The Ledes

Thursday, January 29, 2015.

Washington Post: Three American contractors and an Afghan national were killed in a shooting at a military base at Kabul’s airport Thursday, said a U.S. defense official."

New York Times: "Colleen McCullough, a former neurophysiological researcher at Yale who, deciding to write novels in her spare time, produced 'The Thorn Birds,' a multigenerational Australian romance that became an international best seller and inspired a hugely popular television mini-series, died on Thursday on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, where she had made her home for more than 30 years. She was 77."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, January 28, 2015.

U.S. Air Force: "Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, in coordination with the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, has determined the Boeing 747-8 will serve as the next presidential aircraft, commonly known as Air Force One."

AP: "A disgruntled, former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist promised to build 40 nuclear weapons for Venezuela and design a bomb targeted for New York City in exchange for 'money and power,' according to secret FBI recordings released Wednesday.... The recordings were played Wednesday in US District Court in Albuquerque before a federal judge sentenced [Pedro Leonardo] Mascheroni, 79, to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release as part of a plea agreement." CW: Um, isn't this guy just a crazy old coot? He hasn't worked at Los Alamos since 1988.

Jacksonville, Florida, Channel 4: "Marissa Alexander, a woman whose case helped bring national attention to Florida's stand your ground and minimum sentencing laws, was allowed to leave jail late Tuesday afternoon to spend the rest of her sentence on house arrest." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the lead.

Washington Post: "On Tuesday, two years after the attack, a jury in Nashville convicted two former Vanderbilt University football players of aggravated rape and related charges. They were among four players who allegedly participated in the assault. Two others, who have pleaded not guilty, will be tried later. Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, both 21, now face 15 to 80 years in prison. They were convicted after a 12-day trial and about three hours of jury deliberation." The Tennessean story is here.

Weather Channel: "Winter Storm Juno pounded locations from Long Island to New England with heavy snow, high winds and coastal flooding late Monday into Tuesday. The storm is now winding down. The National Weather Service has dropped all winter storm and blizzard warnings for Juno.... In Massachusetts, up to 36 inches of snow has been measured in Lunenburg, while Boston has seen 24.4 inches. Juno was a record snowstorm for Worcester, Massachusetts (34.5 inches). Incredibly, 31.9 inches fell in Worcester on Jan. 27, alone!... uno's most severe coastal flooding occurred in eastern Massachusetts, in areas most exposed to north to northeast winds gusting from 50-80 mph, at times."

White House Live Video
January 29

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to


Public Service Announcement

Get Off Your Ass! Los Angeles Times (Jan. 19): "New research that distills the findings of 47 studies concludes that those of us who sit for long hours raise our average risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and early death."

Surprise! December 19: Dr. Oz is a quack.

This is a real bill. Consumer advocate Christopher Elliott verified it. Check out the customer name on the account:

Is "Asshole" the customer's real given name? Well, no. Comcast got mad at the family for wishing to cancel the cable part of their Comcast service. Comcast not only refused to cut the cable, as it were, they changed the primary customer's name from "Ricardo" (his parents' idea) to "Asshole." When Ricardo's wife tried to get Comcast to change the account back to her husband's real name, both Comcast's local & regional "customer service" (Comcast's idea) offices refused. After Elliott took up the Browns' case, Comcast relented on both.   

Oh, lawdy, what will they think up next?


In the New York Times, Barry Bearak remembers Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks.

Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, New Hampshire): "After going through the drive-through at Burger King [in Rochester, N.H.] Friday, a local woman discovered that instead of the sweet tea and junior spicy chicken sandwich that she ordered, she got a bag full of money. Rather than keeping the cash — totaling $2,631 — she came back to the restaurant with her husband and returned it."

Gawker: "Bill Clinton took repeated trips on the 'Lolita Express'—the private passenger jet owned by billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein — with an actress in softcore porn movies whose name appears in Epstein's address book under an entry for 'massages,' according to flight logbooks obtained by Gawker and published today for the first time. The logs also show that Clinton shared more than a dozen flights with a woman who federal prosecutors believe procured underage girls to sexually service Epstein and his friends and acted as a 'potential co-conspirator' in his crimes."

New York Times: Director Martin "Scorsese’s partly finished documentary about [former president Bill] Clinton — which once seemed likely to be released as Hillary Rodham Clinton was navigating a presidential run — has stalled over disagreements about control, people briefed on the project said. Though parts of the film were shot over the last two years as Mr. Clinton made a philanthropic visit to Africa and elsewhere, the project is now indefinitely shelved, partly because Mr. Clinton insisted on more control over the interview questions and final version than Mr. Scorsese was willing to give, those people said."

Jessica Roy of New York: "Now that he's been released from jail after his kidnapping-conspiracy conviction was overturned, Gilberto Valle — the former NYPD officer dubbed 'Cannibal Cop' for allegedly planning to kidnap, kill, and eat women — is hungry for love on Unfortunately for him, the online dating service told us that they've deleted Valle's alleged profile, even though frankly he can't be any worse than the other dudes you might find on there.... Also, he listed cooking as a favorite hobby!"

CW: Not sure why this is news. As a disconsolate Windows 8 user, I heard this -- in re: Windows 8 -- two months ago. New York Times: "Microsoft said people using the two earlier versions of its operating system, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, would be able to update their computers to Windows 10 free for the first year after the new software is introduced."

Ellen's Gay Agenda. Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link:

The French discover Ken & Barbie News Fox "News." For some reason the journalistes at "Le Petit Journal" don't find it credible. With English subtitles. Thanks to Creegr for the link:

New York Times: "A person close to the Barack Obama Foundation, which is overseeing plans for the [presidential] library, anonymously told local reporters last month that foundation officials had 'major concerns' with proposals from the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Foundation officials were said to be alarmed that the University of Chicago does not yet control the land where the university wants to build the library. To the shock and horror of residents here, that left Columbia University in New York, where Mr. Obama received his undergraduate degree, as the apparent front-runner. And suddenly a fait accompli has become an open question."

Washington Post: Two treasure hunters may have found the Griffin, a ship that disappeared in the Great Lakes in mid-1679.

And the Winner Is ... A White Person! Tatiana Siegel of the Hollywood Reporter: "For only the second time in nearly two decades, the 20 Academy Awards acting nominations went to a group made up entirely of white actors and actresses. Among the notable snubs was David Oyelowo, who received praise for his turn as the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma." ...

... Scott Mendelson of Forbes: "... the most egregious omission is the sadly not-entirely-surprising absence of Selma’s Ava DuVernay from the five contenders nominated for Best Director.... She deserved a nomination." ...

... Steve M.: Given the sorry state of most of Hollywood's output -- the CGI roman-numeral blockbusters and comedies about farting boy-men, greenlighted mostly by white males -- and given the near-total freeze-out of women in directorial roles (or in most acting roles beyond male stars' arm candy), I guess I know the answer. And it's pathetic."

... Todd VanDerWerff of Vox: "Selma was snubbed because the average Oscar voter is a 63-year-old white man. VanDerWerff also lists other factors he thinks worked against Selma.

... CW: I don't think I linked to this essay by Chris Rock, published in the Hollywood Reporter last month. Subject: The movie biz is "a white industry." I guess so.

Dick Poop. USA Today: "Dick Pope..., the cinematographer for Mr. Turner, made international news after Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science President Cheryl Boone Isaacs mispronounced his name during the nominations, calling him 'Dick Poop.'"

Here's the L.A. Times story covering the Oscar nominations.

New York Times: "Amazon announced on Tuesday that it had signed [Woody] Allen to write and direct his first television series. The company said it had ordered a full season of half-hour shows, as yet untitled, which will make their debut on the service next year. It provided few other details."

Jareen Imam of CNN: "Jeweler Tiffany & Co., for the first time, is featuring a gay couple in an ad campaign. The new 'Will You?' campaign, shot by fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh, features seven scenes of couples. One in particular is drawing widespread praise for showing a same-sex couple. The pair, shown sitting on a stoop in New York City, are a couple in real life, Tiffany spokeswoman Linda Buckley said."

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The Commentariat -- Nov. 11, 2014

There's an easy-to-navigate virtual wall here.

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "The Obama administration said Tuesday that it had achieved a breakthrough in negotiations with China to eliminate tariffs on an array of information technology products, from video-game consoles and computer software to medical equipment and semiconductors. The understanding, reached during a visit to China by President Obama, opens the door to expanding a World Trade Organization treaty on these products, assuming other countries can be persuaded to accept the same terms. American officials predicted a broader deal would be reached swiftly now that it had resolved longstanding hurdles with China." ...

     ... Update. New Lede: "China and the United States vividly displayed on Tuesday why they are both rivals and partners atop the global economy, announcing an agreement to reduce tariffs for technology products even as they promoted competing free-trade blocs for the Asian region."

<>Michael Shear & Edward Wyatt of the New York Times: "President Obama on Monday put the full weight of his administration behind an open and free Internet, calling for a strict policy of so-called net neutrality and formally opposing deals in which content providers like Netflix would pay huge sums to broadband companies for faster access to their customers. The president's proposal is consistent with his longstanding support for rules that seek to prevent cable and telephone companies from providing special access to some content providers. But the statement posted online Monday, as Mr. Obama traveled to Asia, is the most direct effort by the president to influence the debate about the Internet's future."

Net Neutrality' is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government. -- Sen. Ted Cruz, on Twitter

... Eric Dolan of Raw Story: "Cruz has previously said the FCC should be completely stripped of its authority to enforce net neutrality regulations. The power to regulate the Internet should be in the hands of Congress, he claimed." CW: Because Ted Cruz should be in charge of everything. ...

... Steve M.: "Average citizens who get it will cheer the president; those who have a monetary interest in unleveling the playing field will be upset, and will push back hard against what Obama's trying to do. The GOP is on the side of the latter group, obviously, because Capitalists Can Do No Wrong. Beyond that, however, the GOP is working hard to make its millions of uncritical, unthinking followers into haters of net neutrality. If Obama's for it, they should be against it. If Obama's for it, it must be evil." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "The more Republicans extend their philosophy of absolute private property and unregulated markets into areas that affect aspects of daily life, the more they may ultimately undermine their own message that government is always the problem and big avaricious companies can do no wrong. This was a good move for Obama." ...

... See also safari's question in today's Comments. If only we had a better press, some of them would ask Cruz exactly how his Net Big Business policy helps all the mom & pops who "built this."&

GOP Vows to Destroy Environment. Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The new Republican Congress is headed for a clash with the White House over two ambitious Environmental Protection Agency regulations that are the heart of President Obama's climate change agenda. Senator Mitch McConnell, the next majority leader, has already vowed to fight the rules, which could curb planet-warming carbon pollution but ultimately shut down coal-fired power plants in his native Kentucky. Mr. McConnell and other Republicans are, in the meantime, stepping up their demands that the president approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry petroleum from Canadian oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast."

Newsflash: The number of Ebola patients in the U.S. is now officially zero. I'm sure the Republicans are all over it. Thanks, Obama! (And all the best to the brave and altruistic N.Y. doctor. May he bowl 300. ) -- Victoria D., in yesterday's Comments

David Tedrow, in a Washington Post op-ed: "The Obamacare subsidies saved my life. Now, I'm scared the Supreme Court is going to gut them." CW: Good for the Post for publishing Tedrow's story. Now let's see if the Washington Examiner will publish similar accounts. Justice Scalia has said he only reads the Right Wing News; he's probably not the only Supreme who can't handle the real news. ...

... DeNial is a River that Runs through Right Wing World. Jonathan Chait: "Last night I linked to [Tedrow's] story on Twitter, writing, 'The Republican Party is trying to kill this man.'... My tweet set off a backlash.... The fascinating thing about the response was its uniform, fervent denial of the possibility that crippling or repealing Obamacare would have the effect Tedrow describes.... The Republican health-care strategy is to flip a switch whose immediate effect will be to impoverish and kill a lot of people. Is there a single conservative who will admit this?" ...

(... If you're knocking about looking for something to read on a day off, this piece on denialism, and what to do about it, by Massimo Pigliucci, is a nice read. Via Driftglass.) ...

... Paul Waldman is a teensy bit pessimistic about the outcome of the case. And he thinks Republican governors will let ObamaCare (and people!) die if the Court rules for the plaintiffs: "... will they be punished? Don't bet on it.This is a country where people shake their fists at their members of Congress and say, 'Tell the government to keep its hands off my Medicare!', where people like their state Obamacare exchange but hate Obamacare, where people approve of almost everything this law does but disapprove of the law itself. You think the public as a whole is going to understand this lawsuit and know who to blame? Don't bet on it. They'll only know that now they can't get insurance anymore. 'Obamacare took away my subsidy!' they'll cry. And Republicans will laugh and laugh." ...

... CW: Yo, Mitch. Let's see some of that bipartisan-y thing you've been talking about since the election. Tell us you & Boehner are going to introduce a bill removing those four little words "established by the state" from the clause in question, thus averting the need for your Supreme friends to sully themselves & saving your Kynect constituents from losing their "Website." And, yes, I do believe pigs fly. ...

... Dana Milbank: "So it turns out there is an Obamacare death panel after all. It has nine members and it operates out of a marble building directly across the street from the Capitol.... The very act of taking up the challenge to the law will itself undermine the law. The justices announced their decision just a week before the open-enrollment period for 2015 begins -- and the looming possibility that the high court will strike down the law will probably deter those who are considering signing up for its coverage." ...

... Elise Viebeck of the Hill: "Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Monday projected that up to 9.9 million people would be enrolled in ObamaCare in 2015, millions fewer than Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates." ...

... AND ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber's foot-in-mouth disease flared up again.

King Barack. Rand Paul, in the Daily Beast: The "war" against ISIS "is now illegal. It must be declared and made valid, or it must be ended.... This is, of course, not the only way in which this president is acting like a king. Conservatives have rightly decried President Obama's unconstitutional executive action on Obamacare -- and his promises to do the same with immigration. With both branches of Congress now under Republican control, we should act to halt those power grabs, too.... Conservatives who blast the president for ignoring the separation of powers on immigration display a fatal inconsistency by embracing unlimited war-making powers.... If ever there was too much bipartisanship, it would be the bipartisan acceptance of unlimited presidential war-making power." ...

... Ahiza Garcia of TPM: "Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said on Monday that impeaching President Obama 'would be a consideration' if he moves forward unilaterally on immigration." ...

... Peter Beinart of the Atlantic: "Waiting for Republicans to Act on Immigration Is Pointless.... Ever since Obama became president, Republicans have been opposing his agenda militantly while periodically warning that if he pushes forward with it they'll stop being so cooperative.... Boehner's claim that Republicans are just dying to pass immigration reform, if only Obama abstains from executive action, not only contradicts his past behavior. It contradicts his past statements."

Lee Fang of the Nation: "President Barack Obama can issue an executive order today that requires government contractors to disclose their dark-money campaign contributions. Why doesn't he? And why don't campaign-finance-reform organizations push for such a fix?... After initially floating the possibility of issuing the executive order, the administration backed down."

Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post on the spate of Valerie Jarrett-bashing.

Annals of "Justice," Ctd.

What a Police State Looks Like. Shaila Dewan of the New York Times: "The practice of civil forfeiture has come under fire in recent months, amid a spate of negative press reports and growing outrage among civil rights advocates, libertarians and members of Congress who have raised serious questions about the fairness of the practice, which critics say runs roughshod over due process rights.... Despite that opposition, many cities and states are moving to expand civil seizures of cars and other assets.... Much of the nuts-and-bolts how-to of civil forfeiture is passed on in continuing education seminars for local prosecutors and law enforcement officials.... The Institute for Justice, which brought the videos [of some seminars] to the attention of The Times, says they show how cynical the practice has become and how profit motives can outweigh public safety." Read the whole report. This could happen to you. ...

... Robert O'Harrow of the Washington Post: After their lawyer obtained a video of a search-&-seizure stop in Iowa that showed the driver did not commit the violation for which they were stopped, "William Barton Davis, 51, and John Newmerzhycky, 43, both from Humboldt County, Calif., claim their constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures were violated. They also contend the stop was part of a pattern connected to the teachings of a private police-training firm that promotes aggressive tactics." They have filed "an unusual federal civil rights lawsuit.... An earlier [Des Moines] Register analysis last year found that 86 percent of warnings and citations issued by Iowa's aggressive interdiction units between 2008 to 2012 were given to out-of-state drivers."

Via Addicting Information.The USA, Where Voting Is a Luxury. Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "Voter suppression efforts may have changed the outcomes of some of the closest races last week. And if the Supreme Court lets these laws stand, they will continue to distort election results going forward.... Poll-tax equivalents are newly thriving, through restrictive voter registration and ID requirements, shorter poll hours and various other restrictions and red tape that cost Americans time and money if they wish to cast a ballot." ...

... CW BTW: some of the veterans we're "honoring" today for "preserving our freedoms" are certainly among the disenfranchised. Get the hell out of this polling place & thank you for your service.

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Rush Limbaugh ... is threatening to sue the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for a series of fundraising e-mails that suggested Limbaugh was condoning campus rape in comments he made on his widely syndicated program on Sept. 15."

Caroline Bankoff of New York: "The Associated Press remains (rightfully) pissed over last week's disclosure that, in 2007, an FBI agent pretended to be an AP reporter in order to catch a 15-year-old who had threatened to bomb his high school.... FBI director James Comey brushed off complaints about the incident..., but the AP wants a promise that this kind of thing will never happen again. In a letter addressed to Comey and Attorney General Eric Holder, AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt demanded to know who signed off on the impersonation, as well as whether the FBI has carried out similar operations since."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Josh Marshall of TPM: "... on Saturday Breitbart published an exclusive pointing out that President Obama's Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch was part of the team that defended President Clinton during the Whitewater investigation - not a bad little scooplet. Only it wasn't the same Loretta Lynch, which kind of takes the punch out of the story." Marshall calls their "correction" one for the ages. CW: Better correction:

... Timothy Johnson of Media Matters: "Later on November 9, removed the article...." ...

... CW: Breitbart's two Greatest Hits were against Shirley Sherrod & Loretta Lynch. What does that tell you?

Charles Pierce runs down the Sunday shows to spare those of us who can't watch. Here's a teeny excerpt: George W. Bush, in a CBS "News" interview: "And no, no, I think you have to earn your way into politics. I don't think anything is ever given to you.' Pierce: "... it's ... not often that one sees the awesome majesty of a complete lack of self-awareness in a single human being.... Coming from a guy who depended on Daddy's money to bail him out of an incredible string of failed businesses and several messy scrapes with the law, on Daddy's influence to keep him out of both Vietnam and (very likely) Alabama during wartime, and on Daddy's lawyers to hand him the presidency? Jim Baker? Shoot, fellers, never heard of him. My god, he's getting worse."

Our Bad Media: "... this past Friday ... Capital New York reported that Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, had taken disciplinary action against her own journalists for covering our work on Fareed Zakaria's plagiarism. The official reason given ... was that the writer didn't reach out to Zakaria for comment. That's pretty convenient for Zakaria, who has refused to comment on the story to even his own network. Sources within HuffPo itself, however, say that 'punitive actions were only taken after Huffington received complaints from ... Zakaria'..... And so it stands that as of now, the only people to be punished for Fareed Zakaria's plagiarism are journalists who made the mistake of reporting on it...." The writer notes that Huffington frequently appears on Zakaria's CNN show "GPS." ...

... Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "The Washington Post's editorial page has found 'problematic' sourcing in five columns written by Fareed Zakaria and will likely note the lack of attribution in archived editions of the articles, the section's editor said. Fred Hiatt, The Post's editorial page editor, said he would act after the anonymously written blog Our Bad Media on Monday posted, side by side, excerpts from six Zakaria's columns and work published earlier by other writers. Zakaria used language that was identical, or strikingly similar, to what others had written." ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "On Friday Newsweek removed the editor's note from all of Zakaria's work and put specific corrections on seven articles. The magazine also published an interview with the bloggers behind Our Bad Media...."

Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post: Glenn Beck reveals "he's been hiding a mysterious brain illness." No jokes, please. I know they write themselves, but it's possible Beck is actually ill.

God News, Tuesday Edition. Laurie Goodstein
of the New York Times: "Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the first time that the church's founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, portrayed in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse Emma, took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old. The church's disclosures, in a series of essays online, are part of an effort to be transparent about its history at a time when church members are increasingly encountering disturbing claims about the faith on the Internet." ...

... CW: Super-good news for sculptors, who can occupy themselves for decades creating 39 new figures for the Joseph Smith & Wives statues, like the one at left in Salt Lake City.





November Elections

Alex DeMarban of the Alaska Dispatch News: "At least 53,000 ballots remain to be counted that could affect margins and possibly outcomes in two closely watched political races in Alaska. The competition in Alaska for Democratic Sen. Mark Begich's U.S. Senate seat has drawn national attention, with Republican candidate Dan Sullivan holding a 8,149-vote lead over Begich -- a 3.6 percent difference -- after the first round of vote counting immediately following Tuesday's general election. The governor's race is also tight, with independent Bill Walker leading Republican Gov. Sean Parnell by 3,165 votes, or just 1.4 percent."

Presidential Race

Ruby Cramer of BuzzFeed: "Sen. Rand Paul's latest knock on Hillary Clinton -- his potential rival in the next presidential race -- came in a Politico article, published on Monday, in which he appeared to take a shot at her age and health. Clinton just turned 67. In the interview, Paul questioned whether Clinton would be able to physically handle running for president. 'It's a very taxing undertaking to go through,' he said. 'It's a rigorous physical ordeal, I think, to be able to campaign for the presidency.' Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, is 51 years old. If Clinton were elected president in 2016, she would be 69 on inauguration day -- the same age as Ronald Reagan when he took office in 1981. The chair of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, has said he considers Clinton's age and health 'fair game' in a possible presidential race."

Charles Pierce doesn't understand why we don't hear Al "Franken's name bandied more about as a Democratic presidential possibility in 2016." CW: I would vote for Franken in a heartbeat. But to answer Pierce's question, it won't be just "The Daily Show" running pix like this:

Rick Perry Goes to College. Timothy Connor of the Dartmouth: "Arriving to the tune of 'Deep in the Heart of Texas,' Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, spoke under the Texas flag about U.S. border security, energy initiatives and foreign policy to an audience of more than 100 people ... Sunday night. Several students raised explicit questions concerning Perry's stance on homosexuality during the event."

Beyond the Beltway

Jason Kravarik & Sara Sidner of CNN: "Gun sales spike as Ferguson area braces for grand jury decision." With video.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Russia agreed on Tuesday to build two new nuclear power reactors in Iran, with a possibility of six more after that, in a deal that greatly expands nuclear cooperation between the two countries.The agreement shows that Russia is pressing ahead with its own vision for ensuring that Iran does not build nuclear weapons, by supplying civilian power technology that will operate under international monitoring."

** New York Times: "John Doar, who was a leader in the federal government's legal efforts to dismantle segregation in the South during the most volatile period of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and who returned to government service to lead the team that made the constitutional case for the possible impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 92."

Washington Post: "The captain of the doomed South Korean ferry that capsized in April, claiming more than 300 lives, was sentenced Tuesday to 36 years in prison for willful negligence and dereliction of duty."


The Commentariat -- Nov. 10, 2014

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama arrived [in Beijing] on Monday morning for a three-day visit that will capture the complexities of the United States-China relationship: the tensions of a rising power confronting an established one, as well as the promise that the world's two largest economies could find common cause on issues like climate change."

E. J. Dionne: "... don't misread the internal Republican debate. It is not a fight between pristine souls who just want to show they can govern and fierce ideologues who want to keep fighting. Both GOP camps want to strengthen the conservatives' hand for 2016. They differ on how best to accomplish this." As the National Review editors suggested, "in other words, that spending two more years making Obama look bad should remain the GOP's central goal, lest Republicans make the whole country ready for Hillary Clinton. [Dionne's interpretation.] This is the prevailing view among conservatives.... The president and his party -- including Clinton -- must find a way of touting their stewardship while advancing a bold but realistic agenda that meets the demands of Americans who are still hurting."

Lame Ducks Can't Quack -- Ted & Mike's Excellent Theory. Caitlan MacNeal of TPM: "The same day that President Obama nominated Loretta Lynch to be the next attorney general, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) signaled that it won't be an easy process. 'President Obama's Attorney General nominee deserves fair and full consideration of the United States Senate, which is precisely why she should not be confirmed in the lame duck session of Congress by senators who just lost their seats and are no longer accountable to the voters,' the senators said in a Saturday statement." ...

... Steve M.: "... unless Lynch denounces the man who appointed her, they're going to raise holy hell.... They'll block her. Bet on it." ...

... Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Privately, McConnell aides say they are less concerned these days about the impact of senators like Mr. Cruz, whom they describe as an 'army of one.' Mr. McConnell believes his standing with conservative voters is solid.... He and his allies dismiss their Tea Party opponents as 'for-profit conservatives' because of the fund-raising they do in the name of purifying the Republican brand."

Paul Krugman: "... it now appears possible that the Supreme Court may be willing to deprive millions of Americans of health care on the basis of an ... obvious typo.... The fact that the suit is ridiculous is no guarantee that it won't succeed -- not in an environment in which all too many Republican judges have made it clear that partisan loyalty trumps respect for the rule of law.... Now, states could avoid this death spiral by establishing exchanges -- which might involve nothing more than setting up links to the federal exchange.... Judges who support this cruel absurdity ... are ... corrupt, willing to pervert the law to serve political masters. And what we'll find out in the months ahead is how deep the corruption goes." ...

     ... CW: This is almost exactly what I wrote in Saturday's Commentariat. ...

... Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post's professional wingnut blogger, makes the conservative case for Typo-Law. CW: I highly recommend your reading her post because it gives a good summary of how the right sees the King v. Burwell case. This view matters because John Roberts. ...

... Abbe Gluck, in ScotusBlog, argues that if the conservatives decide for the plaintiffs, they will be undermining their own 30-years effort to persuade "even their opponents of the jurisprudential benefits of a sophisticated interpretive approach" to reading laws. CW: Yeah? It's ObummerCare! It is forcing Americans to eat broccoli!

Soumya Karlamangla & Chad Terhune of the Los Angeles Times: "... roughly 600,000 Latinos in California ... remain uninsured -- despite qualifying for subsidized coverage under the federal health law.... Some residents are nervous about answering detailed questions about family members who aren't applying, and they worry that turning over this information could lead to deportation for spouses, siblings or other relatives.... California officials, sensing continued reluctance from people such as the Saldanas, are tackling the immigration fears directly for the first time in new TV ads."

ObamaCare Rollout 2.0. Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "With the next time to buy health plans under the Affordable Care Act starting in less than a week, the Obama administration is expressing confidence that is no longer the rickety online insurance marketplace that exasperated consumers a year ago. Behind the scenes, however, federal health officials and government contractors are scrambling, according to confidential documents and federal and outside experts familiar with this work. They have been making contingency plans in case the information technology or other aspects prove less sturdy than the administration predicts. And some preparations are coming down to the wire."

Evan McMurry of Mediaite: "Former President George W Bush told Bob Schieffer Sunday morning that he had no regrets over the decision to invade Iraq. Bush was on to discuss his new book praising his father (and to honor Face The Nation'ss sixtieth anniversary). 43 insisted he did not invade Iraq to finish what his father started, and said he was surprised when Saddam Hussein called his bluff over the invasion...."

Carlos Lozada of the Washington Post reviews Chuck Todd's book about President Obama: "'The Stranger' is not an evolution of the Chuck Todd brand but a celebration of it. Todd has written a daily rundown of the Obama presidency, with every moment, critical or trivial, assessed by its political weight.... This book, though critical of the president, reveals less about Obama than about what the world looks like through the eyes of a writer for whom politics ... is the only thing.... Todd's attempts to peer deep inside Obama as an individual don't take us far.... As befitting a political junkie chronicle, the book is generous with political cliches.... 'The Stranger' ... is all microscope and zero telescope." ...

... Here's the Thing, Chuck. Charles Blow: "Some people blame the president for not cultivating more congressional relationships, across the aisle and even in the Democratic caucus.... No amount of glad-handing and ego-stroking would compensate for the depths of the opposition. Nor would messaging. This is a president who was elected by an increasingly diverse national electorate that some find frightening, a president who is pushing a somewhat liberal agenda that some have found intrinsically objectionable, and a president who is battling some historical personality tropes that many cannot abandon. To his opponents, this president's greatest sins are his success and his self." ...

AND Haley Barbour Is Still in Mississippi. James Hohmann & Ken Vogel of Politico: "Haley Barbour called President Barack Obama's policies 'tar babies' on a post-election conference call for clients of his lobbying firm.... According to a person on the call, 'And then he said there is no one who will run for president who will endorse Obama's issues, because Obama's issues are "tar babies."'... [Barbour wrote to Politico,] 'If someone takes offense, I regret it. But, again, neither the context nor the connotation was intended to offend.' CW: Who could possibly be offended? The Politico writers call "tar babies" part of Barbour's "folksy Southern style." Ha ha. Why not call it a "folksy racial slur"? Barbour has long been "folksy" about racism.

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a rash of incidents this fall in which thrill-seekers with small, camera-toting drones have violated airspace restrictions by swooping over large outdoor sporting events. The problem has become most common at football games.... FAA officials and aviation safety experts say the small drones pose a serious hazard in crowded areas.... In addition..., people who fly the remote-control aircraft for fun are causing problems near airports by flying dangerously close to passenger planes.... In a public notice issued Oct. 27, the FAA updated a long-standing ban on airplane flights over open-air stadiums with 30,000 or more spectators by extending the prohibition to 'unmanned aircraft and remote controlled aircraft.'" ...

     ... CW: Unmentioned in Whitlock's article: the public cost incurred in policing drones flying over these for-profit football games.

Noam Scheiber of the New Republic writes a long piece on Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett. Scheiber thinks he "understands" her now. Here's the point:

... Jarrett and Obama share [a worldview] -- call it 'boardroom liberalism.' It's a worldview that's steeped in social progressivism, in the values of tolerance and diversity. It takes as a given that government has a role to play in building infrastructure, regulating business, training workers, smoothing out the boom-bust cycles of the economy, providing for the poor and disadvantaged. But it is a view from on high -- one that presumes a dominant role for large institutions like corporations and a wisdom on the part of elites. It believes that the world works best when these elites use their power magnanimously, not when they're forced to share it.

Today's History Lesson. Michael Schulson of Salon interviews Edward Baptist, the author of a history of slavery titled The Half Has Never Been Told. Slavery, after all, is a cost-efficient way to extract labor from human beings. It's an exceptionally brutal flavor of capitalism. And it worked: In 1860, the U.S.'s four wealthiest states were all in the deep South. After the Civil War, though, white Americans found ways to downplay the profit motive." As safari suggests, this interview well might be catalogued under "Capitalism is Awesome, Ctd." ...

... CW: Baptist puts the lie to the mythologized notion of pleasantly-humming "plantations." Worth remembering: the Second Amendment to the Constitution is the direct result of the states' desires to put down slave rebellions, which for some odd reason were numerous & frequent. Is it any wonder that today's white Southerners & their conservative enablers everywhere are so fond of it?

Charles Pierce on Pope Francis's demotion of Raymond Cardinal Burke. "This is absolutely freaking hilarious. It's like somebody went to John Roberts and said, 'OK, Your Honor. Now, you're the new head judge of the Miss Lowndes County Sorghum Pageant.'" And Pierce has a great time deflating Ross Douthat's ecclesiastical balloon doll.

November Elections

** Jason Zengerle in the New Republic: The election-day losses of the last of the Southern white Democrats "hurts African-Americans the most.... Lacking white politicians with whom they can build coalitions, black politicians are increasingly rendered powerless.... All eight Democrats in the Alabama Senate now represent majority-black districts, while all 26 Republican Senators represent majority-white districts -- and all 26 are themselves white."

Dark Money Rules. New York Times Editors: "The next Senate was just elected on the greatest wave of secret, special-interest money ever raised in a congressional election. What are the chances that it will take action to reduce the influence of money in politics? Nil, of course. The next Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has long been the most prominent advocate for unlimited secret campaign spending in Washington, under the phony banner of free speech.... The single biggest outside spender on his behalf was a so-called social welfare group calling itself the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, which spent $7.6 million on attack ads against his opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes.... What is its social welfare purpose, besides re-electing Mr. McConnell? It has none. Who gave that money? It could have been anyone who wants to be a political player but lacks the courage to do so openly.... You can bet, however, that the senator knows exactly to whom he owes an enormous favor." ...

... CW: Thanks, Supremes! And a special shout-out to the IRS for its incomprehensibly generous (and unlawful) definition of "social welfare organizations."

Presidential Race

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker takes a long look at Hillary Clinton's 2016 prospects. "Tuesday's results, which gave Republicans control of both the House and the Senate, may solidify her standing, as Democrats close ranks around her in an effort to hang on to the White House, their last foothold on power in Washington. But the election results could also lead to an entirely different outcome: a Republican Party that overinterprets its mandate in Congress and pushes its Presidential candidates far to the right, freeing Democrats to gamble on someone younger or more progressive than Clinton."

Kyle Balluck of the Hill: "Former President George W. Bush said in an interview broadcast Sunday that chances are '50-50' that his brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) will run for president in 2016."

See Scott Run. Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "The governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, has become the latest senior Republican to hint at running for president.... Asked in an NBC interview about a pledge he made only last month to serve all four years as governor, Walker backtracked: 'I said my plan was for four years. I've got a plan to keep going for the next four years. But, you know, certainly I care deeply about not only my state, but my country. We'll see what the future holds.'"

News Ledes

AP: "Last week's high-stakes mission to retrieve two Americans jailed in North Korea was delayed by nearly two days because the aircraft carrying Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to Pyongyang broke down, U.S. officials said Monday. The problem is just the latest issue with the Air Force's fleet of Boeing jets. Similar incidents have plagued Secretary of State John Kerry in recent months, forcing him to fly commercially in at least two instances. But none of those delays have hampered such a sensitive diplomatic mission."

New York Times: "Craig Spencer, the New York City doctor who became the first person in the city to test positive for Ebola, is free of the virus and is set to be released from Bellevue Hospital Center on Tuesday, hospital officials said on Monday."

Bloomberg News: "U.S. and Iraqi officials are working to determine if recent airstrikes may have injured or killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was targeted along with other senior members of the Sunni extremist group." The Guardian report, which is also inconclusive, is here.

Washington Post: "The urgent quest for a breakthrough in talks to rein in Iran’s nuclear capacity led negotiators to meet into the night Sunday with a deadline looming over their heads."

New York Times: "... a report by a British nonprofit research organization, the European Leadership Network..., recorded almost 40 incidents in the past eight months involving Russian forces in a 'volatile standoff' with the West that 'could prove catastrophic at worst.' The incidents were all said to have taken place since Russia's annexation of Crimea in March." The Guardian's report is here. The ELN report is here.


The Commentariat -- Nov. 9, 2014

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Just days after his party was routed in the midterm elections, President Obama said that he and his White House team had not succeeded in effectively selling the benefits of his policies to the American people, calling it a 'failure of politics' that he must change in the final two years of his presidency. 'It's not enough just to build a better mousetrap,' Mr. Obama said in an interview that was taped Friday at the White House and broadcast Sunday on the 60th anniversary of CBS's 'Face the Nation' program. 'People don't automatically come beating to your door. We've got to sell it. We've got to reach out to the other side and, where possible, persuade'":

Sari Horwitz & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama on Saturday nominated U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch as his next attorney general. If confirmed, she would be the first African American woman to serve in that post":

Thomas Frank in Salon: "Once again, Republicans used their patented brand of fake populism to make Democrats look like chumps.... After deliberately breaking Washington, the Republican Party just rode to power by protesting Washington's brokenness. Having done all they could to enrich the rich and empower the powerful, the GOP has now succeeded in presenting itself as America's warrior for social justice."

Andrew O'Hehir of Salon: "... what the dire 2014 midterms really tell us is that the entire electoral system is on the critical list, stuck in a 'Groundhog Day' wave pattern of bitterness, stagnation and cynicism.... Can anybody, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell included, tell me what the Republicans are for? OK, they're for war and they're for oil. Obama is for those things too, so I guess their problem with him is that he isn't for them enthusiastically enough. Oh, and he's black."

Mike Lillis of the Hill: "Democrats aren't planning a shakeup despite the thumping they took at the polls on Tuesday. Leaders in both the House and the Senate -- including Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) -- are expected to retain their spots atop the party in the next Congress, while the White House, in similar fashion, says it will keep its top staff largely intact. 'The president is somebody who doesn't make personnel changes just for cosmetic reasons,' White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday."

Mark Stern of Slate: "... conservatives [launched] an unprecedented campaign this election cycle to vote out left-leaning state supreme court judges in Tennessee, North Carolina, Kansas, and Montana.... They were completely and utterly trounced. In all four states, conservatives failed to flip the court; in fact, they failed to oust a single supreme court judge. Aided by progressives and bipartisan state bar associations, the judges fought back and won big.... At the end of the day, most Americans understand that a judgeship should not go to the highest bidder or the biggest spender."

Sarah Kliff of Vox: "The people who wrote Obamacare think the new Supreme Court case is ridiculous.... 'It was always intended that the federal fallback exchange would do everything that the statute told the states to do, which includes delivering the subsidies,' says Chris Condeluci, who worked as tax and benefits counsel for the Senate Finance Committee Republicans during the Affordable Care Act debate.... John McDonough, who worked on the Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee during the health reform debate, wrote in an email. There is not a scintilla of evidence that the Democratic lawmakers who designed the law intended to deny subsidies to any state, regardless of exchange status.'"

Obama Stuns Romney. Again. Mario Trujillo of the Hill: "Mitt Romney said Friday that he was stunned by reports of President Obama's letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 'That the president would write a letter of this nature, in effect legitimizing a nation and a leadership that is violating international norms and is threatening the world, is so far beyond the pale, I was stunned. I was speechless,' Romney said according to Haaretz newspaper and a number of other media outlets." CW: "Speechless" is good, too.

Hudson Hongo of Gawker: "According to Robert O'Neill -- the former Navy SEAL who claims he shot Osama bin Laden -- the Al Qaeda leader 'died like a pussy' and 'knew that we were there to kill him.'" CW: This guy should STFU. His language & assertions are extremely unhelpful. ...

... Here's the CNN report, by Chelsea Carter. With video. ...

... ** Shane Harris of the Daily Beast: "On Tuesday, Fox News will air a highly-anticipated documentary about a former Navy SEAL named Robert O'Neill, who claims to be the man who fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden. Several of O'Neill's former brothers-in-arms are coming forward to say his story is way, way off. In interviews with The Daily Beast, former special operations officials, as well as other sources who are familiar with the events of the 2011 raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, accused O'Neill of misstating key facts and wrongly taking sole credit for killing the world's then-most wanted man.... O'Neill insists that he was the shooter. But others -- including a fellow SEAL who was standing within feet of O'Neill when the final encounter with bin Laden went down -- say another, still-unidentified man likely fired the round that caused a lethal head wound." ...

... Steve M.: "You might think that a guy like O'Neill would be reluctant to put a debunkable story like this out there -- but hey, presumably his check from Fox for that special has already cleared. And, of course, Fox's audience will believe whatever makes them feel good or self-righteously angry, so they'll watch the special anyway, however much its facts have been disputed, the same way they continue to buy Sharyl Attkisson's book #34 at Amazon as I type this), even though her alleged video evidence of computer hacking has been widely debunked."

Arturo Garcia of the Raw Story: "Fox News contributor Keith Ablow shot back on Friday at a former president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) after he condemned Ablow's on-air commentaries about President Barack Obama.... The dispute began following an Associated Press feature on Ablow published on Thursday, in which ex-APA leader Jeffrey Lieberman blasted Ablow's activities. 'It is shameful and unfortunate that he is given a platform by Fox News or any other media organization,' Lieberman said. 'Basically he is a narcissistic self-promoter of limited and dubious expertise.'" Via Garcia, Here's a Media Matters mashup of some of A-Blow's greatest hits:

God News

Jim Yardley of the New York Times: "Pope Francis on Saturday sidelined a powerful American cardinal who has emerged as an unabashed conservative critic of the reform agenda and the leadership style that the Argentine pontiff has brought to the Roman Catholic Church. In an expected move, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke was officially removed as head of the Vatican's highest judicial authority, known as the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. He was demoted to the ceremonial position of chaplain for the Knights of Malta, a charity group." ...

... "Cardinal Burke's Excellent Maltese Adventure." Mark Silk of Religion News Service: Burke's "new position is Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, with the task of promoting the Maltese knights' spiritual interests. The appointment has a certain appropriateness, if you have a taste for Jesuitical irony. Although originally established to care for sick pilgrims to the Holy Land, the Knights Hospitallers (as they were called) soon became a major crusader militia, and through the centuries served the Church as one of its fiercer fighting forces."

Don Babwin & Tammy Webber of the AP: "The Archdiocese of Chicago on Thursday released thousands of internal documents showing how it hid the sexual abuse of children by 36 priests, adding to similar disclosures made earlier this year and fulfilling a pledge by an ailing Cardinal Francis George to release the files before he retires later this month.... [The documents] show how the archdiocese routinely hid the histories of abusive priests by moving them between parishes, did not swiftly remove the men from ministry and in some cases helped them remain priests long after allegations against them were deemed credible."

Be Afraid, Christian Soldiers. Kyle Mantyla of Right Wing Watch: "Rick Santorum recently stopped by the Christian Post for an interview about his latest film, 'One Generation Away,' which is about the supposed persecution of Christians in America. While admitting that 'persecution' in America today is nothing like what Christians in the Middle East are facing, Santorum warned that Christians in the U.S. must nevertheless remain vigilant because the sort of deadly persecution faced by Christians around the world does not just happen overnight." Via Steve Benen. ...

... In South Florida, Christian Charity Is against the Law. Elizabeth Chuck of NBC News: "Two church pastors and a 90-year-old man were charged for feeding homeless people in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, under a strict new city ordinance that virtually bans private groups from handing out food. Despite a looming court date and the threat of being fined or jailed for violating the ordinance, the men said they plan to feed more needy later Wednesday." Via Benen.

Is Not-Religion a Religion? Adele Banks of Religion News Service: "The Oxford-educated man who unsuccessfully sought to be the Navy's first humanist chaplain is suing the Pentagon, claiming unconstitutional discrimination. Jason Heap is certified as a humanist celebrant by the Humanist Society, which joined in the suit and is challenging both the U.S. Navy and the Department of Defense for not recognizing the group as an endorser of chaplain candidates."

Beyond the Beltway

Monica Davey & Mary Walsh of the New York Times: "Less than 16 months after Detroit became the largest city in the United States to file for bankruptcy, a federal judge on Friday approved a plan intended to help it escape years of financial ruin and begin the hard work of becoming viable again." ...

... Jordan Weisman of Slate has more on how the deal saved Detroit's world-class art museum.

News Ledes

New York Times: At the Brandenberg Gate, Germans commemorate November 9, an anniversary that of the fall of the Berlin wall, as well as some horrible events in German history.

Washington Post: "U.S. warplanes launched airstrikes on what U.S. officials said was a gathering of Islamic State commanders near the militant-held city of Mosul on Friday, in one of the most prominent assaults on the Islamist group's leadership since the air war started here in August."

Reuters: "Iran sees no alternative to a diplomatic settlement with six world powers on its nuclear program and believes both sides are resolved to reach a deal by a self-imposed Nov. 24 deadline, its deputy foreign minister said on Saturday."

Guardian: "The Obama administration has prevailed in the first court challenge to its controversial force-feedings of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, even as the judge ruling in the government's favor criticized its lack of 'common sense and compassion'. Gladys Kessler, a federal judge in Washington DC, denied Abu Wa’el Dhiab's request to significantly change the manner in which the US military transfers, restrains and forcibly feeds detainees on hunger strike to protest their confinement."

Reuters: "A group of protesters set fire to the wooden door of Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto's ceremonial palace in Mexico City's historic city centre late on Saturday, denouncing the apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers. The group, carrying torches, broke away from what had been a mostly peaceful protest demanding justice for the students, who were abducted six weeks ago and apparently murdered and incinerated by corrupt police in league with drug gang members."

AP: "Tensions between the major powers have pushed the world closer to a new Cold War, former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev said Saturday. The 83-year-old accused the West, particularly the United States, of giving in to 'triumphalism' after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the communist bloc a quarter century ago. The result, he said, could partly be seen in the inability of global powers to prevent or resolve conflicts in Yugoslavia, the Middle East and most recently Ukraine."

Portland Press Herald: "Nurse Kaci Hickox and her boyfriend are leaving Maine next week for parts unknown.... Her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur, withdrew from an accelerated nursing program at the University of Maine at Fort Kent on Friday and said the couple will stay through Monday, after which a state court order expires and Hickox will no longer have to submit to daily health monitoring, inform state officials of travel plans and let them know if her health changes."


The Commentariat -- Nov. 8, 2014

(From Friday's News Ledes.) Friday Afternoon News Dump. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a new challenge to the Affordable Care Act, potentially imperiling President Obama's signature legislative achievement two years after it survived a different challenge in the court by a single vote.The case, King v. Burwell, No. 14-114, concerns tax subsidies that are central to the operation of the health care law.... It takes only four votes to add a case to the Supreme Court's docket. They may have come from the four members of the court who were ready in 2012 to strike down the Affordable Care Act: Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Once again, it seems, the fate of the law may rest with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr." Thanks to Victoria D. for the lead. ...

... Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "Rather than waiting until Monday to announce its action, which would be the usual mode at this time in the Court year, the Justices released the order granting review of King v. Burwell not long after finishing their closed-door private Conference. By adding the case to its decision docket at this point, without waiting for further action in lower federal courts, as the Obama administration had asked, the Court ensured that it would rule on the case during the current Term. If it decides to limit the subsidies to the state-run 'exchanges,' it is widely understood that that outcome would crash the ACA's carefully balanced economic arrangements. The Court's Friday orders are here...." ...

... Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View provides a good background summary. Plus: "For [Scalia, Thomas, Alito & Kennedy,], a vote to take the case now is a strong signal that they would like to block the exchanges and sink Obamacare with this second legal torpedo.... What seems almost certain is that the other conservative justices have decided to put Roberts to the test.... Its déjà vu all over again." ...

... Moops! Charles Pierce: "This was already a pretty terrible week. It just got worse. Sociopathy gets its day in court, riding on the backs of the Moops." ...

... By way of explanation:

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "It's not every day that the Roberts Court can be worse than even I expect, but here we are: the Court is about to rule that the Moops invaded Spain. It's not 100% that King v. Burwell will be overruled, I guess, but I don't know why else they would preempt the Halbig en banc hearing otherwise.... People with strong stomachs can look at Johnathan Adler, in his palpable excitement about millions of people about to be stripped of their health insurance, claiming that this case is about ... deferring to Congress." CW: I did look at Adler's piece. It's as sickening as Lemieux lets on. Until I realized that Adler is just George Costanza in disguise. ...

... Steve M.: "Politicized Supreme Court plans to murder ObamaCare soon so it won't be an issue in 2016." ...

... Supreme Death Squad. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "In an interview with Talking Points Memo's Sahil Kapur, attorney Michael Carvin claimed that the justices aren't 'going to give much of a damn about what a bunch of Obama appointees on' the lower court that withdrew its decision defunding Obamacare decide. He added that he does not expect to 'lose any Republican-appointed judges' votes' on that lower court, and that he expects Republicans on the Supreme Court to fall in line as well. Though the Court's decision to take this case cannot be explained under the Court's normal practices, Carvin may be correct that it can be explained for purely partisan reasons. Should the justices ultimately side with the doubtful legal arguments raised by the plaintiffs, however, they should have no illusions about what they will achieve. Thousands of Americans will die unnecessarily if the plaintiffs win this lawsuit."

... CW: Everybody Take a Deep Breath. First, let's acknowledge that the five conservative justices on the Court are corrupt. By "corrupt," I don't mean that Nino is taking money under the bench from David Koch (though he is). I mean that they corrupt their interpretations of the law & the Constitution to fit their antidiluvian ideology. Second, let's assume (though this is not necessarily what will happen) that all five conservative justices side with the plaintiffs. This would ostensibly deprive affordable coverage to every eligible person living in a state that opted to use the federal exchange.

     ... But two can play this game. The language in question is four little words, "established by the state" in one obscure section of a 2,000+-page law, language that is clearly at odds with many other provisions of this complicated law, with the intents of the lawmakers themselves & with the IRS's interpretation of the law. (Or, as Steve Benen puts it, "I have never seen anything quite so spectacularly stupid as this case.") Okay. If the Court rules the federally-run exchanges violate that obscure clause, then it's up to the affected states to "establish" their own exchanges. How hard is that? Given all the difficulties that both states & the federal government had in setting up & running the exchanges, it sounds really, really hard. But it isn't. The software is already there. Because the federally-produced & operated software accommodates each individual state's insurance providers & clients, it is state-specific. It isn't just a one-size-fits-all federal mega-site. So the affected states can simply "establish" their own exchanges by copying the federal code or slapping the state seal on the home page. Or something like that.

     ... Of course some red states may not do that, so beneficiaries in those states will suffer. However, taking tax breaks from constituents isn't easy, even for Republicans. So all but the most hardened red-state governors & legislatures will accommodate an adverse Court ruling. Yes, our wonderful GOP Congress also could get into the act by legislating out the tax subsidies, but as long as we have a Democratic president, that won't likely happen either. Go ahead, GOP Death Squad: shut down the government again in an election year for the purpose of killing sick people. That's a campaign winner. ...

     ... This is a stupid case on the merits, & the government should continue to fight tooth-&-nail for its/our side. But a Supreme Court loss here is more of an annoying setback than a catastrophe, if our elected leaders have any sense. As long as the Supreme Court doesn't have an army to enforce its unreasonable opinions, the states & the federal government can cooperate to establish workarounds.

Julie Davis & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "President Obama will nominate Loretta E. Lynch, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, to be the next attorney general, reaching outside his inner circle to fill a key post, the White House said Friday. If confirmed, Ms. Lynch, 55, would be the first African-American woman to be the nation's top law enforcement official. Mr. Obama will announce her selection at a ceremony Saturday...." ...

... Ian Millhiser profiles Lynch's career. Here's a nice tidbit: "Lynch's office is currently prosecuting Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), a former FBI agent charged with 20 counts of fraud, perjury and other alleged crimes related to allegations that he hid more than $1 million in gross receipts while he ran a New York restaurant." CW: Grimm, as you know, won re-election against a complete doofus Democratic candidate: a perfect exemplar of the Democrats' moral bankruptcy I briefly discuss below.

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "President Obama firmly rejected advice from top congressional Republicans on Friday that he delay his promised executive action on immigration reform, dismissing calls from critics inside and outside his party to allow Congress to debate the issue next year. Over a two-hour lunch..., House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and their lieutenants warned Obama that his acting alone on immigration would spoil chances for bipartisan agreement on other issues in the new GOP-controlled Congress.... Obama shot back that he intended to proceed, saying that he had already waited almost two years for congressional action on immigration." ...

... Here's a video of President Obama's public remarks, where of course we don't get to hear him telling McConnell, Boehner & Co., Ltd., that he's not intimidated by their threats:

... Paul Waldman: "Just a couple of days after the election, Boehner is already preparing excuses for why he failed. Why didn't immigration reform pass? Because Barack Obama is a big meanie!" ...

... Dana Milbank: "The president declined to act on immigration before the election. But all the Democratic Senate incumbents in red states that he was trying to protect lost anyway on Tuesday. There is evidence that the combination of low Hispanic turnout and lower Hispanic margins for Democrats doomed some Democratic candidates, including Charlie Crist, who lost his gubernatorial race in Florida, and perhaps Sen. Mark Udall, who lost his reelection bid in Colorado." ...

... Damned if He Does, Damned if He Doesn't. CW: It's worth noting, as Milbank does not, that those red-state Democrats begged President Obama not to take action on immigration before the election. In this regard, & in staying out of all but the bluest of states, the President did what the campaigns asked him to do. Had he not done so, & had these same Democrats lost their races as likely they would have, the blame would go to Obama for refusing to "help his party." It's pretty hard to blame him now for acceding to the calculations of dumb campaign gurus (who, as Whyte O. pointed out the other day, are getting paid handsomely for their bad advice). ...

... Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "For all the finger-pointing among Democrats over Tuesday’s election calamity, the White House, Congress and party establishment all share responsibility for weaknesses that the defeats laid bare, critics say, and should confront them as the 2016 contest takes shape. The problems are fundamental, involving questions of where Democrats focus their party-building efforts, what voters they talk to, and most crucial, what they say to those voters. Missing this year, many Democrats say, was a broad economic message to enthuse supporters and convert some independents." ...

... George Lakoff in TruthOut suggests what's wrong with the Democrats' strategy & what would work better. (CW: See also Elizabeth Warren's column linked below for an example.) ...

... CW: What's wrong with the Democrats' strategy -- and this is evident in Milbank's Complaint -- is that it's morally bankrupt. As Lakoff points out, it concentrates on targeting specific interest groups without providing a big-picture progressive worldview. But that would be too scary, because some of the policies that flow from that worldview -- like immigration reform -- are, oooh, controversial. If Democrats actually had a moral compass, & only some do, they would be a lot more comfortable in pushing controversial policies & in explaining to voters why these polices were right for everybody. ...

Big money wins regardless of which party wins the election. In fact, the more money that is spent, the greater the dependence that is created. -- Rep. John Sarbannes (D-Maryland) ...

... Joe Nocera: "Big contributors want something for their money.... There are two other reasons big money is corrosive to our politics. One is that the need to raise money has become close to all-consuming." The other is that people see no reason to vote when they know that whoever is elected, s/he will be corrupt. ...

...Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the Washington Post: "Before leaders in Congress and the president get caught up in proving they can pass some new laws, everyone should take a skeptical look at whom those new laws will serve. At this very minute, lobbyists and lawyers are lining up by the thousands to push for new laws -- laws that will help their rich and powerful clients get richer and more powerful.... There's no shortage of work that Congress can do, but the agenda shouldn't be drawn up by a bunch of corporate lobbyists and lawyers." CW: Now try to imagine Hillary Clinton writing such a column. Not going to happen. ...

... Gail Collins: "The Keystone XL oil pipeline is so popular! Ever since the Republicans won control of the Senate, it's become the Taylor Swift of political issues.... It's hard to figure where all the enthusiasm comes from.... The only people who would seem to have an intense practical interest in which way this plays out would be Nebraskans who will have to live with the pipeline, and the people who control the tar sands land in Canada. That group happens to include the famous campaign-contributing Koch brothers. So, question answered."

Thomas Mann & Norm Ornstein in the Washington Post: "The pragmatic desire of mainstream Republicans to transcend their 'party of no' label and show that they can actually govern will clash with the forces that continue to pull the GOP to the right and oppose anything the president does. This fight within the party will define the new Congress nearly as much as the battles with a Democratic president." CW: This is a comprehensive piece, replete with details & examples of pitfalls & past pratfalls, so well worth a read.

Lynn Paltrow & Jeanne Flavin in a New York Times op-ed: "WITH the success of Republicans in the midterm elections and the passage of Tennessee's anti-abortion amendment, we can expect ongoing efforts to ban abortion and advance the 'personhood' rights of fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses.... Anti-abortion measures pose a risk to all pregnant women, including those who want to be pregnant." The authors recount horror stories of women arrested or killed because police &/or judges thought they might have planned or attempted to terminate their pregnancies. "... it was precisely the legal arguments for recriminalizing abortion that were used to strip them of their rights to dignity and liberty in the context of labor and delivery."

November Elections

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "Republicans beat Democrats at their own ground game."

M. J. Lee of Politico: "California Democratic Rep. Scott Peters has defeated Republican challenger Carl DeMaio in one of the most competitive House races in the country. The Associated Press called the race Friday night, nearly 72 hours after polls closed in the San Diego-area district. Peters, who trailed DeMaio in early returns, currently leads the Republican by 4,491 votes, 51.2 percent to 48.8 percent."

Nathaniel Herz of the Alaska Dispatch News: "The number of uncounted votes in Alaska's tightly fought U.S. Senate race grew by 21,000 between Wednesday and Friday -- and more than 5,000 of those were votes that hadn't been predicted in early accounts of the number of ballots outstanding.... More than 40,000 ballots will likely be counted starting Tuesday, though the number will probably climb even more before then. To win, [Sen. Mark] Begich [D] would have to reverse election night trends and win a substantial majority -- though his allies have pointed out that in the count following Election Day in 2008, Begich overcame a 3,000 vote deficit to Republican Ted Stevens and ultimately won by 4,000 votes."

Alex DeMarban of the Alaska Dispatch News: "If voting trends hold true in Alaska's 40 districts, gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker will keep his lead after nearly 24,000 absentee and early votes are counted starting Tuesday, according to an analysis of voting trends and districts. But that's just part of the picture. There are likely gobs more votes to be counted beyond those.... On top of that, a political science professor with the University of Alaska Anchorage suggests the trends that favored Walker may not hold because an extra-large number of the uncounted ballots are from Republican voters...." CW: Walker is a Republican, running on a "unity" ticket with a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor against current GOP governor Sean Parnell.

(From Yesterday's News Ledes.) Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post: "Republican Ed Gillespie conceded to Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) on Friday, concluding a closely watched race that turned into a surprise nail-biter as a wave of support for GOP candidates swept the county."

Presidential Race

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "Following an ABC News report that Fox News contributor Ben Carson is set to air an hourlong ad/documentary* 'introducing himself to the American people' as part of a 2016 Republican presidential bid, Fox News has cut ties with him, according to a Fox spokeswoman." CW: And you thought Fox "News" wasn't ethical.

Beyond the Beltway

Jessica Roy of New York: "Law enforcement and local news reporters in Minneapolis are absolutely outraged that the Minnesota city's mayor, Betsy Hodges, dared to pose with a convicted felon and flash 'gang signs' in the resulting photo. But did she actually throw up gang signs, and is this guy actually a known gang member? Nope and nope!" Also, funny tweet at the bottom of the piece.

News Lede

New York Times: "North Korea has released two Americans who have been held in the country for extended periods, after the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., flew to the country on a secret mission and secured their freedom. In a terse statement issued Saturday by Mr. Clapper's office, the Americans -- Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller -- were described as 'on their way home, accompanied by D.N.I. Clapper.' Officials said they were likely to land on the West Coast, where Mr. Bae and Mr. Miller both live, some time on Saturday night."