The Ledes

Thursday, July 24, 2014.

Guardian: "A flight operated by Air Algérie carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early on Thursday, the plane's owner said."

The Guardian is liveblogging developments in the Gaza crisis. More than 700 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, many of them children.

Reuters: "A powerful Ukrainian rebel leader has confirmed that pro-Russian separatists had an anti-aircraft missile of the type Washington says was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and it could have originated in Russia. In an interview with Reuters, Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, acknowledged for the first time since the airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday that the rebels did possess the BUK missile system and said it could have been sent back subsequently to remove proof of its presence."

Los Angeles Times: "The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday night lifted its ban on U.S. flights to and from Tel Aviv."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, July 23, 2014.

New York Times: "The United Nations Human Rights Council voted to establish an inquiry into human rights violations in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories at a special session on Wednesday in which the top human rights official, Navi Pillay, said Israel and Hamas had likely committed war crimes with indiscriminate attacks on civilians." ...

... New York Times: "As the death toll mounts and passions spike, the Foreign Press Association in Israel condemned on Wednesday what it called 'deliberate official and unofficial incitement against journalists' who are reporting on the fighting in Gaza. That includes 'forcible attempts to prevent journalists and TV crews from carrying out their news assignments,' the association said."

... New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to Israel on Wednesday, as he pressed his effort to forge a cease-fire to bring a halt to the bitter fighting in the Gaza Strip. Mr. Kerry’s plane touched down at Ben-Gurion International Airport just a day after the United States Federal Aviation Administration suspended American civilian flights to Israel." ...

... Guardian: "International airlines halted flights to and from Israel indefinitely on Tuesday citing security concerns in an unexpected twist to the two-week-old conflict in Gaza." ...

     ... CW: Guess that puts something of a damper on the Summer Vacation Insurance Theory of War. ...

... Washington Post: "As Israel pummels Hamas’s infrastructure inside Gaza, it is also trying to prevent attacks originating from the West Bank and Israel — by obliterating the houses of the relatives of Palestinians who allegedly have harmed Israelis. In doing so, Israel’s military has returned to a controversial policy of punitive demolitions that has displaced thousands of Palestinians over the years."

Washington Post: "Two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down Wednesday over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in the same vicinity as a Malaysian airliner that was downed last week, Ukrainian officials said." ...

... Time: "U.S. intelligence resources tracked the 'specific missile' that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a senior Administration official said Tuesday, saying intelligence adds up to a picture that 'implicates Russia' in helping to bring down the plane." ...

... Washington Post: "The Obama administration, detailing what it called evidence of Russian complicity in the downing of a Malaysian airliner, on Tuesday released satellite images and other sensitive intelligence that officials say show Moscow had trained and equipped rebels in Ukraine responsible for the attack."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, May 29:"The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was  eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday."

White House Live Video
July 23

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the NAACP national convention in Las Vegas, Nevada (audio only)

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


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.

Heller McAlpin reviews Marja Mills' book The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir of the writer's friendship with Harper Lee & her sister Alice Finch Lee, for the Washington Post.

According to this Daily Beast headline, the "World Awaits LeBron James' Decision." CW: Even though I so often do the sports report, it turns out I am not of this world.

Smart Girls Don't Swear. Vanity Fair "cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed" some of the Nixon tapes, "many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable." The post excerpts a few: Nixon on gays, Jews, swearing.

New York Times: Hillary Clinton's "memoir, 'Hard Choices,' has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein. It is a powerful statement about today’s publishing realities that Mr. Klein’s book, a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages, including one about a physical altercation between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama, has landed atop the New York Times best-seller list, knocking 'Hard Choices' to No. 2." ...

... If by chance you believe the major media are the exclusive haunts of "elite leftists," here's evidence it ain't so. Klein, the Times story notes, is "a former editor at Newsweek  and The New York Times Magazine."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast interviews Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times. Abramson still doesn't know what "management skills" means. Kinda makes you think maybe she doesn't have any.

Tim Egan: American children are too sheltered. The world isn't as scary as we think it is.

... Thanks to Bonita for the link. CW: I except you actually could purchase the materials at Hobby Lobby you'd need to make an IUD. However, Dr. Weader strongly advises against this do-it-yourself project.

New York Times: "The New Yorker is overhauling its website, making all articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers."

The New York Times Magazine publishes excerpts from a few of Warren Harding's love letters to Carrie Phillips. Also, he was a worse poet than he was a president. And Phillips was unfaithful to Harding; then she blackmailed him. Maybe it was because she was so turned off by all those letters where he personified his penis as "Jerry."

Guardian: A Princeton archaeologist has found what may be the world's oldest extant erotic graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia in the Aegean sea. Also, it is so gay.

Wherever in the U.S. you may live, if you missed your local news last night, we have it here. In fact, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, here's what will be on your local news tonight. Thanks to Bonita for the link:

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The Commentariat -- May 6, 2014

Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "Barack Obama has signed up for eight interviews with TV meteorologists on Tuesday to defend a landmark report against those who deny climate change. The interviews were scheduled as part of a carefully co-ordinated rollout of the National Climate Assessment. The exhaustively detailed account of the impact of climate change on America will be formally launched at the White House on Tuesday."

Conservative Justices: Free Speech for Me but Not for Thee. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "In cases raising First Amendment claims, a new study found, Justice Scalia voted to uphold the free speech rights of conservative speakers at more than triple the rate of liberal ones.... Social science calls this kind of thing 'in-group bias.' ... Lee Epstein, a political scientist and law professor who conducted the new study with two colleagues, said it showed the justices to be 'opportunistic free speech advocates.' ... The Roberts court's more liberal members 'present a more complex story,' the study found. All supported free expression more often when the speaker was liberal, but the results were statistically significant only for Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010. In the case of Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the difference was negligible." ...

... Conservative Justices: Freedom of Religion for Me but Not for Thee. Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "Stopping just short of abandoning a historic barrier to religion in government activity, a deeply divided Supreme Court ruled on Monday that local governments may open their meetings with prayers that are explicitly religious and may turn out to be largely confined to expressing the beliefs of one faith." (Emphasis added.)

... what we find here is that the principal dissent's objection, in the end, is really quite niggling. -- Justice Samuel Alito, on Justice Elena Kagan's dissent, in an opinion concurring with Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in Greece v. Galloway

An accurate translation is too offensive to write. -- Constant Weader

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "... not only did the court move the goal posts — from now on sectarian prayer will be permissible until it isn't -- but it also threw out the rule book and benched all the refs.... From now on we just do as the religious majorities say, so long as nobody is being damned or converted.... Alito and Kennedy ... [ha]ve reimagined the refusal of dissenters to either pray along or remove themselves from the room -- but in any event to stop kvetching -- as civic rudeness." ...

... Andy Borowitz: "In what legal experts are calling a landmark decision, on Monday the United States Supreme Court struck down what many believe to be the main reason the country was started. By a five-to-four vote, the Court eliminated what grade-school children have traditionally been taught was one of the key rationales for founding the United States in the first place. 'The separation of church and state has been a cornerstone of American democracy for over two hundred years,' said Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority. 'Getting rid of it was long overdue.'"

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court Monday decided once again to stay out of the legal battle over whether some states are too restrictive in issuing permits to carry a handgun outside the home. The justices without comment turned down a request to review whether New Jersey's law requiring 'justifiable need' to get a handgun permit infringes on Second Amendment rights."

Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times: "The death rate in Massachusetts dropped significantly after it adopted mandatory health care coverage in 2006, a study released Monday found, offering evidence that the country's first experiment with universal coverage -- and the model for crucial parts of President Obama's health care law...." ...

... Nick Budnick of the Oregonian (Friday): "The Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened at least a preliminary inquiry into Cover Oregon.... The law enforcement arm of the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has also launched at least a preliminary inquiry into potential spillover from Cover Oregon into the state's Medicaid-funded Oregon Health Plan, The Oregonian has learned. Meanwhile, both the Government Accountability Office and the U.S. House oversight committee [that would be Darrell Issa] have announced their own investigations." ...

... Liz Kowalczyk of the Boston Globe: "Massachusetts plans to completely scrap the state's dysfunctional online health insurance website, deciding that it would be too expensive and time-consuming to fix the overwhelming number of flaws. Instead, officials will buy an off-the-shelf product used by several other states to enroll residents in health plans, while simultaneously preparing to join the federal insurance marketplace if that product fails." ...

... CW: It's hard to remain as baffled by the meltdown when you learn that state exchanges, which should be relatively easier to design, had such major fails, too. (Maryland is giving up on their system, too.) ...

... Jenna Levy of Gallup: "The uninsured rate for U.S. adults in April was 13.4%, down from 15.0% in March. This is the lowest monthly uninsured rate recorded since Gallup and Healthways began tracking it in January 2008.... This downward trend in the uninsured rate coincided with the health insurance marketplace exchanges opening in October 2013, and accelerated as the March 31 deadline to purchase health insurance coverage approached...." ...

... Reducing the number of uninsured Americans is not a goal in itself. The point of helping people get health insurance is to protect them from crippling medical bills, stabilize their finances, and give them access to health care when they need it. Raw numbers on coverage are just one indicator of progress towards that goal. But they're a pretty important one. -- Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic

Democrats bragging about the number of mandatory sign ups for Obamacare is like Germans bragging about the number of manditory [sic] sign ups for 'train rides' for Jews in the 40s. -- Tennessee State Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) ...

... Apparently this sick fuck elected official has not apologized. -- Constant Weader ...

... And he won't. Steve M. has some background on this sick fuck "obsessive-compulsive troll" elected official.

... Mark Trumbull of the Christian Science Monitor: "The American public is now evenly split in its opinion of the Affordable Care Act, an improvement in the law's standing, according to a new Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll. Some 47 percent of American adults support the law known as Obamacare, and 47 percent are opposed, finds the poll, conducted between April 26 and May 1."

Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post: Michele Leonhart, "the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, is refusing to support a bill backed by the Obama administration that would lower the length of mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug crimes, putting her at odds with her boss Attorney General Eric Holder on one of the criminal justice reform initiatives he hopes to make a centerpiece of his legacy.... Leonhart was originally confirmed as deputy administrator of the DEA during the Bush administration in 2004, but was nominated to take over the agency by President Barack Obama over the objections of many drug policy reformers."

... The president chose his economic team, and when there was only so much time and so much money to go around, his economic team chose Wall Street instead of American families who were in trouble. -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren, in a HuffPost interview

... Greg Gordon of McClatchy News: "Declaring that 'there is no such thing as "too big to jail,'" Attorney General Eric Holder hinted on May 5th that the Justice Department is ready and willing to impose criminal sanctions on major banks or other financial institutions":

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "The White House has pressured the chief executives of some of America's largest energy, financial and industrial corporations into canceling plans to attend an international economic forum in Russia to be hosted by President Vladimir V. Putin this month, the latest effort to isolate Moscow in retaliation for its intervention in Ukraine."

Alex Rogers of Time: "Congressional Democrats launched a unified attack on Monday against the newly announced special House committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks as a political ploy that will waste taxpayer money, while Republicans defended the committee as a necessary next step in the investigation of a terrorist attack that killed a U.S. ambassador." ...

... ** Jane Mayer of the New Yorker: "If you compare the costs of the Reagan Administration's serial security lapses in Beirut to the costs of Benghazi, it's clear what has really deteriorated in the intervening three decades. It's not the security of American government personnel working abroad. It's the behavior of American congressmen at home." CW: A must-read.

Dean Obeidallah of the Daily Beast: "... when I first heard the outrage from some on the right to comedian Joel McHale and President Obama's jokes at the WHCD, I could only assume they were joking.... I might have more sympathy for the conservatives upset by Obama and McHale’s 'mean' jokes if I heard them denounce the truly hateful crap spewed in the past by people in their camp. Instead, we heard Rush Limbaugh's despicable comments calling Sandra Fluke a 'slut' and a 'prostitute' defended by Rick Santorum because he views Limbaugh as an 'entertainer.'" ...

... Speaking of Santorum: Let's not make this argument that we're for the blue-collar guy but we're against any minimum wage increase ever. It just makes no sense.... If the Republicans want to go out and say, 'we're against the minimum wage,' then go out and make the argument to the American public and the 80-some percent of the American public who believes we should have a minimum wage. -- Rick Santorum, in a "Morning Joe" appearance

Rick Santorum is more liberal than the vast majority of current U.S. Senators. That's heartening. -- Constant Weader ...

... AND Here's a Movie Santorum Should Watch. Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "Emily Letts, a 25-year-old abortion counselor at a clinic in New Jersey, knew that she wanted to use her own abortion story to help other woman making their own decisions about whether to end a pregnancy.... In an essay published on, Letts explains that she decided to film her procedure after trying and failing to find a video of a surgical abortion online.... Her video ... shows her doing some deep breathing and humming during the short procedure, as well as talking things over with the staff in the room." ...

... In her Cosmopolitian essay, Letts writes, "I had never been political about abortion rights before, but the idea of helping women through an abortion and supporting them and reassuring them that they are still wonderful and beautiful resoated deeply with me." ...

... Letts says in the video, "I just want to share my story." So we're sharing:

Annals of American "Journalism," Ctd.

To Fox "News," "Those People" All Look Alike. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: In a story about the Korean ferry's sinking, Fox "News" aired footage of Nepalese mourning the loss of Sherpa guides in a Mount Everest avalanche.

To the New York Times, Conservatives & Liberals All Look Alike. CW: After you read Adam Liptak's story on the justices' biases, linked above, read what Steve M. has to say about the way Liptak frames the results for conservative & liberal justices. Steve is absolutely right. I had to cherrypick Liptak's story to present an accurate picture of the findings of the study he's reporting.

Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "These numbers, pulled from every Fox transcript on Nexis for the dates in question, tells the story of what happens when it becomes clear that Obamacare is succeeding." Thanks to James S. for the link:

Beyond the Beltway

John Clarke of Reuters: "Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley on Monday approved a gradual hike in the state's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour as fellow Democrats seek to make raising the wage an issue ahead of this year's midterm congressional elections.... Maryland joins California, Hawaii, Connecticut and the District of Columbia in passing legislation or signing into law increases in the minimum wage."

CW: Aw, I just cain't keep up with the Bundys. Joe Schoenmann of the Las Vegas Sun: "Surrounded by reporters and supporters, Cliven Bundy's family protested peacefully in front of the Metro Police department this morning and filed criminal complaints against the federal Bureau of Land Management for assault and other alleged offenses." ...

     ... Among their complaints: BLM officers were impersonating police officers. The story by Henry Brean of the Las Vegas Review-Journal is more detailed, but I'm not citing it because the company that owns the paper is a well-known "copyright troll," "named after its practice of scouring the internet for 'violations' in order to make a profit." The Review-Journal owner loses in court, but I can't afford the nuisance suit.

It is not our practice to take crime reports on law enforcement agencies conducting a law enforcement function. In this case, the Bureau of Land Management is a recognized federal law enforcement agency. -- Las Vegas Metro police, in a statement

Mireya Navarro & Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "New York City will commit $8.2 billion in public funds to a 10-year housing plan that could transform the cityscape from Cypress Hills in Brooklyn to the shores of the Harlem River, while providing affordable homes to thousands of low- to middle-income residents, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday. In embracing a vision for a denser New York, the mayor intends to require, not simply encourage, developers to include affordable units in residential projects in newly rezoned areas around the city."

William Rashbaum & Susanne Craig of the New York Times: "Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have issued a grand jury subpoena seeking emails, text messages and other records from all the members of the anticorruption commission that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo abruptly shut down in March, three people briefed on the matter said on Monday. The action by prosecutors from the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, comes just weeks after he took the unusual step of publicly criticizing the governor's shutdown of the panel and took possession of its investigative files."

Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "An Occupy Wall Street activist is facing up to seven years in prison after being convicted by a jury in Manhattan of assaulting a New York police officer as he led her out of a protest. Cecily McMillan was on Monday afternoon found guilty of deliberately elbowing Officer Grantley Bovell in the face in March 2012. After a trial lasting more than four weeks, the jury of eight women and four men reached their verdict in about three hours." ...

... ** Molly Knefel of the Guardian: "While this is nothing new for the over-policed communities of New York City, what happened to McMillan reveals just how powerful and unrestrained a massive police force can be...."

Congressional Races

Shushannah Walshe of ABC News: "The primary season is truly upon us as North Carolina, Ohio, and Indiana host primaries today. Twenty-five states will hold primaries in the next six weeks and today's key one to watch will take us into a fight that will play out all over this country in the coming weeks: the establishment GOP vs. the Tea Party and whether the establishment can finally put down the Tea Party rebellion and re-take the Senate. We'll also watch as a possible 2016 proxy fight between Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, and even Mike Huckabee erupts in North Carolina."

Cameron Joseph of the Hill: "A slew of May primary battles begins Tuesday as the Republican establishment looks to reassert its control over a divided GOP in a number of states. Its first big test comes in North Carolina, where business-friendly GOP groups have gone all-in for House Speaker Thom Tillis as he seeks to avoid a primary election runoff and turn his focus to Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.). The race is a top priority for the GOP as it seeks to win back the Senate."

Presidential Race

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Fearful of a third successive Democratic triumph, concerned Senate Republicans are turning against 2016 presidential bids by upstart hopefuls within their own ranks. In forceful comments to The Hill, GOP senators made it plain that they would much prefer their party nominate a current or former governor over Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Marco Rubio (Fla.) or Rand Paul (Ky.). CW: Bolton gets senators on the record arguing that senators don't make good candidates."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "An international uproar mounted Tuesday over the fate of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Islamist militants in mid-April, with the Obama administration preparing to send a team of specialists to Nigeria to help recover the missing girls and U.N. officials warning that the kidnappers could face arrest, prosecution and prison under international law."

Guardian: "Ukraine is close to war, the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has warned in interviews published in four European newspapers on Tuesday. Dozens are feared to have died in clashes outside Slavyansk on Monday as Ukrainian troops clashed with pro-Russia separatists."


The Commentariat -- May 5, 2014

NPR: Cinco de Mayo is mostly a U.S. production. Except in the village of Puebla, Mexico, the holiday in not celebrated by Mexicans.

Christian Nation, Ctd. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a town in upstate New York may begin its public meetings with a prayer from a 'chaplain of the month.' Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 5-to-4 decision, said 'ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define.' In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the town's practices could not be reconciled 'with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share of her government.'"

Matea Gold of the Washington Post: "A group of wealthy liberal donors who helped bankroll the Center for American Progress and other major advocacy groups on the left is developing a new big-money strategy that could boost state-level Democratic candidates and mobilize core party voters. The plan, being crafted in private by a group of about 100 donors that includes billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros and San Francisco venture capitalist Rob McKay, seeks to give Democrats a stronger hand in the redrawing of district lines for state legislatures and the U.S. House."

E. J. Dionne: "The roughly one-eighth of voters who disapprove of [President] Obama but nonetheless support [Hillary] Clinton for 2016 may be the most important group in the electorate. If Democratic candidates can collectively manage to corral Clinton's share of the national electorate this fall, the party would likely keep control of the Senate and might take over the House of Representatives."

Paul Krugman: " On Thursday, House Republicans released a deliberately misleading report on the status of health reform, crudely rigging the numbers to sustain the illusion of failure in the face of unexpected success.... Mainstream politicians didn't always try to advance their agenda through lies, damned lies and — in this case -- bogus statistics. And the fact that this has become standard operating procedure for a major party bodes ill for America's future."

Digby, in Salon: "Benghazi!™ is about portraying the Obama administration as being wimpy on terrorism, of course. But ... the Obama administration is the one that killed bin Laden and is taking down terrorists -- and anyone who might accidentally look like one, which is a whole other story -- with drone strikes all over the Middle East and Africa. (It's true that he's failed to invade a random country just to prove America's manhood, but he's still got a couple of years.) ... The Obama administration has made not one single move on terrorism with which the right would normally quarrel. But they simply cannot admit that this or one of their most important organizing principles is off the table: National security is as fundamental to them as low taxes and gun rights.... So they're ... making a national security scandal up out of whole cloth. But this isn't about Obama, not really. They have another Clinton to kick around and her involvement in Benghazi!™ as secretary of state gave them a perfect opportunity to dust off the old scandal sheet music and brush up on those old songs." ...

... Michael Hirsh of Politico: "The Benghazi-Industrial Complex is here to stay, fueled by a mania on the right to somehow, in some way, validate Issa's declaration that Obama is the 'one of the most corrupt presidents of modern times' and, above all, to tarnish Clinton ahead of 2016 by linking the former secretary of state directly to the deaths of [Ambassador Chris] Stevens and the others." ...

... John Bresnahan, et al., of Politico explain what-all the House "select committee" on Benghaaaazi! will be doing. Nancy Pelosi may not even name Democrats to the committee. CW: Even Politico writers seem to regard this latest "investigative" effort as a joke.

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "David G. Blanchflower, an economics professor at Dartmouth College, and Adam S. Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, argue in a new paper that the slow pace of wage growth is the best indicator of an incomplete economic recovery. Until wages start rising more quickly, the economy remains far from healthy. The two men also argue that the federal Reserve should focus on wage growth in calibrating its stimulus campaign because wage growth effectively summarizes other measures like unemployment and participation."

Alec MacGillis of the New Republic on what a stupendously lackadaisical regulator SEC chair Mary Jo White is. Not too surprising:

I believe there is too much bias toward Wall Street among regulators. At the time, I said I hoped she would prove me wrong. But I'm still waiting for the S.E.C. to break from the status quo and demand accountability from the financial institutions it oversees. It's time we find watchdogs outside of the very industry that they are meant to police. -- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), after voting against White's confirmation

... CW: White & her husband got super-rich defending Wall Street muckamucks. Her husband is still working his day job, as far as I know. White was a horrible choice, but I think Obama knew just what he was doing. Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link to MacGillis's piece.

Gene Robinson, the former Episcopalian Bishop of New Hampshire, announces his pending divorce in the Daily Beast.

Katie McDonough of Salon tries to explain racism to a privileged white racist Princeton freshman. Good luck with that: "... like many white people he doesn't want to confront racism and white privilege because those things have -- and will continue to -- really, really help him out in life. And the reality is that he doesn't have to confront this stuff, either.... That's exactly how white privilege works."

Elizabeth Barber of Reuters: "Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush showed courage in breaking his 'read my lips: no new taxes' campaign pledge to broker a 1990 budget compromise that may have cost him re-election two years later, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation said on Sunday. The organization honored the 41st U.S. president with its 2014 Profile in Courage Award, praising the Republican leader's 'decision to put country above party and political prospects' in the deal with congressional Democrats."

Must-Not-Read "Journalism." Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times: "John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, political journalists known for their detailed, gossip-filled books on the past two presidential campaigns, will join Bloomberg in the coming days to start a new site that will focus on American politics and policy." ...

... Speaking of lousy journalists, Joe Hagan has a profile in New York of Lara Logan. Numerous "Friends of Lara" at CBS "News" diss her -- anonymously, of course. Profiles in courage -- not. ...

... Driftglass sums up the excellent journalism evident on the Sunday shows in one sentence: "It was a Benghaaaazi-fest, with breadcrumb filler." ...

     ... AND he links to this post by Emily Smith, no doubt an excellent gossip journalist at the New York Post's Page Six: "David Gregory's tenure at 'Meet the Press' has suffered another blow after the show's long-standing producer, Chris Donovan, quit after 12 years and defected to work for ABC rival George Stephanopoulos at 'This Week.' Donovan, who started at ABC last week, was fed up with embattled Gregory and the direction of 'Meet the Press,' sources tell Page Six, which has sunk to third place in the ratings, behind CBS' 'Face the Nation' and ABC's 'This Week.'" ...

... Charles Pierce has a much longer review of "Sunday Showz" "journalism." He wants to see more entertainers & sports figures on the shows. His fave this week:

I did a little bit of research, more whites believe in ghosts than believe in racism. That's why ... why we have shows like Ghostbusters and don't have shows like Racistbuster. You know, it's something that's still part of our culture and people hold on to some of these ideas and practices just out of habit and saying that well that's the way it always was. But things have to change. -- Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, on "This Week"

I totally would watch Racistbusters. If the first episode was a two-parter at the Bundy Ranch, the ratings would be through the roof. -- Charles Pierce

... CW: Maybe Driftglass & Pierce should have watched Univision's Sunday show, where Jorge Ramos repeatedly pressed Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee on Republicans' immigration policy. As Greg Sargent reads Goodlatte's evasive, but still telling, answers, "Republicans have effectively defined their policy stance as follows: Obama is not deporting enough low level offenders with lives here, so therefore we won't embrace any form of legal status for them."

Beyond the Beltway

Tim Devaney of the Hill: "Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Sunday blamed the state of Oklahoma for a 'botched' execution of a death row inmate last week, but said his state will proceed with the death penalty without pause.... Texas currently has 273 people on death row. The Lone Star State has executed more than 500 people -- the most of any state -- since the Supreme Court reaffirmed the death penalty in 1976."

Congressional Races

Susan Page & Kendall Breitman of USA Today: "A nationwide USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll shows the strongest tilt to Republican candidates at this point in a midterm year in at least two decades, including before partisan 'waves' in 1994 and 2010 that swept the GOP into power."

Presidential Election

Jason Horowitz of the New York Times: Rand Paul's Very Special Guest at the Kentucky Derby: Rupert Murdoch. "There is a great tradition of political theater and back-room dealing at the Kentucky Derby, and the pageant involving Mr. Murdoch fit right in."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Pro-Russian insurgents shot down a Ukrainian military helicopter as heavy fighting re-erupted around a key rebel stronghold on Monday, leaving at least eight people dead and dozens wounded. The fierce fighting in Slovyansk, a separatist stronghold, broke out as the Ukrainian government sought to regain control of the key Black Sea port of Odessa, dispatching a special police unit to that city after deadly clashes there between rival mobs supporting Ukraine and Russia." ...

... Reuters: "Switzerland's federal prosecutor has frozen 170 million Swiss francs ($193.34 million) of assets in Swiss bank accounts belonging to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich and people close to him, a Swiss newspaper reported on Sunday."

Reuters: "The trustee liquidating Bernard Madoff's firm on Monday began distributing another $351.6 million to the swindler's former customers, boosting the amount recouped to nearly $6 billion."

Chicago Tribune: "Gary Becker, a Nobel Prize-winning professor of economics and sociology at the University of Chicago whom colleagues called one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, died over the weekend. He was 83." ...

     ... Becker's New York Times obituary is here.


The Commentariat -- May 4, 2014

President Obama, speaking at the White House Correspondents' dinner last night:

... AND the runners-up:

... New York Times bans David Brooks from White House Correspondents' dinner. (CW: Okay, the fastidious Gray Lady doesn't let any of her staff attend the dinner, but that's not as satisfying a headline. If Joe Biden can write his own headlines -- see video above -- so can I.)

CW: As Hillary goes, so goes MoDo. I don't think Dowd can survive at the Times without the aid of elixir of Clinton. ...

... The New York Times Editors review President Obama's foreign policy performance, & find it isn't nearly as bad as MoDo claims. ...

... Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Sen. Timothy M. Kaine (Va.), a close ally of President Obama's who chaired the Democratic National Committee during the president's first term, threw his support behind Hillary Rodham Clinton's prospective presidential campaign on Saturday. Addressing a breakfast meeting of Democratic women in South Carolina, Kaine called Clinton 'the right person for the job' and pledged to do what he can to draft the former secretary of state into the 2016 presidential contest."

Mike Lux of American Family Voices compiles a video of Elizabeth Warren's greatest hits. Thanks to Barbarossa for the link:

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker reviews Warren's book for the New York Review of Books.

Nick Anderson of the Washington Post: By framing sexual assault as a civil rights issue, the Obama administration has forced educational institutions to address sexual violence on campus. ...

... Richard Perez-Pena & Kate Taylor of the New York Times: "Increasingly..., at colleges across the country..., more victims [are going] public, more of them [are filing] formal federal complaints, a new network of activists [is making] shrewd use of the law and the media, and the Obama administration [is stepping] up pressure on colleges."

Beyond the Beltway

The Price for Warmongering: $35,000. Kelly Heyboer of the Star-Ledger: "Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backed out of giving Rutgers University's commencement speech today amid growing opposition among the school's students and faculty.... Earlier this week, about 50 Rutgers students staged a sit-in inside the campus administration building to protest the selection of Rice to speak. She was scheduled to receive $35,000 for her speech and an honorary Rutgers doctoral degree." ...

... Kathleen Geier of Washington Monthly on why Rice never should have been invited nor given a hefty speaker's fee. ...

... Mob Rule! Wingers are predictably wigged-out. This post by William Jaconbson of Legal Insurrection is a case in point. However, Jacobson's exchange with Eric Boehlert of Media Matters is interesting, including Jacobson's last response -- Hillary's "mushroom cloud appearance."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast: Now the Koch brothers -- along with right-wing impresario Art Pope -- are pumping money in to a North Carolina supreme court race in a move toward take control of the state's judiciary.

Niraj Chokshi of the Washington Post: "Georgia's Catholic and Episcopal churches are opting out of the state's new expanded gun law. Among other things, the expansive legislation signed by Gov. Nathan Deal (R) last week bans weapons from places of worship but gives religious leaders the authority to make exceptions to that ban for licensed gun owners. In the days since it was signed, senior religious leaders in the Catholic and Episcopal communities in Georgia have vowed not to allow such exceptions." Via Steve Benen.

More from Right Wing World

I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions. -- Oklahoma state Rep. Michael Christian (apparently his real name), who "spearheaded an effort to impeach Oklahoma state Supreme Court justices who were aiming to delay" the execution of Clayton Lockett

Scott Kaufman of the Raw Story: "Speaking at the Pastor for Life Luncheon, which was sponsored by Pro-Life Mississippi, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court declared that the First Amendment only applies to Christians because 'Buddha didn't create us, Mohammed didn't create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures' who created us." ...

... CW: The federal government should grant free transit & a moving stipend to anyone who lives in Alabama, is not a white male fundamentalist Christian, and wishes to move to a state that embraces equal protection. ...

... Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, where the First Amendment also applies only to Christians, a Satanist group is putting the finishing touches on a statue they propose to mount on the steps of the Oklahoma State Capitol, next to the Ten Commandments monolith approved by the state legislature & placed there in 2012. There's evah so slight a chance the state will not approve the Satanist installation. Steve Benen notes that the Satanist's case is strong: "There are, after all, no second-class Americans citizens when it comes to the First Amendment. If one group has the right to erect a monument, so does everyone else."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Gerry Adams, the leader of the Irish political party Sinn Fein, was released from police custody without charges on Sunday after four days of questioning into a gruesome 1972 Irish Republican Army murder of a widow with 10 children. But the police will hand over a file of potential evidence against him to prosecutors, police officials said."

Washington Post: "A trio of new studies has discovered that the blood of young mice appears to reverse some of the effects of aging when put into the circulatory systems of elderly mice."

Washington Post: "Ukrainian ­authorities vowed Saturday to restore control over the roiling eastern part of their nation, slowly advancing on two key breakaway cities even as the Kremlin and its supporters in Ukraine said the violence demanded a response. The military operations Saturday claimed at least 10 lives, medical officials said, a day after a conflagration in a trade union building killed dozens of pro-Russian activists in the port city of Odessa in the bloodiest day in Ukraine in nearly three months." ...

     ... Update: "Divisions deepened in Ukraine's third-largest city Sunday as pro-Russian militants attacked a police station in Odessa and freed 67 of their allies, while pro-Ukrainian activists gathered with sticks and clubs and vowed to defend the southern city from the kind of takeovers that have occurred in the eastern part of the country. The spread of the violence to Odessa has raised the stakes dramatically in the Ukraine crisis...."

AP: "The doomed ferry Sewol exceeded its cargo limit on 246 trips -- nearly every voyage it made in which it reported cargo -- in the 13 months before it sank, according to documents that reveal the regulatory failures that allowed passengers by the hundreds to set off on an unsafe vessel. And it may have been more overloaded than ever on its final journey."


The Commentariat -- May 3, 2014

CW: A reminder that the White House Correspondents' dinner is tonight. I'll carry it live here beginning at 8:00 pm.

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said Friday that there were still significant differences between Germany and the United States over the issue of surveillance, and warned that it was too soon to return to 'business as usual' between the two allies. At a joint news conference at the White House, both Ms. Merkel and President Obama addressed the tensions between the two countries caused by the disclosure last October that the National Security Agency had eavesdropped on Ms. Merkel’s phone calls":

David Sanger of the New York Times: Silicon Valley "was the subject of a new White House report about how technology and the crunching of big data about the lives of Americans -- from which websites they visit to where they drive their newly networked cars -- are enlarging the problem. At their core, the questions about the N.S.A. are strikingly similar to those about how Google, Yahoo, Facebook and thousands of application makers crunch their numbers. The difference is over the question of how far the government will go to restrain the growth of its own post-Sept. 11 capabilities, and whether it will decide the time has come to intrude on what private industry collects, in the name of protecting privacy or preventing new forms of discrimination." ...

... An earlier Times report on the White House paper, by Sanger & Steve Lohr, is here. ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama declared this week's botched execution in Oklahoma 'deeply disturbing' and directed the attorney general on Friday to review how the death penalty is applied in the United States at a time when it has become increasingly debated.... Within hours, the Justice Department outlined a relatively narrow review focused on how executions are carried out rather assessing the entire system. But given Mr. Obama's broader comments, supporters and opponents wondered whether he might be foreshadowing an eventual shift in position by the time he leaves office, much as he dropped his opposition to same-sex marriage in 2012."

Trey Gowdy.Upending Webster's. Benghaaazi! Wesley Lowrey of the Washington Post: "The House Republican leadership will form a select committee, likely to be led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), to investigate the State Department's handling of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya." ...

se·lect: adjective \sə-ˈlekt\: of the highest quality -- Merriam-Webster

There is no way the House GOP can put together a 'select committee,' in the standard definition of the word 'select.' So form the git-go, the committee is bogus. -- Constant Weader

... Charles Pierce comments. ...

... Jed Lewison gets you up-to-date on the leadership's "reasons" for replacing Darrell Issa with Trey Gowdy. as Chief Benghazi Prosecutor. One possible motivation: Gowdy's "amazing hair." CW: Gowdy looks like a serial killer to me.

American "Justice," Ctd. Marc Bookman in Mother Jones on a Georgia case in which a mentally-disabled man is likely to be executed because his drunken, criminal, racist, deadbeat, lawyer failed to present mitigating evidence in the sentencing phase. And quite a number of Georgia judges are fine with that.

Hannity Supports Vigilante Double Murderer. Timothy Johnson of Media Matters: "Fox host Sean Hannity dismissed the murder convictions of a Minnesota homeowner[, Byron Smith,] who used excessive force in killing two teenagers who broke into his home, claiming with exasperation, 'They broke into the guy's house.' ... After spotting a neighbor he believed had previously burglarized his house, Smith moved his car to make his home seem unoccupied and then waited in his basement 'with a book, energy bars, a bottle of water and two guns.'" Johnson relates the horrifying details of the executions, which Smith audio-recorded. With video. ...

The guy should get a Medal of Freedom for what he did. -- Bernard McGurk, Imus producer & on-air personality, a Hannity guest for the segment

... CW: For those of you with strong stomachs, the New York Daily News has the audio of the executions here. I won't be listening. ...

... Digby, in Salon: "And to think it was the conservative movement that once fetishized 'law and order.' Of course it was always self-serving.... But it's still startling to see television anchors lauding a man who is clearly a murderous fiend and then sharing a good chuckle over the whole thing. Thanks to Barbarossa for the link. ...

... Nicole Flatow of Think Progress: "Seventeen-year-old Diren Dede lost his life Sunday, while in Missoula, Montana on a high school exchange program from Germany. He was shot dead at the home of Markus Kaarma, after Kaarma set a trap for intruders by intentionally leaving the garage open and placing a purse in clear view. After motion sensors detected someone in the garage, Kaarma shot Dede. And while he has since been charged with first degree murder, he is already invoking a Stand Your Ground-like defense.... Since the shooting Sunday, state lawmaker Ellie Hill (D) has already proposed a bill to repeal some provisions of [Montana's NRA-backed gun] law. More than two years after the shooting of Trayvon [Martin] made these laws famous, not a single state has successfully repealed a provision." ...

... CW: Hannity's producers are likely trying to book Kaarma now. This is what you get with permissive stand-your-ground/castle-doctrine laws: they encourage nuts -- like Hannity -- to believe they have a right to shoot anybody who enters their homes or steps in their yards uninvited. If no prey conveniently appear, just set a trap. The "moral majority" is murderously immoral. ...

     ... Too bad Montana's attractive-nuisance laws didn't get as much press attention as its permissive gun laws. Kaarma not only created an attractive nuisance to lure children to his home, he did so purposely.

... As Digby writes, "Looking for some really fun 21st century style 'hunting'? Set up a deer blind, only for people, and wait for a dumb teenager to wander into it. Then kill him, claiming you're 'standing your ground.' Premeditated murder is now legal in a whole bunch of states."

The Conspirator. James Stewart of the New York Times: Steve Jobs "was the driving force in a conspiracy to prevent competitors from poaching employees.... The anti-poaching pact was hardly Mr. Jobs[s only post-mortem brush with the law. His behavior was at the center of an e-book price-fixing conspiracy with major publishers. After a lengthy trial, a federal judge ruled last summer that 'Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy.' (Apple has appealed the decision. The publishers all settled the case.) ... In an email to James Murdoch, then an executive at News Corporation, which owned the publisher HarperCollins, Mr. Jobs offered what amounted to a classic case in price fixing.... Mr. Jobs also figured prominently in the options backdating scandal that rocked Silicon Valley eight years ago.... Five executives of other companies went to prison for backdating options, but Mr. Jobs was never charged."

A "Wall of Separation" Crumbles. Harold French in the Columbia Journalism Review. For Bloomberg "News," the motto is "All the news that fits our business interests." The business division kills its news division's investigative stories when they displease the Chinese government. Thanks to Safari for the link.

Congressional Race

Rod Meloni, et al., of WDIV Detroit: "Veteran U.S. Congressman John Conyers does not have enough signatures to get on the Aug. 5 primary ballot, according to Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett.... However, she said this is not the final decision on the issue. That will come by May 7, following an investigation into a formal challenge of Conyers' signatures. If he doesn't get on the ballot, Conyers will have to run as a write-in candidate for his 26th term.... At issue are two of Conyers' petition gatherers who apparently were not registered voters, as required by Michigan law, when they canvassed voters for signatures. That means any signatures they collected would be declared invalid...." ...

... CW: That may be Michigan law, but a reasonable judge will consider the intent of the signators & validate their signatures. In fairness, Conyers' staff is incompetent for outsourcing the petition-gathering to unqualified canvassers.

Beyond the Beltway

David Freedlander of the Daily Beast: "Wisconsin Republicans are set to vote on a measure this weekend that would affirm the state's right to secede from the union. Goodbye, U.S. of A., Hello U.S. of Cheese."

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week's address, the President provides an update on the work his Administration has done to strengthen the economy and expand opportunity for hardworking Americans in this Year of Action":

News Ledes

New York Times: "Ukraine's security forces pressed their assault on pro-Russia militants in and around the separatist stronghold of Slovyansk on Saturday, even as the rebels freed seven European military observers and the Kremlin cited the deaths of dozens of people in Odessa as proof that Ukraine could no longer protect its citizens."

Reuters: "A U.S. bankruptcy judge on Friday urged settlement talks in a dispute between General Motors Co and plaintiffs seeking compensation for the lost value of their cars stemming from a massive recall over a faulty ignition switch, though neither side seemed ready to negotiate quite yet. Judge Robert Gerber, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, said he would welcome the prospect of a resolution that avoided a 'monstrous battle.'"