Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President spoke from the place where his political career first began in the Illinois State Senate ... [about] the state of American politics":

The Wires

White House Live Video
February 11

1:00 pm ET: NOBEL Women presents Girls, Gigabytes & Gadgets

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

Washington Post: "Scientists announced Thursday that, after decades of effort, they have succeeded in detecting gravitational waves from the violent merging of two black holes in deep space. The detection was hailed as a triumph for a controversial, exquisitely crafted, billion-dollar physics experiment and as confirmation of a key prediction of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity."

New York Times: "... 21-year-old [Arthur Ashe] toppled the tournament’s top-seeded tennis player in a stunning upset on July 30, 1964. We published two photographs of Dennis Ralston, ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time, who walked off the court in defeat. But we didn’t run a single photograph of the winner.... On that day in 1964, he was ranked sixth in the nation and had yet to win a national title. ...

... The 1964 Times story is here. The page has blown up the above photo, worth viewing just to feast your eyes on that gorgeous young man. ...

... The Times is publishing previously unpublished photos of black historical figures & events every day this month. You can see those published to date here.

CW: Not sure if the movie is any good, but Ron Howard's intro is primo. Here's the trailer:

... The New York Times story, by Brooks Barnes, is here. "Kept a secret for months — no small task in Hollywood — 'Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie' was released to coincide with Mr. Trump’s victory on Tuesday in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary."

New York Times: The leader of a group of "aging thieves" who last year pulled off "the largest burglary in England’s history" may have been an ex-policeman. The others have been captured, but "Basil" is still at large & his identity is unknown to investigators. Surely there will be a movie.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Times: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

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Monday
Jan062014

The Commentariat -- January 7, 2014

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "A Democratic push to extend unemployment benefits that have expired moved forward in the Senate on Tuesday morning, barely avoiding a Republican filibuster. The 60-to-37 vote to take up a three-month extension of benefits passed with no room to spare, which will set off negotiations to try to pass the bill later this week. Even some of the Republicans who voted yes want the cost of the extension set off by cuts elsewhere in the budget." CW: The six Repubicans who voted for the bill were Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), Dan Coats (Indiana), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nevada), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) & Rob Portman (Ohio).

Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "The Senate confirmed Janet L. Yellen as the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve on Monday, marking the first time that a woman has led the country's central bank in its 100-year history.... Ms. Yellen was confirmed 56 to 26, with many senators kept away from the Capitol due to inclement weather. Nearly one dozen Republicans -- including Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma -- crossed the aisle in support of Ms. Yellen. Ms. Yellen will be the first Democratic nominee to run the Fed since President Jimmy Carter named Paul Volcker as chairman in 1979. Still, it is the thinnest margin of Senate approval for a Fed chairman in the central bank's history." ...

... The President's statement is here.

David Espo of the AP: "The Senate plunged into an election-year session Monday that promises to be long on political maneuvering and less so on accomplishment, beginning with a slow-motion struggle over legislation to renew lapsed jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. 'I'm optimistic, cautiously optimistic, that the new year will bring a renewed spirit of cooperation to this chamber,' said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in the first remarks of the year on the Senate floor. Within moments, he pivoted, accusing Republicans of 'never ending obstruction' to President Barack Obama's proposals over the past five years." ...

... Burgess Everett of Politico: "The chances of the Senate moving forward with legislation that would restore expired unemployment benefits dimmed Monday. The bill's fate hung in the balance all day as Democrats desperately sought Republican votes to advance the bill. In a sign of how seriously the White House is taking the issue, President Barack Obama personally worked the phone lines." ...

... "Where Have All the Democrats Gone?" Dana Milbank: "It's hard to imagine a better gift falling into their laps: Republicans have just thrown 1.3 million unemployed Americans out into the cold and are prepared to cut off 3.6 million others who are out of work.... But in the two hours the Senate spent debating unemployment insurance Monday afternoon, only three Democrats showed up to talk: Harry Reid (Nev.), the soft-spoken majority leader, read a brief yet somniferous speech. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) offered a few words -- on immigration. Jack Reed (R.I.) delivered a professorial 20-minute lecture in support of extending jobless benefits. And then the chamber went silent for the next hour and 20 minutes -- in a quorum call because nobody else wanted to talk."

Charles Pierce has some thoughts on the "two freaking unaccountable guys" -- a/k/a David & Charles Koch -- who, with the help of the Supreme Court, have created a labyrinth of organized money that "has bought virtual plutocracy in state governments from Wisconsin to North Carolina. It has bought itself the single worst Congress in the history of the Republic. And it is growing in strength, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it, because Citizens United was decided in such a way as to choke off any regulatory solutions, and then Shelby County came along as the hook off the jab and what electoral remedies could not be buried under the floodtide of money could be washed away by the state legislatures in those virtual plutocracies."

Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson filed a lawsuit Monday in an attempt to block the federal government from helping to pay for health care coverage for members of Congress and their staffs. Johnson's filing further stirred a rift within his own party over how Republicans should attack the health care law. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a fellow Wisconsin Republican and ardent Obamacare critic, said Monday he personally appealed to Johnson on Friday to not file the lawsuit.... Sensenbrenner, who even before Johnson filed his suit called the litigation 'an unfortunate political stunt' that 'focuses on trivial issues,' amplified his criticism Monday." And there's this: Johnson "plans to raise money through his campaign account to fund the lawsuit. Johnson, who put nearly $9 million of his own money into his 2010 run for the Senate, said he may also use personal funds for the litigation." ...

... CW: When Jim Sensenbrenner, best know for impeaching Clinton & remarking on Michelle Obama's "big butt," is the voice of reason in your party, your party sucks. Also worth emphasizing: Johnson is a multi-multimillionaire. Many Congressional staffers earn in the $50K/year range. These are the people he wants to prevent from receiving assistance in paying for their health insurance. The suit is not just a political stunt; it's a nasty political stunt. ...

... Ryan Cooper of the Washington Post notes that Johnson's lawsuit is part of the "Benghazi-fication of ObamaCare."

Dan Williams of Reuters: "Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden has more secrets to reveal that relate to Israel..., [Glenn Greenwald] said on Monday ... in an Israeli television interview."

Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "... on a night nearly 43 years ago, while Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier bludgeoned each other over 15 rounds in a televised title bout viewed by millions around the world, burglars ... broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation office in a suburb of Philadelphia, making off with nearly every document inside. They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups." The statute of limitations has long expired, and the burglars are now going public; Betty Medsger, who first reported on the contents of the files for the WashPo, has written a book about the break-in & discoveries.

Joe Nocera writes a worthwhile column on the digital economy -- how digital networking has helped to gut the middle class & how it could be revolutionized to enhance it. "'If Google and Facebook were smart,' [Jaron Lanier, the author of Who Owns the Future,] said, 'they would want to enrich their own customers.' So far, he adds, Silicon Valley has made 'the stupid choice' -- to grow their businesses at the expense of their own customers."

National Review Editors: "Launching 17 million 'Rocky Mountain High' jokes, Colorado has become the first state to make the prudent choice of legalizing the consumption and sale of marijuana, thus dispensing with the charade of medical restrictions and recognizing the fact that, while some people smoke marijuana to counter the effects of chemotherapy, most people smoke marijuana to get high -- and that is not the worst thing in the world." CW: David Brooks, whose first job was with the National Review, must be devastated.

It's a Cold Day in America. Which means it's time for Jim Inhofe (RStupid-Okla.) to take to the Senate Floor to scoff at the crazy notion of climate change. Besides not understanding that climate change helps explain the extremely cold weather we're having (and, yes, Jimbo, there is a difference between climate & weather), Sen. Science there doesn't seem to know the difference between the North & South Poles. This is entirely appropriate because in Right Wing World down is up and up is down. ...

... Andy Borowitz: "The so-called polar vortex caused hundreds of injuries across the Midwest today, as people who said 'so much for global warming' and similar comments were punched in the face."

** Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic: "When not attempting to shame their enemies on trumped-up charges of racism, the conservative movement busies itself appealing to actual racists." CW: Coates' post is part of our continuing effort to try to distinguish the behavior norms of left versus right. Coates get it just right in regard to racism. His regard for Harris-Perry, however, is somewhat overblown. I don't think, as does Coates, that Harris-Perry is "America's foremost public intellectual." ...

     ... Nor is David Brooks (see link below re: boutique hotels), whom actual intellectuals mistake for a public intellectual, suggesting that actual intellectuals hold the "public" ones in low regard. (In this interview, Brooks essentially describes himself as better than America's foremost public intellectuals. He talks to presidents! while the lowly intellectuals haven't the access he has.)

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) explains in a Politico essay how the House GOP's use of "closed rules" "has excluded most House members from full participation in the legislative process [and] ... has also empowered the most extreme members of the House to pursue narrow policy goals at all costs, triggering a government shutdown, debt-limit brinksmanship and partisan stalemates that are seemingly the new norm."

GOP to Go All Out for Anti-Woman Vote. Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "The Republican National Committee (RNC) will make accommodations to its official schedule this month to allow members to participate in the March for Life, a national anti-abortion protest held on each anniversary of Roe v. Wade.... In addition to modifying the RNC's schedule, [RNC Chairman Reince] Priebus is also arranging for buses to transport members to and from the March for Life activities." ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: " Rescheduling your annual political meeting so that your party members can be seen parading around demanding that abortion be banned is a dramatic statement, but perhaps not as dramatic as choosing to first shop the story to the Washington Times. Good gawd, Reince, did you have to deliver it in crayon?"

Ken Belson & Alan Schwarz of the New York Times: "The N.F.L. and lawyers for the more than 4,000 former players who said the league hid from them the dangers of repeated head hits have agreed on the details of a $760 million settlement that could determine how retirees with head trauma are compensated."

Liz Sly of the Washington Post: "An eruption of violence in Iraq is threatening to undo much of what U.S. troops appeared to have accomplished before they withdrew, putting the country's stability on the line and raising the specter of a new civil war in a region already buckling under the strain of the conflict in Syria."

Completely ignoring the mass-bashing of his last column on the Evils of Weed, David Brooks has turned to an important op-ed topic: boutique hotels. Honest-to-god. Boutique hotels. "A basic rule of happiness," Brooks writes, "is don't buy things; buy experiences." CW: No doubt the subtext here is a not-too-subtle message to his (ex)wife: "I am getting laid, Sarah or Jane or whatever your name is now, and this is happening in edgy, boutique hotels where my 'cultural discernment' shines." I do not think I can get through the Brooks divorce.

Congressional Races 2014

Larry Sabato in Politico Magazine: "Republicans Really Could Win It All This Year."

Todd Purdum in Politico: Liz "Cheney's campaign -- notable for its vocal (and seemingly newfound) opposition to gay marriage, which soured her relations with her own openly gay sister, Mary -- was as ham-fisted as it was polarizing. A University of Chicago-trained lawyer and political appointee in the George W. Bush-era State Department, Cheney had virtually no experience in the policy areas that matter most in Wyoming: public lands and grazing rights; minerals and mining; oil and gas extraction. She made one unforced error after another, from claiming 10-year residency on her application for a state fishing license (she only moved to the state from Virginia in 2012), to opposing taxes on Internet retailers just as local Wyoming merchants were gearing up for the recent Christmas sales season." ...

... Evan Osnos of the New Yorker with more on the Cheney debacle.

Presidential Election 2016

Dave Weigel of Slate interviews "former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, the Democrat most likely to challenge Hillary Clinton in 2016." CW: Just a hoot.

Local News

Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog has an excellent post explaining the Supreme Court's decision to temporarily block gay marriages in Utah.

Jason Meisner of the Chicago Tribune: U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang "today declared Chicago's ordinance banning the sale of firearms in the city unconstitutional. The ruling is the latest legal blow to the city, which has lost a series of court challenges by the National Rifle Association since the Supreme Court forced the city to rewrite its blanket ban on handguns three years ago.... Chang delayed his ruling from taking effect to allow the city time to appeal." CW: Chang is an Obama appointee.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Two ships immobilized by ice floes near Antarctica broke free on Tuesday, news agencies reported."

AFP: "The United States said Tuesday it would send another 800 troops to South Korea as the allies warned North Korea against any provocation, amid deepening worries over the regime's stability. Amid concern after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un executed his uncle, Secretary of State John Kerry met in Washington with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se and said there was 'not a sliver of daylight' between the two countries."

Guardian: "At least four people have been killed after a US military helicopter crashed during a training exercise near a Royal Air Force base close to the north Norfolk coast."

Guardian: "South Sudanese rebels and a government delegation started peace talks on Tuesday to try to end fighting that has left the world's newest state on the brink of civil war."

CNN: "The historic freeze that proved too cold for polar bears in the Midwest is spreading, dropping temperatures in the eastern third of the country about 20 degrees below normal for Tuesday, forecasters said. Meanwhile, much of the Deep South is frozen solid, with hard freeze warnings in effect Tuesday from eastern Texas to the Florida Panhandle."

Washington Post: 'The Justice Department announced Tuesday a $1.7 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase to resolve allegations that the behemoth bank did not warn the government of Bernard L. Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Federal prosecutors say JPMorgan, which served as Madoff's bank for two decades, failed to comply with a federal law that requires banks to file a 'suspicious activity' report when a transaction raises alarm. The nation's biggest bank reported its suspicions of Madoff's business to British authorities in 2008 but did not alert anyone in the United States."

Reuters: "Iran on Monday appeared to rule out participation in Syrian peace talks later this month, dismissing a U.S. suggestion that it could be involved 'from the sidelines' as not respecting its dignity."

AP: "The U.N.'s human rights office has stopped updating the death toll from Syria's civil war, confirming Tuesday that it can no longer verify the sources of information that led to its last count of at least 100,000 in late July."

Sunday
Jan052014

The Commentariat -- January 6, 2014

Most of the people I meet who are on unemployment are people who have had jobs for 25 years, lost them, they've been knocking on doors every week. I think it's a little insulting, a bit insulting to American workers when Rand Paul says that unemployment insurance is a disservice. They want to work, they don't want unemployment benefits. They're just hanging on with unemployment benefits, you cut them off, they may lose the house they paid for, take their kids out of college. So I would hope he would reconsider, past the three month extension. -- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on ABC's "This Week" Sunday ...

... Mike Lillis & Vicki Needham of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) remains open to an extension of emergency unemployment benefits even in the face of growing conservative opposition to such a move. The Ohio Republican maintains the position he expressed last month that Republicans would 'clearly consider' an extension of federal help for the long-term unemployed 'as long as it's paid for and as long as there are other efforts that will help get our economy moving once again,' Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Friday." ...

... E. J. Dionne sees a United States of America. The majority of Americans favor unemployment compensation and other New Deal-y programs; it is Congressional Republicans who are out-of-step. ...

... Alec MacGillis of the New Republic on the Boeing machinist union's forced capitulation to Boeing's demands. "But to really address the underlying trends will also mean taking on the more fundamental forces that lead to an outcome like we just saw in the Puget Sound: strengthening labor laws and unions in right-to-work states...; raising taxes on upper incomes and capital gains to slightly rebalance the equation...; and, perhaps most difficult of all, changing the norms for acceptable behavior by corporate titans, even if they've been named to the presidential exports council." This is an excellent piece, which P. D. Pepe linked in yesterday's Comments. MacGillis asks a question which demands -- and will not receive -- a federal answer: strengthening unions nationwide.

Brian Knowlton of the New York Times: "A debate over whether Edward J. Snowden deserves lenience or the strict treatment the Obama administration has demanded for divulging a vast array of national secrets drew sharply opposing views on Sunday from two prominent senators. Senator Rand Paul ... said he disagreed with those who have argued for the most severe penalties for Mr. Snowden.... Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, took a directly opposing view. 'I disagree with Rand Paul that we should plea-bargain with him prior to him coming back,' Mr. Schumer said." ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker disagrees with Fred Kaplan's required Reality Chex reading. Her major point sounds like a quibble to me: Kaplan wrote that Snowden "signed an oath ... not to disclose classified information, and knew the penalties for violating the oath." But Davidson says he did not sign an oath; instead, he signed "a contract in which the signatory says he will 'accept' the terms, rather than swearing to them." Her argument then is that breaking a contractual agreement is not as bad as breaking one's word. Okay. Of course, she writes much more than that. ...

... Gene Lyons, noted hyperbolist, takes down novice hyperbolist Ed Snowden. CW: Lyons get a lot right, but he gets some pretty important stuff wrong, too: ferinstance, Snowden is probably not -- by the Constitutional definition -- a traitor, as Lyons claims, unless Snowden has been sending stuff to Al Qaeda & North Korea. Thanks to Barbarossa for the link.

Matea Gold of the Washington Post: "The political network spearheaded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch has expanded into a far-reaching operation of unrivaled complexity, built around a maze of groups that cloaks its donors.... The resources and the breadth of the organization make it singular in American politics: an operation conducted outside the campaign finance system, employing an array of groups.... Members of the coalition target different constituencies but together have mounted attacks on the new health-care law, federal spending and environmental regulations." ...

... Matea Gold: "The Washington Post and the Center for Responsive Politics identified a coalition of allied conservative groups active in the 2012 elections that together raised at least $407 million, backed by a donor network organized by the industrialists Charles and David Koch." Gold lists the coalition's current members. A graphic here shows how the organizations interact.

Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: "On the 50th anniversary of LBJ's initiative, [the War on Poverty,] Marco Rubio says it failed.... But the policies did succeed -- Democrats are just afraid to say so.... We have not, of course, been fighting any kind of serious war on poverty for five decades. We fought it with truly adequate funding for about one decade.... By 1981, Ronald Reagan's government was fighting a war on the war on poverty. The fate of many anti-poverty programs has ebbed and flowed ever since. But at the beginning, in the '60s, those programs were fully funded, or close. And what happened? According to Joseph Califano, who worked in the Johnson White House, 'the portion of Americans living below the poverty line dropped from 22.2 percent to 12.6 percent, the most dramatic decline over such a brief period in this century.' That's a staggering 43 percent reduction. In six years." ...

... Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "Half a century after Mr. Johnson’s now-famed State of the Union address, the debate over the government’s role in creating opportunity and ending deprivation has flared anew, with inequality as acute as it was in the Roaring Twenties and the ranks of the poor and near-poor at record highs."

Larry Summers, in a Washington Post op-ed, uses terms like "secular stagnation" to say that if the economy keeps going as it is, bubbles will grow & burst, & one way to avert that is to have the federal invest in infrastructure. I don't know if the guy really cannot communicate with the average reading public or if he can't help showing off. In any event, he's a terrible writer.

Jessica Silver-Greenberg & Ben Protess of the New York Times: JPMorgan Chase "plans to reach as soon as this week roughly $2 billion in criminal and civil settlements with federal authorities who suspect that it ignored signs of Bernard L. Madoff's Ponzi scheme, according to people briefed on the case."

Linda Greenhouse on the Fair Sentencing Act: When new laws call for more leniency, shouldn't that leniency apply retroactively? ...

... CW: Luckily for me, my own excellent Congressman Trey Radel (RTP-Fla.) is as white as, well the driven snow, & he will be going back to doing the people's work today now that his cocaine bust is behind him.

Jordan Sargent of Gawker: "Republican congressman Aaron Schock -- who represents Illinois' 18th congressional district -- is known for one thing: being pretty and probably-almost-certainly gay. Schock is anti-gay on the record and he's frequently affirmed his straightness, but he may be feeling a gust of air this morning thanks to a sledgehammer wielded by journalist Itay Hod." ...

... Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic objects to Hod's methods, which are at best sophomoric.

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "After a two-week vacation on the windward side of Oahu, ensconced with his family in a private beachfront rental, President Obama prepared on Saturday to return to the chillier clime -- both politically and weather-wise -- of the nation's capital."

Politico publishes an adaptation of a portion of a new book by CIA attorney John Rizzo. In this section, Rizzo recalls the decision-making process that allowed the CIA to use waterboarding & other "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" like sleep deprivation.

Another Right-Wing Senator Sues Instead of Legislating. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.): "On Monday, Jan. 6, I am filing suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin to make Congress live by the letter of the health-care law it imposed on the rest of America. By arranging for me and other members of Congress and their staffs to receive benefits intentionally ruled out by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the administration has exceeded its legal authority." ...

... ObamaCare is Doomed! ObamaCare Is a Scandal! Jonathan Chait: "... the nature of [Republican] opposition [to ObamaCare] will ... slowly morph. Gleeful predictions of imminent collapse will give way to bitter recriminations at the nefarious tactics used to make the law work. Obamacare will cease to be the something certain to destroy Obama and become something Obama has gotten away with." CW: Chait cites some recent Republican potshots at the law. Johnson's is another one. ...

... Noam Scheiber of the New Republic is optimistic: he says "ObamaCare actually paves the way to single-payer." CW: Despite the way Scheiber frames his post, he is actually saying pretty much the same thing Michael Moore said in a NYT op-ed; Scheiber is just providing more examples of how he thinks politicians will be forced to morph ObamaCare into a single-payer system.

A climate denier studies global warming.Eric Holthaus of the Daily Beast explains to climate deniers why scientists theorize that global warming is causing this week's (and others, of course) deep freeze. I don't think people who keep their ears covered in all weather conditions while yelling "La La La" & shutting their eyes tight will get this.

Here's Mitt Romney's response to the Melissa Harris-Perry segment. I think he did fine. Chris Wallace, however, couldn't let it go:

Bob Schieffer has had about enough of Peggy Noonan -- which does make you wonder why his producers book Our Lady of Las Contras:

... Lest you have forgot why Peggy Noonan should know who was a Sandinista & who was not, David of Crooks & Liars reminds you of why she should know. ...

... Save the Children! Charles Pierce recaps Sunday show highlights. It turns out that almost everybody on these shows -- with the exception of Republican Steve Schmidt -- is a David Brooks clone, as if you didn't already know. ...

... Save the Children! Driftglass recaps Sunday show highlights. It turns out that almost everybody on these shows is a David Brooks clone, & the evidence suggests Greggers has a contractual obligation to recite Brooks verbatim.

Senate Race

Buh-bye to a Daughter of a Dick. John King & Peter Hamby of CNN: "Liz Cheney, whose upstart bid to unseat Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi sparked a round of warfare in the Republican Party and even within her own family, is dropping out of the Senate primary, sources told CNN late Sunday." CW: Worth Noting: Enzi himself is a Son of a Bitch. ...

... Brent Logiurato of Business Insider: "There was little public polling conducted on the race, but each public and partisan poll showed Enzi with wide leads." ...

... Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Liz Cheney announced early Monday morning that she is withdrawing from the Wyoming Republican Senate primary, bringing an abrupt end to her unsteady challenge to the incumbent, Michael B. Enzi. 'Serious health issues have recently arisen in our family, and under the circumstances, I have decided to discontinue my campaign,' Ms. Cheney said in a statement. 'My children and their futures were the motivation for our campaign and their health and well-being will always be my overriding priority.'" Cheney didn't say what the health issues were. ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "On the plus side, thanks to her public feud with her lesbian sister over gay marriage, Liz now knows she's Dick and Lynne Cheney's favorite daughter."

Presidential Race 2016

Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Publicly, [Hillary] Clinton insists she's many months away from a decision about her political future. But a shadow campaign on her behalf has nevertheless been steadily building for the better part of a year -- a quiet, intensifying, improvisational effort to lay the groundwork for another White House bid. Some of the activity has the former first lady's tacit approval. Some involves outside groups that are operating independently, and at times in competition with one another, to prepare a final career act for the former senator and secretary of state, whose legacy as the most powerful woman in the history of American politics is already secure." ...

... CW: Since Haberman's story is about a shadow campaign, not a shadowy candidate, this photo that accompanies the piece is a low blow:

AP photo.

Local News

** AP Brief: " The Supreme Court has put same-sex marriages on hold in Utah, at least while a federal appeals court more fully considers the issue. The court issued a brief order Monday blocking any new same-sex unions in the state."

     ... Update. Adam Liptak of the New York Times has a fuller story.

Alex Altman of Time: "The early success of pot's pilot program [in Colorado] was ushered in by a phenomenon almost as rare: a government working as it should."

News Ledes

Live Science: "A blast of Arctic air pushing south as far as Atlanta has caused air temperatures across the United States to plunge, creating a massive 140-degree Fahrenheit (77 degrees Celsius) temperature difference between the chilly Dakotas and balmy Florida yesterday (Jan. 5)."

New York Times: "Iran could improve its chances of playing at least a limited role in the upcoming peace conference on Syria if it persuaded President Bashar al-Assad to stop the bombardment of Aleppo and allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged towns and cities, senior State Department officials said on Monday."

Saturday
Jan042014

It Isn't Fair

He deserves to live in this country in as much peace as Orlando Bosch did, and with as many career opportunities as have been afforded Elliott Abrams and Ollie North, who did not release information for free but, rather, some missiles to terror states for money. – Blogger Charles Pierce, arguing that the U.S. should bring no charges against Edward Snowden, Friday

I suddenly had the thought that Snowden is the black guy caught for smoking pot while Cheney and his Bush, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz are the white pot smoking college students. Who of the above killed more people and who of the above faces the most severe penalties? I don't condone Snowden; I sure as hell don't think he should suffer worse than those guys. – Reality Chex Contributor Citizen 625, Saturday

 

“It isn't fair.” Every toddler has said it. If that toddler is not fully socialized, he will keep on making the same complaint all his life, insisting that he should have more as others have less. He will become a conservative. If, on the other hand, he is properly integrated into the community, he will be able to empathize with others who, for one reason or another, do not receive equal treatment. He will become a liberal who wishes to live in a society governed by laws and rules that treat everyone with impartiality and fairness.

 

“It isn't fair” is the sentiment that underlies Charles Pierce's and Citizen 625's analogies. I get that. I feel it myself. But the "reasoning" is facile and illogical. As I wrote in response to Pierce's post, “This is the 'two wrongs make a right' fallacy.... 'George Zimmerman beat a murder rap so every murderer should get off scot-free.'” Friday, several contributors elaborated on my comment. Nonetheless, we did not dissuade Citizen 625 from making essentially the same argument Pierce made.

 

Pierce's examples of bad guys who got away with murder are particularly inapt. Bosch was never convicted of the major crime of which he was accused, he denied responsibility, and the Venezuelan government held him in jail for four years awaiting trial. Abrams is Pierce's best case, but it should be remembered that Abrams, like North, was working in and with the government rather than against it. Bush I pardoned Abrams and Bush II gave Abrams a job because Abrams was playing on their team. North was fired (by Reagan), prosecuted and convicted. He received a suspended sentence, probation, a substantial fine and a community service stint, some of which he did before ACLU lawyers got his conviction vacated. I don't feel sorry for any of these guys, but North did pay a price for his perjury and destruction of evidence and Bosch paid a price, too.

 

Citizen 625's analogies, though faulty for the same reason as Pierce's, are at least marginally better than Pierce's. It was, after all, the same Justice Department – Obama's – that decided not to prosecute Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz but has brought charges against Snowden. Yet again the situations are not analogous. Not only were Citizen 625's bad guys all working on the side of the U.S. government, they were the government. In addition, their attack on Iraq had overwhelming Congressional support. Would it be possible to find these guys individually guilty of war crimes? Maybe. But they had a helluva a lot of help. Are you going to charge Hillary Clinton, too? What about John Kerry? He was for it before he was against it, ya know. Better toss in most of the Bush administration's senior national security staff. And definitely George Slam-Dunk Tenet. Jailing (or executing!) American leaders who take the nation into ill-advised wars and who violate human rights in carrying out those wars would arguably lead to untenable governmental instability. There are, after all, good arguments against almost every war effort. For strictly pragmatic reasons, Obama's DOJ was probably right in not prosecuting – or threatening to prosecute – officials of the prior administration.

 

The war in Iraq -- stupid, unjustified, outrageous though it was -- was a lawful political action, sanctioned and carried out by those who had the Constitutional power and political backing to take the country to war. Ed Snowden does not enjoy that cover of law.

 

Is it “fair” that Dick Cheney spent Christmas in Wyoming shilling for his despicable daughter while Ed Snowden spent Christmas in Russia trying to get the hell out of there? Probably not. But our system of government is designed to protect Cheney and to prosecute Snowden. Cheney knew that when he did whatever he did that might have been war crimes. Snowden knew that, too, when he did what he did. Their situations are not analogous.

 

But even if their crimes were analogous, even if they were just alike, one systemic failure or miscarriage of justice does not justify another. Failures of the past certainly do not mandate that the system fail in perpetuity, as both Pierce and Citizen 625 suggest. Even when the relative outcomes are not fair.

 

P.S. Do not comment on this post, please, unless you have read Fred Kaplan on clemency for Snowden. Also, kindly spare us from Reductio ad Hitlerum in your commentary. Thank you.

Saturday
Jan042014

The Commentariat -- January 5, 2014

Ben Hubbard, et al., of the New York Times: "... for all its echoes, the bloodshed that has engulfed Iraq, Lebanon and Syria in the past two weeks exposes something new and destabilizing: the emergence of a post-American Middle East in which no broker has the power, or the will, to contain the region's sectarian hatreds. Amid this vacuum, fanatical Islamists have flourished in both Iraq and Syria under the banner of Al Qaeda, as the two countries' conflicts amplify each other and foster ever-deeper radicalism. Behind much of it is the bitter rivalry of two great oil powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, whose rulers -- claiming to represent Shiite and Sunni Islam, respectively -- cynically deploy a sectarian agenda that makes almost any sort of accommodation a heresy."

Peter Baker of the New York Times: The idea of amnesty for Edward Snowden "won widespread attention last month when Richard Ledgett, who leads an N.S.A. task force evaluating damage from the disclosures, said on the CBS News program '60 Minutes' that it was 'worth having a conversation about' it to prevent further revelations. That position won further attention in the last week with editorials in The Guardian and The New York Times urging clemency.... Debates about the idea played out on CNN, ABC and elsewhere, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former State Department official in the Obama administration, posted a message on Twitter in favor of clemency. But inside the White House and the Justice Department, Mr. Ledgett's suggestion has been met with stony opposition. The administration has made no move to reach out to negotiate any kind of deal and makes clear that it has no plans to." ...

... CW: I'm really sorry I missed this segment, which aired about two weeks ago. It seems to me both Greenwald & Toobin get stuff wrong. To their credit, both of these often-over-the-top commentators behave themselves:

Michael Hiltzig of the Los Angeles Times: "Here's a business practice likely to keep booming in 2014: corporate extortion.... By the estimate of the Washington-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, state and local tax incentives funnel $50 billion in tax revenue into corporate coffers every year. On a national basis, ITEP says, this is worse than a zero-sum game: The incentives are 'much more likely to reshuffle investment between geographic areas than ... to spur genuinely new economic activity.' The trendsetter for the coming year may turn out to be Boeing. The aerospace company has been dangling the prospect of a big airliner production facility in front of several states, including California, since mid-November. That's when union machinists in Everett, Wash., rejected its demands for big concessions on pension and healthcare benefits. The process started only days after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed the biggest state tax break in history into law -- a package that will give Boeing up to $8.7 billion in benefits through 2040." ...

... Scott Hamilton of CNN: "A standoff between Boeing and thousands of unionized workers based in Washington state came to an unexpected end Friday after workers voted in favor of a contract to build the company's new commercial jet. The deal keeps economic activity worth billions inside the state, and means hundreds of thousands of jobs will be retained."

Frank Bruni writes a moving column about a dying man who just received an honorable discharge from the Marines after having been given a "less than honorable" discharge in 1956 when his superior learned he was gay. "... now that the military accepts gays, there is also a process that permits those who were dishonorably discharged to appeal for reclassifications of those dismissals as honorable. A military spokesman said last week that he didn't know how many veterans had sought to take advantage of it, or with what success." CW: I hope Bruni's column leads to more affected ex-servicemen & women learning of the new policy & taking advantage of it.

Amy Goldstein & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "More than 100,000 Americans who applied for insurance through HealthCare.gov and were told they are eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) remain unenrolled because of lingering software defects in the federal online marketplace.... To try to provide coverage to these people before they seek medical care, the Obama administration has launched a barrage of phone calls in recent days in 21 states, advising those who applied that the quickest route into the programs is to start over at their state's Medicaid agency."

Julie Cart of the Los Angeles Times: "The U.S. Department of Agriculture's inspector general will investigate a federal agency whose mission is to exterminate birds, coyotes, mountain lions and other animals that threaten the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers. The investigation of U.S. Wildlife Services is to determine, among other things, 'whether wildlife damage management activities were justified and effective.' Biologists have questioned the agency's effectiveness, arguing that indiscriminately killing more than 3 million birds and other wild animals every year is often counterproductive. Reps. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) and John Campbell (R-Irvine) requested the review, calling for a complete audit of the culture within Wildlife Services. The agency has been accused of abuses, including animal cruelty and occasional accidental killing of endangered species, family pets and other animals that weren't targeted."

Salon republishes a portion of A Neurobiography of the Brain by D. F. Swaab. In this section, Swaab discusses the religious brain & the evolutionary advantages of religion.

TBogg, in a funny piece in the Raw Story, predicts how Mitt Romney will address the Melissa Harris-Perry hoohah: "Unless Ann Romney is on with him, because Ann will cut a bitch, Mitt will probably be firm but gracious and will talk about the importance of family and about love being color blind and he will say that it is time to move on and maybe he'll make a little joke and will smile that uncomfortable-with-human-emotions grimace-smile of his and will end up kind of laughing this whole nothing-burger off. HA HA HA HA HA HA." CW: We'll learn later in the day if TBogg is an oracle. ...

     ... Update: Katie Glueck of Politico: "Mitt Romney said on Sunday he's forgiven MSNBC after a host and other panelists on the network made comments about his adopted black grandchild. Speaking on 'Fox News Sunday,' the former Republican presidential candidate said he accepted the apology of MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry, who a day earlier offered an emotional on-air walk-back." CW: Sounds as if Mitt was gracious. Wait for the video.

Local News

Susan Craig & Jesse McKinley of the New York Times: "Joining a growing group of states that have loosened restrictions on marijuana, [New York] Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York plans this week to announce an executive action that would allow limited use of the drug by those with serious illnesses, state officials say."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Australian officials have asked an American icebreaker to help with the rescue of Chinese and Russian vessels that are surrounded by ice floes off Antarctica...."

AP: " U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that America would support Iraq in its fight against al-Qaida-linked militants who have overrun two cities in the country's west, but said the U.S. wouldn't send troops, calling the battle 'their fight.'"

AP: "Two warring factions from South Sudan held direct peace talks on Sunday for the first time since conflict began roiling the country last month, sending hundreds of thousands of people fleeing for safety."

AP: "The deep freeze expected soon in the Midwest, New England and even the South will be one to remember, with potential record-low temperatures heightening fears of frostbite and hypothermia. It hasn't been this cold for decades...."

Yahoo! News: "A Delta jet skidded off the runway at John F. Kennedy International airport shortly after landing, the Federal Aviation Administration said. There were no immediate reports of injuries but the New York airport is now closed due to ice and snow, airport officials said."