The Ledes

Wednesday, September 17, 2014.

AP: "Islamic State fighters shot down a Syrian war plane using anti-aircraft guns on Tuesday, the first time the group has downed a military jet since declaring its cross-border caliphate in June, a group monitoring the civil war said."

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

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
September 17

11:50 m ET: President Obama speaks at MacDill AFP in Tampa, Fla.

12:00 noon ET: Vice President Biden speaks at a Nuns on the Bus rally in Des Moines, Iowa; will make effort not to insult Roman Catholics

2:00 pm ET: Recovery at the White House: celebrating 25 years (of something)

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

CW: Here's some cheery news. The MacArthur Foundation has named the newest recipients of its "genius" grants. I hope none of them is somebody you personally dislike (thus keeping it cheery). The AP article linked includes a slide show with mini-profiles of each grant recipient.

** CW: The best, most provocative piece of writing in the "news" today is A. O. Scott's piece in the New York Times Magazine on "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." If you don't watch a lot of TV & never see stupid movies, you will struggle with Scott's exemplary references. You may not accept all of his premises, & I think he falls short on defining "adulthood" (though maybe, like pornography, we're supposed to recognize it when we see it.). ...

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

Jeff Weiss, in the New York Times, profiles comedian Bill Maher, who is in the midst of a schtick aimed to defeat the U.S.'s worst Congressperson. You would be a good idea to read Weiss's piece with A. O. Scott's essay in mind. Maher (& even Weiss, who -- in ticking off "bad things" about Maher -- never mentions Maher's offensive attitudes about women) is a fine example of Scott's thesis.

Guardian: "Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, the royal family said on Monday morning. The announcement was made from Clarence House on Twitter.... The Duchess of Cornwall is suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with her first pregnancy, and is being treated by doctors at her apartments in Kensington Palace."

Washington Post: "After less than a year at the top of Politico’s masthead, veteran New York Times editor Rick Berke has resigned as the publication’s executive editor.... Friction had been on display in the newsroom almost from the beginning of his tenure. Berke, according to several current and former Politico employees, tried to impose some of the values of the world he came from — where multiple editors might weigh in, demand multiple drafts, and shape bigger, more ambitious stories — on Politico’s fast-moving, reporter-driven newsroom."

 

Jimmy Fallon & Maroon 5 singer & Voice judge Adam Levine stage a "musical impressions-off." This clip, from a show that aired this week (September 2), already has more than 8MM hits:

New York Times: "The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine. The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she 'cracked' and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.... The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch."

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New York Times: "The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards was a win for broadcast and cable television, which earned numerous awards as the digital gate-crasher Netflix was nearly shut out. AMC’s 'Breaking Bad' scored big on Monday night, winning a total of five awards, including its second consecutive prize for outstanding drama series. The crime drama, about a high school teacher who receives a diagnosis of lung cancer and starts selling crystal meth with a former student, concluded its final season." Here's the L.A. Times' coverage.

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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Sunday
Jun292014

The Commentariat -- June 30, 2014

ScotusBlog will liveblog the Supremes' announcements of decisions this morning. The liveblog will begin at 9:15 am, with the Court airing its rulings beginning at 10 am. The two cases to be announced are Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn. There was some discussion here yesterday about Harris; also, in today's Comments, P.D. Pepe links this New Republic piece on Harris by Taylor Malmsheimer. ...

     ... Update: Both decision by Alito. So there you go. Five-four vote on Harris with the liberals dissenting. The decision & dissent are here. Alito reads summary from the bench.

     ... Update 2: Hobby Lobby: 5-4 ruling. Closely-held corps can't be required to provide contraceptive coverage. "Kennedy's concurring opinion says that the government could pay for the coverage itself, so that women receive it." Three dissents: (1) Ginsburg joined by Sotomayor & partially by Breyer & Kagan, each of whom write separate dissenting opinions who filed together. "Alito reads summary from the bench. "It is extremely likely that the Obama administration will by regulation provide for the government to pay for the coverage. So it is unlikely that there will be a substantial gap in coverage." -- Tom Goldstien of ScotusBlog. "Kennedy's opinion emphasizes that in this particular case, a mechanism for accommodating employers is 'already in place' so that the majority opinion does not require the Govt to create 'a whole new program or burden on the Govt'." -- Kevin Russell of ScotusBlog. Ginsburg is reading from her dissent. The decision & dissents on Hobby Lobby are here. ...

... AP: "The Supreme Court dealt a blow to public sector unions Monday, ruling that thousands of home health care workers in Illinois cannot be required to pay fees that help cover the union's costs of collective bargaining. In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, the justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with the positions that unions take." ...

... Some Corporations Are People, My Friend. Jason Millman of the Washington Post: "The federal government can't force owners of closely held for-profit companies to provide birth control coverage to female employees if they object to the administration's requirement on religious grounds, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. The 5-4 ruling, in one of its most contentious cases of the year, recognizes for the first time the religious rights of corporations." The New York Times report, by Adam Liptak, is here.

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama on Monday will nominate Bob McDonald, a West Point graduate who served as chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to take over as head of the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs, according to White House officials." ...

... OR, as Mark Thompson of Time puts it, "Obama to Tap Soap Salesman to Clean Up VA."

James Risen of the New York Times: "Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad's Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor's operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater's top manager there issued a threat: 'that he could kill' the government's chief investigator and 'no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,' according to department reports." ...

     ... CW: Another chilling example of how things worked under Bush-Cheney. Even after the Nisour Square shooting, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said the Blackwater guards were swell. If you connect the dots, you wonder if they threatened his life, too. The "accidental" assassination of a person supposedly under their protection would be pretty easy to accomplish. And this is rich: Crocker told reporters after the mass murder, "I certainly do wish I'd had the foresight to see that there were things out there that could be corrected." Foresight? His embassy had just aborted a State Department investigation of Blackwater, an investigation in which the preliminary findings were devastating.

Hillary Stout of the New York Times: "A $1 million starting point for each death anchors the formula to pay families of those who died in accidents caused by a defective ignition switch in General Motors cars, under a plan unveiled Monday by a compensation expert hired by the automaker. The plan, announced by the expert, Kenneth R. Feinberg, is broad and inclusive, and seems certain to account for deaths beyond the 13 that G.M. has publicly linked to the defect."

Of Pitchforks & Plutocrats. Nick Hanauer, a self-described .01 percenter, in Politico Magazine: "... I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won't last. If we don't do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us."

Neil Irwin of the New York Times: We can't predict GDP growth because ... ObamaCare! CW: Now, finally something for which we can legitimately blame the ACA.

Paul Waldman, in the Washington Post: "The idea that Obama is a tyrant wiping his muddy boots on the Constitution as he goes about his project to destroy the United States used to be the province of spittle-flecked talk radio hosts, right-wing Web sites and those chain e-mails your father-in-law reads while he watches 'Hannity.' But it has now moved to the core of the GOP's case against the president":

This is imperial power. This is George III. -- Karl Rove, on President Obama's use of executive authority, speaking on "Fox 'News' Sunday" ...

Fox 'News,' the place where irony gets no purchase. Rove meant George III of England, of course, but I wonder if FoxBots thought he was referring to Pappy Bush I, Duyba II, and Barack III. And speaking of Georges, if you read Tim Devaney's whole report (linked above), you'll see how Rove & George Will are on exactly the same page: the one about Obama's overreach coming in his adjustments to ObamaCare implementation. Hard to know who put out the memo on this one; chronology doesn't help much since Will often seems to get his "ideas" from his contacts. -- Constant Weader

David of Crooks & Liars: On ABC's "This Week," Katrina Vanden Heuvel tells Bill Kristol he should join the Iraqi army:

... Driftglass: Nonetheless, Kristol will endure. No matter who fires him, there is another major media outlet to hire him.

Rachel Bade of Politico: In back-to-back appearances on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday Darrell Issa (RTP Calif.) & William Taylor, the attorney for former IRS official Lois Lerner, accused each other of being assholes. (Paraphrase.) "Appearing just before Taylor, Issa (R-Calif.) accused Taylor of lying about Lerner not printing out official emails.... 'This is election-year politics; it's convenient to have a demon that they can create and point to,' Taylor said...."

Robinson Meyer of the Atlantic reports "Everything We Know About Facebook's Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment."

Beyond the Beltway

What's the Matter with Kansas? Paul Krugman: Gov. Sam Brownback (RTP) & his wingnut legislature still follow the long- & oft-disproved theory of supply-side economics, brought to them by ALEC & discredited economist Arthur Laffer. "... faith in tax-cut magic isn't about evidence; it's about finding reasons to give powerful interests what they want." ...

... Josh Barro of the New York Times on Kansas's small-business tax exemption. Um, "If you cut taxes, you get less revenue." The exemption has not proved to be a job-creator; Barro gives one example of why not. It does, however, encourage some firms & individuals to change their filing status to make themselves tax-exempt.

New York Times Editors: "Time and again, [New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie] has used dubious strategies to avoid raising taxes (sparing him from inevitable criticism by party conservatives).... Such tactics have not helped the state. New Jersey's bond rating took another hit when Mr. Christie, facing a big budget shortfall, rejected the usual remedies -- cutting costs, borrowing money or raising taxes -- and instead cut state contributions to the public employees' pension fund.

News Ledes

How do you say, "Sanctions, Schmanctions" in French? Reuters: "About four hundred Russian sailors arrived in western France on Monday for training on Mistral amphibious assault ships before the first of two is delivered to Moscow by the end of the year. The United States and some European partners have urged Paris to reconsider the 1.2 billion euro ($1.6 billion) sale to Moscow following Russian action in Ukraine, including its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March."

Reuters: "The U.S. Justice Department is expected to announce on Monday a settlement with BNP Paribas involving a record fine of nearly $9 billion over alleged U.S. sanctions violations by France's biggest bank...."

AP: "A Marine who was declared a deserter nearly 10 years ago after disappearing in Iraq and then returning to the U.S. claiming he had been kidnapped, only to disappear again, is back in U.S. custody, officials said Sunday. Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, 34, turned himself in and was being flown Sunday from an undisclosed location in the Middle East to Norfolk, Va. He is to be moved Monday to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, according to a spokesman...."

Saturday
Jun282014

The Commentariat -- June 29, 2014

** Joe Stiglitz in the New York Times, on income inequality. This is the best short discourse I've read on how the Republican Tea Party has destroyed "who we are" -- or were -- "as a nation." Also, Tim Geithner is a putz. (Stiglitz never mentions Geithner by name nor does he specifically call out Ronald Reagan & his legacy of unscrupulous wingers & selfish, self-defeating dingbat voters.) Thanks to P.D. Pepe & MAG. ...

... CW: If you want to look for a good example of what Stiglitz is talking about, one that is expected to come with tomorrow's news, Ian Millhiser of Think Progress obliges: "On Monday, the Supreme Court is expected to hand down two cases, Hobby Lobby and a lesser-known case called Harris v. Quinn. Of the two, more is actually at stake in Harris than in Hobby Lobby." If the Harris decision goes against the union, it "could set off a death spiral endangering the unions themselves." ...

     ... There's something else implied in Millhiser's piece: that the right is again using its very effective tactic of filling the air with sound & fury over "values" issues in order to hide its scheme to ruin ordinary Americans in service of the few. There's a reason John Roberts chose to issue these two decisions at the same time and -- unless Anthony Kennedy has developed a sudden fondness for healthcare workers -- Roberts' choice does not bode well for most Americans.

Julia Preston of the New York Times: "President Obama will ask Congress to provide more than $2 billion in new funds to control the surge of illegal Central American migrants at the South Texas border, and to grant broader powers for immigration officials to speed deportations of children caught crossing without their parents, White House officials said on Saturday."

Sari Horwitz, et al., of the Washington Post: "Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected Libyan ringleader of the 2012 terrorist embassy attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans, was brought Saturday from a Navy warship to the federal courthouse in the District, where he entered a plea of not guilty to a single conspiracy charge."

Annie Rose-Strasser of Think Progress: "The latest way that Facebook has been peeking into its users' personal lives may be the most surprising yet: Facebook researches have published a scientific paper that reveals the company has been conducting psychological experiments on its users to manipulate their emotions."

Nicole Winfield of TPM: "The Vatican conceded Thursday that most Catholics reject its teachings on sex and contraception as intrusive and irrelevant and officials pledged not to 'close our eyes to anything' when it opens a two-year debate on some of the thorniest issues facing the church. Core church doctrine on the nature of marriage, sexuality, abortion and divorce isn't expected to change as a result of the debate that opens in October." Via Steve Benen.

Emma Margolin of NBC News: "Six months after losing his ordination credentials for presiding over the wedding of his gay son and for leaving open the possibility of performing future same-sex wedding ceremonies, a Pennsylvania pastor has been welcomed back into the United Methodist Church. On Tuesday, a nine-person appeals panel of church officials overturned an earlier decision to defrock Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon, Pa., who in 2007 married his oldest son, Tim, to another man. The wedding took place in Massachusetts...." Via Benen.

The Gray Lady Don't Shit. Often. Ben Zimmer in Slate: According to Politico's Mike Allen, President Obama & his aides have repeatedly said in off-the-record conversations with reporters that the Obama Doctrine is "Don't do stupid shit." However, the New York Times has bowdlerized the sentence to "Don't do stupid stuff" on four separate occasions, even in articles where the "doctrine" is the point of the story; this despite the fact that the Times in the past has accurately quoted Presidents Nixon & Bush II and others when they used the word "shit." Thanks to Barbarossa for the link. ...

... In a March 2014 New York Times op-ed, which Zimmer links, lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower makes "the case for profanity." Obviously, Sheidlower lost the case. ...

... CW: I think it is fair to euphemize surprise utterances, as in the Wendy Davis example Zimmer cites, but when a public figure purposely uses profane &/or obscene language, there's no reason to, um, mince words. I suppose I wouldn't put "shit" in a headline of a mainstream news outlet. It does really aggravate me when publications print "used a profanity," so I have to go hunting the Internets to find out what the person actually said. ...

     ... "Fuck Yourself." Ten years ago, Helen Dewar & Dana Milbank of the Washington Post -- and their editors & headline writers -- handled this story just right, IMHO. Sheryl Gay Stolberg & the Times, however, completely blew it." Salty language??? Oh, shiver me timbers.

Senate Election

Philip Bump of the Washington Post on why "Chris McDaniel isn't going to win any challenge" to the results of the Mississippi GOP primary runoff.

News Lede

ISIS, We Hardly Knew Ya. Washington Post: "In an audio statement posted on the Internet, the spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria announced the restoration of the 7th-century Islamic caliphate, a long-declared goal of the al-Qaeda renegades who broke with the mainstream organization early this year and have since asserted control over large areas spanning the two countries. The move signifies 'a new era of international jihad,' said the spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, who also declared an end to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, as the group had called itself."

Friday
Jun272014

The Commentariat -- June 28, 2014

Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP: "In a scathing appraisal, a review ordered by President Barack Obama of the troubled Veterans Affairs health care system concludes that medical care for veterans is beset by 'significant and chronic system failures,' substantially verifying problems raised by whistleblowers and internal and congressional investigators. A summary of the review by deputy White House chief of staff Rob Nabors says the Veterans Health Administration must be restructured and that a 'corrosive culture' has hurt morale and affected the timeliness of health care." The New York Times story, by Michael Shear & Richard Oppel, is here. The summary report is here.

... this decision came from people who work in a building where the protesters aren't allowed within 250 feet of the front door. -- Gail Collins, on the Supreme Court's unanimous decision that buffer zones around abortion clinics create an unconstitutional infringement of the First Amendment right to free speech

Scott LeMieux has an excellent rebuttal in the Guardian to Justice Scalia's claims that the Constitution "unambiguously" forbids the President to make intrasession recess appointments. He elaborates in Lawyers, Guns & Money. ...

... Jeff Toobin demonstrates that both Scalia's dissent/concurrence & Breyer's majority opinion are pretty stupid. ...

... CW: So why don't the Supremes expect the Senate to do its job? The Constitution reads, "... he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States...." While it's true this clause appears in the presidential powers section, doesn't it also imply that the Senate has a duty to advise? To me the authors of the Constitution imply by this arrangement that (a) these appointed officers are so important that one person -- the president -- should not have the soul discretion to choose them; so (b) the Senate must consent or deny the appointment -- because these officers are so important to the functioning of the government. That is, if they're so important, they need to be in place. Putting holds on nominations, tying them up in committee, just failing to bring them to the floor, etc., represents an unconstitutional dereliction of duty. ...

... New Yorker: "Amy Davidson and Jeffrey Toobin join Amelia Lester to discuss three unanimous decisions handed down by the Supreme Court in the past week":

** Massive, Multi-$$Billion Big Brother Op Does Practically Nothing. Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "The National Security Agency was interested in the phone data of fewer than 250 people believed to be in the United States in 2013, despite collecting the phone records of nearly every American. As acknowledged in the NSA's first-ever disclosure of statistics about how it uses its broad surveillance authorities, released Friday, the NSA performed queries of its massive phone records troves for 248 'known or presumed US persons' in 2013." CW: How intrusive is that? I think your Fourth-Amendment rights are safe with the NSA. Of course it's hardly impossible that the NSA is notbeing transparent & are listening in on your phone conversation now, plotting your undoing &/or laughing at your personal foibles.

Greg Sargent: "Republicans have ... opted to be the party of maximum deportations. Now Democrats and advocates will increase the pressure on Obama to do something ambitious to ease deportations in any way he can. Whatever he does end up doing will almost certainly fall well short of what they want. But determining the true limits on what can be done to mitigate this crisis is now on him." ...

... Here's the Politico story, by Seung Min Kim & Carrie Brown, to which Sargent refers. "The best chance in three decades to rewrite immigration laws has slipped away just one year after the Senate garnered 68 votes for sweeping reform of the system, 20 months after strong Hispanic turnout for Democrats in the 2012 election sparked a GOP panic, and five years after Obama promised to act.... Reformers underestimated how impervious most House Republicans would be to persuasion from evangelicals, law enforcement and big business, and how the GOP's animus toward Obama over health care and executive actions would bleed into immigration reform." ...

... Worse Than Mitt. Ed Kilgore: "You may recall that the whole push within the Republican Party to do something on immigration was impelled by fears that Mitt Romney's 'self-deportation' position had fatally damaged the GOP's standing among Latinos. I'd say becoming the party of forced deportation by government is worse." ...

... Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "For years, [President Obama] followed a strategy of beefing up enforcement in hopes of gaining goodwill among conservatives. In the end, all that accomplished was to anger his own Hispanic supporters without producing anything of substance." ...

... CW: I do think it possible that elected Republicans would have behaved just as badly toward Obama if he were as white as the driven snow, but I just can't help seeing the connection between the GOP's rejection of all of Obama's conservative-friendly outreach efforts over the years & Thad Cochran's refusal to sponsor voting rights reform (see Greg Sargent's reporting linked below). These ole boys feel no need to reciprocate any favors from black people because they have no respect for people who aren't the same color they are. They genuinely believe they're not racists because as far as they're concerned, having people of color kowtow to them is the natural order of things, not a racist POV. Pigs.

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "The Vatican has defrocked its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, an archbishop from Poland who was accused of sexually abusing boys while he served as the pope's representative in the Caribbean nation. The former archbishop, Jozef Wesolowski, 65, is the first papal nuncio known to have been removed from the priesthood because of accusations of child sexual abuse."

Congressional Races

Colleen Jenkins of Reuters: "The Tea Party-backed candidate who has refused to concede defeat to Republican U.S. Senator Thad Cochran in Mississippi's primary runoff said his campaign has found more than 1,000 instances of ballots cast by people who were ineligible to vote. Chris McDaniel said his supporters continue to look for evidence of voters who participated in the state's Democratic primary on June 3 and then voted in the Republican runoff primary on Tuesday, which would not be permitted by Mississippi law." ...

Josh Marshall of TPM: By his own definition & legal theory of "voter fraud," Chris McDaniel himself is one of the few Mississippi voters who openly committed voter fraud under a (probably unenforceable) provision of state law. Marshall admits, "Yes, the whole thing is sort of a reductio ad adsurdum down the rabbit hole of Chris McDaniels' world of derp. But this is his theory. And the theory seems to fit him way better than it fits the voters whose votes he wants to invalidate." CW: Read the whole post to get the gist of the legal/theoretical argument. ...

... Jimmie Gates of the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger: "Attorney Mark Mayfield was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday at his Ridgeland home. Mayfield, vice chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party, and is one of the three men charged with conspiring with Clayton Kelly to photograph U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran's bedridden wife in her nursing home and create a political video against Cochran.... Mayfield of Ridgeland, an attorney and state and local tea party leader, was arrested last month along with Richard Sager, a Laurel elementary school P.E. teacher and high school soccer coach. Police said they also charged John Beachman Mary of Hattiesburg, but he was not taken into custody because of 'extensive medical conditions.' All face felony conspiracy charges." The New York Times story, by Jonathan Weisman, is here. ...

... James Hohmann of Politico: "State Sen. Chris McDaniel's policy director lashed out at the GOP establishment Friday over the apparent suicide of a supporter charged with felony conspiracy related to pictures taken of Sen. Thad Cochran's wife. 'A good man is gone today [because] of a campaign to destroy lives,' Keith Plunkett, a Mississippi GOP operative, tweeted. 'To all "so called" Republican leaders who joined lockstep: I WILL NOT REST!' Plunkett deleted the post after others on Twitter responded negatively and accused him of using a tragedy for political gain." ...

... Thad Cochran to black Mississippi voters who made his primary win possible: Thanks, suckahs. P.S. I'm not supporting a fix to the Voting Rights Act. CW: Those Southern white politicians are all class acts, aren't they?

So you think Chris McDaniel is a doofus for challenging black voters who voted in a "white primary"? Well, here's a sore loser to beat all:

... Courtney Francisco of KFOR Oklahoma City: "An Oklahoma congressional candidate has announced he plans to contest Tuesday's primary election of long time Rep. Frank Lucas. In a bizarre letter obtained by NewsChannel 4, Tim Murray says ... 'it is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive and has been displayed by a look alike.' ... His campaign website goes into detail about his theory that Lucas was hanged '... executed by the world court on or about jan. 11, 2011...' in Ukraine." Via Sam Levine of the Huffington Post. ...

... Charles Pierce quotes at length from what he calls Murray's "completely awesome Website." Something about Starship & President Ford & tiny body doubles in Space (with a capital "S." CW: Okay, so the guy is a completely insane conspiracy theorist. That doesn't make him much different from much of the GOP base. I'm surprised he only got 5.2 percent of the vote, and not just because he was running against a body double (or two).

Gail Collins: Colorado GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner has had a change of heart about personhood: "Gardner had supported the unsuccessful personhood referendums in Colorado when he was a state representative. Then he went to Congress in 2010, and twice co-sponsored Life Begins at Conception bills there. Then he announced he was running for the Senate against Mark Udall. Then he announced that he had changed his position on personhood entirely.... Supporters said it was unfair to presume that his change of heart was inspired by the need to run a statewide race in a state that had twice rejected the idea by 3 to 1 majorities."

News Ledes

Reuters: "A U.N. expert panel has concluded that a shipment of rockets and other weapons that was seized by Israel came from Iran and represents a violation of the U.N. arms embargo on Tehran, according to a confidential report obtained by Reuters on Friday. The finding comes just days ahead of the next round of negotiations in Vienna between Iran and six world powers.... Despite Israel's public statements that the seized arms were destined for Gaza -- an allegation that Gaza's governing Islamist militant group Hamas dismissed as a fabrication -- the experts said the weapons were being sent to Sudan."

AP: "The US has confirmed it is flying armed drones over Baghdad to protect US troops who recently arrived to assess Iraq's deteriorating security. The military for more than a week has been flying manned and unmanned aircraft over Iraq, averaging a few dozen sorties daily for reconnaissance, according to the Pentagon."

New York Times: "In one of the most significant coordinated assaults on the government in years, the Taliban have attacked police outposts and government facilities across several districts in northern Helmand Province, sending police and military officials scrambling to shore up defenses and heralding a troubling new chapter as coalition forces prepare to depart." ...

     ... AFP Update: "Afghan security forces on Saturday claimed victory against a Taliban offensive in the country's volatile Helmand province after days of fighting seen as a test for the country's security forces as NATO-led troops pull out."

Thursday
Jun262014

The Commentariat -- June 27, 2014

NEW. Josh Lederman of the AP: "Blasting the GOP as wilfully indifferent to American struggles, President Barack Obama issued a rebuke Friday to Republican attempts to thwart his economic agenda, offering a stark contrast that Democrats hope will yield electoral success in November. Obama's remarks at a picturesque lake in Minneapolis were billed by the White House as a speech on the economy. But as Obama ripped into his political foes before 3,500 cheering supporters, the political undertones were less than subtle":

Adam Liptak, et al., of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court issued a unambiguous rebuke to President Obama on Thursday, saying he had overreached in issuing recess appointments during brief breaks in the Senate's work. The court was unanimous in saying that Mr. Obama had violated the Constitution in 2012 by appointing officials to the National Labor Relations Board during a break in the Senate's work when the chamber was convening every three days in short pro forma sessions in which no business was conducted. Those breaks were too short, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in a majority opinion joined by the court's four other more liberal members. At the same time, the court largely reinstated an uneasy, centuries-long accommodation between the executive branch and the Senate, in which recess appointments were allowed during more substantial breaks. Justice Breyer said such appointments generally remained permissible so long as they were made during a break of 10 or more days." The ruling is here. ...

... Amy Howe of ScotusBlog explains the decision "in plain English." ...

... Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "Leaning heavily upon a long history of Congress and presidents finding ways -- sometimes clumsy -- to make the federal government work, and perhaps silently wishing for a day when they might do so again, a sharply divided Supreme Court on Thursday embraced a practical constitutional solution to filling temporary vacancies in U.S. government posts. Refusing to strip presidents of nearly all power to make such appointments, as four dissenters would have, the majority set some limits but still kept that authority mostly intact." ...

... David Atkins of Hullabaloo: "Honestly, recess appointments are antiquated holdover from the days before telecommunications and air travel. Allowing appointments during recess that cannot be accomplished during regular business should probably go the way of the telegraph. That said, an obstructionist Congress will now have an even easier time not only derailing a president's choice and agenda, but of hamstringing entire departments of government by simply not allowing appointments to be made at all. Which means that control of Congress is now an even bigger deal than it was before."

Adam Liptak: "The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law that barred protests near abortion clinics. The law, enacted in 2007, created 35-foot buffer zones around entrances to abortion clinics. State officials said the law was a response to a history of harassment and violence at abortion clinics in Massachusetts, including a shooting rampage at two facilities in 1994. The law was challenged on First Amendment grounds by opponents of abortion who said they sought to have quiet conversations with women entering clinics to tell them about alternatives to abortion. The court was unanimous about the bottom line but divided on the reasoning. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote a relatively narrow majority opinion. He was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. He suggested that the state could pursue other alternatives. Justice Antonin Scalia, in a concurrence joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas, said the majority's approach was too tentative. The law, he said, is 'unconstitutional root and branch.' Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. filed a separate concurrence." Roberts' decision & other opinions are here. ...

... Lyle Denniston: "The lead opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in McCullen v. Coakley went to considerable lengths to suggest ways that cities or states could pass new laws to protect patient' access to abortion facilities. But all of those approaches, it appeared, would be to thwart actual obstruction, physical intrusion, or actual intimidation of patients, not the kind of 'counseling' that the Court found threatened by the Massachusetts law." ...

... Federal Appellate Judge Richard Posner (a conservative), on this & other recent cases: ".. .the opinion fetishizes First Amendment rights.... Who wants to be buttonholed on the sidewalk by 'uncomfortable message[s],' usually delivered by nuts? Lecturing strangers on a sidewalk is not a means by which information and opinion are disseminated in our society.... (Has Chief Justice John Roberts, the author of the opinion, ever done such a thing?) The assertion that abortion protesters 'wish to converse' with women outside an abortion clinic is naive. They wish to prevent the women from entering the clinic, whether by showing them gruesome photos of aborted fetuses or calling down the wrath of God on them. This is harassment of people who are in a very uncomfortable position; the last thing a woman about to have an abortion needs is to be screamed at by the godly."

... In-Your-Face. Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "Protesters will be allowed to crowd the sidewalks around the clinic and speak directly to patients -- something that can make people feel uncomfortable enough to avoid the clinic and skip out on the health services they need."

Laurence Tribe in Slate: "Even when the court agrees 9–0 over a case's holding, it can divide, sometimes sharply, over the reasoning and rule to be applied. And it is precisely this sort of division that we see in both Noel Canning and McCullen. A look at the two cases together illustrates the need to dig deeper to understand what this week's unanimous decisions are really all about." Justice Scalia's "concurrences," one of which he read from the bench, are really dissents.

Kate Nocera of BuzzFeed: "One year after the Supreme Court struck down section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, Congress is nowhere near close to moving forward with restoring a federal approval requirement for certain voting process changes. While Democratic leaders rallied this week to urge Congress to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA) -- a law to rewrite the section 4 formula -- a top House Republican [-- Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) --] said Thursday the bill wasn't going to move quickly, if at all."

The suit is a stunt. -- President Obama, on Boehner's lawsuit

... Benjamin Bell of ABC News: "Despite Republican House Speaker John Boehner's threat this week to sue President Obama over his use of executive orders, the president refused to apologize for his actions during an exclusive interview with ABC News and took the Republican Party to task for what he described as its attempt to interfere with the basic functions of government.... 'I'm not going to apologize for trying to do something while they're doing nothing,' the president added later." ...

     ... Update: Here's the interview, as broadcast this morning:

... ** Steve M.: "Why do you think Boehner got through primary season without a scratch this year, while Eric Cantor lost his job and Thad Cochran nearly did? It's because Boehner knows how toss the ravenous rubes large chunks of red meat." Also, Boehner's lawsuit against Obama, besides being made of red meat, "could be taken very, very seriously in the federal courts." Steve provides a history lesson on why. ...

... Paul Waldman, in the American Prospect, is not as impressed with Boehner's suit as are Jonathan Capehart of the WashPo (see links in yesterday's Commentariat) & Steve M.: "... it'll be an intensely partisan document whose purpose is to shake a fist at the president Republicans so despise, and it'll get tossed out of court and thrown in the dustbin where it belongs, one more futile, angry gesture from an opposition that has lost the ability to offer anything else."

Elias Isquith of Salon: "Speaking with NBC's David Gregory during an interview that will run in full during this Sunday's edition of 'Meet the Press,' former President Bill Clinton argued that there is something 'unseemly' about former Vice President Dick Cheney's willingness to criticize President Obama for the chaos and dysfunction that's still plaguing Iraq.... Clinton emphatically rejected the question's premise, saying, 'If [the second Bush administration] hadn't gone to war in Iraq none of this would be happening'":

... Philip Rucker, et al., of the Washington Post: "How the Clintons went from 'dead broke' to rich: Bill earned $104.9 million for speeches. Bill "Clinton has leveraged his global popularity into a personal fortune. Starting just two weeks after exiting the Oval Office, Clinton has delivered hundreds of paid speeches, lifting a family that was 'dead broke,' as wife Hillary Rodham Clinton phrased it earlier this month, to a point of such extraordinary wealth that it is now seen as a potential political liability if she runs for president in 2016." ...

... "Out of Context"/Out of a Job. Jon Herskovitz of Reuters: "Johnny Rhoda, who was chairman of the Republican Party in the Second Congressional District in Arkansas ... has resigned after telling a magazine former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would 'probably get shot' if she returned to the state where she was a lawyer and served as first lady, officials said on Thursday.... U.S. Representative Tim Griffin, a Republican who represents the district, labeled Rhoda's comments offensive and inappropriate and called for his resignation."

Tim Egan: Land of the free. Where a Washington state family & friend (the husband is 70) may go to jail for 10 years under mandatory sentencing laws for growing pot for medicinal purposes -- in a state where growing pot is legal.

David Stout of the New York Times: "Howard H. Baker Jr., a soft-spoken Tennessee lawyer who served three terms in the Senate and became known as 'the great conciliator' in his eight years as the chamber's Republican leader, died on Thursday at his home in Huntsville, Tenn. He was 88." ...

... The Washington Post obituary, by James Gerstenzang, is here. ...

Matt Lauer of NBC News demonstrates how to ask a successful woman a series of sexist questions. Lesson 1: Begin with "Some people say...." See, it's not your fault. Hell, you hadda ask. People are talking. Lesson 2: Imply you're not a raving chauvinist. Say something like, "I want to tread lightly here," before asking the next blatantly sexist question. Lesson 3: After the fact, think up a lame defense for this shit & post it on Facebook. Pretend you "relate." ...

... And Matt, sweetie-pie, never you mind that digby awards you Moron o' the Day status & labels your lame defense bullshit. It's just outrageous the way powerful women like digby pick on men who are only trying to "relate."

Right Wing World

The Boundless Intellectual Dishonesty of Right Wing World. Brian Beutler of the New Republic: Whether or not those missing Lois Lerner e-mails are retrieved, & no matter what is in them, the right will cry Scandal! Coverup! "Heads I win, tails you lose." Beutler calls this "maddening illogic." ...

... Boundless Intellectual Dishonesty, Ctd. Jonathan Chait: "A couple months ago, conservatives had an aha! moment when an initial report suggested that health-care spending had spiked in the first quarter of 2014. A one-time jump in health-care spending had been expected all along, but its arrival brought a chorus of triumphant cries from the right.... But the ... revised data shows that health-care spending actually shrank in the first quarter." So now right-wing pundits -- including the Wall Street Journal editors -- are screaming that the reduction in healthcare costs are ruining the economy. No matter what the facts are, ObamaCare is destroying America! ...

... Paul Krugman: "The Affordable Care Act has receded from the front page, but information about how it's going keeps coming in -- and almost all the news is good.... What's interesting about this success story is that it has been accompanied at every step by cries of impending disaster.... While it has been funny watching the right-wing cling to its delusions about health reform, it's also scary. After all, these people retain considerable ability to engage in policy mischief, and one of these days they may regain the White House. And you really, really don't want people who reject facts they don't like in that position. I mean, they might do unthinkable things, like starting a war for no good reason. Oh, wait." ...

... CW: In fairness to right-wing loons, I should add that, to a much lesser extent, this illogical, conspiracy-laden mindset exists on the left, too. The other day I was directed to a blogpost that asserted that President Obama was secretly the brains behind the recent media rollout of Iraq War hawks because he figured they would make a good case for getting the U.S. involved in military ops in Iraq again, which is what he really, really wants. Uh-huh. Maybe Obama is also the brains behind the reputed Armenian who hacked my Google account because he wants to rile up Americans to support an American-military-led Armenian coup.

CW: Ha! In a comment in yesterday's Commentariat, Kate M. wrote that as a boy, Ken Cuccinelli was a lousy soccer player. I replied, "Well, soccer is kind of a sissy European-y sport, anyway. These days, Cooch [i.e., Ken Cuccinelli] is more into manly GOP pursuits; like shooting doves at one of those phony Cheney-type hunting farms." ...

... Sure, enough, comes now the lovely Ann Coulter to back me up. And then some. Elias Isquith: "In her latest syndicated column right-wing troll and pundit Ann Coulter rails against the growing popularity of soccer in the U.S., which she blames on a pro-soccer liberal media and America's millions of immigrants. 'Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation's moral decay,' Coulter writes before listing all of the reasons why she thinks soccer sucks.

... CW: I am getting way too good at channeling crazy bigots. ...

     ... Update. Well, not as smart as I thought. Apparently one can become a Doctor of Conspiracy, which trumps me. Dr. Keith Ablow (no idea what kinda doctor he actually is) said on a Fox "News" show that he suspected the purpose of all the hoo-hah over the World Cup matches was to district Americans from paying attention to all of President Obama's problems.

Beyond the Beltway

James Hohmann of Politico: "A Wisconsin special prosecutor clarified Thursday that GOP Gov. Scott Walker was not the target of his investigation into what he described in earlier court papers as a 'criminal scheme.'"

Eric Russell of the Portland Press-Herald: Maine Gov. Paul LePage (RTP), unhappy because federal stats show Maine had the worst income-growth rate in New England & one of the worst in the nation, largely because Maine refuses to accept the ACA Medicaid expansion, simply eliminated federal payments from the stats -- payments from Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, etc., called them all "welfare, pure and simple," then recalculated the income figures -- a "welfare-free" recalculation that made Maine appear to be in line with other New England states. CW: I wonder if LePage's old fart Tea Party backers will be upset to find out he considers them welfare moochers. His opponents hope s & are milking his remarks.

Legal Corruption/Business as Usual in New Jersey. Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "Corporations that contributed millions of dollars to the Chris Christie-led Republican Governors Association and other GOP campaigns have received public funding deals worth almost $1.25bn from his New Jersey administration in less than two years. A review of the 30 biggest corporate subsidies awarded by the state of New Jersey since Christie appointed one of his closest allies as head of the state's 'bank for business' found that 21 went to ventures involving firms that made significant donations to Republicans, or had senior executives who did.... The Guardian's findings prompted calls from Democratic state legislators and watchdog groups for reforms to the New Jersey economic development authority (EDA), which awards the subsidies and is led by Michele Brown, a close friend and veteran aide to Christie."

Monica Davey of the New York Times: "In a city that desperately needs to hold onto residents, there is a virtual pipeline out [of Detroit]. At least 70,000 foreclosures have taken place since 2009 because of delinquent property taxes. And more than 43,000 properties -- more than one in 10 in this city -- were subject to foreclosure this year, some of them headed for a public auction where prices can start as low as $500.... Several factors have brought the city to the point that crucial revenues are not being collected and thousands of houses are being taken away each year -- not by banks..., but by the government, for failure to pay taxes. Contributing are soaring rates of poverty, high taxes despite painfully diminished city services and a long pattern of lackadaisical tax collection by the city." ...

... Liz Dwyer of Take Part: "Detroit's Water and Sewerage Department has begun turning off the taps of 150,000 residents who are at least two months behind on payments. People are being left without a drop to drink and no ability to bathe or use the toilet. Now a coalition of water and human rights activists has banded together to ask the United Nations to step in and end the disconnections."

News Ledes

Detroit Free Press: "General Motors late Friday said it will recall 446,066 four-wheel drive pickups and SUVs to prevent them from rolling away when the transfer case accidentally shifts into neutral. These are among the company's best-selling and most profitable vehicles, including the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban SUVs from the 2014 and 2015 model years. It's the 48th recall for the company so far this year, covering more than 20 million vehicles, a record." CW: None of this would have happened if GM CEO Mary Barra were a better mother.

New York Times: "Iraq's top Shiite cleric on Friday urged the country's divided political factions to select a prime minister by early next week in a public call for a political solution that increases the pressure on the embattled prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Speaking from the holy city of Karbala, Abdul Mehdi al-Karbalaie, a cleric representing Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on Iraq's political blocs to select a new leader before the recently elected Parliament sits on Monday."

AP: "President Barack Obama is seeking to bolster U.S. efforts to train and arm select members of the Syrian opposition, a move that comes amid increased U.S. concern that the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are becoming an intertwined fight against the same Sunni extremist group. Obama sent Congress a $500 million request Thursday for a Pentagon-run program that would significantly expand previous covert efforts to arm rebels fighting both the Sunni extremists and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad."

AP: "Ukraine's new president signed a trade and economic pact with the European Union on Friday, pushing his troubled country closer into a European orbit and angering Russia, which warned of unspecified consequences."