The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, May 26, 2016.

New York Times: "Provocative new research by a team of investigators at Harvard leads to [the] startling hypothesis ... that Alzheimer’s disease stems from the toxic remnants of the brain’s attempt to fight off infection..., which could explain the origins of plaque, the mysterious hard little balls that pockmark the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. It is still early days, but Alzheimer’s experts not associated with the work are captivated by the idea that infections, including ones that are too mild to elicit symptoms, may produce a fierce reaction that leaves debris in the brain, causing Alzheimer’s." -- CW 

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (May 22): "An outbreak of a life-threatening illness that has been linked to foods packaged by a processing plant in Washington State has prompted a large-scale voluntary recall of frozen fruits and vegetables marketed under 42 brand names. The scale of the recall reflects the severity of the outbreak of the illness, listeria, and of concerns about how the contaminated food might have “trickled down” into other products, said Brittany Behm, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." -- CW

Washington Post: "After an epic duel of word masters, an 11-year-old Texan and a 13-year-old New Yorker tied Thursday night [May 26] in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the third year in a row two victors shared the championship trophy."

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

... Washington Post: The White House goes Scandinavian for a state dinner for the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

New York Times: "Morley Safer, the longest-serving correspondent on '60 Minutes' who was known as much for his hard-hitting reporting as the quirky stories he covered, will formally retire this week after a career in broadcast news that lasted more than 50 years, CBS said on Wednesday. Mr. Safer, 84, served on '60 Minutes' for all but two of its 48 seasons. He started scaling back his appearances on the show after he turned 80; his last segment, a profile of the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, aired in March.... An hourlong program on Sunday, “Morley Safer: A Reporter’s Life,” will, among other highlights, recall an investigation by Mr. Safer that resulted in the freedom of Lenell Geter, a black man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Texas. In an appearance on the special, Mr. Geter credited Mr. Safer with saving his life."

U.K. Telegraph: "A Canadian schoolboy appears to have discovered a lost Mayan city hidden deep in the jungles of Mexico using a new method of matching stars to the location of temples on earth....In hundreds of years of scholarship, no other scientist had ever found such a correlation.... Studying 22 different constellations, [William Gadoury] found that they matched the location of 117 Mayan cities scattered throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. When he applied his theory to a 23rd constellation, he found that two of the stars already had cities linked to them but that the third star was unmatched. William took to Google Maps and projected that there must be another city hidden deep in the thick jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The Canadian Space Agency agreed to train its satellite telescopes on the spot and returned with striking pictures: what appears to be an ancient Mayan pyramid and dozens of smaller structures around it."

Politico: "Fox News chief White House correspondent Ed Henry will not be appearing on the channel for the time being, following a report in In Touch Weekly that he cheated on his wife with a Las Vegas hostess. 'We recently became aware of Ed’s personal issues and he’s taking some time off to work things out,' a Fox News spokesperson told Politico in a statement."

New York Times: “'Hamilton,' the groundbreaking hip-hop musical about the nation’s founding fathers, has been nominated for 16 Tony Awards, the most in Broadway history." ...

... Here's the full list of Tony Award nominees.

MIT News: "For the first time, an international team of astronomers from MIT, the University of Liège in Belgium, and elsewhere have detected three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star, just 40 light years from Earth. The sizes and temperatures of these worlds are comparable to those of Earth and Venus, and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system. The results are published [Monday, May 2] in the journal Nature.... The scientists discovered the planets using TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope), a 60-centimeter telescope operated by the University of Liège, based in Chile."

Washington Post's Reliable Source: At an "afterparty hosted by MSNBC following the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner [Saturday, May 1]..., a scuffle broke out between Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters and Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief.... The two flailed around a bit, upending a table and bumping into several people. 'Punches were definitely thrown,' said one witness. Before any damage was done, several bystanders, including Sean Spicer, communications director at the Republican National Committee, separated the two."

New York Times: "... a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series [by Walt Whitman] called 'Manly Health and Training,' were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.Now, Whitman’s self-help-guide-meets-democratic-manifesto is being published online in its entirety by a scholarly journal, in what some experts are calling the biggest new Whitman discovery in decades."

This is for safari:

... Via the New Yorker.

Washington Post: "Late last week, Comcast announced a new program that allows makers of smart TVs and other Internet-based video services to have full access to your cable programming without the need for a set-top box.  Instead, the content will flow directly to the third-party device as an app, including all the channels and program guide. The Xfinity TV Partner Program will initially be offered on new smart TVs from Samsung, as well as Roku streaming boxes.  But the program, built on open Internet-based standards including HTML5, is now open to other device manufacturers to adopt. As video services move from hardware to software, the future of the traditional set-top box looks increasingly grim. With this announcement, Comcast customers may soon eliminate the need for an extra device, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in fees."

BBC: "Dame Judi Dench and David Tennant have joined other stars at a gala marking 400 years since Shakespeare's death. Saturday's Shakespeare Live show in the playwright's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon included play scene performances, dance and music." Then this:

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The Commentariat -- March 29, 2014

Reuters: "Russian president Vladimir Putin called Barack Obama on Friday to discuss a US diplomatic proposal for Ukraine and the US president told Putin that Russia must pull back its troops and not move deeper into Ukraine, the White House said. It was believed to have been the first direct conversation between Obama and Putin since the US and its European allies began imposing sanctions on Putin's inner circle and threatened to penalise key sectors of Russia's economy." ...

     ... ** Update: Peter Baker, et al., of the New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia reached out to President Obama on Friday to discuss ideas about how to peacefully resolve the international standoff over Ukraine, a surprise move by Moscow to pull back from the brink of an escalated confrontation that has put Europe and much of the world on edge. After weeks of provocative moves punctuated by a menacing buildup of troops on Ukraine's border, Mr. Putin's unexpected telephone call to Mr. Obama offered a hint of a possible settlement. The two leaders agreed to have their top diplomats meet to discuss concrete proposals for defusing the crisis that has generated the most serious clash between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War."

Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: "President Obama assured the Saudi king Friday that the United States is not pursuing naively a negotiated resolution to Iran's nuclear program, and he discussed ways of strengthening Syria's moderate rebel forces now being battered by extremist groups inside the movement and by the Syrian military. Obama and King Abdullah, along with senior advisers, spoke for two hours at the royal desert compound outside this desert capital, his last stop of a four-nation visit to Europe and the Middle East."

Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "With minimal reference to Edward Snowden..., General Keith Alexander ended his NSA directorship and his 39-year army career on Friday.... But Alexander's run at the NSA will be forever linked to the revelations of its global surveillance dragnets." ...

... Aw, shucks. Shouldn't Alexander's career be forever linked to this? --

Keith Alexander's Hollywood-designed Information Dominance Center, modelled after Star Trek's Starship Enterprise.

Vice President Biden delivered this week's presidential address:

Alec MacGillis of the New Republic: "So: right now, we have passed a law meant to expand coverage to all Americans, and yet it does not reach the poorest of our fellow citizens in nearly half the states in the country. That, on its face, is a major policy failure. No one really wanted to say this during the law's drafting, but its underlying goal was to get coverage to people in red states where there was no local political will to address the problem. CW: An excellent piece. Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link.

Mary Flaherty & Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "Maryland officials are set to replace the state's online health-insurance exchange with technology from Connecticut's insurance marketplace..., an acknowledgment that a system that has cost at least $125.5 million is broken beyond repair."

Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post: "The past couple of weeks have marked a turning point in American ugliness as the mob has turned its full fury on first lady Michelle Obama. From criticism of her trip to China to a recent 'tell-all' by former White House assistant press secretary Reid Cherlin in the New Republic about Obama's allegedly tyrannical behavior, the gloves have been removed."

AP: "General Motors is boosting by 971,000 the number of small cars being recalled worldwide for a defective ignition switch, saying cars from the model years 2008-2011 may have gotten the part as a replacement.... Of the cars being added to the recall, 824,000 were sold in the U.S."

The Guardian: "David Cameron has hailed the first same-sex marriages in England and Wales as sending a 'powerful message' about equality in Britain." ...

... Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "With the stroke of midnight, same-sex couples were, for the first time, permitted to marry in England and Wales, and many did in middle-of-the-night celebrations. The weddings united same-sex partners who have for a decade been allowed to form civil partnerships, but until now have been prohibited from tying the knot. The change is largely being taken in stride, with little rancor from opponents and a sense from supporters that same-sex marriage was long overdue."

Jonathan Chait on the question of whether or not there is such a thing as "a culture of poverty."

New Jersey News

** Salvador Rizzo of the Star-Ledger: "Gov. Chris Christie announced today that David Samson, whose chairmanship of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has come under fire in recent months, has resigned. Samson, a close ally of Christie and a former attorney general of New Jersey, is reportedly under investigation by the U.S. Attorney of New Jersey in the face of accusations that his law firm, Wolff & Samson, had enriched itself by lobbying for companies with business before the Port Authority." The New York Times story, by Mark Santora, is here. ...

... As Rachel Maddow pointed out some while back, "the annual budget for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is bigger than the entire budgets of 9 states." (CW: I don't think that's 9 states combined.)

New York Times Editors: "The only thing wrong with the resignation announcement on Friday of David Samson, Gov. Chris Christie's top appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was that it took so long."

Jason Grant of the Star-Ledger: Michael Critchley, "the lawyer for Bridget Anne Kelly, fired back today against allegations that largely blamed her for the George Washington Bridge lane closings, blasting the report commissioned by Gov. Chris Christie's office as containing 'venomous, gratuitous, and inappropriate sexist remarks.'" The Bergen Record report, by Michael Phillis, is here.

Gail Collins seems a tad unimpressed with Christie's complete exoneration & his pomposity & self-righteousness.

Kate Dries of Jezebel: It's all Bridget Kelly's fault because she's an emotional, incompetent girl & Bill Stepien dumped her or something. Dries lays out the "evidence" of Kelly's instability that for some unknown reason caused her to think dumping on Fort Lee drivers would make everything all better. ...

... CW: C'mon, people. No wonder those high-priced lawyers can't figure out the motivation for the bridge closings: the person who caused them is a hysterical female prone to acting out in bizarre ways. It's impossible to tell what such whack-jobs will do for no apparent reason.

Alec MacGillis of the New Republic picks out & analyzes some tidbits from the report. Interesting.

Elsewhere Beyond the Beltway

Zack Ford of Think Progress: "Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday that the 322 same-sex marriages that took place on Saturday in Michigan will be recognized by the federal government. A federal judge had ruled that Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional but had not stayed his ruling, so the marriages took place during the window when the amendment was unenforceable."

Josh Israel of Think Progress: "Once again, Ken Dentzer, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) handpicked Secretary of State, has unsuccessfully attempted to mount a massive purge of Florida';s voter rolls. And once again, he has been forced to abandon this effort due to his lack of an accurate list of who is and is not eligible to vote. In a memo, Dentzer told the state's local election supervisors that the purge would be postponed until 2015."

Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times: "Reeling from embarrassing bribery, corruption and voter fraud scandals, the [California] state Senate took the unprecedented action Friday of voting to suspend three Democratic lawmakers from office pending the resolution of criminal charges against them. The paid suspensions of Sens. Leland Yee, Ronald S. Calderon and Roderick Wright all but guarantee Democrats will not regain their supermajority in the Senate this session. And the controversies are expected to become anti-incumbent campaign fodder in other districts in this year's elections. The bipartisan 28-1 vote came two days after Yee was arrested in his hometown of San Francisco and charged by federal authorities with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and accepting campaign funds in exchange for political favors." ...

... Joe Coscarelli of New York: "After a federal indictment came down against him this week, [Leland] Yee instantly became one of the most insane political characters in recent memory, accused by the FBI of everything from taking donations in exchange for favors to palling around with a Chinatown gangster named Shrimp Boy and attempting to smuggle guns. Yee, a Democrat, just happens to be a vocal anti-gun and video-game-violence crusader."

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "More than 100 aftershocks have been reported since a magnitude 5.1 earthquake rattled Southern California on Friday night. Most of the aftershocks have been small, but some were strong enough to be felt in the areas around the epicenter in northwestern Orange County. Meanwhile, officials surveyed the damage, which for the most part was considered minor."

Los Angeles Times: "A Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft searching the South Indian Ocean reported Saturday seeing 'three suspicious objects' that could be debris from the long-missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The announcement came as China stepped into a more proactive role in the frustrating 3-week-old search for the plane. Beijing has been publicly critical of Malaysia's efforts to find the Boeing 777, which disappeared March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Out of 227 passengers, 153 were Chinese."


The Commentariat -- March 28, 2014

Amanda Cochran of CBS "News": "President Obama, in an interview in Rome with 'CBS Evening News' anchor ... cott Pelley, said Russia must take steps now to reduce tensions over Ukraine":

** Paul Krugman: "... the demonization of anyone who talks about the dangers of concentrated wealth is based on a misreading of both the past and the present. Such talk isn't un-American; it's very much in the American tradition."

Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "On Thursday, President Obama announced on a call with volunteers that the number of Americans who have enrolled in health insurance plans under Obamacare has hit six million. With several days left to go before open enrollment ends on March 31, the administration has met its target. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that Obamacare enrollment would hit six million by the end of its enrollment period. Although the CBO initially projected a seven million enrollment figure, that number was revised down after technological issues plagued the insurance marketplaces' websites this past fall." ...

... See also this post by Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the person who oversaw the clusterfuck. ...

... Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The disparities [among state programs] reveal a stark truth about the Affordable Care Act: With the first open enrollment period set to end Monday, six months after its troubled online exchanges opened for business, the program widely known as Obamacare looks less like a sweeping federal overhaul than a collection of individual ventures playing out unevenly, state to state, in the laboratories of democracy." ...

... Sahil Kapur of TPM: "A few street blocks away from Supreme Court oral arguments Tuesday on the contraceptive mandate, an appeals court heard a separate case that poses a far greater threat to Obamacare and could cripple the law.... The case is about whether the Affordable Care Act permits the federally-run insurance exchange to provide subsidies to consumers.... Unlike the birth control challenge, which carries broad legal implications but implicates only a small portion of Obamacare, a loss for the administration in this case, Halbig v. Sebelius, would deal a fatal blow to Affordable Care Act. The federal exchange serves 36 states, and the millions of residents in those states would not be able to afford insurance without subsidies." ...

... ** Scott Lemieux in the American Prospect has more: "...above all the Republicans on the nation's second most important appellate court are committed to doing everything they can to ensure that the federal government can't work." ...

... Noah Feldman, in Bloomberg News, elaborates on some points made by the justices during oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case. ...

... It's All a Koch Brothers Plot! Really. If you read Noah Feldman's argument (Feldman is a professor of Constitutional law), follow it up with this analysis by Bill Blum in Truthdig. Blum's piece is a two-pager. Read both pages. You can't understand the impact of Feldman's analysis (I doubt if he realizes it, either) without reading Blum. Many thanks to contributor Lisa for the link.

... Andrew Cohen in the Week: "We live in an age in which we have an activist conservative court eager to expand constitutional protection for some at the expense of others, and willing to do so by upending old precedents." Cohen notes the contrast between Sandra Day O'Connor & Sam Alito, who replaced her "and whose disdain for the health care law, and for women's rights in general, go back a long way."

Kathleen Hunter of Bloomberg News: "The U.S. Senate voted to advance legislation restoring benefits for the long-term unemployed that the Obama administration has sought to revive since they expired late last year. By a vote of 65-34, with 60 required for approval, the Senate agreed to move toward taking up the measure, which is the product of a bipartisan agreement struck earlier this month by Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed, Nevada Republican Dean Heller and eight other senators." CW: No telling what the House will do.

Mike Lillis of the Hill: "Passing comprehensive immigration reform is more important than Democrats' success at the polls in November, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday."

Charles Pierce: "The party of Christian values and self-reliance and personal responsibility gathered its elite [including Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.)] to pay homage to creepy old gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson...." Here's the underlying New York Times story, by Nicholas Confessore & Eric Lipton.

New Jersey News

"I Can't Recall." Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "The Port Authority official [David Wildstein] who directed the shutdown of lanes to the George Washington Bridge said that he informed Gov. Chris Christie about it at a Sept. 11 memorial while the lanes were closed, according to an internal review that lawyers for the governor released on Thursday.... But the report said that Mr. Christie did not recall Mr. Wildstein's raising the topic during their interaction and, in a sweeping claim of vindication, found no evidence that he -- or any current members of his staff -- was involved in or aware of the scheme.... Mr. Christie has said previously that he did not know of the lane closings before or while they were occurring...."

... CW: This is very similar to Steve Martin's advice on how to become a millionaire & never pay taxes:

First, get a million dollars. Now, you say, 'Steve, what do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, "You have never paid taxes"?' Two simple words: 'I forgot!'

Here's Randy Mastro, the lead attorney on the "investigation," at a presser yesterday:

The Star-Ledger report, by Ted Sherman, is here.

Christopher Baxter, of the Star-Ledger has excerpts of Christie's report here. The page also has the full report.

"Irate Friends See Sexism in Report." Kate Zernicke & David Chen of the New York Times: "The report moves aggressively to consolidate blame on Ms. Kelly. In one passing example, the report asserts that she canceled meetings with Mayor Steven Fulop of Jersey City, who had declined to endorse Mr. Christie's re-election. In fact, documents have established that those meetings were canceled not by Ms. Kelly but individually by the officials who had been scheduled to meet with the mayor." ...

... CW: The report also casts Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer as a dingbat who made "demonstrably false" & "unbelieveable" accusations because she was "confused" and her "subjective impressions" did not match "objective reality."

Michael Linhorst of the Bergen Record: "Democrats investigating the George Washington Bridge controversy are panning today's report released by a lawyer hired by the Christie administration" saying it raises new questions.

If you would like to hear Chris Christie tell Diane Sawyer that he is as innocent as a newborn babe & he's suffered terribly over this, yadayadayada, you can do so here.

I think they love me in Iowa, too, Diane. I've been there a lot. I think they love me there, too. -- Chris Christie

Recent polls in Iowa have found 57 percent of Iowa adults disapprove of the way he has handled the [George Washington Bridge lane-closings] situation. Another poll found 41 percent thought he would not make a good president, compared to 36 percent who thought the opposite. -- Mario Trujillo of the Hill

A Des Moines Register Iowa Poll in February this year showed that 57 percent of Iowa adults disapproved of the way Christie has handled the bridge controversy and 25 percent approved. Among Republicans, 47 percent disapproved and 34 percent approve. And in December, in an Iowa Poll that tested 10 Republicans considered likely 2016 suspects, Christie tied for fifth most popular.... -- Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register

The Star-Ledger Editors call the Christie-Mastro report "a million-dollar whitewash."

New York Times Editors: "We can now add this expensive whitewash to all the other evidence of trouble in Mr. Christie's administration."

Elsewhere Beyond the Beltway

Will Weissert of the AP: "A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld Texas' tough abortion restrictions that have forced the closure of about 20 clinics around the state, saying the new rules don't jeopardize women's health. A panel of judges at the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court judge who said the rules violate the U.S. Constitution and serve no medical purpose.... Justice Stephen Breyer called the issue of the law's constitutionality a difficult question. 'It is a question, I believe, that at least four members of this court will wish to consider irrespective of the Fifth Circuit's ultimate decision,' Breyer wrote in a brief opinion that was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor."

Congressional Race

I have always believed in our founders' idea of a citizen legislature. I had a career before politics and always planned to have one after. The genius of our institutions is they are not dependent on the individual temporary occupants privileged to serve. -- Rep. Mike Rogers, re: his retirement

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, plans to retire from Congress after his current term to host a national radio show syndicated by Cumulus Media, he announced Friday." ...

... CW: Assuming Rogers is sincere, I think he's quite right in his reasoning. And becoming a radio jock is not as horrible as becoming a lobbyist. ...

... Tim Alberta of the National Journal: "Although hawkish on national security matters, Rogers is viewed as one of the more moderate voices in his conference -- which has helped him earn seven terms representing an evolving congressional district that was carried by President Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 after redistricting. Rogers's retirement is likely to spawn a free-for-all of candidates scrambling to submit election paperwork before the April 22 filing deadline."

News Lede

New York Times: "Walmart, Gap and Children's Place this week became the first three United States companies to contribute toward a $40 million fund for victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh last April, in which more than 1,100 workers died."


The Commentariat -- March 27, 2014

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama met for the first time with Pope Francis on Thursday...." The Los Angeles Times story, by Kathleen Hennessey, is here. ...

... Fortunately, we have the brilliant nonpartisan reporters at Politico to put the meeting in context. Carrie Brown, et al.: "President Barack Obama was once the biggest superstar on the international stage. On Thursday, he headed here to benefit from the popularity of his replacement:Pope Francis. The 50-minute meeting was a rare chance for Obama to associate himself with a world leader whose cool factor far outweighs his own, and it comes at a critical time in his presidency."

White House: "Along with ... King Philippe and Prime Minister di Rupo of Belgium, President Obama delivers remarks at Flanders Field Cemetery":

Michael Shear & Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama offered a sustained and forceful rejoinder against Russia on Wednesday, denouncing the 'brute force' he said it has used to intimidate neighbors like Ukraine and vowing that the United States 'will never waver' in standing up for its NATO allies against aggression by Moscow. In a speech meant as a capstone to his trip to Europe in the midst of an East-West confrontation with Russia, Mr. Obama addressed Moscow's justifications for its intervention in Ukraine point by point, dismissing them as 'absurd' or unmerited." Here's the transcript.

Here's video of a joint presser held earlier Wednesday:

Protest by Beethoven. The Odessa (Ukraine) Musicians for Peace & Brotherhood. Thanks to Haley S. for the link:

Eric Pfeiffer of Yahoo! News: "A new national survey of Americans without health insurance finds that more than half are not aware that the deadline to obtain coverage under the Affordable Care Act is less than a week away. The poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 61 percent of uninsured Americans either are not aware of the deadline or think it does not take effect until later than it does. Only 39 percent of uninsured individuals in the survey correctly identified the March 31 deadline." ...

     ... CW Note: The Obama administration has extended the deadline for some, but not for those whose excuse for not enrolling is "I had no fucking idea I had to try to sign up by March 31." ...

Another deadline made meaningless. If he hasn't put enough loopholes in the law already, the administration is now resorting to an honor system to enforce it. -- Speaker John Boehner

Another day, another Obamacare delay. -- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

... Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic: "For each one of these extensions or delays, the ultimate question is whether they change the law's ability to realize its basic goals -- which, in this case, means encouraging people to buy new private health plans while maintaining a stable insurance market. Giving people a little extra time to enroll wouldn't seem to impede this kind of progress. If anything, it would seem to enhance it. And maybe that's what really bothers some of the law's fiercer critics."

Game-Changer. Brian Bennett of ESPN: "In a potentially game-changing moment for college athletics, the Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Wednesday that Northwestern football players qualify as employees of the university and can unionize. NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr cited the players' time commitment to their sport and the fact that their scholarships were tied directly to their performance on the field as reasons for granting them union rights." The NLRB decision is here (pdf).

From Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker has more. The situation worsens, BTW. "New figures for 2012 from Saez, which came out too late to be included in Piketty's book, show the line hitting another new high, of more than fifty per cent."

Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times: "Reverse mortgages, which allow homeowners 62 and older to borrow money against the value of their homes that need not be paid back until they move out or die, have long posed pitfalls for older borrowers. Now many ... are discovering that reverse mortgages can also come up with a harsh sting for their heirs. Under federal rules, survivors are supposed to be offered the option to settle the loan for a percentage of the full amount. Instead, reverse mortgage companies are increasingly threatening to foreclose unless heirs pay the mortgages in full...."

Nicholas Kristof finds five wasteful welfare programs: "welfare subsidies for private planes..., welfare subsidies for yachts..., welfare subsidies for hedge funds and private equity..., welfare subsidies for America's biggest banks ... & large welfare subsidies for American corporations from cities, counties and states."

Paul Lewis of the Guardian: "One in 10 US secret service agents are aware of colleagues who have drunk excessively to the point they are 'a security concern', according to an internal survey of elite personnel whose responsibilities include protecting the president. Findings in the survey, buried in a recently released inspector general report, raise serious questions about the conduct of secret service agents, one of whom was found highly intoxicated at a hotel in the Netherlands on Sunday, hours before the arrival of Barack Obama this week." ...

... Carol Leonnig, et al., of the Washington Post: "As the U.S. Secret Service arrived in the Netherlands last weekend for a presidential trip, managers were already on high alert to avoid any further embarrassing incidents involving agents. The agency's director had admonished supervisors after two counter-sniper officers suspected of drinking were involved in a March 7 car accident during a presidential visit to Miami, according to several people with knowledge of the incident. The driver passed a field sobriety test and was not arrested."

Darrell Issa Is Still at It. AP: John Koskinen, "the head of the Internal Revenue Service, told House Republicans on Wednesday that it would take years to provide all the documents they have subpoenaed in their probe of how the agency handled tea party groups' applications for tax-exempt status.... Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., warned him he should comply with the request 'or potentially be held in contempt' of Congress, a sometimes threatened but seldom-used authority." ...

... David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on Thursday said on Thursday that the 'biggest tool we have is to shame' the Obama administration, but insisted that was not what he was trying to do with his investigations into the alleged IRS targeting of tea party groups."

Congressional Races

Do I have the best credentials? Probably not, 'cause, you know, whatever. -- Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass) on why New Hampshire voters should make him their U.S senator

I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. -- Iowa State Sen. Joni Ernst, on why Iowa voters should make her their U.S. senator ...

... For some reason, Gail Collins doesn't think much of this crop of Senate hopefuls. Oh, she missed this genius:

We were fortunate growing up in the south. The president is a community organizer. You wonder if he ever worked with a poor person.... Insurance people they will tell you that they will go to a company and an employer will pay for everything, and there are some people who will not sign up. Turns out, those are my patients. They're illiterate. I'm not saying that to be mean. I say that in compassion. They cannot read. The idea they're going to go on the internet and work through a 16-page document to put in their data and sign up does not reflect an understanding of who is having the hardest time in our economy. -- Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician who is running for the Senate seat held by Mary Landrieu (D-La.)

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "... Mississippi [is] the last major battlefield in the feud between the Tea Party and the Republican establishment. The state has become a well-funded proxy war" in the GOP primary race between Sen. Thad Cochran & TP challenger Chris McDaniel.

Millions in this country feel like strangers in this land. You recognize that, don't you? An older America is passing away. A newer America is rising to take its place. We recoil from that culture. It's foreign to us. It's offensive to us. -- Chris McDaniel

Black people are offensive to us. -- CW Dogwhistle Translation, as if you needed one

This nice-looking Republican gunman is running for Congress in Alabama. (Apparently he didn't read the ACA bill he shoots & shreds. He says he's going to replace it with a "market-based solution," unaware that the ACA is market-based; in fact, the market factor is what makes the law so cumbersome):

CW: I'm always a day late (at least) in linking Tom Edsall's New York Times column. This week he wrote about the Democrats' dismal prospects in the 2014 congressional elections -- not to mention the party's dismal chances in the 2016 presidential election. "The damage inflicted on the Democratic Party by the dysfunctional [] website and the reaction to it is hard to overestimate.... Going largely unmentioned in most analyses is the inability of the Obama administration to markedly improve the economy, which could end up playing a big role in the unraveling of the Democratic Party's electoral fortunes, not only in 2014 but also in 2016." ...

... Philip Bump of the Atlantic: "What Edsall glosses over, though, is that the congressional ballot data was artificially inflated by the complete train wreck of the government shutdown, which completely tanked Republican poll numbers. The mess certainly meant that the Democrats lost an opportunity to capitalize on a surprising lead -- a lead that was always bound to decline to some extent.

... CW: I still think David Atkins has it right about what's wrong. From a piece I linked a few weeks ago: "For a young voter or voter of color, voting for Democrats isn't a matter of hope for a better future. It's basically a defensive crouch to prevent the insane sociopaths from taking over. To provide real hope, Democrats would have to start pushing for a $15 minimum wage, for basic universal income, for single-payer healthcare, for a green jobs Apollo Program, for student loan forgiveness, and similar policies." If you want voter turnout, taking a "defensive crouch" won't do it. ...

... ALSO, this doesn't inspire confidence that Democrats are your friends:

... Democrats Behaving Badly

Josh Richman, et al., of the San Jose Mercury-News: "In a stunning criminal complaint, State Sen. Leland Yee has been charged with conspiring to traffic in firearms and public corruption as part of a major FBI operation spanning the Bay Area, casting yet another cloud of corruption over the Democratic establishment in the Legislature and torpedoing Yee's aspirations for statewide office. Yee, D-San Francisco, highlights a series of arrests Wednesday morning that included infamous Chinatown gangster Raymond 'Shrimp Boy' Chow, whose past includes a variety of charges including racketeering and drug crimes." ...

... OR, as Charles Pierce puts it, "... the FBI seems to be accusing him of having wandered into a Dashiell Hammett novel." ...

... Chris Megerian of the Los Angeles Times: "A criminal complaint released Wednesday says [Yee] ... wanted donations in return for connecting an Italian gangster from New Jersey with an international arms dealer. The gangster was an undercover federal agent. Although Yee is better known as a gun control advocate in the Capitol, the complaint says he talked tough about having shady contacts who could obtain automatic weapons."

Mark Washburn, et al., of the Charlotte Observer: "Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon [D] was arrested Wednesday on public corruption charges, with the FBI alleging he took tens of thousands of dollars in bribes -- including $20,000 in cash delivered in a briefcase last month to the mayor's office where he also solicited $1 million more. Cannon resigned Wednesday evening. He was arrested that morning at a SouthPark apartment used by undercover FBI agents after the mayor turned up expecting another payment, sources say."

Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press: "Wayne County [Detroit] Circuit Judge Wade McCree, who carried on an affair with a woman who had a case before him, is removed from office and will face a six-year suspension if he gets re-elected in November, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled today." McCree is a Democrat, appointed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. ...

... AND This Mystery Crook. Dan McGowan of WPRI: "State Rep. Nicholas Mattiello was overwhelmingly voted speaker of the Rhode Island House Tuesday, just five days after state and federal investigators executed two search warrants that targeted former Speaker Gordon Fox's [D] East Side home and State House office."

... Elsewhere Beyond the Beltway

** Karen Matthews of the AP: "New York state has the most segregated public schools in the nation, with many black and Latino students attending schools with virtually no white classmates.... The report by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California at Los Angeles looks at enrollment trends from 1989 to 2010. In New York City, the largest school system in the U.S. with 1.1 million pupils, the study notes that many of the charter schools created over the last dozen years are among the least diverse of all, with less than 1 percent white enrollment at 73 percent of charter schools. 'To create a whole new system that's even worse than what you've got really takes some effort,' said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project and an author of the report." ...

... CW: Of course the easiest way to mitigate school segregation is to have adults quit paying attention to what color the neighbors are when they look for a place to live.

Paul Egan & Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press: "Michigan's governor [Rick Snyder (R)] said the nearly 300 same-sex marriages performed Saturday in the state are legal, but Michigan won't recognize them because of a stay put on a judicial decision that would allow for the unions."

Gubernatorial Race

Joshua Miller of the Boston Globe: "Democrat Martha Coakley, one of 10 hopefuls aiming to succeed Governor Deval Patrick, is the front-runner in both the Democratic primary and against Republican Charlie Baker, according to a new poll. Among likely Democratic primary voters, she led the next closest Democratic candidate, Treasurer Steven Grossman, by 31 points, a new WBUR-FM survey conducted by The MassINC Polling Group found."

A Painful Debate. Akilah Johnson of the Globe: During a Tuesday night forum among Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates on LGBTQ issues, Democratic candidate Steve Grossman was "in the throes of passing a kidney stone." The story has inspired a Twitter account @GrossmansStone, with entries like, "Will you have Urethra Franklin sing at your inaugural?"

News Ledes

New York Times: " In the first barometer of global condemnation of Russia's annexation of Crimea, Ukraine and its Western backers persuaded a large majority of countries in the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday to dismiss the annexation as illegal, even as Russia sought to rally world support for the idea of self-determination.... The resolution garnered 100 votes in favor, 11 votes against, with 58 abstentions."

New York Times: "Australia announced on Friday morning that it had moved the search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 nearly 700 miles to the northeast, the latest in a long series of changes by the authorities on where they think the plane might have disappeared."

CNN: "A new classified intelligence assessment concludes it is more likely than previously thought that Russian forces will enter eastern Ukraine...." CW: No kidding.

New York Times: "After three weeks of urgent negotiations with the interim government in Kiev..., the International Monetary Fund announced on Thursday an agreement to provide Ukraine up to $18 billion in loans over two years to prevent the country's default."

Washington Post: "A Thai satellite spotted 300 floating objects in the southern Indian Ocean, where authorities say the flight of the missing Malaysia Airlines ended more than three weeks ago."


The Commentariat -- March 26, 2014

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "President Obama on Tuesday publicly endorsed a plan that Justice Department and intelligence officials have developed for a sweeping overhaul of the National Security Agency's phone call records program, saying that he believed it would resolve privacy concerns without compromising the program's utility as a counterterrorism tool." ...

     ... The Guardian story, by Spencer Ackerman & Julian Borger, is here. ...

... Michael Shear & Alison Smale of the New York Times: "President Obama vowed on Tuesday that the United States would use its military to come to the defense of any NATO country that is threatened, sending a warning to the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, about the consequences of further aggression along the border with Eastern Europe":

... New York Times Editors: "If President Obama really wants to end the bulk collection of Americans' telephone records, he doesn't need to ask the permission of Congress, as he said on Tuesday he would do. He can just end it himself, immediately.... The immediate question, though, is why the president feels he needs to wait for Congress before stopping mass collection." ...

     ... CW: Aw, c'mon. Obama wants GOP members of Congress to feel the pain. He'll enjoy watching them vote for eavesdropping, & so will some of their Democratic opponents.

... Carol Leonnig & David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Three Secret Service agents responsible for protecting President Obama in Amsterdam this week were sent home and put on administrative leave Sunday after going out for a night of drinking, according to three people familiar with the incident. One of the agents was found drunk and passed out in a hotel hallway.... The hotel staff alerted the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands after finding the unconscious agent Sunday morning, a day before Obama arrived in the country, according to two of the people."

Via John Cole of Balloon Juice.Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "In a long and lively argument that touched on medical science and moral philosophy, the Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed ready to accept that at least some for-profit corporations may advance claims based on religious freedom." ...

... Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "A divided Supreme Court seemed inclined to agree Tuesday that the religious beliefs of business owners may trump a requirement in President Obama's Affordable Care Act that they provide their employees with insurance coverage for all types of contraceptives." ...

... Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker: "There were two lessons from Tuesday's argument in the Hobby Lobby case in the Supreme Court. First, it's very important that there are now three women Justices. Second, it's even more important that it takes five votes to win.... There is no such thing as a women's position on this case or on any other issue. But there is such a thing as women's voices, and with this case, especially, it was important that they be heard. On this day at the Supreme Court, they were." ...

... ** Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "One thing that was immediately clear Tuesday morning: There is finally a women's team at the high court." ...

... David Atkins of Hullabaloo: "And why shouldn't the government force corporations to cover abortion?" ...

... Even Ruth Marcus, the David Brooks of the Washington Post, is sensible about the implications of the Hobby Lobby case. ...

... Groucho prefigures the Mind of Anthony Kennedy. Thanks to Akhilleus for making the connection (see today's Comments):

Bloomberg News (via the L.A. Times): "The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Obama administration in a dispute over taxes on severance compensation, overturning a lower court decision that could have forced the IRS to refund more than $1 billion. The court said that payments to laid-off workers are subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or FICA. It was a victory for the Internal Revenue Service...." The ruling was unanimous.

Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration has decided to give extra time to Americans who say that they are unable to enroll in health plans through the federal insurance marketplace by the March 31 deadline. Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension."

Jane Perlez & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Michelle Obama's weeklong trip to China seemed to start as a spring break holiday with her mother and daughters but has turned out to include far more substance -- and politics -- than the cheerful advocate of fitness and healthful eating often displays at home. At a high school [in Chengdu, China] on Tuesday, Mrs. Obama pointedly told students that the United States championed 'the right to say what we think and worship as we choose,' even as she conceded that Americans still lived those ideals imperfectly and that minorities had struggled to overcome a legacy of discrimination."

Dominic Rushe of the Guardian: "... bitcoin is not a currency. The Internal Revenue Service ruled Tuesday that the controversial cryptocurrency and its rivals will be treated as property, not cash, for tax purposes. The ruling had been expected and marks another step in the wider attempt to make bitcoin mainstream. In its notice, the IRS said bitcoin would be treated much like stock or other intangible property."

Jon Ralston: "The Federal Election Commission has sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's campaign, asking for more information on why he listed an expenditure of more than $11,000 $16,000 in 'holiday gifts.' The gifts, I have learned, were purchased from his granddaughter, Ryan Elisabeth Reid, who is a jewelry vendor in Berkeley, CA. The gifts were later passed on to donors and supporters.... Reid has previously been asked to explain holiday gifts to his Ritz Carlton doorman by the FEC."

Beyond the Beltway

Kathleen Gray & Gina Damron of the Detroit Free Press: "The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday extended a stay on last week's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman that struck down the Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage."

Congressional Races

Peter Hamby of CNN: "A leading Democratic pollster predicted a 'sobering' turnout disadvantage for her party in this year's midterm elections and called on Democrats to articulate 'a bigger economic agenda' this fall. 'There is a huge turnout disadvantage and challenge,' Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said Tuesday at a breakfast with reporters. 'There is always a challenge in turnout in an off year, but it's really dramatic this time.'" ...

... Steve Erickson of the American Prospect suggests that impeaching Obama will be/is the purity test for Republican candidates this year & for 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls. CW: Are Republicans that crazy? Maybe.

Stupid Democratic Trick/Shades of Mitt. Ed Tibbetts of the Quad City Times: "Democratic Senate hopeful Bruce Braley apologized Tuesday for comments at a fundraiser at a Texas law firm in which he said if Republicans took control of the Senate, Sen. Chuck Grassley, a 'farmer from Iowa who never went to law school,' would chair the Senate Judiciary Committee." Nothing like stroking slick big city lawyers at the expense of rural voters in a rural state. Idiot. Yeah, Bruce, Chuck is an ignorant hick, but he's not as stupid as you are.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the most senior adviser to Osama bin Laden to be tried in a civilian United States court since the Sept. 11 attacks, was convicted on Wednesday of conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists."

Seattle Times: "Wednesday's grim search of the Oso-area mudslide has revealed additional victims. 'There are finds going on continually. They are finding people now,'said Steve Mason, a fire battalion chief leading the westside operation." ...

     ... Update: "Emergency managers now believe up to 90 people may be missing in the mudslide that destroyed a community near Oso, Snohomish County last Saturday."

AP: " Within days of Crimea being swallowed up by Russia, the lights began flickering out. Officials in the peninsula accused Ukraine of halving electricity supplies in order to bully Crimea, which voted earlier this month in a referendum to secede and join Russia."

Washington Post: "New satellite images taken in recent days show more than 100 objects -- some as long as 75 feet -- that may have come from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Wednesday. The images, which Hishammuddin called the 'most credible' lead so far in the search for the vanished Boeing 777 airliner, revealed items in the water nearly 1,600 miles from Perth, Australia."