The Ledes

Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

Washington Post: "The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday afternoon ordered U.S. carriers to stop flying to or from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, prohibiting them from traveling through Israel’s largest airport after a rocket landed nearby."

Reuters: "Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in neighboring Egypt, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Israel later in the day. Both have voiced alarm at mounting civilian casualties."

New York Times: "A train carrying the bodies of victims from the Malaysia Airlines jet downed by a missile last week arrived Tuesday morning in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv after a 17-hour journey out of lawless territory controlled by pro-Russian rebels." ...

... New York Times: "A piece of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 that was shot down in eastern Ukraine last week bears telltale marks of small pieces of high-velocity shrapnel that apparently crippled the jet in flight. Riddled with these perforations and buffeted by a blast wave as it flew high above the conflict zone, the plane then most likely sheared apart."

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, July 21, 2014.

Governor Grandstand. New York Times: "Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was expected to announce on Monday the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico to bolster security as the Border Patrol faces an influx of Central American immigrants."

Guardian: "As Dutch forensic experts arrived at the scene of the Malaysia Airlines crash on Monday and promised that the train being loaded with the victims' bodies would be moved before the end of the day, heavy fighting broke out between the Ukrainian army and rebels on the outskirts of Donetsk, the main regional city and the hub of the insurgency." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "After days of obstruction, Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine permitted Dutch forensics experts on Monday to search the wreckage of the downed Malaysia Airlines jetliner destroyed by a surface-to-air missile, allowed bodies of the victims to be evacuated by train and agreed to give the plane’s flight recorder boxes to the Malaysian government."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin issued a brief statement early on Monday saying that Russia would work to ensure that the conflict in eastern Ukraine moves from the battlefield to the negotiating table, and he again said that a robust international investigating team must have secure access to the Malaysia Airlines crash site. He also accused unspecified nations of exploiting the disaster in pursuit of 'mercenary political goals.' The statement posted on the Kremlin website came a day after mounting international criticism and anger against Russia and specifically Mr. Putin for the chaotic, unsecured condition of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site and what some nations said was the desecration of the victims’ bodies."

Public Service Announcement

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

White House Live Video
July 22

11:00 am ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

12:10 pm ET: President Obama & Vice President Biden deliver remarks & sign H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

3:30 pm ET: Drink Up! with First Lady Michelle Obama

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


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


New Yorker illustration.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whole Food Business Model: We Cheat You, But Not so Much You'll Notice. Shan Li of the Los Angeles Times: "Whole Foods Market is paying $800,000 in penalties after an investigation found the supermarket chain overcharged customers throughout California. During a yearlong investigation, state and local inspectors found the Austin, Texas, grocer charged more than advertised for a wide range of food products, according to a statement from the Santa Monica city attorney's office. Problems included failing to deduct the weight of containers when ringing up fresh food, putting smaller amounts into packages than the weight stated on the label, and selling items by the piece instead of by the pound, as required by law, the statement said.... 'Based on a review of our own records and a sampling of inspection reports .... our pricing on weighed and measured items was accurate 98% of the time,' the company said in a Tuesday statement." ...

... CW: Besides, if you shop at Whole Foods -- at no charge to you -- you can learn that unions are like herpes, ObamaCare is a form of fascism & climate change is "perfectly natural."

Teenaged curiosity about sex is quite natural, but it can be a bummer.The Vagina Dialog. Turned out to Require a Large Cast of Supporting Characters. Jen Kirby of New York: "An American student studying abroad in Germany captured the world's attention yesterday by achieving the remarkable feat of getting himself stuck in a giant vagina sculpture and needing 22 firefighters to rescue him. But Fernando de la Jara, the artist behind the now-infamous work, took it all in stride.... 'It's participatory art,' de la Jara said. 'It should be entered.'"


Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.


The Commentariat -- July 19, 2014

Ewen MacAskill, et al., of the Guardian: "Pro-Russia separatist groups in eastern Ukraine are hastily covering up all links to the Buk missile battery suspected to have been used to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane, according to western-based defence and intelligence specialists. As the UN security council called for a 'full, thorough independent international investigation' into the downing of the plane, concern that a cover-up was under way was fuelled by a standoff at part of the crash site between observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and rebel gunmen, which ended with a warning shot being fired."

Ralph Ellis, et al., of CNN: "International monitors investigating the Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine said Friday the team was not given full access to the site and was greeted with hostility by armed men."

Everything Is Obama's Fault, Ctd. Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "Guess who Sen. John McCain blames for the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17? Yup, President Obama: 'Mr. McCain said that Mr. Obama is running a "cowardly administration that failed to give the Ukrainians weapons with which to defend themselves."'" ...

We need more leadership from the president. He gave this a passing reference in his speech in Delaware, then went on to tell Joe Biden jokes and take the usual shots at Republicans -- which is fair game, but not on this day -- and then to go to New York and go to two fundraisers. I mean, I can't imagine Eisenhower or Kennedy or Reagan doing that. -- Rep. Steve Peter King (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee

... Yes, Why Can't Obama Be More Like Reagan? Steve M. Conservatives "are looking at President Obama's response to the shootdown of the Malaysian airliner and finding it lacking -- specifically, they think it falls short of Ronald Reagan's reaction to Russia's shootdown of a Korean passenger jet in 1983.... I would like to point out that Reagan slept through the shootdown -- and was not awakened." Uh, and then he went horseback-riding on his ranch & made no plans to return to Washington. He left it up to Press Secretary Larry Speakes to handle the administration's response. As Deborah Potter of CBS News reported later, "Officials [in Washington] began to worry that, given the circumstances, it wouldn't have looked right for the President to stay on his ranch. So he's returning to Washington later today for an urgent meeting with his national security advisors":

... Josh Marshall of TPM: "In a paradoxical way, I think the future ramifications of [the downing of the Malaysian Airlines jet] are almost greater because it is about Russia's recklessness and bumbling than it would be if it were more clearly a matter of intent. This is a f'-up on Putin's part of almost mind-boggling proportions. Yes, a tragedy. Yes, perhaps an atrocity. But almost more threatening, a screw up. Malign intent is one thing. So is aggression. But goofs of this magnitude by someone who controls a massive military arsenal and nuclear weapons are in a way more threatening." ...

... Now, let us return to Not-President-Thank-God McCain's assertion that Cowardly President Obama caused this tragedy by not arming Ukraine. Take it away, Charles Pierce:

It is becoming plain that the atrocity visited on the Malaysian jetliner is a direct result of arming morons. The New York Times obtained audiotape, allegedly from the people who shot down the plane, and these guys sound like they shouldn't be trusted with a lemon zester, let alone a surface-to-air missile. And it is quite plain that the one thing this situation doesn't need is to arm more morons, or to have another superpower come bungling in.... Vladimir Putin is responsible for a horrendous crime, and one that weakens his international standing. The only thing that would bail him out would be a flood of American arms to our own set of morons. The only thing that would bail him out would be if we all started listening to John McCain again.

CW: I don't know what the correlation is between morons & armed persons -- whether soldiers or civilians -- but I'm certain it is higher than the correlation between morons & the general public. A lot of morons are drawn to bright, shiny steel gadgets that go bang.

David Koenig & Scott Mayerowitz of the AP: "Airlines are already being more vigilant about avoiding trouble spots. That will make flights longer and more costly because of the need for extra fuel -- an expense that will be passed on to passengers. They may be quicker to abandon routes near conflict areas. In the aftermath of Thursday's disaster, carriers around the globe rerouted flights to avoid Ukraine. Malaysia Airlines announced that it will no longer fly over any portion of the country, routing flights over Turkey instead."

John Plunkett of the Guardian: Sara Firth, "a London-based correspondent of Kremlin-funded news channel Russia Today, has resigned in protest at its coverage of the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.... Russia Today, which has been criticised as a propaganda mouthpiece for the Russian government, suggested Ukraine was to blame for the crash, while most media organisations have said it was shot down by a suspected Russian-made missile.

CW: I know one John McCain remark a day is one too many, but I can't resist adding a second. Jake Tapper of CNN: "Sen. John McCain ... [suggested that] if he had been elected in 2000, there might not have been a war in Iraq.... If he had been president, McCain said, 'I think I would have challenged the evidence [that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction] with greater scrutiny. I think that with my background with the military and knowledge of national security with these issues that I hope that I would have been able to see through the evidence that was presented at the time.'" Pretty rich, coming from Sen. Bomb-Bomb-Bomb who is usually first to demand military action no matter what the conflict & who was captain of the Iraq War Cheerleading Squad.

Two Friday Afternoon News Dumps to Applaud:

(1) Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposal Friday under the Clean Water Act that would limit mining activity in Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed, striking a major blow to a project that would rank as one of the world's largest open-pit mines. The proposed determination, which will now be subject to a public comment period until Sept. 19, represents the latest step by the Obama administration to impose restrictions on a massive gold and copper mining project, called Pebble Mine."

(2) Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "President Obama, resisting calls from several prominent faith leaders, will not include a new exemption for religiously affiliated government contractors when he issues an executive order Monday barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the White House said Friday."

AND Another DocuDump. Josh Gerstein of Politico: "More previously secret files from President Bill Clinton's eight years in office went public Friday, offering new insight on when he turned to first lady Hillary Clinton for advice, the pitfalls the president's advisers saw in some of his Supreme Court nominees and how a news story prompted the president to express doubts about deadly bombings the CIA had pinned on Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden." Gerstein summarizes some of the docs. ...

** Read this New York Times editorial on the Senate's confirmation of Ronnie White's nomination to the federal bench. At long last, justice is served. Oh, & only because the Democrats changed the rules on filibustering judicial nominees. Senate Republicans really are a despicable lot.

Jeff Shesol in the New Yorker: "... conservatives are doing exactly what they say the left has long done: rushing to litigate political questions, elevating all manner of disputes to the level of high constitutional principle, and asking judges to settle (or revisit) policy arguments that ought to be resolved by legislators or voters. If the Affordable Care Act can't be repealed..., it can be undercut by judges, as in the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case. If the National Labor Relations Board can't be shut down, the Presidential power to make recess appointments -- which has kept the agency running -- can be curbed, possibly for good, as last month's Noel Canning decision portends. And if Obama can't be impeached, well, he can be sued. That Republicans have learned to stop worrying and love the lawsuit ... is a measure of their success in remaking the judiciary and reshaping the legal environment over the past forty years."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: "Even before Senator Elizabeth Warren entered the grand ballroom of the Cobo Center [in Detroit] on Friday for a much-anticipated speech to hundreds of liberal activists [at the Netroots convention], her admirers were handing out plastic boater hats, bumper stickers and lawn signs declaring, 'Elizabeth Warren for President.' ... 'Run, Liz, run!' the crowd chanted as the senator took the stage for her morning talk.... Then she opened the sort of blistering populist assault on corporations, Republicans, banks, lobbyists and trade deals that has become her trademark." ...

... Warren takes the stage at about 15:15 min. in. Gary Peters, Democratic nominee for Michigan's open U.S. Senate seat, introduces her at about 13:15 in:

... John Dickerson of Slate (of whom I'm not a big fan) urges Elizabeth Warren to run for president. She wouldn't win, he says, but she would force a campaign of ideas & she would get Hillary Clinton to sharpen her message. CW: Or get one. ...

... digby: "I suspect the Villagers are yearning for a way to balance the crazy tea partiers with some false hippie equivalence.... Let me just point out the one reason Dickerson doesn't mention: how wonderful it would be for me to watch two intelligent, accomplished women stand for president and debate the issues?"

AP: "Germany wants 'sensible talks' with the United States on the two countries' spat over alleged American spying, the chancellor, Angela Merkel, said on Friday, indicating that Berlin is still aiming for a formal accord. Washington has dismissed the idea of a 'no-spy' agreement demanded by Germany since reports last year that the US National Security Agency was conducting mass surveillance of German citizens -- and eavesdropping even on Merkel's cellphone. The discovery of two alleged US spies in Germany earlier this month further stoked German anger, prompting Merkel to demand the departure of the CIA station chief in Berlin."

John Tye in the Washington Post: "Public debate about the bulk collection of U.S. citizens’ data by the NSA has focused largely on Section 215 of the Patriot Act," a provision which provides extensive protections for U.S. persons. "Executive Order 12333 contains no such protections for U.S. persons if the collection occurs outside U.S. borders. Issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 to authorize foreign intelligence investigations, 12333 is not a statute and has never been subject to meaningful oversight from Congress or any court. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has said that the committee has not been able to 'sufficiently' oversee activities conducted under 12333. Unlike Section 215, the executive order authorizes collection of the content of communications, not just metadata, even for U.S. persons."

Stephen Colbert, like so many on the right, is a compassionate conservative:

Danielle Ivory & Rebecaca Ruiz of the New York Times: "... G.M. maintains that a distinct difference exists between its recall of 2.6 million older Chevrolet Cobalts and other cars, which started in February, and its more recent recall of 7.6 million cars like the Chevrolet Malibu, announced on June 30. For that reason, it has refused to expand a fund set up to compensate victims of the defective Cobalts, infuriating safety advocates. Its insistence comes even after new information filed with regulators was made public Friday that further detailed the similarities."

Dylan Byers of Politico: "CNN has removed international correspondent Diana Magnay from Israel after she referred to a group of Israelis as 'scum.' Magnay, who was covering the Israeli missile attack on Gaza, tweeted Thursday, 'Israelis on hill above Sderot cheer as bombs land on #gaza; threaten to "destroy our car if I say a word wrong". Scum.' In a statement, a CNN spokesperson said Magnay had been 'threatened and harassed' but 'deeply regrets the language used.'" ...

... Jennifer Shutt of Politico: "NBC News is sending a high-profile correspondent back into Gaza after unexpectedly removing him from the troubled region earlier this week, the network said Friday. Ayman Mohyeldin would go back into Gaza this weekend, NBC said, but didn't clarify why it had removed him."

Tim Egan: "He's had a busy summer. As God only knows, he was summoned to slaughter in the Holy Land, asked to end the killings of Muslims by Buddhist monks in Myanmar, and played both sides again in the 1,400-year-old dispute over the rightful successor to the Prophet Muhammad."

Congressional Races

Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "Nearly five decades after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, black voters in the South are poised to play a pivotal role in this year's midterm elections. If Democrats win the South and hold the Senate, they will do so because of Southern black voters.... If Democrats win this November, black voters will probably represent a larger share of the winning party's supporters in important states than at any time since Reconstruction."

News Ledes

AP: "Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of helping separatist rebels destroy evidence at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines plane shot down in rebel-held territory with 298 people onboard. The government in Kiev said militiamen have removed 38 bodies from the crash site in eastern Ukraine and have taken them to the rebel-held city of Donetsk. It says the bodies were transported with the assistance of specialists with distinct Russian accents."

McClatchy News: "Islamic State gunmen overran a former U.S. military base early Friday and killed or captured hundreds of Iraqi government troops who'd been trying to retake Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, the worst military reversal Iraqi troops have suffered since the Islamist forces captured nearly half the country last month."

Reuters: "More than 40 Central American children were expelled from the United States on flights to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador on Friday, as the U.S. government stepped up its deportation of illegal child migrants.... Thirty-three minors aged 6 months to 15 years along with 26 mothers landed on a U.S. flight to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the city with the world's highest murder rate."

Guardian: "As Israel pressed ahead with a ground offensive in Gaza on Saturday morning, the death toll of Palestinians rose above 300, many of them children.... As diplomatic efforts to end the conflict continued in Cairo and at the UN, Hamas was looking increasingly isolated in its refusal to negotiate a truce without concessions in advance. It wants prisoners released and the easing of the blockade on Gaza by both Israel and Egypt."

Washington Post: "The press secretary of a House Republican was arrested Friday morning for carrying a firearm into a House office building. Ryan Shucard, press secretary for Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), was arrested at approximately 9:15 a.m. after officers found a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun and magazine with Shucard as he went through security to enter the building."


The Commentariat -- July 18, 2014

The Guardian is liveblogging developments re: downed Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. ...

... Julie Pace of the AP: "The United States began building a case Friday that would pin the blame for the downing of the passenger jet over Ukraine on separatist forces supported by Russia. President Barack Obama said one American was among the nearly 300 killed in an disaster that could dramatically escalate the crisis in Ukraine." ...

... Michael Birnbaum & Anthony Faiola of the Washington Post: "In a news conference at the White House, [President Obama] noted that the separatists have 'received a steady flow of support' from Russia, including heavy weapons, training and antiaircraft systems. He called for 'a credible international investigation' into the tragedy and urged Russia to cooperate with it":

... Michael Birnbaum & Anthony Faiola: "Pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine offered a two- to four-day truce on Friday to allow international specialists to investigate the wreckage of a downed Malaysia Airlines jet, even as rescue workers at the crash site said they had recovered one of its black boxes. World leaders reiterated calls for an immediate international investigation into what U.S. officials said was a surface to air missile attack that brought down the Boeing 777 in a grassy field and killed all 298 people on board. The victims included leading experts in AIDS research en route from Amsterdam to a conference in Australia via Kuala Lumpur. The United Nations Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent member, was scheduled to hold an emergency meeting Friday to discuss the strike."

... Neil MacFarquhar & Andrew Kramer of the New York Times: "The double game that the Kremlin has been accused of playing in eastern Ukraine for weeks -- publicly endorsing peace talks while surreptitiously supporting the separatists with arms and men -- suddenly appeared less crafty than possibly disastrous on Thursday after the crash of a civilian jetliner in a Ukrainian field." ...

... Shaun Walker, et al., of the Guardian: "... US vice-president Joe Biden said the [Malaysian Air] plane had been shot down, while the Ukrainian authorities released an audio recording of rebel commanders apparently admitting downing it. The jet, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, came down near the village of Grabovo, part of the area controlled by pro-Russian separatists."

Kuiv Post: "Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was allegedly shot down by a group of Russian-backed Cossack militants near the village of Chornukhine, Luhansk Oblast, some 80 kilometers north-west of Donetsk, according to recordings of intercepted phone calls between Russian military intelligence officers and members of terrorist groups, released by the country's security agency (SBU)."

President Obama made his first remarks re: the downed Malaysian Air plane prior to a planned speech in Delaware:

     ... The transcript of the President's full remarks is here.

Jeremy Bender of Business Insider: "At least 10 other Ukrainian aircraft -- all of them significantly lower-flying than a Boeing 777 -- have been shot down since the rebels started using MANPADS [Man-Portable Air Defense Systems] according to a count kept by military aviation expert David Cenciotti, including five Mi-24 Hinds, two Mi-8 helicopters, one An-2, one An-30, and the Ukrainian transport plane." ...

... BUT. Michael Gordon, et al., of the New York Times: On Monday, "a Ukrainian AN-26 transport plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile while flying at 21,000 feet, an attack that American and Western officials believe was carried out either by Ukrainian separatists allied with Moscow or possibly even a Russian military unit.... [This was] the first time, a surface-to-air missile with greater range had been used, raising questions about whether the rebels have acquired such a devastating capability, and Russia's role." ...

... AND. Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post: The plane was probably shot down by a more advanced surface-to-air-missile system than a MANPADS missile. "However..., advanced surface-to-air systems ... are transponder aware, meaning they can detect if they are targeting an airliner." This suggests that the perpetrators purposely shot down a civilian plane. ...

... George Condon of the National Journal: "... it is not too early to conclude that the potential impact [of the downed jet] on the war over Ukraine is great."

Fred Kaplan of Slate: "Instead of capitalizing on Israel’s unusually strong strategic position, [Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu risks squandering it -- destroying what little support he has in the West and making it hard for Arab governments that share his interests (Egypt, Jordan, and, even now, the Palestinian Authority) to sustain their tacit alliances."

Elise Foley of the Huffington Post: "As Republicans blame President Barack Obama's executive actions for the crisis along the border, the president assured [Hispanic Caucus] members of his own party Wednesday that he won't back down from his plans to ease deportations." ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) raised doubts Thursday that Congress will be able to fulfill President Obama's funding request to address the influx of illegal migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border before lawmakers leave Washington for their summer recess in two weeks."

... digby in Salon: Ted "Cruz may be a fringe dweller, but he isn't dumb. There are many ways to advance your cause in our government system that's full of choke points and over the years the Republicans have proved themselves very adept at the one thing they truly care about -- stopping what they don&'t like. (That is after all, the essence of reactionary politics.)" ...

... Steve M. digs into the sources of the "diseased immigrant children" scare. That is to say, he's rounded up the usual suspects.

Alan Rusbridger & Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian interviewed Ed Snowden for a long time. Among the things Snowden said were that "a culture exists within the NSA in which, during surveillance, nude photographs picked up of people in 'sexually compromising' situations are routinely passed around." CW: Not surprising. But disgusting. Also, "he was holding out for a jury trial in the US rather a judge-only one, hopeful that it would be hard to find 12 jurors who would convict him if he was charged with an offence to which there was a public interest defence."

... CW: I didn't listen to the interview, but Rusbridger & MacAskill imply Snowden's "holding out" for a jury trial is a sticking point in his negotiations with the U.S. government. This makes zero sense. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a jury trial to adults accused of major crimes. Snowden can just demand a jury trial. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong here.

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "The Army has issued a formal reprimand for misconduct to its former top sex-crimes prosecutor after investigating a complaint that he kissed and groped a female officer while attending a conference on sexual-assault prevention, according to Army officials. Lt. Col. Joseph 'Jay' Morse received the reprimand in late June, officials said, four months after the Army received the complaint and suspended him from his job as supervisor of the Army's special-victim prosecutors."

** Danny Vinik of the New Republic has a terrific on the proposed House lawsuit against President Obama that really gets to the heart of why the suit is stupid & should fail.

Paul Krugman: "... inflation addiction is telling us something about the intellectual state of one side of our great national divide. The right's obsessive focus on a problem we don't have, its refusal to reconsider its premises despite overwhelming practical failure, tells you that we aren't actually having any kind of rational debate."

Reid Wilson of the Washington Post on the Koch brothers/Americans for Prosperity big spending & nationwide reach.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

This is painful to hear:

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post on why the producers who put the "eyewitness" on the air should have known he was a prankster. Nonetheless, one does have to wonder what kind of sick fuck would attempt to make a "joke" of the deaths of 295 innocent people.

MEANWHILE, here's how Fox "News" covered the breaking story: panelists got in an argument with each other, with one saying to the other -- on air -- "You're so goddamned dumb." Maybe it's better to have a prankster do the swearing.

Beyond the Beltway

Readers from Texas, Kansas, Maine, Wisconsin, Louisiana & perhaps a few others states may be able to successfully challenge me on "America's Worst Governor," but no one can beat me on "America's Creepiest Governor." I assume this is the incident P. D. Pepe referred to in her comment yesterday:

Congressional Races

Jonathan Chait summarizes Karl Rove's brilliant GOP campaign strategy re: running against ObummerCare. Funny.

"Visions of Migrants":

... Jack Fitzpatrick of the National Journal has a good piece about the race for this Congressional seat, currently held by Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick in a GOP-leaning district.

Presidential Election

Former Secretary of State's Bizarre View of U.S. Foreign Policy. Peter Beinart of the Atlantic: Hillary Clinton's "vision for America's relations with the world ... isn't just unconvincing. It's downright disturbing.... Is America's biggest post-Cold War foreign policy problem really that we've failed to adequately remind others, and ourselves, how good we are? ... But the really weird part of Hillary Clinton's claim that America must 'get back to telling' the story of how great we are 'to ourselves' is how much it echoes the right's attack on Obama.... For more than five years, the right has claimed the major problem with American foreign policy is that it's not sufficiently grounded in the belief that America is an exceptional nation.... Now, bizarrely, Hillary Clinton is leveling the same critique."

Matt Arco in In Iowa, Chris Christie criticizes President Obama for doing "an awful job" of securing the border but refuses to recommend any solutions. CW: This is a patterned, patented Christie response: he makes a sweeping criticism -- like blaming President Obama for Middle East conflicts -- then tells inquiring reporters he doesn't have time to offer solutions. Frankly, Andy Borowitz's suggestion, linked in yesterday's Commentariat, would be a more effective response than the non-response Christie gave. ...

... Kate Zernicke of the New York Times: As Chris Christie tries to move on to other topics -- like Me for President!! -- multiple investigations of his administration grind on. ...

... Shaun Boburg of the Bergen Record has more on the testimony of Regina Egea, Christie's liaison to the Port Authority & other "independent" authorities, before a New Jersey legislative committee. Democrats accused her of being "conveniently incurious" as she heard more about the bogus traffic study on the George Washington Bridge. ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: After "dodging the question ... for two and a half weeks..., Chris Christie just realized he supports the Hobby Lobby ruling...."

Frackin' Jeb. Adam Raymond of New York: "If Jeb Bush is planning to run for president in 2016, he's chosen an odd way to spend the last year before campaign season begins. According to Bloomberg, the former Florida governor is the chairman and part owner of an investment firm that's raising private equity funds for oil and gas companies.... If Bush does indeed decide to run for president, he can expect this to be used against him. Mitt Romney's career in private equity was brought up in both the Republican primary and the general election." ...

     ... CW: Not surprising at all. Jeb is finally joining the family business.

Charles Pierce: "Any doubts about whether or not there's a presidential campaign a-brewin' on behalf of Scott Walker..., were allayed yesterday. Walker decided that he would play to da crazees in The Base by asking his pet legislature to repeal Wisconsin's commitments to the Common Core standards in education. Wisconsin, it should be noted, has already invested $25 million to implement the standards that Walker now wants to blow up. Fiscal responsibility!"

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Israeli soldiers and tanks fanned out along Gaza's borders Friday seeking out Hamas tunnel networks while pounding residential buildings with artillery and clashing with militants, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a possible 'significant expansion' of Israel's ground offensive in the enclave." ...

... New York Times: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said on Friday that he had ordered the military to 'prepare for the possibility of widening, significantly,' the ground operation in the Gaza Strip begun Thursday night.... Mr. Netanyahu offered condolences to the family of an Israeli soldier killed in the first hours of the ground offensive, identified by the military as Staff Sgt. Eitan Barak, 20, from Herzliya. Palestinian health officials reported that a 4-month-old baby and an 18-year-old male were among more than 20 Gaza residents killed overnight as the total Palestinian death toll topped 260, with some 1,800 others injured." ...

... Hill: "Secretary of State John Kerry urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to limit the scope of a ground invasion of Gaza in a phone call Thursday between the two leaders."

Hill: "Airlines are avoiding flying over Ukraine after a Malaysia Airlines plane crashed in the country, and may have been shot down."

AP: "National security leaker Chelsea Manning can get initial treatment for a gender-identity condition from the military after the Bureau of Prisons rejected the Army's request to accept her transfer from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to a civilian facility. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has approved the Army's recommendation to keep the Army private in military custody and start a rudimentary level of gender treatment, a defense official said Thursday."


The Commentariat -- July 17, 2014

NEW. White House: "President Obama spoke with Russian President Putin today about the situation in Ukraine and the additional sanctions on Russian individuals and entities that the United States announced on July 16." ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama escalated sanctions against Russia on Wednesday by targeting a series of large banks and energy and defense firms in what officials described as the most punishing measures to date for Moscow's intervention in Ukraine":

     ... AP Update: "Vladimir Putin lamented the latest round of US sanctions against Russia on Thursday after Barack Obama increased economic pressure over the Ukraine crisis.... Russia's benchmark MICEX plummeted 2.6% at opening on Thursday while Russia's biggest oil company, Rosneft, was nearly 5% down."

NEW. Andy Borowitz: "Testing the political waters in Iowa today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said that if he is elected President, he would bring the flow of illegal immigrants over the U.S.-Mexico border to a virtual standstill. 'There are ways of keeping people from getting to where they want to go,' Christie said, claiming that he was the only Republican hopeful with the hands-on experience necessary to fix the border crisis." CW: Satire. Really, it's satire.

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, reversed course on Wednesday and said she would not back changes to a 2008 law that gave certain undocumented immigrant children broader legal rights to enter the United States.... The Democratic leadership's hard line raises the prospects of an impasse on Capitol Hill that leaves the Obama administration with no additional resources to deal with the border surge." ...

... All for Me & Nothing for You. Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father Rafael received political asylum in the U.S. after claiming he was beaten by Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista's soldiers (because Rafael had joined the Castro revolution), will come down hard on child refuges requesting asylum from violence in their home countries. Cruz's plan: any bill that does anything to help (or deport) these children must ensure that undocumented children who have lived in the U.S. most of their lives are deported. ...

... Greg Sargent: "... Ted Cruz is essentially calling on Republicans to formalize in their legislative response to the crisis what is already their actual position on immigration in general. And not only that, National Review reports that more and more conservatives are giving voice to the Cruz stance, arguing that Republicans must not offer any legislative response to the crisis because Obama's 'amnesty' for the DREAMers proves he cannot be trusted to work with them...." ...

... Steve Benen: "Cruz's 'top priority' is to identify ... young people, for whom the United States is the only country they've ever known, and kick them out of the country. Indeed, the Texas Republican is saying any solution to the humanitarian crisis involving the migrant children must undo the DACA policy.... If Democrats are really lucky, Cruz will rally the right to his cause." ...

... Alexia Campbell of the National Journal: "Something is changing in the most conservative corner of conservative South Carolina. Some tea-party Republicans and evangelical Christians are softening toward immigration." ...

     ... CW: This isn't entirely surprising. Evangelicals, after all, were among those lobbying for the 2008 sex-trafficking bill that is a prime cause of the current border crisis. It's a big mistake to assume that Southern evangelicals are racists. Many -- probably a majority -- are not. As Campbell reports, a 2014 Pew Research survey "shows that a surprising 66 percent of white evangelicals across the country favor some type of legal status for immigrants without papers."

AP: "Senate Republicans have blocked a bill aimed at restoring free contraception for women who get their health insurance from companies that object on religious grounds. The vote on Wednesday was 56-43 to move ahead on the measure, short of the 60 votes necessary to proceed." ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "The one tiny piece of good news here is that it's clear Republicans are feeling the heat, because earlier this week they unveiled legislation purporting to protect women's access to birth control coverage. In reality, the legislation won't accomplish its stated purpose, because it does nothing to impact health insurance coverage requirements, but it's a sign that even Republicans understand that they are on the wrong side of the politics here." ...

     ... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos explains the GOP bill: "In response to the Senate Democrats' legislation to overturn the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision..., Republicans are offering up their own bill. That does nothing.... We're very glad that Senate Republicans are so generous in allowing us to do what we like with our slut pill money." ...

     ... Here's how Mitch McConnell described the GOP's important contribution to women's equality:

We plan to introduce legislation this week that says no employer can block any employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives. There's no disagreement on that fundamental point.

     ... CW: It's a relief to know that some Republicans at the federal level do not want employers to actually be able to conduct bedchecks of their lady employees or rifle through the help's medicine chests. And you thought Republicans were corporate shills. I wonder if this far-reaching, ultra-liberal Senate bill would pass the House. ...

     ... CW Update: It turns out that the sponsors of the Republican Women's Freedom Act (or whatever it's called) are Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) & Deb Fischer (R-NE). On the assumption that Republicans have no empathy gene, it's fair to assume that Kelly & Deb there were worried their boss Mitch might stop by uninvited of an evening. So a wise move on their parts.

Bernie Becker of the Hill recounts testimony in the House Rules Committee hearing Wednesday on the proposed suit against President Obama. ...

... Dana Milbank mocks the whole hearing, which he called "amateur hour" -- except that it dragged on for hours.

Denise Grady of the New York Times: "Under sharp questioning from members of Congress on Wednesday, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, admitted that recent laboratory accidents involving flu viruses and anthrax were not isolated mistakes, but rather part of a broader problem of unsafe practices at the agency." ...

... Brady Dennis & Lena Sun of the Washington Post: "Federal officials found more than just long-forgotten smallpox samples recently in a storage room on the National Institutes for Health campus in Bethesda, Md. The discovery included 12 boxes and 327 vials holding an array of pathogens, including the virus behind the tropical disease dengue and the bacteria that can cause spotted fever, according to the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees the lab in question."

Paul Waldman: According to a Washington Examiner report, potential Republican donors are refusing to pony up for fear they will be subject to IRS audits or "get Koched"; i.e., subjected to the Harry Reid treatment. Waldman is not feeling all that sorry for them. ...

... In case you forgot how horrible the IRS "scandal" is, Waldman neatly sums it up:

There's never been any credible allegation that anyone was audited because of their political beliefs. There's never been any allegation that the IRS 'targeted' donors to Republican super PACs. The worst thing that happened was that some Tea Party groups that had applied for 501(c)(4) status -- claiming, utterly falsely, that they were charitable, non-political organizations, I might add -- had to wait longer than they should have to get approval on their applications. (And, I have to repeat, when you're waiting for your approval, you're permitted under the law to act as though you've gotten your approval. You can raise and spend money, which they did.)

... CW: Assuming that potential donors really are afraid a contribution will lead to an audit -- & aren't just refusing to give bonuses to the slimeballs they figure they already bought & paid for -- then it looks like this is one place where Darrell Issa's fake scandal scheme is backfiring.

Justin Sink of the Hill: "The director of the White House's political office defied a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, setting up a new high-profile fight between the White House and House Republicans. Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said administration claims that White House political director David Simas was immune from testimony were 'absurd' and 'deeply disturbing.' ... Issa has not produced evidence of a specific instance of the White House violating the law and has pointed to abuses in the office that occurred under the Bush Administration to justify the subpoena." (Emphasis added.)

Paul Krugman's post "The Age of Infallability" is a brief life lesson that explains conservative "beliefs" but has a wider applicability.

Wherein Maureen Dowd Goes Berserk. Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "When Hillary Rodham Clinton agreed to address the University at Buffalo, the largest campus of the State University of New York system, she negotiated a few requirements in addition to her pay of $275,000.... The University at Buffalo issued a statement Wednesday saying 'no state funding or student tuition revenue' was used to pay for Clinton's speech."

Congressional Races

The Washington Post predicts that Republicans will take the Senate 52-48 & retain control of the House. They provide maps of the predicted results. I like to think of these as Stupid Voter Maps.

Jonathan Chait explains why the business community isn't going to flip to the Democratic party just because the GOP-controlled House is blowing up all the things business wants.

Ask Him No Questions -- Without Notifying His Office First. Paul Lewis of the Guardian chases after former Sen. Scott Brown (R-N.H.), who's now running for a Senate seat in New Hampshire to try to get a straight response to the Hobby Lobby decision. Police were called. ...

     ... MAG Update. Scott Does Talk to the Press. Jeff McMenemy of Seacoast Online: "Former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown blamed the Affordable Care Act for the U.S. Supreme Court's recent controversial Hobby Lobby decision.... 'Had we never had "Obamacare," we never would have had that decision because that was a mandate from "Obamacare" that got us into that position,' Brown said during an editorial board interview Wednesday with Seacoast Media Group." ...

     ... CW: Hope you catch the logic there. Brown is right. If ObamaCare had not guaranteed women equal access to healthcare, the Supreme Court could never have taken it away. By this logic, the Bill of Rights was a tremendous mistake, because the Supreme Court is always interpreting/limiting the rights it guarantees. Really, all laws that inure to the benefit of the citizenry are actually harmful because the courts can always limit or void those laws. The best laws, by this logic, are those that curb human rights or favor special interest groups. Because, hey, who knows, the Supreme Court could maybe void part or all of some of those "good" laws. Scott Brown for Senate! He's not just a pretty face; he's a philosopher.

Gubernatorial Race

Paul Waldman: "When he was elected governor, some Washington conservatives touted Sam Brownback as a future presidential contender. Once he implemented the conservative economic agenda and showed what a dynamic economy and pleasing government balance sheet it produced, he'd be able to take the message nationwide as a demonstration of the power of conservative ideas. Nobody's saying that anymore. Brownback is trailing his probable Democratic opponent. In a state as conservative as Kansas (where Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 22 points), you have to screw up pretty badly to be in that position." ...

... Charles Pierce on Brownback, Santorum & the Gipper. Thanks to MAG for the link. ...

... Here's the take of the Rude Pundit, upon whom the dainty Pierce relies for his post linked above: "Earlier this week, former Senator and losing GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum was the main speaker at two reelection rallies for Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. Considering the various ways you can read their last names, it sounds as if everyone was coated with feces-laden effluvia by the end. Brownback is in a tight race with Democrat Paul Davis, who was just endorsed by over 100 current and former GOP officials." And, yes, the Rude Pundit is really rude.

Beyond the Beltway

Maura Dolan of the Los Angeles Times: "A federal judge in Orange County ruled Wednesday that California's death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, ruled on a petition by death row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to die nearly two decades ago. Carney said the state's death penalty has created long delays and uncertainty for inmates, most of whom will never be executed. He noted that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978 but only 13 have been executed."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Elaine Stritch, the brassy, tart-tongued Broadway actress and singer who became a living emblem of show business durability and perhaps the leading interpreter of Stephen Sondheim's wryly acrid musings on aging, died on Thursday at her home in Birmingham, Mich. She was 89."

New York Times: "Israel began a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip shortly after 10 Thursday night, saying it would target tunnels that infiltrate its territory, after cease-fire talks failed to de-escalate the air war that has raged for 10 days."

New York Times: "A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 295 people aboard crashed in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border on Thursday, and Ukrainian officials said it may have been shot down, possibly by a Russian-made antiaircraft system."...

     ... New Lede: "Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 295 people aboard was shot down on Thursday by a surface-to-air missile, American officials said." ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging developments.

New York Times: "General Motors' top lawyer came under withering attack from lawmakers on Thursday at a Senate hearing investigating the automaker's failure to recall millions of defective small cars for more than a decade."

Washington Post: "Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella announced Thursday that up to 18,000 of his employees will get pink slips in the next year, as part of a massive round of layoffs. The cuts are the largest in the company's history, and they will hit an estimated 15 percent of its workforce."

USA Today: "A marijuana decriminalization law passed by the D.C. Council in the spring took effect Thursday at 12:01 a.m. after a Congressional review process passed. The new law, like others around the country, eases punishments for minor marijuana offenses."

Guardian: "At least three mortars were fired from Gaza into Israel on Thursday, less than three hours into a five-hour 'humanitarian pause' in the nine-day battle between Israel and Hamas. The suspension of hostilities, brokered by the UN and starting at 10am on Thursday, came after four Palestinian children died in an Israeli strike on a Gaza beach and follows an earlier Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that was observed only by Israel."

New York Times: "President Obama said on Wednesday that he believed the United States had 'a credible way forward' in its nuclear negotiations with Iran, and strongly suggested that after consultations with Congress, which has been threatening additional sanctions, he would seek an extension of the talks beyond Sunday's deadline."


The Commentariat -- July 16, 2014

Jonathan Stempel & Jon Herskovitz of Reuters: "A federal appeals court upheld the use of race by University of Texas at Austin in undergraduate admissions, a victory for affirmative action proponents, one year after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered closer scrutiny of the school's practices. By a 2-1 vote, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday said the state's flagship university had justified its limited use of race to achieve diversity, given a lack of workable alternatives.... Opponents pledged to appeal, which could give the Supreme Court a chance to again review the case in its next term. In June 2013, the Supreme Court did not directly rule on the program's constitutionality but ordered the 5th Circuit ... to scrutinize it more closely."

Do-Nothing House Does as Little as Possible. Fawn Johnson & Billy House of the National Journal: "Nearly as many House Republicans as Democrats voted on Tuesday to pass a bill to keep federal highway projects temporarily running into the next Congress, despite pressure from two influential outside conservative groups to oppose the measure. Approved in an overwhelming 367 to 55 vote, the bill would provide $10.8 billion more for the federal Highway Trust Fund. The bill is likely to become law only because the Senate and the White House are out of other options. No one is particularly happy about it. It doesn't solve any long-term problems, and in less than a year it will put lawmakers right back where they have been."

Burgess Everett of Politico: Harry Reid "will oppose a proposal from [Sen. John] Cornyn (R-Texas) and [Rep. Henry] Cuellar (D-Texas) to treat unaccompanied minors from Central America the same as those from Mexico and expedite immigration hearings for children with asylum claims or children who may have been victims of human trafficking.... Reid clearly believes that President Barack Obama's supplemental request of $3.7 billion for border funding is superior to Cuellar and Cornyn's border plan -- and he said the White House has sufficient authority to make policy changes to adjust the flow of migrants through the border through the executive office."

Jason Buch of the Houston Chronicle: Jose Antonio Vargas, "the Pulitzer-winner turned activist detained at the McAllen airport this morning, has been released.... After about eight hours in custody, agents released Vargas, according to a spokesperson for his Define American advocacy group.... Vargas made public he did not have permission to be in the country in 2011 and has since advocated for immigration reform. Last week, he reported in Politico Magazine that he had traveled to McAllen to write about the plight of the tens of thousands of families and unaccompanied children crossing the border into South Texas."

Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level. Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they've got some pie chart or graph behind them and they're talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that.... We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman's level and what everything that she is balancing in her life -- that's the way to go. -- Rep. Rene Ellmers (RTP-N.C.) at a meeting of women in the conservative House Republican Study Committee to discuss ways to "message" to "female" voters ...

... Dave Weigel: "Reading that, I thought of this week's Republican message, read by Senate candidate Joni Ernst..., and how she focused on the promise of the Balanced Budget Amendment (a dead idea that polls well) because government should run its affairs like 'you' run the household. No pesky charts there!" ...

... CW: C'mon, Dave, Ellmers is onto something. I now realize the reason I can't understand Louie Gohmert is that he speaks on a higher level that is way above what my weak, female mind can grasp. Hell, I'd probably have voted for Marco I-Am-Not-a-Scientist Rubio if I'd only been smart enough to comprehend his higher-level message. Republican men really need to learn to talk down to us nitwits when they explain why they must make decisions for us. ...

... Ha Ha Ha. Steve Benen has an update. Ellmers issued a statement claiming "... the quote in question was taken completely out of context.... Some writers are cherry-picking words and using predetermined agendas to attack Republicans...." In the statement, she calls the reporter who wrote the story "a liberal woman reporter." Benen writes, "I'm not sure how a multi-paragraph, multi-sentence quote can be taken 'completely' out of context. It's also unclear how this can be fairly labeled 'cherry-picking words.'" CW: I'd add that the "liberal woman reporter" with her "predetermined agenda to attack Republicans" is Ashe Schow, who writes for the right-wing Washington Examiner. Schow, according to Jackie Kucinich of the Washington Post, is "a former editor and writer for the Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action for America (not exactly bastions of liberalism)." Just remember, being a Republican means never having to take responsibility for your own words. ...

... Update: Schow has published (& provided audio of) Ellmers' full remarks. The "context" was this: women are too dumb to understand big concepts like "trillions of dollars" or complicated pie charts because -- unlike men who talk "on a higher level" -- women can only understand things in simplistic terms that relate to their own family's day-to-day experiences.

Laura Bassett of the Huffington Post: "The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday on a rare bill in support of abortion rights that would block states from passing laws that chip away at women's access to abortion services. Sen. Richard Blumenthal's (D-Conn.) bill, the Women's Health Protection Act, prohibits restrictions on abortion 'that are more burdensome than those imposed on medically comparable procedures.'" The legislation would nullify mandatory waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds and counseling before abortion;... and other state laws that abortion-rights supporters believe are designed to make it impossible for women to access a safe and legal medical procedure." ...

... Carrie Beusman of Jezebel: "... there's basically no chance that the bill will pass the GOP-controlled House -- however..., it serves the valuable purpose of asking Republicans to explain the disingenuous, unsupported reasoning behind the scores of excessive regulations they've imposed in the past few years. As Blumenthal notes, this may effectively remove the 'patina of respectability' from the whole ridiculous charade." ...

... The folks a Fox "News" are please to note that this bill will doom Democrats as mass murderers. Charles Pierce has a go at one Fox "News" essay on the subject.

The monopolist gets to use its monopoly power to insist on a contract effectively depriving its victims of all legal recourse. And here is the nutshell version of today's opinion, admirably flaunted rather than camouflaged: Too darn bad. -- Justice Elena Kagan, dissent in American Express v. Italian Colors, 2013 ...

... Lina Khan, in the Washington Monthly, provides a history lesson on how the Supreme Court has taken away Americans' fundamental right to seek legal redress against corporations. The only way to reverse the Supremes' radical decisions is for Congress to act to restore the rights, which won't happen "given the level of opposition from the Chamber of Commerce and other business interests." Via Charles Pierce. ...

     ... CW: This series of cases shows that for the winger Supremes, ideology trumps even their own personal interests. AT&T is just as happy to cheat Sam Alito as it was to defraud the Concepcions (AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion). But Alito the other four ConservoSupremes still ruled that companies could ban class action suits in the fine print of their "contracts" with consumers. Maybe Mrs. Sam could explain to Justice Sam from down there at the woman's level that their monthly bills are so high because the phone company, et al., ignore her complaints.

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Maureen Dowd thinks President Obama should quit traveling the country & send a hologram of himself instead. Or something.

Dick Cheney Keeps Boosting Democratics. Hayes Brown of Think Progress: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on CNN on Tuesday, once more claiming that the Iraq his administration left behind was a 'very stable' one. In actuality, on the waning days of the Bush administration, Iraq was still a highly violent place, with car bombs exploding and government officials targeted."

Todd Akin Tag-teams the Big Dick. Aviva Shen of Think Progress: "Failed Senate candidate Todd Akin (R-MO) has recently re-emerged in the public sphere to defend his claim in 2012 that women who were victims of 'legitimate rape' could not get pregnant. In a phone interview with St. Louis Dispatch, the former congressman compared himself sympathetically to Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI), who spearheaded an infamous Communist witch hunt in the 1950s. Akin argued that McCarthy was another victim 'assassinated by the media.'"

Jennifer Epstein & Lauren French of Politico: "David Simas, the director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, will not comply with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's subpoena for him to testify, counsel Neil Eggleston said in a letter Tuesday to panel Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).... Issa rejected the White House's assertion of immunity, citing a 2008 federal court case that found that senior advisors to presidents are 'not absolutely immune from congressional process.'"

Rebecca Ruiz & Danielle Ivor of the New York Times find via FOIA requests, that GM hid internal evidence & opinions that ignition switch defects had caused fatal accidents.

You might find yourself more tolerant of the TSA after you read this piece by Nina Strochlic of the Daily Beast: "About a year ago, the [TSA]'s social media team ... launched an Instagram feed. Over its run so far, the filtered, captioned, and heavily hashtagged feed has morphed into an incredible trove of photos documenting the most absurd things people try to bring on planes.... TSA airport inspectors have found cannonballs and eels and rocket launchers." Strochlic includes a few photos.

Senate Races

Ed Kilgore on recent Senate polls: "Stu Rothenberg of Roll Call, who has been known to put the occasional thumb on the scales for the GOP, has a new assessment that concludes party control of the Senate remains 'up in the air.' The Cook Political Report still rates eight races as toss-ups. FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten, while calling Democrats' position 'perilous,' still notes that current polling would suggest Democrats holding onto 51 seats. There's new Marist polling out of Michigan and Colorado providing Democrats good news in those states, and the close and nasty GOP runoff in Georgia is doing nothing to lower Michelle Nunn's prospects.... It's entirely possible the current GOP triumphalism over the Senate is fundamentally no different from the effort by conservative media to spin Mitt Romney right into the White House in 2012."

Governor's Race

Manu Raju of Politico: "In a rare and surprising act of political defiance on Tuesday, more than 100 [Kansas] Republicans, including current and former officeholders, endorsed [Gov. Sam] Brownback's opponent, statehouse Democratic leader Paul Davis. Polls show the challenger with a surprisingly strong shot at taking out Brownback in November.

Presidential Election

Noah Bierman of the Boston Globe: "A group trying to draft Senator Elizabeth Warren to run for president in 2016 launched a website Tuesday, with plans to use a national gathering of influential liberal activists later this week to gain more publicity and recruit additional members.... Warren's spokeswoman, Lacey Rose, said that the Massachusetts Democrat is not working with the group,, nor endorsing its plans."

Beyond the Beltway

Pat Reavy & Dennis Romboy of the Deseret News: "Former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow [R] and Mark Shurtleff [R] were arrested and charged Tuesday on allegations ranging from accepting bribes to destroying evidence.... The state's former top law enforcement officials were charged in 3rd District Court with pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony; and three counts of receiving or soliciting bribes by a public official, a second-degree felony. In addition, Shurtleff was charged with two counts of illegally accepting gifts or loans, a second-degree felony; accepting employment that would impair judgment, a second-degree felony; witness tampering, a third-degree felony; tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; and obstruction of justice, a third-degree felony."

Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper will submit signatures Tuesday to put what could be one of the most dramatic startups ever on the ballot - a plan to divide California into six states.... A Field Poll in February showed 59 percent of Californians surveyed opposed the idea. Even if Draper can turn that around, there would be another major hurdle: The U.S. Constitution requires the approval of both Congress and the state Legislature, which is now firmly controlled by Democrats."

News Ledes

CNN: "The Texas actress who admitted sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was sentenced to 18 years in prison Wednesday, the U.S. attorney's office said. Shannon Guess Richardson, 36, also was ordered to pay $367,000 in restitution."

Washington Post: "On a day rattled by a fury of air attacks, Israel and Hamas found themselves Wednesday searching for a way forward, with a senior Israeli military official declaring that a ground invasion of Gaza was a 'very high possibility.'" ...

... New York: "Israel Says It Might Invade the Gaza Strip to Save Its Summer Vacation."

New York Times: "The media giant 21st Century Fox, the empire run by Rupert Murdoch, made an $80 billion takeover bid in recent weeks for Time Warner Inc. but was rebuffed."