The Ledes

Tuesday, August 19, 2014.

Washington Post: "The Islamic State militant group claimed Tuesday to have beheaded an American photojournalist in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. A video released online purported to show the execution of James Foley after he recited a statement in which he called the U.S. government 'my real killers. A second prisoner, said to be Steven Joel Sotloff, like Foley an American journalist who disappeared while covering Syria’s civil war, then appears in the video. The masked executioner, speaking with what sounds like a British accent, identifies Sotloff and says that 'the life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.'”

New York Times: "Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed late Monday to extend a five-day cease-fire for Gaza that expired at midnight for 24 hours, reflecting the difficulty of reaching more durable agreements after two weeks of Egyptian-brokered talks but also an apparent lack of appetite on either side to resume the conflict." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Another Gaza cease-fire collapsed on Tuesday when Palestinian militants fired rockets into southern Israel, drawing retaliatory airstrikes from Israel and prompting the Israeli government to withdraw its delegation from Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo for an agreement to end the latest conflict."

Guardian: "Armed groups in Syria have several hundred portable anti-aircraft missiles that could easily be diverted to extremists and used to destroy commercial planes, according to a new report by an international arms research group that cites the risk of the missiles being smuggled out of Syria by terrorists. The report was released a few hours after the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice to US airlines banning all flights in Syrian airspace."

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, August 18, 2014.

Washington Post: "James M. Jeffords, the former U.S. senator from Vermont who gave Democrats control of the closely divided chamber in 2001 when he left the Republican Party to become an independent, died Aug. 18 at a retirement residence in Washington. He was 80."

New York Times: "Separatists rebels on Monday attacked a caravan of cars carrying refugees trying to flee war-ravaged eastern Ukraine, killing 'dozens' of people in a devastating barrage of artillery fire, Ukrainian military officials said, though rebel leaders denied there had been any attack at all."

Guardian: "The US State Department banned a senior member of the Islamic State (Isis) on Monday.... Now banned from any financial dealings in the United States or with people in the United States is the group’s spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, a Syrian whose given name is Taha Sobhi Falaha. Also banned was Said Arif, an Algerian member of the rival Nusra Front who escaped house arrest in France and was linked to a plot to bomb the Eiffel Tower."

AP: "Aided by U.S. and Iraqi airstrikes, Kurdish forces Sunday wrested back part of Iraq's largest dam from Islamic militants who had captured it less than two weeks ago, security officials said." ...

... Reuters: "Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iraqi counter-terrorism forces have pushed Islamic State militants out of Mosul dam, state television reported on Monday.... An independent verification was not immediately possible."

Reuters: "Russia on Monday said all objections to it sending a humanitarian convoy to Ukraine had been resolved but said no progress had been made in Berlin talks toward a ceasefire between government and rebel forces in the east of the country."

Reuters: "Israeli troops on Monday demolished the homes of two Palestinians it suspects of the abduction and killing of three teenagers in the occupied West Bank in June, the army said."

Guardian: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said he 'will be leaving the embassy soon' during a press conference at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has sought asylum for more than two years."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
August 18

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

John Oliver on "native advertising." Via Juan Cole:

Justice Ginsburg on the Tumblr site Notorious R.B.G.:

Washington Post: "Former president George W. Bush has been writing a book about his father, former president George H.W. Bush. The book will be published in November."

"Homophonia." Caroline Moss of Business Insider: "An education blogger in Utah is out of a job today after writing [righting] a blog post explaining 'homophones' for the Nomen Global Language Center. Tim Torkildson said he was fired by [buy] his boss and NGLC owner, Clarke Woodger, for [four] promoting a gay agenda." Here's Torkildson's blogpost on his firing. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times: "New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission would do well to turn down the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion, which imagines replacing a prized garden on East 70th Street in Manhattan with a clumsy addition. The city should avoid another self-inflicted wound, and there are other options." CW: As I recall, the garden is that it is difficult to see from the street. I love the garden court & have spent a good deal of time there.

Martha Stewart has a drone.

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."

 

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:

 

Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

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-- Constant Weader

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Sunday
Jun012014

The Commentariat -- June 2, 2014

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The Obama administration on Monday will announce one of the strongest actions ever taken by the United States government to fight climate change, a proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulation to cut carbon pollution from the nation's power plants 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, according to people briefed on the plan."

     ... From Davenport's report: "Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists blame for trapping heat in the atmosphere and dangerously warming the planet." [Emphasis added.] ...

... D. R. Tucker of the Washington Monthly: "The 'scientists blame' phrase is a disgusting, abhorrent hedge.... Somebody please tell the New York Times that the right-wing folks who hate the paper will continue to hate the paper, no matter how much false objectivity appears in the paper. Stop trying to woo the folks who despise you."

How about this: If global warming happens, the flooding may cause some people to lose their guns. -- Virginia, a commenter trying to think up a way to win over climate deniers (via the Brad Blog)

... "A Youthful Dalliance." Alec MacGillis of the New Republic: Back when Barack Obama was King Coal (or at least Prince Coal).

Paul Krugman: “Chris Giles, the economics editor of The Financial Times..., has not gone well for Mr. Giles. The alleged errors were actually the kinds of data adjustments that are normal in any research that relies on a variety of sources. And the crucial assertion that there is no clear trend toward increased concentration of wealth rested on a known fallacy, an apples-to-oranges comparison that experts have long warned about.... Yet inequality denial persists, for pretty much the same reasons that climate change denial persists: there are powerful groups with a strong interest in rejecting the facts, or at least creating a fog of doubt.”

Tom Hamburger & Kevin Sieff of the Washington Post: "Joy about the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl yielded Sunday to questions about Obama administration decision-making in the deal for the American prisoner of war, which included the release of five high-ranking Afghan Taliban detainees. Congressional Republicans and others focused on a series of concerns that are likely to reverberate in coming days: whether the deal breached U.S. policy forbidding negotiations with terrorists, whether sufficient safeguards were in place to ensure that the released Taliban prisoners do no further harm to the United States and whether Congress was informed about the prisoner trade, as required by law. Separately, some inside the military raised questions about the cost associated with rescuing Bergdahl, who drifted away from his unit five years ago under curious circumstances." ...

... Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post: “National security adviser Susan Rice and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defended the Obama administration's decision to trade five Taliban-affiliated terrorism suspects for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only known American prisoner of war in Afghanistan, who on Saturday was recovered by U.S. Special Operations forces." ...

... The official White House statement is here. ...

Ambassador Rice basically said to you, 'Yes, U.S. policy has changed. Now we make deals with terrorists,' ... The reason why the U.S. has had the policy for decades of not negotiating with terrorists is because once you start doing it, every other terrorist has an incentive to capture more soldiers. -- Sen. Ted Cruz (RTP-Texas), on This Week

     ... Politifact: "Even though presidents and officials often say 'we do not negotiate with terrorists,' it has not proven to be a hard-and-fast rule. Obama's actions so far do not signal a change in policy, but rather the latest in a long line of exceptions presidents have made throughout recent history. We rate Cruz's statement Mostly False." ...

... Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast: "Now that President Obama has proven Congress can't stop him from releasing terrorists, the administration could be primed to empty out the prison at Guantanamo Bay." ...

... ** Dan Lamothe & Kevin Sieff of the Washington Post: "Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's recovery after five years in captivity has rekindled anger among some of his military peers over how he came to fall into enemy hands and the price the United States has paid to get him back. Bergdahl, 28, is believed to have slipped away from his platoon's small outpost in Afghanistan's Paktika province on June 30, 2009, after growing disillusioned with the U.S. military's war effort." ...

... Nathan Bethea provides a first-hand account of the search from Bergdahl in the Daily Beast. "For five years, soldiers have been forced to stay silent about the disappearance and search for Bergdahl. Now we can talk about what really happened." ...

... Impeachment! Michael Tomasky thinks Bergdahl is "the new Benghazi."

Manu Raju & Burgess Everett of Politico: "With Eric Shinseki out at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the focus now shifts to Capitol Hill, placing [Bernie Sanders,] Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman, at the center of the growing VA health care controversy. Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, is assembling a legislative package to help address the issue in the hopes that he can consolidate support within the veterans community and assuage concerns of vulnerable Democrats." ...

... Brian Beutler of the New Republic: How the GOP's turning up the volume on the VA scandal will backfire.

Politico's big piece today is "The Obama Paradox" by Carrie Brown & Jennifer Epstein. CW: It's supposed to be a think piece. But it's Politico. Ergo, I wouldn't look for useful analysis, but the story contains some interesting tidbits. ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "That visit to the Gap.... "'What he cherishes and misses [about New York city] is the serendipity -- you don't know who you're going to bump into or what they're going to say,' senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said following the Gap excursion. 'He hungers for that.' Though, after running into Bill Clinton a few times, he'll probably get over it." ...

... CW: What struck me about the Politico article -- assuming a word of it is true -- is how much Obama wants to be like the Clintons. Not only did he fill top administration posts with Clinton acolytes (not to mention a real-live Clinton); not only does he follow Clinton-type policy prescriptions (international trade deals, faggedaboud serious financial reform, etc.); now Obama even longs for a Clintonesque post-presidency. Weird. And dismaying, especially since this is the guy most of us voted for because he wasn't a Clinton.

Kyle Cheney & Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico: "Right now, 36 states rely on HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange, to enroll people in health coverage. At least two more states are opting in next year, with a few others likely to follow. Only two states are trying to get out.... The federal option was supposed to be a limited and temporary fallback. But a shift to a bigger, more permanent Washington-controlled system is instead underway.... It's coming about because intransigent Republicans shunned state exchanges, and ambitious Democrats bungled them." ...

     ... CW: Not stated in the Politico article (of course) is this: Despite the Healthcare.gov start-up debacle, it turns out that the federal government does a lot of stuff better than do state governments. As long as humans are running things, there always will be screw-ups (see Veterans Administration), but federal government screw-ups are usually no worse than private-sector screw-ups (what's the wait-time to see your doctor for a non-emergency?); the fed goofs just get more attention because the not-responsible/irresponsible party & news media cover them. Nobody cares if your insurance agent is an incompetent jerk or if you have to wait 8 weeks to see your doctor.

Dylan Stableford of Yahoo! News: "Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is weighing in on the rampage in Santa Barbara, California, calling both for stricter gun laws and for background checks for people with mental illness. 'The real problem here is we have too many guns in the hands of criminals, people with psychiatric problems -- as this guy obviously did -- and minors,' Bloomberg said on 'Meet The Press' on Sunday. "And we've got to find some ways to stop that." ...

... Adam Nagourney, et al., of the New York Times: Elliot Rodger had always had severe psychological problems.

CW: Missed this. Benjamin Wittes, in a New Republic/Lawfare piece, gives his take Ed Snowden's NBC News interview.

Primary Races 2014

Adam Wollner of the National Journal provides a rundown of tomorrow's primary races.

Presidential Election 2016

Maggie Haberman of Politico: "'Hard Choices,' meet 'Failed Choices.' The Republican opposition research group America Rising will release an e-book on Hillary Clinton's tenure at the State Department, describing her own book about her service as 'spin' aimed at a presidential campaign. The e-book, 'Failed Choices: A Critique of the Clinton State Department,' will be available on Amazon just as Clinton's own 'Hard Choices' hits bookstores on June 10."

News Ledes

AP: "President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday swore in a Palestinian unity government, taking a major step toward ending a crippling territorial and political split among the Palestinians but also setting the stage for new friction with Israel."

Guardian: "After nearly 40 years on the throne, King Juan Carlos of Spain is to abdicate in favour of his son Crown Prince Felipe, the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, announced on Monday." The New York Times story is here.

New York: "One day after video surfaced of V. Stiviano making her own racist remarks in footage filmed for a reality-show pilot, there was another unfortunate development in the Donald Sterling saga. Stiviano's attorney, Mac Nehorary, told Radar Online that she was beaten up by two white men while leaving New York's Gansevoort Hotel on Sunday night."

Sunday
Jun012014

The Commentariat -- June 1, 2014

Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post: "Taliban fighters released the sole remaining American military hostage [Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl] Saturday morning to a team of U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan, who quickly hustled him onto a helicopter.... His release was secured after the Obama administration, working through Qatari government intermediaries, agreed to free five high-profile Afghan inmates held by the U.S. military in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." ...

... Kevin Sieff of the Washington Post: "Although the five men have each been in prison for at least a decade, many believe they still have significant influence within the Taliban because of their contributions during the group's formative years."

... White House: "In the White House Rose Garden, President Obama delivers a statement about the recovery of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl":

... Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "Amid jubilation Saturday over the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity by the Taliban, senior Republicans on Capitol Hill said they were troubled by the means by which it was accomplished, which was a deal to release five Afghan detainees from the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Top Republicans on the Senate and House armed services committees went so far as to accuse President Obama of having broken the law, which requires the administration to notify Congress before any transfers from Guantanamo are carried out.... A senior administration official ... acknowledged that the law was not followed. When he signed the law last year, Obama issued a signing statement contending that the notification requirement was an unconstitutional infringement on his powers as commander in chief and that he therefore could override it. " ...

... ** Steve M.: "... in all likelihood, if they'd gotten advance notice, the Republicans would have done everything in their power to block the release of Bergdahl -- as, reportedly, they did in 2012." ...

... Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel describes the operation to retrieve Bergdahl.

James Risen of the New York Times & Laura Poitras: "The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents.... The agency intercepts 'millions of images per day' -- including about 55,000 'facial recognition quality images' -- which translate into 'tremendous untapped potential,' according to 2011 documents obtained from the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden."

Dina Cappiello of the AP: "The new pollution rule the Obama administration announces Monday will be a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's environmental legacy and arguably the most significant U.S. environmental regulation in decades. But it's not one the White House wanted.... Obama was forced to rely on the Clean Air Act after he tried and failed to get Congress to pass a new law during his first term. When the Republicans took over the House, the goal became impossible. The new rule, as the president described it in a news conference in 2010, is another way of 'skinning the cat' on climate change."

Charles Pierce wrote an excellent essay Friday on the VA scandal.

Adam Kirsch of the New Republic: New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan doesn't know what a book review is. "... the whole idea of an ombudsman does not apply to political and intellectual debate, because there is no privileged position, above and outside the fray, from which such judgments can be issued. The idea that a reviewer might be censured for her opinions, by the official spokesman of the very publication that published them, should give every writer -- and reader -- pause." Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link.

Julie Pace of the AP: "Once seemingly destined to become secretary of state, Susan Rice now holds a lower-profile job at the White House, juggling global crises for the president and trying to ensure his foreign policy priorities don't fall by the wayside in a storm of overseas problems."

CW: Unsurprisingly, the New York Times' official abstinence columnist Ross Douthat gets stuff wrong in his piece on the "tension between sexual expectations and social reality" -- like his notion that feminists should be doing more to make men feel good about themselves -- but for once you won't necessarily be wasting your time reading the Wisdom of Pope Benedict's Man at the Times.

The American Family Association (Tony Perkins' group) has told its followers -- or whatever they are -- not to open mail that comes with a Harvey Milk "forever" stamp. Steve Benen reports.

Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post: The Army "last year, quietly issuing [Christian fundamentalist & anti-Islamist retired Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin] a scathing reprimand following a criminal investigation that concluded he had wrongfully released classified information, according to an Army document obtained by The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request." Boykin more or less the reprimand, saying that while reprimands should be taken seriously, "at this stage in my life, it really hasn't had any impact on my life like it would have if it had happened when I was on active duty." Via Steve Benen.

The Ark & the Covenant -- Busted. Joe Sonka of LEO: "Dinosaurs on a goddamned boat" may not get any Kentucky tax incentives/breaks, after all. Via Benen.

Beyond the Borders

Maureen Dowd on the Irish troubles.

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "The United Nations is facing a chorus of criticism over the inauguration as president of its general assembly of Uganda's foreign minister [Sam Kutesa], just four months after that country enforced a brutal and widely denounced anti-gay law.... As the appointment nears, questions are being asked about his track record of alleged corruption, as well as his role as cabinet member of a government that has enacted one of the most virulent homophobic laws on the globe."

News Ledes

Philadelphia Inquirer: "Lewis Katz, 72, co-owner of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, died Saturday night in the crash of a private jet at a Massachusetts airfield. All seven people aboard were killed when the Gulfstream IV crashed about 9:40 p.m. as it was departing Hanscom Field in Bedford for Atlantic City International Airport, said a Massachusetts Port Authority spokesman."

New York Times: "Ann B. Davis, the comic actress best known as the wistful, wisecracking live-in maid on the long-running ABC sitcom 'The Brady Bunch,' died on Sunday at a hospital in San Antonio. She was 88."

AP: " A man has been arrested in southeast France in the investigation of a shooting at a Jewish museum in Brussels that left at least three people dead, the Paris prosecutor's office said Sunday."

Saturday
May312014

The Commentariat -- May 31, 2014

Greg Jaffe & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Eric K. Shinseki resigned as secretary of veterans affairs Friday, apologizing for a scandal in which employees throughout the VA's massive hospital system conspired to hide months-long wait times that veterans faced when seeking care. The size and scope of the coverups in an agency that he had presided over for more than five years left Shinseki dumbfounded and President Obama searching for a replacement for one of his longest serving and most trusted Cabinet officials." ...

... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Even when President Obama at last decided to fire someone for the scandal at the Veterans Affairs Administration, he made clear it was not his idea. In fact, Obama said, he had to be convinced by the man who was being let go":

... New York Times Editors: "... the department's problem was not Mr. Shinseki. It has been broken for years. No one should expect his removal to be anything but the beginning of a much-needed process of change." ...

... ** Mariah Blake of Mother Jones: "... according to VA inspector general reports and other documents that have gone overlooked in the current firestorm, federal officials knew about the scheme at the heart of the scandal — falsifying VA records to cover up treatment delays -- years before Obama became president. VA officials first learned of the problems in 2005.... White House spokesman Jay Carney says the commander in chief was unaware of these allegations until news of the Phoenix VA scandal hit. But according to a memo obtained by the Washington Times, Obama's transition team briefed him on the issue before he took office." Read the whole article. ...

... Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: "... at an earlier job, as Army chief of staff, [Shinseki] was awfully prescient about how bad things were going to get in Iraq if the United States followed the advice of Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. After Shinseki testified before that war's start that securing Iraq would require several hundred thousand troops to pacify the country, he was subject to a relentless campaign of vilification led by those three and their associates, carried out by the right-wing media.... He may have messed this assignment up, but he still comes out of the wash way ahead of the people who gave us, by choice, all the damaged veterans he was supposed to care for." ...

... Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: Sloan Gibson, "the man who is temporarily replacing Eric Shinseki as secretary of veterans affairs, is a West Point graduate, a onetime banker and a former chief executive of the United Service Organizations (known to most Americans as the U.S.O.) who joined the Department of Veterans Affairs just three months ago." ...

... ** David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: The VA has been crooked from the git-go. "For decades, the VA was a byword for bureaucracy itself, seen as Washington's ultimate paper-pushing, mind-bending hierarchy. That reputation was rooted in the VA's history: It came about because the agency's first leader was an audacious crook." ...

... Paul Steinhauser of CNN: "Minutes after Obama delivered the news, Republicans made it clear that Shinseki's departure doesn't bring an end to this controversy, and shifted their attention from the outgoing VA secretary to the President." ...

... MEANWHILE, on Fox "News." Steve M. has the answer: "Old Fox Line: Shinseki must go! New Fox Line: Yeah, he resigned -- so what?

David Nakamura: "President Obama announced Friday that Jay Carney will step down as White House press secretary after more than three years and be replaced by his deputy Josh Earnest, who worked on the Obama campaign in 2008":

Matthew McKnight of the New Yorker: "On this week's Political Scene podcast, David Remnick and Ryan Lizza join host Amelia Lester to discuss President Obama's speech at West Point and criticisms of his foreign policy":

Would Boehner Drink Drano? Jonathan Chait on the GOP talking point "I am not a scientist": "Very few of us are scientists, which is exactly why we tend to defer to scientific judgment. It might make sense to question expert consensus in a field where you are an expert, but if you know very little about it, you probably want to just go along with what the experts think. Scientists do, in fact, have a nearly unanimous view of anthropogenic global warming.... 'I'm not a scientist' allows Republicans to avoid conceding the legitimacy of climate science while also avoiding the political downside of openly branding themselves as haters of science. The beauty of the line is that it implicitly concedes that scientists possess real expertise, while simultaneously allowing you to ignore that expertise altogether."

Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has joined Mitch McConnell in suggesting that Kentucky could maintain its Obamacare exchange if health care reform is repealed, saying that he's 'not sure' if the new marketplace (Kynect) should be unraveled. Paul's comments come as a growing number of Republicans aim to repackage the key tenets of President Obama's health care law as unique state solutions, designed and built by state officials far away from Washington D.C."

New Yorker: "On this week’s Out Loud podcast, [New Yorker staffer Ken] Auletta joins Nicholas Thompson, the editor of newyorker.com, to discuss the strategies he used to report the story" of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson's firing.

2014 Elections

Gail Collins on the Texas & Mississippi GOP primaries.

Quack, Quack. Jim Newell of Salon has a sneaking suspicion of why RNC chair Reince Priebus can't convince Americans that the Republican party is "the party of equality."

Presidential Election

Elias Isquith of Salon: Chris Christie will not be president; he can't even manage New Jersey.

Marie's Sports Report

When $2BB Is Not Enough. Tim Stelloh of NBC Sports: "After being forced to relinquish control of the Los Angeles Clippers, embattled owner Donald Sterling filed a lawsuit Friday seeking $1 billion in damages from the NBA. The complaint, which was filed in federal district court in California, assailed league commissioner Adam Silver." ...

... Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today: "Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling does not have the authority to stop a $2 billion sale of his team because he has been determined to be mentally unfit to make decisions related to the family trust, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports."

Travis Waldron of Think Progress: "As challenges against the name of the Washington Redskins have persisted for more than four decades, the teams ownership and management has held on to a consistent story: that the team changed its original name -- the Boston Braves -- to the Boston Redskins in 1933 to honor its coach, William 'Lone Star' Dietz, who maintained at the time that he was a member of the Sioux tribe. But in a 1933 interview with the Associated Press, George Preston Marshall, the team's owner and original founder, admitted that the story wasn't true." ...

... Travis Waldron: "The Washington Redskins ... started a Twitter campaign to rally support Thursday afternoon" for keeping a racial slur as their name. "No one, other than perhaps the people running the team's communications effort, thought this was going to go well." Waldron reproduces some Twitter responses.

News Ledes

ew York Times: "An American who blew himself up in an attack in Syria on Sunday has been identified by law enforcement officials as Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a man in his early 20s who grew up in [Vero Beach,] Florida and traveled to Syria late last year."

AP: "A friend of the brothers suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon was accused Friday of obstructing the investigation into the deadly attack by deleting information from his computer and lying to investigators. The friend, Khairullozhon Matanov, 23, of Quincy, was arrested at his apartment.... About 40 minutes after the bombs went off, Matanov called Tamerlan Tsarnaev and invited him to dinner, the indictment said, and all three of them dined together at a restaurant that night."

Guardian: "Google has launched a webpage where European citizens can request that links to information about them be taken off search results, the first step to comply with a court ruling affirming the 'right to be forgotten'."

Thursday
May292014

The Commentariat -- May 30, 2014

Michael Shear & David Joachim of the New York Times: "The secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, apologized to veterans and lawmakers on Friday for the agency's mismanagement of the nation's veterans hospitals as he prepared to meet with President Obama, his job on he line, over the widening scandal. 'After Wednesday's release of an interim inspector general report, we now know that V.A. has a systemic, totally unacceptable lack of integrity within some of our veterans' health facilities,' Mr. Shinseki told a conference of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans." ...

... Richard Oppel & Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: "At the heart of the falsified data in [the] Phoenix [VA hospital], and possibly many other veterans hospitals, is an acute shortage of doctors, particularly primary care ones, to handle a patient population swelled both by aging veterans from the Vietnam War and younger ones who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.... The inspector general's report also pointed to another factor...: pressures to excel in the annual performance reviews...." ...

... Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "President Barack Obama says he will have a 'serious conversation' with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki about his 'capacity' to adequately handle the problems in the department. [The remarks were made during an interview with] Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan that was taped on Thursday and aired on Friday. Shinseki on Friday is expected to deliver to the president an internal audit on the situation at the VA." ...

... Russell Berman of the Hill on why Boehner & Cantor aren't calling for Shinseki's ouster: "It's not that House Republican leaders think Eric Shinseki is doing a good job as secretary of the scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs. It's that they think his ouster could give President Obama an easy way out of a widening crisis." ...

... OR, as Jake Sherman & John Bresnahan of Politico put it, "John Boehner and Eric Cantor don't want to make the Veterans Affairs scandal about Eric Shinseki. They want to make Barack Obama responsible."

Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday passed an agriculture budget bill that included nearly $21 billion for child nutrition that would allow schools to opt out of White House nutritional guidelines passed in 2012. The vote was 31 to 18." Because, um, serving nutritious meals is too ha-a-a-rd.

Wowza! Denver Nicks (Not a Pro B-ball Team) of Time: "House lawmakers advanced legislation Thursday that boosts funding for the federal system of background checks for gun purchases, less than a week after a gunman's rampage in a California college town reignited debate over gun control.... The amendment passed 260 to 145." ...

... Mellow! AP: "The GOP-controlled House voted early Friday in favor of blocking the federal government from interfering with states that permit the use of medical marijuana. The somewhat surprising 219-189 vote came as the House debated a bill funding the Justice Department's budget. The amendment by conservative GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California -- the first state to legalize medical marijuana -- came as almost half the states have legalized marijuana for medical uses...." CW: This vote is a shocker: it is both intellectually consistent with the GOP's states-rights philosophy AND it's sensible & humane.

Paul Krugman: "Everything we know suggests that we can achieve large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at little cost to the economy.... You might ask why the Chamber of Commerce is so fiercely opposed to action against global warming, if the cost of action is so small. The answer, of course, is that the chamber is serving special interests, notably the coal industry -- what's good for America isn't good for the Koch brothers, and vice versa -- and also catering to the ever more powerful anti-science sentiments of the Republican Party." ...

... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that he's 'not qualified to debate the science over climate change' while slamming the Obama Administration proposed plans to deal with rising global temperatures." CW Think about the logic there. ...

... Dumb & Dumber. Darren Goode of Politico: Apparently ignorance is now a GOP talking point. ...

... Ignorance of the Science Is No Excuse. Emily Atkin of Think Progress: "Donald. J Wuebbles, a distinguished professor of atmospheric sciences and coordinating lead author ... on the recently released National Climate Assessment, said that report was written by scientists and other experts specifically so that members of Congress could understand climate change and how it affects the country. With that report available, he said, climate change should be 'readily understood by any policymaker.'" ...

... Jonathan Chait: "When the history of this presidency is written, it will record that bold, progressive reforms dramatically reshaped the face of government, thanks to the vision, creativity, and political will of one man. And that man is Mitt Romney. President Obama already has Gina McCarthy, who designed Romney's cap-and-trade program in Massachusetts, running the Environmental Protection Agency for him.... The [Obama] administration's new regulations of power plants, due for release Monday, will be designed to expand the structure Romney built." Read the whole post. It's funny. And a reminder that President Obama is just as liberal as Mitt Romney.

Jamelle Bouie in Slate: President "Obama is a talented politician, but in his five years as president, he's made major political mistakes. The 2011 debt ceiling crisis was a huge debacle that threatened the global economy, and it owes itself -- in part -- to Obama's decision to negotiate the debt limit, bucking precedent and sparking a spiral of Republican intransigence.... If there's another failure in the cards for Obama, it's immigration. Since 2009 the president has pressed for comprehensive immigration reform at the same time that he's increased border security.... President Obama still thinks he can get immigration reform from a recalcitrant GOP.... Like the push to negotiate the debt ceiling, this is an insane calculation.... It's hard to overstate the human cost of Obama's deportation policies."

Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "America must change its 'suck-it-up culture' when it comes to responding to head injuries, President Barack Obama said at a White House event on Thursday, during which he revealed his suspicion that he himself sustained concussions as a young athlete." CW: Great. Now Karl Rove can claim Obama is brain-damaged, just like Hillary:

Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post: National spelling bee brings out the racists. Turns out only very, very white kids are entitled to spel rite. Also, only very, very white children are American children.

More on reparations by Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker. CW: Yo, Jelani. Shouldn't those Indian-Americans receive reparations, too?

Neil Irwin of the New York Times: "Six days after The Financial Times launched an attack on the data behind Thomas Piketty's much-debated tome on inequality, 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century,' Mr. Piketty has offered his first detailed response to the newspaper's criticism. The short version: He doesn't give an inch." ...

     ... Update: Here's Picketty's full response.

Ellen Nakashima & Barton Gellman of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration and former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden offered divergent accounts Thursday of his efforts to raise concerns about National Security Agency activity more than a year ago, as each side tried to shape the debate over whether the massive leak of classified information was avoidable." The Guardian story, by Dan Roberts, is here. Snowden's e-mail & the response are here. ...

... CW: This is weird. Charles Pierce doesn't seem to understand the difference between reporters & sources. If you bring me evidence that your boss is doing something "irregular" & I publish your stuff, you can get fired or maybe even successfully sued; I suffer no adverse consequences. If Ed Snowden reveals NSA secrets, & the WashPo publishes them, Snowden can be prosecuted; WashPo reporters & editors suffer no adverse consequences. Somebody buy Pierce a copy of the First Amendment. There's no guarantee of Freedom of the Sources. (And, no, freedom of speech doesn't cover Snowden, et al., either.)

Guns are mostly for hunting down politicians who would actively seek to take your freedoms and liberty away from you. Google 'Hitler, Mao, Kim Jung Il, Castro, Stalin' just for starters. -- Samuel Joe the Plumber Wurzelbacher, who clearly needs psychiatric supervision & probably a visit from the Secret Service

Kate Tummarello of the Hill: "The broadcast industry plans to sue the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over its decision to crack down on resource-sharing deals between broadcasters. On Friday, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) will ask the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a March FCC vote that requires broadcasters to unwind many of their advertising sales resource sharing arrangements, according to a source familiar with the matter."

Racism Pays! James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times: "Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer appears to have won a frenetic bidding war for ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, with a $2-billion offer that would set a record price for an NBA team.... The sale price would be almost four times the previous NBA franchise high: the $550 million paid earlier this month for the Milwaukee Bucks.... The tentative deal still must receive the blessing of Donald Sterling, who has waxed and waned on the question of whether he would allow his wife to sell the team he has controlled for more than three decades."

Ballmer already has the moves for a sports team owner. Here's how he behaved at a Microsoft meeting:

A Singular Reality Chek. Politico Gets It. This article by Ken Vogel in Politico Magazine is interesting mostly for the first few grafs about President Obama & for its final paragraph. It seems to me that when even a top Politico reporter acknowledges -- even highlights -- the oligarchic takeover of U.S. politics, we're on the verge of a journalistic realignment.

Retreat of the Troglodytes. Juliet Eilperin & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Republican candidates have begun to retreat in recent weeks from their all-out assault on the Affordable Care Act in favor of a more piecemeal approach, suggesting they would preserve some aspects of the law while jettisoning others.... The moves also come as senior House Republicans have decided to postpone a floor vote on their own health-reform proposal -- making it less likely that a GOP alternative will be on offer before the November elections...."

Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Hillary Clinton offers a detailed account of the deadly attack on the American embassy in Benghazi -- and a pointed rebuttal to Republican critics who've laced into her over the incident -- in a much-anticipated chapter of her forthcoming book, 'Hard Choices,' obtained by Politico. 'Those who exploit this tragedy over and over as a political tool minimize the sacrifice of those who served our country,' Clinton writes in the gripping chapter, 'Benghazi: Under Attack.'"

A Land Where Nobody Knows Your Name

     ... I know that fellow is a jerk; I just don't know which jerk.

     ... Caroline Bankoff of New York: "Weiner, for his part, told Business Insider that learning that someone had confused him with the free-school-lunch-hating Ryan is 'the final insult.'"

Congressional Race

Aviva Shen of Think Progress: "An Arizona Republican running for Congress argued that Democrats commit nearly all the mass shootings in the country. Gary Kiehne, a rancher looking to unseat Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), made the claim when asked about gun rights at a Republican primary debate on Saturday. 'If you look at all the fiascos that have occurred, 99 percent of them have been by Democrats pulling their guns out and shooting people,' Kiehne said. 'So I don't think you have a problem with the Republicans.' Kiehne also boasted that he had 'more guns and ammo than any one of my competitors.' Kiehne's claim that 99 percent of shootings were committed by Democrats is completely false, yet continues to be a persistent myth on the radical right.

... AND/OR ... Right Wing World

Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "Family Research Council senior fellow Ken Blackwell yesterday linked the Isla Vista mass killings to marriage equality laws, which he claimed are destroying the culture."

... SO -- Married Gay Democrats???