The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

Vanity Fair: "... Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times chief book reviewer and Pulitzer Prize winner, who has been, by a wide margin, the most powerful book critic in the English-speaking world, is stepping down.... Kakutani said that she could neither confirm nor comment. But sources familiar with her decision, which comes a year after the Times restructured its books coverage, told me that last year’s election had triggered a desire to branch out and write more essays about culture and politics in Trump’s America." -- CW 

... Washington Post: "... investigators believe they have discovered the 'smoking gun' that would support a decades-old theory that [Amelia] Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.... Gary Tarpinian,  executive producer of the History documentary, told the Today show that they believe the Koshu, the Japanese merchant ship in the photo, took Earhart to Saipan, where she died in Japanese custody." -- CW 

Summer Beach Reading. James Hohmann of the Washington Post suggests Al Franken's Giant of the Senate. Hohmann's column hits some of the highlights. CW: Let us be thankful that Donald Trump is incapable of learning the lessons Franken learned from his team. If Trump were half as bright as Franken, he would be a succesful president & very effective dictator.

Politico: "MSNBC has parted ways with anchor Greta Van Susteren after just six months on air, as her show failed to live up to the network's ratings expectations. An MSNBC executive said the decision to remove the former Fox News host was purely for business reasons, based on ratings." -- CW 

Click on the picture to see larger image.... Low Society News. AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress" CW: which, if you follow Reality Chex, you will know was enhanced by some really costly baubles that remind the bride of Grace Kelly or happy times or something.

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco." -- CW ...

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers." -- CW 

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends." -- CW

Washington Post: "Two months before Monday’s [May 8] announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations.In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that 'some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.' He accuses the national media of publishing 'fake news stories' — a direct echo of President Trump’s frequent complaint — and then asks viewers to visit the station’s website to share 'content concerns.' The piece was a 'must-run,' meaning news directors and station managers from Baltimore to Seattle had to find room for it.... While partisan coverage is a familiar staple of cable networks — Fox News on the right, MSNBC on the left — it remains mostly unheard of in broadcast TV, where it has generally been accepted that public airwaves should be used in the difficult-to-define public interest.” -- CW 

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Saturday
Jun272015

The Commentariat -- June 27, 2015

The White House, last night.... Steven Mufson of the Washington Post: "On Friday morning, President Obama stood in the Rose Garden exalting the 'thunderbolt' of justice that had come from the Supreme Court, which guaranteed the right of marriage to gay and lesbian couples after many spent decades in often lonely, perilous activism. About five hours later, leaning into the microphone at the memorial for the late South Carolina state senator and pastor Clementa Pinckney, Obama sang alone the opening lines of 'Amazing Grace,' before a crowd of nearly 6,000 rose to its feet to join him in an extraordinary ending to a eulogy that lamented racial hatred but drew on what Obama called the grace of God to predict its eventual defeat. Rarely has a single day so completely encapsulated the emotional peaks and troughs of the presidency of Barack Obama." ...

... ** David Remnick of the New Yorker: "Ten days in June." ...

... David Love of the Grio: "With victories for Obamacare, the Fair Housing Act and marriage equality in the U.S. Supreme Court, it was a tremendous week for the commander in chief. And yet, in the midst of tragedy and soul searching -- forced to grapple with its centuries' old curse of slavery and a virulent symbol of racial oppression in the form of the Confederate flag -- South Carolina may have had its finest hour when President Obama honored the fallen Rev. Pinckney. If you have not viewed the eulogy, please do so, for it was a proud time to be black, and to be American. Never in recent history, or in any part of history for that matter, have we witnessed a president say what Barack Obama said that day." ...

... As several commenters also mentioned yesterday, you'll want to watch this, right to the end:

Photo via Ferguson Action.Some Kind of Hero. AP: "The Confederate flag has been temporarily removed from in front of the South Carolina Statehouse. An unidentified black woman was about halfway up the more than 30-foot steel flagpole just after dawn Saturday when State Capitol police told her to come down. Instead, she continued up and removed the flag before returning to the ground. The woman and another man who had entered the wrought-iron fence surrounding the flag were arrested." ...

... Dion Rabouin of International Business Times: "The woman, who has not been named by local authorities, was identified on social media as Brittany 'Bree' Newsome, an activist from North Carolina. Her actions inspired the hashtag #keepitdown, which was a one of the top trending topics in the United States on Twitter Saturday. Later in the day the hashtag #FreeBree was also trending in the United States.... Newsome is an activist and graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts." ...

... According to Ferguson Action, Newsome took down the flag "in time for the funerals." More photos & video at the linked Twitter page. ...

... Alan Yuhas of the Guardian: "A woman identified by a protest organizer as Bree Newsome, a 30-year-old youth organizer from Charlotte, North Carolina, climbed the flagpole before 6am [Saturday] and took down the controversial emblem of the antebellum, slaveholding south, with the assistance of another activist."

Gail Collins: "The Roberts Supreme Court is on a roll. Gay marriage, national health care and a surprising vote of support for the Fair Housing Act, all in a couple of days. Great job, guys! We are totally over the fact that you destroyed the nation's campaign finance laws, limited workers' rights to challenge wage discrimination and women's rights to control their bodies. And basically disemboweled a 50-year-old Voting Rights Act that Congress had renewed by increasingly large margins on four different occasions."

Paul Lewis of the Guardian: "Justice Samuel Alito said the ruling could leave the country suffering from 'bitter and lasting wounds' in a dissenting opinion that veered away from legal argument, and head-first into political and cultural commentary. 'I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers and schools,' he wrote. 'By imposing its own views on the entire country, the majority facilitates the marginalization of the many Americans who have traditional ideas.' The stark warning from Alito stood apart from the opinions of the three other dissenting judges, who mostly avoided discussing the merits of gay marriage itself, opting for more legalistic complaints about what they believe should have been the limits of judicial power." ...

... Rick Hasen: "In his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges CJ Roberts writes: 'Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.' That seems quite unlikely. Think of Loving v. Va, striking down bans on interracial marriage, and laws barring de jure discrimination generally. This has not led to more discrimination. It has led to less. By the next generation, same sex marriage will be no big deal for almost everyone in the country. Legality brings normalization, not the other way around." ...

... Cass Sustein in Bloomberg: "Contrary to appearances, the court usually pays attention to an actual or emerging moral consensus, certainly with respect to fundamental rights. It follows public opinion; it does not lead it. When Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the Constitution protects 'the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning,' he didn't mean the justices consult philosophical texts or make things up. He meant to refer instead to an emphatically social process, in which the justices learn from their fellow citizens."

This Supreme Court decision overturns the will of the people of Louisiana, and it takes away a right that should have been left to the states.... There is not yet a legal requirement for officials to issue marriage licenses or perform marriages for same-sex couples in Louisiana. -- Louisiana Attorney General James D. "Buddy" Caldwell (R)

... David Fahrenthold, et al., of the Washington Post: "When Friday began, there were 14 states where same-sex couples still could not legally marry. By the afternoon -- after a confusing day of orders and counter-orders by governors, attorneys general and county clerks -- couples had married in all of them but one.... Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) ... criticized the justices' decision but said his state will comply with it once an appeals court officially gives the order.... Mississippi ... blocked almost all same-sex marriages, saying it needed a lower court's permission to proceed. A few same-sex couples in Mississippi did get married in the window between the Supreme Court's ruling and the state's order to stop.... In Alabama, two officials announced ... they said they would no longer issue marriage licenses to anyone, gay or straight, ever again.... And then there was Texas, where confusion reigned." ...

... CW: Turns out all this confederate consternation, these calls to abandon or amend the Constitution (see Presidential Race below) & incidences of official civil disobedience are nothing compared to left-wing radicalism:

We see a French Revolution-like tendency to move with the speed of light from a reasonable and perhaps overdue change (taking down the Confederate flag over state buildings) to an all-out determination to expunge from our history any recognition or respect for that which doesn't fully comport with contemporary progressive sentiment. -- Bill Kristol, via Steve M.

I am just now constructing a guilliotine out of scrap wood. Wanted: spare blade. -- Constant Weader

Laurel Raymond of Think Progress: "Instead of the classic 'Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough,' Ben & Jerry's consumers this summer can enjoy spoonfuls of equality by choosing 'I Dough, I Dough.' The flavor was renamed by the company on Friday in celebration of the Supreme Court's historic ruling legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States."

Pete Souza, White House photographer: "The President was in the middle of his daily briefing on Thursday when Brian Mosteller, the director of Oval Office operations, abruptly opened the door at 10:10AM.... Brian told the President that, in a 6-3 decision, the Court upheld a critical part of the Affordable Care Act, preserving affordable coverage for millions of Americans.For one split second, the President's face was blank as if he was trying to comprehend the news. He then reacted in jubilation:

CW: Click of Souza's blog page, which includes other great photos of the moment. ...

White House: "In this week's address, the President called the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act a victory for hardworking Americans across the country, whose lives are more secure because of this law":

... Dylan Matthews of Vox: "After Thursday's Supreme Court ruling, there's no longer any doubt: Barack Obama is one of the most consequential presidents in American history -- and he will be a particularly towering figure in the history of American progressivism." CW: There will be statues. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Yes, Obamacare haters may dismiss the experience of virtually every other wealthy country by intoning 'American exceptionalism', as though we have some long-cherished right to die young that's as essential to the national character as unlimited possession of guns. But this has been a constant issue in our own country, too, and it's a token of how far our political system has drifted to the right that redeeming the vision of Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Richard Nixon strikes so many people as a horrifying lurch into socialism." ...

... Digby explains the reaction to the ACA ruling of an Obama-hating ObamaCare beneficiary. ...

... CW: In fairness to that jerk, I must say that I take advantage of every unfair GOP-writ tax deduction I get.

Presidential Race

Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico: "Hillary Clinton looked to draw a red line for her Republican rivals on LGBT rights in her first large swing-state [-- Virginia --] rally outside of the early-voting states on Friday night.... While the event was not intended to be a Clinton rally, it quickly turned into one as speaker after speaker praised the [f]ormer secretary of state in front of the crowd of around 2,000.... 'Today's [Obergefell] decision confirms we've been working toward equality as a nation step by step, case by case, court by court, and that equality has been right there in the Constitution all along,' said the former first lady and senator, who didn't support marriage equality when she first ran for president in 2008.... Coming straight to the rally from the Charleston funeral of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney..., Clinton also promised to fight for a 'better, smarter, safer, approach to getting the gun violence in this country under control.'... 'Across the board, [Republicans] are the party of the past,' she said to applause."

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "The dilemma presented by the same-sex marriage ruling expressed itself almost immediately in the reactions from the party's enormous field of declared and presumed 2016 presidential candidates. They ranged from defiant to pragmatic, apocalyptic to philosophical.... 'I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch,' former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said. 'We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.'... Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) ... told a rally in northwestern Iowa on Friday that the court decision was 'the very definition of lawlessness.'... 'While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law,' said Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.).... Jeb[! ... said,] 'I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision. I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments. In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side.'"...

... Jennifer Rubin, the Wash Po's official GOP head cheerleader, is surprisingly good in assessing the responses of her team's candidates to the Obergefell ruling. ...

... Brendan James of TPM: "Presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Friday called opposition to the Supreme Court's decision to uphold same sex marriages 'a divisive effort that would be doomed to fail.' 'I am a proud defender of traditional marriage and believe the people of each state should have the right to determine their marriage laws,' he said in a statement on Friday, before adding 'I will respect the Court's decision.'"

... Bobby J. Condemns Constitution. Mark Hensch of the Hill: "'The Supreme Court is completely out of control, making laws on their own, and has become a public opinion poll instead of a judicial body,' the 2016 contender said in a statement. 'If we want to save some money, let's just get rid of the court,' Jindal added." CW: Hey, less radical than secession.

I fundamentally disagree with the court rewriting the law and assaulting the 10th Amendment. Our founding fathers did not intend for the judicial branch to legislate from the bench, and as president, I would appoint strict Constitutional conservatives who will apply the law as written. -- Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Hey, less radical than secession. Also, too, the states have always promoted equal rights for minority groups & women. -- Constant Weader

Mollie Reilly of the Huffington Post: "After calling the last day 'some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation's history,' Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is now calling for Supreme Court justices to face elections.... To challenge ... 'judicial activism,' Cruz said he is proposing a constitutional amendment to require Supreme Court justices to face retention elections every eight years." CW: Not so radical.

Terrence Dopp of Bloomberg: "New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will join the crowded Republican 2016 field Tuesday, two people with knowledge of his plans said." CW: Christie plans to make his announcement on the New Jersey side of the iconic George Washington Bridge. To accommodate the anticipated rally of supporters, Christie has ordered the closing of the bridge shortly before morning rush hour; reopening TBA.

Trump Trumps His Own Customary Assholery. Dylan Byers of Politico: "Donald Trump published a photograph of a handwritten letter from Univision's Jorge Ramos on Friday that included the anchor's personal cellphone number.... In the letter, sent Thursday, Ramos asks if Trump will sit with him for an interview. Ramos then provides his cellphone number, in the event that Trump 'would like to talk first over the phone.' Trump published the photo to his personal Instagram account on Friday, noting that Univision was 'begging' him for interviews even after publicly severing business ties with him."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Richard W. Matt, one of the two convicted murderers who engineered an elaborate escape from New York's largest prison, was shot and killed on Friday by a federal agent.... A team of agents from the federal Customs and Border Protection agency found Mr. Matt in the woods in Malone, N.Y., after he fired a shot at the back of a camping trailer, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at a news conference. Officers heard him cough as he fled on foot, and a federal agent killed him when Mr. Matt, still armed with a 20-gauge shotgun, refused orders to put up his hands, the authorities said. On Friday night, officers closed in on the other inmate, David Sweat, 35, who was believed to be penned inside a perimeter of law enforcement officers...."

Cradle of Democracy. New York Times: "In an unexpected move, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras went on national television early Saturday to call for a referendum on July 5, so that Greek citizens can decide whether to accept or reject the terms of a bailout deal proposed by the country's creditors."

Guardian: "In what is becoming a regular pattern, Fifa has been forced to insist hurriedly that Sepp Blatter will not stand again for the presidency and will 'lay down his mandate' as promised. Blatter sparked a fresh wave of speculation when a Swiss newspaper reported him as saying: 'I have not resigned, I put my mandate in the hands of an extraordinary congress.'”

Thursday
Jun252015

The Commentariat -- June 26, 2015

** Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a nationwide right to same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the 5 to 4 decision. He was joined by the court's four more liberal justices.... Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in a dissent joined by Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said the Constitution has nothing to say on the subject.... In a second dissent, Justice Scalia mocked Justice Kennedy's soaring language. 'The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic,' Justice Scalia wrote of his colleague's work. 'Of course the opinion's showy profundities are often profoundly incoherent.'"CW: Not sure where Alito is supposed to be here, but clearly he joined one dissent on the other. ...

... Okay, here's the answer from Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "All four of the court's most conservative members -- Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. -- dissented and each wrote a separate opinion, saying the court had usurped a power that belongs to the people." ...

... The opinion & dissents are here.

... Here is some of the more incendiary language from Scalia's dissent (I typed descent first -- seems appropriate).

... Nick Gass of Politico: "The Supreme Court on Friday ruled 5-4 that same-sex couples nationwide have the constitutional right to marry, splitting the 2016 candidates sharply along partisan lines. Democratic candidates hailed the decision as another marker for equality, while Republican candidates reacted with disappointment and, in some cases, white-hot anger. ...

... The Washington Post is liveblogging reactions to the Court's marriage ruling. Some of the corporate responses are pretty sweet. ...

... Michael Rosenwald of the Washington Post: "The craziest thing just happened to Jim Obergefell: He became a civil rights icon. The real estate broker from Cincinnati was the lead plaintiff in the historic gay marriage case.... Obergfell is unlike the other plaintiffs in the case: He doesn't get to go home and celebrate with his loved one. His husband, John, died from ALS. They were wed on the tarmac of Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, flying there because they couldn't get married in Ohio."

Doug Palmer of Politico: "The House voted 286-138 Thursday to renew a 50-year-old worker entitlement program with overwhelming support from Democrats, who reversed themselves on the legislation after losing a battle with the White House and Republicans over a bill to 'fast-track' approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.... The vote sends the bill to President Barack Obama to sign into law." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "... on Thursday, [President] Obama walked into the Rose Garden to accept vindication as the Supreme Court, for a second time, affirmed the legality of a part of the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Obama ... called for an end to the vitriolic politics that have threatened it. 'The point is, this is not an abstract thing anymore,' Mr. Obama told reporters, with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. smiling broadly beside him. '... For all the misinformation campaigns, all the doomsday predictions, all the talk of death panels and job destruction, for all the repeal attempts -- this law is now helping tens of millions of Americans.'... [Meanwhile,] House Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, promised to 'do everything we can' to undermine the law. Jeb Bush, a Republican candidate for president, vowed 'to repeal and replace this flawed law' if he succeeds Mr. Obama in the Oval Office'":

... Paul Krugman: "... what you have is a portrait of policy triumph -- a law that, despite everything its opponents have done to undermine it, is achieving its goals, costing less than expected, and making the lives of millions of Americans better and more secure..... What conservatives have always feared about health reform is the possibility that it might succeed, and in so doing remind voters that sometimes government action can improve ordinary Americans' lives.... That's why the right went all out to destroy the Clinton health plan in 1993, and tried to do the same to the Affordable Care Act. But Obamacare has survived, it's here, and it's working. The great conservative nightmare has come true. And it's a beautiful thing." ...

... Linda Greenhouse: "The chief justice’s masterful opinion showed [Justice Scalia's] line of argument for the simplistic and agenda-driven construct that it was.... The chief justice cited two [pro-ACA] briefs in his opinion, one from the health insurance industry and the other, which he referred to several times, from the country's leading experts on the economics of health care. This whole exercise was unnecessary, the outcome too close for comfort. But there is cause for celebration in a disaster narrowly averted -- for the country and the court, which is to say, for us all." CW: Greenhouse also echoes what I wrote yesterday about the Supremes' decision to hear King v. Burwell & about Scalia's previous opinions asserting that context matters." ...

... Rick Hasen: The Court's "means of interpretation is important for a number of reasons. First, it means that a new administration with a new IRS Commissioner cannot reinterpret the law to take away subsidies. Second, it puts more power into the hands of Congress over administrative agencies (and therefore the executive), at least on issues at the core of congressional legislation. Third, and most important as a general principle, it rehabilitates a focus on the law's purpose as a touchstone to interpretation, over a rigid and formalistic textualism that ignores real-world consequences.... The Court said that in close cases, make the law work the way Congress obviously intended it. That's a very good thing."...

... Cass Susstein in Bloomberg: "Roberts's impressive opinion ... is a masterwork of indirection. It's already being seen as a final vindication of Obamacare. But it is also a strong assertion of the court's, and not the executive branch's, ultimate power to say what the law is." ...

Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "The ruling thus combines a standard textualist mode of interpretation -- a view to the statute's full context to determine the meaning of isolated provisions -- with a common sense analysis of the law's structure into a mode of interpretation you might call heurism.... The opinion the Court actually wrote turns out to be perfectly stitched. A victory for the government, and little succor for Obamacare foes, which is exactly as it should be." ...

... CW: Beutler misunderstands the meaning of textualism -- in legal theory, it means nearly the opposite of Beutler's definition; ergo, in King, the Court specifically rejected Scalia's narrow textual interpretation (a/k/a Moops theory). But Beutler is right about the far-reaching -- and remarkable -- heuristic approach the majority took to resolving the ambiguity of the text in question when it looked to the purpose of the law, as Hasen outlines." ...

... ** Roberts Burns Congressional Republicans. Ryan Cooper of the Week: "Roberts' clear account of ObamaCare's policy mechanism, and the damage that would be done should any of its main prongs be removed, deals a body blow to the conservative health care wonks who have been trying to cook up a replacement policy for the last five years -- in particular, a plan without the unpopular individual mandate. But as Roberts plainly shows, that leads straight to disaster." ...

... Steve M. has a couple of theories about why Roberts & Kennedy decided to uphold the ACA: First, they probably believed initially that "the Republican majorities in Congress would have a remedy ready to avert chaos." But when they realized Republicans were never going to do any such thing, they changed their minds. Also, too, "The preservation of Obamacare by the Roberts court does a couple of things for the GOP for 2016: It preserves Obamacare as a voter-motivating grievance for the party's base, and it makes it much more difficult for Hillary Clinton (or Bernie Sanders or whoever) to say that the Supreme Court is a force for wingnuttery that will only get worse if a Republican is elected president next year." ...

     ... CW: Following Cass Susstein's lead, I'd add that Roberts also used the opinion to enhance the power of the judiciary at the expense of the executive branch. That is, Roberts wrote that an executive agency -- at least in this case -- does not have the power to decide how to interpret ambiguous or contradictory legislative language unless Congress specifically gives them the authority to do so in a sort of "hey, whatever" provision.

..."Roberts Burns Scalia." Max Ehrenfreund of the Washington Post: "Roberts used the dissent's ;own words against Scalia.... Back in 2012, [Scalia] had written that without subsidies, 'the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended.'" Roberts cited Scalia's dissent in his majority opinion. "It's not the first time a dissent by Scalia has been used to support a view he opposes. His dissent against gay marriage has been widely cited by lower courts arguing that bans on same-sex unions are unconstitutional." ...

... CW: As Greenhouse & I noted, Roberts cited other Scalia opinions in his majority opinion in King. It appears Roberts is tiring of an obnoxious junior colleague who continually berates & belittles everyone who disagrees with him & whose own arguments are not just rude but inconsistent. Scalia makes both conservatism & the Court look stupid and/or batty, & that surely displeases the chief justice. ...

... Juliet Eilperin & Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "President Obama and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. got off to a rough start from the very beginning.... They occupy nearly opposite ends of the ideological spectrum.... But in Thursday’s Supreme Court decision upholding federal subsidies offered under the Affordable Care Act, Roberts again helped sustain the president's policy legacy in a way that few could have anticipated when Obama took office. In voting with the majority and writing the opinion, the chief justice has ensured that the legacies of both the Obama presidency and the Roberts court are forever intertwined." ...

... CW: They had better get along. Unless he doesn't want the job, I would be surprised if President Hillary didn't nominate President Obama to the Supreme Court. ...

... George Will: Chief Justice Roberts is overthrowing the Constitution! The separation of powers is defunct! No more due process! ...

... Josh Gerstein of Politico: [Chief Justice] "Roberts' decision to side with the Obama administration for a second time on the high-profile health care law threw a huge splash of fuel onto a long-simmering debate about whether Republicans misjudged the chief justice when he was nominated a decade ago or whether he has grown more moderate in his years on the court -- a phenomenon many conservatives complained about with earlier Republican appointees such as Justices David Souter, Sandra Day O'Connor and John Paul Stevens. ...

... Sahil Kapur & Dave Weigel of Bloomberg report more confederate invective hurled at Roberts. ...

... Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times: "With no serious Republican alternatives and a historic expansion in medical coverage well underway, Obamacare is about as firmly ensconced as a new law can be in a politically divided country." ...

... Manu Raju & Burgess Everett of Politico: "As Republicans process Thursday's sharp rebuke at the hands of the Supreme Court, they're struggling with what to do next -- beset by internal divisions and procedural roadblocks that severely limit their options." ...

... Over there at the Blaze, Glenn Beck's Website, Wayne Root asks, "Has Supreme Court Justice John Roberts been blackmailed or intimidated? I would put nothing by the Obama administration that lives and rules by the Chicago thug playbook." CW: Yeah, that was my first thought, too, Wayne. After all, ...

... The Washington Post Editors label me -- & a lot of other people -- cynical conspiracy theorists.

In all the excitement over King, Charles Pierce wants us to remember that Roberts joined the crazies in the Texas housing anti-discrimination case also decided yesterday. Because Jewish & Muslim (Moops?) doctors in the 17th-century Ottoman palace.

Al Kamen of the Washington Post: "The National Park Service moved Wednesday to stop sales of the Confederate flag in federal parks...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Looks as if Republicans are in disarray about more than ObamaCare. Jake Sherman & Anna Palmer of Politico: Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has reversed his "decision to strip North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows of his subcommittee gavel. Top Republicans had wanted to punish Meadows for voting against GOP leaders and not supporting the party's campaign arm.... The reversal infuriated loyalists to [Speaker John] Boehner.... 'Disgusting,' one Boehner ally remarked.... It is a stunning reversal for Chaffetz -- and, by extension, the GOP leadership -- and could embolden the several dozen conservative Republicans who defy Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.)." Seems Chaffetz didn't know the House GOP rule that requires committee chairs to have the support of a majority of Republican committee members before they can remove a subcommittee chair.

Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "Investigators are blaming mistakes by IRS employees -- not a criminal conspiracy -- for the loss of thousands of emails related to the tax agency's tea party scandal. IRS workers erased 422 computer backup tapes that 'most likely' contained as many as 24,000 emails to and from former IRS official Lois Lerner, who has emerged as a central figure in congressional investigations, according to IRS's inspector general."

Felicity Barringer of the New York Times: "From the Arabian Peninsula to northern India to California's Central Valley, nearly a third of the world's 37 largest aquifers are being drained faster than they are being replenished, according to a recent study led by scientists at the University of California, Irvine. The aquifers are concentrated in food-producing regions that support up to two billion people."

Presidential Race

Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "Despite claims by Hillary Rodham Clinton that she gave the State Department all of her work-related emails from the personal account that she used exclusively when she was in office, the department said on Thursday that it had received several related to Libya that she had not handed over. The disclosure is the first significant evidence to raise questions about whether Mrs. Clinton deleted emails from the account that she should have given to the State Department because they were government records. The State Department said that in comparing emails from Sidney Blumenthal, a confidant of Mrs. Clinton's, to the ones she gave to the department, officials could not find nine and portions of six others."

John DiStaso of WMUR, Manchester, New Hampshire: "Clinton leads Sanders, 43 to 35 percent, in a new WMUR/CNN Granite State Poll, which was conducted ... from June 18 to 24. The poll included 360 likely 2016 Democratic primary voters and has a margin of error of 5.2 percent, meaning Sanders is close to being in a statistical dead heat with the frontrunner." ...

... Arit John of Bloomberg: "Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Thursday responded to criticism from his Senate colleague, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, that he is too liberal to credibly challenge Hillary Clinton. 'To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that a colleague has attacked me,' said Sanders...." ...

Jonathan Topaz & Daniel Strauss of Politico: "All jokes aside, the Republican Party is officially afraid of Donald Trump. He has virtually zero chance of winning the presidential nomination. But insiders worry that the loud-mouthed mogul is more than just a minor comedic nuisance on cable news; they fret that he's a loose cannon whose rants about Mexicans and scorched-earth attacks on his rivals will damage the eventual nominee and hurt a party struggling to connect with women and minorities and desperate to win." ...

... Ja Ja Ja Ja Ja Ja Ja. Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Univision[, the Spanish-language network] said that it was ending its relationship with the Trump Organization, that it will not air the Miss USA pageant on its network next month, and that it is severing ties with the Miss Universe Organization. [Donald] Trump is a part owner of the Miss Universe Organization, the umbrella group for both the United States and world beauty pageants. Univision said the decision was because of Mr. Trump's recent remarks about Mexican immigrants." (Emphasis added.) ...

... Mark Hensch of the Hill: "The Chilean actor scheduled to host this year's Miss USA pageant is quitting over GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump's remarks on Hispanic immigrants. Cristian de la Fuente, who performs on the television series 'Devious Maids,' said on Thursday he is abandoning his role in the annual beauty competition.... Trump countered on Thursday that Fuente was not the host of next month's Miss USA event."

Beyond the Beltway

Jennifer Medina of the New York Times: "Under a bill expected to be approved Thursday by state lawmakers, schoolchildren in California will be required to receive vaccinations unless there is a medical reason not to do so. The bill would end exemptions for personal or religious reasons, which parents who oppose vaccinations routinely request. The legislation would make California the largest state by far with such sweeping requirements for vaccinations, joining West Virginia and Mississippi, which have had similar laws for years." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "A Kansas state judge on Thursday temporarily blocked a new law that would have banned the most common method of abortion in the second trimester. The law, adopted in April and the first of its kind in the nation, would have barred a method known as dilation and evacuation, which doctors say is usually the safest and most convenient abortion technique after about the 12th to 14th week of pregnancy.... The suit, brought on behalf of two Kansas obstetricians by the Center for Reproductive Rights, based in New York, argued that the law amounted to illegal interference with the right to abortion and could force some women to undergo an 'invasive unnecessary medical procedure even against the medical judgment of her physician.'"

Southern Poverty Law Center: "In a landmark victory, a state jury in New Jersey found today that a 'conversion therapy' program offering services it claimed could change clients from gay to straight was fraudulent and unconscionable. The jury ordered JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing), the group's founder and a counselor to pay $72,400 to compensate five plaintiffs for fees they paid to the group and for mental health counseling one of the plaintiffs needed afterward." The SPLC filed the suit.

Sarah Kaplan of the Washington Post: "A fire that engulfed a small, predominantly black church in Charlotte[, North Carolina,] was set on purpose, local officials said Wednesday. Now they are trying to determine whether the act of arson was a hate crime." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The Abstinence News. Dan Savage: "Single Christian lady Bristol ... Palin is pregnant again. This will be Bristol Palin's second child. This one is either by her second ex-fiance or some poor man to be named later.... If Bristol Palin's last name was 'Obama' the whole Hee Haw gang at Fox News would spend half of every day for the next nine months telling us that Bristol Obama has terrible parents.... Bonus thing: you have to watch Bristol Palin's abstinence ed PSA...."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Terrorists attacked sites in France, Tunisia and Kuwait on Friday, leaving a bloody toll on three continents and prompting new concerns about the spreading influence of jihadists. In France, attackers stormed an American-owned industrial chemical plant near Lyon, tried unsuccessfully to blow up the factory, and left behind a decapitated corpse. In Tunisia, at least one gunman disguised as a vacationer opened fire at a beach resort, killing at least 37 people before security forces shot him to death, officials said. And the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in one of the largest Shiite mosques in Kuwait City during Friday prayers."

New York Times: "The Vatican on Friday signed a treaty with the 'state of Palestine,' a development that the church hopes will lead to improved relations between Israel and the Palestinians."

Wednesday
Jun242015

The Commentariat -- June 25, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Doug Palmer of Politico: "The House voted 286-138 Thursday to renew a 50-year-old worker entitlement program with overwhelming support from Democrats, who reversed themselves on the legislation after losing a battle with the White House and Republicans over a bill to “fast-track” approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.... The vote sends the bill to President Barack Obama to sign into law."

Jennifer Medina of the New York Times: "Under a bill expected to be approved Thursday by state lawmakers, schoolchildren in California will be required to receive vaccinations unless there is a medical reason not to do so. The bill would end exemptions for personal or religious reasons, which parents who oppose vaccinations routinely request. The legislation would make California the largest state by far with such sweeping requirements for vaccinations, joining West Virginia and Mississippi, which have had similar laws for years."

Sarah Kaplan of the Washington Post: "A fire that engulfed a small, predominantly black church in Charlotte[, North Carolina,] was set on purpose, local officials said Wednesday. Now they are trying to determine whether the act of arson was a hate crime."

Missed this one. Al Kamen of the Washington Post: "The National Park Service moved Wednesday to stop sales of the Confederate flag in federal parks...."

*****

President Obama to speak on Supremes' decision. CW: I am so happy to see Joe Biden have something to smile about. You can view Obama's remarks on C-SPAN. ...

... ** Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Obama’s health care law may provide nationwide tax subsidies to help poor and middle-class people buy health insurance. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the majority opinion in the 6-to-3 decision. The court’s three most conservative members — Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — dissented." ...

... The Washington Post report, by Robert Barnes, is here....

... CW: Neither the NYT nor the WashPo report initially lays out the details of the decision, but I imagine the reporters will update them soon. ...

... ** Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "The message here is clear: In this and in future litigation, judges should turn aside clever attempts to undermine the law if there is any possible way to read the law otherwise. The attorneys and activists behind this lawsuit came to the Court hoping to gut Obamacare; instead, they placed it on the strongest possible legal footing.... King is a warning to lawyers who seek to tear down laws they disapprove of through clever games.... The upshot of this holding is that a future president will not be able to turn off tax credits. Agencies do not have discretion over this aspect of Obamacare.... King not only preserves Obamacare today — it also sharply limits the scope of future cases seeking to undermine the law." ...

... Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "The decision closely tracked most of the arguments that the Obama administration had made in defending the nationwide availability of subsidies, in the form of tax credits.... Although many observers had thought that the outcome of this new high-stakes controversy was anything but predictable, the Roberts opinion and his oral announcement gave no hint that, for the majority of six Justices, the outcome was ever in doubt...." ...

... Lena Sun & Robert Gebelhoff of the Washington Post: Healthcare insureds express relief & joy at the Court's decision. ...

... Yeah, but who cares about millions of people? Not this guy:

"Scalia Lashes Out." Tierney Sneed of TPM: "In his dissent from the Supreme Court's decision upholding Obamacare subsidies in 34 states, Justice Antonin Scalia accused the six-vote majority of engaging in 'interpretive jiggery-pokery.'... 'Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved,' Scalia wrote in his scathing dissent." ...

     ... CW: Shorter Scalia: Dear Fellow Supremes, If you disagree with my superior ideology, you're a deceitful idiot." ...

... Ed Kilgore enjoys "a moment of schadenfreude" as he "luxuriate[s] ... into scalded-cat reactions" to the decision. ...

... digby: "Jeff Toobin just pointed out on CNN that Roberts is still a very conservative justice and this idea that he's a 'liberal' is daft. This is just a sign of how absurdly right wing the conservative legal community has become that they would even think of pushing a daft case like this one. Roberts is just not willing to be a total intellectual whore for their hobby horses." digby also cites a few tweets from GOP presidential candidate: "judicial tyranny" (Huckabee), etc. ...

... CW: "Liberal," my ass. Either Roberts or Kennedy, or both, had to agree to hear the case in the first place, since it takes four to tango. ...

... Bloomberg rounds up responses from presidential candidates of both parties. ...

... Also see Akhilleus' documentation of winger reactions (Comment 10, below). ...

... Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "Even as Republicans rose in a chorus of outrage Thursday over the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to gut the unpopular Affordable Care Act, party leaders were privately breathing a sigh of relief. Had the court gone the other way, Republicans would have faced their most serious governing challenge since taking control of both houses of Congress earlier this year." ...

... CW: The decision seems to rest entirely upon interpretation of "Congressional intent," not just on the as-written language, as some experts had argued the Court would & could do. In relying on intent rather than "plain language," the Court cites as precedent at least one opinion that Scalia wrote -- United Savings Association of Texas v. Timbers of Inwood Forest Associates, Ltd. -- & one in which he joined the majority -- FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco. A nice kick in the face to the Court's most famous slimy hypocrite. ...

... ** OMG! "Decision of the Fourth Circuit is affirmed in King v. Burwell. 6-3." Opinion by Roberts. "Six are the Chief, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan" upholding subsidies. Here's the opinion & Scalia's dissent. ....

... From the opinion: "Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.... In this instance, the context and structure of the Act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.... The Affordable Care Act contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting." ...

... "From the intro to Scalia's dissent: the majority's reading of the text 'is of course quite absurd, and the Court's 21 pages of explanation make it no less so.'... We should start calling this law SCOTUScare." CW: Remember that in cases where he agrees with the nature of the legislation, Scalia has written that an isolated phrase must be read in context. What an ass. ...

... The Supreme Court will issue one or more opinions today, beginning at 10 am ET today. ScotusBlog will begin liveblogging at 9 am ET. ...

... First opinion on Texas housing: A big win for housing & civil rights. Kennedy wrote the opinion. "Disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act." Here's the opinion & dissents. ...

... Smart note from Eric Citron: "This is a good example of what's problematic with the proposition that this is a 'liberal' term. On the one hand, this is a huge victory for the left wing of the Court on a contentious issue; on the other hand, this issue does not get granted with a less conservative Court. It all depends on your baseline." ...

... Emily Badger of the Washington Post: "Civil rights groups and the Obama Administration won a major victory Thursday as the Supreme Court upheld a tool that advocates argue is essential to fighting housing discrimination and patterns of segregation that have persisted in America for decades. In the 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court ruled that the 1968 Fair Housing Act doesn't solely ban overt discrimination in the housing market. The Court said the law can also prohibit seemingly race-neutral policies that have the effect of disproportionately harming minorities and other protected groups, even if there is no overt evidence of bias behind them." ...

... That's it for the day. Another long national (unnecessary) nightmare is over. The Court will issue more opinions tomorrow & Monday. ...

... Robert Pear & Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times have a good overview of how the ACA subsidies work; ergo, what is at stake in the Supreme Court's upcoming opinion. CW: As for me, I can't get over the extreme cruelty of the Supremes' even taking King v. Burwell in the first place -- it takes four of them to agree to hear a case -- then dragging out issuing an opinion until the end of days. ...

... Greg Sargent on the crux of the various GOP plans to deal with the fallout of a King victory: "It would be 'unfair' to abandon those who lose subsidies, so Republicans should pursue a contingency they know will fail to restore those subsidies, because it will allow them to blame Obama!"

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to legislation granting President Obama enhanced power to negotiate major trade agreements with Asia and Europe, sending the president’s biggest end-of-term legislative priority to the White House for his signature. The vote was 60 to 38. Senators then approved legislation assisting workers dislocated by international trade accords, attaching it to a popular African trade measure that will go to the House on Thursday for a final vote. House Democrats signaled they would support the worker-assistance measure, which they voted down two weeks ago in a tactical bid to derail the trade authority bill."

White House: "Speaking in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, President Obama lays out the findings of the U.S. Hostage Policy Review and the outlines of what U.S. policy will be moving forward. June 24, 2015":

Matt Lewis, formerly a columnist for the notorious Daily Caller & now a writer for the Daily Beast: "The injection of Southerners into the Republican coalition — a coalition they ultimately came to dominate — couldn’t help but change the image of the GOP. There were racial, cultural, political, and even religious implications. Republicans captured the South, yes, but the South also captured the GOP. There were no doubt many salutary benefits to this arrangement — most obviously, an electoral boon that lasted for decades. But it also guaranteed we would eventually see a day of reckoning." CW: He makes a good point. Conservatism isn't necessarily about racism, sexism, classism, intolerance & cruelty, even though its underlying principles are designed to promote economic inequality, aristocracy & oligarchy.

Jeremy Borden, et al., of the Washington Post: "The federal government is likely to bring hate-crime charges against the gunman accused of killing nine parishioners in a Charleston, S.C., church last week...."

Nicholas Kristof: "... the movement [to deep-six the confederate flag] is in some ways chimerical. It’s about a symbol — and now the progress on the symbol needs to be matched by progress on racial inequality in daily life.... So, sure, good riddance to Confederate flags across the country! And then let’s swivel to address the larger national disgrace: In 2015, so many children still don’t have an equal shot at life because of the color of their skin."

Jeremy Borden & Brian Murphy of the Washington Post: "Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley ordered that Confederate flags be taken down from the state capitol grounds. The Birmingham News reported that workers arrived 'with no fanfare' early Wednesday to remove the flags.... At South Carolina’s statehouse, workers placed a black drape over a second-floor window — blocking the view of a Confederate battle flag at a nearby Civil War memorial — before thousands of mourners were expected to view the body of slain state senator, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Josh Marshall of TPM: "The United States Army maintains at least ten military bases - including some of the largest - named in honor of Confederate generals. There is a unique irony in the United States Army, which lost hundreds of thousand of soldiers defeating the Confederacy, naming its biggest military compounds for generals who helped with the killing.... If it is inappropriate to have a statue of Jefferson Davis in the Kentucky capitol building [as Mitch McConnell suddenly noticed this week!] can it really be appropriate for our largest Army bases to be named after Confederate generals? As of now, the Pentagon says there is 'no discussion' of renaming those bases."

John Cassidy of the New Yorker: In a photo that appeared on his Facebook page, Dylann Roof is holding in his left hand a confederate flag, in his right hand a "a semiautomatic .45-calibre Glock 41 handgun.... According to news reports, Roof bought the pistol on April 11th, eight days after his twenty-first birthday.... Despite the fact that Roof was arrested earlier this year on a minor drug charge, the purchase appears to have been perfectly legal.... What about banning the Glock and other deadly weapons — or, at least, restricting them to rifle ranges and other secure areas? Where is the national movement to do this?" ...

... E. J. Dionne: "What’s needed is a long-term national effort to change popular attitudes toward handgun ownership. And we need to insist on protecting the rights of Americans who do not want to be anywhere near guns.... But as long as gun control is linked to ideology and party — and as long as the National Rifle Association and its allies claim a monopoly on arguments about individual rights — reasonable steps of this sort will be ground to death by the Washington Obstruction Machine."

Boehner v. the Tea Party. Scott Wong & Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his allies are charging ahead with their effort to punish conservatives who have been a thorn in leadership’s side — a purge that is roiling the GOP conference. The latest victim is Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, who could be stripped of his title as GOP freshman class president on Thursday morning.... While the Speaker has lashed out at conservative rebels before, the latest intraparty purge has been particularly aggressive, this time targeting members of the new, conservative House Freedom Caucus who voted against the rule."

Jeff Stein of Newsweek: "Chinese hackers have in recent months penetrated an untold number of FBI agents’ personnel files, Newsweek has learned, in a breach with potentially dangerous national security implications."

Etiquette Rule #1: Don't Diss the Host. Liam Stack of the New York Times: "An activist interrupted President Obama on Wednesday at a White House event celebrating L.G.B.T. Pride Month to demand an end to the deportation of L.G.B.T. immigrants. The activist was escorted from the room amid a chorus of boos and jeers from the assembled guests. The activist, Jennicet Gutiérrez, who is transgender and says she is in the country illegally, interrupted Mr. Obama shortly after he began speaking, calling from the back of the room, 'President Obama, release all L.G.B.T.Q. immigrants from detention and stop all deportations!'” ...

... CW: President Obama began his remarks with "This is a rowdy crowd!" Gutiérrez interrupts the POTUS about a minute later. POTUS tells Gutiérrez "You're in my House. Its not respectful when you get invited to somebody's ... Can we escort this person out. You can either stay & be quiet or well have to take you out.... Can we have this person removed, please?... If you're eating the hors d'ouevres ... & drinking the booze...."

Timothy Cama of the Hill: "Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy will be held accountable for the federal land grazing fees and penalties he owes, [Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, whose department includes BLM,] said."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Dylan Byers of Politico: "Fox News chief Roger Ailes has signed a new multi-year contract with 21st Century Fox, laying to rest any speculation that he would leave following Rupert Murdoch's decision to step down as CEO. The company announced Thursday that Ailes, 75, will continue to serve as chairman and CEO of Fox News and Fox Business Network, and chairman of Fox Television Stations. The news was announced by Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch and James Murdoch, who stated that Ailes would "jointly report" to all three — clearing up previous confusion around the chain of command." ...

... Patrick Phillips of WCSC Charleston: "Charleston Police are investigating a Facebook video of an apparent interaction between one of their officers and a group of African-American children. The video begins with children using graphic language towards a police officer who is driving by in his cruiser. At the end of the video, the officer appears to say, 'Don't go to church and get hurt,' before driving away." CW: What's wrong with this story, beyond the officer's reaction?: Phillips doesn't bother to cite the race of the cop though he notes the race of the children. Why? Because there are "people" and there are "African-American people." Phillips, and his editor, if he has one, are no doubt unaware of their own racist mindsets.

Presidential Race

John McCormick of Bloomberg: "Bernie Sanders is gaining on Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, with an appeal as an issue-oriented protest vehicle potentially capable of slowing any coronation of the popular front-runner. In simultaneous surveys, the U.S. senator from Vermont received nearly a quarter of support from likely Democratic caucus and primary voters in the states that host the first presidential nomination balloting early next year, cutting sharply into Clinton's still-huge lead."

Carry Him Back to Old Virginny. Yes, friends, there is a potential Democratic candidate who has an affinity for Old Dixie, and that candidate is Jim Webb. "Webb has weighed in on his Facebook page, writing that '[t]his is an emotional time and we all need to think through these issues with a care that recognizes the need for change but also respects the complicated history of the Civil War.' He calls for “mutual respect” and says the flag shouldn’t be used 'as a political symbol that divides us,' but does not take any clear stance on the flag publicly displayed on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... if this is Webb’s final word on the subject, I think he’s disqualified himself from serious consideration as a Democratic candidate for president. It’s not entirely news that Webb’s admirable record in the Senate is sometimes overshadowed by conservative cultural attitudes he’s advanced in the past, often, like this one, a product of his stubborn self-identification with the bad as well as the good aspects of the Scots-Irish people from whom he (and for that matter, I) descended. It’s really just too bad." ...

... Here's Webb's Facebook entry.

** Frank Rich: Today’s neo-Confederate GOP politicians, vying for primary votes in Dixie 150 years after Appomattox, proved themselves to be laughable cowards. Confronted with the simplest of questions – should a state capitol display a flag that stands for slavery, racism, and treason? – they hedged (all of them), spouted gibberish (Ted Cruz), or went into hiding (Rand Paul).... This combination of disingenuousness and spinelessness on a no-brainer issue should disqualify all of them from the White House."

Paul Waldman: "... it may be no accident that most of the Republican governors currently running for president aren’t popular at home. They’re products of today’s Republican Party, where unflagging commitment to conservative doctrine is what counts as success.... Practical achievements like improving the health of your state or even fostering strong job creation are all well and good, but they have to take a back seat to ideological achievements like crushing a labor union, fighting Obamacare, or resisting tax increases." ...

... Gail Collins has a super piece that helps explain why: she demonstrates how "effective" the GOP governor-candidates' "jobs creation" programs are -- although if bestowing taxpayer-funded gifts upon corporations is their purpose, then these governors have very effective economic development programs.

Jonathan Easley of the Hill: Not-President "Mitt Romney is asserting himself as a leader of the Republican Party at a time when the GOP lacks a true standard-bearer. As the huge field of Republican contenders begins the long slog to the party’s 2016 nomination, Romney is working to connect select candidates with his vast political network, urging the party to learn from his past mistakes, attacking Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and taking forceful stances on controversial issues."

Scott Walker in a CNN opinion piece: Kill ObamaCare, by any means. “Governors across the country have been clear: If the Supreme Court strikes down the Obama executive overreach, we will not bail out Obama at the expense of the American people.... If the high court rules in favor of the administration, Obamacare will continue, unchanged. And that means the Republican House and Senate must redouble the fight to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Well, 80,000 people failed a background check last year or two years ago. Nine thousand were felons on the run from the law and not one of them was arrested or prosecuted. Absolutely, if I get to be president of the United States, you fail a criminal background check, you try to buy a gun when you’re not supposed to, you’re going to meet the law head on. – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), interview on CNN, June 19

This is emerging as a 'zombie claim' — something that keeps popping up even after it has been debunked.... While there is no comprehensive nationwide survey of fugitive prosecutions, the state-level data from Virginia and Pennsylvania clearly shows that fugitives have been arrested as a result of the Brady law. Pennsylvania alone indicated that it has arrested about a 100 fugitives a year in the past 17 years. Yet Graham persists in falsely claiming that 'not one of them was arrested or prosecuted.' -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post

President Doody.

Unpossible! Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: "Jeb Bush, who is struggling in the polls in Iowa, may find his salvation in New Hampshire. Yet another poll of New Hampshire voters shows him leading the passel of nearly 20 Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination. Mr. Bush ... was backed by 14 percent of respondents in a Suffolk University poll released Tuesday; the surprise was that his nearest competitor was Donald J. Trump..., who captured the support of nearly 11 percent of those surveyed." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... CW: Also, I noticed in the photo accompanying the story that Donald doesn't have orange hair anymore. Maybe the gray makes him seem more presidential to the lumpenproletariat, although I do believe Republicans would vote for Howdy Doody if the Koch boys were the ones pulling the strings.

The Most Superficial, Witless President in Living Memory. Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: George W. Bush "doesn’t miss much about the [POTUS] job (it was pretty rough go), but he does miss the showers on Air Force One and the personal pastry chef. Yes, we can see how that would be plenty incentive for Jeb Bush to go for it." Also misses saluting soldiers.

Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "Gov. Bobby Jindal, who became Louisiana’s first nonwhite governor since Reconstruction but whose popularity has plummeted as the state struggles with a $1.6 billion shortfall, announced on Wednesday that he is running for president in 2016.... The announcement was made online, and Mr. Jindal plans a late-afternoon announcement event outside New Orleans." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Here's "a special announcement from Bobby Jindal." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) Paul Waldman especially enjoyed Bobby's "completely bizarre announcement video." ...

... CW: Not completely bizarre if you consider this. McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed: "The most viral headline this year with the Louisiana governor’s name in it was published in The Onion: 'Bobby Jindal Not Sure He Willing To Put Family Through 2-Month Presidential Campaign.'” You might want to read Coppins' whole piece on Jindal's plan to win. It's pretty sickening. Example: He thinks being the "Duck Dynasty" candidate is a winning strategy. ...

... Even the WashPo editors think so.

Beyond the Beltway

Jan Skutch & Dash Coleman of the Savannah Morning News: "Two former sheriff’s deputies and a contract health-care worker at the Chatham County jail were indicted Wednesday on felony involuntary manslaughter and related charges stemming from the Jan. 1 death of Mathew Ajibade, 21, at the jail. But despite the nine-count indictment in the well-publicized case, some were upset at the grand jury’s lack of felony murder charges, and protesters downtown Wednesday pressed for accountability and larger community discussions about racism — while also calling for Sheriff Al St Lawrence to step down."

Odd News. John Koblin of the New York Times: "PBS said on Wednesday that it was postponing a future season of 'Finding Your Roots' after an investigation revealed that the actor Ben Affleck pressured producers into leaving out details about an ancestor of his who owned slaves. PBS will not run the show’s third season until staffing changes are made, including hiring a fact checker, it said. The show, which is hosted by the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., traces family histories of celebrities and public figures, and has run for two seasons. The concern about Mr. Affleck’s relative surfaced in the WikiLeaks cache of hacked Sony emails after Mr. Gates asked a Sony executive for advice about a 'megastar' who wanted to omit a detail about a slave-owning ancestor." ...

... CW: At least it turns out that this particular Wikileaks hack did have more than one public benefit. (It also demonstrated -- as if we didn't know -- Hollywood's rampant sexism. And Ben Affleck is an asshole. All of us have ancestors who were jerks, ne'er-do-wells or out-and-out monsters.

Wednesday
Jun242015

The Commentariat -- June 24, 2015

Afternoon Update:

President Doody.Unpossible! Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: "Jeb Bush, who is struggling in the polls in Iowa, may find his salvation in New Hampshire. Yet another poll of New Hampshire voters shows him leading the passel of nearly 20 Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination. Mr. Bush ... was backed by 14 percent of respondents in a Suffolk University poll released Tuesday; the surprise was that his nearest competitor was Donald J. Trump..., who captured the support of nearly 11 percent of those surveyed." ...

... CW: Also, I noticed in the photo accompanying the story that Donald doesn't have orange hair anymore. Maybe the gray makes him seem more presidential to the lumpenproletariat, although I do believe Republicans would vote for Howdy Doody if the Koch boys were the ones pulling the strings.

Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "Gov. >Bobby Jindal, who became Louisiana's first nonwhite governor since Reconstruction but whose popularity has plummeted as the state struggles with a $1.6 billion shortfall, announced on Wednesday that he is running for president in 2016.... The announcement was made online, and Mr. Jindal plans a late-afternoon announcement event outside New Orleans." ...

... Here's "a special announcement from Bobby Jindal."

Jeremy Borden & Brian Murphy of the Washington Post: "Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley ordered that Confederate flags be taken down from the state capitol grounds. The Birmingham News reported that workers arrived 'with no fanfare' early Wednesday to remove the flags.... At South Carolina's statehouse, workers placed a black drape over a second-floor window -- blocking the view of a Confederate battle flag at a nearby Civil War memorial -- before thousands of mourners were expected to view the body of slain state senator, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney...."

*****

Scott Shane of the New York Times: "Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.... On several occasions since President Obama took office, efforts by government agencies to conduct research on right-wing extremism have run into resistance from Republicans, who suspected an attempt to smear conservatives."

Our ancestors were literally fighting to keep human beings as slaves, and to continue the unimaginable acts that occur when someone is held against their will. I am not proud of this heritage. -- South Carolina State Sen. Paul Thurmond (R), the son of segregationist U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond

Campbell Robertson, et al., of the New York Times: "What began as scattered calls for removing the Confederate battle flag from a single state capitol intensified with striking speed and scope on Tuesday into an emotional, nationwide movement to strip symbols of the Confederacy from public parks and buildings, license plates, Internet shopping sites and retail stores." ...

... Greg Blustein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday he wants a redesign of a state-sponsored license plate featuring the Confederate flag emblem, as a growing list of other Southern governors call for similar changes. The Republican stopped short of calling for the Sons of Confederate Veterans tags to be phased out or eliminated entirely, as the leaders in North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee announced Tuesday. He said the redesign, though, would seek to eliminate the bigger visage of the flag that covers the background of the entire tag. The change, he added, wouldn't require legislative action.... Earlier Tuesday, Deal said he wouldn't support any changes to the license plate and contended that both he and his Democratic opponent Jason Carter said during the campaign they didn't have a problem with the license plate.... (Carter said during the campaign that drivers had the right to sport the emblem as an expression of free speech. He tweeted Tuesday that the plate should be replaced with one honoring the civil rights movement.)" ...

... Mike Pare of the Chattanooga Times Free Press: "Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam [(R) Tuesday] ... said that he wasn't aware that the flag is stamped on some plates, but 'I'd be in favor of discontinuing it.' Haslam signed the bill approving the Confederate license plates for motorcycles on March 14, 2012. The bill passed the state Senate and House by wide margins. The vote in the Senate was 27-3, and in the House voted 82-6 in favor, with one person voting present.... Later, in Nashville, the Republican governor said he favors removal of a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from Tennessee's state Capitol. But the governor noted that's not his decision alone to make." ...

(NNDP: "Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was (obviously) named for his father and grandfather. His grandfather was named for Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, and General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, the superintendent of West Point who quit to take command the first Confederate army at Fort Sumter, at the start of the American Civil War." People from all over the nation are suggesting he be removed from the Senate, noting it's not their decision to make alone.)

... MEANWHILE. Hilary Stout of the New York Times: "... many of the nation's largest retailers abruptly decided this week to stop selling merchandise tied to the Confederate battle flag. One by one, beginning with Walmart on Monday night, companies including Sears/Kmart, eBay, Amazon, Etsy and Google Shopping disavowed, sometimes in strong moral terms, merchandise that has been sold quietly for decades.... More than 29,000 such offerings could be found on the Amazon website Tuesday morning, including bikinis, shower curtains, ceramic coasters, cupcake toppers and even a tongue ring.... Yet even as companies were vowing to discontinue the items, sales of them were soaring. Confederate flags jumped to the top of Amazon's Patio, Lawn & Garden category, with purchases of some items spiking by more than 5,000 percent.... A number of smaller companies refused to stop selling Confederate-related merchandise, no matter how controversial." CW: Read the whole article. I especially liked the part about "Wildman's, a jumble of a shop in Kennesaw, Ga." ...

... David Goldman of CNN: "It seems like you can buy anything on Amazon. But there are actually a large number of products that the company doesn't allow in its online store. Amazon, has a list of 32 banned or restricted categories of merchandise.... Many of the products that Amazon bans are illegal in many or all states.... Notably, Amazon also bans 'offensive products,' which include 'products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.... Despite Amazon's policies, banned items continually slip through. For instance, Amazon has had something of an on-again / off-again Nazi problem over the past several years. Though the company has banned Nazi flags, swastikas and other symbols, items keep popping up on the store." ...

... Steve M.: "The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway has posted an unstructured, meandering, relentless whiny diatribe about the growing movement to take down flags and other items that honor the Confederacy. She ... compares the orderly removal of Confederate flags and statues to the destruction of ancient Buddhas by ISIS." Steve goes on to demonstrate why "No modern movement conservative has any standing whatsoever to lecture anyone else on intolerance." ...

... Travels of the Confederate Flag. Adam Taylor of the Washington Post: "... the flag is surprisingly common in southern Italy, just one of many foreign locations where the flag has been reappropriated for local purposes.... It appears some see a historical parallel at work, pointing toward their own absorption into the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 and the perceived economic and political problems since then.... A more direct historical link can be found in Brazil, where 10,000 Confederate supporters emigrated after the end of the Civil War. The descendents of these people still gather to celebrate their heritage at the yearly Festa Confederada..., an event that includes country music, Southern food and the proud display of Confederate flags.... European extremist political groups have been known to fly the Confederate flag, too. European skinheads and neo-Nazis have sometimes adopted the Confederate flag, especially in Germany, where the swastika and other symbols of Nazi Germany are officially banned by law." ...

... Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post does an in-depth critical analysis to winnow out the 50 worst U.S. state flags. ...

... Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called Tuesday for Congress to expand background checks for gun purchases in the wake of a shooting in Charleston, S.C., last week that left nine dead." ...

... Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: "In the wake of the Charleston shooting, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) are considering ways to renew their failed push to pass meaningful gun-control legislation.... If the two senators team up to tackle any facet of gun control, it would mark a significant shift in the political debate nearly a week after nine people were killed at a Bible study group in downtown Charleston, S.C. President Obama noted last week that once again, someone got a gun who shouldn't have had access to it." ...

... Here's the 911 call to the Shelby, N.C. police that led to Dylann Roof's capture. And here's the police dashcam recording of the arrest. ...

... Insane America. CW: In looking for these I made the not-surprising discovery that confederate wingers are treating the mass murder as a hoax perpetrated by Jews &/or the CIA or somebody, Roof is an actor played by Macauley Culkin (Culkin is 35 years old, but never mind) or a young actor called John Christian Graas, & Dylann Roof's father specializes in faking mass murder scenes, & "Game of Thrones," & false flags and and and. And they're coming to take our guns, tra la.

NEW. The White House will release on Wednesday a presidential directive and an executive order that will allow the government to communicate and negotiate with terrorist groups holding Americans hostage, a source briefed on the matter told CNN. While the government will maintain its policy of not making 'substantive concessions' to captors or paying ransoms, the White House will announce that officials will no longer threaten with criminal prosecution the families of American hostages looking to pay ransoms to their relatives' captors, according to a senior administration official." ...

... Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker on five American families' secret efforts to rescue their relatives held hostage in the Middle East.

NEW. Ari Berman of the Nation: "Two years ago, on June 25, 2013, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court invalidated the centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act. [Wednesday], congressional Democrats will introduce an ambitious new bill that would restore the important voting-rights protections the Supreme Court struck down. The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 would compel states with a well-documented history of recent voting discrimination to clear future voting changes with the federal government, require federal approval for voter ID laws, and outlaw new efforts to suppress the growing minority vote."

Rachel Maddow, in a Washington Post op-ed: "Whether or not you like activism from your Supreme Court justices, this court's aggressive interventionism has established these nine men and women as the dynamic, creative and disruptive center of U.S. policy.... This court has shown a voracious appetite for finding cases with the potential to disrupt settled policies.... As goes the next president, so goes the court." Maddow notes that elite political donors are far more interesting in the type of appointees the next president will make than is the general public. CW: While I'm aware that some Reality Chex readers would fall among the "elite political donor" class, it's obvious that our commenters -- Kate Madison! -- big donors or not, are far more aware of the importance of judicial appointments than is the average voter.

Reuters: "A US district judge in Wyoming has granted a request by four states and several energy industry groups to temporarily block new federal rules governing fracking on public lands. The interior department rules due to come into force on Wednesday would require companies to provide data on chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, and to take steps to prevent leakage from oil and gas wells on federally owned land."

Samuel Gibbs of the Guardian: "Privacy campaigners and open source developers are up in arms over the secret installing of Google software which is capable of listening in on conversations held in front of a computer. First spotted by open source developers, the Chromium browser -- the open source basis for Google's Chrome -- began remotely installing audio-snooping code that was capable of listening to users. It was designed to support Chrome's new 'OK, Google' hotword detection -- which makes the computer respond when you talk to it -- but was installed, and, some users have claimed, it is activated on computers without their permission."

Martyn Williams of Computerworld: "The U.S. Navy is paying Microsoft millions of dollars to keep up to 100,000 computers afloat because it has yet to transition away from Windows XP. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which runs the Navy's communications and information networks, signed a $9.1 million contract earlier this month for continued access to security patches for Windows XP, Office 2003, Exchange 2003 and Windows Server 2003. The entire contract could be worth up to $30.8 million and extend into 2017." These products are so obsolete, "Microsoft has stopped issuing free security updates but will continue to do so on a paid basis for customers like the Navy." ...

... More from Eugene Kim, et al., of Business Insider. ...

... CW: That's news to me. I thought the Navy was using the Apple I:

     ... In related news, the U.S. Navy has announced it would spend upwards of a billion dollars to raise the ironclad USS Monitor & return it to service.

Kim Willsher of the Guardian: "The French president, François Hollande, is holding an emergency meeting of his country's defence council after claims that American agents spied on three successive French presidents between 2006 and 2012. According to WikiLeaks documents published late on Tuesday, even the French leaders' mobile phone conversations were listened to and recorded." ...

... AFP: "France's president, François Hollande, has described reported spying by the US on senior French officials as unacceptable and said Paris would not tolerate actions that threaten its security. Hollande released the statement after an emergency meeting of ministers and army commanders on Wednesday, following WikiLeaks revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on the last three French presidents."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Mike Allen of Politico: "Fox News will not renew its contract with Sarah Palin, whose bombastic appearances have been a cable staple since the former Alaska governor's failed run on John McCain's ticket in the 2008 presidential election cycle." ...

... Steve M.: "Fox soured on Palin a long time ago." Read Steve's post, if only for the Palin quote. ...

     ... In his post, Steve cites Gabriel Sherman, who reported that "Fox producers called Palin and her husband 'The Bitch' and 'The Eskimo.'" So sexist and racist. What an excellent outfit young Murdoch is inheriting.

Presidential Race

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "... Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday called the flag 'a symbol of our nation's racist past.' Speaking at an African-American church just outside Ferguson, Mo..., Mrs. Clinton made a forceful plea to remove the Confederate flag wherever it flew.... 'It shouldn't fly there. It shouldn't fly anywhere,' Mrs. Clinton said of South Carolina.... 'How do we make sense of such an evil act -- an act of racist terrorism perpetrated in a house of God?'" she asked. CW: Not just the past, Hillary.

Margaret Hartmann: "2016 Republicans reveal they were against the confederate flag all along." CW: Not sure if 2016 is the year or the number of GOP presidential candidates.

Randy Got the Memo. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul says he believes the Confederate battle flag is 'inescapably a symbol of human bondage and slavery' and needs to go.... Paul added it was obviously a decision for South Carolina to make but said if he were in South Carolina he would vote to get rid of it." ...

... Wow! Even Li'l Randy's old pal, former staffer & ghostwriter Jack Hunter, the "Southern Avenger," who used to wear the confederate flag as a mask, got the memo." ...

... ** Seems those two ole boys are mighty creative. Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Many of the quotes attributed to the Founding Fathers in two of Rand Paul's books are either fake, misquoted, or taken entirely out of context, BuzzFeed News has found." Via Charles Pierce.

Andy Borowitz: The Center for Disease Control is tracking the epidemic of GOP presidential candidacy. "While scientists disagree about how running for President spreads from person to person, most epidemiologists believe that a candidacy needs an environment rich in narcissism and delusion -- plus a host to feed on, ideally a sociopathic billionaire."

Illustration by DonkeyHotey.Reid Epstein of the Wall Street Journal: "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is set to announce Wednesday that he is running for the Republican nomination for president, in a long shot bid that will rely on wooing the socially conservative voters who dominate early primary states." ...

... AP: "Gov. Bobby Jindal isn't seeking to have the Confederate battle flag stripped from a Louisiana-issued license plate for the Sons of Confederate Veterans." ...

... Here's what Jessica Taylor of NPR thinks you should know about Jindal.

Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Chris Christie is in the final stages of preparing his 2016 presidential bid, with a formal announcement possible as soon as next week, according to several sources familiar with the discussions.... Earlier this month, Christie dropped another hint that he was nearing a run. While campaigning in New Hampshire, the governor said that his family -- one of the last major hurdles to his entering the race -- was on board. 'This is about me now,' he said." CW: Isn't it always about you, Chris?

Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "As Gov. Scott Walker prepares to announce his campaign for president next month, promising to bring what he calls 'big bold leadership' to Washington, as he did in Wisconsin, he faces a cloud over that story line: Republicans back home are in revolt. Leaders of Mr. Walker's party, which controls the Legislature, are balking at his demands for the state's budget. Critics say the governor's spending blueprint is aimed more at appealing to conservatives in early-voting states like Iowa than doing what is best for Wisconsin." ...

... Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) plans to sign two new laws on Wednesday that expand the rights of gun owners by removing a 48-hour waiting period for those looking to purchase a firearm and allowing off-duty or retired police officers to carry concealed weapons at public schools. This action [which Walker will highlight at at a ceremony at the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office] will come one week after a suspected gunman shot and killed nine people in an African American church in South Carolina, yet again prompting a national discussion about gun laws in the U.S." ...

     ... We now break for a Chuck Todd Excuse Alert: "Laurel Patrick, a spokeswoman for the governor, said this bill-signing was scheduled and announced about two weeks ago, several days before the shooting occurred in South Carolina."

Justin Carissimo of the U.K. Independent: "Artist Dalton Javier Avalos Ramirez created a piñata of Donald Trump for fellow Mexicans to take their frustrations out on. Mr 'Piñateria' Ramirez told The Independent that he created Mr Trump's paper-mâché and cardboard look-a-like in one day and was inspired by his controversial presidential campaign announcement speech. 'They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime,' Mr Trump said in at Trump Tower in New York City. 'They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people....'" CW: I'm waiting for Donald to boast that Mexicans are buying Trump idols.

Beyond the Beltway

Justin Fenton of the Baltimore Sun: "Freddie Gray suffered a single 'high-energy injury' to his neck and spine -- most likely caused when the police van in which he was riding suddenly decelerated, according to a copy of the autopsy report.... The state medical examiner's office concluded that Gray's death could not be ruled an accident, and was instead a homicide, because officers failed to follow safety procedures 'through acts of omission.'" ...

Anita Chabria of the Guardian: "A proposed 'shoot the gays' ballot initiative in California that called for the execution of state residents on the basis of their sexuality has been quashed by a judge, sparing voters from the possibility of having to debate it during fall elections. Judge Raymond Cadei of the Sacramento superior court wrote that the measure, called the 'Sodomite Suppression Act', was 'patently unconstitutional' in a ruling filed on Monday and released on Tuesday."

Tal Alroy of CNN: "The Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 Stonewall riots and an iconic bar in the LGBT community, on Tuesday was unanimously granted landmark status by a vote of New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission." CW: About time.

Odd News. Tom Jackman of the Washington Post: A Virginia man won a $500,000 defamation & malpractice suit against two doctors who made degrading & insulting comments about him during his colonoscopy. Although the patient did not hear the conversation because the anesthesiologist had sedated him, he had inadvertently recorded their remarks on his cellphone. CW: Makes you wonder what derogatory remarks doctors make about you when you're out cold. I'm sure dissing the patient is common smalltalk during routine procedures.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Breaking his long silence on Wednesday, the 21-year-old man convicted of the Boston Marathon bombing acknowledged his guilt, apologized to his victims and stood to hear a judge formally impose a penalty of death by execution." ...

... NPR: "Convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has apologized to the victims and the survivors of the deadly 2013 attack. 'I am sorry for the lives that I've taken, for the suffering that I've caused you, and the damage that I've done,' he told the court today in Boston prior to the judge imposing the sentence on him." ...

... The Boston Globe reports Judge George O'Toole's sentencing remarks.

New York Times: "While nothing to brag about, the economy's performance in early 2015 was not quite as bad as the number-crunchers in Washington had thought. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015, an upward revision from the 0.7 percent contraction reported last month."

Grub Street: "New York City officials have launched an investigation of [Whole Foods] because, they say, the city's Whole Foods stores 'routinely' overcharge for products. The Department of Consumer Affairs alleges the overcharging happens because of inaccurate weights marked on prepacked groceries and claims the practice dates back to at least 2010."

AP: "A former White House chef for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush drowned in a New Mexico mountain stream, and his death was ruled an accident, authorities said Tuesday. The determination followed several days of mystery about the death of Walter Scheib, who vanished during a solo hike in the mountains of northern New Mexico and was found dead Sunday night after a weeklong search. There was no sign of foul play, State Police Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo said. Scheib recently moved from Florida to Taos. He was 61."

New York Times: Greek "Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faced anger and resistance on Tuesday from members of his own radical left political party, complicating his efforts to strike a deal this week with Greece's creditors, as some lawmakers and party officials criticized concessions by the Greek side and expressed doubts about voting for a deal in Parliament."

New York Times: "James Horner, the prolific composer whose vaulting theme music for 'Titanic' earned him two Oscars and became the best-selling orchestral soundtrack ever, died on Monday morning when the single-turboprop plane he was flying solo crashed and burned in the Los Padres National Forest in Southern California. He was 61. Late Tuesday, Mr. Horner's spokesman, the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency, confirmed that he was the pilot of the EMB 312 Tucano that crashed in northern Ventura County. He lived in Calabasas, near the Santa Monica Mountains."