The Ledes

Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

Guardian: "The Oklahoma supreme court has dissolved its stay of the executions of two men who challenged the state's secrecy about its source of lethal injection drugs. The court reversed the decision of a district court judge who said the law that keeps the source secret is unconstitutional. The turnaround heads off a potential constitutional crisis sparked by the state's Republican governor, Mary Fallin, who had tried to override the stay by issuing an executive order to go ahead with the sentences.... The court's reversal on Wednesday came hours after a resolution by an Oklahoma House member to try to impeach some of its justices."

New York Times: "The latest accord between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization appeared more serious than past attempts, experts said, and came as hopes faded for a resolution to peace negotiations with Israel."

New York Times: "Russia continued Wednesday to ratchet up pressure on the government in Kiev, warning that events in eastern Ukraine could prompt a military response and again accusing the United States of directing events there."

Not All Fish Are Created Equal. Time: "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed President Barack Obama to Tokyo Wednesday by taking him to the greatest sushi restaurant in the world, the three Michelin star Sukiyabashi Jiro."

Reuters: "Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said on Tuesday they were holding an American journalist in the city of Slaviansk and the online news site Vice News said it was trying to secure the safety of its reporter Simon Ostrovsky."

AP: "When armed men seized the police station in this eastern Ukrainian city, mayor Nelya Shtepa declared she was on their side. She changed her story a few days later. Then she disappeared — the victim of an apparent abduction by the man who now lays claim to her job. On Tuesday, she resurfaced, expressing support once again for the pro-Russia insurgents — but possibly no longer as mayor."

AP: " A senior Canadian diplomat was expelled from Canada's embassy in Moscow in retaliation for Canada expelling a Russia diplomat as tensions grow over the Ukraine, Canadian officials said Tuesday."

AP: "A Moscow judge on Tuesday left open the possibility of jailing President Vladimir Putin's main critic for years, a sign of Putin's increasingly hard-line rule against opponents. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was fined $8,400 on Tuesday for slandering a lawmaker. His second trial starts Thursday, and prosecutors who previously secured his house arrest are widely expected to ask for jail for him pending trial, with Tuesday's verdict making him a recidivist. If there's a guilty verdict at that trial, he could get a prison term."

AP: "A Kansas judge will on Wednesday consider Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning's petition to legally change her name from Bradley, as she serves a 35-year sentence for passing classified U.S. government information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "An Army soldier convicted of leaking classified military and diplomatic records persuaded a Kansas judge Wednesday to legally change her name from Bradley Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning."

Time: "President Barack Obama paid a visit to the small community of Oso, Wa., on Tuesday, exactly one month after a massive mudslide there claimed at least 41 lives. He promised survivors that the entire country will be on hand to help for 'as long as it takes'”:

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, April 22, 2014.

AP: "In the most high-level visit of a U.S. official since crisis erupted in Ukraine, [Vice President] Biden told leaders from various political parties that he brings a message of support from President Barack Obama as they face a historic opportunity to usher in reforms." The Guardian story is here.

CNN: "The first American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983 crossed the finish line Monday, triumphant in a storied race that has become a national symbol of resiliency and determination. Meb Keflezighi, 38, won the men's division with an official time of 2:08:37, according to the Boston Marathon's Facebook page. With video.

AP: "Although [a] 15-year-old [airplane stowaway] apparently wanted nothing more than to run away, his success in slipping past layers of security early Sunday morning made it clear that a determined person can still get into a supposedly safe area and sneak onto a plane.... In San Jose, airport officials said they were reviewing how the boy slipped through security that includes video surveillance, German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday took the rare step of urging doctors to stop performing a surgical procedure used on tens of thousands of women each year to remove uterine growths, saying the practice risks spreading hidden cancers within a woman’s body. The procedure, known as power morcellation, has long been used in laparoscopic operations to remove fibroid tumors from the uterus, or to remove the uterus itself. It involves inserting an electric device into the abdomen and slicing tissue in order to remove it through a small incision. The surgery is far less invasive than traditional abdominal operations."

White House Live Video
April 23

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Jon Stewart on the Cliven Bundy story:

... AND on Sean Hannity's support for Bundy:

... AND Hannity is pissed off. Apparently, it upsets him to hear his own blatant hypocrisy ridiculed.

New York Times: "David Letterman introduced his successor, Stephen Colbert, on his 'Late Show With David Letterman' Tuesday night on CBS with a monologue joke and some cordial conversation — but no measuring of the drapes":

HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa. Paul Fahri of the Washington Post: The ratings for "Meet the Press" are so bad that NBC hired a psychologist to analyze Greggers. ...

     ... CW: Here's the rub. Fahri writes, "The impossible burden for Gregory, of course, has been to follow the beloved Russert. As one NBC colleague describes it, Russert is a 'ghost' who still haunts Gregory’s tenure at 'MTP' six years into his run." This is strictly VSP bull. Russert was a mediocre interviewer, who continually let politicians get away with evasive answers. He left big shoes to fill only because he had big feet.

MoDo loves her '65 Mustang.

USA Today: "Chelsea Clinton announced Thursday that she's pregnant with her first child."

New York Times: "It is a bit bigger and somewhat colder, but a planet circling a star 500 light-years away is otherwise the closest match of our home world discovered so far, astronomers announced on Thursday. The planet, known as Kepler 186f, named after NASA’s Kepler planet-finding mission, which detected it, has a diameter of 8,700 miles, 10 percent wider than Earth, and its orbit lies within the 'Goldilocks zone' of its star, Kepler 186 — not too hot, not too cold, where temperatures could allow for liquid water to flow at the surface, making it potentially hospitable for life."

Jason Zinoman of the New York Times argues that the real king of late-night comedy is Jon Stewart.

Whose Pulitzer Is It Anyway? Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity was awarded the Pulitzer Prize this week for his multipart series on denials of benefits to black lung victims. ABC News, which used Hamby's work for a "Nightline" segment, now wants a piece of the Pulitzer, even though the Pulitzer Prize is given for print journalism. ...

... J. K. Trotter of Gawker has more: "Journalist-on-journalist carnage is rarely so open, or so bilious, especially when obituary-worthy awards are on the line. Then again, television news has never attracted, or rewarded, humble folk. According to Poynter, an ABC spokesperson repeatedly 'threatened [{Bill} Buzenberg {executive director of CPI}] and the Center saying they would make this very "messy" ... unless they got what they wanted.'” ...

... Dylan Byers of Politico has more on the feud. ...

... Capital New York: "Fresh off a Pulitzer win for his investigative work at The Center for Public Integrity, Chris Hamby is jumping ship to join Mark Schoofs' investigations desk at Buzzfeed...."

Washington Post: Investigative reporter Michael Isikoff is leaving NBC News, by mutual consent. Isikoff told Erik Wemple that "this was a situation that was no longer working out."

Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Thursday night was a deft marriage of the best of the two Colberts: He didn’t break character, but the deference and affable nature that marks his out-of-character interviews was stamped all over the writing." With video. ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "Rush Limbaugh framed CBS's decision to replace retiring 'Late Show' host David Letterman with professional conservative skewer Stephen Colbert in some decidedly apocalyptic terms. 'CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America," Limbaugh said Thursday on his radio show. 'No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values. Now it's just wide out in the open.'" ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "CBS made its choice, quickly and definitively: Stephen Colbert is the successor to David Letterman as the star of 'Late Show,' the late-night franchise created by Mr. Letterman. CBS made the announcement Thursday, exactly one week after Mr. Letterman announced on his program that he would be leaving his post after one more year on the air."

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "A faded fragment of papyrus known as the 'Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,' which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery. Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: 'Jesus said to them, "My wife..."' Too convenient for some, it also contained the words 'she will be able to be my disciple,' a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests." ...

... CW: Sorry, purists. Followers (& non-followers) had all kinds of ideas about what Jesus was like. Married Jesus & sexy Jesus (Gospel of Thomas, "Lost" Gospel of Mark) were among them. The Roman Catholic Church decided, beginning late in the 2nd century what was canon & what was not. And every story, IMHO, is fictional. BTW, the Egyptologist in Goodstein's story who insists the fragment is a fake uses some extremely shaky -- i.e., bogus -- rationales for his opinion.

CW: I think it's my job to run this:

... The full "Today" show segment is here, & it's mildly interesting (CW: NBC's embed code is screwed up, so I can't run it here).

Josh Dickey of Mashable: "Stephen Colbert is CBS' top choice to replace the retiring David Letterman, and has indicated that he's willing to take over the Late Show when the time comes, people familiar with both sides of the discussions tell Mashable." Via New York.

Lauren Moraski of CBS "News": "David Letterman announced Thursday that he's retiring from CBS' 'Late Show' sometime next year. He made that announcement during the taping of his program Thursday afternoon at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater."

No News, All the Time:

Igor Bobic of TPM: "In its wall-to-wall coverage of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, CNN has raised the possibility of the supernatural, blackholes, and North Korea; it has interviewed a psychic, tried but failed to rent its own 777 jet, and finally settled on a flight simulator it is using to 'search' for the plane.On Tuesday the network finally turned its attention to garbage."

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Saturday
Apr192014

The Commentariat -- April 20, 2014

Cliven Bundy, Writ Large. Kristen Moulton of the Salt Lake Tribune: "It's time for Western states to take control of federal lands within their borders, lawmakers and county commissioners from Western states said at Utah's Capitol on Friday. More than 50 political leaders from nine states convened for the first time to talk about their joint goal: wresting control of oil-, timber -and mineral-rich lands away from the feds.... The summit was in the works before this month's tense standoff between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management over cattle grazing, [Utah Speak Becky] Lockhart said. 'What's happened in Nevada is really just a symptom of a much larger problem,' Lockhart said." ...

... Kieran Suckling of the Guardian has more on Bundy.

... CW: For those who want to see the environment go to hell, turning federal lands over to the states is an excellent way to go. ...

... ** Evan Halper of the Los Angeles Times: "The Koch brothers and large utilities have allied to reverse state policies that favor renewable energy. Environmentalists are pushing back, but the fight is spreading and intensifying." Surprise, surprise -- ALEC & other usual suspects are in there, too, fighting renewable energy policies. CW: Read the whole story. Fuckin' greedy bastids.

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "... President Obama and his national security team are looking beyond the immediate conflict to forge a new long-term approach to Russia that applies an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment. Just as the United States resolved in the aftermath of World War II to counter the Soviet Union and its global ambitions, Mr. Obama is focused on isolating President Vladimir V. Putin's Russia by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world, limiting its expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood and effectively making it a pariah state. Mr. Obama has concluded that even if there is a resolution to the current standoff over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, he will never have a constructive relationship with Mr. Putin, aides said."

Sarah Kliff of Vox: "15 charts show our health care prices are totally insane."

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: Common Core, which sets national education standards, is dividing the Republican party, ever since Barack Obama embraced it. (CW: Although Martin doesn't mention it, President Bush advocated it again in his speech at the LBJ Library. Bush linked national education standards to the civil rights movement. See yesterday's Commentariat.) ...

... Jonathan Martin: "Many of those helped by the health care law — notably young people and minorities -- are the least likely to cast votes that could preserve it, even though millions have gained health insurance and millions more will benefit from some of its popular provisions." And Democratic candidates are still conflicted about it.

White Houses Hosts Young Plutocrats Society. Jamie Johnson of the Johnson & Johnson family, in the New York Times "Style" section: "On a crisp morning in late March, an elite group of 100 young philanthropists and heirs to billionaire family fortunes filed into a cozy auditorium at the White House. Their name tags read like a catalog of the country's wealthiest and most influential clans: Rockefeller, Pritzker, Marriott. They were there for a discreet, invitation-only summit hosted by the Obama administration to find common ground between the public sector and the so-called next-generation philanthropists, many of whom stand to inherit billions in private wealth.... Policy experts and donors recognize that there's no better time than now to empower young philanthropists." CW: Right. Because young billionaires just don't have enough power. ...

... Kathy Geier: The whole article is creepy beyond belief. ...

... Digby: "It's very nice that many of these young idealistic aristocrats want to do good deeds. But this is really nothing more than good old fashioned noblesse oblige which basically leaves the betterment of man to the whims of rich people." ...

... CW: Both Digby & Geier home in on this graf by Johnson: "(Disclosure: Although the event was closed to the media, I was invited by the founders of Nexus, Jonah Wittkamper and Rachel Cohen Gerrol, to report on the conference as a member of the family that started the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company.)" ...

... Matt Murphy of Gawker: "At a conference for such refined people as these, not just any reporter will do. No, it must be a writer who intimately knows the struggles of the young and wealthy, and who can accurately transmit the ways in which they're saving the planet to the unwashed Times-reading masses."

... CW: Reality Chex readers may remember Jamie Johnson from his documentary dissing "The One Percent," which I embedded here some months back.

     ... If Mitt Romney thinks the only appropriate place to talk about income inequality is "in quiet rooms," Barack Obama does his pandering to the .01 percent "in quiet rooms." I guess that's the difference between Republicans and Democrats -- a difference without much of a distinction.

Danielle Ivory, et al., of the New York Times: "G.M.'s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, has called the company's slow response [to replace faulty ignition switches] an 'extraordinary' situation. But an analysis by The New York Times of the automaker's recalls since it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 shows its handling of the ignition problem was not an isolated event: G.M. has repeatedly used letters, called technical service bulletins, to dealers and sometimes to car owners as stopgap safety measures instead of ordering timely recalls, The Times found." ...

... AP: "General Motors waited years to recall nearly 335,000 Saturn Ions for power steering failures despite getting thousands of consumer complaints and more than 30,000 warranty repair claims, according to government documents released Saturday."

John Milburn of the AP: "A furor over what the Topeka school district considers an honor has erupted after plans were announced for [Michelle] Obama to address a combined graduation ceremony for five area high schools next month an 8,000-seat arena. For some, it was the prospect of a tight limit on the number of seats allotted to each graduate. For others, it was the notion that Obama's speech, tied to the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools, would overshadow the student's big day." CW: And whaddaya bet many of those parents think Brown v. Board of Ed, which outlawed segregated schools, was a horrible decision. ...

... Digby: "Well, they aren't lining up in front of the courthouse to block her entrance so I suppose they've evolved. I think we know what's really going on here don't we? Yes, the people they interviewed said they were all very upset because it took the spotlight off the kids. And that might even make sense if having guest speakers at graduations wasn't something you see all over the nation every single year." ...

... Steve M. disagrees. ...

... Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker: "... sixty years after Brown, it is clear that the notion of segregation as a discrete phenomenon, an evil that could be flipped, like a switch, from on to off, by judicial edict, was deeply naïve. The intervening decades have shown, in large measure, the limits of what political efforts directed at desegregation alone could achieve, and the crumbling of both elements of 'separate but equal' has left us at an ambivalent juncture."

Oh, Jesus. Sarah Jones of Americans United: "An Oklahoma school district has approved the use of a Bible curriculum designed by Steve Green, the controversial owner of Hobby Lobby. The Mustang public schools will begin offering the curriculum next academic year.... [Based on a speech Green made in 2013,] this class isn't intended to teach the Bible. It's intended to teach Christian apologetics and promote a fundamentalist view of that tome. And there lies the trouble." Via Steve Benen.

Marsha Shuler of the Advocate: "Louisiana legislators advanced a bill Thursday that would make the Holy Bible the official Louisiana state book, despite concerns the move could prompt litigation." Also via Benen.

News Lede

New York Times: "Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, a star prizefighter whose career was cut short by a murder conviction in New Jersey and who became an international cause célèbre while imprisoned for 19 years before the charges against him were dismissed, died on Sunday morning at his home in Toronto. He was 76."

Friday
Apr182014

The Commentariat -- April 19, 2014

Friday Afternoon News Dump. Andrew Restuccia & Darren Goode of Politico: "The Obama administration says it is indefinitely extending its long-awaited review of the Keystone XL pipeline -- providing a Good Friday jolt to one of the president's most wrenching environmental decisions. The move could easily push President Barack Obama's final decision past the November election."

Amanda Holpuch of the Guardian: "People charged with the murders of almost 100 people can be linked to a single far-right website, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The White Nationalist web forum Stormfront.org says it promotes values of 'the embattled white minority,' and its users include Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in a 2011 massacre in Norway, and Wade Michael Page, who shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012.... The report was released a month early after white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, was accused of killing three people at a Jewish center in Kansas City on Sunday." The report is here (pdf).

Oligarchy by Any Other Name. John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "From the Dept. of Academics Confirming Something You Already Suspected comes a new study concluding that ... the preferences of rich people had a much bigger impact on subsequent policy decisions than the views of middle-income and poor Americans. Indeed, the opinions of lower-income groups, and the interest groups that represent them, appear to have little or no independent impact on policy.... The study suggests that, on many issues, the rich exercise an effective veto." ...

... CW: This research could help explain why gay rights have advanced with lightning speed, while racial civil rights remain problematic after centuries. The rich are gay or they have gay friends, & they want the same freedoms straight people have. Few of the rich, however, are black or have close black friends. That civil rights have advanced as much as they have could be a result of capitalists realizing that black people constitute, you know, an undertapped market. Besides, when the rich want cheap help, there are always those undocumented workers ("I'm running for president, for Pete's sake!"). ...

... AND, Speaking of Mitt, He's Back. Robert Costa & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "After retreating from public view following his crushing loss to President Obama in the 2012 election, Romney has returned to the political stage, emerging as one of the Republican Party's most coveted stars, especially on the fundraising circuit, in the run-up to November's midterm elections. He may not direct a high-powered political action committee or hold a formal position, but with the two living former Republican presidents -- George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush -- shying away from campaign politics, Romney, 67, has begun to embrace the role of party elder, believing he can shape the national debate and help guide his fractured party to a governing majority." ...

... "One-Take Romney." Not-President Romney cuts an ad in Not-the-Oval Office for Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, who's facing a Tea Party challenge:

Jill Lepore, Evan Osnos & Dorothy Wickenden of the New Yorker discuss the influence & imact of Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

Washington Post staffers pick the most interesting stuff from the latest Clinton Library docudump. ...

... Digby on press reaction to Chelsea Clinton's pregnancy: "I don't recall anyone wondering if old Mitt might need to spend so much time with his grandkids that he wouldn't have time for the presidency...."

Can we talk about the human drama that is Grandma Clinton? I don't want to be cynical and I'm not suggesting anyone's having a baby for election purposes, but -- [panel groans]. It's gonna change the dynamic of the campaign. -- NYT Columnist Andrew Sorkin on "Morning Joe"

... Here's the publisher's blurb for Hillary Clinton's latest book, Hard Choices. ...

... Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Although the book is technically an 'inside account of the crises, choices and challenges' she faced as secretary of state ... this isn't just an exercise in self-expression. It's a billboard, and for now it says, 'I'm thinking about it.' But with room for deniability, of course."

In yesterday's Comments, Whyte O. recommended George W. Bush's speech at the commemoration of the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. As Whyte noted, Bush's speech would make him a loser in a Republican primary. The speech is remarkable in a number of ways, not the least of which is its defense of the federal government, which Bush says must step in when states fail in their duties. The speech centers on equal access to educational opportunities. For me, the speech also suggests that brother Jeb -- whose main policy (and business) focus has been education, albeit a relentless drive to shift public funds to private educational institutions -- will run for president. Anyway, as Whyte wrote, "Worth a listen." Really:

Travis Bruner & Greta Anderson of the Western Watersheds Project, in Salon, on the real harm Cliven Bundy & his ilk are doing to public lands, as well as to actual taxpayers: "... the American public is woefully misinformed about the entrenchment, expense, and ecological harm of this land use. Make no mistake, Bundy isn't the only rancher ripping off the American public. Every public lands livestock permittee is banking on federally-funded range infrastructure like solar wells and fences and benefitting from federally-funded wildlife killing that targets native predators like wolves and coyotes for the sake of livestock safety. Many permittees benefit from drought payments and disaster payments, seek handouts for 'restoration projects' that are really just reseeding the forage species their cows stripped in the first place. And most livestock operations occur at the peril of endangered species...."

Journalist Sally Denton says Franklin Roosevelt faced even more virulent conservative opposition than President Obama does; there was even a "Wall Street Putsch," a plot to take over the government by force, leaving FDR as a mere figurehead while the Street men ran the show. Joshua Holland of BillMoyers.com interviews Denton; the piece is republished in Salon.

Bryce Covert of Think Progress: "The 70 people who work at Treehouse, an online education company that teaches people about technology, only work four days a week at the same full salary as other tech workers. Yet the company's revenue has grown 120 percent, it generates more than $10 million a year in sales, and it responds to more than 70,000 customers, according to a post in Quartz by CEO Ryan Carson." CW: Read the post to see some of the employer advantages to the shorter work week. Yes, that's employer, not employee.

I'm just a guy who got asked to do something for his country by people at the highest level of government, and I did the best that I could. -- James Mitchell, the psychologist credited with developing the CIA's "enhanced interrogation methods" -- waterboarding, sleep deprivation, etc.

... Jason Leopold of the Guardian interviews Mitchell. ...

... Charles Pierce: "Mitchell should be facing a tribunal for war crimes, not whining about an unflattering Senate committee report.... The man has worms in his soul."

CW: I see why Ed Snowden was upset by reaction to his "surprise interview" of Vladimir Putin. Underwhelmed bloggers like Driftglass write stuff like this: "... Russian President Vladimir Putin needs something sharp and pointy and very public with which to poke President Obama in the eye. Cue Uncle Vlad allowing Ed Snowden to 'interview' him on Russian state teevee! And by 'interview' I mean he was permitted one softball question with no follow up. Eerily similar to the way David Gregory 'interviews' every Republican who has ever been on Meet the Press ... except, of course, Greggers* is not living under the surveillance and protection of the person he is questioning -- a person who has a long record of locking up or killing dissidents and journalists and is middle of the slow-motion military invasion of a neighboring country. Mr. Snowden's sock-puppet question was introduced by one of the programs co-hosts...."

Senate Race

John Hanna of ABC News: "Departing U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is not considering running for the U.S. Senate, a spokeswoman said Friday." ...

... Gail Collins: "Maybe Kathleen Sebelius should reconsider that Senate thing." Collins explains why. Funny.

Beyond the Beltway

Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Earlier this month, the [Wisconsin Republican] party's Resolutions Committee voted in favor of a proposal that says the state party 'supports legislation that upholds Wisconsin's right, under extreme circumstances, to secede.' ... Gov. Scott Walker, the leader of the state party, distanced himself from the resolution last week." ...

... Dana Milbank: Walker "has in mind being president of the United States, and that ambition could be frustrated if his state were no longer part of the union."

Katie McDonough of Salon: "Residents of Latta, S.C., are raising questions about the sudden firing of the town's first female and openly gay police chief.... Many Latta residents have rallied around Moore.... South Carolina is one of 29 states where it is legal to fire someone for being gay."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Poland and the United States will announce next week the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Poland as part of an expansion of NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe in response to events in Ukraine." ...

... Washington Post: "Pro-Russian­ militants, boasting that they do not take orders from diplomats in Washington or Moscow, refused to end their armed occupation of a dozen government buildings across eastern Ukraine on Friday, upending hopes for a quick end to the standoff."

Los Angeles Times: "The captain and two crew members of a ferry that capsized off the southern coast of South Korea were detained Saturday on suspicion of negligence in the accident that left at least 28 people confirmed dead and 274 missing, officials said.

Thursday
Apr172014

The Commentariat -- April 18, 2014

** Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "The United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union reached an agreement [in Geneva] on Thursday evening that calls for armed pro-Russian bands to give up the government buildings they have seized in eastern Ukraine and outlines other steps to de-escalate the crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry described the package of measures as an important first step to avert 'a complete and total implosion' in eastern Ukraine and said that it could be followed by negotiation of more far-reaching steps to ease a crisis in which violence seemed to be growing by the day. [Russian Minister Sergey] Lavrov said the deal was 'largely based on compromise' and that a settlement of the crisis was primarily the responsibility of Ukraine's. Mr. Lavrov made the remarks at a news conference that he gave before Mr. Kerry had spoken." ...

     ... Update. Luke Harding, et al., of the Guardian: "Pro-Russian groups occupying a string of public buildings across eastern Ukraine have insisted that they would not end their occupation until a referendum to decide the status of the region had taken place. There was no sign of separatist groups pulling out from their positions at city halls and in town squares, although several said they would hold meetings on Friday to discuss the implications of the Geneva agreement between Russia, Ukraine, the European Union and the United States to de-escalate the crisis." ...

     ... Update 2. Andrew Kramer of the New York Times: "The leader of a group of pro-Russian separatists said Friday that he would ignore an international agreement to de-escalate the political crisis in eastern Ukraine, saying his group would remain in the government buildings in the regional capital of Donetsk that it commandeered last weekend." ...

... Oren Dorell of USA Today: "World leaders and Jewish groups condemned a leaflet handed out in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk in which Jews were told to 'register' with the pro-Russian militants who have taken over a government office in an attempt to make Ukraine part of Russia, according to Ukrainian and Israeli media. Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city's Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee 'or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,' reported Ynet News, Israel's largest news website, and Ukraine's Donbass news agency." ...

     ... Julia Ioffe of the New Republic thinks distribution of the flyers is probably a hoax devised by the administration of a nearby town. ...

     ... Adam Taylor of the Washington Post: The provenance of the flyers is murky. "Whatever actually happened, there is one clear takeaway here: With both sides accusing the other of being 'Nazis,' and accusing the other of anti-Semitism, Eastern Ukraine's Jewish community is having an especially tough time during the Ukrainian crisis."

** Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama announced Thursday that eight million people had signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and that 35 percent of them were under the age of 35, countering those who predicted it would attract mainly older and sicker people. The final number exceeds by a million the target set by the administration for people to buy insurance through government-run health care exchanges. In addition, the number of young people signing up appears to have surged during the final weeks of enrollment":

... The President began his address by expressing condolences to the people of South Korea because of the ferry sinking. CW: As he began speaking, I thought he was going to offer condolences to the Republican party. Later, in the Q&A, Obama did whack Republicans. Often. And forcefully. Lovely to hear. ...

I find it strange that the Republican position on this law is still stuck in the same place that it has always been. They still can't bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care Act is working. They said nobody would sign up. They were wrong about that ... They were wrong to keep trying to repeal a law that is working when they have no alternative answer. -- President Obama, at today's press conference

... Paul Krugman: "How did enrollment manage to surge so impressively despite the initial debacle of healthcare.gov? Obviously they fixed the website; but the broader issue ... is that being uninsured is truly terrible." ...

... Jonathan Cohn: "This is probably Obamacare's best news day since March 23, 2010, when the president signed it into law." Cohn explains why. CW: Another good day (whatever date that was): the day John Roberts decided not to overturn the core law. ...

... Jason Millman of the Washington Post: "If we learned one thing from this enrollment period, it's this: Never underestimate the power of procrastination. California's exchange on Thursday reported that April 15, its last day of enrollment, saw 50,000 people sign up -- its best day ever." ...

... CW: We'll probably start seeing more confrontations like these -- between a constituent & Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.). Many reps won't handle it as well as Ross did (even tho the so-called replacement he mentions is farcical). Via Scott Keyes of Think Progress:

Decarbonize! Paul Krugman: "Even as the report [by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] calls for drastic action to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, it asserts that the economic impact of such drastic action would be surprisingly small.... It reflects a technological revolution many people don't know about, the incredible recent decline in the cost of renewable energy, solar power in particular."

All Krugman All the Time. Krugman on Inequality. Via Elias Isquith of Salon:

CW: Oh, Look! Here's one little despicable reason for increased inequality. ...

... Stealing from the Poor. Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "'Wage theft' is an old problem. It can take many forms, including paying less than the minimum hourly wage, working employees off the clock, not paying required overtime rates and shifting hours into the next pay period so that overtime isn't incurred.... In the past few weeks, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman extracted settlements from dozens of McDonald's and Domino's locations around the state for off-the-clock work. Last month, workers in California, Michigan and New York filed class-action lawsuits against McDonald's alleging multiple charges of wage theft. These suits have upped the ante by implicating the McDonald's corporation, not just individual franchisees, in bad behavior.... Harsher penalties, including prison time, should be on the table more often when willful wrongdoing is proved."

Nora Caplan-Bricker of the New Republic: Who's the "deporter-in-chief" -- Bush or Obama? It depends upon what the meaning of "deport" is. ...

... CW: And the Winner Is -- Bill Clinton? At any rate, I'd say the conservative argument Caplan-Bricker lays out is the better one.

Jay Carney on President Obama's toughest interview. (Too bad Kathleen Sebelius didn't realize this.) Via Real Clear Politics:

Laura Myers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal: "U.S. Sen. Harry Reid on Thursday called supporters of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy 'domestic terrorists' because they defended him against a Bureau of Land Management cattle roundup with guns and put their children in harm's way. 'Those people who hold themselves out to be patriots are not. They're nothing more than domestic terrorists,' Reid said during an appearance at a Las Vegas Review-Journal 'Hashtags & Headlines' event at the Paris. '... I repeat: what went on up there was domestic terrorism." CW: I so underestimated Harry Reid. He isn't a liberal's liberal, but he gets an awful lot right.

Floyd Norris of the New York Times: "It seems likely that the gap in tax rates between the superrich and the very rich may be narrowed."

Russia Today: "Russia has 'no mass surveillance in our country,' according to President Vladimir Putin, after he was asked a surprise question by whistleblower Edward Snowden at his Q&A session, adding 'our surveillance activities are strictly controlled by the law.'" ...

... Ed Snowden, in the Guardian: My motives in asking Putin the question are pure; I'm surprised everybody's picking on me. Also, Christians around the world will note that today is Good Friday; I am the Second Coming.

Right Wing World

** "Bundy Syndrome." Amanda Marcotte, in Salon: "... what's going on runs deeper than a knee-jerk desire on the part of the right to believe every white guy in a cowboy hat is a good guy. This is the logical extension of a push that's grown in recent years from conservatives to argue that they, and only they, have special rights to simply disregard any law they don't want to follow. And unfortunately that's an argument that may be making headway this year in the Supreme Court." ...

... Timothy Cama of the Hill: Most GOP presidential hopefuls are wary of the Bundy landmine. Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan & Marco Rubio have not weighed in. But Rand Paul & Mike Huckabee both complained about federal agents with guns. ...

I'm not here to jump in on the middle of whether Cliven Bundy ought to pay the state or pay anybody for the chance for his cows to eat some grass. Here's what I would suggest: that there is something incredibly wrong when a government believes that some blades of grass that a cow is eating is so an egregious affront to the government of the United States that we would literally put a gun in a citizen's face and threaten to shoot him over it. -- Mike Huckabee

Gubernatorial Race

CNN: "Beau Biden said Thursday he won't seek re-election this year as Delaware attorney general and plans instead to run for governor in 2016."

Beyond the Beltway

Aman Batheja of the Texas Tribune: "A Texas political action committee called Boats 'N Hoes PAC will be just a memory by Thursday, according to the Republican political consultant who is the boss of the man who started it.... 'Texas Republicans say they want to reach out to women, to be more inclusive, but actions like this reinforce a pattern of disrespect,' Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Lisa Paul said in a statement. 'There's no defending the use of a derogatory and offensive term like 'hoes'. How can women possibly take the GOP rebranding effort seriously? Their consistent contempt towards women is simply unforgivable.'"

Charles Pierce points us to this bizarre story, by Jessica Lussenhop of the St. Louis Riverfront Times. Pierce calls it "a perfect case study in how firmly we believe in rehabilitation as a concept, and exactly how unstrained the quality of mercy really is."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Patrick Wintour of the Guardian: David Axelrod, "Barack Obama's most influential adviser during two presidential victories, has been hired to advise Labour on its 2015 election campaign, ensuring that Ed Miliband will put inequality and the break between family finances and economic growth at the centre of his election campaign."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "An avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest early Friday morning, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving three others missing, officials said, in what is now said to be the single deadliest disaster to hit the world's highest peak."

The New York Times outlines some of the shocking errors made after the Korean ferry began to list. ...

     ... UPDATE: "Prosecutors in South Korea on Friday sought to arrest the captain, third mate and another crew member of a ferry on charges of deserting their vessel and passengers after it capsized and leaving more than 270 people missing, many of them high school students on a trip to a resort island. Prosecutors asked the court to issue arrest warrants for Captain Lee Jun-seok, 69, and the 26-year-old third mate, who they said was steering the ship at the time of accident.... The vice principal, Kang Min-kyu, 52, of Danwon High School, who survived the ferry accident on Wednesday, was found hanging from a tree on a hill near a gymnasium where families of the missing had gathered. The police suspected Mr. Kang had hanged himself."

Wednesday
Apr162014

The Commentariat -- April 17, 2014

Julia Preston of the New York Times: "New deportation cases brought by the Obama administration in the nation's immigration courts have been declining steadily since 2009 and judges have increasingly ruled against deportations, leading to a 43 percent drop in the number of deportations through the courts in the last five years, according to Justice Department statistics released on Wednesday. The figures show that the administration opened 26 percent fewer deportation cases in the courts last year than in 2009. In 2013, immigration judges ordered deportations in 105,064 cases nationwide. The statistics present a different picture of President Obama's enforcement policies than the one painted by many immigrant advocates, who have assailed the president as the 'deporter in chief'...."

Noah Rayman of Time: "President Barack Obama said in an interview that aired Thursday that 'we don't need a war' with Russia, downplaying the chance of military conflict between the U.S. and Russia over tensions in Ukraine." Here's the part of the interview that aired last night:

Sam Baker of the National Journal: "Obamacare hasn't 'won' -- but it's making a pretty impressive run. The headlines about the Affordable Care Act have turned positive lately, and they're starting to pile up. The most dire predictions from the law's critics simply haven't panned out, and now Democrats are headed into another big health care fight -- the confirmation of a new Health and Human Services secretary -- with stronger real-world evidence than they've had before. There's important information we still don't have about enrollment, and big risks loom on the horizon. Things could change. But right now, the tide seems to be turning in the White House's favor." ...

... CW: Before you get to feeling too hopeful, consider this cautionary note from Krugman, dated April 14: "It's easy to understand [the ignorance of] ... Fox-watchers and Rush-listeners, who are fed a steady diet of supposed Obamacare disaster stories.... But the real story hasn't even gotten through to many people who should know better. Over the weekend I had dinner in NYC with some very smart, sophisticated people; yes, all of them liberals. And almost everyone in the group was under the impression that Obamacare is still going badly -- they wanted me to tell them whether it could still be turned around." ...

... Jason Millman of the Washington Post: "Gallup reports that states which fully embraced the law by setting up their own exchanges and expanding their Medicaid programs saw their uninsured rate drop this year three times faster than the states that didn't.... Meanwhile, the Urban Institute ... [found] that the number of uninsured nonelderly adults fell by 5.4 million people between September and early March.... The survey doesn't cover the last few weeks of March enrollment...." Also, the Urban Institute's numbers are extremely squishy; they could be off by 2.2 million either way. ...

... Gabriel DeBenedetti of Reuters: "Americans increasingly think Democrats have a better plan for healthcare than Republicans, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted after the White House announced that more people than expected had signed up for the 'Obamacare' health plan."

Steve Holland of Reuters: "President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden took a trip to a Pennsylvania community college on Wednesday to promote a plan to train workers for skills they need for hard-to-fill jobs":

Matt Viser of the Boston Globe reviews Elizabeth Warren's new memoir, A Fighting Chance.

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker on "the Snowden Pulitzer." ...

... For another Pulitzer controversy, see the Infotainment section. ...

... This probably belongs in Infotainment, too. Caitlan MacNeal of TPM: "MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' co-host Joe Scarborough on Wednesday accused the Obama administration of revising Census Bureau questions concerning health insurance in order to mask the impact of Obamacare on the uninsured. The entire 'Morning Joe' panel followed along by mocking the revised survey, suggesting their own questions that might appear in the census. 'Is Obamacare great, or what?' Scarborough floated as a potential question." (See also yesterday's Commentariat on the Census Bureau questionnaire.) ...

... So Then.... Paul Krugman: "... it's really quite vile to have talk-show hosts who quite literally know nothing about the field, other than that they're against covering the uninsured, casually accusing Census of 'cooking the books' to support Obamacare. But remember, MSNBC is the liberal network, right? Why don't they just hire Donald Trump and be done with it?" ...

... So Then.... Dylan Byers of Politico: "Joe Scarborough is returning fire on Paul Krugman after The New York Times columnist accused him of being an 'Obamacare truther' who was didn't know his facts and was 'against covering the uninsured.' In an email to Politico, Scarborough suggested that Krugman was merely bitter after his poor showing in a debate the two held last year on 'Charlie Rose,' about the national debt. Krugman, who struggled to keep pace with Scarborough, later referred to his performance in that debate as his 'Denver debate moment.'"

Thomas Edsall: The enduring anti-abortion movement is about controlling the reproductive rights of women. Thanks to MAG for the link.

Andrew DeMillo of the AP: The ACLU "filed suit Wednesday to block a new Arkansas law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls before it is enforced for the first time statewide in the primary election next month."

Senate Races

ConservaDem Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) fights back against his GOP challenger Rep. Tom Cotton with an effective "Mediscare" ad, & Alex Rogers of Time seems a little upset about it. Here's the ad:

     ... CW: Apparently Republicans think "it's not fair" when Democrats "tell on them." It's dirty pool for Democrats not to allow Republicans to secretly eviscerate programs Americans have counted on for decades.

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Democrats are dying to have Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius enter the Senate race in Kansas. It seems crazy to Republicans, who see Sebelius as the face of the botched ObamaCare rollout and believe her candidacy would make it even easier for them to win the Senate majority. But Democrats say her candidacy would make Kansas more winnable, would blunt the problems ObamaCare poses to their party and would force Republicans to pour money into a red state."

Presidential Race

Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker: "On Tuesday, the State of New York took a baby step -- or maybe a giant leap! -- toward making the United States of America something more closely resembling a modern democracy: Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill joining up the Empire State to the National Popular Vote (N.P.V.) interstate compact." ... CW: While I'm all for electing the U.S. president & vice president by popular vote, I remain skeptical of the NPV movement. Should the states actually invoke this mechanism to change the outcome of a presidential election, all hell would break loose. I doubt NPV advocates have given that much thought. And the Supremes, as they have done before, could still settle the election in the highly-principled way they are wont to do.

Modern Family. Katie Glueck of Politico: Jeb Bush may not run for president because his wife Columba, who in 1999 was caught smuggling French fashion items into the U.S., may be against it. Also, one of their children was arrested on drug charges & one for public intoxication. Also, Jeb's brother is a war criminal. (Okay, that's not the way Glueck phrases it.) Also, the GOP base just might not want a Mexican immigrant (Columba) as First Lady.

Andy Kroll of Mother Jones profiles New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, next in line for the mantle of GOP Girl Savior: "Petty. Vindictive. Weak on policy."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Gabriel García Márquez, the Colombian novelist whose 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' established him as a giant of 20th-century literature, died on Thursday at his home in Mexico City. He was 87."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia emphasized on Thursday that the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament had authorized him to use military force if necessary in eastern Ukraine, and also stressed Russia's historical claim to the territory, repeatedly referring to it as 'new Russia' and saying that only 'God knows' why it became part of Ukraine....Mr. Putin's remarks on eastern Ukraine came as officials from Russia, the United States, Europe and the new government in Kiev were meeting in Geneva for four-way negotiations aimed at resolving the political crisis." ...

... Los Angeles Times: "Russia may invade southeast Ukraine to protect the local population, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday." ...

... Washington Post: "President Vladimir Putin, who repeatedly denied Russian troops had entered Crimea before the March referendum there, changed his version of those events Thursday, telling the nation that they had indeed been there all along. But the green-uniformed men observed in eastern Ukraine right now, storming buildings and raising the Russian flag, are not Russian, he said. 'Those are local residents,' he said." ...

... AP: "Ukraine is hoping to placate Russia and calm hostilities with its neighbor even as the U.S. prepares a new round of sanctions to punish Moscow for what it regards as fomenting unrest. The carrot-stick strategy emerged as diplomats from Ukraine, the U.S., the European Union and Russia prepared to meet Thursday for the first time over the burgeoning crisis that threatens to roil the new government in Kiev." ...

... Guardian: "Asked if he was expecting any progress, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, simply shrugged." ...

... Reuters is liveblogging of the Ukraine crisis.

... New York Times: "Ukrainian security forces killed three pro-Russian protesters, wounded 13 and took 63 captive in a firefight overnight in the eastern city of Mariupol, the interim Ukrainian interior minister said on Thursday. The clash was the most lethal so far in the east of the country." ...

... AP: "NATO is strengthening its military footprint along its eastern border immediately in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine, the alliance's chief said Wednesday."

Washington Post: "A Canadian cyber crime unit has arrested and charged a 19-year-old Ontario man for allegedly hacking into the country's tax agency using the Heartbleed Internet security bug."

Washington Post: "About 24 hours after [a South Korean] passenger ferry with more than 450 aboard began to slowly sink off South Korea's southwestern coast, at least nine are dead and 287 others, many of them teenagers, are unaccounted for. South Korean news media put the number rescued at between 164 and 179, most of whom were brought ashore to the island of Jindo, where they were wrapped in warm towels or treated for minor injuries." ...

... Guardian: "The parents of hundreds of children missing after Wednesday's ferry accident off the coast of South Korea have accused the captain of the vessel of abandoning passengers after it emerged that he and six other crew members were among the first to leave the ship after it started to sink." ...

... Los Angeles Times: "Angry relatives of passengers aboard a sunken South Korean ferry criticized the government's response Thursday as the ship's captain made an emotional apology for fleeing the vessel before hundreds of others had a chance to get out." ...