Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President described the progress our economy has made, laying a foundation for a future that prioritizes middle-class economics":

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

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

White House Live Video
January 29

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

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

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

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

... Video via Karoli of Crooks & Liars. CW: I assure you, former Arkansas Gov. Fuckabee will be very upset by the vid.

Oh, lawdy, what will they think up next?

... www.cicret.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday
Jan262015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 27, 2015

Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "Barack Obama is travelling with a 27-strong delegation to cement ties with the new king of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday as concerns over Yemen and the Islamic State take centre stage in the increasingly volatile region. Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan, Republican hawk senator John McCain and General Lloyd Austin, head of US Central Command forces in the region, are among the surprise additions to a hastily organised trip that has drawn critical comparisons with the US failure to send any senior figures to Paris following recent terrorist attacks."

Christi Parsons & Shashank Bengali of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama urged support for religious tolerance and human rights in a speech Tuesday in New Delhi, India, drawing on the American experience and his own personal ones to soften a message with the potential to give offense to his Indian hosts, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi."

Peter Baker & Ellen Barry of the New York Times: "President Obama pressed India on Tuesday to do more to curb the pollution that is choking its capital and contributing to global climate change, as he wrapped up a visit that yielded no meaningful breakthrough on the issue."

Elana Schor of Politico: "Republicans' Keystone XL pipeline push was stopped short by the first Senate filibuster of 2015 as Democrats blocked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's bid to end debate on the bill. The new Senate majority will now extend its debate on approving Keystone -- a measure that was seen as an easy GOP win just weeks ago -- as Democrats pressed McConnell to hold more amendment votes as proof of his commitment to a more open process in the chamber than their own party used while it was in power." ...

... Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "It was a small victory for Democrats, now the minority in the Senate, but it was a procedural vote that is highly unlikely to stop Republicans from eventually approving the pipeline.... President Obama is expected to veto the measure should it reach his desk."

Coral Davenport: "The Obama administration on Tuesday will announce a proposal to open up coastal waters from Virginia to Georgia for oil and gas drilling, according to a person briefed on the plan. At the same time, in Alaska, the administration will ban drilling in some portions of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.... Opening the Eastern Seaboard to oil companies is a prize the industry has sought for decades and is a blow to environmental groups." ...

... "Obama's Arctic Power Grab." (Yep, that the Politico headline). Andrew Restuccia: "Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the powerful Energy and Natural Resources Committee, rarely starts political fights on Capitol Hill, but she came out swinging on Monday, saying that the Obama administration has 'effectively declared war on Alaska.' And she doubled down on her previous statement that the administration is 'willing to negotiate with Iran, but they won't negotiate with Alaska.'" ...

... Andrew Restuccia: "The White House struck back at Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Monday, calling her reaction to the administration's proposal to protect millions of acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge overblown. 'So we hope that we can find cooperation so that that wilderness designation ultimately can go through in the Congress. But we don't think that the reaction that particularly Senator Murkowski had to this announcement was warranted,' White House counselor John Podesta told reporters traveling with President Barack Obama." CW: They might have struck back at Politico, too.

Michael Shear & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "The small drone that crashed into a tree on the South Lawn of the White House early Monday morning was operated by a government employee who has told the Secret Service that he did not mean to fly it over the White House fence or near the president's residence, according to law enforcement officials. The employee -- who does not work for the White House -- has told the Secret Service that he was flying the drone for recreational use at about 3 a.m. in the area around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when he lost control of it. So far, the Secret Service said it believed the man's account. In a second statement about the incident Monday afternoon, the Secret Service said an individual had called them at about 9:30 Monday morning to report that he had been the one controlling the drone when it crashed on the White House grounds." ...

     ... New Lede: "A White House radar system designed to detect flying objects like planes, missiles and large drones failed to pick up a small drone that crashed into a tree on the South Lawn early Monday morning, according to law enforcement officials. The crash raised questions about whether the Secret Service could bring down a similar object if it endangered President Obama."

... CW: Please don't tell me drones are not a threat to the President & to countless others: Shear & Schmidt: "The Secret Service also released a photo of the partially broken drone on the ground. It appears to be a version of the DJI Phantom Aerial UAV Drone Quadcopter that is sold on Amazon.com starting at $448. Models equipped with HD cameras sell for as much as $1,258 on the website." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Carol Leonnig & others is here.

Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "A former CIA officer involved in a highly secretive operation to give faulty nuclear plans to Iran was convicted Monday of giving classified information about his work to a New York Times reporter and author. Jeffrey Sterling, 47, of O'Fallon, Mo., was convicted of nine counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and other related charges for leaking materials that prosecutors said put lives at risk and compromised one of the U.S. government's few mechanisms to deter Iran's nuclear aspirations." ...

... Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was convicted of espionage charges Monday, for telling a journalist for The New York Times about a secret operation to disrupt Iran's nuclear program. The conviction is a significant victory for the Obama administration, which has led an unprecedented crackdown on officials who speak to journalists about security matters without the administration's approval. Prosecutors prevailed after a yearslong fight in which the journalist, James Risen, refused to identify his sources."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "A federal judge ruled in 2007 that the U.S.A. Patriot Act empowered the National Security Agency to collect foreigners' emails and phone calls from domestic networks without prior judicial approval, newly declassified documents show. The documents -- two rulings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- fill in a chapter in the history of the N.S.A.'s warrantless surveillance program. They show the agency's secret moves in the months before Congress authorized the spying by enacting the Protect America Act in August 2007."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a chemical company may be able to cut the health benefits of its retired workers, unanimously reversing an appeals court ruling that said the benefits had vested for life. 'Courts should not construe ambiguous writings to create lifetime promises,' Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court."... The Supreme Court returned the case to the appeals court, telling it to use ordinary principles of contract interpretation.... In a concurrence, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the case that the retirees could prevail under the new, stricter standard. 'No rule requires "clear and express" language in order to show that parties intended health care benefits to vest,' she wrote.... Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Justice Ginsburg's concurrence."

Timothy Williams of the New York Times: "Oklahoma officials asked the United States Supreme Court on Monday to stay the execution of three inmates on death row until the court rules on the constitutionality of the state's lethal injection process. The court agreed on Friday to decide a case on the constitutionality of the new combinations of drugs that some states are using to execute prisoners, which critics say cause intense suffering."

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "More US prisoners were exonerated of crimes that they did not commit in 2014 than in any year since records began in 1989, indicating new resolve on the part of prosecutors and law enforcement to tackle the scourge of wrongful convictions across America. Some 125 inmates were exonerated and released last year, marking the first time that the number has risen above 100 in a single 12-month period. In 2013, the total number of exonerations was 91."

AFP: "An intellectually disabled death row inmate in the US state of Georgia is scheduled to die Tuesday, as lawyers and advocates petition for his life to be spared. On Thursday, lawyers for Warren Hill, 54, filed an appeal with the US Supreme court to stop the execution based on his intellectual disability. Hill's intellectual disability has been certified by numerous psychiatric experts and his execution has been postponed several times previously."

Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Loretta Lynch will set off the first major confirmation battle of the new GOP-led Senate when she goes before the Judiciary Committee this week. But the attorney general nominee also presents Republicans with a challenge -- finding a way to express their ire at the Obama administration without going too far.... Top Republicans concede she's likely to be confirmed -- unless she messes up." ...

... Bring on the Reactionaries. Julian Hattem of the Hill: Sharyl Attkisson, "a A former CBS investigative reporter who has filed a $35 million lawsuit against the Obama administration for hacking. will be among the witnesses at a hearing on President Obama's attorney general nominee.... Also testifying will be Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of the Tea Party-aligned True the Vote, which she has said was unfairly targeted by the IRS when it attempted to seek tax-exempt status.... Both Attkisson and Engelbrecht have sued the Obama administration over the actions. A federal judge tossed out the case brought by Engelbrecht and other groups last October. Attkisson filed her lawsuit just this month...." CW: AG nominee Loretta Lynch had nothing to do with either of these women. So stupid AND irrelevant. Excellent.

Rebecca Shabad of the Hill: "The annual budget deficit will fall to $468 billion in fiscal 2015, the lowest level of President Obama's tenure, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported Monday. Lower government spending and the improving economy are driving down the annual deficit, the CBO reported, with the shortfall for the year projected to be 2.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the lowest level since 2007.... The nation's debt load is steadily increasing. By the end of September, the CBO estimates U.S. debt will be 74 percent of GDP -- more than twice the level at the end of 2007 and higher than in any year since 1950." ...

... Sarah Farris of the Hill: "The total price tag for ObamaCare's insurance programs will be 20 percent less than expected, the government's budget office said Monday. The law's insurance provisions are now expected to cost $571 billion through 2019 -- a drop of about $139 billion from the government's earliest estimates five years ago, according to new estimates by the ... CBO." (See also, "It's okay if people die" below. ...

... Elise Viebeck of the Hill: "Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Monday announced an ambitious new effort to reward quality medical care and phase out payments based solely on the volume of services provided in the Medicare program. For the first time, the agency is setting an explicit timetable for transitioning Medicare away from its dominant fee-for-service model." ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox explains how the HHS plan is intended to work -- and revolutionize health care delivery.

Yes, There Are More Pressing Deficits. Rebecca Shabad: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is flipping the script on the GOP with a seven-step plan to address national 'deficits' through increases in spending. Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said lawmakers must address deficits in jobs, income equality, infrastructure, trade, retirement security and education in their next budget blueprint. 'These deficits must be immediately address by the Budget Committee,' he said in an eight-page report."

Andrew Kaczynski & Ilan Ben-Meir of BuzzFeed: "Rep. John Yarmuth says Republican House Speaker John Boehner inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to the House of Representatives is ;close to subversion.' Speaking with the Stephanie Miller Show on Friday, the Kentucky Democrat added some Congress members' strong support for Israel 'had to do with fundraising.' Yarmuth noted that he was Jewish & a "strong supporter of Israel." ...

... Joel Greenberg of McClatchy News: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing growing criticism in Israel for a planned speech to the U.S. Congress about Iran, accused by his political rivals of damaging ties with Washington to promote his election campaign." ...

... Sins of the Leader: Brian Tashman of Right Wing News: "Rep. Louie Gohmert warned President Obama last week that his 'disdain' for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may cause God to punish America, insisting that the president 'would have that same disdain for anyone who was a strong leader for the nation of Israel and especially if they didn't bow down and worship at the altar of the White House.'"

Non-Profitism is Awesome, Too! Scott Higham & Steven Rich of the Washington Post: "The U.S. Agency for International Development announced Monday that it has suspended one of its largest nonprofit contractors [-- International Relief and Development --] from federal work after investigators found 'serious misconduct' in the nonprofit's performance and management of taxpayer money.... The suspension comes after months of internal USAID reviews of IRD's performance in the field and reports from the agency's inspector general that the nonprofit allegedly mischarged millions of dollars in overhead costs. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and the FBI are also investigating the organization.... Many of the allegations were contained in a Washington Post investigation published last May." (Because Actual Journalism Is Awesome." ...

This sweet little old lady looks so happy because she has no idea she just got robbed. The guy to the right? He's a little savvier.Also Awesome: "Scam PACS." Ken Vogel: "Since the tea party burst onto the political landscape in 2009, the conservative movement has been plagued by an explosion of PACs that critics say exist mostly to pad the pockets of the consultants who run them.... A Politico analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission covering the 2014 cycle found that 33 PACs that court small donors with tea party-oriented email and direct-mail appeals raised $43 million -- 74 percent of which came from small donors. The PACs spent only $3 million on ads and contributions to boost the long-shot candidates often touted in the appeals, compared to $39.5 million on operating expenses, including $6 million to firms owned or managed by the operatives who run the PACs."

Steve M.: No, Sarah Palin did not "wing" the latter half of her 2008 vice-presidential acceptance speech. The teleprompter was working the whole time. ...

... Conservative columnist Byron York of the Washington Examiner is all worried about Palin's continued participation in the campaign. CW: A sensible person would be worried about most of the other candidates, who are capable of reading their prepared speeches, but whose ideas & ideology are as wacko as Palin's.

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times: "Rarely do conservative opponents of the Affordable Care Act acknowledge the real human consequences of their campaign to overturn the healthcare reform law. But an astonishing op-ed published Friday by the Washington Post does just that. [See Sunday's Commentariat.]... You can see [author Michael] Strain placing his thumb on the scale.... The U.S. may be a land of 'finite resources,' but there's no indication that the ACA breaches the resource ceiling. On the contrary, the signs are that the ACA is lowering healthcare's demand on resources.... The most important factor Strain ignores is that a key role of government is to moderate the impact of pure market economics.... Trying to dress up the argument for repeal as a cost-benefit balancing in which the cost can be counted in lost lives ... is crass, crude and spectacularly immoral." ...

... Erik Loomis of LG&M: "I guess I shouldn't be surprised that 'kill the poor' is now something you can say in the op-ed section of the Washington Post. I look forward to this argument becoming a central tenet of the 2016 Republican primaries." ...

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: "Strain's whole argument boils down to 'screw the little people,' though he works hard to erect enough straw men and redirections to pretend that what he's really talking about is a viable replacement that would bring FREEDOM and not direct so many scarce resources to useless crap like health care."

... Jonathan Chait explains in detail to confused ideologues (who also happen to have good health insurance coverage) -- like maybe to Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt -- why killing the poor is not a morally-correct option. ...

... CW: Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Personally, I'd like to thank the WashPo headline writer who came up with: "End Obamacare, and people could die. That's okay." S/he really exposed Strain's disgusting argument.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. AND/OR Capitalism Isn't So Awesome, After All. Tom LoBianco of the Indianapolis Star: "Gov. Mike Pence [R-Ind.] is starting a state-run taxpayer-funded news service that will provide pre-written news stories to Indiana news outlets, as well as sometimes break news about his administration, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star. Pence is planning to launch 'Just IN' in late February, a website and news service that will feature stories written by state press secretaries and is being overseen by a former Indianapolis Star reporter, Bill McCleery.... The news agency is being overseen by a governance board, made of communications directors, and an editorial board made of McCleery and the governor's communications staff.... The starting of Pence's news agency comes as he considers a run for the White House." CW: Gee, Mike, whatever happened to the free-enterprise system & independent journalism & pro-America Constitutional stuff? A government-run news agency sounds suspiciously like, um, TASS. ...

... Media critic Jim Romenesko (and others) are alarmed.

The Purchase of the Government 2016

Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "The political network overseen by the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch plans to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaign, an unparalelled effort by outside groups to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history. The goal, revealed Monday at the Kochs' annual winter donor retreat near Palm Springs, Calif., would effectively allow their political organization to operate at the same financial scale as the Democratic and Republican parties. In the last presidential election, the Republican National Committee and the party's two congressional campaign committees spent a total of $657 million. The network's $889 million budget includes spending on both the presidential campaign and congressional races, and would be financed by donors as well as the Koch brothers themselves." ...

... Ken Vogel of Politico: "... while the leaked details seemed in part a show of defiance to Democrats, who had targeted the brothers as bogeymen, the spending goal also appeared to be a show of dominance to rival factions on the right, including the RNC.... Some Republicans, however, quietly grumbled about the continued migration of power and money from the political parties and their candidates to super-rich donors emboldened by recent court decisions loosening campaign finance restrictions." ...

... Hamilton Nolan's lede graf in Gawker sums up the news for the kidz: "Cartoonish evil billionaires The Koch Brothers have told their allies that the groups they support plan to spend $900 million to influence the 2016 elections. That's a lot!" ...

... digby: "They are willing to spend whatever it takes to fulfill their vision. Yes, that will undoubtedly end up making them more money. But that's no longer their prime motivation. They are so rich that they've become Bond villains. They want to run the world." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Engorged with profits, and unencumbered by any real limits on what they can spend, they are determined to shut down progressive politics for the foreseeable future. And it's yet another reason a lot of Republicans don't think they need to moderate their policies. Money covereth a multitude of sins, and the people providing it don't want moderation." ...

... Steve M.: "According to USA Today, a new political hero shot to stardom over the weekend because he [he, being Scott Walker] bargain-shops [at Kohl's].... The Kochs, who've given a hell of a lot of money to Ms. Bread Bag and (especially) to Mr. Kohl's Sale Rack, were born with silver spoons in their mouths. They've never had to scrimp or make do. So even if we get a Walker/Ernst ticket in 2016, I don't want to hear about the 'Main Street values' of the post-Romney GOP. The puppets were once of modest means. The puppet masters never were."

Presidential Race

Philip Bump: "Rick Perry wins the all-important Iowa Twitter primary," at least by Bump's calculation. And, as he quite fairly points out, his "methodology is at least as scientifically sound as the Iowa Straw Poll."

Harry Enten of 538: Chris "Christie's net favorable rating is more than two standard deviations below what we'd expect from a candidate like him.... Christie's relatively low popularity is one of the main reasons my colleagues at FiveThirtyEight and I aren't very high on his chances of capturing the Republican nomination."

Beyond the Beltway

Amanda Terkel of the Huffington Post: "Alabama's only openly gay legislator is putting her anti-gay colleagues on notice: If they keep espousing family values rhetoric as a reason to oppose marriage equality, she'll start making their marital infidelities public. 'I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about 'family values' when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have,' wrote state Rep. Patricia Todd (D) on Facebook over the weekend, as reported by the TimesDaily in Alabama. 'I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out.' Todd's post came after a federal judge ruled Friday that Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. She told The Huffington Post that she decided to issue her threat after reading some of the anti-gay rhetoric coming from certain elected officials in the state."

Judd Legum of Think Progress: "On Thursday, 17-year-old Kristiana Coignard was shot dead by three police officers in the lobby of the Longview[, Texas,] Police Department. Coignard arrived at the station around 6:30 p.m. and asked to talk to an officer. Police say the girl was 'brandishing a weapon' before she was shot four times.... The incident, at this point, is shrouded in mystery. Officials could not 'confirm the type of weapon Coignard brandished at the officers.' Beyond the alleged, unspecified weapon, virtually no details about the events that immediately preceded Coignard's death have been released." According to relatives, Coignard suffered from mental illness. "Coignard's death also raises questions about use of force protocols in the United States. British citizens, for example, 'are about 100 times less likely to be shot by police,' according to the Economist." ...

... Elizabeth Brown of Reason: "Longview Mayor Jay Dean said he was told that Coignard was carrying a knife. A knife is certainly not nothing. But it is also not a gun. And one can't help but wonder why three cops, in the middle of their own lobby, were unable to subdue a knife-wielding teen girl without the use of lethal force.... In 2014, we saw a bevy of tragedies involving mentally troubled teens killed by police officers. Last January, for instance, a 90-pound schizophrenic teen with no weapon whatsoever was fatally shot less than two minutes after North Carolina police entered his home; his parents had called the cops for help subduing the agitated boy. Last August, a 19-year-old with bipolar disorder was fatally shot in Florida after police mistook a cordless drill she was holding for an Uzi and a suicidal Kansas teen was shot by police more than a dozen times."

News Ledes

Reuters: "The U.S. Army on Tuesday denied that a decision had been made to bring desertion charges against Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was released last year in a controversial prisoner swap after disappearing from his base in Afghanistan in 2009.NBC News said earlier on Tuesday that Bergdahl would be charged with desertion, citing senior defense officials. Major General Ronald Lewis, the Army's head of public affairs, said that report, and another from Fox News, were 'patently false.'"

Guardian: "Greece's prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has lined up a formidable coterie of academics, human rights advocates, mavericks and visionaries to participate in Europe's first anti-austerity government. Displaying few signs of backing down from pledges to dismantle punitive belt-tightening measures at the heart of the debt-choked country's international rescue programme, the leftwing radical put together a 40-strong cabinet clearly aimed at challenging Athens's creditors."

Guardian: "Moscow has condemned the arrest of a Russian man in New York on espionage charges as yet another instance of unfair persecution by the US. Yevgeny Buryakov, an employee of state-owned VEB bank, was href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jan/26/us-charges-alleged-russian-spies-new-york">arrested on Monday and charged with gathering 'economic intelligence' along with two other Russian men who had already left the United States."

New York Times: "The first major storm of the winter blasted across eastern New England on Tuesday, unleashing whiteout conditions driven by gale-force winds that left the island of Nantucket without power. The storm may not have lived up to its billing in New York City, but it more than delivered in New England. It cut off Nantucket, where almost all 12,000 year-round residents lost power and telephone service, and it flooded the Atlantic coastal town of Scituate, where a car floated downtown." ...

... Portland Press Herald: "Harsh winds and heavy snow marched into Maine overnight, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency early Tuesday morning. The slow-moving storm is dropping 2 to 4 inches of snow an hour, with north winds of 25 to 35 mph, gusting to 55." ...

... Boston Globe mid-morning report: "The persistent heavy band of snow continues over the Route 495 belt where the heaviest accumulations will likely end up once the storm is over. Snowfall rates of 2 inches per hour or more continue." ...

... Weather Channel: "Winter Storm Juno was pounding New England with moderate to heavy snow, high winds and coastal flooding Tuesday morning. Parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts have seen more than a foot of snow. Snow amounts in the New York City metro area have ranged from a half foot in Central Park to more than 18 inches on central Long Island near Islip. Wind gusts have topped 70 mph in parts of eastern Massachusetts. Coastal flooding has also closed some roads in eastern Massachusetts. Thundersnow was reported in coastal portions of Rhode Island and Massachusetts late Monday night and early Tuesday." ...

... Yahoo! News has area-wide live updates here.

AP: "Gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Libya's capital Tuesday, killing at least five foreigners and three guards, authorities said. The attack, which included a car bombing, struck the Corinthia Hotel, which sits along the Mediterranean Sea." ...

     ... Washington Post UPDATE: "Among the victims in the attack was an American contractor, said two U.S. officials...."

Sunday
Jan252015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 26, 2015

Jim Avila & Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama took in the elaborate pageant of military power and cultural pride from a viewing platform under steady drizzle in the capital New Delhi. They spent much of the day beneath umbrellas as a colorful display passed before them, including bejeweled camels ridden as cavalry, brigades of arm-swinging troops, cultural dancers, marching bands, and motorcycle stunt men." ...

... Peter Baker & Ellen Barry of the New York Times: "President Obama swept aside past friction with India on Sunday to report progress on climate change and civilian nuclear power cooperation as he sought to transform a fraught relationship marked by suspicion into an enduring partnership linking the world's oldest and largest democracies."

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration will propose setting aside more than 12 million acres in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, the White House announced Sunday, halting any chance of oil exploration for now in the refuge's much-fought-over coastal plain and sparking a fierce battle with Republicans, including the new chair of the Senate Energy Committee." ...

... Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "If the proposal is enacted, the area would be the largest wilderness designation since Congress passed the Wilderness Act over 50 years ago. But the proposal seems unlikely to find support in Congress, now with a Republican majority in both houses and a leadership that has consistently rebuffed Mr. Obama's environmental agenda."

Worse than Most Third-World Countries. Margaret Talbot of the New Yorker: "Papua New Guinea, Oman, and the United States of America ... are the only three countries in the world with no paid-maternity-leave law.... The majority of U.S. employers do not offer paid family leave, for the simple reason that they don't have to.... Obama's new proposals don't offer sweeping changes, but they are significant as the first real expansions of family-friendly -- people-friendly, really -- policies in a long time.... If conservatives oppose these policies now, they will have to explain why American workers, virtually alone in the world, must struggle on without such basic protections. And that won't be easy." ...

... CW: Now let's think about how there Republicans' refusal -- and they will refuse -- to mandate paid maternity and sick leave -- squares with their strict anti-abortion policy.

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "There are nine justices on the Supreme Court. It takes four votes to hear a case, but it takes five to stay an execution. That can leave a lethal gap. A death penalty case can be important enough to claim a spot on the court's docket of perhaps 75 cases a year. But the prisoner who brought it may not live to see the decision. In agreeing on Friday to hear a challenge to the chemicals Oklahoma uses to execute condemned prisoners, the court brought fresh attention to the life-or-death importance of a single vote."

Charles Pierce Blow relays a harrowing incident his son, a student, experienced at Yale. A campus cop, for reasons the cop refused to state, pulled a gun on Pierce's son, who we can feel safe to assume is a young black man. [Thanks to safari for the author-error catch.] ...

... CW: This makes me weep. When I worry somebody will screw something up, I am the somebody I worry about. That is the luxury of being white. If you're a young male of color, you have to worry about everybody else, especially those who are or may be armed. This, BTW, is a big piece of the tyranny of the NRA. By pushing for & succeeding in getting (white) legislators to pass concealed-carry, [NEW: stand-your-ground (see Nisky Guy's comment below)] & other "Second Amendment" laws, the NRA & their legislator-enablers effectively terrorize every person of color. Men of color walk through life knowing that at any time & for no apparent reason, a stranger may pull a gun on them. The type of gun laws that have been passed over the last decade or more are not anti-crime laws; they are racist laws. We should quit pretending otherwise. The Second Amendment, since its proposal & ratification, has been one of the racist parts of our Constitution. The other parts were repealed. The Second Amendment is all the racists have left. And they are pushing it as far as they can. It's no surprise that Dick Heller, the plaintiff in Heller v. the District of Columbia -- the case in which the Supremes decided in a 5-4 decision that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm -- is a white guy (and a special D.C. police officer) who lives in a majority-black town. ...

     ... Update: Pam McLoughlin of the New Haven Register reports on the Blow story. ....

     ... Update 2: See JJG's "natural reflex" comment in today's thread re: my thinko-typo.

Ed Pilkington & Dominic Rushe of the Guardian: "Google took almost three years to disclose to the open information group WikiLeaks that it had handed over emails and other digital data belonging to three of its staffers to the US government, under a secret search warrant issued by a federal judge. WikiLeaks has written to Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, to protest that the search giant only revealed the warrants last month, having been served them in March 2012."

Max Fisher of Vox: "... two prominent Fox News hosts, Chris Wallace and Shepherd Smith, harshly criticized Boehner and Netanyahu on Friday for secretly arranging a Netanyahu speech to Congress that is transparently aimed at undermining President Obama, and set up without the White House's knowledge." Watch it:

... David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: "Where was all the outrage when Republicans literally lied the country into war with Iraq? Or repeatedly cut food stamps for no reason? Or shut down the government? Or voted over 50 times to prevent people with pre-existing conditions from having access to health insurance? Or voted for the Paul Ryan budget? Or refused to acknowledge human-made climate change? Somehow all of those crucial things that harm millions of people and weaken our national security became partisan issues for the Village Center to tut tut about and ask for compromise. But Boehner and Netanyahu's social snub is somehow the last straw. That says a lot about the Washington elite and where their misplaced priorities are."

Dan Diamond of Forbes on Scott Pelley's "60 Minutes" interview of Mitch McConnell & John Boehner. You can watch the interview here. Thanks to Forrest M. for the lead.

Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast on the case for the estate tax. An excellent post to send to your selfish, ignorant Tea party friends who think the gummit will steal their imaginary big inheritance from them. Thanks to Victoria D. for the link.

Brooks Barnes of the New York Times: "'The Hunting Ground,' set for release in theaters and broadcast on CNN, was billed by the Sundance Film Festival as a 'piercing, monumental exposé of rape culture on campuses.' Judging by viewer reaction at the film's premiere and the comments of two United States senators [-- Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) & Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) --] afterward, festival programmers might have undersold it."

CW: Wish I'd picked this up for Sunday's God News. Lawrence Krauss in the New Yorker: "Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a piece with the surprising title 'Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.' At least it was surprising to me, because I hadn't heard the news. The piece argued that new scientific evidence bolsters the claim that the appearance of life in the universe requires a miracle, and it received almost four hundred thousand Facebook shares and likes. The author of the piece, Eric Metaxas, is not himself a scientist. Rather, he's a writer and a TV host, and the article was a not-so-thinly-veiled attempt to resurrect the notion of intelligent design, which gives religious arguments the veneer of science -- this time in a cosmological context." Krauss, an astrobiologist, takes down Metaxas' claims one-by-one.

Iowa Freedom Summit -- the Aftertaste

Via Bloomberg Politics.

Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "No one seemed to regret the absence of Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush from the stage during a marathon session of conservative political theater in Iowa, as a string of GOP speakers urged Iowa Republicans not to buckle to the establishment. A parade of nine Republicans who are considering presidential bids engaged in an all-out battle for the conservative vote at U.S. Rep. Steve King's inaugural Iowa Freedom Fest. While the 1,500-member audience, made up predominantly of constitutional and religious conservative activists, seemed plenty happy with the speeches by Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Carly Fiorina, it was Scott Walker and Ted Cruz who were best received."

Steve M.: "Dear Republican Party: This weekend, the press was at the Iowa Freedom Summit trying to help Americans figure out whether you're ready to run the country. What we found out was that you're more interested in roasting the country, or at least roasting whoever in the country isn't Republican (or isn't your type of Republican)." Steve provides "some examples of Republican insult comedy.... Wait -- these are the folks who thought Obama's State of the Union address was undignified? No -- these folks are Don Rickles."

It is good that we have a deep bench and its primary competition that will surface the candidate who's up to the task and unify and this person has to because knowing what the media will do throughout all of 2016 to all of us it's going to take more than a village to beat Hillary. -- Guess Who

... Freakout Nation: "Unhinged Woman Climbs Onstage At Iowa Freedom Summit, Starts Rambling Incoherently. At the 'Iowa Freedom Summit,' Sarah Palin delivered one of her strangest speeches yet and even Scott Conroy from RealClearPolitics, described it as the 'strangest speech I've ever seen Sarah Palin deliver.'... Toby Har[n]den, a Conservative columnist, described Palin's speech as 'Bizarro.'" ...

... Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story reports on some Twitter responses to the unhinged woman's speech. CW: Now, & for the past six years or so, I have felt a little sorry for Palin, because I think she may be actually unhinged. Thanks, John McCain!

Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic: "If [Donald] Trump takes the steps necessary to qualify on the ballot in even a single significant primary state, the political press should cover him as a candidate.... Barring that, there are so many people more worthy of political coverage than Trump that a blanket ban on stories about him would serve major news organizations better than the present approach, which I defy any of them to persuasively defend." ...

... CW: Friedersdorf is right. Barring Trump's saying or doing something extremely hilarious, I'm taking Friedersdorf's advice. Ergo, if you're looking for the Trump Daily Report, look elsewhere. Bad Hair Days must be super-duper bad. ...

... Presidential Race

Americans used to think Iowa and New Hampshire held the first caucus and primary in the nation every four years. Not anymore. Now the 'Koch brothers primary' goes first to determine who wins the blessing and financial backing of the billionaire class. This is truly sad and shows us how far Citizens United has gone to undermine American democracy. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are all speaking at the winter meeting of the so-called Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Bernie Sanders: "To end the ability of billionaires to buy elections, Sanders on Wednesday introduced a constitutional amendment that would undo the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That narrow 5-4 decision and subsequent court cases struck down decades-old laws that had limited how much money wealthy individuals and corporations may contribute to campaigns. Vermont and 15 other states along with voters and city councils in more than 600 cities and towns already have passed measures supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. 'People across the political spectrum are demanding that billionaires not be able to buy American democracy,' Sanders said."

Rick Klein of ABC News: "The first 2016 presidential forum of the year revealed sharp divisions on foreign policy Sunday night, with Sen. Rand Paul breaking with his colleagues on both Iran and Cuba -- a split that's likely to play out in detail over the next year. Flanked by Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio, Paul joked when the panel's moderator, ABC's Jonathan Karl, asked a question about Cuba, 'I'm kinda surrounded on this one.' He was right. The night's liveliest moments came when Paul said his colleagues in Congress should give the president negotiating space with Iran before imposing new rounds of sanctions. 'They're saying you want 535 negotiators, not the president,' said Paul, R-Kentucky. 'Diplomacy is better than war, and we should give diplomacy a chance.' His fellow senators pounced.... Sunday night's panel was sponsored by the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a not-for-profit connected to Charles and David Koch that is holding a donor conference at an exclusive resort in Palm Springs. The 75-minute forum featuring the three senators and Karl was the only portion of the conference that wasn't shielded from the press and the public." ...

     ... CW: Worth noting: Paul's ability to be affable even when facing off demagogues in a high-stakes battle. This is an important political talent which I'm afraid Scott Walker shares. Candidates who can maintain their composure while Chris Christie or Rick Santorum goes ballistic have a huge advantage. As they should. In the "Annals of 'Journalism,' Ctd." department, I'm not surprised to find Jonathan Karl of ABC News has obtained the Koch Seal of Approval. ...

... David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: "Rand Paul wants to lead the United States. On Saturday in Texas, his father was speaking at a conference about how to leave it.... This weekend was a crucial one for Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky and un-declared candidate for the presidency. He was in California, trying to line up donors at an opulent retreat organized by the billionaire Koch brothers. At the same time, his father ... was in the ballroom of an airport hotel [in Houston, Texas], the final speaker at 'a one-day seminar in breaking away from the central state.' He followed a series of speakers who said that the U.S. economy and political establishment were tottering and that the best response might be for states, counties or even individuals to break away." CW: So is it okay if the First Father is a raving secessionist?

Ali Elkin of Bloomberg Politics: "New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has formed a political action committee called Leadership Matters for America as he prepares for a likely presidential campaign, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday." ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "Christie also referred to himself as a 'candidate' at the Iowa Freedom Summit this weekend, though he never specified what he's running for. 'I'm sure you'll not agree with me or any other candidate on every single issue,' Christie told Iowans. 'If you want a candidate who agrees with you 100 percent of the time, I'll give you one suggestion: Go home and look in the mirror.' Kind of aggressive for a job interview." ...

... Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "As [Chris] Christie explores a White House run built around personality, pugnacity and spontaneity, there may be no better laboratory for studying that unconventional approach than his radio call-in show, 'Ask the Governor,' a high-wattage rumpus that beams his many moods into the kitchens, cars and smartphones of those he governs.... On any given night, as many as 50,000 people call in. The show serves another function: public accountability. The governor has ordered his entire cabinet to listen, and he assigns commissioners tasks, by name, during the broadcast.... The show has offered a glimpse into Mr. Christie's preoccupation with power, hierarchy and popularity." ...

     ... The Times publishes summaries of some of the call-ins, responses & resolutions (or not).

Beyond the Beltway

Susanne Craig & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "Sheldon Silver, the longtime speaker of the New York State Assembly, agreed on Sunday to relinquish his duties on a temporary basis as he fights federal corruption charges. His decision came amid mounting pressure from his fellow Democrats in the Assembly.... In an unusual arrangement, Mr. Silver would not quit his post. Instead, he would temporarily delegate his duties as speaker to a group of senior Assembly members."

Today in Responsible Gun Ownership. Elizabeth Harris & Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times: "Two people were killed in a shooting at a Manhattan Home Depot on Sunday in what appeared to be a dispute between two employees, the authorities said. Gunfire erupted in the lighting department at the Home Depot store on West 23rd Street in Chelsea about 2:45 p.m., police officials said, sending workers and shoppers streaming out of exits and into the street." ...

... Pervaiz Shallwani & Heather Haddon of the Wall Street Journal: "A former employee of a Fox station in Texas shot and killed himself outside the front doors of the News Corporation building shortly before 9 a.m. Monday, a law-enforcement official said. The building houses 21st Century Fox and News Corporation, which owns The Wall Street Journal. The man, Phillip Perea, 41 years old, of Irving, Texas, shot himself once in the chest outside of 1211 Avenue of the Americas, the official said. Mr. Perea had previously worked for a Fox station in Austin, Texas, police said. Mr. Perea had also been handing out fliers, which criticized his employer for having 'ended my career,' moments before he shot himself...." ...

... CW: It's too late for these unfortunate individuals, but let me suggest that getting fired or hassled by your boss should not end your world or his/hers. A major network once fired me, & I am happy to have lived to tell about it (which I think I've done on Reality Chex at some time in the past). It's hurtful & sometimes confusing to lose your job or have to take crap at work, but this should be a small part of your life, not something that ends it. Take a lesson from Ernie Banks (see Infotainment). I guess he never got fired, but he sure got criticized on the job.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Matt Schiavenza of the Atlantic: "The apparent victory of the far-left Syriza party in Greece ... presents the troika -- a consortium consisting of the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund -- with a series of unappetizing options. If the troika gives in and writes down Greek debt, then other, larger countries -- such as Spain -- will have an incentive to negotiate a similar deal, triggering a major financial headache in Brussels and Frankfurt. If the troika refuses, then Greece is likely to default on its debt obligations this year and be forced to exit the eurozone...." ...

... Paul Krugman: "If anything, the problem with Syriza's plans may be that they're not radical enough. Debt relief and an easing of austerity would reduce the economic pain, but it's doubtful whether they are sufficient to produce a strong recovery. On the other hand, it's not clear what more any Greek government can do unless it's prepared to abandon the euro, and the Greek public isn't ready for that. Still, in calling for a major change, Mr. Tsipras is being far more realistic than ['troika'] officials who want the beatings to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country's nightmare."

News Ledes

Politico: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid successfully underwent a lengthy surgery on Monday to repair broken bones in his face suffered in a New Year's Day exercise injury, according to his office. The Nevada Democrat was released from George Washington University Hospital on Monday afternoon following the surgery. Surgeons removed a blood clot and pooled blood in Reid's right eye and mended several bones in Reid's face, injuries that have caused Reid blindness in his right eye."

New York Times: "Marcus J. Borg, a scholar who popularized a liberal intellectual approach to Christianity with his lectures and books about Jesus as a historical figure, died on Wednesday at his home in Powell Butte, Ore. He was 72."

Bloomberg News: "Russia's foreign-currency credit rating was cut to junk by Standard & Poor's, putting it below investment grade for the first time in a decade, as policy makers struggle to boost growth amid international sanctions and a drop in oil prices."

Hill: "The U.S. has closed its embassy in Yemen's capital because of security concerns, the State Department said Monday. The closure comes after the resignation of Yemen's president, pressured by rebel forces."

The New York Times is continually updating its snowfall map for the Northeast. ...

... New York Times: "As millions of residents in the Northeast prepared for a powerful storm bearing down on the region, bringing with it near hurricane-force winds along the coast and as much as three feet of snow, officials from New Jersey to Maine urged people to get off the roads and stay indoors. Even before the worst of the storm hit, thousands of flights were grounded, public transportation was suspended or curtailed and travel bans were put in place in the half dozen states in the path of what was expected to be a blizzard. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced on Monday afternoon that all subway and bus service in New York City would stop at 11 p.m." CW: Sorry to say the forecast pictured above still holds. ...

... "The Times is providing free unlimited access to storm coverage on NYTimes.com and its mobile apps." ...

Washington Post: "Blizzard warnings and winter storm warnings blanket the Northeast on Sunday night in anticipation of [a major] storm. Over 29 million people are under a blizzard warning through at least Tuesday afternoon, and 14 million people are under a winter storm warning. 24 to 36 inches of snow is expected from northern New Jersey to southern New England, in addition to the 50 to 60 mph wind gusts that could severely reduce visibility." ...

... USA Today: "Airlines reacted to a major snowstorm that's expected to wallop parts of the Northeast by cancelling more than 5,200 flights through Wednesday. Of those, at least 3,200 were already announced by Sunday -- a day before the storm's first flakes fell along the East Coast." ...

... The Weather Channel story is here. ...

... Boston Globe: "This storm will cripple travel through Tuesday afternoon and it will take until Thursday before things start to get back to normal. These types of storms can shut Logan Airport down for at least a day even after the worst of the storm has ended. Everything will be closed tomorrow and many schools will be closed Wednesday and some the rest of the week, because the sidewalks won't be clear."

... CW Prediction: This potentially historic storm should be the final nail in the coffin of any silly global warming theories. Those GOP senators who admitted climate change was "real"? Just pulling Democrats' chain.

Saturday
Jan242015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 25, 2015

The Times of India has a "breaking news" banner on its front page which, at least currently, relates to the Obamas' visit to India. ...

     ... Update: The "breaking news" banner is gone, but the paper now has a liveblog of the Obamas' visit.

Julie Pace of the AP: "President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi say they have achieved a breakthrough understanding to free up U.S. investment in nuclear energy development in India. The two countries had been at an impasse over U.S. insistence on tracking fissile material it supplies to India and over Indian liability provisions that have discouraged U.S. firms from capitalizing on a 2008 civil nuclear agreement between the U.S. and India." ...

... CW: My favorite part of the press conference was near the end, where President Obama, in describing the ties between the U.S. & India, noted that we were "two former colonies."

Times of India photo.... Katie Zezima of the Washington Post: "When President Obama walked off Air Force One here Sunday morning, he was greeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who walked up to Obama and gave him a big hug. The airport meeting, a break from tradition, and embrace comes as the two countries are looking to reinvigorate a relationship that had stagnated in recent years -- and one that both men hope will benefit from a personal rapport they developed last year."

Reality Strikes Back against GOP Ideology. Adam Nagourney & Shaila Dewan of the New York Times: "Republican governors across the nation are proposing tax increases -- and backing off pledges to cut taxes -- as they strike a decidedly un-Republican pose in the face of budget shortfalls and pent-up demands from constituents after years of budget cuts."

Michael Strain of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute argues in a Washington Post op-ed that it's okay if people die as a result of losing access to health insurance via the ACA. Because, um, the government makes these tradeoffs all the time: e.g., if states lowered the speed limit to 10 mph fewer people would die in road accidents. ...

... Competing with Strain for weekend's worst op-ed, Maureen Dowd writes another column about how awful Obama is. ...

... He's No Krugman. Bill Curry writes a sensible column in Salon questioning the sincerity of President Obama's sudden bout of populism. CW: I do think Curry has glossed over Obama's longstanding advocacy for the poor & middle class. The difference now, as I see it, is that the proposals in his SOTU speech were more robust than those he's made in the past, when he put forward policy proposals that he thought might have a shot at getting through Congress, even if further watered down. Still, Curry's reminder of Obama's mixed signals is important to keep in mind.

** Salon publishes an excerpt from Julian Zelizer's book The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress & the Battle for the Great Society. Read the whole excerpt. Here's an excerpt of the excerpt:

At 4 a.m. on November 23, 1963, the day after Kennedy's assassination gave him the presidency, [Lydon] Johnson reclined on his bed, his top advisers arrayed around him for an impromptu meeting.... The new president told Jack Valenti, Bill Moyers, and Cliff Carter, with 'relish and resolve,' according to Valenti, 'I'm going to get Kennedy's tax cut out of the Senate Finance Committee, and we're going to get this economy humming again. Then I'm going to pass Kennedy's civil rights bill, which has been hung up too long in the Congress. And I'm going to pass it without changing a single comma or a word. After that we'll pass legislation that allows everyone anywhere in this country to vote, with all the barriers down. And that's not all. We're going to get a law that says every boy and girl in this country, no matter how poor, or the color of their skin, or the region they come from, is going to be able to get all the education they can take by loan, scholarship, or grant, right from the federal government.... And I aim to pass Harry Truman's medical insurance bill that got nowhere before.'

Joanna Rothkopf of Salon reminds us of McDonald's outstanding history of dickishness.

Emily Satchell of WRIC Richmond: "The Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board has stripped former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell of his law license. The Virginia State Bar said in a release that McDonnell's license to practice law in the Commonwealth is suspended, effective January 29, based on his conviction on 11 public corruption charges. 8News legal expert Russ Stone says that, 'If he wanted to obtain it again once he is out of prison, he would have to apply with the bar to have his license re-instated.'" CW: Said Bob, once a likely presidential contendah, "On the whole, I'd rather be in Des Moines." ...

Presidential Race

Ashley Parker & Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "A crowded field of potential Republican presidential candidates scrapped for the hearts of the party's conservative base [in Des Moines, Iowa] on Saturday, implicitly rejecting more moderate choices like Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, who did not attend." ...

... Jon Ward of Yahoo! News: "The tone, from the outset, was gloomy. America is 'mired in darkness,' said David Bossie, a conservative filmmaker and activist who organized the event. Conservative talk show host Jan Mickelson opened the event by saying, 'Nobody from Iowa cares a sliver about immigration. All of us came from somewhere. What we do care about is illegal gate crashers.' Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin called President Barack Obama 'an overgrown little boy' for his executive action last year on immigration. And television personality Donald Trump criticized [Jeb] Bush for saying last year that some illegal immigrants come to the United States as an 'act of love' to provide for their families. 'Remember,' Trump said, in a gross mischaracterization of undocumented immigrants, 'half of them are criminals.'" ...

... For more detail, we go to our friends at Politico, whose little hearts must be throbbing:

... Ben Schreckinger: "Chris Christie on Saturday made the case to the Republican base that he embodied a strain of true conservatism that can succeed nationally. The New Jersey governor, who is considering running for president, was the most prominent establishment-backed 2016 contender to appear at Rep. Steve King's Iowa Freedom Summit...." ...

... Jonathan Topaz: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Saturday hailed his record as a conservative leader, previewing his likely 2016 presidential pitch as an outsider and a fighter for bold reform. The potential presidential candidate spent the majority of his address at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines highlighting his accomplishments as governor and contrasting them with the broken ways of Washington." ...

... Schreckinger: "Sen. Ted Cruz called on Republican voters to hold presidential candidates accountable for their conservative credentials Saturday in a speech to the party's grassroots faithful at Rep. Steve King's Iowa Freedom Summit." CW: I guess Ted couldn't "highlight his accomplishments" the way Walker did because "read the kids a bedtime story written by a leftist on national teevee" is not nearly as impressive as "whacked a lot of public employees, especially those nasty teachers." ...

... Schreckinger: "Rick Perry touted his economic record as governor of Texas Saturday." CW: Also won the award for candidate who killed the most death row inmates ever, including at least one innocent man. ...

... Schreckinger: "Mike Huckabee mocked the notion that climate change is a major threat to Americans in a speech to conservative activists Saturday. 'A beheading is a far greater threat to an American than a sunburn,' cracked Huckabee, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, and its tactic of beheading its enemies. The line drew laughter and applause from the grassroots faithful...." CW: Hilarious. Idiots. ...

... Schreckinger: "Rick Santorum laid out a populist vision for grassroots Republicans on Saturday, saying the party needs to be pro-growth but also pro-worker." CW: What if you had a meeting & the most sensible guy in the room was Rick Santorum? Impossible? No, I think it just happened. ...

... Topaz: "Ben Carson on Saturday delivered a forceful defense of conservatism, arguing for dramatically scaling back the federal government and saying that he wouldn't support Obamacare even if it worked. Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who has become a darling among grassroots conservatives, drew raucous applause from the crowd at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines." CW: These people are so not racists. ...

... Topaz: "Donald Trump on Saturday slammed Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush as potential 2016 presidential candidates -- a move that delighted the crowd of Iowa conservatives and demonstrated the two candidates' potential liabilities in a GOP primary." ...

     ... Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "In a sit-down interview with The Des Moines Register, [Trump] said the two presumed GOP frontrunners, Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, are doomed to lose -- and he expressed regret that he hadn't run himself in 2012. Trump said he should be in the White House right now. 'I was leading in every poll. ... I regret that I didn't stay in,' he said.... 'I would've won the race against (President Barack) Obama. He would've been easy. Hillary (Clinton) is tougher to beat than Obama, but Hillary is very beatable.'"

... AND Let Us Not Forget the Lovely Host. Topaz: "Rep. Steve King, at the opening of his Iowa Freedom Summit, took another jab at so-called DREAMers, saying they come from a different 'planet.'... 'We're a great people. We have a vitality that's unequaled on the planet. We come from every possible planet, uh, every possible continent,' King said, to laughter from the crowd. After a brief pause, the congressman referenced the DREAM Action Coalition, an immigration advocacy group protesting the event in Des Moines. 'They're across the street, those people that come from the other planet,' he said, prompting more laughs and applause from the audience." CW: As I said, these people are so not racists. Never mind that they deem young people from Central America to be not human. ...

... Roger Simon: "The Republican Party's clown car has become a clown van.... At the Freedom Summit [in Des Moines] Saturday, two dozen speakers ground through 10 hours of speeches in front of more than 1,000 far-right Republicans.... Sarah Palin, who has been teasing the press with hints she might actually run for president, appeared to end much hope of that Saturday by delivering a 33-minute speech of such incoherence that even veteran Palin-watchers were puzzled.... I would provide some context, but there wasn't any. It is possible she was improperly inflated." CW: Really sexist, Roger, but I don't care. ...


... MEANWHILE, in the Brainland. Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Jeb Bush previewed the ideas at the heart of his likely presidential campaign, delivering a sweeping address [in San Francisco] Friday about the economy, foreign affairs and energy exploration, and challenging the country to question 'every aspect of how government works.' In his first major speech since stepping into the 2016 presidential sweepstakes in December, the Republican former Florida governor spoke confidently and in significant detail about the broad range of issues beginning to shape the campaign for the White House." ...

Our national identity is not based on race or some kind of exclusionary belief. Historically, the unwritten contract has been: Come legally to this country, embrace our values, learn English, work, and you can be as American as anybody else. Immigrants are an engine of economic vitality. -- Jeb Bush, Friday

God News

Richard Dawkins reads his fan mail. Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link. These God-fearing folks sure use a lot of dirty words. Also, they seem absolutely obsessed with gay sex:

Dennis Augustine, a former Pentecostal minister, fires God. Via Helmant Mehta.

Way Beyond the Beltway
And Way Beyond Stupid

Ed Vulliamy of the Guardian: "Leaders of Jewish communities and Holocaust memorial groups in Britain and the Netherlands have reacted with rage and despair at the arrival in Rotterdam of the world's biggest ship, the Pieter Schelte, named after a Dutch officer in the Waffen-SS. The vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, said: 'Naming such a ship after an SS officer who was convicted of war crimes is an insult to the millions who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis. We urge the ship's owners to reconsider and rename the ship after someone more appropriate.'... Allseas is owned by a Dutchman, Edward Heerema, who is the son of Pieter Schelte Heerema."

News Ledes

Weather Channel: "New York City is under a blizzard warning and Boston is under a blizzard watch in anticipation of Winter Storm Juno, which will be a major snowstorm for the Northeast Monday through Tuesday night, lingering into Wednesday morning. Parts of the region will see blizzard conditions and more than 2 feet of snow."

Washington Post: "After five years of extreme austerity prescribed to treat an epidemic of debt, a battered but defiant Greece on Sunday emphatically rejected the medicine. With millions of voters turning out ... the country delivered a historic win to Syriza, a radical leftist party that could put Greece on a collision course with the rest of Europe. The expected showdown has already rattled Greek financial markets and may challenge the core principle behind Europe's currency union."

Los Angeles Times: "An electronic device that could be a drone has been recovered on the White House grounds, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a briefing early Monday in New Delhi, India. Asked about media reports on the device, Earnest said the device 'doesn't pose any ongoing threat' to the Obama family. The Secret Service is reportedly investigating."

Friday
Jan232015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 24, 2015

Times of Israel: "The White House's outrage over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to speak before Congress in March -- a move he failed to coordinate with the administration -- began to seep through the diplomatic cracks on Friday, with officials telling Haaretz the Israeli leader had 'spat' in President Barack Obama's face.... Haaretz reported that Obama had personally demanded that Netanyahu tone down his pro-sanctions rhetoric in a phone call between the two last week. The Washington Post reported that Netanyahu's apparent disrespect for the US leadership was particularly offensive to Secretary of State John Kerry...." ...

... Mike Lillis of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) surprise invitation to have Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address Congress in March was 'inappropriate,' House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi charged Thursday. The California Democrat said that, not only did Boehner break congressional protocol by not consulting Democratic leaders about the invitation, but the timing of the speech -- coming just a few weeks ahead of Israel's contentious national elections -- hints that politics are at play." ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM: "Netanyahu's office has tried to paper over the confrontation by calling the congressional invitation bipartisan. But Democrats were quick to note that is not true. Even American Jewish groups who seldom allow any daylight between themselves and the Israeli government appear shocked by Netanyahu's move and are having difficulty defended it."

Gail Collins on the sinking of the House's showboat anti-abortion bill. "'I'm going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape,' Senator Lindsey Graham told the anti-abortion marchers. This was four days after Graham announced that he was considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination. It's very possible that the phrase 'this definitional problem with rape' will last longer than his candidacy." CW: Yes, indeedy, Brother Lindsey is nudging his way into "legitimate rape" territory. Still, as Collins writes, "If you truly believe that human life begins the moment a sperm fertilizes an egg, you can't admit any exceptions. The only real debate is whether you get to impose your religious beliefs on the entire country."

Alec MacGillis of Slate: "Now that Republicans are in control of both chambers of Congress, the push to slay Obamacare by a thousand cuts is officially underway. But if the first stab is any indication, Republicans are going to need some sharper knives. On Thursday, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, the new chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, convened a hearing on one of the measures Republicans have been championing as a means to undermine the Affordable Care Act: changing the way it defines full-time work." It didn't go well. "'This,' said [Patty] Murray [Wash.], the committee's top Democrat, 'was a very good hearing.'" Read the whole post.

Jonathan Chait: "The Republican Party confidently and forthrightly rejects the firm conclusions of science on a major public-policy question. Isn't that a completely disqualifying position?... Even if you agreed with everything else the Republicans stood for, how could a party so obviously unhinged be entrusted with power?" ...

... CW: The problem is that science doesn't comport with Republican objectives and beliefs. For instance, in Slate, Kathryn Kolbert cites a Texas case in which four of five of the state's "expert" witnesses had to recant their testimony when the judge discovered "their" reports were produced by a notorious anti-abortion junk scientist. The witnesses themselves were unfamiliar with the works they cited in their own testimony. Initially, both they & the state lied to cover up the involvement of the discredited "scientist." This is the same phenomenon we see in Republicans' rejection of mainstream economic research. It isn't that Republicans are too stupid to understand climate science or economics or any sort of empirical evidence (though of course some are); it's that they are so committed to serving their own -- and their donors' -- interests, that they feel no compunction about lying through their teeth, sometimes even to themselves.

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: Jorge Ramos, "the Walter Cronkite of Latino television," turns his critical attention from President Obama to Congressional Republicans over "deportation, deportation, deportation."

White House: "In this week's address, the President shared his plan, outlined in his State of the Union address earlier this week, to give hardworking families the support they need to make ends meet by focusing on policies that benefit the middle class and those working to reach the middle class":

Adam Liptak & Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide a case on the constitutionality of the new combinations of lethal injection drugs that some states are using to execute prisoners and which critics say cause intense suffering."

Shane Goldmacher of the National Journal: "The coming presidential contest is ushering in an epochal shift: the arrival of candidate-specific nonprofits, personalized vehicles for a politician's supporters to raise and spend unlimited cash -- completely clandestinely. It is poised to yield a campaign season more dominated by secret money than any election since Watergate.... By raising money through 'social welfare' nonprofits, these not-yet-candidates [-- Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal & John Kasich] are avoiding disclosure of both their financiers and what, exactly, they are financing.... In other words, for the first time in a generation, there will be a clear avenue for America's richest to secretly spend an unchecked sum to choose their party's nominee for the White House." CW: Thanks, Supremes! ...

That these five justices persist in invalidating [campaign finance] regulations under a perverse and unwarranted interpretation of the First Amendment is, to be blunt, a travesty. These decisions will come to be counted as among the worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court. -- Constitutional scholar Geoffrey Stone

... Sean McElwee & Liz Kennedy, in Salon, show another major way in which Citizens United has eroded democracy: "... Americans have very little voice in democracy, and increasingly feel that their government is not responsive. Low voting rates, particularly among the poor (far below average among OECD countries), are a symptom of our crisis of democracy. A recent poll finds that 54 percent of Americans who don't vote say they don't pay attention to politics because the political system is too corrupt."

Burgess Everett & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Top Senate Republicans are considering gutting the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees -- a move that could yield big rewards for whichever party controls the White House and Senate after 2016. The move, still in its early stages, reflects growing GOP confidence in its electoral prospects next year. But it could also have a major immediate impact if a justice such as 81-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg steps down, making it far easier for President Barack Obama to get a replacement confirmed. The proposed change would expand on the dramatic move Democrats made in 2013, when they killed the 60-vote hurdle for executive branch nominations and almost all judicial nominees."

Dan Merida & Cassie Spodak of CNN: "Hillary Clinton did not have 65 Secret Service agents protecting her in Canada on Wednesday, a Secret Service source told CNN, despite a report from a Canadian radio station to the contrary." Drudge, the Weekly Standard & other conservative media picked up the false story.

Orrin Hatch -- Hypocrite of the Week. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is one of six Republican senators who joined an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to gut one of the core provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Yet the central claim of that brief -- and, indeed, of the entire lawsuit -- was rejected during the debate over the law by none other than Sen. Orrin Hatch.... In his brief..., Hatch claims that the law 'provides that premium subsidies are available only through an exchange established by a State'.... Yet..., back in 2010, Hatch co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed [in which he wrote,]

A third constitutional defect in this ObamaCare legislation is its command that states establish such things as benefit exchanges.... This is not a condition for receiving federal funds, which would still leave some kind of choice to the states.

... CW: Hatch's about-face is related to the GOP's general rejection of science. If what was once a fact becomes inconvenient, it's A-okay to pretend that a counterfact is accurate. As Krugman says, "Facts have a liberal bias." Ergo, for conservatives, objective facts can be so inconvenient they must be denied. Right Wing World is necessarily surreal. ...

     ... Update: Contributor Jack M. cites another good example of this phenomenon in today's comments: "See Frist, Bill in the matter of Terri Schiavo."

Presidential Race

All You Need to Know about the Republican Party in One Sentence. Take it Away, Benjy: Steve King "now stands to play a major role vetting the party's next nominee." CW: It's official. The inmates have taken over the asylum.

Via Mediaite.When asked whether or not she would consider a run for president, the woman in the photo above said, "It doesn't have to be myself, but yes ... happy to drive that competition, because competition will make everyone better and produce more and be more candid regarding their solutions they will offer this country. I am very interested in that competitive process and, again, not necessarily me." Palin will speak at Steve King's lovely get-together. With video. ...

... Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: "As you can see, the men are holding up a poster that reads 'FUC_ YOU, MICHAEL MOORE' with crosshairs replacing the Os, and the 'K' strangely missing from the first word (Why bother censoring yourself when you're already going all-out?). She also autographed the poster.... For those curious, the man to the left is Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Dakota Meyer, who also posted another picture of the same moment to his Facebook, asking fans to make it go viral." CW: Way to show you're "honorable," Dakota. I'm waiting for Jeb Bush to complain about the coarsening of the GOP nomination race.

Beyond the Beltway

German Lopez of Vox: "Protesters around the country are once again speaking out against racial disparities in police use of force in response to a video that shows two Bridgeton, New Jersey, officers shooting and killing a black man as he held his hands up. A dashboard camera recorded the encounter, including the moments police pulled over a car and shot and killed the passenger, 36-year-old Jerame Reid.... Between 2012 and 2014, [Officer Roger] Worley[, who is white] was involved in 23 uses of force and [Officer Braheme] Days[, who is black] in 11, according to records obtained by the Associated Press. Other officers in the Bridgeton Police Department were involved in more incidents of use of force. The Associated Press found Days and Worley were also the subjects of multiple complaints alleging abuses of power over the past two years, but all the complaints were dismissed."

Whazza Matta wid Hizzonor? Jason Horowitz of the New York Times: New York City "Mayor Bill de Blasio is not wavering in his support for Sheldon Silver. Asked by reporters at a gathering of mayors in Washington on Friday about his belief in the integrity of Mr. Silver, the powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly who was arrested Thursday on corruption charges, Mr. de Blasio characterized his fellow Democrat as a staunch ally who had 'followed through on every commitment that he made' in pursuit of the mayor's legislative agenda for New York City." CW: Yo, Bill. He's still a crook. Alleged, that is. Alleged.

Kevin Cirilli of the Hill: "Colorado's decision to legalize marijuana was a bad idea, the state's governor said Friday. Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who opposed the 2012 decision by voters to make pot legal, said the state still doesn't fully know what the unintended consequences of the move will be."

News Ledes

Guardian: "The Pentagon and the White House are pushing back on reports that the Obama administration is pausing drone strikes and other counterterrorism operations in Yemen, amidst the abrupt collapse of a critical partner government. Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, said both 'unilateral and partnered' operations conducted by the US in Yemen against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) 'are not suspended'."

New York Times: "The Japanese government expressed outrage at an image released Saturday that appeared to show the decapitated body of one of two Japanese hostages captured by Islamic State militants, and President Obama condemned what he called a 'brutal murder.' The kidnappers had threatened to kill the men if a Friday deadline passed for a $200 million ransom from Japan. Hours before Mr. Obama's statement, the United States and Japanese governments said that they were working to authenticate the video containing the image."

NBC News: "President Barack Obama and the First Lady will travel to Saudi Arabia to pay respects following the death of King Abdullah, the White House said early Saturday. Obama will cut short an official trip to India and will fly to Riyadh on Tuesday to meet the new King Salman, spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement. Vice President Joe Biden, who had been due to fly to Saudi Arabia, 'will remain in Washington' the statement said."

Goodbye, Mr. Cub. New York Times: "Ernie Banks, the greatest power-hitting shortstop of the 20th century and an unconquerable optimist whose sunny disposition never dimmed in 19 seasons with the perennially stumbling Chicago Cubs, died Friday. He was 83." Banks' Chicago Sun-Times obituary is here.