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

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

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

CW: No idea why the picture is teeny-tiny.

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 

CNN: "21st Century Fox and the private equity firm Blackstone are in talks to launch a bid for Tribune Media, one of the nation's largest television broadcasting companies, a source with knowledge of the matter said Sunday. The deal currently under discussion would see Blackstone and Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox forming a joint venture. Blackstone would provide the cash for the acquisition while Fox would add all its owned-and-operated television stations to the joint venture." -- CW 

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- CW 

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 


The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

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The Commentariat -- April 20, 2015

Matea Gold of the Washington Post: "Turning disgust with billionaire super PAC benefactors into a platform that moves voters has been an elusive goal for activists seeking to curb the massive sums sloshing through campaigns. But five years after the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision -- which held it was unconstitutional to ban independent political spending by corporations and unions, and helped set off a financial arms race -- there are signs that politicians are beginning to confront a voter backlash." ...

... Joshua Replogle of the AP: "The letter carrier who caused a full-scale security review in Washington when he violated national airspace by landing his gyrocopter on Capitol Hill expressed frustration Sunday that his message wasn't getting through.... 'We've got bigger problems in this country than worrying about whether the security around DC is ironclad,' [Doug] Hughes told The Associated Press. 'We need to be worried about the piles of money that are going into Congress.'"

Martin Pengelly of the Guardian: After President Obama called the delay in Senate confirmation of Loretta Lynch "embarrassing," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on CNN Sunday that the "issues" which Senate Republicans used as an excuse to stall her confirmation would likely be resolved within the next few days.

Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: "... the nation's 1.3 million active-duty service members are in a special bind, virtually powerless to hold accountable the health care system that treats them. They are captives of the military medical system, unable, without specific approval, to get care elsewhere if they fear theirs is substandard or dangerous. Yet if they are harmed or die, they or their survivors have no legal right to challenge their care, and seek answers, by filing malpractice suits."

Frances Robles & Shaila DeWan of the New York Times: "Walter Scott's death has focused attention not just on police violence, but also on the use of jail to pressure parents to pay child support, a policy employed by many states today. Though the threat of jail is considered an effective incentive for people who are able but unwilling to pay, many critics assert that punitive policies are trapping poor men in a cycle of debt, unemployment and imprisonment.... The Obama administration is trying to change some of these policies, proposing to rewrite enforcement rules to require that child support orders be based on actual income and consider the 'subsistence needs' of the noncustodial parent, to bar states from allowing child support debt to accrue while parents are incarcerated and to finance more job placement services for them."

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Medicare ... imprint[s] Social Security numbers on more than 50 million benefit cards despite years of warnings from government watchdogs that it placed millions of people at risk for financial losses from identity theft. That is about to change, after President Obama signed a bill last week that will end the use of those numbers on Medicare cards."

Rebecca Leber of the New Republic: Five years after BP's Gulf disaster, deepwater drilling is just as dangerous. ...

... Josh Israel of Think Progress: "... while scientists continue to observe ongoing [ecological] problems [in the Gulf], a BP spokesman appeared on ABC's This Week on Sunday suggesting the remaining oil no longer poses a risk to humans or the aquatic ecosystem." Ignore those tar balls, people!

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal appeals court signaled Friday that it is unlikely to allow President Barack Obama's request to go ahead with a new round of relief for illegal immigrants, making it likely that the White House will have to take its legal case to the Supreme Court within days.... By the time the court session wrapped up, it appeared likely the appeals judges will rule, 2-1, against the administration's request for a stay of a district court injunction...."

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "The Canadian Supreme Court, unlike the United States' Supreme Court, understands that sectarian prayer is sectarian." Also, their Santa Claus outfits are superb.

Daniel Politi of Slate: "President Obama offered support for decriminalizing medical marijuana, as well as an overall change in the way the country deals with drug offenders, during an interview scheduled to air on Sunday night as part of a CNN special on marijuana."

If you didn't read Steve Coll's piece on dangerous Congressional Republicans, linked yesterday, back up & read it. Coll backs up what I've said in the past, but -- unlike me -- he's something of an expert.

Paul Krugman: The Greek economic crisis is still a crisis, & creditors are still behaving badly.

Presidential Race

Jim Newell of Salon reported from Nashua, New Hampshire, the weekend's temporary center for crazy. Not surprisingly, some of the crowd were even whackier than speaker John Bolton.

Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Calling voters 'folks' and boasting about his cut-rate suits from Jos. A. Bank, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker campaigned vigorously in New Hampshire over the weekend, citing his polarizing labor policies and urging Republican primary voters to resist pleas for moderation in a party that has lost the last two presidential elections. Walker's brash, populist pitch was a direct shot at his better-heeled GOP rivals and the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton...."

Elliot Smilowitz of the Hill: "Just days after announcing a 2016 run for the White House, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has already received more than $40 million in donations, according to Reuters." ...

... Old Marco. Ana Marie Cox in the Daily Beast: "Take away Rubio's biography and look at his positions and he becomes less the voice of his generation and more Benjamin Button. If I told you about a candidate that was anti-marriage equality, anti-immigration reform (for now), anti-pot decriminalization, pro-government surveillance, and in favor of international intervention but against doing something about climate change, what would you guess the candidate's age to be? On all of those issues, Rubio's position is not the one shared by most young people. The Guardian dubbed him the 'John McCain of the millennial set,' which isn't fair to McCain, who at least has averred that climate change exists." ...

... Martin Pengelly: "Marco Rubio ... on Sunday said he did not 'believe same-sex marriage is a constitutional right'. Rubio said instead that the issue should be decided at the state level, although he did concede that 'sexual preference is something that people are born with'." CW: This is a quick "evolution" for Marco; way last week "he called homosexuality a choice." Apparently, it's a choice made in the womb. More evidence that zygotes are people, my friend. ...

... How to speak out of both sides of your mouth: It's not that I'm against gay marriage, I believe the definition of the institution of marriage should be between one man and one woman. -- Marco Rubio, to Bob Schieffer

Also, too, it's unnecessary to make sense. (See, for another example, Victoria D.'s comment in today's thread. -- Constant Weader

Nate Cohn of the New York Times: Mike "Huckabee may not be receiving much attention, but he is as important as any of the other second-tier candidates in the race, like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. He has demonstrated appeal to a crucial bloc of Republican primary voters: the religious right. If he runs, he will be one of the most significant figures in the primary season, with the ability to deny a crucial segment of voters or even states to another candidate."

Everything Is Relative. Olivia Nuzzi of the Daily Beast: "'I don't consider myself a wealthy man,' Chris Christie said Friday in New Hampshire. That would be the same Chris Christie who, according to his tax returns, made $698,838 in 2013 -- $160,054 of which he earned as Governor of New Jersey, and $475,854 of which came from his wife, Mary Pat Christie, who works at a New York investment bank. Christie isn't rich if you're comparing him to his friends and donors, and he certainly may not feel rich in New Jersey, where his own policies have made living more expensive."

Hunter Schwartz of the Washington Post: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said his decision on whether he'll run for president depends on whether he can raise enough money, but he said there's a '91 percent' chance he will. 'If I can raise the money, I'll do it,' he said on 'Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.'"

Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Ohio Gov. John Kasich continued to signal his increasing interest in running for president Sunday, saying he's waiting for a signal from God before making the call.... While he awaits that clarity, Kasich said he's been active on the trail just in case. 'I'm not going to figure [it] out laying [sic.!] in bed, hoping lightning strikes,' he said." ...

... CW: Apparently, then, lightning is a signal from God. It appears that in the U.S., God is paying closest attention to "Central Florida between Tampa and Orlando [which] is known as 'lightning alley.'" The geologists who manage the site from which I obtained this information have a lot of nerve claiming that "warm, rising air pull[ing] sea breezes from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico" are the cause of the high frequency of lightning strikes in the region, when the real cause is God's messaging system. In any event, if Kasich is looking for a signal, he might take the kids to Disney World to up his chances of getting a signal from Thor. I do hope that somewhere in the message, God will mention that Kasich's balanced budget obsession is idiotic.

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "'Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,' by Peter Schweizer -- a 186-page investigation of donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities -- is proving the most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle still in its infancy. The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton's State Department in return.... Conservative 'super PACs' plan to seize on 'Clinton Cash,' and a pro-Democrat super PAC has already assembled a dossier on Mr. Schweizer, a speechwriting consultant to former President George W. Bush and a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution who has contributed to the conservative website, to make the case that he has a bias against Mrs. Clinton.... Major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book." ...

... Either Hillary Goes or I Do. AP: "A North Carolina man's obituary asked two things of friends and family: instead of sending flowers for the funeral, give the money to charity. And don't vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Jeffrey Tayler in Salon: "Reporters should do their job and not allow any of these potential commanders-in-chief to get away with God talk without making them answer for it, as impolite as that might be. Religious convictions deserve the same scrutiny any other convictions get,or more. After all, they are essentially wide-ranging assertions about the nature of reality and supernatural phenomena. As always, the burden of proof lies on the one making extraordinary claims. And if the man or woman carrying the nuclear briefcase happens to be eagerly desiring the End of Days, we need to know."

Mark Hensch of the Hill: "Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Sunday announced that he will not run for governor in his home state.... Manchin additionally endorsed 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during his CBS appearance Sunday."

News Ledes

USA Today: "The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has moved off the coast of Yemen to prepare to intercept potential shipments of Iranian weapons to the rebels fighting the U.S.-backed government of Yemen, Pentagon officials said Monday."

Washington Post: "An intruder climbed the White House fence late Sunday night but was quickly taken into custody, the Secret Service said."


The Commentariat -- April 19, 2015

** Steve Coll of the New Yorker on Congress's dangerous gamesmanship, as it applies to foreign policy.

American "Justice," Ctd. Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000. Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory's microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country's largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence. The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison...."

Al Baker of the New York Times explores police unions' role when suspected or evident issues of police brutality, racism, & other bad conduct arise: "... amid a rising tide of anger and resentment directed at the police and, perhaps more important, vivid video documentation debunking or calling into question the accounts of officers, police union officials around the country are rethinking how best to get their message out."

Elahe Izadi of the Washington Post: "When George Lucas tried to expand his production company studios in California's wealthy Marin County, the community pushed back. Then the 'Star Wars' creator wanted to sell the land to a developer who would build affordable housing.... Now, two years after that project stalled, Lucas has decided to build the affordable housing and pay for it all himself. 'We've got enough millionaires here. What we need is some houses for regular working people,' Lucas said through his lawyer...."

... the moment the politicians start saying they are in denial of what the scientists are telling them, of what the consensus of scientific experiments demonstrates, that is the beginning of the end of an informed democracy. -- Astrophysicist Neil Tyson

... Bad Science. Elahe Izadi: Some doctors associated with universities have written to "Columbia's dean of medicine, Lee Goldman, calling for [quack Dr. Mehmet] Oz's dismissal from the school. His position at 'a prestigious medical institution,' the doctors wrote, is 'unacceptable.'... Oz is ... a cardiothoracic surgeon who holds the surgery department vice chairmanship at Columbia University's medical school." ...

... Ignorant, Lying, Certified Economist. Ahiza Garcia of TPM: During a radio interview, "Rep. David Brat (R-VA) on Thursday ... blamed Obamacare for moving America away from a free market system and making the country more like North Korea. During the conversation, Brat responded to a PolitiFact article, which took issue with a statement he'd made on March 17. Brat had said repealing Obamacare would save America more than $2 trillion, a statement that PolitiFact, a fact-checking project run by the Tampa Bay Times, disputed and said was false." CW: Congratulations, Richmond, Virginia, for replacing Eric Cantor with this loon.

Noah Barkin of Reuters: "Thousands of people marched in Berlin, Munich and other German cities on Saturday in protest against a planned free trade deal between Europe and the United States that they fear will erode food, labor and environmental standards.Opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is particularly high in Germany, in part due to rising anti-American sentiment linked to revelations of U.S. spying and fears of digital domination by firms like Google."

God News

Yo, Marco, Juanito, et al. David Gibson of Religion News Service: "The U.S. Catholic bishops have welcomed the Obama administration's tentative agreement aimed at limiting Iran's nuclear ambitions, and their top spokesman on international affairs bluntly warned Congress against doing anything to undermine it. The bishops 'oppose efforts that seek to undermine the negotiation process or make a responsible multi-party agreement more difficult to achieve and implement,' Bishop Oscar Cantu, chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace Committee, wrote to House and Senate lawmakers on Monday. 'The alternative to an agreement leads toward armed conflict, an outcome of profound concern to the Church,' said Cantu."

David Gibson: "The Vatican is set to host a major conference on climate change this month that will feature leading researchers on global warming and an opening address by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The meeting, which the Vatican detailed on its website late Tuesday (April 14), is another sign of Pope Francis' 'green agenda' and another potential red flag for conservatives who are already alarmed over an expected papal teaching document on the environment that is scheduled for release this summer."

Dave Boucher of the Tennessean: "The Bible will not become the official book of Tennessee this year. Bolstered by opposition from Republican leadership, the Senate voted 22-9 to send the Bible to committee, effectively killing the bill a day after it was adopted by the House.... Gov. Bill Haslam and Attorney General Herbert Slatery oppose the bill; Slatery recently announced he thinks the bill violates the state and federal constitutions." ...

... MEANWHILE in Oklahoma.... Andrea Eger of the Tulsa World: "Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has sent a letter to public school superintendents across the state vowing to defend religious freedom amid 'veiled legal threats' over the distribution of Bibles on campus.... [Andrew] Seidel [of the Freedom from Religion Foundation] told the Tulsa World his organization wrote to 26 Oklahoma school districts in February after receiving complaints that Jamison Faught, the adult son of state Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, had been working with Gideons International to distribute Bibles to public school students in numerous districts." ...

... Steve Benen: "... it's quite unusual for a state Attorney General to directly intervene with dubious and unsolicited advice.... Perhaps most importantly, this is hardly a question of 'religious liberty.'" ...

... CW: This is such a no-brainer than even someone like Pruitt should be able to figure out that distributing religious materials to school children is foolish at best. I'll take a wild guess that Pruitt is Christian; does he want yahoos wandering into Oklahoma schools giving the kiddies copies of the Koran or books promoting atheism? If the answer is no, then it should be obvious to him that distributing Christian bibles to the kids is not an exercise of religious freedom but a coercive act to impose a particular religious dogma on vulnerable children. Pruitt's job requires him to know the Constitution. He doesn't. BTW, Jesus wouldn't like it either: "... whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." -- Matthew 7:12.

Presidential Race

Nicky Woolf of the Guardian: "In the sprawling, opulent Crowne Plaza hotel on the outskirts of the town of Nashua, almost the entire prospective Republican field gathered for the First in the Nation summit. All the big contenders are here; they have to be. In the audience are the people who can make or break their chances at the nomination. Most important are the donors, who can usually be spotted by their swagger and the strong smell of cigar-smoke. They are shopping for the best place for their money. There are the vendors, direct-mail advertisers and website and poster designers, who have set up shop in the lobby, next to stalls advertising third-party support for third-tier candidates like Ben Carson, who couldn't even get on the roster." ...

... Patrick Healy & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "During a Republican gathering in the ballroom of the Crowne Plaza hotel here, the first high-profile political event since Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her Democratic bid for the White House last Sunday, an energized, confident bench of 19 presidential candidates and potential contenders took turns taking apart Mrs. Clinton or competing with her on policy ideas." ...

... Politico's story, by Eli Stokols, is here. ...

... AND Maureen Dowd is here to aid & abet: "In her Iowa round tables, [Hillary Clinton] acted as though she were following dating tips from 1950s advice columnists to women trying to 'trap' a husband: listen a lot, nod a lot, widen your eyes, and act fascinated with everything that's said." But MoDo is rooting for Hillary: "Let's hope that the hokey Chipotle Granny will give way to the cool Tumblr Chick in time to teach her Republican rivals -- who are coming after her with every condescending, misogynist, distorted thing they've got -- that bitch is still the new black."

Rory Ross of Newsweek: "... one of the biggest benefactors to the Clinton Foundation has been trading with Iran and may be in breach of US sanctions imposed on the country. Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, 54, has courted the Clintons for at least nine years -- in the United States, the Alps and Ukraine. Earlier this year, he was confirmed as the largest individual contributor to the Clinton Foundation.... The fourth richest man in Ukraine, Pinchuk owns Interpipe Group, a Cyprus-incorporated manufacturer of seamless pipes used in oil and gas sectors." ...

... Mark Hensch of the Hill: "Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) says she's still planning for primary debates, in expectation of a challenge to presidential contender Hillary Clinton. 'I expect the voters who believe we should have a Democratic primary will get their wish,' Wasserman Schultz told C-SPAN's 'Newsmakers' during a video interview from Manchester, N.H. Party officials were thus mapping out a 'series of sanctioned debates that we expect our presidential candidates to participate in,' she added."

Danny Vinik of the New Republic: "Speaking at Harvard University on Thursday night, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley cranked up the pressure on Hillary Clinton by calling for a $15 an hour minimum wage and voicing his opposition to President Barack Obama's massive trade deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership.... Now that O'Malley has shined the spotlight on these issues, Clinton needs to take positions on them."

Beyond the Beltway

Terrence McCoy: The conservative state of Utah has nearly eliminated homelessness by providing homes for the chronically-homeless. What a concept! And it's cost-effective.

News Ledes

AP: "Former President Bill Clinton, who was president when the attack occurred [on Oklahoma City's federal building], spoke at Sunday's service at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood. Memorial officials estimated that 2,500 people attended the observance."

New York Times: "The Islamic State released a video on Sunday that appears to show fighters from affiliates in southern and eastern Libya executing dozens of Ethiopian Christians, some by beheading and others by shooting."

Guardian: "A major rescue operation is under way in the Mediterranean after as many as 700 migrants are feared to have drowned just outside Libyan waters, in what could prove to be the worst disaster yet involving migrants being smuggled to Europe." ...

     ... AP Update: A survivor "said about 300 people were in the hold, locked in there by the smugglers, when the vessel set out. He said that of the 950 who set out aboard the doomed boat, some 200 were women and several dozen were children."


The Commentariat -- April 18, 2015

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "As world leaders converge [in Washington, D.C.,] for their semiannual trek to the capital of what is still the world's most powerful economy, concern is rising in many quarters that the United States is retreating from global economic leadership just when it is needed most. The spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have filled Washington with motorcades and traffic jams and loaded the schedules of President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew. But they have also highlighted what some in Washington and around the world see as a United States government so bitterly divided that it is on the verge of ceding the global economic stage it built at the end of World War II and has largely directed ever since." ...

... CW: This should serve to remind Villagers that Republican "leaders"' shenanigans are a huge drag on our economy, not only in terms of their uniformly bad policies but also in the image we present to others around the globe. On Sunday, will Chuck Todd wring his hands at the economic turbulence Republicans have caused? Not a chance; instead, he & the bobbleheads at his roundtable will be assessing Scott Walker's "performance" in New Hampshire or something similarly inane.

White House: "In this week's address, the President described the historic understanding the United States -- with our allies and partners -- reached with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and will make our country, our allies, and our world safer":

Peter Baker & Rick Gladstone of the New York Times: "President Obama on Friday directed his diplomats to use 'creative negotiations' to bridge a sharp divide with Iran over the fate of sanctions if it agrees to curb its nuclear program, signaling flexibility in hopes of keeping a tentative agreement from unraveling.... Mr. Obama said he was 'frankly surprised' that Russia had held back selling the weapons [to Iran] this long, but added that the decision buttressed his argument in favor of a deal because it showed that international solidarity could crumble."

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "African American and other civil rights leaders infuriated over the stalled confirmation vote on Loretta E. Lynch, the first black woman to be nominated for attorney general, are casting the delay as an issue with racial overtones.... Activists across the country are three days into a hunger strike over the Senate's failure to vote on Lynch. African American groups have also protested outside the offices of senators who oppose her leading the Justice Department.... In his strongest comments to date about the issue [[ and his most animated remarks during a press conference Friday with the Italian prime minister -- [President Obama] called the Senate's inaction a 'crazy situation.... There are times when the dysfunction in the Senate just goes too far ... Enough. Enough. Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed. Put her in place. Let her do her job. This is embarrassing, a process like that [sic.; this]'":

     ... CW: Do take the time to listen to the President's remarks. History will remember the moment when the POTUS finally said "Enough!"

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The immediate fate of President Obama's sweeping immigration overhaul now rests with a three-judge appeals panel after an intense legal clash on Friday between lawyers for the federal government and for a 26-state coalition that has challenged the executive actions."

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "On Wednesday, Justice Samuel Alito temporarily stayed a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upholding Obama administration rules expanding access to birth control. Alito's order is not particularly surprising, and it only stays the Third Circuit order pending further action by Alito or the Court.... Nevertheless, Alito's order is a warning that this issue will not remain in the lower courts forever."

Jaime Fuller of New York: "New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced legislation on Wednesday that would recommend that the Treasury Secretary 'convene a panel of citizens' who would debate which woman could replace Andrew Jackson on the $20. A grassroots campaign, Women on 20s, has earned major buzz for pushing this idea — hundreds of thousands of people have voted on the group's website for which woman they would like to see on U.S. currency (Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks are favorites)." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "In a little-noticed radio interview, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) articulated the GOP's biggest fear if the Supreme Court wipes out Obamacare tax credits for millions of Americans who buy insurance from the federal exchange. The fear: President Barack Obama and Democrats will be ready with a one-page bill to restore the subsidies, as well as a slew of attack ads telling horror stories about 'individuals that have benefited from Obamacare on the backs of the American taxpayer' and lost their coverage, the Republican said." CW Translation: The only thing we have to fear is the truth itself.

Robin McKie of the Guardian: "... last week, one of the three UK scientists who discovered the hole [in the ozone over Antarctica] in 1985 warned that the real lessons of the story had still not been learned. 'Yes, an international treaty was established fairly quickly to deal with the ozone hole, but really the main point about its discovery was that it shows how incredibly rapidly we can produce major changes to our atmosphere and how long it takes for nature to recover from them,' said Jon Shanklin of the British Antarctic Survey."

Emily Steel & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "The staff lawyers at the Justice Department reviewing Comcast's proposed $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable have raised concerns about the merger and are leaning toward recommending that it be blocked, according to a person with knowledge of the deliberations."

Presidential Race

Dan Roberts & Nicky Woolf of the Guardian: "Jeb Bush and Chris Christie competed head-to-head to address their perceived character flaws before Republican activists in New Hampshire on Friday during the first big 'cattle call' of the party's presidential primary race. Speaking within minutes of each other in a small hotel in Nashua, the two heavyweights [(no pun intended) are] seen as closest to the party mainstream.... Inside the room, Christie's refusal to apologise for who he was appeared to go down better than Bush's studied humility. Every joke got a laugh. Every applause line landed. Christie spoke like a man enjoying every second, and when he was done the room leapt immediately to their feet. Bush, by contrast, seemed to speak to a spot about 10ft up the back wall. He wandered around the stage as if lost, settling about 5ft to the left of the podium, so the cameras caught him half-offscreen." CW: Maybe Juanito had difficulty because he wasn't speaking Hispanic. ...

     ... CW Award for This Week's Most Awkward Clause in Political Reporting: "... the room leapt immediately to their feet." Also, too, Chris & Jebbie did not "compete head-to-head" inasmuch as they were not in the room at the same time. ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Former Florida governor Jeb Bush on Friday once again defended his decision to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman whose death capped an intense national debate about ethics and politics, but also suggested that Medicare recipients should be required to outline end-of-life care plans before accepting the benefits." ...

... Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Jeb Bush indicated on Thursday night that President Obama's choice for attorney general, Loretta E. Lynch, ought to be confirmed -- putting him at odds with a number of Senate Republicans who've said they would try to block the nomination.... 'I think presidents have the right to pick their team,' Mr. Bush said, in response to a questioner.... 'If someone is supportive of the president's policies, whether you agree with them or not, there should be some deference to the executive,' Mr. Bush said. 'It should not always be partisan.' ... Mr. Bush made the comments in New Hampshire, at the 'Politics and Pie' town hall-style forum in Concord, N.H., where he seemed loose and engaged, joking with questioners and, at one point, getting hectored by over immigration reform." CW: Maybe he just likes pie. ...

... Get Back to Work, You Lazy Old Coots! Shane Goldmacher of the National Journal: "Jeb Bush grabbed one of the third rails of American politics on Friday, declaring that the retirement age for Social Security should be raised and 'in relatively short order.'"

Cezary Podkul of ProPublica and Allan Sloan of the Washington Post: In New Hampshire, Chris Christie has been touting his fiscal bona fides; back in New Jersey, in his actual budget proposals, "he has resorted to ... financial maneuvers...: reducing state payments to pension plans, shifting money out of trust funds dedicated for specific purposes and borrowing to patch chronic budget gaps. And despite overcoming a multibillion-dollar deficit that [former Gov. Jon] Corzine [D] left him, Christie has seen the nation's three biggest rating agencies downgrade New Jersey's credit a total of nine times on his watch." And much of his "balancing" the budget has come at the expense of the poor, unions & cash-strapped municipalities.

Marco's Excellent Healthcare Plan. Rachana Pradhan of Politico: "In 2008, while Democrats were declaring that the time was right for national health care reform, Marco Rubio, the speaker of the Florida House, had a ready response: Florida should build a market-based system.... Rubio pushed his no-mandate health insurance exchange, dubbed Florida Health Choices, through the state Legislature that year.... Florida Health Choices, which finally opened last year, now covers 80 people. [Emphasis added.] Obamacare, which Rubio wants to repeal, covers 1.6 million in Florida alone. And 93 percent of them are subsidized.... Rubio spokeswoman Brooke Sammon said the senator continues to support a 'true free-market exchange,' and she blamed Obamacare's subsidies for luring buyers away from Florida Health Choices." ...

... Charles Gaba: "Divide [those 80 enrollees] into the $2.4 million in taxpayer funding and the cost [of Rubio's program] per enrollee is now back down to a mere $30,000 apiece!" The cost for "That works out to around $210 - $260 per enrollee. Let's call it an even $250.... So basically, 7 years after getting started, Rubio and his GOP colleagues have managed to spend 120 times as much per person as the Big Gubm'nt Obamacare." Via Paul Waldman.

Mark Your Calendars. Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told Fox News Friday he would officially announce his presidential campaign plans May 5 in his -- and former President Bill Clinton's -- hometown of Hope, Ark. Speaking with reporters in Washington earlier in the day, Huckabee insisted he had not made a decision yet about running, although he said that 'things are progressing along' in his preparations. He sounded like an all-but-declared candidate, saying a super PAC has been formed to support his likely candidacy and touting his supporter network in Iowa, home to the nation's first presidential caucuses, which Huckabee won in 2008." ...

... John McCormack of the Weekly Standard: "As he gears up for another presidential campaign, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is making a big break with the Republican party on the issue of entitlement reform. Meeting with reporters at a hotel in Washington, D.C. [Friday] morning, Huckabee strongly criticized New Jersey governor Chris Christie's proposal to reform Social Security and said he would not sign Paul Ryan's Medicare reform into law if he were president. 'I don't know why Republicans want to insult Americans by pretending they don't understand what their Social Security program and Medicare program is,' Huckabee said in response to a question about Christie's proposal to gradually raise the retirement age and implement a means test.... 'That's not a reform,' he said. "... We are embracing a government that lied to its people -- that took money from its people under one pretense and then took it away at the time when they started wanting to actually get what they have paid for all these years.'" CW: Huckabee's stance on Social Security & Medicare is reason enough to be glad to see him enter the race. I am looking forward to seeing Huck whack his fellow candidates during debates.

Scooby-Two. Maggie Haberman: "Hillary Rodham Clinton's finance team will go on a fund-raising road trip next week, holding a series of meetings with hundreds of small donors on the East Coast as a way to engage supporters ahead of larger planned events aimed at those who are expected to bundle donations and collect a larger number of checks. The meetings -- in Washington, Virginia, Maryland and New York -- reflect the desire of the Clinton campaign to be inclusive and have a slow ramp-up, without major fund-raisers scheduled until May."

AND Donald Trump continues to be the most disgusting person pretending to run for president. CW: I'm going to have to keep linking to stories about this pig, but I plan to do so as sparingly as possible. If you think I've missed some "newsworthy" story about Trump, maybe I've just given it a pass, the way I so often do when Sarah Palin says something stupid enough to garner media attention.

Beyond the Beltway

Tom Dart of the Guardian: "Texas lawmakers are on the brink of passing 'open carry' gun legislation that critics say will put the public at risk. The Texas House voted 96-35 to provisionally approve the bill in Austin on Friday night. It will allow firearms owners in Texas who have concealed handgun permits -- some 850,000 people -- to openly carry their weapons in public in a hip or shoulder holster."

AP: "Oklahoma became the first US state to approve nitrogen gas for executions under a measure Governor Mary Fallin signed into law Friday that provides an alternative death penalty method if lethal injections aren't possible, either because of a court ruling or a drug shortage. Executions are on hold in Oklahoma while the US supreme court considers whether the state's current three-drug method of lethal injection is constitutional."

Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "Clarence W. Habersham Jr., the first officer to arrive on the scene after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man named Walter L. Scott, is drawing intense scrutiny both for the questions surrounding his response to the shooting and for what his role has illuminated about the pressures and expectations black officers face in largely white police departments."

Kathleen McGrory & Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times & Miami Herald: "Republican Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday he will sue the federal government for allegedly coercing Florida to expand Medicaid.... '... it is difficult to understand how suing CMS on Day 45 of a 60-day session regarding an issue the state has been aware of for the last 12 months will yield a timely resolution to the critical health care challenges facing our state," Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said...." ...

... Brian Beutler does an excellent job of explaining the background for the suit. Ultimately, "Scotts argument is transparently frivolous, but it underscores the extent to which the GOP's deranged resistance to Obamacare is boomeranging on itself.... Scott is suing the federal government to bail him out of a self-made crisis. This isn't an anomaly, but a pattern. Across the country, Republican governors are coping with the consequences of their own Obamacare intransigence -- staring into a future where their insurance markets get destroyed by virtue of their refusal to help implement Obamacare and their unwillingness to take on the right as it pursued litigation." ...

... From a Flip-Flop-Flip to the Absurd. Steve Benen: "This is actually one of the more amazing political fights in the country right now, and it's worth appreciating why.... The bottom line in this little farce is that Rick Scott is going to extraordinary lengths -- embracing and rejecting money, pitting the GOP-led state House against the GOP-led state Senate, dividing his allies, ignoring the needs of hundreds of thousands of his constituents, undermining his own state budget, even turning down tax cuts -- because he finds it necessary to be against 'Obamacare.' There's no real substance to any of this... The consequences are predictably absurd." ...

... OR, as Joan McCarter of Daily Kos succinctly explains, "Rick Scott says he'll sue to get federal money that doesn't have Obamacare cooties."

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times makes the well-taken point that Gov. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) is using the poor as scapegoats for his terrible economic policies. CW: A person who blames the most vulnerable for his own failings is nothing but a bully.

Re: a comment by Akhilleus in yesterday's thread, here's Shirley Jackson's "The Daemon Lover."

News Lede

Washington Post: Thousands of families fleeing Iraq's western city of Ramadi choked checkpoints leading to Baghdad on Friday, after an Islamic State advance spread panic and left security forces clinging to control."


The Commentariat -- April 17, 2015

Afternoon News.

Jaime Fuller of New York: "New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced legislation on Wednesday that would recommend that the Treasury Secretary 'convene a panel of citizens' who would debate which woman could replace Andrew Jackson on the $20. A grassroots campaign, Women on 20s, has earned major buzz for pushing this idea -- hundreds of thousands of people have voted on the group's website for which woman they would like to see on U.S. currency (Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks are favorites)."


Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The leaders of Congress's tax-writing committees reached agreement Thursday on legislation to give President Obama 'fast track' authority to negotiate an ambitious trade accord with 11 other Pacific nations, beginning what is sure to be one of the toughest legislative battles of his last 19 months in office. The 'trade promotion authority' bill -- likely to be unveiled Thursday afternoon -- would give Congress the power to vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership once it is completed, but would deny lawmakers the chance to amend what would be the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... The Washington Post story, by David Nakamura & Paul Kane, is here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Adam Behsudi in Politico Magazine: "The most important trade bill in a decade has pitted Harry Reid against President Barack Obama. Liberal Democrat Rosa DeLauro against moderate Democrat Ron Kind. Labor unions against pro-business Democrats. And Elizabeth Warren against virtually everyone who supports a landmark piece of legislation that would allow the president to close what could be the biggest free-trade deal in history. The open warring among Democrats over fast-track trade legislation, and the party's broader existential crisis on free trade, grew more pronounced Thursday as senior lawmakers announced a breakthrough on the trade bill." ...

... Deirdre Fulton of Common Dreams has more, including a host of objections to the bill. ...

... Russell Berman of the Atlantic: "Don't look now, but congressional Republicans are once again on the verge of handing over more power to President Obama. The announcement Thursday that House and Senate negotiators had struck a deal on 'fast track' trade authority ... could lead to the ratification of the biggest international trade agreement since NAFTA, along with the most significant legislative achievement that the GOP Congress delivers to Obama.... Despite their rhetorical attacks on his imperial presidency, Republicans sometimes see enlarging Obama's authority as the best path to enacting their desired policies."

David Nakamura: "The Obama administration will attempt Friday to convince a federal appeals court to lift a lower-court ruling that has blocked the government from implementing the president's executive actions to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation and to grant them work permits. In a rare oral argument before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, Justice Department lawyers will have at least one hour to make their case that a federal judge in Texas erred in February when he halted Obama's deferred-action program as he deliberates over a lawsuit filed by 26 states." ...

     ... The New York Times story, by Michael Shear, is here.

John Bresnahan, et al., of Politico: "House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster is dating a top lobbyist for the leading U.S. airline trade association, an organization that spends millions of dollars trying to influence his panel. The Pennsylvania Republican is currently at the center of high-stakes negotiations to enact the most sweeping overhaul of the Federal Aviation Administration in decades. The package could include changes to the nation's air travel system, including the privatization of the air traffic control system. Airlines for America's members -- all of the nation's largest airlines -- have a major interest in the legislation. Shuster and Shelley Rubino, vice president for global government affairs for Airlines for America, have been romantically involved since last summer, according to multiple sources...." ...

... Sleeping with a Lobbyist -- Is Probably Perfectly Legal. Margaret Hartmann of New York elaborates, noting Shuster's close & longstanding relationships with other Airlines for America personnel.

Steve Stromberg of the Washington Post explains why the delay in confirming Loretta Lynch to be attorney general is all Mitch McConnell's fault & has nothing to do with abortion, a provision in a sex trafficking bill or anything else. Reporters & headline writers are getting it wrong by linking -- as McConnell has -- Lynch to the Senate's failure to pass a trafficking bill.

CW: Rebecca Leber of the National Journal finds some somewhat tenuous evidence, IMO, that Republican leaders aren't really stupid about climate change; they're just pretending to be, as a political expedient -- they're afraid of losing primary challenges to flat-earthers. So is this also true about their far-out stances on war, economics & social issues? If so, does it matter what they really know & think if they continue to push bad policies?

Paul Duggan, et al., of the Washington Post: "Doug Hughes, the under-the-radar postal worker who airmailed himself into the Washington limelight in a putt-putt flying machine, was charged with a felony Thursday and sent home to Florida to await prosecution, a day after he landed his gyrocopter on the U.S. Capitol grounds.... Meanwhile, as members of Congress vowed to investigate how the flying mailman managed to penetrate Washington's air-defense system, the Secret Service on Thursday denied a report that it was tipped off to the impending incursion moments after Hughes's takeoff."

Somini Sengupta of the New York Times: "With Syria's neighbors increasingly shutting their borders to refugees and thousands trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of safety, the war in Syria is creating the worst global refugee crisis in decades, putting new pressure on the United States and other Western countries to open their doors -- and in turn, prompting domestic political backlash." ...

... AFP: "The UN security council has vowed to take action against those responsible for deadly chemical weapons attacks in Syria after hearing graphic first-hand accounts from doctors working there. The US ambassador, Samantha Power, who said many council members were reduced to tears by the reports, told reporters after the closed-door meeting that the security council would seek to identify those behind the attacks and ensure they faced justice."

So if President Obama expresses disagreement with a person's views, he is apparently "suppressing domestic dissent" a la Castro, if not outright violating that person's First Amendment free speech rights, according to Tom Cotton. This we learn from Charles Pierce, in a post titled "Tom Cotton Says Something Dumb: A Continuing Series." CW: As for me, I'm thinking that if Harvard College & Harvard Law concentrated more on educating the kids than on maximizing their endowment, they would not be turning out such dunderheads.

Gimme That Old-Time Macro. Paul Krugman: "If you want to feel really depressed about Europe's future, read the Op-Ed article by Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, that was published Wednesday by The Times. It's a flat-out rejection of everything we know about macroeconomics, of all the insights that European experience these past five years confirms. In Mr. Schäuble's world, austerity leads to confidence, confidence creates growth, and, if it's not working for your country, it's because you're not doing it right.... In recent years..., innovative economic ideas, far from helping to provide a solution, have been part of the problem. We would have been far better off if we had stuck to that old-time macroeconomics, which is looking better than ever."

David Graham of the Atlantic on the revolving door between financial firms & their regulators, today starring Ben Bernanke (with Deval Patrick in a cameo appearance): "Bernanke is going to work for Citadel, a $25 billion hedge fund that is one of the country's largest. While Bernanke is a talented economist, he has also never worked in the industry, so it's fairly clear that what Citadel wants is inside information -- either things he knows because he remains close with people in positions of authority, or his insight into ongoing negotiations. That's why he's been in high demand by financial-industry powers ever since stepping down last February.... Perhaps what makes Bernanke's case so worrisome is that he has an almost universal reputation for probity. If the revolving-door system is so powerful that it can make even him look suspect, is it beyond redemption?"

Jonathan Chait writes an interesting piece -- a must for political nerds -- on how "negative partisanship" has changed voting patterns. "... the understandable reliance on the models of the past, and the assumption that nothing ever changes, may be missing the fact that something very important has."

Presidential Race

We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all -- even if it takes a constitutional amendment. -- Hillary Clinton, in Monticello, Iowa

... Charles Pierce: "Of course, Rodham Clinton is absolutely right, but she is stuck with the towering, immortal irony that she might be pitching for this constitutional amendment from atop a billion-dollar presidential campaign that is not going to be funded by widows and orphans." Read the whole post. ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker on the Clinton Foundation's dodgy ethics. "... there is something particularly disorienting about the size and geographic scope of the Clinton operation. And it is strange, going into the 2016 Presidential campaign, that Hillary Clinton isn't more wary of that.... Presented with a conflict, the Clintons just don't seem to see why they should have to make a choice." ...

... So this comes as no surprise. Sam Stein & Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post: "Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign will accept donations from lobbyists and political action committees, a difference in policy from the man she's hoping to replace...." ...

... But this is a pleasant surprise, if true. Philip Mattingly of Bloomberg: "Hillary Clinton is planning to name Gary Gensler, a former top federal financial regulator and strong advocate for strict Wall Street rules, as the chief financial officer of her campaign, according to a Democrat familiar with the decision. Gensler, in his role as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, was a leading player in the drafting and then implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act, the financial rules that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010 in the wake of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Gensler also served in President Bill Clinton's Treasury Department. For Clinton, who has been fighting her left flank's concern that she is too cozy with Wall Street, Gensler is a notable hire."

Dubya Redux. Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "If Jeb Bush is elected president, the United States won't be on speaking terms with Cuba and will partner more closely with Israel. He'll tighten sanctions on Iran and urge NATO to deploy more troops in Eastern Europe to counter Vladimir Putin. And he'll order the U.S. military to root out 'barbarians' and 'evildoers' around the globe. Far from running from or playing down the views once expressed by his brother George W. Bush, Jeb Bush is embracing them -- and emphasizing them." CW: Hey, maybe Jeb will assemble the whole team: Cheney, Rummie, Tenet, Yoo, etc.

Jeffrey Frank of the New Yorker compares Marco Rubio -- unfavorably -- to then-Vice President Richard Nixon. Remarkably, Nixon -- who had no abiding interest in Cuba -- had a better handle on Cuba than does Rubio, who has been intimately involved with U.S.-Cuba relations all his life. The quality of today's GOP presidential candidates is scarier than a Nixon Halloween mask. ...

... Arit John of Bloomberg: "A day after being called the 'candidate of yesterday' by CNN's Jake Tapper over his opposition to same-sex marriage during a CNN interview, Rubio told Fusion's Jorge Ramos on Wednesday that he would participate in a gay wedding involving someone he loves. At the same time, he called homosexuality a choice and compared a gay wedding to a divorcee's second marriage. 'I'm a member of the Catholic faith,' the Florida senator said. 'It teaches that marriages -- after you get married the first time, if you've been divorced you can't be remarried, and yet people attend second marriages all the time.' Rubio ... has said he believes ;marriage should only be between a man and a woman...." ...

... Oddly enough, Steve M. finds Marco's tap-dancing hypocritical: "Right, Marco. So why not take that a step further? Because I've noticed an interesting thing: Even though you think they're immoral, you and your fellow Catholics aren't trying to make divorce and remarriage illegal."

Lee Bergquist & Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "As Gov. Scott Walker moves closer to a formal announcement that he will run for president, a new poll shows his approval rating in Wisconsin is slipping.... Some of Walker's budget proposals were overwhelmingly unpopular, the poll found. For instance, 78% of voters opposed Walker's plan to cut aid to schools by $127 million. Nearly as many, 70%, oppose Walker's plan to cut $300 million to the University of Wisconsin System. Walker, who is in Europe this week on a trade mission, told reporters in a conference call that he expected to be able to prevent the cut to schools and possibly could reduce the size of the budget reduction for UW." The story has info on the Johnson/Feingold poll -- see also Senate Race below.

A Gathering of Awful. Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "With every major Republican presidential hopeful descending on New Hampshire this weekend for the state's first candidate forum, attention will turn for the moment from Hillary Rodham Clinton's entry into the campaign to the fluid Republican race.... the audition there offers a chance for one of the 19 prospects expected to attend to break out of the pack in a state where there is no clear favorite."

Senate Race

Wouldn't It Be Lovely. Daniel Strauss of TPM: "A new poll finds former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) beating Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) by double digits in the 2016 race for Johnson's senate seat. The Marquette University Law School poll released Thursday found that 54 percent of registered voters say they would support Feingold in a 2016 matchup, while 38 percent said they would support Johnson.... Johnson defeated Feingold in 2010. Recently Feingold stepped down at the State Department and people close to him have told TPM he's gearing up for a rematch."

Beyond the Beltway

Dylan Stableford of Yahoo! News: "The 73-year-old Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy who accidentally shot and killed an unarmed suspect after confusing his stun gun with his handgun got firearms certification for field training he never received, the Tulsa World newspaper reports. According to Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz, [Robert] Bates had been certified to use three weapons, including the revolver he fired at Harris. But according to Tulsa World's report, supervisors at the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office 'were ordered to falsify [Bates'] training records, giving him credit for field training he never took and firearms certifications he should not have received.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The image of a sanctimonious bastard.Heartless in the Heartland. Peter Holley & Elahe Izadi of the Washington Post: "There's nothing fun about being on welfare, and a new Kansas law aims to keep it that way. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed House Bill 2258 into law Thursday. The measure means Kansas families receiving government assistance will no longer be able to use those funds to visit swimming pools, see movies, go gambling or get tattoos on the state's dime. Those are just a few of the restrictions contained within the law that aims to tighten regulations on how poor families spend their government aid.... Under the new welfare law, TANF recipients can still spend their benefit money on guns, the Wichita Eagle reported." ...

... CW: Meanwhile, many Reality Chex readers, not to mention millions of other taxpaying Americans and me, too, filed our tax returns yesterday, wherein we received breaks -- that is, benefits -- totaling well more than $5,964, the maximum a family of four could receive in Kansas welfare benefits over the course of a year. Nobody shamed us, nobody told us we couldn't go to the movies, nobody said we couldn't get our nails done or go on the next sea cruise out of Wichita. Nope, we're the lucky duckies who take our benefits without Sam Brownback & a bunch of self-righteous dumbfuck legislators getting in our wholesome, shiny faces. "God Bless the USA." I believe I'll get me a tattoo that says just that. Because I can. ...

... CW: My intention was to give Sam Brownback this week's Governor's Cup for Extraordinary Cruelty, but there's a close runner-up. Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "Thanks to a measure that was approved by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) this month, insurance coverage for tens of thousands of his constituents could be placed in serious jeopardy if the Supreme Court decides to limit the availability of Obamacare's subsidies in the states that haven't fully implemented health reform. The legislation, House Bill 2643, is being framed in terms of giving the state 'sovereign authority' over its policies. In practical terms, it bars state employees from doing anything to cooperate with the federal law -- which may prevent Arizona from setting up its own state-run insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act." Congratulations, Your Royal Sovereignty.

News Ledes

Yahoo! News: "The parents of the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombing are pressing federal prosecutors to drop their quest for the death penalty for convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, arguing that a life sentence without parole would “end the anguish' of a continuing trial and what is likely to be years of appeals. Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son, Martin, was killed by the second of two pressure cooker bombs detonated near the finish line of the 2013 marathon, said in a lengthy statement published in Friday's Boston Globe that Tsarnaev's conviction in the guilt phase of the trial earlier this month ensures 'justice will be served' and that it's time 'to bring the case to a close.'"

Washington Post: "A top aide of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been killed during fighting against Sunni insurgent forces, senior Iraqi officials claimed Friday, in a potential blow to factions opposing the government in Baghdad. But previous reports over the years about the death of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri have proven wrong. Photos purporting to show Douri's body circulated on social media, but not from any official sources. Iraqi officials said a DNA analysis of the body was planned. It was unclear when results could be released."

Washington Post: "Last week in Milwaukee, a 2-year-old darted into the street and was struck and killed by a motorist. When the motorist got out to aid the child, he was shot and killed by someone in the street. Also shot and killed was the toddler's 15 year old brother, who had run to the scene after the accident. On Thursday, the child's uncle, who police suspected opened fire as an apparent act of revenge, took his own life as authorities closed in on him." ...

     The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story is here.