The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, May 30, 2016.

USA Today: "Six people died and at least two others were missing Sunday after heavy rains in Texas and Kansas caused severe flooding. In one case near Austin, which received nine inches of rain this week, a vehicle with two people was swept off a flooded roadway. Threats of floods prompted authorities to evacuate thousands of prisoners near Houston, and inmates in another prison on Saturday fought with correctional officers after flooding caused a power outage." -- CW 

AP: "Mexican police have rescued kidnapped soccer player Alan Pulido, who appeared with a bandaged hand at a brief press conference Monday to declare that he was fine. Police and other officials said Pulido, a 25-year-old forward with Greek soccer club Olympiakos, was freed in a security operation Sunday shortly before midnight in the northeast border state of Tamaulipas. Pulido had been seized by gunmen as he left a party Saturday night." -- CW 

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (May 22): "An outbreak of a life-threatening illness that has been linked to foods packaged by a processing plant in Washington State has prompted a large-scale voluntary recall of frozen fruits and vegetables marketed under 42 brand names. The scale of the recall reflects the severity of the outbreak of the illness, listeria, and of concerns about how the contaminated food might have “trickled down” into other products, said Brittany Behm, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." -- CW

Washington Post: "After an epic duel of word masters, an 11-year-old Texan and a 13-year-old New Yorker tied Thursday night [May 26] in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the third year in a row two victors shared the championship trophy."

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

... Washington Post: The White House goes Scandinavian for a state dinner for the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

New York Times: "Morley Safer, the longest-serving correspondent on '60 Minutes' who was known as much for his hard-hitting reporting as the quirky stories he covered, will formally retire this week after a career in broadcast news that lasted more than 50 years, CBS said on Wednesday. Mr. Safer, 84, served on '60 Minutes' for all but two of its 48 seasons. He started scaling back his appearances on the show after he turned 80; his last segment, a profile of the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, aired in March.... An hourlong program on Sunday, “Morley Safer: A Reporter’s Life,” will, among other highlights, recall an investigation by Mr. Safer that resulted in the freedom of Lenell Geter, a black man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Texas. In an appearance on the special, Mr. Geter credited Mr. Safer with saving his life."

U.K. Telegraph: "A Canadian schoolboy appears to have discovered a lost Mayan city hidden deep in the jungles of Mexico using a new method of matching stars to the location of temples on earth....In hundreds of years of scholarship, no other scientist had ever found such a correlation.... Studying 22 different constellations, [William Gadoury] found that they matched the location of 117 Mayan cities scattered throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. When he applied his theory to a 23rd constellation, he found that two of the stars already had cities linked to them but that the third star was unmatched. William took to Google Maps and projected that there must be another city hidden deep in the thick jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The Canadian Space Agency agreed to train its satellite telescopes on the spot and returned with striking pictures: what appears to be an ancient Mayan pyramid and dozens of smaller structures around it."

Politico: "Fox News chief White House correspondent Ed Henry will not be appearing on the channel for the time being, following a report in In Touch Weekly that he cheated on his wife with a Las Vegas hostess. 'We recently became aware of Ed’s personal issues and he’s taking some time off to work things out,' a Fox News spokesperson told Politico in a statement."

New York Times: “'Hamilton,' the groundbreaking hip-hop musical about the nation’s founding fathers, has been nominated for 16 Tony Awards, the most in Broadway history." ...

... Here's the full list of Tony Award nominees.

MIT News: "For the first time, an international team of astronomers from MIT, the University of Liège in Belgium, and elsewhere have detected three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star, just 40 light years from Earth. The sizes and temperatures of these worlds are comparable to those of Earth and Venus, and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system. The results are published [Monday, May 2] in the journal Nature.... The scientists discovered the planets using TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope), a 60-centimeter telescope operated by the University of Liège, based in Chile."

Washington Post's Reliable Source: At an "afterparty hosted by MSNBC following the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner [Saturday, May 1]..., a scuffle broke out between Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters and Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief.... The two flailed around a bit, upending a table and bumping into several people. 'Punches were definitely thrown,' said one witness. Before any damage was done, several bystanders, including Sean Spicer, communications director at the Republican National Committee, separated the two."

New York Times: "... a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series [by Walt Whitman] called 'Manly Health and Training,' were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.Now, Whitman’s self-help-guide-meets-democratic-manifesto is being published online in its entirety by a scholarly journal, in what some experts are calling the biggest new Whitman discovery in decades."

This is for safari:

... Via the New Yorker.

Washington Post: "Late last week, Comcast announced a new program that allows makers of smart TVs and other Internet-based video services to have full access to your cable programming without the need for a set-top box.  Instead, the content will flow directly to the third-party device as an app, including all the channels and program guide. The Xfinity TV Partner Program will initially be offered on new smart TVs from Samsung, as well as Roku streaming boxes.  But the program, built on open Internet-based standards including HTML5, is now open to other device manufacturers to adopt. As video services move from hardware to software, the future of the traditional set-top box looks increasingly grim. With this announcement, Comcast customers may soon eliminate the need for an extra device, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in fees."

BBC: "Dame Judi Dench and David Tennant have joined other stars at a gala marking 400 years since Shakespeare's death. Saturday's Shakespeare Live show in the playwright's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon included play scene performances, dance and music." Then this:

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Thursday
May262016

The Commentariat -- May 27, 2016

Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "President Obama laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial on Friday, telling an audience that included survivors of America's atomic bombing in 1945 that technology as devastating as nuclear arms 'requires a moral revolution.'" -- CW ...

... MSNBC coverage, which includes the full speech, is here. ...

... The New York Times is updating events surrounding President Obama's visit. They include excerpts of his speech.

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama's public disparagement Thursday of Donald Trump ... during a news conference in Ise City, Japan, obliterated the now-quaint political convention that partisanship stops at the water's edge. It also revealed a stark truth: The world is worried about Trump." -- CW ...

Rachel Bade & John Bresnahan of Politico: "House conservatives on Thursday blocked passage of a relatively uncontroversial energy and water spending measure after Democrats attached an amendment that would bar federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The appropriations bill failed 305-112, with a majority of Republicans opposed because of the gay rights provision.... Democrats also heavily voted against it over objections to other GOP-sponsored add-ons, including one related to immigration.... The breakdown of the appropriations process started earlier in the day when Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.) opened the weekly GOP conference meeting with a prayer about the LGBT issue, prior to the vote. He read a passage from the Bible and questioned whether members would violate their religious principles if they supported the bill. Moderate Republicans were stunned by Allen's remarks, and some walked out of the meeting in protest, according to GOP lawmakers." CW: If you were wondering why the do-nothing Congress can't do nothin', this is a prime example: both sides tack controversial amendments onto run-of-the-mill bills.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in a Washington Post op-ed: "Three years ago, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at the height of a contentious debate about sexual assault in the military, one of our nation's highest-ranking military officials -- the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- ... in an effort to defend the status quo, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr..., told the Senate about 93 sexual assault cases ... in which civilian prosecutors 'refused' to prosecute and commanders 'insisted' on prosecuting the cases. For many of my colleagues, including former senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee at that time, it was a compelling argument, which they repeated on the floor of the Senate while successfully filibustering our reform. It was also verifiably false...." -- CW

The Die Is Precast. Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hasn't yet met with Supreme Court nominee Merrick B. Garland.... But Hatch already wrote an op-ed, accidentally published in the Deseret News, claiming, "Like many of my Senate colleagues, I recently met with Chief Judge Merrick Garland.... Our meeting, however, does not change my conviction that the Senate should consider a Supreme Court nominee after this presidential election cycle." The paper later removed the op-ed. "Paul Edwards, the executive editor of the Deseret News, on Thursday described the piece as a draft that was 'awaiting edits from the Senator following his meeting with Judge Garland' and was published inadvertently." -- CW ...

... Michael Virtanen of TPM: "Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Thursday that having only eight high court justices isn't good, resulting in some 4-4 splits this year that denied litigants an opinion." -- CW

Lena Sun & Brady Dennis of the Washington Post: "For the first time, researchers have found a person in the United States carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort, an alarming development that the top U.S. public health official says could signal 'the end of the road' for antibiotics.... The authors wrote that the discovery 'heralds the emergence of a truly pan-drug resistant bacteria.'" --safari

Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic: "On Tuesday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced she would seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof. It has not been a year since Roof walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and murdered nine black people as they worshipped.... [K]illing Roof does absolutely nothing to ameliorate the conditions that brought him into being in the first place. The hammer of criminal justice is the preferred tool of a society that has run out of ideas. In this sense, Roof is little more than a human sacrifice to The Gods of Doing Nothing." --safari

Annals of Journalism. Katie Rogers & Michael de la Merced of the New York Times: "A day after Peter Thiel explained why he had given about $10 million to fund multiple lawsuits against Gawker Media, the site's founder [Nick Denton] published an open letter [in Gawker] to the Silicon Valley billionaire, calling him 'thin-skinned' and a 'comic book villain' and challenging him to a public debate about the role of journalism in society.... Mr. Denton harshly criticized what he said was a lengthy, unnecessary vendetta Mr. Thiel waged against not only Gawker Media but also individual journalists." -- CW ...

... Katie Rogers & John Hermann of the New York Times: "The story of Gawker versus Hulk Hogan -- or, perhaps more accurately, Peter Thiel -- has some asking whether press freedom in the United States is in peril if a scorned billionaire can help deliver a crippling blow to a media company." -- CW

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Kelsey Sutton & Peter Sterne of Politico write a "pre-eulogy" for Salon.com. -- CW

Presidential Race

Thomas Kaplan & Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "... Hillary Clinton on Thursday played down a report from the State Department's inspector general that criticized her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. In an interview with ABC News, Mrs. Clinton repeated her concession that using the private email server was a mistake. But she suggested that voters had more important issues to consider when making up their minds between her and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump. 'As I've said many times, if I could go back, I would do it differently,' Mrs. Clinton said." -- CW ...

C-SPAN: "Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) ... says he plans to pursue what he calls 'discrepancies' in the wake of the audit, saying, 'Secretary Clinton and some State Department officials have not been truthful.'" Video. CW: Thanks, Chuck. I'm sure you'll do a totally nonpartisan, professional job & get your "report" out right around Hallowe'en. Maybe you could dress it up with a Photoshopped cover pic of Hillary in a witch's costume. P.S. OR, you could follow Sen. Hatch's example & tell us now what's in that "report" before you do that "inquiry."

... Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "State Department officials took pains to accommodate Hillary Clinton's email practices as secretary, according to newly released testimony by a career agency official. Clinton was offered a 'stand-alone' computer near her office that would let her access the Internet without entering a password or logging into the department's network as other employees are required to do, the official said. The official, Lewis A. Lukens..., said he was told the proposal was declined because Clinton was 'not adept or not used to checking her emails on a desktop.'" -- CW ...

... Chuck Todd, et al., of NBC News: Wednesday's "stinging State Department inspector general report on Hillary Clinton's email practices should have produced one of the worst 24 hours for Clinton's campaign. Instead, it's been a political flesh wound.... Why? Because almost all of Hillary Clinton's weaknesses are overshadowed by Trump's." Via Paul Waldman. CW: Hard to believe Chuck wrote this balanced report; I'll bet his coauthors, Mark Murray & Carrie Dann, are the "real" writers.

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "I count myself among the many silent liberals who have largely kept their feelings on Bernie versus Hillary to themselves -- partly because each speaks to me in different ways.... That said, I have been taken up short by the number of comments and scoldings I have faced, from close friends and casual acquaintances alike, for voicing even a hint of support for one or the other in recent months.... If we are treating our friends and allies like we treat our enemies, we are not really a movement so much as a collective of grievances." --safari

Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "A new count of Kentucky's ballots from the May 17 Democratic primary found no discrepancies, confirming ... Hillary Clinton's narrow victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders. It was Sanders who asked for the canvass just two days ago...." -- CW

Jonathan Easley of the Hill: "Bernie Sanders's campaign manager says 'back-channel conversations' are underway with Donald Trump's staff about setting up a bipartisan debate between the two presidential candidates." -- CW ...

... Burgess Everett & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "For some Democrats, Bernie Sanders' latest gambit -- challenging Donald Trump to a debate to cap all debates -- is the last straw.... Lawmakers reacted with puzzlement, sarcasm and barely veiled anger as Sanders' campaign and Trump himself played up an event that would exclude Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.... A minority of Democratic lawmakers, though, said they'd be fine with Sanders going toe-to-toe with Trump on TV, if only to unmask the Republican nominee as a false advocate for working people." -- CW ...

... Nick Gass of Politico: "Donald Trump on Thursday said he would 'love' to debate Bernie Sanders and raise $10 million to $15 million in the process, even if the Democratic challenger is not well positioned to be his general election foe.... 'What we'll do is raise maybe for, maybe women's health issues or something, if we can raise $10 million or $15 million for charity, which would be a very appropriate amount. I understand the television business very well.' The event would 'get high ratings' and 'should be in a big arena somewhere,' Trump said." -- CW

I will give you everything.... I'm the only one. -- Donald Trump, in Bismarck, North Dakota, Thursday

** Ignoramus-in-Chief. Ashley Parker & Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump traveled Thursday to the heart of America's oil and gas boom, where he called for more fossil fuel drilling and fewer environmental regulations while vowing to 'cancel the Paris climate agreement,' the 2015 accord committing nearly every nation to taking action to curb climate change.... But experts remain skeptical of Mr. Trump's command of the complexities of the global energy economy. And he made claims, such as a promise to restore jobs lost in coal mining, that essentially defy free-market forces.... In his speech, he complained, inaccurately: '[The Paris] agreement gives foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use on our land, in our country. No way.'... 'Under my presidency, we will accomplish complete American energy independence,' he said.... But experts say that such remarks display a basic ignorance of the workings of the global oil markets." -- CW ...

... Ben Jacobs of the Guardian: "Donald Trump pledged to cancel the Paris climate agreement, endorsed drilling off the Atlantic coast and said he would allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be built in return for 'a big piece of the profits' for the American people." --safari...

... safari note: Not only would Drumpf shred our own social fabric, but he would literally melt the planet. The irresponsibility of the GOP on climate change has become absolutely pathological. ...

... "A Walk in the Dead Woods." Tim Egan: "While the world burns and gasps, Trump is now leading the only major political party in the advanced world to deny climate change." -- CW

Paul Krugman: "... the idea that Donald Trump, of all people, knows how to run the U.S. economy is ludicrous." -- CW

No, You Lying Sack of Rat Droppings, Elizabeth Warren Is Not a House-Flipper. Annie Linskey of the Boston Globe: "... Donald Trump opened a new line of attack against Elizabeth Warren Wednesday, accusing the Democratic Massachusetts senator of being a 'total hypocrite' because she 'bought foreclosed housing and made a quick killing.' Trump, pointing to stories that have been circulating in the right-wing media for years, focused on a practice from Warren's past in which she bought or helped finance two dozen properties in Oklahoma for various family members over about two decades.... Trump's accusation ... implies that Warren's family made a fast sale to realize a speedy profit.... The average amount of time that Warren or her family held on to a property was about 7½ years, property records show." ...

... CW: I don't suppose Donald Trump has provided financial help to any of his relatives -- like his children who work for him at no doubt fabulous salaries.

James Hohmann of the Washington Post: "Rick Wiley, hired with great fanfare in mid-April, lasted only six weeks as Donald Trump's national political director. The Trump campaign released a statement late [Wednesday] night saying that it has parted ways with Scott Walker's former campaign manager.... Here's what that says about him and his campaign.... There is a raging internal turf war between the old guard and the new guard.... Trump does not think he actually needs to run a modern campaign to win.... Trump is not playing nice with the consultants favored by the establishment.... Trump's shop is beginning to feel more and more like Hillary Clinton's operation ... circa 2008! That's when a revolving coterie of staffers fell in and out of favor, bickered publicly and contributed to the disarray in her campaign.... But, but, but: Trump is still more decisive than Clinton." -- CW

Jonathan Chait of New York: "Donald Trump is a wildly promiscuous liar.... His contempt for objective truth is the rejection of democratic accountability, an implicit demand that his supporters place undying faith in him. Because the only measure of truth he accepts is what he claims at any given moment, the power his supporters vest in him is unlimited.... Where he has broken truly unique ground is in his lies about relatively small, routine matters." --safari

That's All, Folks. Stephen Ohlemacher & Jill Colvin of the AP: Donald Trump "shrugged off signs of discord in his party hours after sewing up the number of delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination, a feat that completed an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and set the stage for a bitter fall campaign." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

** Marc Tracy of the New York Times: "Kenneth W. Starr, the former independent counsel who delivered a report that served as the basis for President Bill Clinton's impeachment in 1998, was removed as president of Baylor University on Thursday after an investigation found the university mishandled accusations of sexual assault against football players. The university also fired the football coach, Art Briles, whose ascendant program brought in millions of dollars in revenue but was dogged by accusations of sexual assault committed by its players -- an increasingly familiar combination in big-time college sports. Mr. Starr was stripped of his title as university president but will remain Baylor's chancellor and a professor at the law school. The chancellor position is 'centered around development and religious liberty,' a regent said on a conference call Thursday afternoon, adding that Mr. Starr's 'operational responsibilities have been removed.'" -- CW ...

Adam Kilgore & Nick Anderson of the Washington Post: Baylor's" Board of Regents apologized to the school community for the findings of an outside investigation it commissioned in the fall. A damning 13-page report, prepared by law firm Pepper Hamilton, revealed a football team allowed to run amok by university administrators and law enforcement officials.... 'We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus,' Richard Willis, the chair of the Board of Regents, said in a news release. 'This investigation revealed the University's mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students. The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us.'... The investigation exposed a football program under [Art] Briles that was allowed to operate under its own rules, which led to intimidation of alleged victims, concealment of sexual assault charges and risk for future attacks." -- CW

Shootin' Squirrels & Drinkin' Beer. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Rick Anderson of the Los Angeles Times: Portland, Oregon, police chief Larry "O'Dea, 53, appointed chief last year, has ... been placed on paid administrative leave while Oregon State Police investigate the shooting [of a fellow hunter] and the sheriff's version of what happened in Harney County." -- CW ...

... Mistakes Were Made. Maxine Bernstein of the Oregonian: "Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward is the first to acknowledge significant holes in his deputy's investigation of the April 21 hunting accident near Fields that has sidelined Portland's police chief and snared Portland's mayor in the fallout.... [The deputy, Chris] Nisbet, never identified which weapon discharged or seized any of the guns for further examination, according to his summary report. He made field observations that most in the group seemed drunk, but didn't follow up with field sobriety tests.... The deputy didn't pursue inconsistencies in some of the statements....

     "[The men] were sitting in a line on lawn chairs, shooting ground squirrels while drinking beer, the deputy's report said. [Larry] O'Dea was on the left of his friend, Robert Dempsey, 54, who was shot. During the interview, the deputy noted that O'Dea was shaking and had glassy and bloodshot eyes. O'Dea told the deputy that he believed his friend had shot himself accidentally while trying to put his pistol back in a shoulder holster and that O'Dea's own rifle wasn't in his hand at the time.... O'Dea sometime later ... called Dempsey and admitted to his friend that he had shot him when he picked up his rifle after grabbing a drink, the sheriff's records show.... O'Dea has never told the Harney County Sheriff's Office that he was responsible, Ward said." CW: I still maintain this is one of the best "Today in Responsible Gun Ownership" stories ever. And it just keeps getting, well, squirrelier.

Way Beyond

Shame on Australia. Michael Slezak of the Guardian: "Every reference to Australia was scrubbed from the final version of a major UN report on climate change after the Australian government intervened, objecting that the information could harm tourism. Guardian Australia can reveal the report 'World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate', which Unesco jointly published with the United Nations environment program and the Union of Concerned Scientists on Friday, initially had a key chapter on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as small sections on Kakadu and the Tasmanian forests." --safari

Wednesday
May252016

The Commentariat -- May 26, 2016

... With Current Lease about to Expire, Washington Family Finds New Temporary Housing. Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama and his family plan to move to a mansion in the upscale Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, a mere two miles from the White House, when he leaves office in January, according to people familiar with his plans. Mr. Obama, who has said his family will remain in the capital until his daughter Sasha completes high school in 2018, will rent the 8,200-square-foot, nine-bedroom home, the people said.... The house -- valued around $6 million, according to several real estate websites, with an estimated monthly rent of $22,000 on Zillow -- is owned by Joe Lockhart, a former press secretary and senior adviser to Bill Clinton." -- CW

Kelsey Snell of the Washington Post: "The House voted late Wednesday night to approve a measure to bar the government from paying federal contractors that discriminate based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Members erupted into cheers Wednesday night after the measure, sponsored by Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), was approved 223-195.... But Republicans are pushing back in a broader effort to preserve 'religious liberty' from Obama's recent actions.... The House also voted 233-186 to approve a measure introduced by Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) that would exempt religious groups from Obama's directives to contractors and public schools." -- CW

** Andrew Taylor of the AP: "Republicans controlling the Senate passed legislation Tuesday to block new Obama administration rules that require financial professionals to put their client's best interest first when giving advice on retirement investments like individual retirement accounts.... The regulations are aimed at blocking financial advisers from steering clients toward investments with higher commissions and fees that can eat away at retirement savings.... The White House says President Barack Obama will veto the Senate measure, which advanced under a special process that did not allow Democrats to filibuster it." Thanks to Akhilleus for the link. See also his commentary near the end of yesterday's thread. CW: This is Republicans going out of their way to allow con-men to screw ordinary Americans. Pretty remarkable, especially in a presidential election year. ...

     ... If you're looking for some overarching Republican "philosophy" here, I think it goes like this: Americans should have the freeedom & take the responsibility to plan for their own retirement years. (Socialist Security is practically bankrupt!) Then unscrupulous financial "advisors" should have the freeedom to con said Americans out of their retirement investment plans. So the rich yet richer & the poor get poorer.

Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "In a forceful challenge to the Obama administration's stand on transgender rights, officials in 11 states sued the federal government on Wednesday, arguing that it had no authority to direct the nation's public school districts to permit students to use the restrooms that correspond with their gender identity." -- CW

Linda Greenhouse on the latest developments in Zubik v. Burwell, a/k/a Wicked Obama v. Sweet Little Nuns. "... this is not a case about nuns. It's a case about women who should not, by reason of their particular employment, have to forfeit the right to comprehensive health care that the law makes available to other women in the work force. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but an urgent task." -- CW

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) is fighting to stay on as head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) amid a roiling debate within her party about whether she should step aside before the Democratic National Convention in July." -- CW

Andrew Sorkin of the New York Times: "A 2007 article published by Gawker's Valleywag blog was headlined, 'Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.' That and a series of articles about his friends and others that he said 'ruined people's lives for no reason' drove Mr. Thiel[, billionaire co-founder of PayPal,] to mount a clandestine war against Gawker. He funded a team of lawyers to find and help 'victims' of the company's coverage mount cases against Gawker. 'It's less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,' he said on Wednesday in his first interview since his identity was revealed. 'I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.'" -- CW ...

... Tom Levenson in Balloon Juice: "... what you have here is an insanely rich guy gaming the legal system to destroy a media outfit that pissed him off." -- CW

Presidential Race

Rosalind Helderman & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "The State Department's independent watchdog has issued a highly critical analysis of Hillary Clinton's email practices while running the department, concluding that she failed to seek legal approval for her use of a private email server and that department staff would not have given its blessing because of the 'security risks in doing so.' The inspector general, in a long awaited review obtained Wednesday by The Washington Post in advance of its publication, found that Clinton's use of private email for public business was 'not an appropriate method' of preserving documents and that her practices failed to comply with department policies meant to ensure that federal record laws are followed. The report says Clinton ... should have printed and saved her emails during her four years in office or surrendered her work-related correspondence immediately upon stepping down in February 2013. Instead, Clinton provided those records in December 2014, nearly two years after leaving office.... The 83-page report reviews email practices by five secretaries of state and generally concludes that record keeping has been spotty for years. It was particularly critical of former secretary of state Colin Powell...." -- CW ...

... The report is here, via the New York Times. ...

... Steven Myers & Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "Mrs. Clinton and her aides have played down the inquiries, saying that she would cooperate with investigators to put the email issue behind her. Even so, through her lawyers, she declined to be interviewed by the State Department's inspector general as part of his review. So did several of her senior aides.... Security and records management officials told the inspector general's office that 'Secretary Clinton never demonstrated to them that her private server or mobile device met minimum information security requirements,' the report said." -- CW ...

... A. J. Vicens of Mother Jones: "Two State Department staffers in the office of the executive secretariat -- the people within State who coordinate the agency's work internally -- told the IG's investigators that they discussed their concerns about the use of a personal email account with their boss. 'According to [one] staff member, the [boss] stated that the Secretary's personal system had been reviewed and approved by Department legal staff and that the matter was not to be discussed any further,' the report states, adding that there's no evidence that the agency's internal legal office reviewed or approved the arrangement. The report notes that the other employee who raised concerns was told to 'never to speak of the Secretary's personal email system again.'" -- CW ...

... Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "Get past all the abbreviations and government-speak, and what it comes down to is that Clinton should never have used a personal email account, no matter how secure she thought it was, for department business, and that she repeatedly failed to consult with personnel who should have been aware of how her personal system worked." -- CW ...

... Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "Voters just don't trust her.... It is not just that the inspector general found fault with her email practices. The report speaks directly to a wounding perception that Mrs. Clinton is not forthright or transparent. After months of saying she used a private email for convenience, and that she was willing to cooperate fully with investigations into her handling of official business at the State Department, the report, delivered to Congress on Wednesday, undermined both claims." -- CW

Assholes Before the Fact. Jason Horowitz & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "A bitter divide over the Middle East could threaten Democratic Party unity as representatives of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont vowed to upend what they see as the party's lopsided support of Israel. Two of the senator's appointees to the party's platform drafting committee, Cornel West and James Zogby, on Wednesday denounced Israel's 'occupation' of the West Bank and Gaza and said they believed that rank-and-file Democrats no longer hewed to the party's staunch support of the Israeli government. They said they would try to get their views incorporated into the platform, the party's statement of core beliefs, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July." ...

... CW: Even if I were largely in agreement with West's & Zogby's positions, I'm disgusted by their decision to demagogue this stuff at the convention. Those of you who have questioned Sanders' judgment win big here.

Michael Scherer of Time: "Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe invited the Chinese businessman whose donations to him have been named as a focus of Justice Department investigators to a 2013 fundraiser at Hillary Clinton's personal Washington, D.C., residence. Wang Wenliang, a Chinese national with U.S. permanent residency, briefly shook Clinton's hand at the Sept. 30 event, a representative for Wang told Time. An American company controlled by Wang made a $60,000 contribution to McAuliffe's campaign three weeks before the fundraiser. Less than a month later, a separate Wang company pledged $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation, the first of several donations that eventually totaled $2 million." -- CW

John Santucci of ABC News: "During an appearance on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!' Wednesday night, Donald Trump admitted that he wasn't sincere when he made glowing comments about Bill and Hillary Clinton prior to his bid for the presidency. Kimmel asked ... [Trump] about his once-effusive take on the Clintons.... 'So you were full of s***?' Trump's response? 'A little bit,' he said, laughing." -- CW ...

... Ben Schreckinger of Politico: "Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have seemingly agreed in principle to give the world the debate it's been waiting for. Appearing on ABC's 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' in a show that aired Wednesday night, Trump said he would be willing to debate Sanders if proceeds from such an event went to charity. Within minutes of the statement airing, Sanders had agreed to the idea. 'Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary,' he tweeted early Thursday morning." -- CW ...

... Steve M.: "In a bizarre year like this, of course a Sanders-Trump debate could happen. But if it does happen, it won't be a debate.... Trump will spend most of the 'debate' either agreeing with Sanders (on trade deals, on the need for more jobs) or chiding him gently.... Trump's goal will be to use the words of Sanders as a club to beat Clinton with. Sanders won't see that coming, though he certainly won't object when it happens. He'll pile on. It's not going to be a great moment in the history of Western democracy. Sorry, kids." ...

... CW: Steve is assuming that Bernie is a chump. Steve's pretty smart, so he might be right. But I think Sanders is just as likely to turn on Drumpf & defend -- if not Hillary -- democracy over Trumpian totalitarianism. Played right, a debate with Trump could cement Bernie's status as an all-American hero. Played in Cornel West fashion, Bernie would expose himself as an unstable crackpot. Either way, I think a Sanders-Trump debate would help Clinton.

Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "Donald Trump cut into a handful of prominent Republican figures during a Wednesday rally, even lightly chiding those who ultimately came around to endorsing him for president. The presumptive GOP nominee lashed out at 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, saying he 'walks like a penguin.'" CW: He's said it before. ...

... Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "Despite his promise to unite the Republican Party, Donald Trump attacked New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez -- the chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association -- on Tuesday night and accused her of 'not doing the job.'" CW: Martinez is a Latina woman -- for Drumpf, knocking her is a two-fer. ...

... Arrested Development. Jose DelReal & Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "A fresh string of attacks by Donald Trump this week on rivals in the GOP establishment -- including one delivered against a prominent Latina governor in her home state -- raised new doubts about his ability or desire to unite the party's badly fractured leadership.... The revived feuding this week has only added to the concerns of holdouts such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who reiterated Wednesday that he was not ready to endorse Trump and remained opposed to some of his core policies." CW Newsflash: Trump may think he knows how to "act presidential," but he does not have the psychological capacity to put propriety before ego. He has the same level of self-control as a cranky two-year-old. ...

... Digby in Salon: "Throughout the GOP primary people have been shocked at the cretinous behavior of Donald Trump.... It's been clear that he has no limits. And yet, for some reason, the media is shocked each time he proves it again. This week was no exception. [Tuesday] all anyone could talk about was the audacity of his latest atrocious comments to the Washington Post's Robert Costa.... It's his way of deflecting the attention away from his vulnerabilities to what he sees as his strength --- his willingness to bludgeon his enemies.... It's about intimidation.... This is primitive stuff." -- CW 

CW: Tuesday, before the State Department's inspector general released his report on Clinton's email usage, Ken Vogel & Marc Caputo of Politico reported that "Donald Trump, who in recent days has accused Bill Clinton of rape and suggested he and Hillary Clinton may have had a role in the death of one of their close friends, plans to focus next on the Whitewater real estate scandal, Politico has learned." ...

     ... Both Vogel & Caputo are good reporters, so you might reasonably assume that they had persuaded a source inside the Trump campaign to reveal this tidbit. But no. Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "One of Donald Trump's aides accidentally emailed a reporter from Politico to ask for information about the Whitewater real estate deal. The aide, campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks, meant to respond to Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo, but instead contacted Marc Caputo.... The email included text from a message Michael Caputo sent to a Republican National Committee researcher asking him to 'work up information on HRC/Whitewater as soon as possible.'..." Just not ready for prime-time. ...

... MEANWHILE, Trump fires the new national political director he hired way last month. Something about "clashes" and "backbiting." ...

... CW: That's funny, because Trump is so Great, you'd think his campaign would be Great, too. Never mind this report last week (May 19) by Emily Smith of the New York Post's Page Six: "... Hope Hicks and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski were seen having a public screaming match on the street in Manhattan on Wednesday night.... One witness told us, 'Hope was screaming at Corey, "I am done with you!" It was ugly, she was doubled over with her fists clenched. He stood there looking shocked with his hands on his head.'"

"The Voters They Deserve." Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg: "Republicans had encouraged, or at least tolerated, schoolyard taunts and far-fetched conspiracy talk long before Trump's campaign.... By giving a megaphone to people like Pat Robertson, Herman Cain, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, Republicans showed their voters what counts as a 'normal' Republican presidential candidate -- and it isn't all that different from Donald Trump. Republican voters had many well-qualified candidates in 2016, but they had been taught by their party to ignore normal qualifications, and they did so. That same observation can be made about how Republicans have tolerated and promoted bigotry, forging a path for Trump to go even further." -- CW

News Lede

New York Times: "Provocative new research by a team of investigators at Harvard leads to [the] startling hypothesis ... that Alzheimer's disease stems from the toxic remnants of the brain's attempt to fight off infection..., which could explain the origins of plaque, the mysterious hard little balls that pockmark the brains of people with Alzheimer's. It is still early days, but Alzheimer's experts not associated with the work are captivated by the idea that infections, including ones that are too mild to elicit symptoms, may produce a fierce reaction that leaves debris in the brain, causing Alzheimer's." -- CW

Tuesday
May242016

The Commentariat -- May 25, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "In a forceful challenge to the Obama administration’s stand on transgender rights, officials in 11 states sued the federal government on Wednesday, arguing that it had no authority to direct the nation’s public school districts to permit students to use the restrooms that correspond with their gender identity." -- CW 

Rosalind Helderman & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "The State Department’s independent watchdog has issued a highly critical analysis of Hillary Clinton’s email practices while running the department, concluding that she failed to seek legal approval for her use of a private email server and that department staff would not have given its blessing because of the 'security risks in doing so.' The inspector general, in a long awaited review obtained Wednesday by The Washington Post in advance of its publication, found that Clinton’s use of private email for public business was 'not an appropriate method' of preserving documents and that her practices failed to comply with department policies meant to ensure that federal record laws are followed. The report says Clinton ... should have printed and saved her emails during her four years in office or surrendered her work-related correspondence immediately upon stepping down in February 2013. Instead, Clinton provided those records in December 2014, nearly two years after leaving office.... The 83-page report reviews email practices by five secretaries of state and generally concludes that record keeping has been spotty for years. It was particularly critical of former secretary of state Colin Powell...." -- CW ...

... The report is here, via the New York Times. ...

... Steven Myers & Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "Mrs. Clinton and her aides have played down the inquiries, saying that she would cooperate with investigators to put the email issue behind her. Even so, through her lawyers, she declined to be interviewed by the State Department’s inspector general as part of his review. So did several of her senior aides.... Security and records management officials told the inspector general’s office that 'Secretary Clinton never demonstrated to them that her private server or mobile device met minimum information security requirements,' the report said." -- CW ...

... A. J. Vicens of Mother Jones: "Two State Department staffers in the office of the executive secretariat — the people within State who coordinate the agency’s work internally — told the IG’s investigators that they discussed their concerns about the use of a personal email account with their boss. 'According to [one] staff member, the [boss] stated that the Secretary’s personal system had been reviewed and approved by Department legal staff and that the matter was not to be discussed any further,' the report states, adding that there’s no evidence that the agency’s internal legal office reviewed or approved the arrangement. The report notes that the other employee who raised concerns was told to 'never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.'” -- CW 

Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "Despite his promise to unite the Republican Party, Donald Trump attacked New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez — the chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association — on Tuesday night and accused her of 'not doing the job.'" CW: Martinez is a Latina woman -- for Drumpf, knocking her is a two-fer.

*****

Darrel Rowland of the Columbus Dispatch: "A federal court ruling Tuesday declaring Ohio GOP lawmakers' voting restrictions unconstitutional could easily wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court — and generate a 4-4 split decision, a voting-rights expert says.... Judge Michael H. Watson of U.S. District Court in Columbus said the Republican-dominated Ohio legislature violated the federal constitution and Voting Rights Act in 2014 when it reduced the state's early voting period from 35 to 28 days. The move also eliminated the so-called Golden Week in which eligible residents could register to vote and cast an absentee ballot at the same time. Even though Ohio's early voting period is among the most generous in the nation, the reduction disproportionately affected African Americans, Watson ruled. The judge noted that blacks took advantage of Golden Week 3½ times as often as white voters in 2008, and more than 5 times as often in 2012." The state will appeal the decision. CW: Watson is a Bush II appointee. ...

... Rick Hasen comments on the decision on his Election Law Blog. -- CW 

... Worst in the Nation. Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "With a U.S. Supreme Court deadline looming, judges on a federal appeals court [in New Orleans] Tuesday questioned whether accommodations could be made to protect minority voters and save Texas’s strictest-in-the-nation voter-ID law. Among the 15 judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit who heard oral arguments Tuesday morning, there did not seem to be much support for striking down the law or blocking its use in November’s presidential election. But several questioned why Texas did not have more fallback provisions — as other states do — for voters who lack the kinds of identification that the state requires." -- CW 

Mark Berman & Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "Federal prosecutors will seek the death sentence for Dylann Roof, the man accused of killing nine parishioners in a Charleston, S.C., church last year." -- CW 

Ryan Mac of Forbes: "Peter Thiel, a PayPal cofounder and one of the earliest backers of Facebook... , has been secretly covering the expenses for Hulk Hogan’s lawsuits against online news organization Gawker Media.... The involvement of Thiel, an eccentric figure in Silicon Valley who has advocated for teenagers to skip college and openly supported Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, adds another wrinkle to a case that has garnered widespread attention for its implications over celebrity privacy and a publication’s First Amendment rights." -- CW  

Presidential Race

Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "... Hillary Clinton and ... Donald Trump each won primaries in Washington state Tuesday. Trump's win helps him inch closer to clinching the GOP nomination for president. He is within 41 delegates of the number needed to become the Republican nominee. Clinton's win might give her some momentum, but it won't get her any delegates. There were no delegates at stake in the Democratic primary. Washington Democrats already awarded their delegates based on party caucuses. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won Washington's caucuses in March, getting 74 delegates. Clinton got 27. Republicans in Washington will allocate all 44 delegates to their national convention based on the primary results." -- CW ...

Washington State: In early results, Hillary Clinton received 54 percent of the vote 7 Bernie Sanders received 46 percent.


Washington State: Donald Trump
received 76.2 percent of the vote, followed by Ted Cruz with 10.1 & John Kasich with 9.9 percent. ...

... The polls in Washington state close at 11 pm ET Tuesday. Only the Republican votes will affect delegate distribution.

Dave Weigel & Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) has requested a state-run recanvass of last week's Kentucky Democratic primary, hoping to earn at least one more delegate out of one of the year's closest races. The decision, first reported by the Associated Press, came just hours before the deadline to request a new look at the Kentucky vote. On election night, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton led Sanders by 1,924 votes out of 454,573 cast." -- CW 

Kevin Drum: David Brooks wants to know what Hillary Clinton does for fun. "Brooks has a point. It doesn't matter if you think it's fair or not. Modern presidents all know perfectly well that TV has brought the American public into their lives, and the public wants to know what they do for fun. They want to feel like their president is someone who relaxes at the end of the day and lets off a little steam. But Hillary Clinton won't let them see that." -- CW ...

... Matt Yglesias: "... here I think we get to the sexist double standards that really do explain why Clinton is likely somewhat less popular than one might expect a similarly situated politician to be. For a would-be woman president to let her decisions be driven by 'feelings' and emotion [associated with sports] could be deadly, as would the impression that she's a dilettante. She needs to be all-professional and extravagantly qualified for the job. And yet having done all that, she's now this dreary, uncool workaholic who should play more golf." -- CW 

Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday defended Bernie Sanders, saying the media should cut the Democratic presidential candidate some slack. 'I think we should just kind of lay off Bernie Sanders a little bit,' Reid told reporters after being asked whether he was concerned about Sanders’s 'tenuous loyalty' to the Democratic Party." -- CW

Jonathan Chait: "The liberal case against Hillary Clinton rests in large part upon her associations — people she surrounds herself with and whose judgment she relies upon. She has caught an enormous amount of flak, some of it fair, for her ties to figures in the finance industry or advisers with morally questionable worldviews. By the same token, what should we make of Bernie Sanders’s decision to appoint Cornel West as one of his advisers to the Democratic Party’s platform committee?" CW: As Chait amply points out, West is a crazed anti-Obama nut.

Abby Phillip & Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has a new partner in her battle against Donald Trump: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who gave a speech Tuesday mirroring Clinton’s own talking points accusing Trump of profiting from the housing crash of 2008." Trump responded with name-calling slurs. -- CW ...

... Greg Sargent: "... Warren is making a broader argument about Trump’s fundamental cruelty.... [The argument is that] Trump is ... adeptly posing as the Man in the Street’s Billionaire. But he is personally cruel and rapacious: He, and his presidential candidacy, are directly screwing you.... One lingering question is what kind of affirmative argument Hillary Clinton will make in terms of how she’d be better than Trump on the economy." So far she has not made her case. -- CW  

** Trump's "Bitch-Slap." Josh Marshall: "... the three big networks and in fact the major national dailies continue to blast out Donald Trump's charges that Hillary Clinton's husband raped or assaulted other women. And yet, CNN, MSNBC, let alone Fox refuse to discuss that at least twice Trump has himself been accused of sexual assault or rape in sworn statements - once by his wife and again a decade ago in a lawsuit brought by a woman named Jill Harth.... Listen to Trump's words and you hear repeated lines about hurting Clinton, warning her to back off and not forcing him to hurt her again. Cut and paste them out of the context of a campaign article and they read like dialog from a made for TV movie about a wife-beater. [Emphasis added.]... Trump [is] basically the embodiment of 'dominance politics' and assertive violence." -- CW ...

... Joan Walsh of the Nation: "Donald Trump has signaled the direction of his general-election presidential campaign, and it’s straight down the sewer. The question is whether the media will follow him there." -- CW 

You know, you’re a nasty guy. You’re really a nasty guy. I gave out millions of dollars that I had no obligation to do. -- Donald Trump, to WashPo reporter (possibly Fahrenthold) who asked about the donation Monday ...

... David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: "Almost four months after promising $1 million of his own money to veterans’ causes, Donald Trump moved to fulfill that pledge Monday evening — promising the entire sum to a single charity as he came under intense media scrutiny. Trump ... organized a nationally televised fundraiser for veterans’ causes in Des Moines on Jan. 28. That night, Trump said he had raised $6 million,  including the [$1 million] gift from his own pocket.... As recently as last week, Trump’s campaign manager had insisted that the mogul had already given that money away. But that was false: Trump had not." CW: Also, everything Trump's campaign staff say is fake. ...

... Kevin Drum: "Even for Trump, this is inexplicable. Whenever you think he can't possibly be a bigger douche, he proves you wrong. What a revolting human being he is." -- CW 

Donald Trump 'called theories of possible foul play "very serious" and the circumstances of [Vince] Foster’s death "very fishy.’” Washington Post, May 24, 2016

There is nothing fishy or mysterious about Foster’s tragic suicide. -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post, after reviewing five investigations of Foster's suicide -- CW 

Brian McBride of ABC News: "Senior level Trump campaign sources confirmed to ABC News Wednesday that House Speaker Paul Ryan will be endorsing ... Donald Trump." CW: I'm so surprised.

CW: Oh, This Just In. Rick Santorum has endorsed Donald Trump. Sorry, no link to this riveting news at this time. Maybe later.

Clare Malone of 538: "Gary Johnson might be on the verge of becoming a household name.... He’s the former governor of New Mexico, likely Libertarian candidate for president, and he’s polling at 10 percent in two recently released national polls against Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump." -- CW 

Run, Mitt, Run. David French of the (right-wing) National Review: "At this moment, American voters face a choice between two historically corrupt, dishonest, and incompetent politicians....Both are walking impeachment risks who would bring horror shows of unending scandal and shame to the Oval Office.... And at this point, Mitt Romney is the only man who combines the integrity, financial resources, name recognition, and broad public support to make a realistic independent run at the presidency." -- CW 

Congressional Races

Tamar Hallerman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "All of Georgia’s congressional incumbents appeared to survive their primaries last night, extending their political fortunes until at least November during an election year that many had predicted would be a rebuke of all things Washington.... U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson ... trounced his two primary opponents Tuesday evening." -- CW 

Donald Who? Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "One after another, Republican senators on the front lines of the effort to hold their fragile majority dodged, diverted or acquiesced halfheartedly when asked if they would appear with Trump on the campaign trail. As the Manhattan mogul cements his position as the GOP standard-bearer, these down-ballot contenders are trying to save their jobs by running away from their party’s presumptive nominee." -- CW 

Beyond the Beltway

David Goldstein of CBS Los Angeles: "A comparison of records ... has revealed hundreds of so-called dead voters in Southern California, a vast majority of them in Los Angeles County.... CBS2 compared millions of voting records from the California Secretary of State’s office with death records from the Social Security Administration and found hundreds of so-called dead voters. Specifically, 265 in Southern California and a vast majority of them, 215, in Los Angeles County alone.... In some cases..., they voted year after year.... It remains unclear how the dead voters voted but 86 were registered Republicans, 146 were Democrats...." -- CW

Baylorgate. Former Special Prosecutor Impeached or Something over Sexual Assault Cover-up. Matt Young of the Houston Chronicle: "Baylor refused to confirm or deny a report that it planned to fire school president Kenneth Starr in response to the sexual assault scandal rocking the school's football program. On Tuesday morning, Scout.com's Chip Brown reported that Starr had been fired. The Waco Tribune-Herald later published a story saying that numerous current and former regents wouldn't confirm or deny the report.... Baylor is accused of failing to respond to rape or sexual assault reports filed by at least six women students from 2009-2016. There were reports of rape and assault against at least five Baylor football players, with two of those players - Tevin Elliot and Sam Ukwuachu - being convicted of rape." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Update: Phillip Ericksen of the Waco Tribune-Herald: "Ken Starr remained as Baylor University’s president Tuesday, despite media reports that he had been fired from the job earlier in the day, outgoing board of regents Chairman Richard Willis said. Willis declined to elaborate on Starr’s future Tuesday afternoon, but confirmed that Starr was still the president Tuesday and told the Tribune-Herald by phone that the board will provide more information soon." -- CW 

Nicholas Confessore & Stephanie Saul of the New York Times: The "widening influence" of Dandong, "one of China’s largest agricultural importers..., is coming under scrutiny by federal prosecutors, who are examining the relationship between Dandong’s wealthy and connected chairman, Wang Wenliang, and Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, a Democrat who was elected in 2013." -- CW 

Maxine Bernstein of the Oregonian: "Portland Mayor Charlie Hales on Tuesday placed Police Chief Larry O'Dea on paid administrative leave a day after new details emerged that the chief misled an investigator about his involvement in an eastern Oregon hunting accident. Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward told The Oregonian/OregonLive that O'Dea initially indicated that his friend accidentally shot himself April 21 during the off-duty trip." -- CW 

Graham Bowley of the New York Times: "Prosecutors in Pennsylvania on Tuesday crossed their final hurdle to bring Bill Cosby to trial on charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman he once mentored, with a judge ruling that enough evidence existed for the case to move forward." -- CW ...

... Chiqui Esteban & Manuel Roig-Franzia of the Washington Post: "... at least 58 women ... have said [Bill Cosby] raped or sexually harassed them between the mid-1960s and the late 2000s, including dozens who say he drugged them before the alleged assaults." -- CW 

Way Beyond

the New York Times: "The Taliban broke their silence early Wednesday over the death of their leader, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, confirming in a statement that he had been killed in an American drone strike. Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, a deputy to Mullah Mansour, was selected as the new leader of the Taliban...." -- CW 

Monday
May232016

The Commentariat -- May 24, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Baylorgate. Former Special Prosecutor Impeached or Something over Sexual Assault Cover-up. Matt Young of the Houston Chronicle: "Baylor refused to confirm or deny a report that it planned to fire school president Kenneth Starr in response to the sexual assault scandal rocking the school's football program. On Tuesday morning, Scout.com's Chip Brown reported that Starr had been fired. The Waco Tribune-Herald later published a story saying that numerous current and former regents wouldn't confirm or deny the report. Baylor issued a statement of its own Tuesday afternoon: 'The Baylor Board of Regents continues its work to review the findings of the Pepper Hamilton investigation and we anticipate further communication will come after the Board completes its deliberations. We will not respond to rumors, speculation or reports based on unnamed sources, but when official news is available, the University will provide it. We expect an announcement by June 3.' Baylor is accused of failing to respond to rape or sexual assault reports filed by at least six women students from 2009-2016. There were reports of rape and assault against at least five Baylor football players, with two of those players - Tevin Elliot and Sam Ukwuachu - being convicted of rape." -- CW

*****

Oliver Holmes of the Guardian & agencies: "Barack Obama has said Washington supports Vietnam's territorial claims against Beijing in the South China Sea and promised it greater access to security equipment. 'In the South China Sea, the US is not a claimant in current disputes, but we will stand with our partners in upholding key principles like freedom of navigation,' the US president said in a speech in Hanoi." -- CW ...

... Simon Denyer of the Washington Post: "China warned President Obama on Tuesday not to spark a fire in Asia after he announced the lifting of a longstanding embargo on lethal arms sales to Vietnam. Obama unveiled the historic step on Monday during his first visit to Vietnam, insisting the move was 'not based on China' while simultaneously acknowledging that both nations share a common concern about China's actions in the South China Sea." -- CW

Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "According to US officials, the [Obama] administration has deals in place to send approximately two dozen longtime Guantánamo detainees to about half a dozen countries." -- CW

Jonathan Chait: "... it has begun to dawn on some conservatives that the Republican Party faces a distinct handicap: The Democrats will have two popular ex-presidents to campaign for them, and the GOP will have none." Why, oh, why is that? Conservatives attribute this to "bad luck," but "The answer, I'd suggest, is something along the lines of by governing competently rather than presiding over a flaming wreck of a presidency. But this answer presumes a level of introspection ... that is absent from both columns, and from conservative thought in general." -- CW

Ron Brownstein of the Atlantic: "One of the key trends in modern American politics is what I've called the class inversion -- the shift since the 1960s of working-class whites from the Democratic Party to the Republican, and the parallel movement of more white-collar whites from the GOP to the Democrats since the 1980s. A Clinton-Trump race that could prove more competitive than many expected threatens to finally uproot the last vestiges of the class-based political alignment that defined U.S. politics from Franklin Roosevelt through the 1960s." -- CW

John Sides of the Washington Post: "Our internal pictures of the opposite party are terribly inaccurate. When asked about the groups historically associated with each party, we think these groups make up a vastly larger fraction of each party than they really do. In other words, we think each party is essentially a huge bundle of stereotypes -- and this tendency is particularly pronounced when we're characterizing the opposite party.... The more we exaggerate the differences in the social bases of each party, the more tribal partisanship becomes." CW: Hey, how about this, Professor? Ninety-eight percent of Republicans are greedy bigots. The remaining two percent are confused. AmIrite?

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "In November, 17 states will have voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election. Eleven of those states will require their residents to show a photo ID. They include swing states such as Wisconsin and states with large African American and Latino populations, such as North Carolina and Texas. On Tuesday, the entire 15-judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans is to begin hearing a case regarding the legality of the Texas law, considered to be the most stringent in the country." -- CW

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "Former President Jimmy Carter, who has long put religion and racial reconciliation at the center of his life, is on a mission to heal a racial divide among Baptists and help the country soothe rifts that he believes are getting worse. In an interview on Monday, Mr. Carter spoke of a resurgence of open racism, saying, 'I don't feel good, except for one thing: I think the country has been reawakened the last two or three years to the fact that we haven't resolved the race issue adequately.' He said that Republican animosity toward President Obama had 'a heavy racial overtone' and that Donald J. Trump's surprisingly successful campaign for president had 'tapped a waiting reservoir there of inherent racism.'" -- CW

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "One Of The Most Aggressive Gerrymanders In The Country Just Lost In The Supreme Court.... On Monday, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal brought by three Republican members of Congress who hoped to maintain [Virginia's] old [gerrymandered] maps. Though the Court's decision in Wittman v. Personhuballah expresses no view on the merits of the case, it effectively allows the lower court's order to stand." -- CW

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of a black Georgia death row inmate who claimed that prosecutors kept African Americans off the jury that convicted him of murdering an elderly white woman. The court ruled 7 to 1 that Georgia prosecutors had improperly considered race when selecting a jury to judge Timothy Tryone Foster. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. Justice Clarence Thomas, the lone African American on the court, dissented, saying that the evidence that prosecutors acted improperly was not strong enough to overturn Foster's conviction." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Brief Return of Sanity. Richard Wolf of USA Today: "The Supreme Court gave a black death-row prisoner new life Monday by ruling that prosecutors unconstitutionally barred all potential black jurors from his trial nearly 30 years ago. The 7-1 verdict, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, reversed Georgia courts that had refused to consider claims of racial discrimination against Timothy Foster for the murder of an elderly white woman. The ruling is likely to fuel contentions from death penalty opponents that capital punishment is racially discriminatory." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... AND ...

... Lydia Wheeler of The Hill: "The Supreme Court dimissmed a GOP challenge Monday to a court remedy for an unconstitutional congressional redistricting plan in Virginia. A unanimous court held that Reps. Rob Wittman and other Republicans from Virginia, including Reps. Randy Forbes and David Brat, lacked standing to pursue the appeal because none of them could show they were injured by the new court-ordered race-neutral plan." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

     ... Akhilleus: Bet you can't guess the lone dissenter in the first case. There'd have been two if you know who was still around. In the Virginia case, I'm surprised the standing argument worked, even though it's one of Roberts' favorite strategems for refusing to act on a claim. Brat and the other Virginia Confederates could sustain great injury now that their power grab has been found unconstitutional. They could be voted out of office in a truly democratic election. Jeez, Johnny, c'mon. ...

... Thomas Advocates Low-Tech Lynching. Ian Millhiser: "In his dissenting opinion, Justice Thomas appears astounded that his colleagues could care that new evidence shows that Foster's constitutional rights were violated. 'The notion that this "newly discovered evidence" could warrant relitigation of a Batson claim is flabbergasting,' Thomas writes.... Indeed, Thomas appears much more concerned with the extra work Foster is going to create for himself and his fellow justices than with the fact that a man was going to be executed unconstitutionally." -- CW ...

... Charles Pierce: "Before we go on, it's important to remember that Justice Clarence Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall, the legal titan who first brought down separate-but-equal and who drove a stake through the heart of Plessy v. Ferguson.... [The Foster case] was so nakedly About Race, although nothing ever is About Race, and the prosecutorial misconduct so egregious, that it revolted even Chief Justice John Roberts, the man who never misses a chance to declare the Day Of Jubilee." -- CW

Kim Palmer of Reuters: "A federal judge in Cincinnati temporarily blocked the implementation of a[n Ohio] state law that would have effectively de-funded 28 Ohio Planned Parenthood clinics, in a ruling on Monday. U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett granted a two-week stay halting the diversion of federal funding in a ruling on a May 11 lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Southwest Ohio. The Ohio law signed in February by Republican Governor John Kasich stripped $1.3 million in federal taxpayer funds from any healthcare organization that provides abortion services. The law was scheduled to go into effect on Monday." -- CW

Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "Federal prosecutors are investigating campaign contributions to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), and what they consider to be suspicious personal finances, as part of a public integrity probe that has lasted for more than a year, according to two officials familiar with the inquiry." -- CW

Presidential Race

Rachel La Corte of the AP: "More than a million voters have sent in their ballots for Washington state's presidential primary, even though the results will be used only to allocate delegates to the Republican National Convention. Washington has both a presidential primary and a caucus system. Democrats opted for the caucus system to allocate their delegates and will therefore ignore the results of Tuesday's primary.... Sanders overwhelmingly won the district caucuses March 26." -- CW

Trump economics is a recipe for lower wages, fewer jobs, more debt. He could bankrupt America like he's bankrupted his companies. I mean, ask yourself: How can anybody lose money running a casino? Really. -- Hillary Clinton, Monday ...

... Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "... Hillary Clinton has turned down an invitation to debate Senator Bernie Sanders ahead of California's primary, her campaign said on Monday. The announcement came hours after Mrs. Clinton unleashed a biting critique of Donald J. Trump while addressing a union convention, mocking his business record and offering a glimpse at how she might confront him in the general election. Mr. Sanders's campaign last week tentatively accepted an invitation by Fox News to participate in a debate before California's June 7 primary, and expressed hope that Mrs. Clinton would agree to face off against the senator." -- CW ...

... Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "An army of Hillary Clinton's surrogates in battleground states will blast Donald Trump on Tuesday over his past statements about the housing market and his business record, according to a campaign aide. The coordinated push is the first of their efforts to frame the likely Republican nominee in the minds of swing voters...." CW

Jordain Carney of the Hill: "... Hillary Clinton should not pick a senator from a Republican-controlled state as her vice president, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned Monday. 'If we have a Republican governor in any of those states, the answer is not only no, but hell no. I would do whatever I can, and I think most of my Democratic colleagues here would say the same thing,' Reid told MSNBC's 'AM Joy' when asked about the possibility of Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) or Sherrod Brown (Ohio) being named Clinton's No. 2. Reid added that he would 'yell and scream to stop that.'" -- CW ...

... Paul Waldman: "One alternative scenario: if Clinton pickedWarren and she resigned her Senate seat immediately, there would be an early special election that could elect another Democrat in time for the start of Clinton's presidency." -- CW

Cathleen Decker of the Los Angeles Times: Campaigning in California over the weekend, Bernie Sanders & Bill Clinton appear to have declared a truce. "Gone were some of Sanders' harshest condemnations of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, and Bill Clinton's tenure in the White House. Gone too was Bill Clinton's occasional belittling of the Vermont senator's policy proposals." -- CW

Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "Sen. Bernie Sanders was given unprecedented say over the Democratic Party platform Monday in a move party leaders hope will soothe a bitter split with backers of the longshot challenger to Hillary Clinton -- and Sanders immediately used his new power to name a well-known advocate for Palestinian rights [-- James Zogby --] to help draft Democratic policy." -- CW ...

... Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "Top Bernie Sanders supporters Dr. Cornell [sic.] West and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) will be among those on the Democratic Party's important Platform Drafting Committee after the Vermont senator won a key concession as he looks to leave his mark on the party's platform." -- CW ...

     ... CW: Worth mentioning here: Cornel West is a blowhard loon, who, to say the least, does not play well with others. He belongs on a platform committee (or any committee) like a fox belongs on a committee of broody hens fighting for free-range justice.

Jose DelReal & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump is reviving some of the ugliest political chapters of the 1990s with escalating personal attacks on Bill Clinton's character amid a concerted effort to smother Hillary Clinton's campaign message with the weight of decades of controversy. Trump's latest shot came Monday when he released an incendiary Instagram video that includes the voices of two women who accused the former president of sexual assault, underscoring the presumptive Republican nominee's willingness to go far beyond political norms in his critique of his likely Democratic rival." -- CW ...

Eric Levitz of New York: "On Monday, the grotesquely misogynistic Republican nominee released an Instagram ad titled, 'Is Hillary really protecting women?' The 15-second spot layers clips of women tearfully accusing Bill Clinton of sexual assault over a menacing photograph of the former president smoking a cigar -- until the voices of the victims are drowned out by Hillary Clinton's maniacal laughter." -- CW ...

... digby: "In other words, there is nothing he won't do to win. And as he's made clear in the past, he believes that once you have won something, you are given license to bully and dominate.... When are we going to start thinking about this is psychological terms? That's not a normal way of thinking for a well-balanced, mature adult." -- CW ...

... Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: Donald Trump "frequently proclaimed himself to be an admirer of [Bill] Clinton.... For years, Trump dismissed or minimized the sex allegations against Clinton, even after [Kathleen] Willey and [Juanita] Broadderick went public with their claims. His main concern is that Clinton did not handle the public relations of the Lewinsky scandal right; Trump dismissed the women involved as losers and not attractive. Trump even suggested that Americans would have been more forgiving if Clinton had slept with more beautiful women. Trump's bottom line, even years later, was that the Clinton sex scandals were 'totally unimportant.'" -- CW ...

... AND Kenny Likes Bill. Bill Clinton is the most gifted politician of the baby boomer generation. His genuine empathy for human beings is absolutely clear. It is powerful, it is palpable and the folks of Arkansas really understood that about him -- that he genuinely cared. The 'I feel your pain' is absolutely genuine. -- Ken Starr, Whitewater Independent Counsel, this week

Dana Milbank: "A generation after Ronald Reagan denounced the 'welfare queen,' the Grand Old Party is evidently on the verge of nominating its first welfare king.... The Post's Drew Harwell reported over the weekend that, for at least two years in the late 1970s..., Trump paid no federal income taxes. Several tax experts I spoke with said it's entirely possible that Trump has continued to report negative income -- and therefore not pay taxes -- because of loopholes and dubious deductions that benefit powerful real estate interests.... The corporate welfare Trump receives is nothing to be proud of -- not least because Trump ... has condemned corporate executives who 'make a fortune' but 'pay no tax.'" -- CW

Ed Kilgore on the dying of the right -- or at least the fading of #NeverTrump. -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Joe Heim & Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "A judge found police officer Edward M. Nero not guilty of all criminal charges in the case of Freddie Gray, whose death last year in police custody sparked riots and widespread anger in the city. The acquittal by Judge Barry G. Williams, announced Monday in a packed courtroom, is the first verdict reached in the Gray case. Nero is the second officer to face trial on charges related to Gray's arrest and subsequent death. The first officer's trial ended in a hung jury." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Way Beyond

Alison Smale of the New York Times: "Alexander Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old economics professor and former Green Party leader, won Austria's cliffhanger presidential election on Monday, defeating his far-right rival by the slimmest of margins and pledging to unite the divided country. Austria had to wait almost 24 hours after polls closed on Sunday for the authorities to count almost 700,000 valid mail-in ballots." -- CW ...

... CW: If you followed the Austrian election at all, you know that it could have gone either way. AND, as Steve M. notes, "... the demographics of this election look very similar to polls of the U.S. presidential election -- not just in terms of social class or place of residence, but in terms of gender."