The Ledes

Tuesday, October 21, 2014.

Guardian: "The US State Department says Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans being held in North Korea, has been released. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Fowle was home Tuesday after negotiators left Pyongyang. She said the US is still trying to free two other Americans, Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae."

New York Times: "Oscar de la Renta, the doyen of American fashion, whose career began in the 1950s in Franco’s Spain, sprawled across the better living rooms of Paris and New York, and who was the last survivor of that generation of bold, all-seeing tastemakers, died on Monday at his home in Kent, Conn. He was 82."

New York Times: "Oscar Pistorius, the South African track star once seen as an emblem of triumph over adversity, was sentenced on Tuesday to five years in prison for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp." ...

     ... The Guardian is liveblogging the sentencing.

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, October 20, 2014.

New York Times: "At least one chapter of the Ebola saga neared a close Sunday, as most of the dozens of people who had direct or indirect contact here with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola, had been told by officials that they were no longer at risk of contracting the disease."

New York Times: "Escalating its assistance to Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State in the Syrian town of Kobani, American military aircraft on Sunday dropped ammunition, small arms and medical supplies to resupply the combatants, officials said."

New York Daily News: "Tennessee state Sen. Jim Summerville was arrested twice this weekend — just one month after he was arrested for public intoxication, police said. The outgoing Republican senator from Dickson, Tenn., has been charged with stalking and assault in separate incidents involving his neighbor, Lt. Todd Christian said." CW: Another fine representative of the people.

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
October 21

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

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks to the Washington Post (audio only)

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


Stephen Colbert describes his workday:

No Surprise Here. Valerie Tarico of AlterNet, in Salon: "... online search traffic from behind closed doors in Jesusland suggests that the bad, nasty, sexual impulses righteous believers are trying so hard to shut down may be their own. And if Google search patterns mean anything, they’re not succeeding too well: studies consistently demonstrate that people in conservative religious states search for adult materials online far more often than people in blue states."

Jeffrey Frank reviews, for the New Yorker, a new biography of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith. The review is fairly entertaining & informative.

Michael Cieply of the New York Times: "... several of the companies behind 'Citizenfour' — which takes issue with Mr. Obama’s expansion of Bush-era surveillance, and his administration’s attempt to prosecute [Edward] Snowden for espionage — are led by some of the president’s close political allies. They include Harvey Weinstein, the Weinstein Company’s co-chairman, as well as Jeff Skoll, the founder of Participant Media, and Richard Plepler, the chief executive of HBO, who all have been major contributors to Mr. Obama’s political campaigns."

Washington Post: "President Obama's credit card was rejected last month at a restaurant in New York. 'I went to a restaurant up in New York when I was -- during the U.N. General Assembly, and my credit card was rejected,' Obama said Friday while signing an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft. 'It turned out I guess I don’t use it enough. They were -- they thought there was some fraud going on. Fortunately, Michelle had hers.'"

"Who's Gonna Stand Up & Save the Earth?" Not Stephen Colbert:

Novelist John Grisham recants his apologia for child porn. Good to know.

Unsolved Mystery. Washington Post: "Human remains recently exhumed from an Alabama grave are not those of the notorious fugitive William Bradford Bishop, who is accused of killing five family members with a small sledgehammer in Montgomery County in 1976 and setting their bodies on fire, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. The FBI said that DNA taken from the unidentified body in Scottsboro, Ala., on Oct. 9 did not match Bishop, who is a member of the Ten Most Wanted list." Original story further down this column. Thanks to Haley S. for the lead.

New York Times: "CBS announced a new subscription Internet streaming service on Thursday that allows people to watch its live television programming and thousands of its current and past shows on demand without paying for a traditional TV subscription. The new 'CBS All Access' service, costing $5.99 a month, is the first time that a traditional broadcaster will make a near-continuous live feed of its local stations available over the web to non-pay-TV subscribers. At its start, the live stream will be available in 14 markets in the United States." ...

... New York Times: "HBO announced Wednesday that it would start a stand-alone Internet streaming service in the United States in 2015 that would not require a subscription to a traditional television service, a move that intensifies the premium cable network’s growing rivalry with Netflix. Just hours after HBO unveiled plans for its new service, Netflix announced that its subscriber growth was slower than expected...."

Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Following its initial mercy killing at the hands of Jon Stewart, Crossfire was rebooted last year with Newt Gingrich and Van Jones to dismal returns..., CNN ... scrapped it for good today [October 15] so that Newt can spend more time with his animals — and hopefully run for president again."

Joe Concha of Mediaite: "A well-placed source tells me MSNBC will be announcing major programming changes sometime in the next month, including the cancellation of Ronan Farrow‘s afternoon program, Ronan Farrow Daily." CW: I've caught a few minutes of Farrow's show a couple of times, & it was clear the guy was in way over his head. His performance was as embarrassing as the Russert kid's, though he isn't an obnoxious bro in the Russert-kid mold. I'm not sure if the suits will ever figure out that legacies & children-of-famous-people are usually not the best & brightest, perhaps because a lot of the suits themselves are legacies.

Philip Shenon in Politico Magazine: "If even Robert Kennedy was a conspiracy theorist, it is hard to see how millions of other Americans will ever be convinced to accept that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone."

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "MSNBC has seen its ratings hit one of the deepest skids in its history, with the recently completed third quarter of 2014 generating some record lows."

Snowden, The Movie:

... AND, Snowden's girlfriend is living with him in a Moscow apartment. David Harding of the New York Daily News: "His girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, moved into his apartment in the Russian capital in July, a detail that was revealed in the new documentary, 'Citizenfour.'” ...

... George Packer of the New Yorker on Laura Poitras & making the film "Citizenfour." ...

... Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times discusses the film. He attended the premiere at the New York Film Festival, where the documentary got a rare standing O. CW: I'm kinda sensing that "Citizenfour" can best be described as "documentary as hagiography." And, yes, I'm definitely seeing an Oscar here. Call me an oracle.



A video for Marco I'm-Not-a-Scientist-Man Rubio & Bobby I'm-Not-an-Evolutionary-Biologist Jindal, & all their non-scientist Republican friends:

Selina Gray, on right, saved Arlington House treasures during the Civil War.Michael Ruane of the Washington Post: "When Robert E. Lee’s wife, Mary, fled Arlington House at the start of the Civil War, she gave her personal slave, Selina Norris Gray, the keys to the mansion and responsibility for the grand house the Lees had lived in for 30 years. Gray fulfilled her duties. She is famously credited with saving from marauding Union soldiers numerous heirlooms belonging to George Washington that were stored in the house. Now the National Park Service, which administers Arlington House, has acquired what it says is a rare and previously unknown photograph of Gray and, apparently, two of her eight children."

"An FBI wanted poster shows William Bradford Bishop Jr. The image on the left shows how Bishop would look now. (Getty)"Dan Morse of the Washington Post: "For nearly 40 years, the legend of Bethesda fugitive William Bradford Bishop Jr. carried an air of not just evil brutality but refined sophistication. This was a man suspected of killing his family with a small sledgehammer in 1976 and setting their corpses on fire. Then he vanished, taking with him fluency in five languages, the experience of a world traveler for the State Department, and a fondness for playing tennis, flying airplanes and drinking Scotch. There were alleged sightings: a public park in Stockholm, a restroom in Sorrento, Italy, a train station in Basel, Switzerland. Now, in a potentiality stunning development in the case — centered in a municipally owned cemetery in the northeastern corner of Alabama — remains that were exhumed Thursday may tell a different story. Bishop could be the heretofore unidentified man called John Doe, who was struck by a car while walking down a highway in 1981, a person who appeared to be homeless, who’d worn several layers of heavy, dirty clothes and weighed just 155 pounds." ...

... CW: If you like mysteries & enjoy reading about how they're unravelled, you should find this a compelling story.

Christopher Schmidt says, "On Oct 8th, I was flying my quadcopter at Magazine Beach Park in Cambridge, [Massachusetts,] when a hawk decided he wasn't too happy with my invasion of his airspace:

... CW: Thanks to Julie L. for the link. So one way to get rid of those annoying drones that will soon be hovering in your air space is to take up falconry. (Since bringing down other people's drones may be illegal, blame the bird.)

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The Commentariat -- August 4, 2014

Der Spiegel: "Spiegel has learned from reliable sources that Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on US Secretary of State John Kerry during Middle East peace negotiations. In addition to the Israelis, at least one other intelligence service also listened in as Kerry mediated last year between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states, several intelligence service sources told Spiegel.... During the peak stage of peace talks last year, Kerry spoke regularly with high-ranking negotiating partners in the Middle East. At the time, some of these calls were not made on encrypted equipment.... Intelligence agencies intercepted some of those calls. The government in Jerusalem then used the information obtained in international negotiations aiming to reach a diplomatic solution in the Middle East." ...

     ... CW Note to Ed Snowden: Everybody does it, even BFFs.

The Economist interviews President Obama on Africa & a wide range of subjects. With audio (that background noise you hear is AF1).

David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Fox News analyst Juan Williams on Sunday confronted the CEO of the Heritage Foundation [Michael Needham] for his role in 'demonizing' President Barack Obama to the point that many all-white tea partiers were calling for impeachment." A lovely rant:

... Williams interviews Eric Holder for the Hill: "Holder predicts that Congress will pass his proposed reforms to the criminal justice system, specifically reductions in sentencing, even if Republicans hold majorities in both chambers after November's midterm elections. 'Next year you are likely to see significant accomplishment when it comes to criminal justice reform,' he said."

Paul Krugman: "The Dodd-Frank reform bill ... is working a lot better than anyone listening to the news media would imagine.... All accounts indicate that the [Consumer Protection Financial Bureau] is in fact doing its job, and well -- well enough to inspire continuing fury among bankers and their political allies.... Dodd-Frank ... giv[es] regulators Ordinary Liquidation Authority, also known as resolution authority, so that in the next crisis we can save 'systemically important' banks and other institutions without bailing out the bankers.... Did reform go far enough? No."

Benjamin Goad of the Hill: "Business interests are vowing to fight President Obama's executive order imposing new restrictions on companies who want to do business with the federal government. Obama announced the action this week, ordering up new regulations that would require firms seeking federal contracts to disclose labor law violations and create new compliance advisors at agencies to oversee decisions about which firms get the work."

This piece of crap by Ross Douthat on Obama Rex is getting a good deal of media attention. CW: I could deconstruct it down to teeny little turds, but I won't bother. ...

... Martin Longman of the Washington Monthly dispenses with one aspect of it: Douthat's assumption that he knows what President Obama will do on immigration reform. ...

... CW: One angle that I haven't seen anyone suggest in relation to whatever the President decides to do in regard to immigration relief is this: the POTUS has the constitutional authority to grant reprieves & pardons. I believe he could use that authority to grant reprieves to undocumented residents, & he could place conditions on those reprieves, conditions similar to those in the Senate bill, which Speaker Boehner refuses to bring to the House floor for a vote. I doubt that is what Obama has in mind, but I think it's what he should do. ...

     ... ** Update. Brian Beutler makes the same point Longman does: "Douthat’s thesis rests on the assumption that aggressive executive action on behalf of certain unauthorized immigrants will by definition be 'an extraordinary abuse of office.... [L]awless, reckless, a leap into the antidemocratic dark.' These are awfully firm conclusions to draw about a policy that hasn't been unveiled yet." And Beutler does mention Obama's "unchecked pardon power," noting the President is unlikely to use it.

... BUT. David Jackson of USA Today: "White House officials are downplaying stories that President Obama is prepared to take executive action on immigration that would allow millions of undocumented people to stay in the United States.' The reports you're seeing are uninformed speculation,' White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Pfeiffer said Obama asked the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to 'present him with recommendations by the end of the summer.' Those agencies have not yet reported back." ...

... Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "CNN anchor Candy Crowley called out Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) Sunday for claiming that illegal immigrants crossing the Rio Grande have committed thousands of homicides. Perry said his constituents in Texas are concerned about 'the 90 percent-plus of individuals who don't get talked about enough that are coming into the United States illegally and committing substantial crimes.' He said that the 203,000 illegal immigrants who have come into Texas since 2008 and booked into Texas county jails have been responsible for over 3,000 homicides and almost 8,000 sexual assaults. Crowley, the host of CNN's 'State of the Union,' called Perry's claim 'wildly off.'' Video via Crooks & Liars:

... PolitiFactTexas (July 17): "... for this declaration to hold water, one would have to assume illegal immigrants committed nearly half of the state's homicides since 2008; we found no such data. This statement is both incorrect and ridiculous. Pants on Fire!" ...

It should be noted at the outset that the dissent does not discuss a single case — not one — in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby. -- Justice Antonin Scalia, concurrence, Kansas v. Marsh, 2006

... Texas "Justice." Maurice Possley of the Marshall Project, in the Washington Post: "Since [Cameron Todd] Willingham was executed [in Texas] in 2004, officials have continued to defend the account of the informer, Johnny E. Webb, even as a series of scientific experts have discredited the forensic evidence that Willingham might have deliberately set the house fire in which his toddlers were killed. But now new evidence has revived questions about Willingham's guilt: In taped interviews, Webb, who has previously both recanted and affirmed his testimony, gives his first detailed account of how he lied on the witness stand in return for efforts by the former prosecutor, John H. Jackson, to reduce Webb's prison sentence for robbery and to arrange thousands of dollars in support from a wealthy Corsicana rancher. Newly uncovered letters and court files show that Jackson worked diligently to intercede for Webb after his testimony and to coordinate with the rancher, Charles S. Pearce Jr., to keep the mercurial informer in line....

In 2004, [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry refused to temporarily stay Willingham's execution despite the report of a leading forensic expert that sharply disputed the finding of arson by a Texas deputy fire marshal. Perry's administration has also repeatedly undercut the authority of a state Forensic Science Commission, which agreed that the arson finding relied on flawed analysis. Defending his handling of the case in 2009, the governor declared that Willingham 'was a monster.' The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, the members of which were all appointed by Perry, voted in March to deny Willingham a posthumous full pardon.

You are so frozen in fear of your own voters -- so frozen in fear of your own colleagues -- and the nation needs you to be courageous. Only cowards scapegoat children, and only those who are ashamed of themselves do it after hours on a Friday night. -- Rep. Luis Guiterrez (D-Ill.), Friday, to Republicans during House debate of the border bill

Steve LaTourette, a now-retired, long-time Republican Congressman from Ohio & an ally of John Boehner's, has an opinion piece in Politico Magazine knocking the Tea Party in general as "the grifting party" -- who are "lining their pockets" with special interest money & contributions they grift from unwitting dupes -- & Ted Cruz specifically: "Groups like the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots are run by men and women who have made millions by playing on the fears and anger about the dysfunction in Washington.... Our Founding Fathers set up a system of government that by its very nature excludes the possibility of one party or one ideological wing of one party getting everything it wants. Ted Cruz, who quotes the founders almost every chance he gets, ought to know this." CW: Of course LaTourette also claims that "the governing wing" of the GOP wants to get things done, which is a crock. ...

... CW: If "the governing wing" wanted to "get things done," John Boehner would have made a deal with Nancy Pelosi a long time ago to pass consensus legislation. The argument that he would have lost his speakership is weak; Pelosi could have got Democrats to vote for him as part of the deal. Boehner instead chose to pass dead-in-the-water bills while refusing to allow votes on bills that could pass the House & conform to Senate legislation. He coulda been a statesman. Instead, he's a clown. ...

I want to fund Israel. I also want to make sure our children have a future. -- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Ok.), before blacking Iron Dome funding last week ...

... Jonathan Chait notes that the cost of the program that was going to ruin our children's future was 0.006 percent of the federal budget. "You could say that Tom Coburn is upholding his party's principles in a courageous and consistent fashion. You could also say he is a dangerous, ideological fanatic. Both those descriptions would be correct.... Republicans continue to cling to an opposition to spending that has paralyzed basic government functions.... Faced with an immovable logjam, the two parties can only move ahead by producing phony savings."

Benghaaazi! Not! Carolyn Lochhead of the San Francisco Chronicle: "The House Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, has concluded that there was no deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama administration in the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, said Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena, [Calif.,] the second-ranking Democrat on the committee. The panel voted Thursday to declassify the report, the result of two years of investigation by the committee. U.S. intelligence agencies will have to approve making the report public.... That conflicts with accusations of administration wrongdoing voiced by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista (San Diego County), whose House Government Oversight and Reform Committee has held hearings on the Benghazi attack." Via Greg Sargent.

David Remnick has a long, interesting piece in the New Yorker about Russia & Vladimir Putin's beliefs, methods & imperial ambitions.

Drones! James Barron of the New York Times: "... drones are soaring as never before, deployed by some for fun and others for work as new models come on the market at lower and lower prices. But their proliferation has also resulted in problems.... On Sunday, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat from New York, said the city had turned into the Wild West for drones. He said it was time for new federal rules and urged the F.A.A., which is considering regulations for drones, to issue them by the end of the year. ...

... digby: "Nobody knows where [Texas mass murderer Ronald Lee Haskell] got his guns. But we can assume that Governor Perry figures he had an All American, God given right to have as many as he wanted.... But sure, by all means, let's put every effort into stopping non-existent crime among immigrants and child refugees down at the border. That's what we call conservative 'problem solving.'"

Gubernatorial Race

Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald: "In a nationwide push to fight Republicans who deny the existence of man-made climate change, investor-turned-activist Tom Steyer has founded a Florida political committee, seeded it with $750,000 of his own money, and says he'll spend far more to help Democrat Charlie Crist defeat Gov. Rick Scott."

Beyond the Beltway

David Goodman of the New York Times: "Narcotics officers on Saturday arrested a Staten Island man whose visceral cellphone images of the forceful and ultimately deadly arrest of Eric Garner helped galvanize protests and set off a citywide debate over police practices. The police charged the man, Ramsey Orta, with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon -- a .25-caliber Norton semiautomatic handgun -- that the officers said he had been trying to pass to a teenager on the sidewalk of a drug-prone street only blocks from the spot where officers had the fatal confrontation with Mr. Garner."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Claiming it had achieved most of its objectives and pressured by Western allies to stop causing civilian casualties in Gaza, Israel moved to wind down its operations there on Monday -- either unilaterally or through a new Egyptian-brokered cease-fire announced late in the day."

New York Times: "James S. Brady, the White House press secretary who was wounded in an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan and then became a symbol of the fight for gun control, championing tighter regulations from his wheelchair, died on Monday in Alexandria, Va. He was 73."

New York Times: "A federal judge on Monday rejected as unconstitutional an Alabama law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The requirement, adopted by the legislature in 2013, would have forced three of Alabama's five abortion clinics to close, severely restricting access to abortions while not providing significant medical benefits, United States District Judge Myron H. Thompson wrote in a 172-page decision.

Haaretz: "Israel entered day 28 of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza on Monday, after scaling back its offensive over the weekend. The IDF unilaterally declared a 7-hour humanitarian cease-fire late Sunday, which went into effect at 10 A.M. This follows the Israeli security cabinet's decision to no longer attempt to reach a truce agreement through negotiations with Hamas and the Palestinian factions in Gaza. ...

... Here's the State Department statement on Israel's shelling of the U.N. school in Rafah, Gaza.


The Commentariat -- August 3, 2014

New York Times Editors: "It was a remarkable two days of legislative dysfunction, even for congressional Republicans, who have been pushing the limits of unhinged governance.... Congressional nihilism has created a vacuum. Now it's President Obama's job to fill it.... Having spent the summer howling about a catastrophe at the border, Republicans are now congratulating themselves for refusing to solve it."

Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story: "In a new study conducted by researchers tasked with studying of the root causes and consequences of terrorism in the U.S. and abroad, the sovereign citizen movement was perceived to be the gravest terrorist threat, rivaling Islamist extremists and militia/patriot groups."

Nathan Thrall explains in the London Review of Books what led to the current Israeli-Hamas conflict. It's complicated! ...

My suggestion is a two-state solution and coexistence between Israel and the West Bank: two capitals in Jerusalem, a mutually agreed territorial modification, removal of most of the Jewish settlements from the West Bank. -- Amos Oz

Philip Gourevitch in the New Yorker on the Israeli-Gaza conflict as seen through the eyes of novelist Amos Oz & former Palestinian Rashid Khalidi.

Maureen Dowd writes a column wherein she whacks Dubya for the Oedipal thing, then ends by whacking Obama. CW: I do think she's mostly right about John Brennan. He never should have been put in a position of power & responsibility. Calling Brennan "a cheerleader for torture," however, is an overstatement. See this 2008 piece by Glenn Greenwald.) Still, Obama should invite Brennan to resign. Soon. There's no doubt he was, at the least, complicit in CIA torture operations during the Bush years. ...

... "We Tortured Some Folks." digby on President Obama's remarks (see yesterday's Commentariat): "We have normalized torture with this tepid, half-assed, sanctimonious admission that 'we tortured some folks' and that it crossed a line and all, but they did it because people were afraid. Heckuva job."

Michael Paulson of the New York Times (July 30): "The Roman Catholic archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, under fire for the way his diocese has dealt with sexually abusive priests, apologized Wednesday for his conduct but rejected calls for his resignation. The archbishop, John C. Nienstedt, acknowledged errors in his diocese's response to abuse allegations, writing in a column for the diocesan newspaper that 'it is very clear that we did not handle all complaints the way we should have in the past' and that he had only recently removed from ministry several priests accused of abuse.... He did not directly address accusations that he himself had had inappropriate sexual relationships with adult men, other than to say that he commissioned an investigation 'because I had nothing to hide and wanted to be vindicated from false allegations, as anyone would.'" Via Steve Benen. ...

     ... CW: If Nienstedt had relationships with consenting adult men who knew what his job was, I would say there's a good chance the relationships weren't "inappropriate." Although Paulson couches the "inappropriate" behavior as an accusation by others, it sure comes across as a value judgment on the part of the Times, & in a straight news report, that is "inappropriate."

Stan Diel of the Alabama Media Group: Twinkle Cavanaugh, the President of the Alabama Public Service Commission, wants all Alabamians to "be in prayer" against the EPA's proposed carbon emissions regulations. "PSC commissioner-elect Chip Beeker..., a Republican who is running unopposed for a PSC seat, said coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God's plan." Via Benen. ...

     ... CW: Well, Chip & Twinkle, God put that coal away down deep under her green earth, & it could be she didn't have any plans for you-all to dig it all up & burn it down, spewing the carcinogous detritus into the good air she gave all her creatures breathe. Nor was it likely in her plan to warm up the earth to ungodly temperatures. Those floods & hurricanes & droughts & heat waves are God's way of telling you nitwits to cut carbon emissions, & she doesn't appreciate your beseeching her to destroy her little pet planet.

Gubernatorial Election

Dave McKinney of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Multimillionaire Republican Bruce Rauner[, the GOP's nominee for governor of Illinois,] has channeled at least part of his fortune into the Cayman Islands, a Caribbean paradise long criticized as a tax haven for American investors.... For Rauner, consistently leading [Gov. Pat] Quinn [D] in mid-summer polling, it's the same political issue that President Barack Obama used to his advantage against uber-rich Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential campaign.

Beyond the Beltway

Brent Johnson of the Star-Ledger: "Gov. Chris Christie [Friday] said he doesn't recall receiving a text message from a top aide in December as talk of the controversial lane closings at the George Washington Bridge intensified. Regina Eg[e]a, whom the Republican governor has named his next chief of staff, testified last month before a state legislative committee that she texted Christie about testimony given by Port Authority officials concerning the lane closings but later deleted the message."

Laura Vozzella, et al., of the Washington Post: "Tanned, relaxed and sometimes witty on the stand, [Jonnie] Williams[, Sr., the chief witness in the Bob & Maureen McDonnell corruption case,] might charm and convince the eight men and four women who hold the former first couple's fate in their hands. But there's also a risk that jurors will see him as a snake oil salesman, one who duped the McDonnells and is lying now to save his own skin."

News Ledes

AP: "Fighting raged Sunday on the western outskirts of Donetsk as the advancing Ukrainian army tried to seize control of the rebel stronghold. In danger of being encircled, the separatists renewed their calls for Russia to send troops to their aid. To support their operations, the pro-Russian fighters have been confiscating vehicles and food from residents and businesses in Donetsk." ...

... ** New York Times: "The growing confrontation between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine has derailed a recent accord that promised one of the most expansive collaborations ever between the countries' nuclear scientists, including reciprocal visits to atomic sites to work on projects ranging from energy to planetary defense."

Washington Post: "A United Nations school was attacked in southern Gaza on Sunday, killing at least 10 and injuring more than 30, as Israeli shells continued to bombard southern Gaza, hours after President Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Hamas would pay 'an intolerable price' for its assaults. A spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency said an Israeli air strike most likely hit the school in the southern border city of Rafah, while about 3,000 Palestinians, who had fled their homes and were seeking refuge there, were waiting in line for food and other supplies." ...

     ... AP UPDATE: "Israel withdrew most of its ground troops from the Gaza Strip on Sunday in an apparent winding down of the nearly monthlong operation against Hamas that has left more than 1,800 Palestinians and more than 60 Israelis dead. Even as Israel said it was close to completing its mission, heavy fighting raged in parts of Gaza, with at least 10 people killed in what U.N. and Palestinian officials said was an Israeli airstrike near a U.N. shelter. The United States lashed out at Israel, saying it was 'appalled' by the 'disgraceful' attack." ...

     ... Guardian UPDATE: "A deadly attack on a school in the city of Rafah in the south of Gaza has been denounced as a 'moral outrage' and 'criminal act' by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon."

Guardian: "Libya's interim government says a day of militia fighting for control of the international airport in the capital Tripoli has killed 22 people."

Guardian: "One of two American aid workers infected with the deadly Ebola virus returned to the US from Africa on Saturday. Both were volunteers treating Ebola patients in Liberia, one of three countries affected in a West African outbreak that has so far killed 729 people, the deadliest outbreak in history."


The Commentariat -- August 2, 2014

David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Obama is preparing to announce new measures that would potentially allow millions of illegal immigrants to remain in the United States without fear of deportation, a politically explosive decision that could jolt Washington just weeks before the midterm elections, according to people who have been in touch with the White House. Administration officials have told allies in private meetings that both the current surge of Central American children crossing the border and Congress's failure this year to pass a broader immigration overhaul have propelled the president toward taking action on his own by summer's end."

White House: "In this week's address, President Obama discussed the new monthly jobs report and the fact that our economy created over 200,000 new jobs in July for the sixth straight month -- the longest streak since 1997":

... New York Times: "Little to rave or rant about. That was the view among economists of Friday's jobs report, in which the Labor Department estimated that the economy added 209,000 jobs in July, continuing a string of sturdy monthly advances above 200,000 but lower than in recent months and less than analysts had expected."

CW: At 8:35 pm Friday, the House border spending bill has passed. ...

     ... Update: Here's the Washington Post story, by Ed O'Keefe & Robert Costa. ...

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "In a vote likely to exacerbate their party's demographic problems, House Republicans passed legislation on Friday night to effectively require the deportation of everyone in the U.S. illegally, including young people brought as children who attended college or joined the military. It passed by a vote of 216 to 192. Eleven Republicans voted no and four Democrats voted yes. The bill serves a symbolic rebuke of President Barack Obama for his current and upcoming executive actions to relieve undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation. It passed shortly after the House passed 223-189 a separate GOP-led border funding proposal, which gives House Republicans the opportunity to go home for recess and say they acted on the child migrant crisis. 'In the end, the Republican position on immigration can be summed up as: deport 'em all,' said Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL)...."You know it is suicide as a political strategy, but you continue to say deport 'em all." Both bills are dead on arrival in the Senate. Obama slammed them as "extreme and unworkable" and promised to veto them if they land on his desk."

... Greg Sargent: "In a statement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemns the House GOP bill":

It is a sad day for our country. A chamber of Congress is poised to send vulnerable children back to danger and possible death. It violates our commitment to human rights and due process of the law and lessens us as a nation. I pray that this legislation never sees the light of day. -- Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami

The changes brought into this are ones I've developed and advocated for over the past two years. It's like I ordered it off the menu. -- Rep. Steve King (RTP-Iowa), who has claimed most immigrant children are "evil" "marijuana smugglers

Yup, on immigration, the GOP is Steve King's party. -- Greg Sargent

Ed O'Keefe, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Obama warned Friday that he likely will have to use his executive authority to address the historic influx of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border as House Republicans moved closer to consensus on legislation that would do little to immediately solve the crisis. Obama said during an afternoon news conference that Republicans are trying to pass the 'most extreme and unworkable portions' of a bill that they know will go 'nowhere' -- except to his desk for a presidential veto."

... CW: This is a mighty interesting presser. Worth listening to while you're shucking peas or whatever:

... Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "The Thursday collapse of the border security plan offer by the House Republican leadership was a triumph for conservatives in the House GOP caucus, who see it as a high point in their troubled relationship with House Speaker John A. Boehner and his more centrist leadership team. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), one of those conservatives, described the retreat by Boehner (Ohio) as one of the highlights of her career, because the leadership was forced to mostly capitulate to the conservative demands." ...

... CW: I can see why Bachmann is elated: she has saved these hapless children from a terrible fate. Kyle Mantyla of Right Wing Watch: "Appearing on 'WallBuilders Live'..., Bachmann ... claim[ed] that President Obama and the medical community want to bring tens of thousands of children from Central America into the United States so that they can be turned over to state governments and then used for medical experiments." Read the post to see how she figured out Obama's diabolical plot. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Hers is just fried.

Karen DeYoung & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The Senate unanimously passed an additional $225 million in emergency funding for Israel's Iron Dome defense system Friday, after refusing to do so just hours earlier out of concern that the money hadn't been offset by spending cuts. Passage appeared directly related to the almost immediate breakdown of a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip that was to begin Friday morning.... The House plans to approve a similar measure later in the day, senior GOP aides said Friday. The vote might be held by unanimous consent, said the aides, who weren't authorized to speak publicly about the plans." ...

     ... Update. Christina Marcos of the Hill: "The House late Friday sent a measure to the president that would provide Israel with funding for its Iron Dome missile defense system. The vote was 395-8."

Today in Both-Sides-Do-It, starring Jonathan Weisman & Ashley Parker of the New York Times. The gist of the story is that this is the do-nothingest Congress in history, & both Republicans & Democrats are to blame. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is holding back bills when Republicans threaten to attach amendments designed specifically to hurt Democratic Senators running for re-election. More of the reporters' "evidence" against Democrats: "Senate Democrats, who continue to blame Republicans for failing to reaching any broader immigration deal, were unable to overcome a procedural maneuver to even vote on their own border bill." Translated into language ordinary readers could understand:Republicans filibustered the vote. ...

... Gail Collins looks at the bright side: Both sides passed a short-term highway fund bill, which (1) relies on an "outrageous" accounting gimmick; (2) includes no long-term infrastructure plan; & (3) which represents about half what Europeans spend on infrastructure. (CW: And remember, Europeans already had a pretty good infrastructure in place; they're still traveling the old Appian Way, & there are a few Roman aqueducts still in use.) Anyhow, that's the bright side.

You can't say on the one hand that the president is overreaching by acting without legislative authority and direction and then refuse to give him legislative authority and direction in another area. -- Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), an ally of John Boehner's, on msnbc, addressing Boehner's, um, mixed messages

Dana Milbank: "Apparently, if Obama is using his executive authority to advance a policy House Republicans support, it's a meritorious exercise of presidential authority; if he uses that same authority to aid a policy they oppose, it's time to write up articles of impeachment."

I take my job one day at a time. -- John Boehner, Thursday

The problem with day-by-day leadership, though, is inconsistency: What you do on Thursday has a way of contradicting what you said on Wednesday. -- Dana Milbank

One lie too many? Here's a taste of that Taiwanese parliamentary procedure which Milbank mentions. John Parkinson of ABC News: "In an unusual breach of decorum, even for the divided Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi chased Rep. Tom Marino across the House floor...."

"We Tortured Some Folks." Josh Gerstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama couldn't have been more blunt in acknowledging that the U.S. crossed a moral line in its treatment of war-on-terror prisoners. 'We tortured some folks,' Obama said during a White House news conference Friday. 'When we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line. And that needs to be understood and accepted.'" ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama said on Friday that he has 'full confidence' in John Brennan, the director of the C.I.A., despite Mr. Brennan’s admission this week that his agency improperly searched the computers of the congressional committee that is preparing to release a report on the use of torture in the fight against terror."

... Julian Hattem of the Hill: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Friday became the third senator to publicly call for CIA Director John Brennan to leave office in the wake of the agency's admission that some officials spied on Senate staffers. In a statement sent to The Hill, Paul, who mounted a 13-hour filibuster against Brennan's confirmation in March, said that the spy agency chief and everyone else involved with the hacking should be removed from office.... Paul's call comes after Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who both sit on the Intelligence Committee, on Thursday urged Brennan to step aside." ...

... Charles Pierce calls President Obama's comments on torture "the single most revolting thing this president ever said in public.... Most of the torture went on long after we knew that there weren't going to be follow-up acts of terror. Much of it was used to get information with which to gin up an illegal war of aggression against a country that had not attacked us. The lies of Iraq were seeded with torture, and if the president thinks he can use the word and then just walk away from its profound implication in a cloud of banalities, he's been out on the golf course without a hat too long."

Andrew Zajak of Bloomberg News: "The Obama administration asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to reconsider a three-judge panel's ruling that customers on the federal marketplace authorized by the health-care overhaul are ineligible for subsidies to buy insurance.... Later today, the appeals court ordered the plaintiffs to file within 15 days a response to the government's motion. Yesterday, the plaintiffs asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, saying a ruling by the high court would end uncertainty about the IRS provision." ...

Today among the Halbig Troofers.... The troofer argument is that a single cherry skin on the ground makes an apple orchard a cherry tree. -- Scott Lemieux in Lawyers, Guns & Money

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "The story of whether Congress ever intended to limit Obamacare subsidies to state-based exchanges begins and ends with the Congressional Budget Office. And what it reveals about the latest legal threat to Obamacare dramatically undercuts the arguments against the law.... Every tweak to the law was funneled through the accounting brains of the non-partisan congressional scorekeeper.... Like everybody else on Capitol Hill in 2009 and 2010, from legislators to the journalists who covered them, the CBO's quants never even considered ... factor[ing federal exchange subsidy cuts] into its analyses.... The CBO itself has said, in a December 2012 letter to House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA), that it never considered limited subsidies to only state exchanges...."

Anna Palmer, et al., of Politico: "In his decision to quit Congress altogether, Eric Cantor gave only one reason: so his successor could get a head start.... But several GOP lawmakers and aides suggested to Politico that ... the last thing he wanted ... was to endure the humbling shift from 11 years in the leadership to being a back bencher, even if only for four months. And, they said he was already focused on the next chapter of his life in the private sector. Although members can explore new job opportunities while still in office, his departure from Congress means that Cantor won't have to disclose any companies or firms with whom he may be negotiating for a job."

Beyond the Beltway

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "The star witness for the prosecution at the corruption trial of former Virginia governor and his wife told jurors Friday that Robert F. McDonnell was not directly involved in soliciting many gifts he gave the first family. Jonnie R. Williams Sr. also acknowledged under questioning from defense attorneys that he was not aware if the former governor was directly involved in arranging things that helped benefit his company or the dietary supplement it was launching. Williams's testimony concluded the first week of the trial, which could stretch on for four more weeks."

Fernanda Santos of the New York Times: "Lawyers for an inmate who was executed last month by lethal injection said Friday that his executioners injected him with 15 times the standard dose of a sedative and a painkiller during a procedure that lasted nearly two hours before their client was declared dead.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "An Israeli soldier who the military feared had been abducted by Hamas gunmen in a firefight Friday that shattered a temporary cease-fire in Gaza was declared dead Sunday, just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled that military operations against Palestinian militants would continue. 'We will take as much time as necessary, and will exert as much force as needed,' Netanyahu said Saturday. He said that Hamas will pay 'an intolerable price' for its attacks."

New York Times: "Israel will continue its military campaign in the Gaza Strip as long as necessary to stop Hamas's attacks on Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday evening, but he added that once the army's operations to destroy tunnels into Israel were completed, Israel would decide how to redeploy its forces, suggesting a de-escalation of the ground war in Gaza." ...

... New York Times: "The armed wing of Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian faction that dominates the Gaza Strip, said early Saturday that it was not holding an Israeli officer who has been missing since a deadly clash Friday that shattered a planned 72-hour cease-fire. The Qassam Brigades, which have led the 26-day-old battle with Israel, suggested in a statement that the officer may have been killed along with his captors in an Israeli assault that followed a suicide-bomb attack by Palestinian militants, who emerged from a tunnel that Israeli troops were trying to destroy near the southern border town of Rafah."

AP: "Following the quick collapse of the cease-fire in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the White House not to force a truce with Palestinian militants on Israel. Sources familiar with conversations between Netanyahu and senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, say the Israeli leader advised the Obama administration 'not to ever second guess me again' on the matter. The officials also said Netanyahu said he should be 'trusted' on the issue and about the unwillingness of Hamas to enter into and follow through on cease-fire talks."

Guardian: "A large team of international investigators, including Australian police, have recovered human remains and passenger belongings from the MH17 crash site during their first visit to the area. An 80-strong Australian and Dutch team spent five hours combing farmland, paddocks and villages in eastern Ukraine in an operation that could last up to 10 days."


The Commentariat -- August 1, 2014

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama blasted congressional Republicans Friday for failing to craft a workable response to the border crisis before leaving Washington for their summer recess, setting the stage for executive actions to address the surge in child migrants from central America. 'House Republicans as we speak are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable version of a bill that they already know is going nowhere, that can’t pass the Senate,' Obama said in a hastily-announced afternoon appearance in the White House press briefing room. 'They're not even trying to to solve the problem,' the president complained. 'This is a message bill….just so they can check a box before leaving town tomorrow'”:

... This Is Getting Hilarious. Mike Lillis, et al., of the Hill: "House GOP leaders are expected to bring a new border package to the floor on Friday that even some of the staunchest opponents of immigration reform said they would support." CW: Do they know the Congress is bicameral? ...

... Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said even if House Republicans get the votes necessary to pass its emergency border spending bill, there isn’t enough support in the Senate for the 'wrong-headed' measure." ...

... Jake Sherman, et al., of Politico: "After a day of embarrassing failures, House Republican leadership inched toward bringing a new border security bill to the floor Friday."

David Rogers of Politico: "Immigrant rights attorneys on the West Coast are seeking a preliminary injunction to block the Justice Department from expediting the deportation of children fleeing Central America without first ensuring they have legal counsel. Filed late Thursday night in federal court in Seattle, the papers build on a suit initiated July 9 arguing that the children can’t get a fair hearing unless given legal representation."

Steve Kenny of the New York Times: "Representative Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican whose last day as House majority leader was Thursday, said on Friday that he would resign his seat effective Aug. 18 in hopes that his successor will be able to participate in the lame-duck session after the November elections. Mr. Cantor, 51, made the announcement in an op-ed article published on The Richmond Times-Dispatch website.... Mr. Cantor, who has served in Congress for 14 years, said that he would ask Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, to call a special election for his seat on Nov. 4 — the same day as the general election — a move that would allow the winner to take Mr. Cantor’s seat immediately rather than wait for the next Congress to be seated in January. He would also enjoy the perks of Mr. Cantor’s seniority.... There was no indication whether [McAuliffe] would honor the request for a special election." ...

... The Richmond Times-Dispatch story, by Markus Schmidt, is here. ...

... Boo-Fucking-Hoo. Paul Kane & Sebastian Payne of the Washington Post: "As Cantor said farewell [in a speech to the House] Thursday, the always emotional Boehner dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief." ...

... In today's Comments, Akhilleus likens Boehner to Al Capone, as depicted in this scene from Brian De Palma's "The Untouchables." Read the whole comment. CW: Seems just right to me:

Josh Hicks & Ashley Halsey of the Washington Post: "In a sprint to the finish line before a five-week break, the Senate on Thursday night approved bills to aid the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs and to extend federal highway funding through May. On veterans affairs, senators voted 91 to 3 to approve legislation injecting more than $16 billion into VA to help deal with extensive treatment delays and a recent record-keeping scandal.... On transportation, the Senate voted 81 to 13 in favor of an $11 billion stopgap highway measure after weeks of squabbling with the House over the scope of the legislation. The bill, which replenishes the Highway Trust Fund, will keep about 6,000 state highway and transit projects rolling through next spring. Both measures now go to President Obama for his signature."

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "Facing a rebellion among their most conservative ranks, House Republicans were forced on Thursday to withdraw an emergency spending measure to address the surge of young Central American migrants at the southern border, in a major embarrassment to the new leadership team. House Republican leaders are expected to hold another meeting with their members on Friday morning to decide how to move forward, though many lawmakers said they would stay in Washington as long as necessary to put the bill on the floor. Some lawmakers had already departed on Thursday for the five-week summer break, and were summoned back to the Capitol." ...

... Jake Sherman & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "The turmoil is stunning considering how far to the right the GOP leadership pulled this bill. Boehner, [new Majority Leader Kevin] McCarthy and [Steve] Scalise, the new GOP whip, crafted a process that would have given the House a vote on legislation to stop the Obama administration from expanding its deferred deportation program. But even that wasn’t enough. The episode is most embarrassing for Scalise, whose allies crowed this week about running a more effective whip organization than McCarthy, the longtime Republican vote counter who will now be the majority leader." ...

It was Senator Cruz calling the shots, and that’s why people around here are calling him ‘Speaker Cruz’ today. It means when Speaker Boehner says he’s going to get something done from now on, he’d better be checking with Senator Cruz to see if he’s gonna get the votes because clearly the new leadership team isn’t up to the task. -- Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), on MSNBC Thursday ...

... The Party of Cruz. Paul Waldman: "Among the people Boehner can thank for this debacle is Sen. Ted Cruz, who encouraged House Republicans not to go along with Boehner’s bill unless it blocked expansion of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy giving the DREAMers deportation relief.... When Obama takes some kind of executive action to address the broader immigration problem, Republican complaints that he’s being tyrannical will be undermined by the GOP’s abysmal failure to offer an alternative.... All they’ve got to show for the end of the session is a lawsuit — one that will probably offer their own right wing nothing but frustration and disappointment, and will validate everything Obama is saying about them." ...

One of the unfortunate things in Washington is how little communication there is between members of House and Senate. For many months, I’ve been periodically hosting gatherings with House members to discuss issues and challenges of the day and our gathering last night was scheduled several weeks ago. -- Ted Cruz, to Robert Costa, Thursday

Sittin’ at my desk, watchin’ the news, rest of the day is up to Ted Cruz. -- Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), via Twitter, Thursday

... Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Cruz’s tight embrace of House conservatives also has given him a powerful network inside and outside of Congress, even as he has been marginalized by Democrats and many of his fellow Republicans in the Senate. Ignoring them, Cruz has turned friendly news media outlets, conservative advocacy groups and House backbenchers into his base." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "In Boehner's House, failure is always an option." ...

We will look back on this moment in Washington as The Week That Irony Died. -- Gail Collins, yesterday

There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries. -- John Boehner, after pulling the House's limited border-funding bill

... Russell Berman of the Atlantic: "On Wednesday, House Republicans sued President Obama for acting on his own without approval from Congress. On Thursday, House Republicans told President Obama he should act on his own to fix the border crisis. The messaging whiplash resulted from Speaker John Boehner's failure – so far – to pass a Republican spending bill that would provide $659 million to help stem the child migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. In a statement following the decision to abruptly scrap a vote on the measure, Boehner and his fellow GOP leaders tried to put the onus back on Obama, saying the president had the power to act unilaterally, 'without the need for congressional action,' to respond to the crisis." ...

     ... Flashback to Earlier That Same Day: Mark Felsenthall of Reuters: "House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday that any unilateral steps by President Barack Obama on immigration would make matters worse and add to a 'legacy of lawlessness. No more unilateral action by the president," Boehner said at a news conference. 'If the president takes these actions, he'll be sealing the deal on his legacy of lawlessness,' he said. 'He'll be violating the solemn oath he made to the American people on the day of his inauguration.'" ...

     ... CW: Got that? Early Thursday morning Boehner said it was illegal/unconstitutional for the President to act unilaterally ("lawless") on the border situation, & a few hours later he said it was legal/within his constitutional powers for the President to act unilaterally on the border situation ("without the need for congressional action"). ...

... Charles Pierce: "Holy mother of god, what a eunuch." ...

... Of course, as Steve M. points out in posts here and here, the House debacle won't make a whit of difference to the electorate. As far as most voters know, there's a border crisis of some kind & Obama hasn't fixed it. ...

... Just as a reminder that not all the Democrats on the Hill are bright lights, either -- Chris Moody of Yahoo! News: "During a floor speech on Wednesday night, Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee voiced her opposition to the House Republican lawsuit against President Barack Obama.... 'We did not seek an impeachment of President Bush, because as an executive, he had his authority. President Obama has the authority.' It's an odd thing for Jackson Lee to say, because it was just six years ago that she helped lead a movement to impeach Bush by co-sponsoring a bill accusing him of high crimes and misdemeanors."

Charlies Pierce on Tyranny: "Jefferson was willing to break with a king he called a tyrant even if it meant facing down the British army. John Boehner is not willing to risk impeaching a president his House called a tyrant if it means a four-point drop in a CNN poll."

NEW. CW: Read the Headline & Lede. Burgess Everett of Politico: "Senate Blocks Aid to Israel. In the end, the Senate couldn’t even agree to deliver emergency aid to one of the United States’ closest allies. A last-ditch effort to deliver aid to Israel during its war with Hamas died on the Senate floor, as Republicans blocked the proposal over concerns that it would increase the debt. After Senate Republicans blocked Democrats’ $2.7 billion border aid package, which also included $225 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and $615 million to fight Western wildfires, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to split off the Israel and wildfire money as a standalone bill, hoping to put aside the dispute over border funding and appeal to Republicans’ deep ties to Israel.... It didn’t work.... First Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) objected to Reid’s request for a straight emergency cash infusion for firefighting and Israel. Then Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) offered an alternative that would deliver money to Israel and the West and offer commensurate spending cuts to international organizations like the United Nations; Reid blocked that. 'Our number one ally — at least in my mind — is under attack. If this isn’t an emergency I don’t know anything that is,' Reid said." ...

     ... CW: The story is accompanied by a huge photo of Harry Reid. Anybody who reads only the headline & lede graf wlll assume Reid is at fault. It isn't that the Senate couldn't agree; Republicans couldn't agree; at best, they might have agreed to blackmail Reid with U.N. funding cuts. Because freeeedom.

Keith Laing of the Hill: "The House on Thursday shot down legislation from the Senate that would have extended federal transportation funding until December. The 272-150 vote puts pressure on Senate Democrats to accept the House-passed transportation bill, which would provide funding until next spring and avert a late summer shutdown of construction projects. Republicans said their $10.9 billion measure is now the only viable path for lawmakers to prevent a bankruptcy in infrastructure spending that has been predicted to occur in August." ...

... Keith Laing: "Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that the House’s plan to strip changes from a Senate bill to extend federal transportation funding and send it back to the upper chamber 'dishonors the rules of the House.' ... Pelosi said Thursday that GOP leaders were blocking Democrats in the lower chamber from bringing up the Senate’s version of the highway bill.... 'You may recall that the rules of the House say that if … the House and the Senate are in true disagreement on legislation, then any member of the House can call for the Senate bill to be brought up on the floor,' she said during a news conference. 'The rule that coming to the floor dishonors the rules of the House that gives that privilege to any member and says only the Majority Leader will have the right to bring it up, which means of course that it will not be brought up, Pelosi continued."

James Downie of the Washington Post: President Obama should fire CIA Director John Brennan for his serial lapses. ...

... New York Times Editors: "One of those heads [that should roll] may need to be Mr. Brennan’s. If he knew about the break-in, then he blatantly lied. If he did not, then apparently he was unaware of the lawless culture that has festered within the C.I.A. since the moment it was encouraged by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to torture suspects and then lie about it. That recklessness extended to the point where agency officials thought nothing of burglarizing their own overseer. Senator Mark Udall of Colorado [D] said the action was illegal and required the resignation of Mr. Brennan." ...

... digby: "And it really is very bad that the CIA hacked into the Senate computers, thus violating the separation of powers. Very bad. But it's not as bad as torturing people and getting away with it!! Jesus H. Christ, Brennan was right in the middle of that whole thing and has been complicit in the cover-up. But the straw that broke the camel's back was leaking and hacking the Senate investigation? ... Whatever. Just as long as they don't do something personally to Dianne Feinstein. That's a bridge too far." ...

... Here's the underlying New York Times story, by Mark Mazzetti & Carl Hulse: "An internal investigation by the Central Intelligence Agency has found that its officers improperly penetrated a computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to prepare its damning report on the C.I.A.'s detention and interrogation program.... When the C.I.A.'s monitoring of the committee became public in March, Mr. Brennan said, 'When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.' Days earlier, he said that lawmakers were making spurious allegations about C.I.A. actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts.'”

Paul Krugman: Even when experts are generally in agreement, "politicians pick and choose which experts — or, in many cases, 'experts' — to believe, [and] the odds are that they will choose badly."

Gene Robinson: "The real objection of those who ridicule [Secretary of State John Kerry's] efforts [in the Israel-Gaza conflict] seems to be that he came up with a plan that Hamas and its key remaining allies — the Islamist governments of Qatar and Turkey — could actually accept.

Fareed Zakaria on "the rise of Putinism." Exhibit No. 1: Hungary, where "Prime Minister Viktor Orban explained that his country is determined to build a new political model — illiberal democracy." So much for the end of history.

Joseph Marks of Politico: "U.S. allies Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, along with Syria, are using malicious email and Facebook messages to track and entrap journalists, dissidents and campaigners, who face jail and torture if identified and arrested, according to a new study. The cyberattacks are often very simple — just a plausible email, Twitter or Facebook message with a malicious link. Clicking that link reveals the IP address of the user, linking a particular computer or home network to targeted email or other account, according to the study from The Citizen Lab, run by the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto."

New York Times Editors: "McDonald’s said it would contest the [NLRB] ruling [that determined that McDonald's is jointly responsible for treatment of workers at its franchises], a process that could end up in the Supreme Court. That would delay any final accord between executives and workers, but it will not change the basic facts. Fast-food companies like McDonald’s and Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, are profitable and lavishly reward their executives — which means there is money available to raise wages. But those raises have not been forthcoming, forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab for food stamps, Medicaid and other public assistance that many McDonald’s workers use to get by." ...

... CW: Yeah, and I can't imagine that the Supremes would rule in favor of the McDonald's corporation person & against the workers' right to unionize. (See Harris v. Quinn.)

Paul Waldman notes that the kindlier, gentler Paul Ryan 2.0 has disavowed Paul Ryan 1.0's "hammock" analogy: "Paul Ryan used to say we didn’t want the safety net to become a 'hammock,' where lucky poor people lounge around drinking margaritas, living the high life on their $133 a month in food stamps." But kindly Paul Ryan 2.0 is not "worried government benefits are a hammock, it’s just that he worries that they’re a kind of netting thing strung loosely between two trees that you nap in."

** Rebecca Traister of the New Republic on reproductive justice: "... the strategy of erasing the female reproductive system from a larger definition of women’s health is part of a long tradition in conservative politics and policy-making. It’s been in place certainly since 1976, when the Hyde Amendment blocked Medicaid funds from being spent on abortion procedures.... These days, conservatives are busy applying the Hyde Amendment’s logic, that reproductive healthcare is different from human health, to ever-broadening areas of reproductive health. The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision extended it to birth control." ...

... Justice Ginsburg on her retirement:

... Justice Ginsburg speaks to Katie Couric about Hobby Lobby:

CW: This post by elections expert Rick Hasan on the Wisconsin supreme court's upholding the state's voter ID law is interesting for two reasons: (1) the Wisconsin supremes cited as the only evidence of voter fraud -- & thus the "proof" of the need for voter IDs -- one guy who was (a) a Scott Walker supporter, & (b) was charged with 13 counts of voter fraud (absent the voter ID law, BTW). (2) In a update, Hasan notes that the fraud committed by the Walker supporter occurred after the case-in-chief, & therefore "was not in evidence before the lower court. I believe it has become increasingly common for appellate courts to cite matters not in the record which the judges or their clerks find from a little googling." A few days ago I noted that Jonathan Gruber's remarks about state exchanges, recorded in 2012, but not in evidence in the Halbig case, would not be part of the record when & if the case goes to the Supremes. But I also said the conservative Supremes would certainly know about Gruber's comments fron reading the Right Wing News & well might raise them during oral arguments. In light of Hasan's observation, I'd say Gruber will get his day in court. Unfortunately.

Alex Seitz-Wald of msnbc: "Ten hours before the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, Bill Clinton allegedly told a group of businessmen in Australia that he had a chance to kill Osama bin Laden, but passed because it would have meant killing hundreds of innocent civilians. That’s according to never-before-released audio of remarks made public by Australian media on Wednesday." The tape is here. The audio clip is at about 5:30 min. in.

Josh Feldman of Mediaite: A Ku Klux Klan wizard has a plan to stop children from crossing into the U.S. via the U.S.-Mexican border: "shoot to kill.... If we can’t turn ‘em back, I think if we pop a couple of ‘em off and leave the corpses laying on the border, maybe they’ll see that we’re serious about stopping immigration." CW: That should be "lying on the border, not "laying."

Beyond the Beltway

Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "The prosecution’s star witness at the corruption trial of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his wife told jurors Thursday he had a simple reason for lavishing gifts on the first family: 'Because they’re helping me.' Jonnie R. Williams Sr. testified in his second day on the stand that he gave the McDonnells vacations, pricey clothes and more in the hopes his relationship with the couple would help him promote a supplement created by his company, Star Scientific." ...

     ... Update. Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "Prosecutors on Thursday unveiled what could be a critical new piece of evidence in their case against former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen: a photograph of the governor, grinning and holding up his wrist to display a watch. Testifying during the McDonnells’ federal corruption trial, businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. said he received the photo by text message in December 2012 in response to one he sent the governor. The watch on McDonnell’s wrist appeared to be the Rolex that Williams had purchased for the governor at the first lady’s request a year earlier. The picture could shatter any assertion that the governor was unaware that Williams ... had provided the expensive timepiece. McDonnell (R) has previously said the watch was a Christmas gift from his wife." ...

... The Post is liveblogging the trial.