Turkish riot police have fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse about 3,000 demonstrators who tried to enter a park adjacent to Istanbul's Taksim Square, the heart of recent protests against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan."

AP: "Fires continued burning more than 24 hours after a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed in eastern Quebec, igniting explosions and fires that destroyed a town's center and killed at least one person. Police said they expected the death toll to increase."

NBC News: "Investigators recovered both black boxes from Asiana Airlines Flight 214 on Sunday, NTSB officials told NBC News, as the airline's president said that engine failure was likely not the cause of the crash that killed two and injured scores more on the runway at San Francisco International Airport." ...

     ... San Francisco Chronicle Update: "The doomed Asiana Airlines jetliner came perilously close to stalling before the pilot made a last-second attempt to abort landing and crashed into a seawall bordering a San Francisco International Airport runway, injuring dozens on board and killing two teenagers, transportation safety investigators said Sunday. Preliminary analysis of flight data and cockpit recordings shows that the plane's speed was 'below target,' said U.S. Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman at a media briefing on Sunday afternoon." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "On Monday, Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyomin said that Lee Gang-guk, the pilot in control of the Boeing 777, had little experience flying that kind of plane. She told the Associated Press that it was the pilot's first time landing in San Francisco and that he had nearly 10,000 hours flying other planes but only 43 hours on the 777."

Friday
Jul052013

The Commentariat -- July 6, 2013

** Joe Stiglitz, in the Guardian: "... it now seems clear that the negotiations to create a free trade area between the US and Europe, and another between the US and much of the Pacific (except for China), are not about establishing a true free trade system. Instead, the goal is a managed trade regime – managed, that is, to serve the special interests that have long dominated trade policy in the west... We have a managed trade regime that puts corporate interests first, and a process of negotiations that is undemocratic and non-transparent. The likelihood that what emerges from the coming talks will serve ordinary Americans' interests is low. The outlook for ordinary citizens in other countries is even bleaker."

Catherine Rampell of the New York Times: "Yes, the sequester is affecting the job market." Rampell explains, in part, how. ...

... ** Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge: "In June, the household survey reported that part-time jobs soared by 360,000 to 28,059,000 - an all time record high. Full time jobs? Down 240,000.  And looking back at the entire year, so far in 2013, just 130K Full-Time Jobs have been added, offset by a whopping 557K Part-Time jobs. And there is your jobs "quality" leading to today's market euphoria (if only for now)." (Emphasis original.) CW: why am I reading these figures for the first time? -- and not in the MSM? P.S. I don't get Durden's headline; I don't see what this has to do with Obamacare, unless means "Obama doesn't care." ...

     ... Update. Credit Annie Lowrey of the New York Times for (a) covering the rise in part-time jobs, & (b) clearing up Durden's ObamaCare dig: "The June jobs report saw a surge in part-time workers, and the health care law that starts coming into full effect next year might be in part responsible.... The Affordable Care Act gives employers an incentive to hire part-time workers rather than full-time workers, as they might be compelled to offer health coverage to the latter, but not the former. That’s why a number of big employers have started offering more temporary or part-time positions." The delay of the employer mandate may slow the shift from full- to part-time. ...

     ... CW: if we had Medicare-for-All or even a public option, corporations at least would have to come up with some other excuse to screw their workers. ...

... CW: maybe Obama doesn't care. In a White House blogpost, Alan Krueger, chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, is pretty happy about the great jobs numbers. No mention of part-time v. full-time. I wrote to Alan about that. I'm sure I'll be hearing back any day now.

Steve Coll of the New Yorker: "America’s post-September 11th national-security state has become so well financed, so divided into secret compartments, so technically capable, so self-perpetuating, and so captured by profit-seeking contractors bidding on the next big idea about big-data mining that intelligence leaders seem to have lost their facility to think independently. Who is deciding what spying projects matter most and why?" ...

... Jonathan Watts of the Guardian: "Venezuela and Nicaragua have offered asylum to Edward Snowden, the US whistleblower who is believed to have spent the past two weeks at a Moscow airport evading US attempts to extradite him. The Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, and his Nicaraguan counterpart, Daneil Ortega, made the asylum offers on Friday, shortly after they and other Latin American leaders met to denounce the diversion of a plane carrying the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, due to suspicions that Snowden might have been on board." ...

... David Herszenhorn of the New York Times: "... Edward J. Snowden has applied for political asylum in six additional countries, according to his associates at WikiLeaks, the antisecrecy organization. But the names of those six countries are being kept, um, secret, the group said on Friday." CW: yes, a New York Times reporter wrote "um" in a straight news report.

A Coup by Any Other Name. Peter Baker of the New York Times: When is a coup not a coup? Hmm, apparently when the U.S. State Department would rather not say. ...

... Peter Hart of FAIR: OR, maybe when the New York Times would rather not say. "... it's interesting to note the similarity between the U.S. government's public position on this question and the Newspaper of Record." ...

... Ed Kilgore has an excellent takedown of David Brooks' "reasoning" on the Egyptian coup. Carrying Brooks' theory to its logical conclusion, Brooks seems to favor a coup against the Tea Party. CW: well, okay, Brooksie! Where do I sign up? ...

... Marty Kaplan, in the Huffington Post, goes there: "Writing about Middle Eastern fanatics, Brooks says 'Islamists ... lack the mental equipment to govern.' Does he really not get that this diagnosis nicely fits the Tea Partiers, enabled by simpering colleagues fearful of right-wing primary challenges, who have ground our own government to a halt?" ...

... Another good argument by Max Read of Gawker. After illustrating why Brooks doesn't make sense -- at least if you care about democracy -- Read adds, "Shall we note here, the day after Independence Day, that it took the United States of America 13 years after rejecting monarchy to settle on a stable constitutional form of government?" ...

... David Sirota of Salon says what has to be said about Brooks: he has written, and the Times has published a column that makes an "argument that reads like a[n] unhinged manifesto from a 19th century eugenicist.... Once you get into deriding entire populations as intrinsically lacking the cognitive capacity for self-governance, you’ve jumped into the ugliest, most discredited and vile kind of invective of all — the kind of bigotry that insinuates whole populations are genetically, culturally or otherwise inherently deficient."

The Re-emergence of Dubya? Dianne Solis of the Dallas Morning News: "George W. Bush ... will deliver opening remarks at an citizenship ceremony and immigration forum at the Dallas presidential center bearing his name, where it’s expected he will talk about how immigration reform will be good for America.... It’s unclear whether the ex-president will stick to generalities during his remarks at the citizenship ceremony, or elevate the conversation with details about the super-sized immigration bill now being debated in Congress." ...

... Gail Collins: "Illegal immigration across the Mexican border is ... hardly the worst threat we’ve got out there. Last month, Rolling Stone had a long and terrifying article about how rising sea levels could begin to overwhelm Miami within the next couple of decades. Next time you see Senator Rubio [R-Fla.], be sure to ask him about this. If we can afford to pay border agents to catch three people a year [which is about the average per agent now], shouldn’t we at least be looking at getting the Miami nuclear reactors onto higher ground?" ...

... CW: in case you can't wait to find out what a discharge petition is (Collins teases it at the end of her column), Max Ehrenfreund of the Washington Post explains: "The discharge petition allows an absolute majority of the House of Representatives (218 lawmakers) to force a floor vote on a bill, even if the leadership, who usually controls what legislation makes it to the floor, is opposed. The opposition party can, in theory, use the technique to hijack the legislative agenda on an issue that divides the majority." Sounds like a plan, but it's only happened twice since 1986.

New York Times Editors: "The three Republicans on the [Federal Elections] Commission appear ready to take advantage of a temporary vacancy on the three-member Democratic side to push through 3-to-2 votes for a wholesale retreat from existing regulations.... The proposals are being pushed by Donald McGahn, the Republican vice chairman of the commission who has engineered repeated 3-to-3 standoff votes to stymie approval of staff recommendations for penalties against campaigners found in violation of the law. Mr. McGahn, a former ethics adviser to Tom Delay...." CW: Oh, let's just stop there.

Francis v. the Old Beanies Club. Hans-Jürgen Schlamp of Der Spiegel: "It appears Pope Francis truly wants to change the Catholic Church. He's reforming the Vatican Bank first, but he's also circumventing the old guard wherever he can. The establishment is up in arms."