The Ledes

Friday, April 17, 2015.

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.

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, April 16, 2015.

AP: "Italy's migration crisis took on a deadly new twist Thursday as police in Sicily reported that Muslim migrants had thrown 12 Christians overboard during a recent crossing from Libya, and an aid group said another 41 were feared drowned in a separate incident. Palermo police said they had detained 15 people suspected in the high seas assault, which they learned of while interviewing tearful survivors from Nigeria and Ghana who had arrived in Palermo Wednesday morning after being rescued at sea by the ship Ellensborg. The 15 were accused of multiple homicide aggravated by religious hatred, police said in a statement."

Reuters: "A Columbus, Ohio man who trained with the Islamic State militant group in Syria has been arrested and charged with supporting terrorism and making false statements, the U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday. Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, 23, a naturalized American, had been instructed by an Islamic State cleric to return to the United States and carry out an act of terrorism, the indictment said. Mohamud's brother was killed fighting with Islamic State in Syria, the Justice Department said."

Public Service Announcement

Reuters: "Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound. While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze."

White House Live Video
April 17

11:50 am ET: President Obama & Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy hold a press conference

1:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the Democratic Coalition PAC retreat (audio only)

3:50 pm ET: President & Mrs. Obama host a poetry reading by U.S. Poet Laureate Elizabeth Alexander

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wild Things Interrupt President Obama's reading of "Where the Wild Things Are" at the White House's Easter Egg Roll:

... Don't Worry, Bee Happy. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The pint-sized guests Monday might not have listened to him, but the president’s National Pollinator Initiative will forge ahead. Last June Obama launched an inter-agency task force charged with developing a federal strategy to protect pollinators, which help sustain crops ranging from almonds to blueberries and broccoli, and it should be unveiling a detailed plan in a matter of months."

The Coolest First Lady in the History of the Nation:


Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: "For her forthcoming book, “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House,” Kate Andersen Brower managed to elicit stories from domestic staff who witnessed up close the loneliness of President Nixon as he faced impeachment, the weariness of Hillary Clinton as her husband’s sex scandal exploded and other surprisingly intimate moments involving the first families. Most of these stories — from Nancy Reagan’s tirade over three broken tchotchkes to the tearful hug Jackie and Bobby Kennedy shared with a favorite doorman in an elevator — are attributed to staffers by name, not wrapped in the cloud of anonymous sourcing that usually cloaks reporting about the inner workings of the White House." ...

Here's What $75mm Buys:

... Orange County Register: "President Richard Nixon's Western White House, an oceanfront San Clemente estate owned by retired Allergan CEO Gavin S. Herbert, is for sale at $75 million. Herbert, 83, is selling the 5.45-acre estate after owning the property for 35 years." Includes slideshow.

New York: "Here's a spoiler for people who haven't finished House of Cards season three yet: Frank Underwood doesn't die, because Netflix [April 2] announced that it had renewed Cards for a fourth season."

Los Angeles Times: "On Tuesday afternoon, just about lunch time, a 'flying saucer' was undergoing a spin test in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The saucer is technically a 15-foot wide, 7,000-pound aerodynamic test vehicle. It is designed to help engineers try out new technologies for landing spacecraft, and someday people, on Mars."

Guardian: "Comedy Central is standing by its new Daily Show host Trevor Noah, after the 31-year-old South African comedian set to replace Jon Stewart was criticized for a series of controversial jokes he tweeted before his appointment." ...

... Jessica Winter of Salon: "Not since John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate have the vetting capacities of a powerful political force been cast into such doubt." Besides being a misogynist pig & an anti-Semite, Noah isn't even funny."

Andrew Sullivan says he quit his blog because blogging is difficult, time-consuming & dehumanizing. CW a/k/a the Blog Nazi: No kidding.

David Graham of the Atlantic: "Trevor Noah's ascent on The Daily Show has been steep — hired on as senior international correspondent four months ago, he'll take over the anchor's desk from Jon Stewart after just three appearances on the show, Comedy Central announced Monday."

If you thought a meerkat was something like a mongoose ... Global News: "Meet Meerkat, the live streaming video service that allows users to host a live broadcast from their smartphones. If you haven’t heard of this new app don’t feel too bad – it’s only been around for about two weeks. But that hasn’t stopped it from garnering an estimated 300,000 active users, US$12 million in funding and even a few controversies."

In Case You Were Wondering... Megan Garber of the Atlantic examines multiple theories on why "men’s dress shirts have their buttons on the right, while women’s have them on the left (to the wearer)."

Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News: "Inside the elaborate, surprisingly unglamorous world of presidential hotel stays." Or Why President Trump Would Resign Shortly after His Inauguration.

New York Times: "After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — 'Richard III, 1452-1485' — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times. With the solemn ceremony laid down for monarchs through the ages, the coffin was borne to a marble tomb adjacent to the cathedral’s altar by a party of 10 British Army pallbearers...." ...

... The Guardian has a full page of stories about Richard III.

Twenty percent more people trust Bill O'Reilly now than trusted O'Reilly before the press reported he was a serial liar:

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Thursday
Mar282013

The Commentariat -- March 29, 2013

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The Environmental Protection Agency will move ahead Friday with rules requiring cleaner gasoline and cars nationwide, despite fierce protests from the oil industry and some conservative Democrats, according to several individuals briefed on the matter. The proposed rules -- which had been stuck in regulatory limbo since December 2011 in the face of intense political opposition -- would cut the amount of sulfur in U.S. gasoline by two-thirds and impose fleetwide pollution limits on new vehicles by 2017."

Jon Chait of New York: Republicans are already forgetting they ever opposed gay marriage. ...

... E. J. Graff of the American Prospect writes movingly of her attendance at Wednesday's Supreme Court hearing of the DOMA case. ...

... David von Drehle in Time (cover story): gay marriage has already won. "The rise of same-sex marriage from joke to commonplace is a story of converging strands of history. Changes in law and politics, medicine and demographics, popular culture and ivory-tower scholarship all added momentum to produce widespread changes of heart." ...

... Matt Tunseth of the Chugiak-Eagle River Star: "U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski [R-Alaska] said Wednesday that her views on gay marriage are 'evolving' and that she's reviewing her stance on the issue 'very closely.'"

Michael Tomasky of Newsweek: "There is no question that it's a concerted strategy on Republicans' part to make sure that Obama leaves office having put zero judges on the [D.C. District] court." ...

... New York Times Editors: "Republicans clearly have no interest in dropping their favorite pastime [-- the filibuster --] but Democrats could put a stop to this malicious behavior by changing the Senate rules and prohibiting, at long last, all filibusters on nominations."

Paul Krugman: with the numbers refusing to back up deficit scolds, "talk of a fiscal crisis has subsided. Yet the deficit scolds haven't given up on their determination to bully the nation into slashing Social Security and Medicare. So they have a new line: We must bring down the deficit right away because it's 'generational warfare,' imposing a crippling burden on the next generation.... we're cheating our children.... by neglecting public investment and failing to provide jobs.... Our sin involves investing too little, not borrowing too much -- and the deficit scolds, for all their claims to have our children's interests at heart, are actually the bad guys in this story." ...

... Brad DeLong of UC-Berkeley: "... my conclusion is that I should stop calling the current episode the Lesser Depression. Yes, its shape is different from that of the Great Depression; but, so far at least, there is no reason to rank it any lower in the hierarchy of macroeconomic disasters." Via Greg Sargent.

Jordan Weissmann of the Atlantic: "Our food stamp rolls are eye popping, but they're not the problem. Poverty is."

President Obama spoke yesterday about saving the nation's children from gun violence:

... Jeremy Peters & Peter Baker of the New York Times: "With resistance to tougher gun laws stiffening in Congress, a visibly frustrated President Obama on Thursday implored lawmakers and the nation not to lose sight of the horrors of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn." ...

... Gene Robinson: "... it's hard for me to accept that the right to 'keep and bear arms' extends to the kind of arsenal that Adam Lanza -- and his mother, Nancy, whom he also killed -- assembled and kept in their home." See also yesterday's Ledes.

... Annie-Rose Strasser of Think Progress: "Minutes before President Obama delivered an emotional speech asking lawmakers to pass sensible gun safety measures in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, word came from Capitol Hill that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) had signed onto a letter pledging to block votes on any of Obama's proposals for gun legislation."

Kevin Drum: "... conservatives sure do seem to thrive on a continuing parade of weirdly invented, personality-driven scandalettes in a way that liberals don't."

Taylor Berman of Gawker: "In an interview with local radio station KRBD, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) recalled his father's ranch and the old fashioned way things were done on it.... 'My father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 or 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,' Young said in the interview.... Young apologized later, blaming the usage on his upbringing.... Looks like the GOP's effort to reach more Latino voters is going exactly as planned." ...

... Actually, Think Progress & the Alaska Daily News note that "Young stopped short of apologizing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "You know what was a term that was commonly used during my days growing up in Central Massachusetts? 'Dickhead.' But I mean no disrespect."

Local News

Tim Egan: California is back!

Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: "At an emotional announcement Thursday inside Faneuil Hall, [Thomas M.] Menino slowly navigated his way up the center aisle with his wife, Angela, to the thunderous applause from official Boston as well as city workers and admirers from the neighborhoods. Over the loudspeaker, Frank Sinatra crooned his defiant anthem, 'My Way.' 'I am here with the people I love, to tell the city I love, that I will leave the job that I love,' Mr. Menino, 70, the city's longest-serving mayor, told the standing-room-only crowd of well-wishers. He said essentially that he was not up to the job, at least not the way he wanted to do it. After illnesses last year that left him hospitalized for two months, he said he could not keep up his schedule...." Boston Globe story here.

Little Kenny Is Still a Brat. Washington Post Editors: Virginia "Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) tried to take some of the credit for himself [for passage of Virginia's sweeping transportation bill].... It would be easier to credit Mr. Cuccinelli if he hadn't opposed the bill tooth-and-nail when the General Assembly considered it, condemning the legislation as a 'massive tax increase' and pushing for a right-wing alternative. It would be easier still if the attorney general didn't have a long history of opposing serious transportation policy in service to a no-tax creed.... If Mr. Cuccinelli wants to associate himself with the success of this transportation bill, he should endorse it first."

CW: In case you thought there could not be a legislator worse than Louie Gohmert or Michele Bachmann, there is -- or was -- and he's a Democrat. Laura Zuckerman of Reuters: "The Nevada State Assembly expelled Democratic Assemblyman Steven Brooks on Thursday after he was arrested twice this year, in the first time the chamber ousted a member in the history of the state legislature.... Brooks was arrested in February outside his Las Vegas home on suspicion of domestic battery and obstructing officers. Police said he had attacked a member of his family. In January, he was arrested on suspicion of leveling a death threat against the incoming Assembly speaker, Marilyn Kirkpatrick, a Democrat from North Las Vegas. Police say they found Brooks driving around with a handgun and 41 rounds of ammunition when they arrested him on January 19." ...

     ... Update: I guess Brooks is "disturbed." And trying to buy more guns.

News Ledes

New York Times: A Fulton County, Georgia, grand jury indicted former Atlanta district school superintendent Beverly Hall on charges of "racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements."

New York Times: "A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, commercial beekeepers say, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation's fruits and vegetables.... Beekeepers and some researchers say there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor."

AP: "Prosecutors in the Colorado theater massacre case have rejected an offer from suspect James Holmes to plead guilty in exchange for avoiding the death penalty, saying the proposal can't be considered genuine because the defense has repeatedly refused to give them information needed to evaluate it. No plea agreement exists, prosecutors said in a scathing court document Thursday, and one 'is extremely unlikely based on the present information available to the prosecution.'"

Reuters: "The U.N. Security Council on Thursday approved the creation of a unique new combat force that is to carry out 'targeted offensive operations' to neutralize armed groups in conflict-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo."

Reuters: "Car bombs hit four Shi'ite mosques in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and another in Kirkuk just after prayers on Friday, tearing into crowds of worshippers and killing 17, police and witnesses said."

AP: "North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned Friday that his rocket forces were ready 'to settle accounts with the U.S.,' unleashing a new round of bellicose rhetoric after U.S. nuclear-capable B-2 bombers dropped dummy munitions in joint military drills with South Korea." CW: bee extinction is a much greater threat to the U.S. than is North Korea.

Reuters: "The president of Cyprus said on Friday the risk of bankruptcy had been contained and the country had no intention of leaving the euro, in a speech laden with criticism of Europe's currency union for 'experimenting' with the island's fate."

AP: "A U.S. Army veteran, who boasted on Facebook of his military adventures with Syrian rebels, was charged Thursday with firing rocket propelled grenades as part of an attack led by an al-Qaida group against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Eric Harroun, 30, of Phoenix, was charged in U.S. District Court in Alexandria with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction -- specifically, a rocket propelled grenade launcher -- outside the U.S."

Reuters: Michael Steinberg, a portfolio manager at SAC Capital Advisors, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation at his residence in New York City early Friday morning in connection with an insider trading investigation...."

Wednesday
Mar272013

The Commentariat -- March 28, 2013

** James Downie of the Washington Post: "The White House’s apathy [toward too-big-to-fail banks] is particularly bizarre when ending too big to fail is not just good policy but good politics as well." Read the whole post.

Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "President Obama wants to see the Supreme Court rule on the merits of the same-sex marriage arguments they heard this week, he said Wednesday, even though his solicitor general suggested that the court should not be considering one of the cases under review." ...

... ** Separate and Unequal. Ron Brownstein of the National Journal on why the Supremes should rule on the merits: "In the absence of national rules from Congress or the Supreme Court, the country often has let 'the states experiment' with inimical courses for a very long time on questions at least as weighty. The most obvious is slavery, which existed in the South until the Civil War ended it almost nine decades after Vermont first banned the practice in its colonial constitution. After the war, Tennessee in 1882 ignited a burst of laws across the South mandating racial segregation. Even after the Supreme Court upheld these 'separate but equal' laws in its 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, few jurisdictions outside of the South followed.... The justices are waiting for a cavalry that won't arrive if they are hoping that the states will establish a common set of rules for same-sex marriage before the Court itself must act." ...

... ** Emily Bazelon of Slate: Paul Clement, who was defending DOMA for House Republicans had his "diciest moment [during yesterday's Supreme Court hearing] ... when Justice Elena Kagan ... said that 'for the most part and historically, the only uniformity that the federal government has pursued' is uniform recognition of marriages recognized by the states. Federal law has followed state law. 'This statute does something that's really never been done before,' Kagan continued, and the question is whether 'that sends up a pretty red flag.' Then she hoisted that flag.... 'I'm going to quote from the House report here: "Congress decided to reflect and honor collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality."' 'Does the House report say that?' Clement asked, before catching himself: 'Of course the House report says that. And if that's enough to invalidate the statute, then you should invalidate the statute.' Maybe that's the whole case right there." ...

... Richard Socarides of the New Yorker: "... the question of heightened scrutiny is the most important issue in [the DOMA] case. If the Court articulates a new and more forward-leaning standard of review in sexual-orientation-discrimination cases, as advocates hope, it would be truly transformative -- so much so that even if the Court decided not to rule in yesterday's Proposition 8 case, anti-gay-marriage laws would soon be doomed in any future litigation." ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "However the justices rule, what was perhaps most notable in the two days of oral arguments concerning these marriage equality cases is that the lawyers for those opposing gay rights believe their side will ultimately lose this battle -- if not in the courts, than in the political realm." ...

Kate M. sends along this image:

... AND that reminds me: the Court's conservatives need a history lesson. Tuesday in Court Justice Alito said, "Traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years." Actually, no, as The Week staff illuminated last year: "the institution has been in a process of constant evolution." Alito's definition of "always" (as in "that's the way we've always done it ["it" being whatever], so it's morally wrong to change it") is "as long as I can remember." Alito ascribes to the egocentric "history begins with me" school of thought.

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "During Wednesday's Supreme Court arguments on same-sex marriage, Chief Justice John Roberts asserted that President Barack Obama's decision to keep carrying out the Defense of Marriage Act after concluding that it was unconstitutional indicated that he lacked "the courage of his convictions.' But Chief Justice John Roberts was involved in an arguably similar situation back in 1990, when the George H.W. Bush administration refused to defend a legislative rider on affirmative action even as the underlying federal agency continued to abide by it."

Ezra Klein: "Sorry, Justice Scalia, there's no evidence that gay parents aren't great parents.... According to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, 400,00 children are living in the United States without permanent families.... We should be begging gay couples to adopt children. We should see this as a great boon that gay marriage could bring to kids who need nothing more than two loving parents."

Profile in Courage. Greg Sargent: "As best as I can determine, there is only one Democrat in the Senate from a red or swing state right now who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act back in 1996: Sherrod Brown of Ohio." ...

... Profile in Weasly, Smarmy, Lying Cowardice: Bob Shrum in the Daily Beast: "I wrote in No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner about Bill Clinton's 2004 advice to John Kerry that he should consider supporting a ban on same sex marriage. I'm obviously not the only source: Newsweek independently reported the story eight years ago. My book came out six years ago and no one denied the accounts then or since then -- until now. A Clinton spokesman told The New York Times that the anecdote was completely false. But the story is true and I stand by it."

The oft-married, childless Rush Limbaugh says gay marriage is inevitable because of the influence of the "gay mafia ... has inflicted the fear of political death" on opponents. Guess he's giving up on the sanctity of serial "traditional" marriage.

Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: abortion is likely headed back to the Supreme Court as states purposely pass laws that are clearly unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade. "Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood..., said she thinks the Supreme Court will not take away women's right to choose. I hope she's right."

"Cruel & Unusual Punishment: The Shame of Three-Strikes Laws." Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone: "Despite the passage in late 2012 of a new state ballot initiative that prevents California from ever again giving out life sentences to anyone whose 'third strike' is not a serious crime, thousands of people -- the overwhelming majority of them poor and nonwhite -- remain imprisoned for a variety of offenses so absurd that any list of the unluckiest offenders reads like a macabre joke, a surrealistic comedy routine."

Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times on CIA personnel moves described in yesterday's Washington Post: "A C.I.A. officer directly involved in the 2005 decision to destroy videotapes depicting the brutal interrogation of two detainees who were members of Al Qaeda has ascended to the top position within the agency's clandestine service.... The decision about whether to keep the officer in the job presents a dilemma for John O. Brennan, the new C.I.A. director, who said during his confirmation hearing last month that he was opposed to interrogation methods used by the spy agency in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks." ...

... Charles Pierce: "Jesus, what do you have to do to lose a job over this? Show up wearing a necklace of disembodied fingernails?"

Brad Plumer of the Washington Post: "a big, newly revised paper by the University of Chicago's Marianne Bertrand and Adair Morse finds that ... as the wealthy have gotten wealthier..., that's created an economic arms race in which the middle class has been spending beyond their means in order to keep up. The authors call this 'trickle-down consumption.' The result? Americans are saving less, bankruptcies are becoming more common, and politicians are pushing for policies to make it easier to take on debt.... Cornell economist Robert H. Frank has been making this case for years."

David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: "Both parties, it turns out, have made wide-ranging efforts to survey the public about smart ways to cut the budget. The public responded -- and then the politicians let most of the good ideas get away."

Senators McCain, Schumer, Flake & Bennet. If you get an outfit, you can be a Senator, too. I know the Senate is sometimes billed as "the world's most exclusive club," but I did not know the club had uniforms.... Cristina Silva of the AP: "A bipartisan group of senators crafting a sweeping immigration bill vowed Wednesday that they would be ready to unveil it when Congress reconvenes in less than two weeks after getting a firsthand look at a crucial component of their legislation: security along the U.S.-Mexico border. The four senators -- Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York and Michael Bennet of Colorado -- are members of the so-called Gang of Eight, which is close to finalizing a bill aimed at securing the border and putting 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship."

Gail Collins recalls a Senate Republican caucus full of "environmental worrywarts." Enter, right, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, etc.

"Evan Bayh in Drag." Charles Pierce: "Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota is rapidly moving to the top of the leader board for this year's Al From Trophy, which the blog hands out annually to its least favorite putative Democrat. (The scramble for the cup has become frenzied since the retirement of perennial contenders Evan Bayh and Joe Lieberman, who were the Frazier and Ali of disreputable political sellouts.) Today, she pretty much told Michael Bloomberg to keep those (black) criminals in New York City in line before he spends all his (newyorkjew) money up in Jesusland to tell the people there what's what about their shootin' 'arns."

Chris Frates of the National Journal: "Republicans will continue to, as GOP Sen. John Barrasso put it, 'try to tear (Obamacare) apart.' And the GOP suspects it might get some help from moderate Democrats less concerned about protecting Obama's legacy than winning reelection. And much of that job falls to [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell, a brilliant defensive coordinator who will have to play flawless offense if he hopes to take control of the Senate next year."

Senate Races

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post: "Actress Ashley Judd has decided not to pursue a bid for the Kentucky Senate race, according to two sources familiar with her decision."

Martin Finucane of the Boston Globe: candidates to replace John Kerry of Massachusetts debate. Blah blah.

Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times: "A Wisconsin man could face years in federal prison if he is convicted of helping hacker collective Anonymous< take down Koch Industries' website during protests in the state's capital in 2011, according to an indictment revealed this week.... Officials said Eric J. Rosol, 37, of Black Creek, Wis., participated in an Anonymous-organized shutdown of Koch websites www.kochind.com and www.quiltednorthern.com on Feb. 27 and 28 in 2011."

Right Wing World

Thomas Edsall of the New York Times: "The Republican Party has begun to move to the left on social and cultural issues, as well as on immigration. Despite the warnings of mass defections of white evangelical and born-again Christians, these shifts will not be as costly as some people ... claim. The fact is that on pretty much every noncultural issue -- government spending, taxes, the regulatory state and national defense -- the Christian right holds orthodox Republican views virtually identical to those of mainstream Republicans. Its members are unlikely to bolt the party."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Bob Teague, who joined WNBC-TV in New York in 1963 as one of the city's first black television journalists and went on to work as a reporter, anchorman and producer for more than three decades, died on Thursday in New Brunswick, N.J. He was 84."

New York Times: Standard & Poor's 500-stock index, "the most widely followed barometer of the United States stock market, rose to a new high on Thursday, exceeding its 2007 peak, while most of the rest of the world could only look on in envy."

New York Times: Newtown shooter "Adam Lanza lived amid a stockpile of disparate weaponry and macabre keepsakes: 2 rifles, more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition, 11 knives, a starter pistol, a bayonet, 3 samurai swords. He saved photographs of what appeared to be a corpse smeared in blood and covered in plastic. Strewn about was a newspaper clipping that chronicled a vicious shooting at Northern Illinois University."

AP: "The U.S military says two nuclear-capable B-2 bombers have completed a training mission in South Korea amid threats from North Korea that include nuclear strikes< on Washington and Seoul. The statement Thursday by U.S. Forces Korea is an unusual confirmation."

New York Times: "Former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa was readmitted to the hospital overnight because of a recurring lung infection, President Jacob Zuma said in a statement on Thursday, appealing to people around the world to pray for him."

Reuters: "Cypriots queued calmly at banks as they reopened on Thursday under tight controls imposed on transactions to prevent a run on deposits after the government was forced to accept a stringent EU rescue package to avert bankruptcy."

Guardian: "A Brazilian doctor who has been charged with the murder of seven patients is being investigated in almost 300 other cases, according to health authorities investigating what could prove one of the world's worst serial killings. Virginia Soares de Souza is accused of cutting the oxygen to people on life-support systems and administering lethal doses of muscle-relaxing drugs in the Evangelica Hospital of Curitiba. Soares, a director of the hospital, was arrested in February along with three doctors and a nurse, who are suspected of conspiracy. Three other hospital staff have subsequently been charged in the case."

Reuters: "Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who died in a mansion near London in unexplained circumstances last weekend, was found lying on the floor of the bathroom with a 'ligature around his neck', an inquest into his death heard on Thursday."

AP: "Oscar Pistorius can leave South Africa to compete in international track meets, a judge ruled on Thursday as he upheld the Olympic athlete's appeal against some of his bail restrictions."

Tuesday
Mar262013

The Commentariat -- March 27, 2013

Obama 2.0. Julie Pace of the AP: "A White House official says President Barack Obama will name Julia Pierson as the first female director of the Secret Service." ...

... Update: David Nakamura & Scott Wilson of the Washington Post have the full story. "The appointment does not require Senate confirmation."

Greg Miller & Julie Tate of the Washington Post: CIA Director John Brennan "To help navigate the sensitive decision [of naming] the [CIA's] clandestine service chief, [CIA Director John] Brennan has taken the unusual step of assembling a group of three former CIA officials to evaluate the candidates. Brennan announced the move in a previously undisclosed notice sent to CIA employees last week, officials said. 'The director of the clandestine service has never been picked that way,' said a former senior U.S. intelligence official. The move has led to speculation that Brennan is seeking political cover...."

Adam Liptak & Peter Baker of the New York Times: "A majority of the justices on Wednesday questioned the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, as the Supreme Court took up the volatile issue of same-sex marriage for a second day. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, widely considered the swing vote on the divided court, joined the four liberals in posing skeptical questions to a lawyer defending the law.... The question is whether or not the federal government under a federalism system has the authority to 'regulate marriage,' Justice Kennedy said during oral arguments...." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Robert Barnes & Sandhya Somashekhar, is here. The Los Angeles Times story, by David Lauter & David Savage, is here. ...

... The transcript of today's oral arguments is here (pdf).

... Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog: "If the Supreme Court can find its way through a dense procedural thicket, and confront the constitutionality of the federal law that defined marriage as limited to a man and a woman, that law may be gone.... That would happen, it appeared, primarily because Justice Anthony M. Kennedy seemed persuaded that the federal law intruded too deeply into the power of the states to regulate marriage, and that the federal definition cannot prevail. The only barrier to such a ruling, it appeared, was the chance -- an outside one, though -- that the Court majority might conclude that there is no live case before it...." ...

... DOMA is in trouble. -- Jeff Toobin (of course, that's what he said about ObamaCare). Video via Raw Story:

... The New York Times' "The Lede" has live-ish updates of the proceedings in the DOMA case. Here are updates from the Washington Post.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: " As the top civil rights lawyer for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, or GLAD, based in Boston, [Mary] Bonauto has spent more than a decade plotting a careful strategy to advance gay marriage rights. She prompted Vermont to create civil unions in 2000, won the 2003 case that made Massachusetts the first state to legalize same-sex marriage and last year persuaded a federal appeals court that the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to gay couples, is unconstitutional. Yet in a quirk of fate..., the justices are considering a Defense of Marriage Act case on Wednesday, but it is not Ms. Bonauto's, which she argued when Justice Elena Kagan was President Obama's solicitor general. Instead the court took up a similar case..., presumably so Justice Kagan would not have to recuse herself."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "While Tuesday's case, about California's ban on same-sex marriage, has the potential to establish a constitutional right for gay and lesbian couples to marry, Wednesday's case is comparatively modest: it asks whether married same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits." ...

... The Washington Post's story, by Robert Barnes, is here.

You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution, which is newer than cell phones or the Internet? I mean we -- we are not -- we do not have the ability to see the future. [Paraphrase: my sinecure-for-life job is just too hard.] -- Whining Alito

The principal argument in 1967 with respect to Loving and that the Commonwealth of Virginia advanced was: Well, the social science is still uncertain about how biracial children will fare in this world, and so you ought to apply rational basis scrutiny and wait. And I think the Court recognized that there is a cost to waiting and that that has got to be part of the equal protection calculus. [Paraphrase: Do your damned job.] -- Solicitor General Donald Virrelli

Remember the fine print in the Declaration of Independence? We have an inalienable right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, just so long as the specific type of happiness is older than mobile telephones.... Rights are not supposed to be open to popularity contests. -- Steve Benen

While Justice Alito can’t see into the future, most Americans can. If this court doesn’t reject bigotry, history will reject this court. -- Maureen Dowd

Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "... the best argument the chief defender of California's ban on same-sex marriage could muster was that his side would ultimately lose." Read the whole post. ...

... While reading the Supremes' tea leaves is not a great idea (ask Jeff Toobin about that) Ian Millhiser of Think Progress seems to say it all in his headline: "The justices are not ready to bring marriage equality to Alabama, and they want Prop 8 to go away." Read his whole post. ...

The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals. That's where the compelling argument is. 'We're Americans. We just want to be treated like everybody else.' That's a compelling argument, and to deny that, you have got to have a very strong argument on the other side. The argument on the other side hasn't been able to do anything but thump the Bible. -- Cultural Arbiter Bill O'Reilly

When you've lost Bill O'Reilly, you've lost the war. -- Constant Weader

... The Washington Post published a terrific explanatory piece by Dylan Matthews late Tuesday morning on the issues before the Court. If you didn't know what the justices & lawyers were talking about when they discussed rational-basis review, intermediate scrutiny & strict scrutiny, read Matthews. The basis for determining which standard to apply still seems rather arbitrary to me. ...

... Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog, concentrating on the DOMA case to be heard today, also has an excellent explanation of the case & of "heightened scrutiny." BTW, Congress's argument against heightened scrutiny is that "gays and lesbians are one of the most influential, best-connected, and best-organized groups in modern politics, and have attained more legislative victories, political power, and popular favor in less time than virtually any other group in American history.'" CW: got that? Discrimination against a group of otherwise successful people isn't as bad as discrimination against those who are less "connected."

Kevil Cirilli of Politico: "Sen. Kay Hagan [ConservaD-N.C.] backed same-sex marriage Wednesday...."

Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post: "... national trends suggest that the fight over gay marriage is coming to an end -- no matter what the Supreme Court decides." With more charts!

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday limited the ability of the police to use drug-sniffing dogs outside homes. The case concerned Franky, a chocolate Labrador retriever who detected the smell of marijuana outside a Florida house used by Joelis Jardines. Based on Franky's signal, the police obtained a warrant to search the house, and they found a marijuana-growing operation inside.... The 5-to-4 decision in the case, Florida v. Jardines, No. 11-564, featured an unusual alignment of justices. Justice Antonin Scalia, a member of the court's conservative wing, wrote the majority decision. He was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, a frequent ally, along with three of the court's more liberal members, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan."

Appreciations of New York Times justice reporter & columnist Anthony Lewis, who died Monday, from Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker & Emily Bazelon of Slate. NPR republishes an interview of Lewis, conducted in 2002 by Neal Conan, slightly after he retired from the Times.

Justin Sink of The Hill: "White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday criticized three Senate Republicans, [Rand Paul, Ted Cruz & Mike Lee] who have threatened to filibuster Senate gun control legislation. Carney said a filibuster ... would send the wrong message to the families of gun violence victims. 'I don't think you need to tell the families of those who have lost their children to gun violence that bills like this may be filibustered...,' Carney said." ...

... Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "ThinkProgress examined data from the home states of six Democratic senators currently on the fence [about universal background checks]: Arkansas, Indiana, North Carolina, Louisiana, Alaska, and North Dakota. According to the most recent data available, these six states had: 1) 1,462 gun murders in 2010; 2) 351 gun death since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre at the end of last year; and 3) widespread support for universal background checks (following the national trend). Meanwhile, 152 gun shows are scheduled to take place in these states this year, providing criminals who can't pass background checks in stores with ample opportunity to stock up on guns." ...

... Cruz News

Caught on Tape. Jonathan Allen of Politico: "Senate Democrats are accusing Sen. Ted Cruz -- one of the conservatives threatening to filibuster gun-control legislation -- of flip-flopping on the issue. Majority Leader Harry Reid's office posted a video [below] of Cruz raising the possibility of strengthening a federal database of individuals who should not be allowed to purchase guns.... The video ... includes a reference to the filibuster threat and ends with this tag line: 'We agree. Let's vote on that.'" Cruz claims Democrats twisted his words. CW: apparently in Cruzspeak, "twisted" means "replayed at an inconvenient moment."

... Jamelle Bouie of the American Prospect: "What's key about Sandy Hook isn't that it yields new legislation, it's that it inspires new activism around gun control, and provides energy for the long effort to build a political coalition unafraid of the cultural politics that surround guns. Sandy Hook -- helped along by a new Democratic majority of urbanites and nonwhites -- has changed the politics of gun control. It will just take awhile for us to see the effects."

Ian Urbina of the New York Times: "Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that she had asked federal immigration officials to provide her with more information about immigrants being held in solitary confinement at federal facilities.... Her request came in response to an article in The New York Times on Sunday about new federal data indicating that on any given day roughly 300 immigrants are held in isolation, many of them for 23 hours a day. The data indicated that in more than half of the cases where this form of detention was used, detainees were isolated for 15 days or more, the point at which psychiatric experts say they are at risk of severe mental harm."

Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "All told, at least eight federal agencies are investigating [JPMorgan Chase Bank], including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Federal prosecutors and the F.B.I. in New York are also examining potential wrongdoing at JPMorgan."

Fracking Faults. John Tagliabue of the New York Times: earthquakes in the Netherlands "were caused by the extraction of natural gas from the soil deep below. The gas was discovered in the 1950s, and extraction began in the 1960s, but only in recent years have the quakes become more frequent, about 18 in the first six weeks of this year, compared with as few as 20 each year before 2011. Chiel Seinen, a spokesman for the gas consortium known as NAM, said the extraction had created at least 1,800 faults in the region's subsoil. 'These faults are seen as a mechanism to induce earthquakes,' he said. The findings in the Netherlands parallel the anxiety about hydraulic fracturing technology in the United States, where several states have halted drilling temporarily.... This month, the New York State Assembly voted to block ... fracking...."

John Rogers & Shaya Mohajerap of the AP: "In his first public speech since resigning as head of the CIA, David Petraeus apologized for the extramarital affair that 'caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters.' The hero of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars struck a somber, apologetic tone as he spoke to about 600 people, including his wife and many uniformed and decorated veterans, at the University of Southern California's annual ROTC dinner on Tuesday." CW: I can't figure out why a person has to apologize to strangers about private, lawful behavior. An elected official may have disappointed the people who voted for him because he presented himself as a different sort of person, but Petraeus was a hired gun, not an elected official. It seems to me his apology is in itself a form of self-aggrandizement. What do you think?

Senate Race

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: Sen. Tim "Johnson's [D-S.D.] decision [to retire in 2014], coming on the heels of a spate of retirement announcements from Democrats, opens up a potential new opportunity for Republicans in the state that President Obama lost by a large margin last year. Further, the retirement of Mr. Johnson, a moderate who is chairman of the powerful banking committee, will open up that slot, should Democrats maintain a majority. His replacement could be critical as Congress continues to deal with regulatory issues." ...

... Yep, bankers are all skeert my man Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) will become chair of the banking committee: Seung Min Kim & Kate Davidson of Politico: "... the Ohio senator who has made bashing big banks his trademark has a complicated, yet very plausible, pathway to the committee gavel — which would put him in a powerful position to move and promote his legislative priorities." CW: My guess: Wall Street's BFF Chuck Schumer will reserve the prize for himself -- and a grateful Street will shower him with Big Chuck Bucks.

Local News

North Dakota -- the Anti-Woman State. Alex Johnson & Daniel Arkin of NBC News: "North Dakota's [Republican] governor signed the nation's strictest anti-abortion measures into law Tuesday, including one statute that would ban most abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy." CW: that would be before many women even know they're pregnant.

Virginia Is Not for Voters. David Edwards of Raw Story: "The Republican governor of Virginia on Tuesday signed a law requiring that voters present photo identification in order to vote. Gov. Bob McDonnell said that HB 1337 was an effort to make elections 'less subject to fraud,' [CW: fraud which does not exist, but so what?] but voting rights advocates claimed that the law would suppress the rights of elderly and minority voters, who tend to vote Democratic and are less likely to have photo identification. In an executive order, McDonnell also directed the Board of Elections to educate the public before the law becomes effective in 2014." CW: kinda makes you wonder how our democracy survived pre-camera days. If only the portrait miniaturists of yore had had a friend like Bob.

Climate Change Comes to the Bond Market. Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has started to caution investors that climate change poses a long-term risk to the state's finances.... A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said he believed New York was the first state to caution investors about climate change. The caution, which cites Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storms Irene and Lee, is included alongside warnings about other risks like potential cuts in federal spending, unresolved labor negotiations and litigation against the state."

The Gohmert Daily News

Jake Sherman & John Bresnahan of Politico: Rep. Louis Gohmert (RCrazy-Texas) "got into a late-night verbal altercation with U.S. Park Police officers earlier this month, pulling rank in an attempt to get out of a parking ticket near the Lincoln Memorial. Shortly after 11 p.m. on March 13, officers wrote Rep. Louie Gohmert a citation for parking his black Ford SUV in a spot reserved for National Park Service vehicles.... Gohmert ... told the Park Police that his congressional parking placard allows him to park in that spot, and he's on the committee that oversees the agency. Gohmert took the ticket off his windshield and placed it on a police car along with his business card with a written message: 'Oversight of Park Service is my job! Natural Resources Thus the Congressional Plate in window.' He was 'rude and irate,' one officer reported. Another wrote that Gohmert was 'ranting.'"

See Comment by Akhilleus which begins, "In the Schadenfreude...." Akhilleus goes on to say, "Show of hands, kids. Who really believes Mittens stands in line at the Stop n Shop or rides a subway? Who believes he has EVER stood in line for anything?" ...

... CW: My hand is up. (What the photo doesn't show is that a few moments later, Romney grabbed the cane of the elderly lady in line in front of him & beat her to the ground with it. Stepping lightly around her battered body, he ordered a vanilla malt. Asked about the incident later, Romney brushed it aside as "a good lesson for irresponsible 47-percenters who consider themselves victims." A Romney spokesperson noted that family members of the woman confirmed that she received both Social Security and Medicare -- a double-dipper.)

News Ledes

New York Times: "James M. Nabrit III, a civil rights lawyer who fought school segregation before the Supreme Court and helped ensure that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., was allowed to go forward, died on Friday in Bethesda, Md. He was 80."

New York Times: "Defense lawyers for James E. Holmes, who is charged with killing 12 people and wounding dozens more at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last summer, signaled in court filings on Wednesday that they were willing to have Mr. Holmes plead guilty if he was spared the death penalty."

AP: "Cyprus will impose limits on money transfers and dispatch extra security guards to prepare for Thursday's reopening of the banks, which have been shut for almost two weeks to avoid a run during the country's financial drama."

AP: "Raising tensions with South Korea yet again, North Korea cut its last military hotline with Seoul on Wednesday, a link that has been essential in operating the last major symbol of inter-Korean cooperation: an industrial complex in the North that employs hundreds of workers from the South."

Monday
Mar252013

The Commentariat -- March 26, 2013

**SCOTUSblog is tweeting updates of oral arguments. ...

... The New York Times' "The Lede" has live commentary. ...

... Adam Liptak & Scott Shane of the New York Times: "As the Supreme Court on Tuesday weighed the very meaning of marriage, several justices seemed to have developed a case of buyer's remorse about the case before them. Some wondered aloud if the court had moved too fast to address whether gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Robert Barnes & Carol Morello, is here. ...

... Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog analyzes the Justices' remarks, with a concentration of Kennedy, who seems to want to skip the whole thing. "Ooh, my sinecure for life is too hard."

... The oral arguments in the Prop 8 case:

... Here's the Court's unofficial transcript of the arguments in the Prop 8 case (pdf). ...

... Attorneys David Boies & Ted Olson, attorneys opposing Prop 8, comment after the oral hearing:

... Sarah Erickson-Muschko of SCOTUSblog has an excellent series of links to news and opinion pieces on the two gay rights cases the Supreme Court will hear today. I won't try to duplicate her effort.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Paul Ryan's House budget:

**Katrina vanden Heuvel of the Nation, in the Washington Post: "Beneath all the partisan bickering, bipartisan majorities are solid for a trade policy run by and for multinationals, a health-care system serving insurance and drug companies, an energy policy for Big Oil and King Coal, and finance favoring banks that are too big to fail. Economist James Galbraith calls this the 'predator state,' one in which large corporate interests rig the rules to protect their subsidies, tax dodges and monopolies. This isn't the free market; it's a rigged market.... Bloomberg News estimated that the subsidy they are provided by being too big to fail adds up to an estimated $83 billion a year."

Natasha Lennard of Salon: "In recent months, especially in light of Aaron Swartz's suicide and Andrew 'Weev' Aurnheimer's prison sentencing, calls for reform to or disposal of the Computer Fraud and Abuses Act (CFAA) have amplified to a fever pitch.... Following Swartz's death, Rep. Zoe Lofgren proposed legislation, 'Aaron's law,' which aims to stop the government bringing disproportionate charges in cases like Swartz's. The draft cybersecurity bill circulating on Capitol Hill since last weekend, unlike Lofgren's, appears to expand the CFAA, not limit it.... TechDirt highlights one of the most perturbing suggested amendments includes changing the law such that 'conspiring' to commit what might be crimes under the CFAA would amount to actually committing the actual acts."

Bettina Boxall of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama on Monday established five new national monuments, including one in Washington's San Juan Islands and one in northern New Mexico." ...

... Which of course horrified Republicans.

President Obama spoke about immigration reform at a naturalization ceremony yesterday:

Jillian Rayfield of Salon: "Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., announced on his Facebook page that after some 'evolving,' he now officially supports gay marriage." ...

... Zack Harold of the Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) announced yesterday that he no longer supported DOMA.

We taxpayers paid for this so-called parody, along with another "spoof" of "Gilligan's Island." Thanks a lot, IRS. Good call. CBS obtained the video through a Freedom of Information Act request "after the IRS earlier refused to turn over a copy to the congressional committee that oversees tax issues: House Ways and Means":

... Josh Lederman of the AP: "... according to a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service...' the federal government spent ... nearly $3.7 million ... last year on the four living ex-presidents and one presidential widow. Topping the list in 2012 was George W. Bush, who got just over $1.3 million last year.... The $3.7 million taxpayers shelled out in 2012 is about $200,000 less than in 2011, and the sum in 2010 was even higher... With ex-presidents able to command eye-popping sums for books, speaking engagements and the like..., the report raises questions about whether the U.S. should provide such generous subsidies at a time when spending cuts and the deficit are forcing lawmakers and federal agencies to seek ways to cut back."

Justin Sink of The Hill: "Connecticut's U.S. senators on Tuesday admonished the National Rifle Association for robocalls to residents of Newtown, Conn.... 'With these robocalls, the NRA has stooped to a new low in the debate over how to best protect our kids and our communities,' Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both Democrats, wrote in a letter to NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre. 'We call on you to immediately stop calling the families and friends of the victims in Newtown.' The robocalls ... urge Newtown residents to lobby their state representatives against an effort to pass stricter gun controls in the state." ...

... Jonathan Allen of Politico: "Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are threatening to filibuster gun-control legislation, according to a letter they plan to hand-deliver to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office on Tuesday." CW: C'mon, you knew Aqua Buddha Man could not sound reasonable for longer than 24 hours. Time's up.

John Avlon of the Daily Beast/Newsweek: "... federal investigators are now interviewing former [Michele] Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations. The investigators are working on behalf of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which probes reported improprieties by House members and their staffs and then can refer cases to the House Ethics Committee." CW: I'm sure any testimony Madame 8 Pinocchios gives will be totally truthful. ...

... Austerity, Yes, But Not in My District. Greg Sargent: "... there's nothing like a few spending cuts in your own district to concentrate the mind. [Michele] Bachmann is, understandably, upset to hear that the Federal Aviation Administration — as part of its move to close air traffic control towers across the country due to sequestration's spending cuts -- will be closing two towers in Bachmann's district. And she’s suddenly making sense, putting out a statement decrying the sequester cuts and calling for a more 'responsible' approach."

Andrew Cohen of the Atlantic remembers legal writer Anthony Lewis, who died Monday.

Senate Race

Margaret Chadbourn of Reuters: "Senator Tim Johnson, the Democratic chairman of the powerful banking committee, does not plan to run for re-election when his current term ends in 2014.... Johnson, 66, a three-term senator from South Dakota, has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday in his home state to discuss what his aides described as 'his future plans.' His retirement would leave a vacant seat in a conservative-leaning state that could be difficult for Democrats to defend as they try to protect their majority in the Senate." CW: I'll say.

Local News

Alex Pareene of Salon: "Looks like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is going to try to be president now.... Walker is 'collaborating on a book with Marc Thiessen....' It is an I would like to be president sort of book.... Thiessen is a very poor Washington Post opinion columnist who wrote a book in which he strung together a series of distortions in support of the thesis that torture is great." CW: read the whole post. Walker continues to work hard to beat my own governor Rick Scott to the title of America's Worst Governor.

It Could Happen to You. An innocent man is released from prison after 23 years; a school teacher and her principal have their careers restored after 10 years -- all falsely accused/convicted under investigations conducted by retired NYPD Det. Louis Scarella. Michael Powell of the New York Times reports.

Michael Gordon of the New York Times: in a speech to be delivered at the University of Southern California tonight, David Petraeus will say he is "keenly aware" he's a first-class jerk. Meanwhile, he's been getting lots of job offers. Keen.

Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic remembers Anthony Lewis, who died Monday.

Right Wing World *

Boehner, Not as Crazy as His Caucus. Boehner flip-flops again, this time on ObamaCare, which a few weeks ago was "the law of land" but now is a law the House will "continue working to scrap." Steve Benen: "The problem isn't necessarily that the House Speaker is a right-wing ideologue, but rather, that he's weak in the face of pressure from right-wing ideologues." ...

... CW: as I've said before in some form or another -- if Boehner were a patriot, he would seek out about 30 of his lease crazy members, and work with Pelosi to get some reasonable legislation through the House. If he can tell Harry Reid to go fuck himself, he can tell a bunch of disloyal Tea Party crazies the same.

Andrew Stiles of the National Review: Pushing back against criticism of his continued support for gay-lovin' Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), GOP chair Reince "Priebus cited former governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas as an example of someone who could be 'a model for a lot of people in our party' in terms of discussing issues like marriage and abortion. 'I always tell people: Listen to Governor Mike Huckabee,' he said." ...

... Steve Benen: "OK, let's ... 'listen to' Mike Huckabee on culture-war issues. We might hear, for example, the former Arkansas governor suggest a national quarantine for those who are HIV positive. Huckabee has also equated homosexuality with 'pedophilia, sadomasochism, and necrophilia,' and compared gay marriage to drug addiction. Huckabee has also compared legal abortion to slavery and the Nazi holocaust."

You Can't Make Up This Stuff. Carol Kuruvilla of the New York Daily News: "Some members of the tea party are boycotting Fox News for being too liberal. The activists, who call themselves the Tea Party Fire Ants, say that Fox News has gone soft on some issues, like immigration and the attack on an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. They organized a boycott that lasted from March 21 to March 24, demanding that the station ... turn even harder right.... Its organizers are more than willing to switch over to the One America, a new conservative network that will launch in July." Via Steve Benen.

* Brought to you with a lotta help from Steve Benen.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The leader of the rebel group that seized power in the Central African Republic, Michel Djotodia, announced Monday that he was suspending his country's Constitution, dissolving its Parliament and initiating a three-year 'consensual transition.' Residents reported a precarious calm returning to the capital, Bangui, on Tuesday with less shooting and looting than on previous days, and some markets reopening. But there were also human rights violations by the rebel group, Seleka, according to an activist there."

AP: "Banks across Cyprus remain locked Tuesday after financial authorities extended the country's bank closure, fearing worried depositors will rush to drain their accounts.... All but two of the country's largest lenders had been due to reopen Tuesday, after being shut since March 16...."

Reuters: "Taliban suicide bombers< killed at least five policemen in Afghanistan's restive east on Tuesday, officials said, in a three-hour attack that coincided with a visit to the country by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The pre-dawn attack on a police compound in Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan's largest city, came as the country braces for the beginning of the spring fighting season in the 11th year of the war." ...

... Washington Post: Afghan businesswomen with whom Kerry met "... had specific requests: better access to credit, government contracting set-asides for women-owned businesses and, from Mahmoodi, more soccer pitches for women.... The Obama administration has said ... [that] the kind of large-scale foreign help that Afghanistan will need is likely to be partly contingent on safeguarding gains for women."

AP: "Syrian opposition representatives took the country's seat for the first time at an Arab League summit that opened in Qatar on Tuesday, a significant diplomatic boost for the forces fighting President Bashar Assad's regime. In a ceremonious entrance accompanied by applause, a delegation led by Mouaz al-Khatib, the former president of the main opposition alliance -- the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition -- took the seats assigned for Syria at the invitation of Qatar's emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani."

AP: "Italy's highest criminal court on Tuesday overturned [American] Amanda Knox's acquittal in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial, prolonging a case that has become a cause celebre in the United States."