The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, May 21, 2015.

Washington Post: "California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Santa Barbara County late Wednesday after an onshore pipeline burst, spewing thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean — blackening beaches and endangering West Coast wildlife. The area, a popular camping spot some 20 miles from Santa Barbara, known for its palm tree-lined seashore and pristine surf, has been “closed indefinitely.” The extent of the damage is not known."

New York Times: "Islamic State militants on Thursday solidified their rout of Syrian government forces in the historic desert city of Palmyra, moving to the outskirts to seize its airport and the notorious Tadmur Prison, according to residents and statements from the group. It was the first time that the ISIS militants seized an entire city from Syrian government forces; it won control of its first major city, Raqqa, from Syrian insurgents and the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front after the two became rivals."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 22

10:00 am ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the U.S. Naval Academy commencement ceremony (audio only)

11:00 am ET: President Obama speaks at the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration

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

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the Realtor.com page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

Guardian: "Allegations that a 17-year-old was forced to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew, which prompted a crisis at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, have been removed from a federal court case by a judge in the US. Judge Kenneth Marra ordered Virginia Roberts’s accusations about Andrew, the Duke of York, to be struck from the record and denied her attempt to join a lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the prince and a convicted sex offender. 'At this juncture in the proceedings, these lurid details are unnecessary,' Marra wrote in his order, issued at the US district court in southern Florida on Tuesday morning.... Andrew and Buckingham Palace vehemently deny Roberts’s allegations."

Washington Monthly: "Today [April 7] marks the centennial of Billie Holliday’s birth."

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Monday
May182015

The Commentariat -- May 18, 2015

Today's Commentariat will be extremely abbreviated. I will try to update this afternoon. Please feel free to share your own links in the Comments section. -- Constant Weader

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama on Monday will ban the federal provision of some types of military-style equipment to local police departments and sharply restrict the availability of others, administration officials said."

Paul Krugman: "Thanks to Jeb Bush, we may finally have the frank discussion of the Iraq invasion we should have had a decade ago.... The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that. We were, in a fundamental sense, lied into war.... This was, in short, a war the White House wanted, and all of the supposed mistakes that, as Jeb puts it, 'were made' by someone unnamed actually flowed from this underlying desire.... Once again: We were lied into war."

Daniel McGraw in Politico Magazine: "The GOP is dying off. Literally.... Since the average Republican is significantly older than the average Democrat, far more Republicans than Democrats have died since the 2012 elections. To make matters worse, the GOP is attracting fewer first-time voters." ...

... Jim Fallows: "... (a) ... Fox's core viewers are factually worse-informed than people who follow other sources, and even those who don't follow news at all, and (b) ... the mode of perpetual outrage that is Fox's goal and effect has become a serious problem for the Republican party, in that it pushes its candidates to sound always-outraged themselves." This is a synopsis -- with tidbits -- of a long piece by Bruce Bartlett, which Fallows links. CW: The point that Fox "News" has contributed to the dumbing-down of the U.S. & the radicalization of confederates is worth emphasizing. Rupert & Roger-- not to mention Limbaugh, et al. -- have made the crazies crazier. Or why the FCC's long-dead Fairness Doctrine mattered. ...

... Steve M.: "It beats me how having ill-informed voters is a bad thing for the GOP if what the voters think they know keeps them voting Republican.... Fox, along with talk radio, has found a way to turn rabidly partisan politics into mass entertainment, at least for the third of the country that's conservative. Fox and talk radio keep these people thoroughly focused on politics at all times.... The conservative media keeps Republicans wanting to vote, even in off-year elections, when many of the rest of us don't bother."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Driftglass has a funny post -- unless you're a huge Glenn Greenwald fan -- titled "Glass Housing Sales Remain Brisk, Ctd."

Presidential Race

Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "Hillary Rodham Clinton is running as the most liberal Democratic presidential front-runner in decades, with positions on issues from gay marriage to immigration that would, in past elections, have put her at her party's precarious left edge. The moves are part of a strategic conclusion by Clinton's emerging campaign: that it can harness the same kind of young and diverse coalition as Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012, bolstered by even stronger appeal among women."

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "... Jeb Bush reiterated in a new interview that he doesn't believe that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. The high court is expected to rule next month on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, and court observers and justices have hinted in recent weeks that the court is likely to expand marriage rights to gay men and lesbians." ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker shows the five ways Jeb's first Iraq War answer show why he's such a lousy candidate.

... GOP Moneybags Picked "the Wrong Retread." Steve M.: "There was a moment when it looked as if both Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney would be running for president. Then, apparently, meetings were convened in the modern-day equivalent of smoke-filled rooms, and Romney decided to bow out, allowing Bush to be the graybeard choice of the party Establishment. More and more, it seems as if the party made a mistake. Mitt and Jeb are both sad emblems of an embarrassing past, but Jeb appears to be a worse campaigner than Mitt, and Jeb refuses to budge from positions that are anathema to the party base. What's more, the party's voters want a candidate who's an grudge-driven attack dog, which is why the first candidate to shoot to the top of the charts this year was Scott Walker.

Jonathan Karl of ABC News: "John Kasich is 'virtually certain' to jump into the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, sources close to the Ohio governor tell ABC News." CW: Mr. Balanced Budget should drive Krugman mad.

Beyond the Beltway

Sarah Nir of the New York Times: "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to introduce legislation subjecting New York salons to some of the strictest health regulations in the country and expanding authority to punish those that mistreat workers."

News Ledes

New York Times: "A shootout among members of several rival motorcycle gangs in a busy shopping plaza in the Central Texas city of Waco on Sunday left at least nine bikers dead and 18 others injured, creating chaos in a sprawling parking lot packed with afternoon shoppers, law enforcement officials said.... No officers, shoppers or bystanders were injured." Because permissive gun laws, a/k/a freeedom, are such a good idea. ...

... The KWXT story is here.

Reuters: "The US is talking to China about imposing further sanctions against North Korea as the reclusive country is 'not even close' to taking steps to rein in its nuclear weapons programme, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, has said."

Washington Post: "Iranian-aligned Shiite militias headed Monday into Anbar province a day after its capital Ramadi fell to Islamic State militants and as hundreds of police personnel, soldiers and tribal fighters abandoned the Iraqi city in a chaotic exit." ...

New York Times: "The last Iraqi security forces fled Ramadi on Sunday, as the city fell completely to the militants of the Islamic State, who ransacked the provincial military headquarters, seizing a large store of weapons, and killed people loyal to the government, according to security officials and tribal leaders."

Sunday
May172015

The Commentariat -- May 17, 2015

** "High-Income White Noose." New York Times Editors: "The Obama administration has proposed new fair housing enforcement rules, which should be finalized soon, that make states, cities and housing agencies more accountable for furthering fair housing. But for these rules to be meaningful, the federal government will have to restructure its own programs so that more affordable housing is built in low-poverty, high opportunity neighborhoods. Federal officials must also be willing to do what they have generally been afraid to do in the past — withhold money from communities that perpetuate housing apartheid. Given what we now know about the pervasive harm that flows from segregation, the country needs to get on with this crucial mission." The editorial provides an excellent synopsis of historical non-enforcement of the Fair Housing Act.

Helena Evich of Politico: "The Obama administration is expected to all but ban trans fat in a final ruling that could drop as soon as next week, killing most uses of an ingredient that has been put in everything from frozen pizza to Reese’s Pieces but since deemed harmful to human health. The agency may create some very limited exemptions, but the ruling could force food companies to cut trans fat use beyond the 85 percent reduction already achieved over the past decade — a key piece of the Obama administration’s broader agenda to nudge Americans toward a healthier diet." ...

... digby: "If you think Iran or immigration pisses off the right, get ready. This is likely to make them completely lose their shit.

Katharine Seelye, et al., of the New York Times: "To the amazement of people elsewhere, Bostonians overwhelmingly opposed condemning the bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, to death.... No one here felt sympathy for him. Rather, many thought life in prison would be a fate worse than death, especially for someone as young as Mr. Tsarnaev, who is 21. Others feared that putting him to death would make him a martyr. Still others, interviewed around the city Friday night and Saturday, reflected the region’s historical aversion to the death penalty."

Karen DeYoung & Missy Ryan of the Washington Post: "U.S. Special Operations forces staged an overnight ground raid in Syria early Saturday, killing what the Obama administration said was a senior Islamic State official and capturing his wife.... In what a U.S. Defense official described as 'close-quarters combat' against militants using women and children as human shields, about a dozen militants were killed. They included the target of what was originally designed as a capture operation, identified by the White House and the Pentagon as Abu Sayyaf, a Tunisian.... [U.S.] Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said that no U.S. forces were killed or injured during the operation. No civilians were reported injured."

David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: Egypt's "the death sentence against [former President Mohamed] Morsi will not weaken the Islamists but only radicalize them further." CW: Why this wasn't obvious to the Egyptian court is beyond me.

God News

Nicole Winfield of the AP: "Pope Francis canonized two nuns from what was 19th century Palestine on Sunday in hopes of encouraging Christians across the Middle East who are facing a wave of persecution from Islamic extremists. Sisters Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas were among four sisters who were made saints Sunday at a Mass in a sun-soaked St. Peter’s Square. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and an estimated 2,000 pilgrims from the region, some waving Palestinian flags, were on hand for the canonization of the first saints from the Holy Land since the early years of Christianity." ...

... Contributors to Juan Cole's site Informed Comment add background.

David McCabe of the Hill: "Former President George W. Bush offered a defense of religious liberty and faith more broadly while speaking at Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) commencement ceremony Saturday.... 'It is essential to this nation’s future that we remember that the freedom to worship who we want, and how we want — or not to worship at all — is a core belief of our founding'.... He said it was his first commencement speech since leaving office. Bush has deep ties to SMU. His wife Laura graduated from the school in 1968, and the university is the site of George W. Bush’s presidential library.”

James Tayler, in Salon, is mighty upset with President Obama for his National Day of Prayer proclamation.

Annals of Journalism, Ctd.

Josh Gerstein, et al., of Politico: "NBC Universal, News Corporation, Turner Broadcasting and Thomson Reuters are among more than a dozen media organizations that have made charitable contributions to the Clinton Foundation in recent years, the foundation's records show. The donations, which range from the low-thousands to the millions, provide a picture of the media industry's ties to the Clinton Foundation at a time when one of its most notable personalities, George Stephanopoulos, is under scrutiny for not disclosing his own $75,000 contribution when reporting on the foundation." CW: More indications that confederates should get over their Stephanopoulos freakout.

Presidential Race

David Greenberg in a Washington Post op-ed: "Candidates of the left, right and center have something in common: They all want to be seen as populists.... Yet these aren’t modern versions of William Jennings Bryan, fiery crusaders jousting on the campaign trail.... All the candidates have taken what was once a very specific ideology and extracted their favorite parts, selectively interpreting the vision and generally bowdlerizing it."

Jonathan Allen of Vox: "Hillary Clinton [is] having her pockets lined by the very people who seek to influence her. Not in some metaphorical sense. She's literally being paid by them." Allen finds a quid pro quo in Corning, Inc.'s donations to the Clinton Foundation & in a $225,500 honorarium to Clinton herself. ...

... Ashley Parker &

First, Fire All the Scientists." Benjamin Elgin of Bloomberg: "Oil tycoon Harold Hamm told a University of Oklahoma dean last year that he wanted certain scientists there dismissed who were studying links between oil and gas activity and the state's nearly 400-fold increase in earthquakes, according to the dean's e-mail recounting the conversation. Hamm, the billionaire founder and chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources, is a major donor to the university, which is the home of the Oklahoma Geological Survey. He has vigorously disputed the notion that he tried to pressure the survey's scientists.... Yet an e-mail obtained from the university by Bloomberg News via a public records request says Hamm used a blunt approach during a 90-minute meeting last year with the dean whose department includes the geological survey. 'Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed,' wrote Larry Grillot, the dean of the university's Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, in a July 16, 2014, e-mail to colleagues at the university." Elgin reproduces the e-mail from Grillot.

Friday
May152015

The Commentariat -- May 16, 2015

Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: "In a sweeping rejection of the defense case, a federal jury on Friday condemned Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings."

Dave Philipps & Emma Fitzsimmons of the New York Times: "An assistant conductor on the Amtrak train that derailed on Tuesday believes she heard the engineer tell another regional train operator in a radio transmission that the train had been struck by something just before the accident, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. At a news conference on Friday, Robert L. Sumwalt, the safety board official who is leading the investigation, said that investigators had found damage to the left side of a portion of the windshield and that they had called on the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look at it. The F.B.I. was called in because it has experience with the forensics expertise needed for the investigation, officials said, but it has not yet begun its analysis."

Martin Matishak & Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "Defying a veto threat from President Obama, the House on Friday passed a $612 billion defense bill in a 269-151 vote. All but eight Republicans voted in favor, along with 41 Democrats who went against Obama's veto threat and their party leaders, who whipped against it. Obama has threatened to veto the bill over its circumvention of spending caps."

Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) said Thursday that he does not support an idea backed by Senate Republican leadership to temporarily extend ObamaCare subsidies if the Supreme Court cripples the law.... On Wednesday, he reintroduced his Empowering Patients First Act, a plan he has also put forward in previous sessions of Congress. The bill would repeal ObamaCare and replace it with refundable, age-adjusted tax credits for buying insurance. It would give grants for high-risk pools as an insurance option for people with pre-existing conditions." CW: It's unfortunately that Sullivan doesn't mention that Price's "plan" is a crock. ...

... Greg Sargent: "... in a way, it's good to have a fleshed out GOP alternative, because it helps clarify the differences between the parties on health reform. GOP reforms would likely translate into lower-quality plans and a coverage expansion that would benefit fewer people. But that would be the tradeoff Republicans would make to achieve their goal of less government spending and interference in the market than that which occurs under Obamacare. The rub is that if somehow we did switch from Obamacare to the Price alternative, there would be vast disruptions.... Of course, even if the Court does gut subsidies, the Price alternative isn't going to happen. Even if Republicans could unite behind the Price plan, or some other alternative, Obama would veto it, and try to pressure Republicans -- in Congress and the states -- to implement a simple subsidy fix." ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos agrees with Sargent, but she's much snarkier. CW: Which I find totally appropriate.

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: Sen. Elizabeth "Warren may be a convenient foil for [President] Obama, but the path forward on the proposed trade bill, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, has been forged largely by the Democrats' legislative policy brains: Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senator Patty Murray of Washington. The opposition to an agenda that many Democrats and labor groups believe will cost American jobs has been led by Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Chuck Schumer of New York and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Yet away from the Capitol, it is all Elizabeth Warren." ...

... Matt Taibbi has a theory about what Obama is up to: President Obama, in attacking Warren, is purposely "triangulating": "beating up on the ideologues within [his] own party in order to shore up [his] centrist cred and reassure [the Democratic party's] money sources.... Along with a Democratic Party that would love one last chance to prove itself to Wall Street heading into 2016, Obama badly wants this deal passed, perhaps as a way to steer his legacy in a more bipartisan direction.... The part that's really irritating is that the same politicians who whine every chance they get about being unfairly painted as Marxists on Fox and Clear Channel are now cleverly using the animus generated by those news outlets against the Elizabeth Warrens of the world as shortcuts to political gain.... This goes back to Clinton, Al From, Dick Morris, the DLC days."

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama on Friday saluted fallen officers as heroes and called for renewed efforts to support law enforcement, emphasizing the perils and challenges faced by the police as national attention is focused on the tensions between them and many African-American communities":

** Paul Waldman on the myth that 'faulty intelligence' caused the Iraq War. "Today, Republicans act as though the intelligence community burst into the Oval Office and said, 'Mr. President, Mr. President, Iraq is a terrible threat, and if we don't invade we're doomed!' and then [George W.] Bush said, 'Gee, if you say so, I guess we'd better.' But it worked the other way around. Taking out Saddam Hussein was a priority for many of the senior people in the administration from the moment they took office, and after September 11 it was amped up into a public campaign that can go by no other name but propaganda." ...

'Faulty intelligence' didn't produce the deaths of 4,000 American servicemembers and a couple of hundred thousand Iraqi civilians. Faulty intelligence didn't strengthen Iran's position in the region, lead to an exponential increase in anti-Americanism, and give rise to ISIS. It was the delusions, deceptions, and hubris of the Bush administration and its supporters. They got exactly the intelligence they demanded, and used it to ends they had decided on long before.

Missy Ryan of the Washington Post: "Republican lawmakers have accused former Guantanamo Bay detainees of taking part in militant activity following their release in a swap for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a year ago, and have warned President Obama against allowing the lapse of security restrictions on them. In a letter sent this week to the White House, all Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee urged Obama to ensure that Qatar does not permit the five former Taliban officials to leave the tiny gulf nation when their one-year travel ban expires on May 31. They have been living under government supervision there for the last year."

Chris Mooney of the Washington Post: "It has been a really bad week for the ice shelves of the quickly warming Antarctic peninsula.... The loss of oceanic ice shelves does not directly increase sea level, because these shelves are already immersed in the water. But their collapse speeds the seaward flow of glaciers held behind them. And when ice leaves land and enters water, that's when seas rise."

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post: "More than 60 Asian-American organizations filed a complaint ... with the federal government on Friday alleging that Harvard University discriminates against Asian-American students in the admissions process and calling for an investigation. The Harvard Crimson, a student newspaper on campus, wrote in this story that 64 groups filed the complaint with the U.S. Education and Justice departments, arguing that the university makes an 'unlawful use of race' in its decisions that hurts Asian Americans."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. The headline writer at TPM writes the most laughable headline of the year: "Judith Miller And James O'Keefe Discuss Ethics In Journalism." ...

... Steve M. elaborates in a post titled "Wow ... Just Wow."

Presidential Race

Maggie Haberman & Steve Eder of the New York Times: "Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband made at least $30 million over the last 16 months, mainly from giving paid speeches to corporations, banks and other organizations, according to financial disclosure forms filed with federal elections officials on Friday.... The disclosure forms ... show that even as his wife has begun her pursuit of the presidency, Mr. Clinton has shown no signs of slowing down." ...

... CW: Because he's gotta pay their bills.

Gail Collins surveys the GOP field. And longs for George Pataki for Veep 2000. CW: Here's a "hypothetical" for you, Jebbie: if your dimwitted brother had selected Pataki as his running mate in 2000, would there have been an Iraq War?

Dana Milbank: Jeb Bush "managed over an extraordinary 72 hours to demonstrate that he is not anything like his older brother, the former president. He showed himself to be indecisive, uncertain where he stands, afraid of his shadow and nakedly calculating.... Answering a question is not a disservice to American heroes who died in Iraq doing what they were ordered to do. Failing to take a stand is a disservice to American voters, who deserve stronger leaders." Bush's equivocation "undermines the very logic of his candidacy. Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, is congenitally cautious, and her campaign goes to great lengths to keep her from saying much of anything to anybody."

Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Sen. Marco Rubio's problem isn't just that his remark this week that he would not have ordered the 2003 invasion of Iraq given the benefit of hindsight seemed at odds with his comments in March that the Iraq war was not a mistake. The broader question confronting Rubio (R-Fla.) is whether his shifting positions -- on this issue, and others -- will hurt his chances of winning the Republican nomination for president."

Christy Hoppe of the Dallas Morning News: "Former Gov. Rick Perry has chosen Dallas to officially declare his second run for the Republican presidential nomination in three weeks." ...

... Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune in the Washington Post: "Unlike when he entered the 2012 race, Perry would be a decisive underdog in the 2016 contest. He has been polling in the low single digits in the early-voting states and still faces an indictment in Travis County on abuse-of-power charges. But he has been working to be more prepared for a presidential campaign than he was in 2011, brushing up on policy and spending more time in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina than most other potential candidates." ...

... CW: Hey, y'all. If things work out as they did in 2012, Perry can run for president of Texas.

News Ledes

Al Jazeera: "An Egypt court has sentenced former President Mohamed Morsi to death for a mass prison break in 2011. The court ruled on Saturday that the sentencing of Morsi and 105 others will be referred to the Grand Mufti, the highest religious authority in Egypt, for confirmation. Many of those sentenced were tried in absentia, including Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Islamic scholar based in Qatar. The court will pronounce its final decision on June 2."

NBC News: "A Proton-M carrier rocket carrying a Mexican satellite malfunctioned and crashed in Siberia soon after launch on Saturday, the latest in a series of mishaps for Russia's space industry."

New York Times: "F. A. O. Schwarz, the legendary toy store on Fifth Avenue, will close its doors July 15, a victim of rising rents and ultraluxury retailing in New York City's hottest shopping district. New Yorkers will have to make do with the F. A. O. boutiques inside Toys 'R' Us stores or with online shopping. But F. A. O. Schwarz, which has been a fixture in New York City for 145 years and a character in the 1988 Tom Hanks film 'Big,' is actively scouring Manhattan for a new, less costly location."

Thursday
May142015

The Commentariat -- May 15, 2015

Juliet Eilperin & Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "The United States Thursday reaffirmed its 'unequivocal' commitment to use 'all elements of power' to secure U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf and to protect partner nations in the region against any external aggression. In a rare visit to his presidential retreat, President Obama met with top officials from six gulf states in hopes of easing tensions that have developed between America and some of its longtime allies in the wake of a tentative nuclear deal with Iran, seen as a disruptive force in the region. At the end of the meetings, Obama made clear that he would not sacrifice the chance for a historic diplomatic opening in Iran or delve deeper into to Syrian conflict in order to assuage the anxieties of gulf leaders." ...

... Julie Davis & David Sanger of the New York Times: "President Obama on Thursday offered Saudi Arabia and smaller Arab states new support to defend against potential missile strikes, maritime threats and cyberattacks from Iran, calling his commitment to their security 'ironclad' in an effort to allay fears that a nuclear accord will empower Tehran, their main rival in the Middle East. But in a daylong meeting here, Mr. Obama stopped short of offering a formal defense pact that would obligate the United States to come to the nations' aid if they were attacked." ...

... Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "Barack Obama has secured support from Gulf leaders for his attempt to reach a nuclear deal with Iran as a summit outside Washington concluded on Thursday with the first glimpses of possible rapprochement on an issue that has alarmed many US allies in the region."

Seung Min Kim & Kate Tummarello of Politico: "Crucial parts of the PATRIOT Act, including a provision authorizing the government's controversial bulk collection of American phone records, first revealed by Edward Snowden, are due to lapse May 31. That means Congress has barely a week to figure out a fix before before lawmakers leave town for Memorial Day recess at the end of the next week. The prospects of a deal look grim...." Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) & Rand Paul (R-Ky.) "have threatened to filibuster any attempt to prolong the bulk collection program." ...

... Greg Sargent: "A bipartisan talking filibuster is being considered by both Senators, aides to Paul and Wyden tell me.... If that happens, it would be a real rarity, at least in our current era." ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "If this is a forever war, can a democracy wage it in secret? Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, suggested that it could not.... [Fourteen] years into the open-ended war there is no consensus on whether or where to redraw the line."

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Two days after Democratic senators blocked it, the Senate voted on Thursday to take up legislation that would grant the president negotiating freedom to complete an expansive trade accord with 11 nations on the Pacific Rim, setting off a contentious congressional debate on one of President Obama's top priorities for his remaining time in office. While the motion to consider the legislation passed 65-33, that belied how hard the coming weeks will be for the White House. Most Democrats, including the top three Democratic leaders in the Senate, voted against even opening debate to give Mr. Obama so-called trade promotion authority."

** "The Plot Against Trains." Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker: "... the will to abandon the public way is not some failure of understanding, or some nearsighted omission by shortsighted politicians. It is part of a coherent ideological project.... What we have, uniquely in America, is a political class, and an entire political party, devoted to the idea that any money spent on public goods is money misplaced..., because ... no ultimate good can be found in the state." ...

... Michael Shear & Jay Moauwad of the New York Times: "The Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night was equipped with an automatic speed control system that officials say could have prevented the wreck.... But the system, which was tantalizingly close to being operational, was delayed by budgetary shortfalls, technical hurdles and bureaucratic rules, officials said Thursday. In 2008, Congress ordered the installation of what are known as positive train control systems, which can detect an out-of-control, speeding train and automatically slow it down. But because lawmakers failed to provide the railroads access to the wireless frequencies required to make the system work, Amtrak was forced to negotiate for airwaves owned by private companies that are often used in mobile broadband." ...

... Arturo Garcia of the Raw Story: "Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell was visibly angry at House Republicans during an MSNBC interview on Wednesday, nearly cursing on-air about the GOP's plan to cut $252 million in Amtrak funding hours after a train derailment that killed seven people and injured more than 50 others. 'Those SOBs, and that's all I can call them, these SOBs didn't even have the decency to table the vote,' Rendell told host Chris Hayes...." With video. Read the whole story. ...

... Michael Ruane, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Amtrak train that derailed Tuesday sped up from 70 mph to more than 100 mph in less than a minute before derailing, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday. There was no explanation for that acceleration, but the train's engineer has agreed to be interviewed by federal investigators." ...

... Jaime Fuller of New York: "All 238 passengers on the Amtrak train that crashed outside of Philadelphia on Tuesday have been accounted for, according to Mayor Michael Nutter. An eight victim was found by a cadaver dog this morning, and eight passengers being treated in hospitals are in critical condition, although all are expected to recover fully. More than 40 people are still being treated in nearby hospitals." ...

... Amel Ahmed of Al Jazeera: "The victims of Tuesday's tragic railway derailment in Philadelphia may find themselves twice victimized when they attempt to recover damages from Amtrak, thanks to a 1997 law that caps damages to all passengers injured in a major railway accident to $200 million. The Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act (ARAA), passed to save the railway from bankruptcy, was lauded by then-President Bill Clinton as the 'most comprehensive restructuring of Amtrak since the early 1980s.'"

Linda Greenhouse speculates on how a Supreme Court decision on marriage may affect fundamentalist Christian crusaders. CW BTW: It troubles me the way Greenhouse & others imply that "Christians" are anti-gay. Some prominent Christian denominations, e.g., Episcopalian & United Church of Christ, have long supported gay rights, & others have come around.

Annals of Journalism, Ctd.

Jeremy Peters & John Koblin of the New York Times: "George Stephanopoulos, the chief anchor of ABC News, said Thursday he would not be involved in moderating a Republican presidential debate after he acknowledged an 'uncharacteristic lapse' by donating money to the Clinton Foundation in recent years. The nature of the disclosure of the donations, made only after news outlets began asking questions, combined with his longstanding ties as a former aide to President Bill Clinton, raised questions that could jeopardize Mr. Stephanopoulos' future as a top-draw interviewer and debate moderator." ...

... John Nolte of Breitbart "News": "This is a bombshell of a black eye for ABC News.... Reporting on and defending the Clinton Foundation in front of the whole world without disclosing your $50,000 donation to that very same foundation is a cover up, a four alarm scandal." ...

... Oh, the Horror! Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "How big a deal is this? Large: Stephanopoulos IS ABC News.... A donation from Stephanopoulos to the Clinton Foundation in any amount constitutes a scandal and an immediate crisis for ABC News." ...

... Catherine Thompson of TPM: "After Stephanopoulos interviewed Peter Schweizer last month on 'This Week,' he was criticized for not disclosing either his former employ with the Clintons or, later, his donations to the foundation. Schweizer is the conservative author of 'Clinton Cash,' a book billed as an expose of the former first family's corrupt connections to foreign donors. Schweizer told Bloomberg Politics in an email Thursday that he was 'stunned' by what he saw as Stephanopoulos' 'massive breach of ethical standards.' 'He fairly noted my four months working as a speech writer for George W. Bush,' Schweizer told the news outlet. 'But he didn't disclose this?'" ...

     ... CW: While Schweizer's "stunned" response is over the top, he does have a point. However, anybody who watches "This Week" is aware of Stephanopoulos's history with the Clintons. (Sure, many younger voters may not know his Clinton connection, but they don't watch the Sunday shows anyway.) ...

... "So What?" Jonathan Chait: "... donating money to a charitable foundation is not an interest.... If Stephanopoulos needed some angle to get in the room with the Clintons, donating to their foundation would not be the way to do it.... Stephanopoulos's defense -- that he just wanted to donate to the Foundation's work on AIDS prevention and deforestation -- seems 100 percent persuasive. He is the victim of the ethical taint of the Clintons' poorly handled business dealings, combined with an underlying right-wing suspicion of the liberal media, but what his critics have yet to produce is a coherent case against him." CW: I'm with Chait on this, & I'm no big fan of Stephanopoulos. ...

... Steve M.: News Corp. Foundation, the charitable arm of Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate, gave at least $500K to the Clinton Foundation. "Know who gave more than $1 million (and possibly as much as $5 million) to the Clinton Foundation? HOW CAN NEWSMAX OBJECTIVELY COVER THE 2016 ELECTION?????" CW: So it seems, under the strictures applied to Stephanopoulos that Fox "News" & the Wall Street Journal should be barred from covering the presidential election, too, unless Hillary Clinton drops out or loses the primary race.

Charles Blow: "This week, during a panel discussion on poverty at Georgetown University, President Obama lambasted the media, and in particular Fox News, for creating false, destructive narratives about the poor that paint them broadly as indolent and pathological.... Obama was right to call out the media's poverty narratives. There are people across the income spectrum who are lazy and addicted and want something for nothing. But it's unfair and untenable to pretend this is the sole purview of the poor. ...

... Jonathan Chait: "Fox News is angry that Obama knows what's on Fox News."

God News, Friday Edition

New York Times Editors: "The practical effect of the Vatican's decision to sign a treaty recognizing the state of Palestine is debatable, but it is a symbolic victory for Palestinians who are struggling to keep alive their dream of a Palestinian state, which has been thwarted by the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu." ...

... Rachel Bade of Politico: "Several House conservatives seemed exasperated that Francis, who will address Congress this fall, approved the Vatican's recognition of Palestine as a state. On Wednesday, critics said Rome needs to leave the question of Palestinian statehood to be sorted out in the Middle East."

Tim Egan: "Last year, [Pope Francis] was asked about his secret to happiness. He said slow down. Take time off. Live and let live. Don't proselytize. Work for peace. Work at a job that offers basic human dignity. Don't hold on to negative feelings. Move calmly through life. Enjoy art, books and playfulness."

Presidential Race

David Knowles of Bloomberg: After calling for the repeal of the Affordable Healthcare Act during a Thursday stop at a brewery in Tempe, Ariz., [richy-rich Jeb] Bush touted the potential of the health apps on his new Apple Watch.... Bush did not specifically promise free Apple Watches for every man woman and child in the country if he is elected president, however." ...

... Steve M. is excited to learn that Jeb may have a product right there on his wrist which can help that South Carolina Republican guy who purposely didn't buy ObamaCare & needs eye surgery: "Hey Jeb, got any apps on that watch that can reattach a retina and do a significant amount of follow-up care?"

Jesse Berney of Blue Nation Review: "It's good and OK for people who can afford them to purchase luxury consumer goods.... But it's another thing for those people to run for president and suggest we repeal a law that gave millions affordable health care coverage and tell people to buy Apple Watches instead." ...

... Kate Knibbs of Gizmodo: "No word on whether Bush realizes that suggesting someone replace health insurance with an overpriced, overhyped fitness band is the dumbest fucking idea anyone's ever had." ...

Sara Murray & Maeve Reston of CNN: "Jeb Bush again changes his Iraq answer.... In his clearest declaration yet on his feelings about his brother's invasion of Iraq, the former Florida governor said Thursday that 'knowing what we know now, ...I would not have engaged.' 'I would not have gone into Iraq,' he said. The comments marked the fifth time this week that Bush sought to explain his position on Iraq." ...

... CW: It's worth repeating yesterday's comment by Barbarossa, a veteran: "I already can't stand Jeb, but that crack about those killed in action makes me want to throw up. An obvious question: Why were they killed in action? Could it be because of a war started under false pretense? This guy is fucking dangerous." (Bush said any question about "hypotheticals ... does a disservice" to service members killed in action.) ...

... "Reign of Error." Paul Krugman takes up where Barbarossa left off: "Take a moment to savor the cowardice and vileness of that last remark. And, no, that's not hyperbole. Mr. Bush is trying to hide behind the troops, pretending that any criticism of political leaders -- especially, of course, his brother, the commander in chief -- is an attack on the courage and patriotism of those who paid the price for their superiors' mistakes. That's sinking very low, and it tells us a lot more about the candidate's character than any number of up-close-and-personal interviews. Wait, there's more: Incredibly, Mr. Bush resorted to the old passive-voice dodge, admitting only that 'mistakes were made.' Indeed. By whom? Well, earlier this year Mr. Bush released a list of his chief advisers on foreign policy, and it was a who's-who of mistake-makers, people who played essential roles in the Iraq disaster and other debacles.... My best explanation is that we're witnessing the effects of extreme tribalism. On the modern right, everything is a political litmus test.... It's kind of a fraternity of failure: men and women united by a shared history of getting everything wrong, and refusing to admit it." ...

... Charles Pierce: "It has been quite a week for The Sunshine Boys, Marco Rubio and Jeb (!), the two Florida Men contesting for the Republican presidential nomination. Rubio is still riding high, playing the entire neocon chorus so impeccably at the Council on Foreign Relations that Jen Rubin went into full swoon.... What the foreign policy debate in the Republican primaries is likely to be is an ongoing attempt to salvage the neocon foreign policy ideas from the incredible shitshow that occurred when they were put into practice in 2002." ...

Gene Robinson: In the GOP race, we are left with "a top tier of Bush, who can't get out of his own way; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who seems to be fading; and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the flavor of the month, who hopes to win by propounding a robust, interventionist, Bush-like foreign policy, but without the whole Iraq part. GOP to Hillary Clinton: Have a nice summer." ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM: "If Republicans running as hawks say [the Iraq War] was a mistake, then the debate is really over. And it won't end there. Because with a consensus in place that the Iraq War was a bad idea, the whys and hows of just how we made this decision are up for discussion in a very new way."

Where in the World Is Scott Walker? Ben Schreckinger of Politico (May 12): "The Wisconsin governor, the current Republican front-runner in some early voting state polls, is in Israel until Thursday, but he isn't taking questions. Stung by his own past gaffes and those of other Republican presidential hopefuls abroad, Walker has locked the media out of his Israel trip, moving to burnish his foreign policy credentials without actually talking about foreign policy.... Ahead of the trip, Walker described it as a 'listening tour' and told reporters, 'It's an educational trip. It's not a photo op.' But there Walker was on Monday, greeting people at the Western Wall in a photo posted to his Twitter account." ...

... CW: Walker is probably over there giving Pope Francis high-fives for the Vatican's recognition of Palestine. Oh, or maybe not. Maybe just glad he didn't have to answer the Iraq War question. Also, I'll chip in $5 if Wisconsin taxpayers will treat Walker to an extended "educational trip" to Siberia.

Matea Gold & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "Hillary Clinton told a group of her top fundraisers Thursday that if she is elected president, her nominees to the Supreme Court will have to share her belief that the court's 2010 Citizens United decision must be overturned, according to people who heard her remarks.... She avoided taking a position on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord, saying she first wants to see what comes out of Congress."

Beyond the Beltway

Brendan Farrington of the AP: Florida "Gov. Rick Scott told agency heads to prepare for the worst Thursday, asking them to list only the state's most critical needs in the event the Legislature can't reach an agreement on a budget that doesn't expand health care to the poor.... In writing the letter, Scott is further digging in his heels in his refusal to expand health care coverage to 800,000 Floridians, a move that could cost the state more than $1 billion in federal money to help hospitals treat the poor, which is called the low-income pool." CW: It's great that Farrington fingered Scott for his motives. At least some reporters are now bold enough to tell the truth.

Al Jazeera & Reuters: "Duke Energy Corporation pleaded guilty Thursday to environmental crimes over a North Carolina power plant's coal ash spill into a river and management of coal ash basins in the state, U.S. prosecutors said. Duke, the country's largest energy company, pleaded guilty to nine violations of the Clean Water Act and agreed to pay $102 million in fines, including $68 million in criminal fines and $34 million that will go toward environmental projects and land conservation. The plea entered in federal court in Greenville, North Carolina was expected as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice announced in February."

Colin Campbell of the Baltimore Sun: "Two Baltimore correctional officers were charged Wednesday with looting a downtown convenience store during unrest last month over the death of Freddie Gray, officials said. Tamika Cobb and Kendra Richard were caught on video taking merchandise from the 7-Eleven on the corner of W. Baltimore and Howard streets on April 25, the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said."

Way Beyond

William Booth of the Washington Post: "As Europe struggles to stem a spring flood of migrants from Africa and the Middle East trying to cross a deadly Mediterranean Sea, Israel has begun to toughen its stance toward refugees, telling unwanted Africans here they must leave now or face an indefinite stay in prison.... Israeli leaders have proclaimed that their tough approach -- building a fence along its border, denying work permits for illegal migrants, forcing them into a detention center in the desert -- may ultimately save lives by dissuading migrants from attempting a perilous journey. Critics of the Israeli policy counter that a country built by refugees should be more accepting of those fleeing war, poverty and oppression."

News Ledes

New York Times: "In a major setback for the Iraqi government's efforts to defend its hold on Ramadi, a critical regional capital, Islamic State militants conquered the city's government sector on Friday, raising their black flag over the main compound before setting fire to it, local officials said."

New York Times: "B. B. King, whose world-weary voice and wailing guitar lifted him from the cotton fields of Mississippi to a global stage and the apex of American blues, died Thursday in Las Vegas. He was 89." ...