Weekly Address

The Ledes

Saturday, April 19, 2014.

Washington Post: "Poland and the United States will announce next week the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Poland as part of an expansion of NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe in response to events in Ukraine." ...

... Washington Post: "Pro-Russian­ militants, boasting that they do not take orders from diplomats in Washington or Moscow, refused to end their armed occupation of a dozen government buildings across eastern Ukraine on Friday, upending hopes for a quick end to the standoff."

Los Angeles Times: "The captain and two crew members of a ferry that capsized off the southern coast of South Korea were detained Saturday on suspicion of negligence in the accident that left at least 28 people confirmed dead and 274 missing, officials said.

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, April 18, 2014.

Washington Post: "An avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest early Friday morning, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving three others missing, officials said, in what is now said to be the single deadliest disaster to hit the world’s highest peak.”

The New York Times outlines some of the shocking errors made after the Korean ferry began to list. ...

     ... UPDATE: "Prosecutors in South Korea on Friday sought to arrest the captain, third mate and another crew member of a ferry on charges of deserting their vessel and passengers after it capsized and leaving more than 270 people missing, many of them high school students on a trip to a resort island. Prosecutors asked the court to issue arrest warrants for Captain Lee Jun-seok, 69, and the 26-year-old third mate, who they said was steering the ship at the time of accident.... The vice principal, Kang Min-kyu, 52, of Danwon High School, who survived the ferry accident on Wednesday, was found hanging from a tree on a hill near a gymnasium where families of the missing had gathered. The police suspected Mr. Kang had hanged himself."


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

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday took the rare step of urging doctors to stop performing a surgical procedure used on tens of thousands of women each year to remove uterine growths, saying the practice risks spreading hidden cancers within a woman’s body. The procedure, known as power morcellation, has long been used in laparoscopic operations to remove fibroid tumors from the uterus, or to remove the uterus itself. It involves inserting an electric device into the abdomen and slicing tissue in order to remove it through a small incision. The surgery is far less invasive than traditional abdominal operations."

White House Live Video
April 18

1:00 pm ET: Jay Carney 's press briefing

2:00 pm ET: President Obama presents the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy to the US Naval Academy football team

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

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

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

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

Jason Zinoman of the New York Times argues that the real king of late-night comedy is Jon Stewart.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No News, All the Time:

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

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

... This is kinda must-see TV:

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Tuesday
Jan282014

S.O.T.U. 2014

Zeke Miller of Time: "While the speech was light on new proposals, [President Obama] is looking to build on whatever momentum the State of the Union provided with a four-state swing that starts Wednesday. "

CW: It is remarkable that the three men on the dais all came up from near-poverty. (The most powerful female politicians, BTW, came from middle- or upper-middle-class homes: Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, etc. Hmmm.)

Charles Pierce describes the speech as "Clintonian" & explains why. Also, "(John Boehner's face seemed to darken as the evening went along, like the side of a mountain that faces the sunset.)" ...

... Nope, Charles. The address wasn't Clintonian. It was Dubyan. Hadas Gold of Politico: "President George W. Bush's former speech writer said that President Barack Obama plagiarized his former boss in Tuesday's State of the Union address. Speaking to Fox News's Megyn Kelly, Marc Thiessen, the lead writer on Bush's 2007 State of the Union address, said he found Obama's speech Tuesday night 'eerily familiar. Barack Obama has gone from blaming George W. Bush to plagiarizing George W. Bush,' Thiessen said." Proof? They both talked about "hope and opportunity." CW: Yeah, because no politician (Bill Clinton, "born in a little place called Hope") ever mentioned stuff like "hope & opportunity" before Mark Thiessen hit upon the novel idea. ...

     ... Update: According to this other Politico headline, "McMorris Rodgers promotes ‘hopeful’ agenda." Just another plagiarist, I guess.

Josh Marshall of TPM: "They say history is written by the winners. What I heard him saying was that he wants and will start writing the history of the future with his presidency, even if his ability to put it into effect may be limited."

Steve M. sees a glaring error in President Obama's effectively turning Cory Remsburg into a metaphor for Congressional gridlock. ...

... John Cassidy liked the Remsburg metaphor a lot better. ...

... CW: I can't help thinking that the only thing that can get all those bastuds on their feet is human carnage incurred in the service of international dominance. Was that the Capitol or was that the Colosseum? Whether or not you read Cassidy, I suspect you instinctively know that Obama was playing to the cheap seats when he introduced Remsburg.

Jose DelReal of Politico: "President Obama might have been the State of the Union's headliner on Tuesday, but Vice President Joe Biden stole the show on twitter." Some amusing stuff from reporters with time on their hands. ...

... Elias Isquith of Salon: "Twitter’s higher-profile conservative pundits, activists, and politicians nevertheless responded as if the president had set a copy of the Constitution on fire while pledging allegiance to General Mao." Isquith posts a few examples. ...

... 11:45 pm Tuesday: Rachel Maddow just wiped the floor with crazy Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas). Heulskamp has spent too much time on Fox "News" (& maybe "Press the Meat"). Chris Hayes later had a big laugh over Huelskamp's claims. ...

     ... Update: You can view the segment here. ...

... AND Rep. Grimm Threatens to Murder Reporter for Asking Question. Adam Edelman & Joseph Straw of the New York Daily News: "Embattled New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm [Staten Island] threatened to 'break' a NY1 reporter and throw him off a balcony after President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night. The confrontation occurred on Capitol Hill when reporter Michael Scotto followed up questions about the President's speech by pressing the congressman on a federal investigation into his fund-raising." With video. CW: Possibly slightly worse than calling Rachel Maddow a "cheerleader," as Heulskamp did. The House should sanction Grimm for threatening Scotto, which he did inside the U.S. Capitol building, & the DOJ should investigate & charge him with assault. If my dearly departed Rep. Coke had to leave the building, I don't see why that thug Grimm should be welcome. Maybe he could get a job in the Christie administration. There's a bridge between Staten Island & Jersey. ...

     ... Here's the NY1 story, with transcript of the exchange between Grimm & Scotto.

If Barack Obama discovered the cure for cancer, these assholes would complain that it took him too long. Then they'd find a way to claim that Reagan had actually discovered it first. -- Akhilleus

Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post: The SOTU in three GIFs.

Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pitched a libertarian vision for the nation in his rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.... The potential 2016 presidential contender made his case for limited government in a 10-minute Web video that highlighted his proposal to tackle poverty with 'economic freedom zones' and railed against welfare programs, while exhorting listeners to 'choose a new way' of government." Includes video.

CW: If this is "the face of the national tea party," evidently the tea party needs no greasepaint to look like a clown. AP photo.Brady McCombs of the AP: "Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee was the face of the national tea party Tuesday night, delivering the movement's response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech. Lee pinned the widening wealth gap on the president's policies and tout the ideas of a new generation of leaders including himself and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas."

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "After five years of fractious political combat, President Obama declared independence from Congress on Tuesday as he outlined a series of limited initiatives on jobs, wages, retirement and the environment that he will take without legislative approval." ...

     ... Update. New Lede: "After five years of fractious political combat, President Obama declared independence from Congress on Tuesday as he vowed to tackle economic disparity with a series of limited initiatives on jobs, wages and retirement that he will take without legislative approval."

Here's the text of the SOTU as prepared for delivery (via the New York Times).

Paul Krugman is stuck in a CNN green room with no bourbon so he's liveblogging the SOTU.

The New York Times' liveblog of the SOTU is here. ...

     ... Michael Shear: Rep. "Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington offered an upbeat, but critical, rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address, in the process avoiding mistakes of previous responders." CW: Did not take gulps of water, sweat profusely or remind people of a buffoonish teevee character. ...

... Video of Rodgers' response & the text of her remarks is here.

     ... Carl Hulse: "Senator Mitch McConnell is not amused. The Senate Republican leader from Kentucky said he learned only Tuesday afternoon that the Democratic governor of his home state, Steve Beshear, would be sitting with Michelle Obama to watch the president deliver the State of the Union address."

Paul Kane & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: There will be four GOP responses to the SOTU. (1) The official party response by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, (2) the Tea Party response by Sen. Mike Lee, (3) a Spanish-language response by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, "the most senior Hispanic Republican, [who] is expected to hew closely to McMorris Rodgers in the Spanish-language response," & the Acqua Buddha response by Sen. Rand Paul. ...

     ... The only thing missing in this group is the snake charmer. -- Chris Matthews on MSNBC

Jon Favreau, formerly President Obama's chief speechwriter, on what it's like producing the SOTU speech: "The president puts in back-to-back 2 a.m. nights rewriting his speech to make it 'sing' and hopefully sway Congress."

Monday
Jan272014

The Commentariat -- Jan. 28, 2014

The Comments section isn't working today. Techs are working on it. So hang onto your thoughts. (Or maybe paste them in a temporary file someplace.) ...

     ... UPDATE: Looks as if the Comments section is working now. Give it a try. And SAVE YOUR WORK.

Ryan Cooper in the Washington Post: "It's State of the Union time tomorrow, and the lack of progress on President Obama's second term legislative agenda has led many pundits to conclude that his presidency is basically over.... These pundits are right about one thing: probably no legislation of significance will pass for the remainder of Obama's presidency. But what Obama can do, and is doing already, is use the executive branch to achieve a great deal." ...

... Digby: "... you can't help but wonder just what the hell took them so long to realize that all their supporters relentlessly flogging the idea that the poor president is little more than a figurehead might just not reflect well on legacy of the man the nation elected to be its national leader. The fact is that he does have power. Let's hope he uses it well." ...

... Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News: "President Barack Obama will announce Tuesday that he is ordering an increase in the federal hourly minimum wage to $10.10 for workers on new federal government contracts for services, like janitors and construction workers, according to the White House. Obama will lay out his executive order in the State of the Union address at 9 p.m. before a joint session of Congress and urge lawmakers to join him in raising the minimum wage for all workers." ...

     ... Mackenzie Weinger of Politico: "Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on Tuesday called President Barack Obama's plan to sign an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers a 'constitutional violation.'" CW: Expect much more along this same line. ...

... Dana Davidsen of CNN: "Gabby Giffords' gun control group will air an ad featuring the former congresswoman around Tuesday's State of the Union address, pushing Congress to take action on legislation expanding background checks on firearms sales":

... Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "Democrats consider President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday a launching point for a year of sustained assault on Republicans over a populist economic agenda, part of an effort to focus more on bread-and-butter issues and less on ­income inequality. Party officials say they hope Obama's speech will set the stage for Senate and House candidates to confront Republicans on issues such as the minimum wage, unemployment benefits and access to college education. Their minimum goal is to preserve Democratic control of the Senate, because not doing so could cripple what remains of the president's legislative agenda."

Original (non-colorized) by Dorothea Lange.Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Negotiators agreed Monday evening on a new five-year Farm Bill that slashes about $23 billion in federal spending by ending direct payments to farmers, consolidating dozens of Agriculture Department programs and by cutting $9 billion from the federal food stamp program. House leaders said they planned to pass the 950-page bill by Wednesday evening -- meaning that for the second time in two weeks lawmakers will vote a bill running hundreds of pages just hours after its formal release.... The changes would reduce, but not eliminate, SNAP payments by about $90 monthly for about 850,000 households." CW: Tighten your tiny belts, children. ...

... "Congress Agrees that People Should Go Hungry." Charles Pierce: "How, precisely, does this particular bill help 'businesses create jobs'? Almost a million people will have less money to spend on luxuries like heat and food. That doesn't help you if you're creating jobs in grocery stores or selling heating oil. Teachers will have to cope with dozing, hungry children while their unemployed parents try very hard not to yawn their way through job interviews. But the Republicans didn't get absolutely everything they wanted, and the Democrats agreed to cut twice what they'd proposed, and the deal was struck among people who never will feel its real effects, and that's the way things are supposed to work in this great Republic of ours." ...

... Molly Ball of the Atlantic has a long, interesting piece on the politics of the farm bill. Among other things, she notes that Republicans are losing farmers' votes because Tea Party libertarians ignore farmers' concerns & held up the farm bill. For instance, there's this:

Joye and Julius Davis, "both in their 60s, farm corn, peanuts, cotton, and wheat in Sumter County[, South Carolina]. She told me she thought putting food stamps into the farm bill had confused the public.... Obama, she said darkly, wants to give handouts to 'his people,' most of whom are not really needy but 'have figured out how to beat the system. I have seen on the street signs that say "Obamaphone,'" she said. 'I pay for mine, but it's a free phone for them.' (The myth that the Obama Administration has created a program to give taxpayer-funded cell phones to poor people is commonly repeated on right-wing talk radio.) Farm payments, on the other hand, were something landowners had earned. 'I work for what I have,' she said. 'So I have a sore spot about that.' Later, I found the Davises ... had received at least $108,000 from the government between 1995 and 2012.

Paul Krugman: "The whole politics of poverty since the 70s has rested on the popular belief that the poor are Those People, not like us hard-working real Americans. This belief has been out of touch with reality for decades -- but only now does reality seem to be breaking in. But what it means now is that conservatives claiming that character defects are the source of poverty, and that poverty programs are bad because they make life too easy, are now talking to an audience with large numbers of Not Those People who realize that they are among those who sometimes need help from the safety net."

Mean Guys Insurance Co-op, Ltd. Sy Mukherjee of Think Progress: "On Monday, a trio Republican senators unveiled an alternative to Obamacare eerily similar to the one that former presidential candidate Mitt Romney proposed in 2012. The plan boils down to a rehash of boilerplate conservative ideas for 'market-oriented' and 'consumer-driven' health care reform -- code words that really mean deregulating the insurance industry and forcing consumers to shoulder a larger burden of their health care costs.... 1. It would kick millions of Americans off of their health plans.... 2. It dismantles many of Obamacare's core consumer protections.... 3. It does almost nothing for Americans with pre-existing conditions.... 4. It would make millions pay more for their employer coverage.... 5. It provides fewer subsidies to help Americans buy health care." ...

... Sam Baker of the National Journal: "A trio of Senate Republicans on Monday introduced their plan to replace Obamacare with a new system that is built largely around making individuals responsible for a higher portion of their health care costs.... That debate notwithstanding, three Republicans with long backgrounds in health care policy -- Sens. Orrin Hatch, Richard Burr, and Tom Coburn -- have put together a framework they say should take the place of Obamacare if a Republican president and Congress were to repeal the law after the 2016 elections. In essence, the plan attempts to lower health care costs by making people shoulder a greater share of those costs -- or 'sensitizing' consumers to the actual cost of health care, as Senate aides put it in a meeting with reporters on Monday." CW: Yes, if people found out health insurance was expensive, they wouldn't get sick so much.

Jonathan Weisman & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "The House Republican leadership's broad framework for overhauling the nation's immigration laws will call this week for a path to legal status -- but not citizenship -- for many of the 11 million adult immigrants who are in the country illegally, according to aides who have seen the party's statement of principles. For immigrants brought to the United States illegally as young children, the Republicans would offer a path to citizenship. But even before the document is unveiled later, some of the party's leading strategists and conservative voices are urging that the immigration push be abandoned, or delayed until next year, to avoid an internal party rupture before the midterm elections."

Katrina vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post: "On critical issues, politicians of all stripes are finding common ground not by discarding their differences but rather by overcoming the ideological and political pressure that would typically prevent them from working together, even on areas of agreement."

Mark Apuzzo of the New York Times: "The Obama administration will allow Internet companies to talk more specifically about when they're forced to turn over customer data to government agents, the Justice Department said Monday. The new rules resolve legal fights with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook before the nation's secret surveillance court. But while under the terms of the new arrangement, customers will have a somewhat better idea of how often the government demands information, they still won't know what's being collected, or how much." ...

... Leaky Apps, Angry Birds. James Glanz & Andrew Lehren of the New York Times & Jeff Larson of ProPublica: "... the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have been trying to exploit a basic byproduct of modern telecommunications.... According to dozens of previously undisclosed classified documents, among the most valuable of those unintended intelligence tools are so-called leaky apps that spew everything from users' smartphone identification codes to where they have been that day ... according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden...." The Guardian story, by James Ball, is here.

Greg Sargent: "Pew Research just released some new polling that confirms the GOP is seen as far more uncompromising and ideologically extreme than the Democratic Party, while Dems hold a big edge on which party is concerned with the needs of ordinary people.... Today's Pew poll suggests Americans may broadly grasp the basic imbalances at play in our politics, even if many pundits continue to refuse to reckon with them."

Trouble in Right Wing World. Greta Van Susteren of Fox "News": "What is wrong with this guy? ... I don't care how much you disagree or agree with Texas' Wendy Davis, you have to agree that this guy, Erick Erickson, is a real jerk and is really lousy at being a spokesperson for his views."

Presidential Race 2016

Hillary Clinton speaks at the National Automobile Dealers Association:

Jasmine Sacher & Bob Cusack of the Hill: "Fifty-six Democratic lawmakers say they would endorse Hillary Clinton for president if she launches a 2016 White House bid, according to a survey conducted by The Hill. [SEE COMPLETE LIST] Twenty-two congressional Democrats had already publicly endorsed Clinton. An additional 34 members told The Hill that if Clinton runs, they would back her in the Democratic primary. "

Local News

Mark Caputo of the Miami Herald: "In the fallout from his cocaine bust last year, Fort Myers Congressman Trey Radel submitted his resignation Monday because, he said, he couldn't escape the ;serious consequences' of his actions.... Radel, scheduled to leave office at 6:30 p.m. Monday, announced he was quitting just as a House inquiry into his cocaine use started to get under way. Gov. Rick Scott will call a special election to fill the vacancy. In a sign of a looming and acrimonious intra-party squabble, GOP candidates and potential candidates had already started jockeying to run for the seat. And they and their surrogates are already attacking each other.... The district is solidly Republican. Mitt Romney won it with 61 percent of the vote in 2012, when the GOP presidential candidate lost statewide to President Obama by about a point." ...

... CW: As you all can imagine, I am disconsolate at losing my Cokehead Congressman. Fortunately, I can look forward to shortly being represented by another craven jerk.

Your Vote Counts. Laura Vozella of the Washington Post: "Democrats prepared to seize control of the Virginia Senate on Monday after winning a recount by just 11 votes in a razor-thin special election, giving Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's first-year agenda a crucial boost.... Going into [the recount], Del. Lynwood W. Lewis Jr. (D-Accomack) was ahead of Republican businessman Wayne Coleman by just nine votes. His lead grew to 11 by the end Monday after officials recounted some votes by hand and teams of lawyers from both sides wrangled over a handful of contested ballots."

AP: "Ben Barlyn says he was fired from his position as a Hunterdon County[, New Jersey,] prosecutor because he refused to drop a case against a Chris Christie ally." ...

... The Star-Ledger editors have more. They want a state and/or federal investigation.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died Monday. He was 94 and lived in Beacon, N.Y." Seeger's Rolling Stone obituary is here. ...

... Here's a transcript of Seeger's testimony before the House Unamerican Activities Committee.

AP: "The prime minister of protest-torn Ukraine submitted his resignation on Tuesday, saying he hoped the move would help bring peaceful resolution to the crisis that has gripped the country for two months. Mykola Azarov's resignation would remove one of the figures most despised by the opposition. It came as the parliament opened a special session that is expected to repeal harsh anti-protest laws that were imposed this month. Those laws set off the police-protester clashes in which at least three protesters died."

New York Times: "Monday, the 69th anniversary of the day Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz, was observed as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Yet a third or more of the almost six million Jews killed in the Holocaust perished not in the industrial-scale murder of the camps, but in executions at what historians call killing sites: thousands of villages, quarries, forests, wells, streets and homes that dot the map of Eastern Europe. The vast numbers killed in what some have termed a 'Holocaust by bullets' have slowly garnered greater attention in recent years as historians sift through often sketchy and incomplete records that became available after the collapse of the Soviet Union."

Politico: "Jesse Ryan Loskarn, the former top Senate GOP aide who committed suicide last week, said in a letter released by his family that he was sexually abused as a child, and the horror from that episode eventually led him down a path toward possessing child pornography. In a typed letter just over two pages long and posted online by his mother late Monday night, Loskarn revealed in vivid detail his personal experiences and apologized profusely for possessing child pornography, which led to his arrest by federal agents on Dec. 11."

Sunday
Jan262014

The Commentariat -- Jan. 27, 2014

Emmarie Huetteman of the New York Times: "Aides to President Obama on Sunday offered a preview of the strategy of the president's State of the Union address, emphasizing Mr. Obama's willingness to bypass a gridlocked Congress to achieve his goals. ...

... Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "White House officials are setting the scene for a confrontational state of the union address on Tuesday night, claiming that President Barack Obama is preparing to 'bypass' Congress with executive action on divisive issues such as economic inequality." ...

... John Harwood of the New York Times: This is because Republicans are still getting their way. "'We've been playing on a Reagan playing field -- a cut-government, shrink-programs field -- since 1981,' [Sen. Chuck] Schumer [D-N.Y.] said in an interview. 'It's all turning around now.' If he is right, the president has three years left to capitalize. Neither Mr. Obama nor his aides evince much confidence."

... Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: The Republicans' planned/canned responses to the State of the Union address are evidence of a party in disarray, with no clear message & no clear leader. ...

... Alex Pareene of Salon: "... the responses are multiplying for the same reason phony talking filibusters suddenly caught on among Senate Republicans last year: Because the GOP is effectively leaderless and acting like a rebel insurgent is the only way to win over grassroots conservative voters. In other words, expect even more responses in 2015."

Griff Witte of the Washington Post: The British are likely to raise the minimum wage to about $10/hour, & the Conservative Party is for it.

New York Times Editors: "The clandestine influence of the Kochs and their Palm Springs friends would be much reduced if they were forced to play in the sunshine. The Internal Revenue Service and several lawmakers are beginning to step up their interest in preventing 'social welfare' organizations and other tax-sheltered groups from being used as political conduits, but they have encountered the usual resistance from Republican lawmakers. Considering how effectively the Koch brothers are doing their job, it's easy to see why." See also safari's comments on the Koch Party in yesterday's Comments. ...

... ** Paul Krugman: "Extreme inequality, it turns out, creates a class of people who are alarmingly detached from reality -- and simultaneously gives these people great power. The example many are buzzing about right now is the billionaire investor Tom Perkins.... In a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Perkins lamented public criticism of the 'one percent' -- and compared such criticism to Nazi attacks on the Jews, suggesting that we are on the road to another Kristallnacht.... President Obama has not, unfortunately, done nearly as much as F.D.R. to earn the hatred of the undeserving rich. But he has done more than many progressives give him credit for -- and like F.D.R., both he and progressives in general should welcome that hatred, because it's a sign that they're doing something right." CW: Krugman's column is an elaboration on a blogpost MAG linked in yesterday's comments. ...

... ** Matthew O'Brien in the Atlantic: "Upward mobility has stayed the same the past 50 years despite skyrocketing inequality. But it's lower in the South (and Ohio) than anywhere else in the U.S. -- or the rest of the developed world."

Click on map to see larger image.

... Amy Chua & Jed Rubenfeld in the New York Times: "... for all their diversity, the strikingly successful [ethnic/cultural] groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex -- a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite -- insecurity, a feeling that you or what you've done is not good enough. The third is impulse control." ...

... Robert Reich posits three reasons Americans don't mount a popular revolution (tho massive protest is justified).

Yesterday the New York Times ran a big profile of Rand Paul, by Sam Tanenhaus & Jim Rutenberg. CW: I didn't read it, but P. D. Pepe did. As do I, Pepe thinks Paul is a viable presidential candidate. A few more scandals, & he'll be the Last Man Standing (yes, "Man"; there will be no GOP women in the running. Or Democratic women, if Paul has it his way ...

... Sins of the Husband. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) suggested Sunday that the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal should give Americans pause when it comes to evaluating the Clinton legacy -- and, by extension, Hillary Rodham Clinton's potential presidential campaign. Paul's wife, Kelley, made similar remarks in a Vogue profile last year, and her husband agreed with her Sunday in an interview on NBC's 'Meet the Press.'" ...

For I Acqua Buddha am a jealous Buddha, visiting the iniquity of the husbands upon the wives unto every presidential election henceforce and forevermore. -- Proverbs of Paul 5:8

... Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader: "During a Lexington luncheon Thursday, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul discussed the possibility of cutting government benefits for unwed mothers who have multiple children, though the potential Republican candidate for president in 2016 didn't directly endorse such a policy.... 'Maybe we have to say "enough's enough, you shouldn't be having kids after a certain amount,'" Paul told the business group at one point. Paul told the audience that being "married with kids versus unmarried with kids is the difference between living in poverty and not. We should sell that message,' Paul said. 'Not in a mean way to tell people who already have made a bad decision, but if you've had one child and you're not married, you shouldn't have another one.'" ...

For I Acqua Buddha am a jealous Buddha, visiting the iniquity of the mothers upon the children unto the second and third and fourth of them. -- Proverbs of Paul, 5:9

     ... Ashley Killough of CNN: Paul clarified his comments on Sunday. "'I mostly concluded by saying it's a community, it's a religious, it's a personal problem, but it is a problem,' Paul said." ...

... Ashley Killough: "Sen. Rand Paul said Sunday that Democrats are failing in their attempts to frame the GOP as a party that wages a war against women, and argued the message comes from the party of former President Bill Clinton, whose reputation is still tarnished from his 'predatory behavior' in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. 'The whole thing of the 'war on women,' I sort of laughingly say, 'Yeah, there might have been -- but the women are winning it,'" the Republican senator from Kentucky said on CNN's 'State of the Union.' He said women have made great strides and, as an example, now make up more than half the students at medical and law schools." CW: There is no war on women, but a woman cannot seek high office if her husband behaves badly.

Clinton's husband must be above suspicion. -- Paulus Minor

David of Crooks & Liars: "CBS host Bob Schieffer's was driven nearly to a fit of giggles on Sunday after Sen. Ted Cruz R-TX) repeatedly refused to take responsibility for last year's government shutdown." CW: Actually, you can hear Schieffer chortling off-camera. And Schieffer didn't just laugh; after Cruz repeated his claim that President Obama was the one who shut down the government, Schieffer said, "Senator, I know what Republicans were telling me -- like John Boehner -- that this was a disaster and never again":

McConnell: I'll Say Anything to Get Re-elected. Zack Ford of TPM: "In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told host Chris Wallace that it would be 'irresponsible' for Republicans not to try to add amendments to a bill raising the debt ceiling, which they may need to pass as early late February." ...

... Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic: "Republicans and their allies are still insisting that a key Obamacare provision amounts to a taxpayer-funded 'bailout' of the insurance industry. And now they may demand its repeal in exchange for giving the U.S. Treasury authority to borrow money and pay the government's bills." Cohn explains why this doesn't make sense, even in terms of GOP ideology.

Brass Behaving Badly. Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "Since November 2012, when an adulterous affair felled David H. Petraeus..., the armed forces have struggled to cope with tawdry disclosures about high-ranking commanders."

Reuters: "The National Security Agency leaker, Edward Snowden, would be willing to enter talks with attorney general Eric Holder to negotiate his return to the US, his legal adviser said on Sunday, but not without a guarantee of amnesty. Jesselyn Radack said she was glad Holder indicated last week he would talk to lawyers for Snowden to negotiate his return from Russia, but said that he would need better protection."

Local News

Times-Picayne: Former New Orleans Mayor Ray "Nagin stands accused of participating in the very cronyism he had vowed to combat. He is the first New Orleans mayor to face federal charges. And on Monday, he will be the first to stand trial, barring any last-minute plea deal. Federal prosecutors charged Nagin in January 2013 with 21 counts of bribery, wire fraud and conspiracy, stemming from misdeeds they say go back to 2004. He could get more than 20 years in prison if prosecutors can prove he broke the law for a meager bounty of $300,000, a truckload or two of granite, a ride in a limousine and a few trips on a private jet." The Times-Picayune will liveblog the trial here.

News Ledes

Coins for Coke. New York Times: "One of the most prominent players in the Bitcoin universe, Charles Shrem, was arrested by federal prosecutors on Sunday and accused of helping grease the wheels for drug transactions.... Mr. Shrem was the founder and chief executive of a popular website, Bitinstant, where Bitcoins could be bought using dollars. The criminal charges unsealed on Monday by the United States attorney's office in Manhattan claim that Mr. Shrem used his company to convert money anonymously for people interested in buying narcotics on the Silk Road site, and also personally bought drugs on the site.... According to the complaint, the scheme was operated in cooperation with another man, Robert Faiella, known as BTCKing, who was arrested on Monday."

Washington Post: "A powerful council of Egypt's top military commanders announced Monday that it is backing Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sissi for president, a move likely to entrench the military's political power and intensify its battle with an increasingly sophisticated Islamist insurgency."

New York Times: "Islamist militants shot down an Egyptian military helicopter in the Sinai Peninsula with a surface-to-air missile over the weekend, raising new alarms about the terrorist insurgency that developed there in response to the military takeover last summer....All five soldiers in the helicopter were killed, security officials said."

Guardian: "Lost letters, photographs and diaries by Heinrich Himmler have been discovered in Israel, shedding new light on one of the men most directly responsible for the Holocaust. The stash of documents from the Nazi era is currently held in a bank vault in Tel Aviv, but has been authenticated by the German federal archive, considered the world's leading authority on material from the period. Its contents are to be published over eight days in the newspaper Welt am Sonntag, starting on Sunday with Himmler's letters to his wife Margarete."

Yonhap (South Korea) News: "All relatives of the executed uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, including children and the country's ambassadors to Cuba and Malaysia, have also been put to death at the leader's instruction, multiple sources said Sunday." Via New York.

Saturday
Jan252014

The Commentariat -- Jan. 26, 2014

No, Prime Minister. Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: "... for the first time, following what many allies view as a lost year, the White House is reorganizing itself to support a more executive-focused presidency...." ...

... SOTU. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "... perhaps more so than in any of his previous congressional addresses, Mr. Obama realizes that he has little chance of major legislative victories this year, with the possible exception of an overhaul of immigration law that Republicans are also making a priority. As a result, aides said, he will present a blueprint for 'a year of action' on issues like income inequality and the environment that bypasses Congress and exercises his authority to the maximum extent." ...

... Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP: " Income inequality is out, 'ladders of opportunity' is in. Eager to dispel claims that President Barack Obama is engaging in 'class warfare' as he heads into his State of the Union address next week, the White House is de-emphasizing phrases focusing on economic disparity and turning instead to messages about creating paths of opportunity for the poor and middle class. The adjustment reflects an awareness that Obama's earlier language put him at risk of being perceived as divisive and exposed him to criticism that his rhetoric was exploiting the gap between haves and have-nots." ...

... Digby: "It's actually getting quite boring tracking the administration feints and retreats on these issues. The president clearly would like to be able to say some populist stuff that his supporters want to hear. But the Big Money Boyz are very sensitive about this and he's not going to cross them. Make no mistake, there are no policy proposals coming from anyone of either party that would seriously erode this wealth inequality. That's simply out of the question. What has everyone so agitated is populist rhetoric, which these narcissists see as akin to being a powerless minority attacked by the state. And that means the president and his men have to fall back on 'meritocracy' and mobility tropes that ensure these narcissists will remain on top." CW: On the sensitivity of the Money Boyz, see today's Right Wing World below. Also, Jamie Dimon: ...

When I hear the constant vilification of corporate America, I personally don’t understand it. I would ask a lot of our folks in government to stop doing it because I think it’s hurting our country. -- Jamie Dimon, in a prepared speech, March 2009

I just think this constant refrain -- bankers, bankers, bankers, it's just -- it just doesn't -- it's really an unproductive and unfair way of treating people. -- Jamie Dimon, February 2011

I think a lot of it was unfair. -- Jamie Dimon, a few days ago, on JP Morgan Chase's mega-settlement with federal regulators

If JPMorgan is so happy with their settlements that they are rewarding their CEO with a big raise, do you really think the federal bank regulators were tough enough? -- Elizabeth Warren, on her blog

Justin Sink of the Hill: "The White House will host a virtual 'Big Block of Cheese Day' later this month in a nod to historical tradition -- and the popular West Wing television show. In the show, White House staffers were required on one day a year to meet with citizens and interest groups who normally might not earn attention from top administration officials. The fictional tradition was a nod to President Andrew Jackson, who in 1837 hosted an open house with a 1,400 pound block of cheese in the White House's foyer. But the real White House said Friday that they would be hosting a real version of the event -- albeit in cyberspace. 'On Wednesday, January 29th, with a nod to history (and maybe the TV show the West Wing), the Obama Administration ... will take to social media for a day long "open house" to answers questions from everyday Americans in real-time on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and via Google+ Hangout,'... Users of the social networks can flag questions using the hashtag #AsktheWH." Links to more info at this White House Webpage.

 

Clifford Krauss & Jad Mouawad of the New York Times: "... trains have increasingly been used to transport the oil from the new fields of Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota, in part as a result of delays in the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. About 400,000 carloads of crude oil traveled by rail last year to the nation's refineries, up from 9,500 in 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads. But a series of recent accidents -- including one in Quebec last July that killed 47 people and another in Alabama last November -- have prompted many to question these shipments and have increased the pressure on regulators to take an urgent look at the safety of the oil shipments."

AFP: "The US National Security Agency (NSA) sometimes uses data it collects for economic purposes, intelligence leaker Edward Snowden reveals in an extract of an interview with a German television chain to be broadcast Sunday." And other stuff. ...

... Like this: "On its website, NDR said that Snowden assured he was no longer in possession of any confidential documents, as they had all been handed out to handpicked journalists. The former NSA contractor said he no longer wants to, or is able to, take part in any future revelations." CW: So no rationale for granting him the amnesty or immunity that some in the U.S. spy community have suggested could spare the nation further embarrassment & security breaches.

Nidhi Subbaraman of NBC News: Drones will soon be assisting emergency personnel.

Local News

Terry Tang of the AP: "The Arizona Republican Party formally censured Sen. John McCain on Saturday, citing a voting record they say is insufficiently conservative. The resolution to censure McCain was approved by a voice-vote during a meeting of state committee members in Tempe...."

Billy Corriher in Think Progress: "Last week, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court rejected a request by a conservative 'dark money' group to keep its donors secret. The lawsuit alleges that the Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA) illegally 'coordinated' its ads with Attorney General Greg Abbott's (R) 2002 campaign. If evidence emerges that the LEAA coordinated with Abbott's campaign, then the millions of dollars it spent on ads could be considered illegal in-kind campaign contributions." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

He Said/They Said. Carol Leonnig & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post write a fairly fascinating story on how the prosecution of Bob & Maureen McDonnell came about. They concentrate on Jonnie Williams' cooperation, which apparently resulted from a routine SEC probe of securities irregularities re: Star Scientific. Maureen appears to be one greedy babe. ...

... Quentin Kidd in the Washington Post: Gov. Bob & wife Maureen McDonnell of Virginia "were trying to keep up with the Joneses. And in the upper echelons of Virginia politics, the Joneses tend to have a certain look and lifestyle.... We can identify with some of their struggles and impulses without condoning the use of the governor's office for personal gain. Their relatively modest background should have made them realize what their constituents would see: What they were doing was outrageous." ...

     ... CW: Ironically, had the McDonnells lived within their means (sorry, no beach-house investments) & emphasized what a financial struggle they were having, they would have come across as sympathetic characters, & we might be looking at Transvaginal Bob for President posters. Didn't they notice that one thing that made the Obamas appealing was their rags-to-middle-class story? When in 2008 they said they had only finished paying off their college loans a few years earlier (& that was thanks to Barack's best-sellers), voters learned that the Obamas were people who understood their own difficulties.

John Reitmeyer of the Bergen Record: "Chris Christie launched his first term as governor in 2010 by putting pressure on what he said was New Jersey's 'shadow government' of unelected authorities, boards and commissions. But the Port Authority, a bi-state agency with decades of political influence and a budget of more than $7 billion -- larger than many states' -- has been a different story for the governor."

Star-Ledger Editors: "The Christie administration has fired the contractor that's been bungling the distribution of federal Hurricane Sandy relief money.... But now here's the bad news: The administration fired HGI last month, and we are all just finding out about this now.... First Christie's officials publicly deny that HGI is mishandling their grant programs. Then they silently fire the contractor?"

Right Wing World

The Persecuted Rich. Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Venture capitalist Tom Perkins compared liberals' push to reduce inequality in the United States to Nazi Germany's war on Jews. In a letter to the editor published in The Wall Street Journal Perkins, a founding member of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, asks whether a 'progressive Kristallnacht' is coming. Perkins's letter is in response to an editorial on speech codes at American colleges. 'Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich,"' Perkins wrote in the letter to the editor." ...

... This is not the first time horrible people have conspired to persecute Perkins. Nick Denton of Gawker, June 2007: "In 1996, the yacht-crazed financier was racing off the French coast when he collided with a smaller boat, killing a French doctor on board. In a passage from the Valley veteran's forthcoming memoirs, Perkins writes: 'I was arrested and tried in a foreign court in a language you don't understand, by judges indifferent - or worse - to justice, represented by an inappropriate lawyer with the negative outcome preordained.'" Via Erik Loomis of Lawyers, Guns & Money. ...

... Elias Isquith of Salon: "Kristallnacht was a giant anti-Semitic riot, organized by the Nazi government, that left nearly 100 Jews in Germany and Austria murdered and resulted in the incarceration of some tens of thousands more in concentration camps. It was an act of coordinated barbarism done in service of the Nazis' ultimate goal, the expulsion (and, later, elimination) of Europe's Jewish population. American progressives, on the other hand, would like to see Tom Perkins pay more in taxes."

David Ferguson of the Raw Story: "A Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma has proposed a controversial way to stopping same-sex marriages in the state. According to News9.com, state Rep. Mike Turner (R) has proposed scrapping marriage in the state altogether. The lawmaker contends that it is the only way to keep same-sex marriage illegal in the state while still defending the U.S. Constitution." ...

... Martin Longman of Washington Monthly: "Don't let straight people have legally-recognized marriages if it means that gay people can have them, too. This is petulance defined."

Dan Friedman & Dareh Gregorian of the New York Daily News: Dinesh "D'Souza, 52, pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges he made illegal contributions to New York Republican senate hopeful Wendy Long in her ill-fated 2012 campaign. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted. Long, an old friend of D'Souza's from their Dartmouth days, will testify against him at trial, prosecutor Carrie Cohen told Judge Richard Berman at the 'Roots of Obama's Rage' author's arraignment. Long 'informed the government that Mr. D'Souza lied to her about the source of those donations,' Cohen said."

News Ledes

New York Times: "A Fort Worth hospital that kept a pregnant, brain-dead woman on life support for two months, followed a judge's order on Sunday and removed her from the machines, ending her family's legal fight to have her pronounced dead and to challenge a Texas law that prohibits medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant woman."

Here's an updated Washington Post story on a shooting yesterday at the Columbia, Maryland, Mall that left three, including the shooter, dead. ...

     ... UPDATE: "... a 19-year-old College Park resident has been identified by police as the assailant in Saturday's shooting at the Mall in Columbia, which left three people dead, including Aguilar."

... Baltimore Sun: "On Saturday night, police said they had tentatively identified the shooter, who had arrived at the mall with a shotgun, a large amount of ammunition and a bag in which they found two crude devices that 'appeared to be an attempt at making explosives using fireworks.'"

New York Times: "Thousands of Egyptians celebrated the third anniversary of their revolt against autocracy on Saturday by holding a rally for the military leader who ousted the country's first democratically elected president. Elsewhere, at least 49 people died in clashes with security forces at rival antigovernment protests organized by Islamists and left-leaning activists."

Guardian: "Ukraine's embattled president, Viktor Yanukovych, on Saturday night made a surprising and wide-ranging compromise offer to the protesters who have occupied his capital, promising to make an opposition leader prime minister, give amnesty to those involved in clashes with police and institute major constitutional reforms. The trio of politicians who have become the de facto leaders of the protests rejected the offer but said they were willing to negotiate."