The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, May 27, 2015.

Hill: "The Defense Department accidentally sent live anthrax to labs in nine states and is working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to contain it, the Pentagon said Wednesday. 'The Department of Defense is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their investigation of the inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis, also known as anthrax, from a DoD lab in Dugway, Utah, to labs in nine states,' said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman."

AP: "A second submariner has pleaded guilty to sharing videos of female officers undressing for a shower, continuing a case that a prosecutor calls a 'black eye' for the Navy's integration of women into the nation's sub fleet.... Electronics technician Joseph Bradley entered pleas Wednesday in a court-martial trial. He was sentenced to 30 days' confinement and a reduction in rank.... On Tuesday, missile technician Charles Greaves received two years in prison and a dishonorable discharge for making the videos. Five more male sailors face charges in the case."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 28

11:05 am ET: President Obama receives the annual hurricane season outlook & preparedness briefing in Miami, Florida (audio only)

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

New York Times: "Charter Communications is near a deal to buy Time Warner Cable for about $55 billion, people with direct knowledge of the talks said on Monday, a takeover that would create a new powerhouse in the rapidly consolidating American cable industry.... The potential acquisition of Time Warner Cable completes a lengthy quest by Charter and its main backer, the billionaire John C. Malone, to break into the top tier of the American broadband industry. If completed, the transaction would be the latest in a series of mergers remaking the market for broadband Internet and cable television in the United States." ...

     ... Update: "Charter Communications agreed on Tuesday to buy its much larger rival Time Warner Cable for $56.7 billion in a deal that would transform the company into one of America’s largest cable and broadband operators."

Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the Realtor.com page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

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Thursday
Mar052015

The Commentariat -- March 6, 2015

Whistling Dixie. Anna Palmer & Lauren French of Politico: "Scores of U.S. lawmakers are converging on tiny Selma, Alabama, for a large commemoration of a civil rights anniversary. But their ranks don't include a single member of House Republican leadership -- a point that isn't lost on congressional black leaders.... Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who participated in the 1965 march alongside Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, said he was disappointed that House Republican leaders wouldn't make the trip. But Lewis said he looked forward to hearing from former President George W. Bush, who is set to speak Saturday. President Barack Obama is also scheduled to attend the ceremonies on Saturday." ...

... CW: The WTF leadership is probably too busy in Washington, where they are cooking up bills to further curb the Voting Right Act. ...

... Steve Benen: "Republican leaders declined to participate in the Lincoln Memorial event in 2013; they've declined invitations to Selma; they had no public concerns after learning Steve Scalise attended a white-supremacist event; they're slow walking the first African-American woman to ever be nominated as Attorney General; and they're blocking a proposed bipartisan fix to the Voting Rights Act while their brethren at the state level impose new voting restrictions that disproportionately affect people of color."

** Leaving a Fox to Guard the Foxes in the Henhouse. John Eligon & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "On Thursday..., a [Ferguson, Mo.,] spokesman revealed that the fired official was ... the city's top court clerk, Mary Ann Twitty.... Her involvement in the emails and their wide distribution illustrate how difficult fixing the Ferguson Police Department and municipal court will be when many city officials led, participated in or tolerated the most controversial practices uncovered by the Justice Department. Those city employees include the police chief who authorized arrests without probable cause; the municipal judge who adds new charges when people contest their citations, yet quietly got his own traffic ticket wiped away; and the city manager who was the force behind the financially driven policies that led to widespread discrimination. Many of those same officials will now be the ones attempting to carry out the reforms demanded by the Justice Department." Read the whole story. ...

... ** Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic: "One should understand that the Justice Department did not simply find indirect evidence of unintentionally racist practices which harm black people, but 'discriminatory intent' -- that is to say willful racism aimed to generate cash. Justice in Ferguson is not a matter of 'racism without racists,' but racism with racists so secure, so proud, so brazen that they used their government emails to flaunt it." Coates see Ferguson in Lockean terms, & he's right. ...

... Tiny Castles. Henry Farrell, in a Washington Post op-ed, sees Ferguson in the context of government racketeering through the ages: The economist & social scientist Mancur "Olson failed to be charmed by the picturesque castles lining the German river Rhine, because he knew that each castle had been built by some local lord to threaten violence to traders going up and down the river if they didn't pay him a tariff. Local government in St. Louis appears to have been constructed along similar lines, with the victims mostly being poor African Americans rather than wealthy traders."

... Jack Healy, et al., of the New York Times: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. cast doubt on the 'hands up' account [of Michael Brown's shooting death] even as he described Ferguson as having a racially biased police department and justice system."

Danny Vinik of the New Republic puts a damper on celebrations of today's positive jobs report: "Wages, the key metric that economists are watching to determine the slack in the labor market, ticked up just 0.1 percent. Over the past year, they've grown 2 percent. Thanks to falling oil prices, which have lowered inflation, real wage growth is positive over the past year. But that's still not a particularly strong number. Wages must grow at a 3 to 4 percent rate to keep up with both inflation and productivity growth. We're still not close to that."

New York Times aids & abets Scalia, et al., with top story, "As Health Law Is Weighed, GOP Plans to Replace It." No link. Because that's bull. As Greg Sargent amply documents this morning. "Perhaps we should celebrate the 50-month anniversary of the GOP vow of an alternative by showing a bit of skepticism towards similar claims being made over four years later," Sargent suggests. ...

     ... Update. Also read Victoria D.'s comment in today's thread. ...

(For context, go here.)

... Moops! Greg Sargent: "... during oral arguments, the idea (floated by Scalia) that Congress might provide such a contingency plan [to fix the language in the ACA which is the subject of the King v. Burwell case] was basically laughed out of the Court. Understandably so: No one who watched the chaos around Homeland Security funding could possibly imagine Congress producing any such plan." ...

... Scott Lemieux in the Week: "Scalia's argument, of course, came straight from a land of willful fantasy.... Scalia has long shown an affinity for the most witless Fox News talking points. Republicans have been making a conscious effort to reassure the court that they have a plan should the court gut the ACA. Needless to say, they don't actually have any plan -- pretending to have a plan is their only plan. Indeed, Republicans in Congress are so dysfunctional that they can barely even pretend to have a serious alternative, and any attempt to fix the law would assuredly be stillborn." ...

... CW: I was a bit surprised by Justice Moops' support for the plaintiffs because (1) this reading of the ACA goes against Moops' previous opinions on the breadth of textual analysis, & (2) even though the tax subsidies reduce income inequality (something Moops no doubt hates, because socialism!), the people who get the subsidies aren't poor layabout slackers; they are low- and middle-income workers. But then. I looked into the demographics of it. The people Justice Moops & his nasty friends want to relieve of health insurance (because freeedom!) are disproportionately women and minorities. So it all makes sense. If you're a twisted SOB. ...

     ... Update: This post by David Leonhardt of the New York Times suggests I didn't paying enough attention to the inequality part: "... the law is the most aggressive attack that the federal government has launched against inequality since inequality began rising four decades ago. It taxes the affluent (and corporations, which are disproportionately owned by the affluent) in order to subsidize health insurance for middle-class and poor households that lack it. If you sometimes wonder why the law has generated such political heat, that fact is the main reason." ...

... Abbe Gluck, in a Politico Magazine piece explains how textual analysis must and has worked in regard to federalism questions: "... the court has a set of doctrines that tell it how to interpret statutory text when a federalism question is at issue. Those doctrines prohibit the court from reading a statute to intrude on the states or to impose a drastic condition or consequence on the states unless the statute is crystal clear. The relevance of these doctrines to King, and the textual interpretation question at the heart of the case, is obvious: For the challengers to win, the drastic penalty their reading would impose on the states must be absolutely clear in the statute. The ACA comes nowhere close to meeting this requisite standard of clarity." Gluck cites other established doctrines of interpretation, each of which requires "a far higher bar for textual clarity than the challengers' reading of the law can possibly reach." CW: All of the justices know this. ...

... Noah Feldman, in Bloomberg View, explains why Solicitor General Don Verrilli conceded the plaintiffs' standing during oral arguments: he thinks Hillary is going to lose! CW: Okay, that's not exactly how Feldman phrased it. But that's the idea.

Paul Krugman: Blame pizza!

Civil Disobedience, Snow-Day Edition. Tim Devaney of Hill: "From sledding to snowball fights, dozens of children and their parents took to Capitol Hill Thursday afternoon to protest a controversial sledding ban. Capitol Police have refused to lift the sledding ban, but some parents organized a 'sled in' on the west lawn of the Capitol to put a spotlight on the unpopular rule." ...

British Gen. Frederick Haldimand meets his match. Boston 1775.... Yoni Appelbaum of the Atlantic provides some enchanting historical & contemporary context, as well as the illustration above. "Thursday's protest was a small act, but it stands in [a] grand tradition." ...

... More about Kids' Rights! Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link:

Presidential Race

Worse Than Reported. Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "The administration of Gov. Chris Christie offered details for the first time on Thursday about its settlement of a longstanding legal battle with Exxon Mobil Corporation over contamination in which the company agreed to pay a fraction of the damages that the State of New Jersey was seeking. A statement, issued jointly by the state's attorney general and environmental commissioner, said Exxon had agreed to pay $225 million to resolve the 2004 lawsuits. The state's own experts had placed the cost of environmental restoration and other damages resulting from the company's refinery operations in northern New Jersey at $8.9 billion." ...

... S. P. Sullivan of NJ Advance Media: "The $225 settlement also resolves some liability regarding contamination at 16 Exxon gas stations around the state.... Debbie Mans, head of NY/NJ Baykeeper, said it was puzzling why the state was including the other facilities in their agreement with Exxon. 'Those weren't part of the original litigation, so they're doing a big favor to Exxon by including them in the settlement,' she said. She also criticized the size of the settlement, claiming Christie had 'turned his back' on the Union and Hudson county residents who have lived near the two sites for decades." ...

... Charles Pierce: "Chris Christie, currently residing down in the netherworld of Rick Perryland in the latest 2016 form charts, also still has his job as governor of New Jersey. As such, he apparently has made sure that his administration doesn't dreadfully inconvenience any corporation that might want to chip in for firewood when he and his campaign are huddled around a burning oil barrel in a trainyard outside of Council Bluffs next December."

Brent Johnson of NJ Advance Media: "A group of unions representing New Jersey state troopers are the first to sue Gov. Chris Christie to force him to make a larger payment to the state's public-worker pension system than he has included in his latest state budget proposal."

** Tim Egan defines what's wrong with Hillary for President. CW: I don't fault Hillary for this. Yes, she's a rather ruthless entitled person. But the Democratic party, not the ruthless power player, is the entity responsible for leaving the bench empty. After all, Barack Obama was a rookie called up in extraordinary circumstances in 2008: a very freshman U.S. Senator who won his seat in 2006 because one GOP opponent self-destructed & the next was dangerously insane. He had absolutely no significant accomplishments under his belts. On paper, the party has much better than that to offer, but it has not put them at center stage.

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The State Department has had a policy in place since 2005 to warn officials against routine use of personal email accounts for government work, a regulation in force during Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state that appears to be at odds with her reliance on a private email for agency business, Politico has learned. The policy, detailed in a manual for agency employees, adds clarity to an issue at the center of a growing controversy over Clinton's reliance on a private email account." ...

... CW: I'm not sure how much "clarity" the policy adds. I don't think the department's "rules" apply to a Cabinet secretary. ...

... Evan McMorris-Santoro of BuzzFeed: "An aide said former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood used both personal and professional email on his Blackberry -- with both going into the archives.... LaHood's experience, related in detail to BuzzFeed News, was similar to that of other senior administration officials, officials and staff said." CW: If you read the post, I think you'll find that LaHood's practice makes sense. Hillary's, not so much. ...

... Mark Drajem & Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg Business: "The question advocates for open government are asking now is how the public will know if all the relevant e-mails have been sent to the State Department. Instead of a government employee reviewing the records, Clinton staff members did the work." ...

... Martin Matishak of the Hill: "Democrats are scrambling to try and limit the damage from the escalating controversy over Hillary Clinton's use of personal email accounts while she was secretary of State. With their likely presidential nominee now facing congressional subpoenas, Democrats began to circle the wagons Thursday, seizing on Clinton's statement late Wednesday that she wants her emails released to the public as soon as possible.... Republicans moved quickly Thursday to turn up the heat on Clinton over the personal emails, with the Republican National Committee (RNC) asking the State Department to open an independent investigation into whether she broke the law." ...

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), Chair of the Select Committee to Emulsify Hillary Clinton.... Tim Mak & Jackie Kucinich of the Daily Beast: "... suddenly, Democrats are terrified -- terrified that the Benghazi panel is about to become the House Select Committee to take down Clinton, their presumptive presidential nominee." ...

... David Graham of the Atlantic has an excellent rundown of Democrats' reactions to #emailghazi. ...

... Niall Stanage of the Hill: "Republicans believe Hillary Clinton's fundamental political weaknesses have been exposed by the controversy surrounding her use of personal email while secretary of State -- and they couldn't be more delighted.... Republican strategists say that Clinton's political abilities have long been exaggerated. They contend she displays an unusual capacity to make trouble for herself and, unlike her husband, no great degree of nimbleness in getting out of it." ...

... Charles Pierce is unimpressed with the Beltway Buzz, especially as it is embodied in one "Ron Fournier, a breezy conversationalist and one-time father confessor to Karl Rove, [who] has waded into the Hillary Clinton E-Mail blogswarm with a take so hot it could melt cold steel. Maybe Clinton doesn't want to run. Maybe she shouldn't." Pierce, contra Fournier: "Look, I'm not sold on Clinton as a candidate, either.... This was an unforced error. Anybody who tries to make it into a moral disqualification for office has a very short memory for what a moral disqualification for office actually is." ...

... Tone-Deaf. Dee Hall of the Wisconsin State Journal: "Gov. Scott Walker’s political nonprofit slammed Hillary Clinton for using a private email system during her time as secretary of state -- even though Walker employed a similar practice as Milwaukee County executive.... Democratic and liberal groups immediately responded, noting the extensive use by Walker and his county executive staff of private email accounts and a secret wireless router in his county office in an effort to skirt the state's open records laws. The secret system was uncovered during an investigation into illegal campaign activities by Walker's staff and associates that led to six convictions. Walker was not charged." Thanks to Nadd2 for the link. ...

... Brian Mahoney of Politico: "Scott Walker's likely pending victory over organized labor -- passage of a right-to-work law in Wisconsin -- will be just the latest milestone in a resurgent anti-union movement marching across the industrial heartland." ...

     ... Update. Mary Spicuzza, et al., of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The Republican-controlled state Assembly passed Wisconsin's so-called right-to-work bill Friday morning after a marathon debate that began Thursday and stretched overnight.... The measure, which bans labor contracts requiring workers to pay union fees, now heads to the desk of Gov. Scott Walker, who has said he will sign the bill by Monday. The Assembly voted 62-35 along party lines in favor of the bill."

CW: You might think that Jeb Bush's egregious treatment of Terri Schiavo & her husband Michael is an impediment to his Bush III hopes. And it is! In Iowa, movement crazies think it was horrible that he "let her die."

Beyond the Beltway

Richard Fausset & Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "As it looks increasingly likely that the Supreme Court will establish a nationwide right to same-sex marriage later this year, state legislatures across the country are taking up bills that would make it easier for businesses and individuals to opt out of serving gay couples on religious grounds."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Labor Department reported on Friday that employers added 295,000 workers to their payrolls in February and that unemployment fell to 5.5 percent. The report was a big improvement from January's...."

New York Times: "A 23-year-old British man has been arrested over a cyberattack in which data was stolen from the United States Department of Defense, the police said on Friday. The man was detained Wednesday morning by detectives from the National Crime Agency of Britain on suspicion of offenses linked to a hacking that took place in June...."

USA Today: Actor "Harrison Ford was injured Thursday afternoon when his vintage single-engine airplane crashed on a golf course shortly after taking off from Santa Monica Airport."

Detroit News: "A federal judge was shot outside his west side home Thursday night in what police believe was an attempted robbery or home invasion.U.S. District Judge Terrence G. Berg was shot in the leg about 9:10 p.m. outside his home on the west side of Detroit...."

New York Times: "Liberia's last Ebola patient was discharged on Thursday after a ceremony in the capital, Monrovia, bringing to zero the number of known cases in the country and marking a milestone in West Africa's battle against the disease.... The disease had flared up recently in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea, the two other countries hardest hit by it."

Guardian: "A court order from the US army court of criminal appeals instructs the military to refer to [Chelsea Manning] in all future official correspondence either using the gender neutral 'Private First Class Manning' or employing the feminine pronoun."

Wednesday
Mar042015

The Commentariat -- March 5, 2015

Links to reports & commentary on the Supreme Court hearing in the King v. Burwell case are in the previous post.

American "Justice," Ctd. Adam Lerner of Politico: "Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the Justice Department's investigation provided a 'searing' account of unconstitutional police practices in Ferguson, Missouri and that 'all options are on the table' in pursuit of reform":

Matt Apuzzo & John Eligon of the New York Times: "The Justice Department on Wednesday called on Ferguson, Mo., to overhaul its criminal justice system, declaring that the city had engaged in so many constitutional violations that they could be corrected only by abandoning its entire approach to policing, retraining its employees and establishing new oversight. In one example after another, the report described a city that used its police and courts as moneymaking ventures, a place where officers stopped and handcuffed people without probable cause, hurled racial slurs, used stun guns without provocation, and treated anyone as suspicious merely for questioning police tactics." ...

... Evan Perez of CNN: "A Justice Department civil rights investigation has concluded that the Ferguson Police Department and the city's municipal court engaged in a 'pattern and practice' of discrimination against African-Americans, targeting them disproportionately for traffic stops, use of force, and jail sentences." ...

... The Guardian has more details. The New York Times has an annotated rundown of key findings of the report. The Washington Post has a graphic summary of the report's statistical findings. The full report is here. ...

... Eliana Dockterman of Time: "Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said Wednesday that one police official had been fired and two others were on administrative leave over racist emails that were cited in the Justice Department's scathing new report on the city's police department." ...

... More key findings from Anna Brand & Amanda Sakuma of NBC News. ...

... CW: Justice Is Color-Blind. The findings are appalling. What with the big case argued before the Supremes yesterday, it's a good day to remember that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States doesn't think horrendous racial discrimination of the type seen in Ferguson -- and most definitely elsewhere in this great nation of ours -- are important, or maybe even possible: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," John Roberts wrote in a 2007 decision. Because racism is so over that we can just faggedaboudit. (You might want to read the linked column, by Dahlia Lithwick, because Justice Sotomayor's response was so apt & so cutting that it hurt the Chief's widdle feewings.) ...

... "Pigment Tax." Charles Blow: "The report contained charges that the Police Department and the municipal courts treated citizens less like constituents and more like a revenue stream, violating citizens' constitutional rights in the process.... The report read like one about a shakedown gang rather than about city officials.... Once again, the oppression people feel as part of their lived experiences, and can share only by way of anecdote, is bolstered by data." ...

... ** Jamelle Bouie goes after "the real criminals." And he's right.

Matt Apuzzo & Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "Offering the most definitive account yet of the shooting of an unarmed black teenager that stirred racially charged protests across the country, the Justice Department has cleared a Ferguson, Mo., police officer of civil rights violations in the death last August of Michael Brown. The decision, announced on Wednesday, ends a lengthy investigation into the shooting last August...."

Tim Devaney of the Hill: "Congressional Republicans opened a new front Wednesday in their fight against Obama administration regulations, with the Senate voting to strike down a contentious rule meant to speed up union elections."

Gail Collins: "... this appears to be the path to the future: Senate Democrats will block anything they don't like, forcing the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to compromise. In the House, the Labradorians won't vote for any Senate compromises, so Boehner will need the Democrats to pass any legislation that could actually make it into law." CW: ... interrupted by confederate histrionics leading to multiple threats of government shutdowns followed by Boehner caving each time to some measure of minimal governance.

Nick Gass of Politico: Edward "'Snowden is ready to return to the States, but on the condition that he is given a guarantee of a legal and impartial trial,' his Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said at a news conference Tuesday, as quoted by Russian state media outlet TASS.... Jesselyn Radack, one of Snowden's American legal advisers, says Kucherena's statement echoes what they've been saying all along. Were Snowden to return, he would face charges under the World War I-era Espionage Act.... Snowden would be amenable to coming back to the United States for the kind of plea bargain that Gen. [David] Petraeus received,' Radack said, reacting to news that the former general admitted to providing classified information to his mistress while he led the Central Intelligence Agency." ...

... CW: Ha! Sorry, Ed. You have to be a top-level spy who gets caught sending reams of classified material to his girlfriend, or maybe one with top-secret original documents stuffed in his pockets, then lies to investigators about it, to get a deal like Petraeus's.

Presidential Race

Michael Mathes of the AFP: "Hillary Clinton, facing criticism over her exclusive use of a private email account while US secretary of state, has called for her emails to be made public after Republicans subpoenaed the documents. 'I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They (the State Department) said they will review them for release as soon as possible,' Clinton said in a tweet late Wednesday night." ...

... BenghaaaziMail! Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "The House Select Committee on Benghazi, which first discovered [Hillary] Clinton's use of a personal e-mail based on a home server in its inquiry into a fatal 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, is asking for all e-mails related to the attack from all Clintonemail.com accounts and any other staff members' personal accounts." ...

... Homebrew. Jack Gillum & Ted Bridis of the AP: "The development on Capitol Hill came the same day AP reported the existence of a personal email server traced back to the Chappaqua, New York, home of Clinton. The unusual practice of a Cabinet-level official running her own email server would have given Clinton -- who is expected to run for president in the 2016 campaign — significant control over limiting access to her message archives. The practice also would complicate the State Department's legal responsibilities in finding and turning over official emails in response to any investigations, lawsuits or public records requests.... Homemade email servers are generally not as reliable, secure from hackers or protected from fires or floods as those in commercial data centers." On the other hand, "in 2006 and 2014 that the [State Department's e-mail system] ... suffered significant electronic break-ins." ...

... Michael Riley, et al., of Bloomberg Business: "Although Clinton worked hard to secure the private system, her consultants appear to have set it up with a misconfigured encryption system, something that left it vulnerable to hacking, said Alex McGeorge, head of threat intelligence at Immunity Inc., a Miami Beach-based digital security firm." ...

... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The mystery man linked to Hillary Clinton's personal e-mail account appears to be a Washington, D.C. stockbroker and former aide to the Clintons who played a walk-on role in controversies that dogged the former first family soon after it left the White House in 2001." ...

... The Word from Anonymous: Nedra Pickler & Josh Lederman of the AP: "The White House counsel's office was not aware when Hillary Rodham Clinton was secretary of state that she relied solely on a private email account.... A person familiar with the matter ... says Clinton's exclusive use of personal email was inconsistent with guidance given to agencies that official business should be conducted on official email accounts. The person says the counsel's office only became aware when some of her messages were turned over to congressional investigators looking into the Benghazi attack. The person said the White House counsel's office then asked the State Department to ensure that her email records were properly archived." ...

... Frank Rich: "... the more important question is why the Clintons, who more than anyone in American politics understand the high risks of perceived improprieties, have left Hillary's campaign so vulnerable even before it is officially out of the gate.... What is the Democrats' Plan B if their presumed presidential candidate falls by the wayside? Answer: None.... The Democrats ridicule the GOP field at their own peril; they have no field at all." ...

"... She's Going to Die by a 1,000 Cuts." Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "One of Vice President Biden's most prominent supporters said Wednesday that twin controversies swirling around Hillary Rodham Clinton should give Democrats serious pause about anointing her as the party's presidential nominee." ...

... John Cole of Balloon Juice: "Even if she did nothing illegal, the sheer stupidity of this blows my mind. I mean, she just had to know this would be an issue. And if she didn't, is she just that insulated from reality by her shield of aides and see-no-evil supporters?" ...

... Oh, the Irony. Annie Lowrey of New York: "You loathe the idea of your personal correspondence getting out to a press you consider pathological, so you jury-rig a private email account and end up in the midst of a massive media cluster[fuck] anyway."

... Brendan Nyhan in the New York Times: "... the conversation quickly veered from matters of policy into ominous speculation about the political consequences for Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic Party presidential front-runner, including hyperbolic suggestions that the emails could 'shake up the 2016 race,' cause irreparable damage to her, cause her to lose the general election, or even help force her out of the race. The actual public response to the controversy is likely to be a combination of apathy and partisanship. Few Americans are paying attention to any aspect of the campaign at this point." ...

... Andy Borowitz: "A new poll indicates that the American people are deeply disappointed in Hillary Clinton's State Department e-mail flap because it does not live up to the high standards of sordidness set by Clinton scandals of the past." ...

... The E-Mail Daemon. Katie Glueck of Politico: "If it seems like the GOP presidential field has been unusually silent this week as scrutiny mounts over Hillary Clinton's email practices, there's a logical explanation: Many of them are tormented by their own email demons."

Famous Doctor Explains the Gay. David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Possible Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Wednesday asserted that homosexuality was a choice because people who went to prison 'come out gay.'" Includes video. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Gee, aren't you glad we have a presidential candidate with some serious scientific training?" Also, liberal/gay (same thing) Nazis.

... Luke Brinker of Salon: "Neurosurgeon-turned-GOP presidential hopeful offers further evidence that an MD doesn't guard against stupidity." Also, too: "The renowned neurosurgeon's latest remarks are the latest to put him at odds with the scientific consensus. A creationist, Carson suggested on 'Meet the Press' this Sunday that scientific notions like evolution may be 'just propaganda." ...

... The "Choice of Words" Non-Apology Apology. Eric Bradner & Alexandra Jaffe of CNN: "Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson apologized for commenting Wednesday that prisoners' changes after they leave jail proves being gay is a choice, but said that the science is still murky on the issue. In a statement, Carson said he 'realized that my choice of language does not reflect fully my heart on gay issues.'" ...

... Steve M.: "When the story went viral, he did the right thing, as far as the voters he's targeting are concerned: He blamed the media and said he was quoted out of context." ...

... Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: "... during a radio discussion this afternoon with Sean Hannity, Carson blamed the ordeal on CNN. 'It was a 25 minute interview they chopped, and you see what part they emphasized,' he said. 'I did learn something very important: For certain networks, never do a pre-taped interview. Always do it live.' The problem with his attempt to play victim here is that, during that sequence of the CNN interview, there were clearly no jump-cuts and no edits -- just a straight back-and-forth about whether homosexuality is a choice. Playing this off with a 'gotcha media vs. poor ol' Ben Carson' spin isn't exactly going to cut it. Sometimes your words are just your words."

The Image of Corruption in the New Gilded Age. Illustration by Donkey Hotey.Quid Pro Quo. Bradley Camptell in a New York Times op-ed: After Exxon gave the Republican Governors Association, which Chris Christie headed, Christie's personal lawyer 'inserted himself" into New Jersey's decade-old environmental disaster case against Exxon. The lawyer, Christopher Porrino, "elbowed aside the attorney general and career employees who had developed and prosecuted the litigation, and cut the deal" settling the case for pennies on the dollar. CW: Great pro on the quid, Exxon! ...

... Dustin Racioppi of the Bergen County, New Jersey, Record: “State lawmakers are trying to block a reported pennies-on-the-dollar settlement with Exxon Mobil and get answers as to why Governor Christie's administration reached that deal after a decade of litigation. Days after the news of that settlement -- a reported $250 million to end an $8.9 billion claim against the oil company for widespread contamination across Bayonne and Linden -- legislators said they still don't know why the state would strike a deal for a fraction of the estimated cost of damages, especially after the oil giant was found liable."

Senate Race

Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen on Wednesday became the first formal Democratic entrant in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Cardinal Edward M. Egan, a stern defender of Roman Catholic orthodoxy who presided over the Archdiocese of New York for nine years in an era of troubled finances, changing demographics and a priesthood of dwindling, aging ranks shaken by sexual-abuse scandals, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 82."

NBC News: "The Supreme Court has set April 28 as the date for historic arguments on gay marriage."

AP: "On the first day of testimony Wednesday in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, whose lawyer admitted he committed the crime, three women who suffered severe injuries described their memories of the blasts, their wounds and the terror they felt."

NBC News: "'We are very close [to reaching a nuclear agreement] if the political decision can be made to get to yes, as President Obama said,' [Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif] said. The minister spoke a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared before the U.S. Congress, warning against a deal, which he said 'paves Iran's path to the bomb.'"

Wednesday
Mar042015

The Commentariat -- SCOTUS Edition

Illustration by Dana Verkouteren for the AP.

Here's the transcript of oral arguments before the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell (pdf).

The stock market foresees a government win; hospital stocks surge on the strength of Justice Kennedy's questioning of the plaintiffs' attorney.

Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "One of the most important functions of oral argument in the Supreme Court is that it can strongly shape the next round: the private deliberations among the nine Justices as they start work on a decision. The much-awaited hearing Wednesday on the stiff new challenge to the Affordable Care Act strongly suggested that Topic A in private could well be: how bad will we make things if we rule against the government?"

Dahlia Lithwick: "... To the extent that anyone believed that Chief Justice John Roberts was the only one to watch in this appeal, this morning Kennedy gave them someone else to talk about: Kennedy."

Jeff Toobin unpacks the one substantive question Chief Justice Roberts asked & explains why it might bode well for the government. He acknowledges that neither Roberts nor Kennedy really tipped his hand, so the outcome is very much up in the air.

It's No Slam-Dunk, People. David Nather of Politico: "Still, legal experts point out that both sides got tough questions, that Chief Justice John Roberts' views are a big mystery, and that oral arguments aren't always decisive in the Supreme Court, anyway."

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Michael Carvin, the attorney arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs in the King v. Burwell case, said this challenge is different because the argument against the law centers on a statute that was 'written by white women and minorities.' Carvin's comments were published in a Wall Street Journal profile of him on Tuesday, a day before oral arguments began in the King v. Burwell lawsuit." ...

     ... CW: Who could have guessed that opposition to ObamaCare is based, at least in part, on racial & gender animus? Oh, everybody who knows the entire confederate movement is based in large part on racial & gender animus. This case, like so many "controversial" subjects, gets down to a core issue of equal protection. Most of the grand old white boys know enough to use "politically correct" language like "freeeedom" & "limited government" to justify their exclusionary policy positions, but the dirty little not-so-secret is that the party of Lincoln has become a club for angry, deranged bigots. ...

... Dave Weigel: "The irony is that Carvin's joke demonstrates one of the defendants' best arguments: The people who wrote the law are still with us, and can explain what they thought. Whenever they've been asked, the Democrats (and it was all Democrats) who passed the ACA explained that the language in the bill that reserves subsidies for plans purchased 'exchange established by the state' was never meant to deny subsidies. The federal exchange was always intended as a stopgap.... New York Representative Joe Crowley, who attended Wednesday's arguments, said the same thing.... Crowley, while not a woman or minority, was in the room, looking at the justices. Calvin was arguing that the intent expressed by people like him did not matter when one read the law itself."

Dana Milbank got a bad seat at the spectacle. "The conservative majority could still knock down the law, of course, but given the ambiguity exposed Wednesday, it would now be a breathtaking surprise for the justices to cause such massive upheaval -- taking health-care immediately from 8 million and causing a death spiral for the rest of Obamacare -- based on such a slender legal reed."

Amy Howe of ScotusBlog describes the arguments "in plain English."

Jonathan Cohn & Jeffrey Young of the Huffington Post highlight ten key moments in the arguments -- and one that didn't happen.

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed bitterly divided during heated arguments over the fate of President Obama's health care law. As expected, the court's four liberal members voiced strong support for the administration's position. But the administration must almost certainly capture the vote of either Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. or Justice Anthony M. Kennedy to prevail. The chief justice said almost nothing." ...

... Here's the Washington Post report, by Robert Barnes. ...

... CW: Until today, I would have labeled Justice Scalia "mostly corrupt." Unless he decides for the government, I revise my observation to "completely corrupt."

Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed: "When [plaintiffs' attorney Michael] Carvin argued that there was no legislative history to support the 'death spiral' concern regarding the federal subsidy, Sotomayor shot back that it was 'the entire point of the legislation.' Kagan described the 'draconian choice' Carvin's argument would have states make, asking why the court should believe this is the most logical reading of the statute when 'it took a year and a half' for this issue to be raised."

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Obamacare is not out of the woods yet, and neither are the millions of people who will lose coverage or the thousands who will die if this case goes badly for the government. After Wednesday's argument, however, those individuals have good reason to be optimistic. At least one of the Court's Republicans appears to have come to work wearing his judicial robe, and not his partisan hat."

Mark Stern of Slate: "ObamaCare dangles by a single vote, again."

ScotusBlog will not liveblog the King v. Burwell arguments. CW: I couldn't find any other news outlet that will. If you find one, please share. The New York Times says it "will have updated coverage throughout the day," but it has no liveblog. If you want to keep checking back & don't have a Times subscription, open the front page in a private browser window. If you access more than nine stories, you'll have to close the private window & open a new one.

Hey, the NYT is liveblogging the Boston Marathon bombing trial. Weird.

The Washington Post has been deadblogging the hearing. They're posts are now (at 11:55 am ET) an hour-and-a-half behind the action. Update: the Post deadblog has been updated to cover the entire hearing.

But for a Preposition, the Case Was Lost. Post Liveblog: "11:12:Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked [Solicitor General Donald] Verrilli 11:12: Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked Verrilli what seemed to be the toughest question for him to answer: Why does the law use those four words, 'established by the State,' if it meant federal exchanges could substitute? Why not say exchanges established 'in the state?'"

Here's the "first mid-argument update" from ScotusBlog. CW: I assume this means ScotusBlog will post more such updates. Kennedy sounds squishy. Update (2): The original "first mid-argument update" has been updated! Kagan seems to have got the better of the petitioners' lawyer on the "context" point. Update (3): Now the original post has been re-titled "Mid-argument updates," and there's a third update. CW: So I think it's safe to stick with the post linked at the top of this graf. Keep refreshing the page. "Kennedy ... pointed out that, under petitioners' reading, the federal government would be all but forcing states to create their own exchanges.... Justice Scalia attempted to respond on petitioners' behalf.... " Update (4): Roberts "asked no questions to the petitioners and seemed skeptical of Justice Ginsburg's efforts to question standing when the government stood up to give its case. ...

... ** Wait, Wait. There's a new blogger at ScotusBlog: Here's his first update of oral arguments. This is a different link. This post has been updated. And again at 11:33 am. "Scalia seemed to be drawing an even harder line than the petitioners." CW: Shameful asshole. ...

... Here's a new ScotusBlog post on Kennedy's concerns.

** The Wall Street Journal is liveblogging the hearing, and it is not subscriber-firewalled. Thanks to Akhilleus. It's self-refreshing. 11:28 am: Chief Justice Roberts made a little crack that suggested -- ever so obliquely -- that he might side with the plaintiffs.

Arguments are over, but the bloggers are still blogging.

Tea Leaves. Greg Sargent has some suggestions on what to look for in the conservative justices questions & comments in the oral hearing. Not that we'll know what those questions & comments were until later in the day.

Washington Post Editors: "WHEN THE Supreme Court examines the Affordable Care Act again Wednesday, it will have several logical, principled paths to avoid tearing apart a law that has slowly but surely found its footing. It should take at least one of them.... The justices need not rule based on any feared or preferred policy result. They only need to read the law reasonably."

Jeff Shesol in the New Yorker: "The Supreme Court v. Reality."

The Stealth Campaign to Destroy "Liberal" Jurisprudence. Nina Martin of ProPublica: "For more than 30 years, the Federalist Society has worked behind the scenes to shape Supreme Court outcomes to a conservative agenda. In King v. Burwell, its influence could eliminate health insurance subsidies for millions of people."

Brian Beutler: "You have to be delusional or dishonest to claim that Congress imposed a huge condition on the subsidies, or that we can't know what Congress was trying to accomplish. Yet a swing justice could decide that 'by the State' does not equate to 'by the federal government on behalf of the State' -- to ignore the fuller context.... That would be a huge coup for diction scolds and people who get angry at the thought of poor people going to the doctor. It would also reflect a conscious decision to ignore the clarity of the law's purpose. If that's the thin reed on which the Supreme Court interprets Obamacare, in defiance of the democratic process that brought it into existence, something will have gone very, very wrong."

Jonathan Bernstein: "Just how stupid does Paul Ryan think we are? The Wisconsin Republican and two other House committee chairmen claim in an op-ed [Tuesday] that they are just about ready to propose an Obamacare 'off-ramp' if the Supreme Court decides in King v. Burwell to destroy the federal health-insurance markets in more than half the states.... [They give us] a 'working group' and another promise that their plan is in the mail. C'mon."

... CW: Yo, Bernstein. The Ryan, et al., op-ed is about giving the Supremes cover to gut the ACA; it's not even about fooling a gullible public.

Mitch McConnell Is Not Cooperating with the Plan. Sahil Kapur of TPM: "Senate Republican leaders wouldn't commit Tuesday to having health care legislation ready by June to avert a potential crisis if the Supreme Court wipes out Obamacare subsidies for millions of Americans.... TPM asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at his weekly Capitol press conference if the GOP would have bill ready to mitigate the potential health care crisis. The short answer: We're working on it, but won't commit to anything."

Robert Schlesinger of US News looks at all the horrible consequences of a ruling in favor of King in a column titled, "Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid."

Pancakes! Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post explains King v. Burwell to homemakers: "... you shouldn't read one part of a law in isolation any more than you should read one part of a recipe -- because, just like the Joy of Cooking, the Affordable Care Act allows for substitutions." CW: Thanks, Jonathan! And thanks, Irma Rombauer!

Tuesday
Mar032015

The Commentariat -- March 4, 2015

CW: See also yesterday's Commentariat. I posted quite a few links (labelled "NEW") after noon.

Boehner Ends Another Crisis of His Own Making. Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security for the rest of the fiscal year, averting a partial shutdown of the agency after weeks of uncertainty, but inflaming conservative lawmakers. The legislation passed, 257 to 167, with only 75 Republican votes, and it now heads to President Obama's desk, where he is expected to sign it." ...

... Steve Benen: "Since the Republican victories in the 2010 midterms, Congress has become dysfunctional on a historic scale. Lawmakers have no meaningful legislative accomplishments since the Democratic majorities of 2010, and tasks that were once simple are now nearly impossible. But since January 2011, Congress has excelled in one area: manufacturing avoidable crises. If there's one thing a GOP majority has guaranteed, it's that the nation's legislative branch will careen, over and over again, from one self-imposed crisis to the next." Benen has the list. Very impressive. ...

... Scott Wong of the Hill: "The opening weeks of the 114th Congress have been nothing short of a disaster for Republicans, who declared upon taking control of both chambers last fall that the era of governing by crisis and fiscal cliffs was over.... Counting an emergency measure to keep the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) running through Friday, Congress has sent President Obama a total of only four bills, even as Republicans promised to get off to a fast start this session." CW: Mind you, this is a straight report, not an opinion piece. ...

... BUT "disaster"? Maybe not. ...

... Digby: "Who know what any of this really adds up to for the GOP but in their view it's been worth a lot. Over the course of these last few years of rolling from one crisis to another they have increased their margin in the House dramatically and they won a majority in the Senate. So I wouldn't expect these games of chicken to stop any time soon." ...

... Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg View: "Pundits and reporters have portrayed the chain of events as a disaster for the speaker, and are in jeopardy. So why do I think Boehner's 'defeat' was actually a brilliant maneuver? ... On one hand, the speaker gave the radicals and those who voted with them a moment of triumph when they spiked the bill. On the other, it was a good reminder for most mainstream House conservatives, who oppose Obama's immigration actions but don't want a shutdown, that the alternative to Boehner is chaos.... Boehner is wise to accept these 24-hour fiascos, even if they spread reports of coups against him. The griping is just for show."

Arhsad Mohammed of Reuters: "Iran rejected on Tuesday as 'unacceptable' U.S. President Barack Obama's demand that it freeze sensitive nuclear activities for at least 10 years but said it would continue talks on a deal, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported. Iran laid out the position as the U.S. and Iranian foreign ministers met for a second day of negotiations and as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a stinging critique of the agreement they are trying to hammer out." CW: Yeah, thanks for your help, Bibi. ...

... Here's the transcript of Benjamin Netanhayu's speech before a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Video of the speech is here. ...

... William Booth & Ruth Eglash of the Washington Post: "Israeli commentators generally gave the Netanyahu speech high marks, with supporters calling it one of the best of the prime minister's political career. Others said that the speech was rousing and demonstrated the support that Israel and Netanyahu enjoy in Congress, but that Netanyahu did not break new ground or offer a new way of dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions." ...

... Thomas Erdbrink of the New York Times: "The tensions between the United States and Israel over how to address Iran's nuclear program and a politically divisive speech Tuesday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to the United States Congress are playing to an eager audience in Tehran. The news media [in Tehran] has [sic.] highlighted the division as evidence that Israel is being isolated by its otherwise steadfast ally and analysts are examining how the rift might affect the outcome of the nuclear negotiations." ...

... Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, an Israel hawk, reflects on the possible impacts of Netanyahu's speech. ...

... Matthew Duss of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, in Slate: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did President Obama an enormous favor Tuesday. Given the opportunity, on perhaps the world's biggest political stage, to articulate the best possible case against the nuclear deal currently being negotiated with Iran, Netanyahu came up empty. He whiffed.... Netanyahu had the chance Tuesday to offer a better plan, with the whole world watching. He failed miserably, and in so doing demonstrated conclusively that there isn't one." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "It's pretty shocking that Netanyahu was able not only to dictate a speech to Congress and its timing, but the scope of issues he'd need to address. It's less a reflection of his cleverness and audacity than of the peculiar needs of our country's Republican Party." ...

... Jim Fallows of the Atlantic: To Bibi, it's 1938 all over again. To others, not so much. Fallows runs down some of the ways in which Iran is not like Nazi Germany. ...

... Here's another excellent post by Fallows on how Netanyahu's objectives are at odds with the interests of the United States. CW: It would be nice if Republicans had the brainpower to see that they are undermining their own country's -- as well as the world's -- security interests by promoting Bibi's narrow worldview. Instead, Republicans still hold to a policy of Bomb-Bomb-Bomb Iran All of the Middle East Except Israel. That's worked out brilliantly so far (See Iraq, Libya). And it's so humanitarian. ...

... AND, to make Fallows' point, here's Ted Cruz. Betsy Woodruff of Slate: "Ted Cruz Compares Obama to Neville Chamberlain and Iran to Nazi Germany." ...

... Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "There's really no Plan B here, and even the hawks are mostly reluctant to explicitly say that we should just up and launch a massive air assault on Iran." ...

... CW: Hey, let's check in to see how international policy expert & all-around fine human being Rush Limbaugh assesses the situation:

You look at how Obama has treated and does treat Netanyahu, you would think that Netanyahu was a white policeman from Ferguson, Missouri. I mean, that's the conclusion that you would come to. Or that he was one of the cops that choked Eric Garner, or he was one of the jurors in the Trayvon Martin case.

... ALSO, Sen. Lindsey Graham says he's sorry about making a crack about Nancy Pelosi's facial "surgeries." CW: Apparently Graham was unaware that when you say stupid stuff at a "private fund-raiser," some person in the room is likely to share it with the press. Someone might point him to Not-President Forty-seven Percent and, way two weeks back, to Rudy Obama-Doesn't-Love-Me.

Republicans Show Their Concern for Income Inequality. Jordan Carney of the Hill: "The Senate will vote Wednesday on a GOP-backed motion that would undo a controversial National Labor Relations Board rule that makes it easier for workers to hold union elections. Republicans are using the Congressional Review Act that allows lawmakers to undo regulation through a motion of disapproval, which needs a majority vote in both chambers. The motion can't be filibustered or amended, which will help it bypass Democratic opposition. If the bill gets to his desk, however, the White House says President Obama will veto it. Republicans say the rule is unfair to businesses."

... we expect the firms we oversee to follow the law and to operate in an ethical manner. Too often in recent years, bankers at large institutions have not done so, sometimes brazenly. These incidents, both individually and in their totality, raise legitimate questions of whether there may be pervasive shortcomings in the values of large financial firms that might undermine their safety and soundness. -- Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "As this recovery gains momentum, and the labor market starts to look more normal, a new report offers a reminder that black workers once again are lagging behind.... Tthe problem is a good illustration of the limits of monetary policy."

Carrie Johnson of NPR: "A federal civil rights investigation of the Ferguson, Mo., police force has concluded that the department violated the Constitution with discriminatory policing practices against African Americans, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the report.... The full report will be released on Wednesday, but the source described two emails included in the report that were exchanged between police and local court employees. One says Obama will not be president for long because 'what black man holds a steady job for four years.' Another says a black woman in New Orleans was admitted to a hospital to end her pregnancy and then got a check two weeks later from 'Crime Stoppers.'"

Jon Swaine & Oliver Laughland of the Guardian: "The Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that after a six-month inquiry it has concluded no civil rights charges should be brought against [Darren] Wilson for killing Michael Brown. A grand jury in St Louis decided last November not to indict Wilson on state charges." Read on: this didn't satisfy Wilson's supporters.

Annals of "Justice," "General Amnesty" Edition. David Graham of the Atlantic: "The Obama administration is against intelligence officials leaking classified information -- but some conditions may apply. If you're a CIA analyst who talks to reporters, you might end up serving 30 months in federal prison or facing more. Even a reporter could end up being named a co-conspirator by prosecutors. But if you're a decorated general, a former CIA director, and a former member of the Cabinet, you might get off with a $40,000 fine and two years of probation. Just ask David Petraeus...." ...

... ** Marcy Wheeler provides some details of Petraeus's "indiscretions" that show the affair itself was a trivial sideshow: "For mishandling some of the most important secrets the nation has, Petraeus will plead guilty to a misdemeanor. Petraeus, now an employee of a top private equity firm, will be fined $40,000 and serve two years of probation. He will not, however, be asked to plead guilty at all for lying to FBI investigators[, which he did]. CW: Read the whole post. Let's hope the judge rejects the plea deal. It is as corrupt as is Petraeus himself. Several journalists have noted that pleading guilty to only a misdemeanor would allow General Betrayus to return to "public service." ...

... CW: Will the Senate now pass a resolution apologizing to MoveOn.org? Don't hold your breath. ...

I'm proud of the fact that basically you've had an administration that's been in place for six years in which there hasn't been a major scandal. -- David Axelrod, former Obama advisor, last month ...

... CW: Sorry, Axelrod, this is a scandal, a scandalous misuse of "prosecutorial discretion." I don't doubt that in view of Petraeus's prominence, Eric Holder signed off on this deal. This is classic Holder; he was a tool of the "connected" people going in, and he's a tool going out.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Michael Tomasky rips the New York Times' reporting on the Hillary e-mail story. Tomasky asserts that Michael Schmidt's Times report was purposely misleading.

CW: We learned last week that Bill O'Reilly lied to his mother. (Of course we learned that from Bill O'Reilly, so that could be a lie, too.) Now we learn that Bill'O also lied to children & teens for fun & profit.

Presidential Race

Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin "Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday embraced a move to ban abortion after 20 weeks after repeatedly declining to spell out where he stood on the issue in last year's re-election campaign. It is the latest example of Walker downplaying a major issue until after being re-elected and climbing to the top tier of likely 2016 presidential candidates. Walker did not campaign on plans to spin off the University of Wisconsin System as a public authority and now says he will sign so-called right-to-work legislation even though he insisted for years he would keep the measure from reaching his desk." ...

... See also Nadd2's commentary in today's thread. Also, as Nadd2 suggested in yesterday's thread, now that Hillary Clinton is in deserved hot water for her peculiar/stupid/careless decision to use her personal e-mail account for all her State Department correspondence, she can expect a pass from Scott Walker. ...

... Michael Schmidt & Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "Federal regulations, since 2009, have required that all emails be preserved as part of an agency's record-keeping system. In Mrs. Clinton's case, her emails were kept on her personal account and her staff took no steps to have them preserved as part of State Department record. An examination of records requests sent to the department reveals how the practice protected a significant amount of her correspondence from the eyes of investigators and the public.... The White House, in its first response to the news, said it frowned on the practice of officials using their personal email accounts.... But political groups and news organizations said requests for records related to Mrs. Clinton had repeatedly gone unanswered." ...

... CW: Schmidt & Chozick directly contradict Michael Tomasky's assertion, in the post linked above, that "The new regs apparently weren’t fully implemented by State until a year and half after Clinton left State.... Clinton left the State Department on February 1, 2013.... The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) didn't issue the relevant guidance, declaring that email records of senior government officials are permanent federal records, until August 2013. Then, in September 2013, NARA issued guidance on personal email use." Take your pick. ...

The Washington Post story, by Karen Tumulty & Anne Gearan is here. Clinton reportedly used multiple personal e-mail accounts. ...

... Ron Fournier, the sanctimonious dope at the National Journal, equates Hillary Clinton's private e-mail stupidity with her husband's lies about Monica Lewinsky: "... here again is a reminder of the 1990s: When cornered, the Clintons denied facts and demonized detractors. The most obvious example is Bill Clinton's lying about his affair with a White House intern.... Less remembered is an independent counsel's finding of 'substantial evidence' that then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton lied under oath about her role in the 1993 White House travel office firings." But Fournier, if he could get over his hyperbole, does have a point: "[Hillary] Clinton's problem is ... a lack of shame about money, personal accountability, and transparency." ...

... Julian Hattem of the Hill: "Hillary Clinton's exclusive use of a personal email account to conduct official business as secretary of State ... seems to have stayed within the law, experts say. 'What she did was not technically illegal,' said Patrice McDermott, a former National Archives staffer and the head of the Open The Government coalition, a transparency group. However, 'it was highly inappropriate and it was inappropriate for the State Department to let this happen,' she said." ...

... Andrew Prokop of Vox: "The specific legal issue at play here, however, doesn't appear to be Clinton's use of her personal email -- but instead, the failure of Clinton and her aides to properly keep records of her work-related communications from that email account on State Department servers." ...

... Shane Harris of the Daily Beast: "A Clinton aide, who asked not to be named, flatly denied that Clinton let slip any secrets through her personal email. 'Using her own email account broke no laws, and ... was used for communicating non-classified information only,' the aide told The Daily Beast." CW: Why the anonymity? Probably so Trey Gowdy won't subpoena her/him. ...

... ** Digby: "Maybe there's something truly nefarious going on. I'm open to believing it. But at this point what I see is that Villager hysterical impulse asserting itself once again.... Villager handwringing over how it doesn't really matter if it's true or not because 'it's out there' and it 'exposes her character', is cheap and shallow journalistic masturbation." ...

... Steve Benen: "Politically..., Republicans find themselves in an awkward position. The RNC issued a statement asking, '[I]t all begs the question: what was Hillary Clinton trying to hide?' Putting aside the misuse of 'begs the question,' the Republican track record makes this a difficult question to ask." Benen cites both Karl Rove, who got caught flouting the Official Records Act & Mitt Romney, who destroyed e-mails for the admitted purpose of hiding official correspondence. "... Republicans will have to somehow come up with an explanation for why Clinton's misstep is scandalous, while GOP officials and candidates who did the exact same thing are beyond reproach." ...

... Steve M.: "Remember the huge Mitt Romney email scandal of 2012? No?... Which is not to say that what Hillary did was justified -- it put her above the law and it suggests that she's hiding something, or at least that she has a neurotic tendency toward concealment even when there's nothing to conceal.... This reveals bad judgment, but it's not going to be an enduring scandal unless there's much more to it." ...

** Jaime Fuller of New York has an excellent rundown of what reporters have learned about Hillary Clinton's e-mail account scandalette. Here's one factoid: "John Kerry is the first Secretary of State to rely on government email." And another: "The regulations requiring Clinton to save emails weren't in place until after she left the State Department."

Beyond the Beltway

Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "Sharply criticizing the Supreme Court for its recent actions on same-sex marriage, the Alabama Supreme Court on Tuesday evening ordered all state judges who have the duty to issue licenses to wed to stop doing so immediately for same-sex couples.... The seven-to-one decision, made in three opinions running to a total of 148 pages, put at least some of the sixty-eight probate judges in the state in the position of having to obey directly contradictory court orders.... Chief Justice Roy S. Moore, who had undertaken on his own to try to stop the state probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples..., did not take part in Tuesday's ruling. His absence from it was not explained." CW: Up next: secession. Really, this is extraordinary. ...

... The New York Times story, by Campbell Robertson, is here.

John Danforth, the former Republican Senator from Missouri & an Episcopalian priest, whose claim to fame is bringing us Clarence Thomas, delivered the eulogy for Missouri state auditor Thomas Schweich, who committed suicide last week. CW: Here's the part I find curious. Danforth blames dirty politics for Schweich's suicide, then launches into a related graf that begins, "Words do hurt. Words can kill." But Danforth says in the eulogy that he advised Schweich to be politically expedient & pursue any complaints about antisemitism sub rosa. Danforth admits he may have let down Schweich. Nonetheless, Danforth seems to absolve himself while blaming others. ...

... CW: I may be reflecting my own limitations here, but I feel certain an antisemitic whispering campaign was not the cause of Schweich's suicide. And neither was Danforth's failure to see it Schweich's way. Dirty politics is as old as the nation, & being "accused" of being Jewish is not normally life-shattering in a country where even the usual bigots strongly oppose antisemitism.

Not Photoshopped. Really.

Akhilleus asked in yesterday's thread, "Just wondering if Nelson (Mr. Morals) Shanks included the shadow of a TOW missile in his portrait of Ronald Reagan."

CW: Ha ha, very funny. If you were more into art appreciation, Akhilleus, you would know that the shadow behind Reagan in the Shanks portrait at left is of a Contra in camo. You can see where the Contra is wearing a bandana to hide his identity. Or else it's Davy Crockett.

See also yesterday's Commentariat for context.

 

News Ledes

AP: "Mark Lippert, the US ambassador to South Korea, has been slashed on the face and wrist by a man armed with a razor and screaming that the two Koreas should be unified. Pictures showed a stunned-looking Lippert staring at his blood-covered left hand and holding his right hand over a cut on the right side of his face, his pink tie splattered with blood."

Boston Globe: "The trial of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev" begins today.