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

Here's a Houzz feature on Frederick Douglass's D.C. home. Since it's not far from Donald Trump's new (temporary) digs and is every bit as fancy, the Trumpster might want to pay a visit to someone who's done such "an amazing job" that he's "getting recognized more and more." SCROTUS may be surprised to discover that Mr. Douglass is not at home. Too bad, because if Mr. Douglass weren't dead, he could have showed Donaldo his portrait, which for some time was owned by W.E.B. Du Bois (or DeBois or whatever).

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Rosie O'Donnell's new Twitter profile pic. Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW 

CNN: "The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell's dystopian classic '1984' in response to a sudden surge of demand. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon's computer-generated list of best-selling books. The list reflects hourly book sales. The 68-year-old novel appeared on the list on Monday, hovered around the #6 spot for much of the day, rose to #2 by Tuesday afternoon and then hit #1." -- CW 

The Netherlands Welcomes Trump, in his own words. Thanks to Haley S. for the link:

... CW: We're the laughingstock of the world. But, like us, others have to laugh so they don't cry or scream or hunker down in a suvivalist's crouch.

Los Angeles Times: "The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were revealed this morning in Los Angeles. 'La La Land' did what 800-lb gorillas are supposed to do: dominate the Oscar nominations tally, pulling down 14, including actor, actress, director and picture. Ava Duvernay’s '13th' joins 'O.J.: Made in America' among best documentary feature nominees, continuing our ongoing conversation about race in the United States. Speaking of which, with Viola Davis, Dev Patel, Octavia Spencer, Denzel Washington, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and Ruth Negga getting acting nominations, the 89th Academy Awards will definitely not be so white." This article includes a complete list of the nominees.

New York Times: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced on Saturday night that after 146 years of performances, it was folding its big tent forever. In a statement on the company’s website, Kenneth Feld, the chief executive of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling, said the circus would hold its final performances in May. He cited declining ticket sales, which dropped even more drastically after elephants were phased out from the shows last year." -- CW 

The Washington Post publishes a series of photos of the Vice President's residence.

Los Angeles Times: "Perhaps fittingly for an industry that has been trying to console itself in the wake of a presidential election result few saw coming, the 74th Golden Globes, held at the Beverly Hilton, proved a big night for the fizzy romantic musical 'La La Land,' a love letter to Hollywood itself that is widely considered the film to beat in this year’s best picture race." -- CW ...

Marisa Kashino of the Washingtonian: "... multiple real-estate sources say [Ivanka] Trump and husband Jared Kushner will move into 2449 Tracy Pl, NW, in Kalorama. That will put the couple less than two blocks from the Obamas, who will reportedly move here post-White House." Realtors' photos of the Kushner-Trump house are here. The six-bedroom house ... sold on December 22nd for $5.5 million, though it is unclear whether Trump and Kushner bought it, or will rent it from the recent buyer." -- CW 

Daniel Politi of Slate: "Los Angeles residents got a little surprise when they woke up on the first day of the year and realized one of the city’s most famous landmarks had been vandalized to read 'HOLLYWeeD' — at least for a few hours. Police say the vandal used tarps to change the sign’s O’s into E’s. Security cameras caught the vandal — likely a man — changing the sign between midnight and 2 a.m. but police can’t tell the person’s race or height from the footage, reports KTLA. If caught, the vandal could face a misdemeanor trespassing charge." -- CW 

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Tuesday
Jan202015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 21, 2015

Thomas Edsall: "Key Democrats have reached agreement on a set of policies known as 'inclusive capitalism': a forceful market-oriented economic agenda intended to counter inequality, restrain the accrual of vast wealth at the top and provide the working and middle classes with improved economic opportunities.... Taken together, the Obama, Van Hollen, and Summers interpretations of 'inclusive capitalism' are a victory for the left of the Democratic Party.... While none of the proposals, or their advocates, acknowledge this explicitly, one of the objectives of the evolving Democratic economic agenda is to get back support among whites without college degrees...." ...

... CW: "Inclusive capitalism"? I'd call it New Deal Lite. And let's not forget to thank Larry Summers for his self-serving spasm of noblesse oblige. (See Monday's & Tuesday's Commentariats.)

Bernie Becker of the Hill: "Congressional Democrats said Tuesday they would seek any and all avenues to curb offshore tax deals, kicking off a new effort to punish what they call 'corporate deserters.' Senior Democrats on both sides of the Capitol brought back legislation to make it more difficult for corporations to merge with a foreign competitor and shift their legal address abroad."

Lauren Barron-Lopez of the Hill: "Senate Democrats are pressing amendments to legislation that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline, arguing their proposals would 'actually make it an American jobs bill.'...[Chuck] Schumer [D-N.Y.] along with Democratic Sens. Ed Markey (Mass.) and Al Franken (Minn.) urged Republicans to vote for the amendments that will be considered on Tuesday afternoon. Markey's measure would ban the export of all oil shipped through the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, while Franken's would require that American steel be used to build the pipeline.... 'This is just the beginning of the amendment process; we have many more that deserve a vote,' Schumer said.... Schumer said the amendments being proposed by Democrats Tuesday would 'improve' the Keystone bill, 'but not enough to vote for it.'" ...

     ... Update: Republicans voted down both Markey's & Franken's amendments. Apparently they don't want too many jobs in what Joni Ernst called "the Keystone jobs bill" in her SOTU non-response.

Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "Two GOP congresswomen have officially withdrawn their support for a proposed 20-week abortion ban that has recently sparked controversy within the Republican Party, asking to be removed as co-sponsors from the legislation. On Tuesday afternoon, during the House's session, Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) requested to remove their names from HR 36, the 'Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.'... Hours before President Obama is set to give his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, he indicated that he is prepared to veto HR 36 if Congress sends it to his desk. In an analysis published on Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that enacting a national 20-week abortion ban would increase federal spending on Medicaid by an estimated $235 million between 2015 and 2025...."

Jorge Ramos of Fusion: "When [Republicans] ask for our support in 2016, we will remind them of all the times they voted against immigrants. There are many: from their opposition to the Dream Act, to the blocking action that the House leader John Boehner has taken against the immigration reform bill for a year and a half, up to last week's vote in Congress. It's hard to forget when someone says no to you in your face. Republicans now have a Latino problem and less than two years to solve it." Via Paul Waldman.

Jamison Foser: "The United States Senate, controlled at the time by President Obama's fellow Democrats, held one vote on raising the minimum wage in 2014. After that vote failed in April, Democrats were supposedly going to make 'raising the minimum wage the main weapon in their 2014 electoral arsenal' by 'bringing the bill up for a vote again and again throughout the summer and fall.' It was a good idea -- one I've been urging for years -- but I never thought they'd act on it. And they didn't.... Instead of repeatedly forcing votes on incredibly popular policies that Republicans oppose, they hold one vote, then snicker as Republicans hold dozens of votes on repealing Obamacare. And, as a result, the national political debate for the past several years has been much more about repealing Obamacare than about raising the minimum wage." Via Waldman.

... Greg Sargent: Why can't the Democratic party attract poor & older white Americans? Because Democrats really aren't doing much for these voters, who are rightly pessimistic about getting their share of the pie. CW Note to Congressional Democrats: promising every two years to "save Social Security" is not a convincing comprehensive program to help these left-behinds.

Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "More than five years after the single-payer system was scrapped from ObamaCare policy debates, just over 50 percent of people say they still support the idea, including one-quarter of Republicans, according to a new poll. The single-payer option -- also known as Medicare for all -- would create a new, government-run insurance program to replace private coverage. The system, once backed by President Obama, became one of the biggest casualties of the divisive healthcare debates of 2009."

Right now, the top 1 percent in this country, the millionaires and billionaires the president demagogues so much, earn a higher share of our national income than any time since 1928. -- Sen. Ted Cruz (RTP-Texas), a year ago ...

... Steve Benen notices that Republicans accuse President Obama of engaging in "class warfare" when he proposes ideas to reduce income inequality, but when Republicans decry income inequality, as they are wont to do of late, it's apparently A-Okay.

Andy Borowitz: "A new Oxfam report indicating that the wealthiest one per cent possesses about half of the world's wealth has left the richest people in the world 'reeling with disappointment,' a leading billionaire said on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum, the hedge-fund owner Harland Dorrinson said, 'I think I speak for a lot of my fellow billionaires when I say I thought we were doing a good deal better than that.'"

Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "Years before the release in December of a Senate Intelligence Committee report detailing the C.I.A.'s use of torture and deceit in its detention program, an internal review[, known as the Panetta Review,] by the agency found that the C.I.A. had repeatedly overstated the value of intelligence gained during the brutal interrogations of some of its detainees.... New details of the Panetta Review ... came as Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the new chairman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote to President Obama with an odd request: He wants the committee's report back. Mr. Burr sent a letter last week to the White House saying that his Democratic predecessor, Senator Dianne Feinstein, should never have transmitted the entire 6,700-page report to numerous departments and agencies within the executive branch...."

Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "Surveillance cameras at Vice President Biden's private Delaware residence failed to capture images of the gunman who fired shots near the house on Saturday night, leaving authorities with no leads or suspects.... The security system at the house has had a long track record of problems and false alarms, said several people familiar with the problem. It was so unreliable at times last year, occasionally giving incorrect data, that the Secret Service turned it off for several months -- warning agents at the time that cameras and alarms would be shut down indefinitely. The system was quickly repaired in November, after The Post first inquired about the problems."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Greg Wallace & Brian Stelter of CNN: "Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo told CNN Tuesday she intends to sue Fox News in the wake of the channel's coverage of supposed 'no-go zones' for non-Muslims. Hidalgo said the channel had 'insulted' her city." ...

... Doreen Carvajal of the New York Times on "Le Petit Journal"'s mockery of Fox "News." ...

... See also today's Presidential Race below.

Doktor Zoom of Wonkette: "Bland centrist Ron Fornier, who seems to aspire to be David Broder without all the edginess, has graced us with some standards for judging Barack Obama's State of the Union address tonight. Needless to say, he thinks the Republican takeover of the Senate presents America with a beautiful opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to 'begin governing together' like good boys and girls -- if only Obama doesn't poison everything by trying to enact his agenda." Read on, especially the exchange between Fournier & Jamelle Bouie where Fournier (who is white) accuses Bouie (who is black) of being a racist. ...

... Charles Pierce: "Fournier ... writes about this president like a man with an odd kind of Tourette's, a medical condition that causes him to uncontrollably blurt out banalities like 'Leadership!,' or 'Bipartisan!'... The idea that 'progress' and 'partisan gains' are mutually exclusive is the most obvious tell of the Beltway hack. Throughout history, 'partisan gains' have been both good and bad for the country. Every party has had 'gains' that led to 'progress.' This mindless word-like utterance is true only if you long for the days in which Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans 'worked together' to deregulate the derivatives market, and to whack around some poor people. I don't." ...

... Steve M.: "It's not clear exactly what Fournier wants, but it's obvious that he thinks we're not supposed to look at inequities in wealth and taxation over the last several decades as we raise taxes to the level that will satisfy Fournier -- now the new burden is supposed to fall on everyone equally, even though the old burden didn't and still doesn't." ...

... If you're interested in reading Fournier in the original -- though I don't know why you would be -- here he is. It is, as Hamilton Nolan of Gawker describes it, "An Idiot's Guide to the State of the Union. This is not one of those general explainers to an upcoming event cheekily labeled 'Idiot's Guide.' This is, rather, a guide to Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, written by an idiot."

Scott Bomboy of the National Constitution Center: "A unanimous Supreme Court said on Tuesday that Arkansas can't dictate the length of a beard maintained by a Muslim prisoner, after he made his own case initially to the Court using a handwritten form."

Life Lessons for Geriatric, Reality-Deprived Supremes. Public Defender Seth Morris in Salon: "In December, in the midst of nationwide protests drawing attention to the broken relationship between the police and communities of color, the Supreme Court demonstrated an impressive disconnect with reality. It issued a decision in Heien v. North Carolina that tears at the fragile police-minority relationship, and will further erode confidence in government and law enforcement.... In Heien, a police officer pulled over a man for not having more than one functioning brake light when it turns out the law only requires one. The man then consented to a search and was found to be in possession of cocaine. The Supreme Court said the detention, which requires reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, did not violate the Fourth Amendment because the officer's mistake was a reasonable mistake of law.... This decision shows how poorly the Court understands the daily interactions of citizens and the police. The Supreme Court seems to still think that the police use the vehicle code solely to keep the roads safe. They don't. They also use the vehicle code to prey on poor people." (Emphasis added.)

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to making up shit. -- George Santayahoo ...

,,, Brendan James of TPM: "Speaker 'Wild Bill' Finley received big applause at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition convention on Sunday as he preached that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been a tea party member if he were alive today. Finley told the crowd the left has 'hijacked' King's dream and that racism would have died out long ago if it wasn't 'manufactured' by liberals.... He said that MLK, who worked closely with socialist and anti-capitalist civil rights activists throughout his career, would not abide the left's 'political agenda.' Finley said that if King were alive today the left would 'spit in his face.'" ...

... CW: Yes, it seems like only yesterday when Bernie Sanders said he didn't want to make blah people's lives better by giving them white people's money. I well remember when Al Franken said the White Citzen's Councils were a force for good. And how how about that Elizabeth Warren explaining "too big to jail" to David Duke's white supremacist buddies? Yeah, racism is a totally left-wing phenomenon.

Evan DeFilippis & Devin Hughes, in a Politico Magazine opinion piece: Homesowners' shooting innocent people "are the byproduct of a tragic myth: that millions of gun owners successfully use their firearms to defend themselves and their families from criminals. Despite having nearly no academic support in public health literature, this myth is the single largest motivation behind gun ownership. It traces its origin to a two-decade-old series of surveys that, despite being thoroughly repudiated at the time, persists in influencing personal safety decisions and public policy throughout the United States."

Presidential Race

Michael Falcone of ABC News: "'Yes, there is a chance,' he would challenge Clinton, Biden told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in an interview on 'Good Morning America' today. 'But I haven't made my mind up about that. We've got a lot of work to do between now and then. There's plenty of time.'"

Bobby Knows Best. Julia O'Donoghue of the Times-Picayune: "Gov. Bobby Jindal continued to claim Muslim 'no-go zones' exist in Europe Monday, even as British political leaders and American media outlets issued statements repudiating such statements. 'I think your viewers know absolutely there are places where the police are less likely to go. They absolutely know there are neighborhoods where they wouldn't feel comfortable,' Jindal told CNN in London Monday." Hey, he read it in the Right Wing News. It must be truthy. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "There are a couple of things that make this incident an abomination, even by Jindal's standards. For one thing, his staff put out an advance copy of his speech last week.... Bobby had plenty of time to amend his remarks to steer clear of the controversy, but instead decided to surf it for attention.... Then there's the fact that the context of this Yahoo Abroad ploy was that great and abiding scam, the Gubernatorial Trade Mission, whereby state chief executives, especially those thinking about a presidential run, pretend they can rustle up business for the home folks by jetting across the seas to hobnob with foreign 'job creators.'..." CW: On the taxpayers' nickel, I would add. ...

... CW: Maybe PM David Cameron should sue Muslim "expert" Bobby Jindal. ...

... digby: "I don't know if he's misinformed or lying but this is the kind of lunacy that we are going to be seeing more of. It's obvious that terrorism fear-mongering is back on the menu.... There are no 'no-go' zones where officials have just given up sovereignty and where the laws and rules of the state don't apply. But you have to love the chutzpah of this moron prefacing all his lies and misstatements by saying he 'dealing with reality and facts'. These are 'reality and facts' that even Fox News has disowned and apologized for.... @AndyWitney noted the fact that we have some Americans who believe in 'no-go zones' right here at home. Cliven Bundy comes to mind ... he and his friends fought off federal agents with firearms. But that's completely different, of course. Because Muslims." ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. "MSNBC is distancing itself from a guest who asserted on Monday that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal 'might be trying to scrub some of the brown off his skin.' Arsalan Iftikhar, a human rights attorney and commentator, made the racially-tinged remark on MSNBC's 'Now with Alex Wagner.' It immediately prompted criticism. An MSNBC spokeswoman told CNN on Tuesday morning that Iftikhar won't be appearing on the channel again.... On Monday night, [Iftikhar] told CNN, 'I will apologize to Bobby Jindal when he apologizes to seven million American Muslims for advancing the debunked 'Muslim no-go zones' myth.'"

Paul Waldman: Mike "Huckabee is going to be the candidate of cultural resentment. He wants to be the spokesperson for those who feel that they're looked down upon by the elites.... There is without question a sizeable market within the Republican Party for this kind of appeal. The problem is that it isn't large enough to get you the presidential nomination." Waldman also discusses & embeds Jon Stewart's interview of Hucklebee. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "I thought Sarah Palin was the unequaled and all-time champion of conservative self-pity. But Huck's really giving her a run for her money. And he's almost certainly running for president. I do hope MSM types who still think Huck's this nice funny bass-playing 'populist' are exposed to this amazingly malicious book, which pretty much (unless the parts I've read are not representative) tells conservative Christians they'd better seize power or get ready for crucifixion."

God News, Wednesday Edition

Philip Pullella of Reuters: Catholics should not feel they have to breed 'like rabbits' because of the Church's ban on contraception, Pope Francis said on Monday, suggesting approved natural family planning methods. Francis used the unusually frank language during an hour-long news conference on the plane from Manila to Rome at the end of his week-long Asia trip." ...

... CW: I don't see these comments as exactly groundbreaking; I think Francis is saying, "Use the rhythm method. Don't use the pill." I would question how "natural" the rhythm method is: isn't it "natural" for a woman & her partner to want to have sex when she is fertile? I think so, & if I'm not mistaken, there are quite a few studies that have found women feel sexier when they are ovulating -- something that comes, you know, naturally. ...

... Never Mind. AFP: "Pope Francis on Wednesday described large families as a 'gift from God', just days after he said Catholics did not need to 'breed like rabbits'. In an apparent attempt to put the controversial comments he made on his way back from a visit to the Philippines into context, the Argentinian argued that the global economic system is the primary cause of poverty, rather than overpopulation."

Beyond the Beltway

Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York on Tuesday proposed the construction of an elevated AirTrain to La Guardia. It would be the first rail link to an airfield long lamented for its transit-starved location in Queens.... It is an ambitious, Robert Moses-style proposal from a governor determined to leave an imprint in his second term, although major elements remained to be worked out. When the train would start operating, for one, is far from certain.... Mr. Cuomo was also vague about how to pay for the train.... Proposals for a train to La Guardia have circulated in transportation circles for decades."

Al Baker & David Goodman of the New York Times: "Patrick J. Lynch, the president of New York City’s largest police union, who has openly clashed with the mayor in recent weeks, is facing a rare challenge to his leadership from a group within the union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. A slate of candidates, led by veteran union trustees, announced on Tuesday that they will run against Mr. Lynch in elections later this year, with Brian Fusco, a 27-year-veteran officer from Brooklyn, their pick for union president."

Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York on Tuesday proposed the construction of an elevated AirTrain to La Guardia. It would be the first rail link to an airfield long lamented for its transit-starved location in Queens."

Today in Responsible Gun Ownership. Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "A 9-month-old boy was shot and killed by his 5-year-old brother in a Missouri home on Monday, police said. The boy found his grandfather's .22-caliber magnum revolver that was being kept on a shelf built into the headboard in the master bedroom, Nodaway County Sheriff Darren White told The Washington Post. The baby was in a crib in the same room when the gun went off, and a bullet struck him in the head."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Intercepted conversations between representatives of the Iranian and Argentine governments point to a long pattern of secret negotiations to reach a deal in which Argentina would receive oil in exchange for shielding Iranian officials from charges that they orchestrated the bombing of a Jewish community center in 1994. The transcripts were made public by an Argentine judge on Tuesday night, as part of a 289-page criminal complaint written by Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor investigating the attack.

Politico: "The Navy fired the commanding officer of Naval Base Guantanamo Bay on Wednesday amid reports he's under investigation for being involved in an alleged extramarital affair -- and following the death of the husband of the woman the base commander was reportedly involved with."

AP: "French anti-terror prosecutors sought Tuesday to charge four men in connection with the attacks in Paris that left 20 people dead, which would be the first suspects charged in the country's bloodiest terrorist attacks in decades."

Monday
Jan192015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 20, 2015

CW: I won't be posting till late in the day today, so I'll probably miss a lot of good stuff. If you see anything of interest, share, as so many of you do. Thanks.

Michael Paulson of the New York Times: "Around the country, traditional Martin Luther King celebrations took place -- interfaith prayer breakfasts, speeches, volunteer service. But in several large cities, protests were organized by a new generation of activists who said they wanted to use the day to denounce injustice and to point out social inequality. Many were hoping to use the day to rekindle a new movement for social change." ...

... Damn! I Missed Robert E. Lee Day. Jamelle Bouie: "... in three states -- Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi -- MLK Day is also Robert E. Lee Day.... This is the Gen. Robert E. Lee who led Confederate armies in war against the United States, who defended a nation built on the 'great truth' that the 'negro is not equal to the white man,' and whose armies kidnapped and sold free black Americans whenever they had the opportunity.... It should be said that the 'Lee' part of 'Lee-King Day' is mostly downplayed in states that have the holiday." CW: Don't know how I missed it. I live in Lee County, which is not named for Spike Lee.

Scott Clement & Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday enjoying rising approval ratings that have been strengthened by rapidly improving perceptions of the economy and increased optimism about the overall direction of the country, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.... Obama's overall approval rating now stands at 50 percent, the highest in a Post-ABC poll since the spring of 2013." ...

... James Oliphant of the National Journal: "As President Obama details his latest policy proposals and trumpets his accomplishments Tuesday night in the State of the Union address, he'll also be doing something else: building a bridge to a possible Democratic successor.... In teasing out new proposals over the last several weeks, Obama and his aides have stood in sharp contrast to the new GOP Congress that, for the moment, seems to be stuck on holdover issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline, Obama's executive actions on immigration, and the Affordable Care Act.... This is the White House still locked in campaign mode, seeking to set up a conflict with the GOP on basic values."

Tim Devaney of the Hill: "GOP lawmakers plan to employ the seldom-used Congressional Review Act (CRA), which gives lawmakers the power to formally disapprove of major agency rules, as they seek to ratchet up their attacks on federal red tape.... While Obama can and likely will veto any efforts to undo regulations through the CRA, the threats carry more weight now that Republicans control both chambers of Congress. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (Okla.) and other Republicans are zeroing in on the EPA, believing they can use the Review Act against rules for new and existing power plants, water, ozone and coal ash." CW: Sounds like a nothing-burger to me -- just another venue for the Grand Old Party Whine. As if they needed another. ...

... Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "Conservative climate-change denialism is indeed dangerous, and not just because it threatens coral reefs and polar bears tomorrow. It's also dangerous because it's a symptom of a much greater anti-intellectual, anti-science epidemic, one that prioritizes populist punch lines over smart policy and threatens our ability to compete in the global economy today." ...

... But Sometimes Nobama Is Problematic. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Last November, when President Obama proposed strict rules to prevent broadband companies from blocking or intentionally slowing down the web, Republicans pounced on what they called yet another heavy-handed liberal proposal.... But ... [this] put Republicans in the awkward position of aligning themselves with the cable giants, among the most maligned industries in the country, against the sad Netflix viewer waiting for 'House of Cards' to break through its 'buffering' vortex. In the intervening weeks, politics on the so-called net neutrality issue have shifted so much that House and Senate Republicans are circulating legislation that would ostensibly do exactly what the president wants.... Once again, an Internet regulatory showdown might be guided as much by grass-roots guerrilla tactics as the lobbying of Comcast and Verizon."

** Bill Curry, writing in Salon, eviscerates the Democratic party & its leadership. Excellent!

What's in It for Larry? CW: Yesterday Akhilleus & I were wondering why Larry Summers had recently sounded so populisty. I believe I've found the answer in a post by Matt Yglesias: Summers is the American co-chair of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity, a Center for American Progress-sponsored group that last week released a white paper that Yglesias describes as "the best guide to what Hillarynomics is likely to look like.... Many thinkers on the left will find a great deal missing. What Hillarynomics does not include is anything like an Elizabeth Warren-style effort to dethrone giant banks from the commanding heights of the American economic system.... Nor is there much of an anti-poverty agenda here...." Summers' op-eds, then, are designed to promote Hillary's campaign agenda & her presidential aspirations. Larry himself, no doubt, sees himself once again napping in the Cabinet Room.

Donald Kettl, in the Washington Monthly, has some advice for the next president on how to run the government s/he really doesn't run.

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "A new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News ... suggests that support for Keystone is softer -- and less urgent -- than previously thought. Just 34 percent of Americans say, 'Build it now.' An additional 61 percent are happy to allow the review process to play out.... That overall 61-34 split is the reverse of most Keystone polls.... But if and when [the Obama administration] ultimately nix[es] the project altogether -- as most think [it] will -- [it] will still be running afoul of the vast majority of Americans." ...

... Ryan Koronowski of Think Progress: "On Saturday morning, a pipeline in Montana spilled up to 50,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River, the pipeline' operator confirmed Sunday night. Some residents are reportedly smelling and tasting oil in their drinking water, causing the EPA to test water samples and the city water plant to cease drawing water from the river.... The proposed -- and controversial -- northern leg://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/tag/keystone-xl-pipeline/">pump more than 34 million gallons of oil per day through the Dakotas down into Nebraska and into the southern leg in Oklahoma and Texas." CW: Yeah? So? What about those 70 permanent American jobs (or so) t jobs that would be created by Keystone spills. Thanks, Keystone supporters.

Michael Birnbaum of the Washington Post: "In the wake of this month's terrorist attacks in Paris, European leaders are calling for significant changes to what has long been a paradox of their borderless continent: Their citizens can move freely, but information about them does not."

James Glanz of the New York Times: "In November 2008, British spies captured email messages addressed to reporters and photographers with at least a dozen international news organizations, many United Nations officials, workers at far-flung oil companies and tens of thousands of other people, according to a newly disclosed classified document. The document, a spreadsheet of some 70,000 lines -- each with a brief summary of the information gleaned from a single intercept -- is contained in a cache of British documents that are among the classified trove leaked by Edward J. Snowden.... It is unlikely that the collection of these emails -- as irrelevant as most of them seem to be -- broke any laws because British and United States laws place few restrictions on the collection of overseas communications."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: Political scientist Richard Hasen has developed a sarcasm index for the Supreme Court justices. The hands-down winner -- no surprise here -- is Antonin Scalia. "Justice Scalia registered 2.78 on Professor Hasen's index, dwarfing the showings of every justice he has served with. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. came in a very distant second, at 0.43. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not even register.... There were 134 opinions described as sarcastic or caustic, and Justice Scalia wrote 75 of them, more than all the other justices combined."

God News, Tuesday Edition. Rachel Zoll of the AP: "Conservative distrust of Pope Francis, which has been building in the U.S. throughout his pontificate, is reaching a boiling point over his plan to urge action on climate change -- and to do so through ... an encyclical on the environment and global warming.... In a news conference as he traveled last week to the Philippines, Francis gave his strongest signal yet of the direction he'll take. He said global warming was 'mostly' man-made. And he said he wanted his encyclical out in plenty of time to be absorbed before the next round of U.N. climate change talks in Paris in November after the last round in Lima, Peru, failed to reach an agreement.... 'What [conservatives are' worried about is the solution,' said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. 'Climate change is the ultimate collective-action problem. It's going to require local, state and national policy change, and it's going to require international cooperation, which means the United Nations.'"

Charles Pierce gives "Selma" a qualified rave review but notes, "DuVernay's portrayal of Lyndon Johnson is even worse than I heard it was. She turns him into such a melodramatic villain that you half-expect Johnson to tie Amelia Boynton to the railroad tracks. And the clear implication that LBJ was behind sending the salacious videotape to the Kings has to dial one just to get to 'inexcusable.' (God, will American liberals ever stop covering for the Kennedy brothers?) But I was expecting those. What I didn't expect was that DuVernay would turn two of Johnson's shining moments into equally cheap cartoons."

Presidential Race

A Bush by Any Other Name.... Several commentators have remarked on a "conversation" the Coy Lady of the Absinthe had with a governor she dared not name. Said governor, whoever he may be (and it is a "he") explained to her why a lack of foreign policy experience is unimportant: "Because foreign policy still comes down, always, to your gut, your instincts." ...

... Steve Benen calls this "'The Colbert-ification of foreign policy thinking.' What the unnamed governor argued, in effect, is that knowledge is overrated. In a complex world, filled with constantly changing challenges and unpredictable outcomes, the Republican sees himself qualified to handle foreign affairs because of his finely tuned 'gut' and 'instincts.' Funny, I seem to recall another recent presidential candidate saying his intuition had far more value than awareness of world events. His name was George W. Bush.... But for Noonan's source to argue that it's better to trust a governor's gut than a senator's (or former Secretary of State's) actual expertise is hard to take seriously." ...

... Steve M. looked for clues & had no trouble IDing the perp as Chris Christie. ...

... Daniel Drezner of the Washington Post blew a gasket: This is "a legitimately dangerous belief system in world politics.... There are actually quite a few important concepts in world politics that are not, at first glance, terribly intuitive.... There are a lot of intuitive concepts in foreign affairs that turn out to be of dubious value in conducting statecraft.... Foreign affairs is lousy with situations in which the counterintuitive idea is superior to the intuitive idea -- a fact that the governor chatting with Noonan clearly does not know. And the hubris on display in the governor's answer makes me very frightened about what would happen should this person become president in January 2017."

Katie Glueck of Politico: "A confident Rick Santorum took the stage at a tea party convention [in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina,] on Monday, taking swings at 2012 presidential rival Mitt Romney and offering a glimpse of what a second Santorum bid would look like.... During his wide-ranging speech, Santorum made several nods to a future presidential bid. He also spoke more broadly about the need to improve the lives of American workers, roll back Common Core educational requirements and embrace a muscular foreign policy."

Matea Gold of the Washington Post writes a longish, somewhat disjointed story of Jeb Bush's employment as a board member & consultant of a shady investment firm called InnoVida whose CEO was convicted of swindling clients & investors for activities he carried out while Bush was a "key manager." CW: As I recall, when Wesley Clark ran for president in 2004, there were assertions that he wasn't smart enough to be president. Well, he's smarter than Jeb Bush: while Bush was on the board, Clark declined to join the firm because he found evidence the CEO was a crook.

Senate Race

Emily Cahn of Roll Call: "Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a two-term Democrat, told CQ Roll Call Monday that she is seriously considering challenging vulnerable Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., in 2016. Duckworth, currently finishing maternity leave following the birth of her daughter, said in a phone interview she is beginning the process of exploring a Senate bid as she gears up to return to Capitol Hill."

Beyond the Beltway

Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "About 9,000 people have been summonsed to Arapahoe County ​district court for consideration as jurors [in the James Holmes Aurora theater shooting case]. The whittling down of this vast pool, thought to be the biggest in US judicial history, is expected to take up to four months.... District attorney George Brauchler is seeking the death penalty. Brauchler, who reportedly declined an offer of a guilty plea in return for a life sentence, has declared that for Holmes, 'justice is death'."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Houthi rebel militiamen seized control of the palace of Yemen's president and clashed with guards outside his residence on Tuesday, in an escalation of the violent crisis that has gripped the capital for days and raised fears of a coup in one of the Arab world's most impoverished and insecure states. The president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, viewed by the United States as a crucial counterterrorism ally, was believed to be in the capital, but his exact whereabouts was unknown. He made no public statements as the fighting escalated, though Houthi leaders insisted that he was safe and in his home."

Putin Rears His Head & Comes into the Waters of ... Cuba. AFP: "A Russian intelligence warship docked in Havana on Tuesday, a day before the start of historic US-Cuba talks aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations. There was nothing stealthy about the arrival of the Viktor Leonov CCB-175, which was moored to a pier in Old Havana where cruise ships often dock. But the visit was not officially announced by Cuban authorities. US officials in Washington played down the presence of the Russian vessel, saying it was perfectly legal and not at all out of the ordinary."

New York Times: "A video posted online on Tuesday, purportedly by the Islamic State extremist group, depicted a black-clad militant with a knife threatening to kill two Japanese hostages within 72 hours unless the government in Tokyo paid a ransom of $200 million."

Sunday
Jan182015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 19, 2015

You are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages. -- Martin Luther King, Jr., Memphis, 1968

President Obama on the Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service:

... Steve Mufson of the Washington Post: "On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, nearly 47 years after the assassination of the civil rights leader, the nation and the president are still struggling with issues of race and discrimination, issues Obama has never denied but has long sought to de-emphasize.... Though Obama's views have evolved on issues such as gay marriage and national security during his six years in office, his views on race have remained remarkably consistent, and recent events appear to have affirmed rather than altered those views." ...

Steve Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times on a house in Selma. The Times labels this piece a "great read." It is.

Peter Holley & Dan Lemothe of the Washington Post: "Multiple gunshots were fired outside Vice President Joe Biden's home in Delaware and a vehicle fled the area Saturday night, Secret Service officials said. The vice president and his family were not at home when the shooting occurred, authorities said." ...

... Aired in October 2014:

     ... See Marvin S.'s comment in today's thread.

Gregory Wallace of CNN highlights proposals to help the middle class which President Obama will lay out in his State of the Union speech Tuesday. ...

... Matt O'Brien of the Washington Post does the same, calling Obama proposals, "Piketty with an American accent." CW: (That would be "PEEK-ə-tee," not "PICK-ə-tee.") Piketty concentrates on wealth inequality, while most of the President's proposals address income inequality. One of Obama's proposals, to "take away a long-standing feature of the tax code that allows people to pass along appreciated assets to their heirs while limiting any tax bill" does work to reduce wealth inequality. And would take direct aim at the Mittster & his brood. ...

... Vicki Needham of the Hill: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and presidential hopeful, said President Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers and the largest financial firms 'moves us in the right direction.' Sanders said that the plan comes 'at a time of obscene levels of income and wealth inequality.'" ...

... Paul Waldman: "Even President Obama's most fervent opponents must acknowledge that he's getting quite good at putting them on the defensive.... He seems to come up with a new idea every couple of weeks to drive [Republicans] up a wall.... They are barely mentioning the proposals for middle-class tax breaks which are supposed to be the whole purpose of this initiative; instead, all their focus is on the increases America's noble job creators would have to endure in order to pay for it."

... John Nichols of the Nation: ".... At a point when there is broadening recognition of the social and economic perils posed by income inequality, the president is talking about taking simple steps in the right direction. Congress is unlikely go along with him, but the American people will... To get a sense of how modest the Obama proposal is, consider this: the capital gains tax rate increase he proposes will only return the rate to what it was when Ronald Reagan was president. So Obama is only undoing the damage done; he is not going anywhere near the robust rates seen under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford." ...

... Paul Krugman: "We're living in a political era in which facts don't matter.... On issues that range from monetary policy to the control of infectious disease, a big chunk of America's body politic holds views that are completely at odds with, and completely unmovable by, actual experience.... These people ... [are] red-faced angry, with special rage directed at know-it-alls who snootily point out that the facts don't support their position.... It strikes me that the immovable position in each of these cases is bound up with rejecting any role for government that serves the public interest." ...

... Lawrence Summers in the Washington Post: Dear Middle Class: The One-Percenters at Davos don't care about you. "If the United States had the same income distribution it had in 1979, the bottom 80 percent of the population would have $1 trillion -- or $11,000 per family -- more. The top 1 percent would have $1 trillion -- or $750,000 -- less. There is little prospect for maintaining international integration and cooperation if it continues to be seen as leading to local disintegration while benefiting a mobile global elite." ...

... This Oxfam report (pdf), which contributor safari cites, provides more data supporting some of Summers' points: "Global wealth is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of a small wealthy elite.These wealthy individuals have generated and sustained their vast riches through their interests and activities in a few important economic sectors, including finance and pharmaceuticals/healthcare. Companies from these sectors spend millions of dollars every year on lobbying to create a policy environment that protects and enhances their interests further. The most prolific lobbying activities in the US are on budget and tax issues; public resources that should be directed to benefit the whole population, rather than reflect the interests of powerful lobbyists." ...

... CW: I keep wondering what Summers' angle is. He's a Wall-Streeter through-&-through, yet now he's speaking up against wealth inequality & dissing Davos. Summers was once a honcho at Bilderberg; maybe this is a big-boys' frat thing. I really don't know. But I'm pretty sure there's something in it for Larry.

Juan Williams of the Hill: "Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) strategy for defeating Democrats in the final two years of the Obama administration is clear: divide and conquer.... If significant numbers of Senate Democrats are willing to join with Republicans to force presidential vetoes, McConnell wins. He gains the power to paint himself as the good guy working across political lines. And he will smear the remaining Democrats as members of an out-of-the-mainstream party in the grips of leftist ideologues -- Obama, [Harry] Reid, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and possibly Hillary Clinton."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "... the Supreme Court on Tuesday will turn its attention to judicial elections. Such contests already sometimes resemble regular political campaigns, awash in money and negative advertising. And judges already routinely hear cases involving lawyers and litigants who have contributed to their campaigns. But 30 of the 39 states with judicial elections have tried to draw the line by forbidding judicial candidates to personally ask for money, saying that such solicitations threaten the integrity of the judiciary and public confidence in the judicial system. Tuesday's case is a First Amendment challenge to the solicitation bans, which have been struck down by four federal appeals courts. But most of the American legal establishment supports them. The American Bar Association and a group representing the chief justices of every state have filed briefs urging the Supreme Court to uphold the bans."

David Savage of the Los Angeles Times: "... after the justices agreed Friday to take up the issue [of gay marriage] again, Kennedy and the other justices must reconcile what they left unresolved two years ago. Is marriage for gays and lesbians a matter of equal rights and individual liberty guaranteed by the Constitution? Or is it a matter left to the states?... If this year's decision on gay marriage turned only on court precedents and legal logic, it would look to be a toss-up." However, the Supremes' agreement to take up the issue after denying states' appeals to the Court last fall suggests it is a decision already-made & waiting for an opinion to justify gay marriage. CW: Read the whole column.

David Sanger & Martin Fackler of the New York Times: "The trail that led American officials to blame North Korea for the destructive cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November winds back to 2010, when the National Security Agency scrambled to break into the computer systems of a country considered one of the most impenetrable targets on earth.... The evidence gathered by the 'early warning radar' of software painstakingly hidden to monitor North Korea's activities proved critical in persuading President Obama to accuse the government of Kim Jong-un of ordering the Sony attack, according to the officials and experts...."

Kevin Sieff of the Washington Post: "The U.S. military sent about 3,000 troops to West Africa to build [Ebola treatment] centers ... in recent months.... But as the outbreak fades in Liberia, it has become clear that the disease had already drastically subsided before the first American centers were completed. Several of the U.S.-built units haven't seen a single patient infected with Ebola.... Although future flare-ups of the disease are possible, the near-empty Ebola centers tell the story of an aggressive American military and civilian response that occurred too late to help the bulk of the more than 8,300 Liberians who became infected. Last week, even as international aid organizations built yet more Ebola centers, there was an average of less than one new case reported in Liberia per day." CW: Sounds like good news to me.

Your Friendly Muslim Neighbors May Be Terrorists! Peter Schroeder of the Hill: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he was not aware of any specific [terrorist "sleeper cells" in the U.S.], but noted that the recent attacks elsewhere in the Western world make it a safe assumption. Johnson is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee."

God News, Monday Edition. Kyle Balluck of the Hill: "Pope Francis is planning to address a joint session of Congress and visit the White House during a trip to Washington, D.C. in September, one of the archbishops organizing the pontiff's trip said."

David Carr of the New York Times on "why the Oscars' omission of 'Selma' matters."

Presidential Race 2016

Jake Miller of CBS News: In a new CBS poll asking Republican respondents about possible presidential contenders, only Sarah Palin has worse numbers than Chris Christie.

** Alec MacGillis, in the New Yorker, on Jeb Bush's school-privatization experiment. The kids is not learning much, but Jeb's friends & other opportunists are making fistfuls of dollars.

Caroline Bankoff of New York: "During a Sunday Meet the Press appearance, [Sen. Lindsey] Graham [R-S.C.] said that he has already registered 'testing-the-waters committee" with the IRS. "I don't know where this will go, but I'm definitely going to look at [a run for president],' he explained."

CW: As much as I despise Carly Fiorina, Politico's top headline at the moment -- "Who Wants Carly Fiorina?" -- accompanied by a big ole picture of her looking ever-so sad, is pretty damned sexist.

Jamelle Bouie of Slate on Jim Webb, "the white man's Democrat."

Senate Races 2016

Chris Cillizza & Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "The Senate map is the Democrats' friend in the 2016 cycle. They are defending only 10 seats, while Republicans have two dozen to hold. But wait, it gets better. Seven of those 24 Republican seats are in states that President Obama won not once but twice: Florida, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. To win the majority, Democrats need to win five of those seven seats in November 2016. (If Hillary Clinton, or another Democrat, wins the White House in 2016, then Senate Democrats need to win only four of those seven.)"

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Steve M.: "President Obama has proposed a change in the tax code that would lower taxes for the vast majority of Americans." But Fox "News" is calling it a "tax hike." See Krugman, Paul, linked above.

Brian Stelter of CNN: "Fox News took time out of four broadcasts on Saturday to apologize for four separate instances of incorrect information that portrayed Muslims in a negative light."

CW: Thanks for the responses yesterday re: my WashPo "poll analysis" challenge. I feel so much better. What struck me immediately was Taylor's false assumption that only European Muslims would say they approved of the Islamic State -- that other people could not possibly answer yes. The RT story, dated August 18, 2014, on which Taylor relied does not link to or cite the precise question the pollsters posed. If Western Europeans are half as ignorant as Americans, it wouldn't surprise me to find many people of every ethnic & religious persuasion answering in the affirmative. They might think the Islamic State was something like the Palestinian state (or even have the two confused). In any event, Taylor's assumption that only Muslims would approve of an Islamic state is rather stunningly biased against Muslims.

     One can't tell from the RT article whether or not the pollsters provided respondents with any sort of description of ISIS to "help" respondents answer the question. If they did, that description would of course skew the responses in some way. As P. D. Pepe pointed out, the survey was conducted & reported by Russian state organs (something Taylor did not make clear in his post). RT is a well-known propaganda machine. It's ironic that our own right-wing propaganda machine, a/k/a Fox "News," would use as its source Russian media. Other contributors noted other methodological problems, both on the pollsters' part & on Taylor's. All in all, a questionable poll, & a really dumb analysis.

Beyond the Beltway

Jesse McKinley of the New York Times: "Flanked by a collection of liberal groups and labor leaders, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday announced a raft of proposals on social issues, among them a plan that would raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour in New York City and $10.50 an hour in the rest of the state. If approved by the State Legislature, the proposal would make New York's minimum wage among the highest in the country. But traditional Republican opposition in the State Senate, where that party holds a majority, makes the passage of such legislation far from assured."

American "Justice," Ctd. Silas Allen & Darla Slipke of the Oklahoman: "The police chief [in Sentinel, Oklahoma,] survived being shot in the chest Thursday while responding to a reported bomb threat, and the man who authorities say shot him was allowed to walk free later in the day.... Agents with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said the man who shot the chief was released after hours of questioning when they determined they didn't have enough evidence to arrest him. 'Facts surrounding the case lead agents to believe the man was unaware it was officers who made entry,' OSBI wrote in a news release." ...

... Wait, There's More. David Ferguson of the Raw Story: A "neighbor ... described the gunman to the Oklahoman as a 'survivalist' type who mistrusted the government, was openly unfriendly to neighbors and wore a lot of black clothing. A Facebook profile believed to be [the shooter Dallas] Horton's is rife with racially charged images and jabs at black leaders like Rev. Al Sharpton." Oh, here's something else: Police Chief Louis Ross is black. CW: Well, of course there's not enough evidence.

News Ledes

New York Times: "A federal prosecutor who has accused top officials including the president of protecting Iranian suspects in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center, one of Argentina's worst terrorist attacks, has been found dead at his home, the authorities said on Monday. The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, had been scheduled to testify on Monday at a congressional inquiry about his accusations. News of his mysterious death immediately provoked shock and outrage from the political opposition and leaders of Argentina's Jewish community, one of Latin America's largest, and appeared to put a skulduggerous shadow over his accusations."

Saturday
Jan172015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 18, 2015

A Constant Weader Challenge to Readers: In the French TV segment I've linked under Infotainment, the host suggests that the Washington Post debunked a survey that showed one in six French people support ISIS. A post in Daily Kos by an anonymous contributor flat-out says, "that poll was debunked by the Washington Post." Yesterday, Akhilleus wrote, "I spotted an article touting the problems recent college grads have with critical thinking. Four out of ten seem unable to parse basic problems or spot logical fallacies." I took a look at the WashPo piece, by Adam Taylor (whose pic suggests he could pass for a recent college grad) supposedly debunking the survey. It's crap. If you spot the logical fallacy in the WashPo post, please write in & tell us what it is. Let's see if a few Reality Chex readers are smarter than the most clueless recent college grads. If not, je désespère.

CW: I've occasionally described the Occupy movement as a failure. But if you look at the stories linked today about President Obama's upcoming SOTU address, Mitt Romney's magical imaginary populism & Elizabeth Warren's clout, it's pretty clear that Occupy, noxious though it became in a number of ways, forced into the open the central issue of our government & of our society, one that has been festering for decades.

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama will use his State of the Union address to call on Congress to raise taxes and fees on the wealthiest taxpayers and the largest financial firms to finance an array of tax cuts for the middle class, pressing to reshape the tax code to help working families, administration officials said on Saturday.... It was quickly dismissed by leading Republicans as a nonstarter. But the decision to present the plan during Tuesday' speech marks the start of a debate over taxes and the economy that will shape both Mr. Obama's legacy and the 2016 presidential campaign." See also Mitt Romney's "outline to eradicate poverty" in "Presidential Race" below.

Greg Sargent (Friday): "At the Republican retreat, Senate GOP leaders are apparently working overtime to dial down expectations among Republicans who still hope that the Congressional GOP can put a stop to President Obama's out-of-control lawlessness.... Mitch McConnell is telling colleagues that he needs six Democrats to get the 60 votes he needs to overcome the Democratic blockade [of the House Homeland Security/anti-immigrant bill]. The reporting out there indicates that this isn't going to happen. And on top of that, the Hill notes, a handful of Republican Senators (presumably ones up for reelection in Obama states who don't want to vote for deporting the DREAMers) might also oppose the House GOP measure." ...

     ... Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly: "The scenario of leadership having to organize a super-majority to get something passed in the Senate while their base makes unreasonable demands and moderates threaten to jump ship is one we've seen before. Perhaps Sen. McConnell should have a little sit-down with Sen. Reid and President Obama to get some pointers. Of course there are a lot of serious issues at stake here. But before we get to those, I'm just going to pause and enjoy a moment of schadenfreude :-)"

Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "Several Republican congresswomen are reportedly splitting from their party on a national abortion bill that’s scheduled for a vote in the House next week, raising concerns that the legislation is too extreme and will alienate female voters. The GOP-controlled House will vote on a proposed 20-week abortion ban next Thursday -- the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade.... The legislation has passed the House for the past two years and was expected to have broad support in the 114th Congress, particularly as Republicans have set their sights on later abortions as an area where they believe they can advance their agenda." ...

... Lauren French & Jake Sherman of Politico have more on the pushback against the bill.

Almost Funny. So the GOP, which hopes to lose its well-deserved image as the White Man's Party is losing the support of women with their barefoot-&-pregnant program & of Hispanics with their deport-'em-all appropriations bill. Now, ha ha, their worried about expanding their appeal to black Americans:

... AP: "Eager to attract more minority voters, some "Republicans are worried that their party's near-certain candidate for a House seat in New York City could become the latest drag on GOP diversity efforts. Daniel Donovan seems sure to become the Republican nominee in a special election in the 11th congressional district, which covers Staten Island and a sliver of Brooklyn. Donovan ... is also the prosecutor who presented evidence to the grand jury that decided against charging a white police officer in last July's chokehold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black suspect."

GOP Presidential Hopeful Makes up Stuff. In another attack on Social Security, Congressional Republicans have created a "new rule" that would disallow routine transfers from the Social Security retirement trust fund to the SSI disability program unless the transfers are balanced with new revenues (which the majority GOP Congress won't pass) or benefits cuts. Sen. Rand Paul is out in the hinterlands (New Hampshire, by chance, which just coincidentally is the first state to hold a presidential primary) to bolster their case, claiming that too many people on SSI disability are lazy fraudsters:

Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn't get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everybody over 40 has a little back pain. -- Rand Paul, January 14

Politifact: "The numbers don't add up. The two broader disability categories that include back pain ('diseases of the musculoskeletal system') and anxiety disorders ('mental disorders - other') don't even equal close to 50 percent, let alone those two ailments by themselves. Paul's quip might make for a good soundbite, but it's not rooted in reality. We rate the statement False."

Michael Schmidt & Susanne Craig of the New York Times: "A delegation of American legislators led by Senator Patrick J. Leahy arrived in Cuba on Saturday to discuss greater cooperation and remaining areas of disagreement, the first congressional delegation to visit the island nation since President Obama announced last month that he was

... Erica Orden of the Wall Street Journal: "New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce in his state-of-the- state address on Wednesday that he will lead a trade mission to Cuba in the coming months...."

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "The tussle [over President Obama's nomination of Antonio Weiss to a top Treasury post] sent [a] ... signal ... of how [Elizabeth] Warren intends to wield her growing clout. It showed that she and her brand of populism are forces to be reckoned with -- not only by Obama and his team, but also by the Democrats' likely 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.... Warren wants to make sure that Wall Street-aligned figures who have shaped the Clinton and Obama brand of economic policy for the past quarter-century, going back to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, are not the only ones at the oval mahogany table."

Adam McDonald of KMOV St. Louis: "St. Ann[, Missouri,] Police apologized to a college student after they admitted to causing severe injuries to his face after accusing him of a crime he didn't commit on Thursday. Police were in pursuit of Anton Simmons, who had 17 warrants our for his name, when 22-year-old Joseph Swink crashed his car trying to avoid the police pursuit on Interstate 70.... Swink is an accounting student at UMSL with no criminal record and was on his way home from an internship when he was accidentally involved in the pursuit." CW: How were the cops to know? Swink is black. So he "looked guilty." ...

... CW: Oh, I must be wrong. Aviva Shen of Think Progress: "While the St. Ann Police Department is apologizing, they say the mistaken identity has 'zero to do about race.'"

Maureen Dowd on "Selma": "There was no need for [director Ava] DuVernay to diminish L.B.J., given that the Civil Rights Movement would not have advanced without him.... 'This is art; this is a movie; this is a film,' DuVernay said [to Gwen Ifill of PBS]. 'I'm not a historian. I'm not a documentarian.' The 'Hey, it's just a movie' excuse doesn't wash.... The truth is dramatic and fascinating enough. Why twist it? On matters of race -- America's original sin -- there is an even higher responsibility to be accurate. DuVernay had plenty of vile white villains -- including one who kicks a priest to death in the street -- and they were no doubt shocking to the D.C. school kids. There was no need to create a faux one." ...

... Contra Dowd (and me), Rep, John Lewis is a Los Angeles Times op-ed: "... this movie is being weighed down with a responsibility it cannot possibly bear. It's portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson's role in the Selma marches has been called into question.... Were any of the Selma marches the brainchild of President Johnson? Absolutely not.... I know. I was there. Don't get me wrong, in my view, Johnson is one of this country's great presidents, but he did not direct the civil rights movement." ...

... Here's the WashPo op-ed by Joseph Califano, who claims, based on a conversation between LBJ & Dr. King, which the President taped, that "Selma was LBJ's idea."

... Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times: "Even as the film 'Selma' has recreated the civil rights march to Montgomery for moviegoers, the New-York Historical Society is about to present images of the event captured by someone who was actually there. The exhibition, 'Freedom Journey 1965,' features photographs by Stephen Somerstein, who traveled to Alabama to document the march as a student in City College of New York's night school, where he was picture editor of his student newspaper. Over the five-day, 54-mile march, Mr. Somerstein took about 400 photographs of participants, from spectators who lined the rural roads to whites who heckled the marchers to leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks." More info. here.

God News

CW: You'll never, never ever guess what book some Mississippi lawmakers want to designate as the official state book. Here's a "Wheel of Fortune" hint: H _ _ y  B _ _ _ e. ...

... Via Steve Benen.: "If this sounds at all familiar, Louisiana very nearly made the [same move] ... last year, but backed off once the bill's sponsor acknowledged some 'constitutional problems.'"

... Speaking of Louisiana & Separation of Church & State. Julie O'Donoghue of the Times-Picayune: "A group of religious leaders has scheduled a prayer rally at Southern University to rival Gov. Bobby Jindal's religious gathering -- officially called The Response -- at LSU. The prayer rally at Southern University will take place ... on the same day, Jan. 24, as Jindal's event at the Peter Maravich Assembly Center (PMAC) on LSU's campus. The Southern gathering is being called the 'Prayer Rally for the Soul of Louisiana.' Organizers of the Southern event has said they will focus on Louisiana's mass incarceration rate, Medicaid expansion and the state's failing education system. The list of issues may be a personal critique of Jindal's tenure as governor." CW: Yeah, maybe. Via Benen. ...

... GOP Presidential Hopeful Makes up Stuff. Speaking of Louisiana & Stupid Bobby Jindal Tricks. Paul Singer of Religion News Service: "When a Fox News 'expert' claimed non-Muslims are not welcome in some European cities, Britain's prime minister 'thought it must be April Fools' Day.' But the Louisiana governor's planned speech repeats the charge.... An advance text of Jindal's speech, circulated by his office, warns that Islamic radicals are fomenting anti-Western sentiment in 'no-go zones' where they rule themselves by Islamic religious law, not the laws of their host nations." CW: Or maybe this story should go under "Presidential Race" below.

Greg Horton of Religion News Service: "On the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many Oklahoma pastors will preach not in robes, but hooded sweatshirts, or hoodies, to protest a proposed state bill that would ban a mask, hood, or covering of the face in public under certain conditions."

Sorry I didn't link this sooner. Emma Margolin of NBC News: "For those anxiously awaiting the nation's next religious freedom showdown, look no further than Atlanta, where a growing controversy is currently unfolding over the recent dismissal of Fire Rescue Chief Kelvin Cochran, who last year wrote and distributed a self-published book that espoused anti-gay views." ...

... New York Times Editors: "Unfortunately, Georgia's lawmakers are ... considering for the second year in a row a 'religious-freedom' bill that, like others around the country, would do little more than provide legal cover for anti-gay discrimination. The First Amendment already protects religious freedom. Nobody can tell Mr. Cochran what he can or cannot believe. If he wants to work as a public official, however, he may not foist his religious views on other city employees who have the right to a boss who does not speak of them as second-class citizens."

Yonat Shimron of Religion News Service: "Hundreds of Duke students rally with Muslims at Friday's call to prayer.... The gathering ... was quiet and peaceful, and emerged spontaneously after Duke University officials on Thursday abruptly reversed their decision to broadcast the Muslim 'adhan,' or call to prayer, from the bell tower atop its iconic chapel."

The story here, by Zack Ford of Think Progress, is that this Kentucky state senator "wants [the school districts] to pay students $2,500 if they see a transgender person in the 'wrong' [school] bathroom." So, okay, incredibly stupid law. What I want to know is ...

... What century is this guy from?

Presidential Race

Hypocrisy, Thy Middle Name Is Mitt. (Thy First Name is Willard.) Rory Carroll of the Guardian: "Mitt Romney has cast himself as a champion of the poor and the underdog in his first public comments since revealing another potential presidential run.... 'Under President Obama the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty in American than ever before,' Romney said." ...

... Say What? Seema Mehta & Mark Barabak of the Los Angeles Times: "Mitt Romney's new focus on poverty has many allies baffled. "At one point [during the 2012 election cycle], he appeared to dismiss concerns about the 'very poor' because, he said, they were aided by a safety net that could be repaired if necessary. He was caught on video telling donors that 47% of voters were unavailable to him because they were dependent on the government. After the election, he blamed President Obama giving 'gifts' to black, Latino and young voters for his loss." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Dan Balz & Philip Rucker, is here. CW: The Post's headline -- "Romney, moving toward 2016 run, outlines vision to eradicate poverty" -- is crap. From the Guardian's & Post's reporting, as far as I can tell, there's no "outline"; just a remark that, you know, poverty is bad, & it's all Obama's fault. The actual "outline" goes something like this:

Pass progressive tax reform -- the richer you are,
     the greater the cut.
Eliminate corporate taxes.
Cut regulations on business.
Rename EPA: Environmental Pollution Agency.
Subsidize private industry, private schools.
Kill RomneyC ObamaCare.
Cut all social programs/"hammocks."
Appoint justices & judges who understand that
     corporations are people, my friend.

 ... I see Steve M. & I are on the same page: Romney is "saying that the same policies the right has always advocated are still the best policies -- and those, of course, would be huge cuts in social programs, tax cuts (primarily benefiting the rich), and significantly curtailed government regulation. For the good of the poor!... The right isn't conceding anything. It's just finding a new route to the same old endpoint: Cut taxes, cut spending, cut regulation, repeat ad infinitum." ...

CW: Steve & I are not making this up. It come's from the horse's mouth (no, not Rafalca's):

[Romney] cited former president Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty half a century ago. Johnson's intentions were good, he said, but his policies had not worked. He argued that Republicans must persuade voters that conservative policies can 'end the scourge of poverty' in America.

Michael Crowley of Politico: "As Mitt Romney's supporters push the idea that the 2012 Republican nominee might run for president again, one of their core talking points is that Romney was a foreign policy prophet in the last campaign. His vindication on several scores, they argue, gives him a rationale to run again -- and a leg up on his potential Republican rivals.... But, as Democrats point out, any losing candidate can cherry-pick a few issues that later broke his way. And Romney's batting average was hardly perfect. Nor do bragging rights on a few specific issues necessarily translate to a popular foreign policy vision overall." ...

... CW: Nobody seems to say this, but it would have been a diplomatic disaster for the POTUS to offend Putin when the U.S. was pretending, for self-interested reasons, that he was one of our BFFs. You make the kinds of statements Romney made in 2012 about Russia after a crisis has occurred, not while you're trying to prevent it. When you're trying to get people (including radical extremists) to act responsibly, you don't insult them. Had Romney won the election, his foreign policy remarks would have hurt more than helped American interests. The idea that Obama had no idea there were extremists roaming the Middle East is ludicrous.

Missed This One. Tim Alberta of the National Journal (January 15): "Ben Carson -- a Washington outsider, a world-renowned neurosurgeon, a favorite among tea-party insurgents -- had a message Thursday for the Republican Party's most influential establishment figures: I'm not 'crazy.' Speaking to the Republican National Committee's winter meeting, Carson tried to challenge the caricature of him as a right-wing zealot by addressing -- one by one -- many of the individual controversies that have surrounded him, and dismissing them as lies from 'the liberal media.' Carson defended, among other things, his statements about Obamacare being the worst thing since slavery; comparing present-day America to Nazi Germany; and calling last year's Veterans Affairs scandal 'a gift from God' because it revealed holes in the system.... Still, the significant time devoted to explaining and debunking these incidents suggests Carson is keenly aware of the damage they could do to his White House run."

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "An Indonesian firing squad executed six convicted drug traffickers early Sunday, sparking condemnations from human rights groups and foreign leaders. The Netherlands, Indonesia's former colonial ruler, said it would withdraw its ambassador and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she was 'outraged and dismayed' after Dutch and Brazilian nationals were among those put to death just after midnight in the center of Java, Indonesia’s most populous island."