The Ledes

Thursday, April 24, 2014.

... New York Times The Lede: "Separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine released the American journalist Simon Ostrovsky on Thursday, three days after he was taken prisoner in the town of Slovyansk while filming a video report for Vice News. The Brooklyn-based news organization confirmed his release in a statement, which was followed by a tweet from the correspondent."

Guardian: Ukrainian troops are moving against pro-Russian separatists. The Guardian's liveblog is here. ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Russia announced on Thursday that it was immediately starting military drills involving its army and air force along the border with Ukraine, harshly criticizing the government there for moving against pro-Russian forces occupying various government buildings in a show of force that left a still-undetermined number of people killed and wounded." ...

Washington Post: "Three American medical staff members died when an Afghan security official opened fire Thursday at an American-run Christian hospital in Kabul in the latest violence targeting foreigners in Afghanistan."

Guardian: "Pupils at the elite Southbank International School in London were victims of serial paedophile teacher William Vahey, the school has confirmed. The scale of the abuse is expected to be revealed later on Thursday in a letter to parents.... Vahey, a 64-year-old American who taught at Southbank between 2009 and 2013, killed himself after being found with 90 images of boys. The FBI believe the children were drugged with sleeping pills and molested in assaults dating back to 2008."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

Guardian: "The Oklahoma supreme court has dissolved its stay of the executions of two men who challenged the state's secrecy about its source of lethal injection drugs. The court reversed the decision of a district court judge who said the law that keeps the source secret is unconstitutional. The turnaround heads off a potential constitutional crisis sparked by the state's Republican governor, Mary Fallin, who had tried to override the stay by issuing an executive order to go ahead with the sentences.... The court's reversal on Wednesday came hours after a resolution by an Oklahoma House member to try to impeach some of its justices."

New York Times: "The latest accord between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization appeared more serious than past attempts, experts said, and came as hopes faded for a resolution to peace negotiations with Israel."

New York Times: "Russia continued Wednesday to ratchet up pressure on the government in Kiev, warning that events in eastern Ukraine could prompt a military response and again accusing the United States of directing events there."

Not All Fish Are Created Equal. Time: "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed President Barack Obama to Tokyo Wednesday by taking him to the greatest sushi restaurant in the world, the three Michelin star Sukiyabashi Jiro."

Reuters: "Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said on Tuesday they were holding an American journalist in the city of Slaviansk and the online news site Vice News said it was trying to secure the safety of its reporter Simon Ostrovsky."

AP: "When armed men seized the police station in this eastern Ukrainian city, mayor Nelya Shtepa declared she was on their side. She changed her story a few days later. Then she disappeared — the victim of an apparent abduction by the man who now lays claim to her job. On Tuesday, she resurfaced, expressing support once again for the pro-Russia insurgents — but possibly no longer as mayor."

AP: " A senior Canadian diplomat was expelled from Canada's embassy in Moscow in retaliation for Canada expelling a Russia diplomat as tensions grow over the Ukraine, Canadian officials said Tuesday."

AP: "A Moscow judge on Tuesday left open the possibility of jailing President Vladimir Putin's main critic for years, a sign of Putin's increasingly hard-line rule against opponents. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was fined $8,400 on Tuesday for slandering a lawmaker. His second trial starts Thursday, and prosecutors who previously secured his house arrest are widely expected to ask for jail for him pending trial, with Tuesday's verdict making him a recidivist. If there's a guilty verdict at that trial, he could get a prison term."

AP: "A Kansas judge will on Wednesday consider Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning's petition to legally change her name from Bradley, as she serves a 35-year sentence for passing classified U.S. government information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "An Army soldier convicted of leaking classified military and diplomatic records persuaded a Kansas judge Wednesday to legally change her name from Bradley Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning."

Time: "President Barack Obama paid a visit to the small community of Oso, Wa., on Tuesday, exactly one month after a massive mudslide there claimed at least 41 lives. He promised survivors that the entire country will be on hand to help for 'as long as it takes'”:

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday took the rare step of urging doctors to stop performing a surgical procedure used on tens of thousands of women each year to remove uterine growths, saying the practice risks spreading hidden cancers within a woman’s body. The procedure, known as power morcellation, has long been used in laparoscopic operations to remove fibroid tumors from the uterus, or to remove the uterus itself. It involves inserting an electric device into the abdomen and slicing tissue in order to remove it through a small incision. The surgery is far less invasive than traditional abdominal operations."

White House Live Video
April 24

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Jon Stewart raises a good point: Why is this man parading around with the flag of a country he claims doesn't exist? ...


Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "The Hannity-Stewart feud: Day Three. During an 11-minute segment on the 'The Daily Show' Wednesday night, Jon Stewart called out Sean Hannity for what he perceived as hypocrisy on the Cliven Bundy issue and called the Fox News host 'The Arby’s of news.'”

CW: It's worth remembering that Stewart was the guy who brought down CNN's shouting pundits show "Crossfire." Of course the Blitzer Channel is, by comparison to Fox "News," a paragon of journalistic excellence.

Jon Stewart on the Cliven Bundy story:

... AND on Sean Hannity's support for Bundy:

... AND Hannity is pissed off. Apparently, it upsets him to hear his own blatant hypocrisy ridiculed.

New York Times: "David Letterman introduced his successor, Stephen Colbert, on his 'Late Show With David Letterman' Tuesday night on CBS with a monologue joke and some cordial conversation — but no measuring of the drapes":

HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa. Paul Fahri of the Washington Post: The ratings for "Meet the Press" are so bad that NBC hired a psychologist to analyze Greggers. ...

     ... CW: Here's the rub. Fahri writes, "The impossible burden for Gregory, of course, has been to follow the beloved Russert. As one NBC colleague describes it, Russert is a 'ghost' who still haunts Gregory’s tenure at 'MTP' six years into his run." This is strictly VSP bull. Russert was a mediocre interviewer, who continually let politicians get away with evasive answers. He left big shoes to fill only because he had big feet.

MoDo loves her '65 Mustang.

USA Today: "Chelsea Clinton announced Thursday that she's pregnant with her first child."

New York Times: "It is a bit bigger and somewhat colder, but a planet circling a star 500 light-years away is otherwise the closest match of our home world discovered so far, astronomers announced on Thursday. The planet, known as Kepler 186f, named after NASA’s Kepler planet-finding mission, which detected it, has a diameter of 8,700 miles, 10 percent wider than Earth, and its orbit lies within the 'Goldilocks zone' of its star, Kepler 186 — not too hot, not too cold, where temperatures could allow for liquid water to flow at the surface, making it potentially hospitable for life."

Jason Zinoman of the New York Times argues that the real king of late-night comedy is Jon Stewart.

Whose Pulitzer Is It Anyway? Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity was awarded the Pulitzer Prize this week for his multipart series on denials of benefits to black lung victims. ABC News, which used Hamby's work for a "Nightline" segment, now wants a piece of the Pulitzer, even though the Pulitzer Prize is given for print journalism. ...

... J. K. Trotter of Gawker has more: "Journalist-on-journalist carnage is rarely so open, or so bilious, especially when obituary-worthy awards are on the line. Then again, television news has never attracted, or rewarded, humble folk. According to Poynter, an ABC spokesperson repeatedly 'threatened [{Bill} Buzenberg {executive director of CPI}] and the Center saying they would make this very "messy" ... unless they got what they wanted.'” ...

... Dylan Byers of Politico has more on the feud. ...

... Capital New York: "Fresh off a Pulitzer win for his investigative work at The Center for Public Integrity, Chris Hamby is jumping ship to join Mark Schoofs' investigations desk at Buzzfeed...."

Washington Post: Investigative reporter Michael Isikoff is leaving NBC News, by mutual consent. Isikoff told Erik Wemple that "this was a situation that was no longer working out."

Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Thursday night was a deft marriage of the best of the two Colberts: He didn’t break character, but the deference and affable nature that marks his out-of-character interviews was stamped all over the writing." With video. ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "Rush Limbaugh framed CBS's decision to replace retiring 'Late Show' host David Letterman with professional conservative skewer Stephen Colbert in some decidedly apocalyptic terms. 'CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America," Limbaugh said Thursday on his radio show. 'No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values. Now it's just wide out in the open.'" ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "CBS made its choice, quickly and definitively: Stephen Colbert is the successor to David Letterman as the star of 'Late Show,' the late-night franchise created by Mr. Letterman. CBS made the announcement Thursday, exactly one week after Mr. Letterman announced on his program that he would be leaving his post after one more year on the air."

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "A faded fragment of papyrus known as the 'Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,' which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery. Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: 'Jesus said to them, "My wife..."' Too convenient for some, it also contained the words 'she will be able to be my disciple,' a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests." ...

... CW: Sorry, purists. Followers (& non-followers) had all kinds of ideas about what Jesus was like. Married Jesus & sexy Jesus (Gospel of Thomas, "Lost" Gospel of Mark) were among them. The Roman Catholic Church decided, beginning late in the 2nd century what was canon & what was not. And every story, IMHO, is fictional. BTW, the Egyptologist in Goodstein's story who insists the fragment is a fake uses some extremely shaky -- i.e., bogus -- rationales for his opinion.

CW: I think it's my job to run this:

... The full "Today" show segment is here, & it's mildly interesting (CW: NBC's embed code is screwed up, so I can't run it here).

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Friday
Mar302012

The Commentariat -- March 31, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer, delayed thanks to my lousy e-mail, is the second of a two-parter on the New York Times' response to the oral arguments in the challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

President Obama's weekly address:

     ... The transcript is here. AP story here.

Cecile Richardson, President of Planned Parenthood, directs supporters to this video:

Gail Collins decides that the worst trend this political season is Americans Elect. CW: this pleases me a great deal inasmuch as Collins surely knows her worst-trend pick is a favorite of Tom Friedman.

Prof. Chris Edelson in Common Dreams: "Now, the Court stands poised to rely on the rhetoric of the Tea Party to stand in the way of Congress’s ability to deal with a truly national problem — if tens of millions of people without health insurance who pass on tens of billions in costs to other Americans isn’t a national problem, then what is? When the Court issues its decision, the question won’t be whether Americans might be forced to eat broccoli.... What we’ll really find out is whether Congress has the power to govern a nation, a problem the Framers seemed to have settled long ago.... The ultimate question, in fact, is whether the United States is a nation or merely a group of 300 million people who happen to share living space." Read the whole post. ...

... Into the Abyss. Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly: "It is sometimes forgotten that state and local governments do the major work of delivering federally-funded domestic services in this country; the feds mostly cut checks and write regs. If a majority of the Supreme Court begins questioning the constitutionality of this relationship, we aren’t just looking at an invalidation of a Medicaid expansion, or even of Medicaid itself, horrid as that would be. We could be on the brink of having to reconsider our basic form of governing. I hope the Justices who so casually toss around contemptuous references to decades of precedents aren’t so arrogant as to throw us into that abyss." ...

... And so on the nation's highest court, satire replaced stare decisis in a slightly altered version of the Red Queen's jurisprudence in Alice in Wonderland: First the verdict, then the trial. -- Bob Shrum ...

... Read Shrum's post in The Week. It's a well-written & thoughtful summation of this week's high courtroom shenanigans. His speculation that striking the ACA would help President Obama's re-election bid is a stretch. Shrum isn't much of a pronosticator. On election day 2004, he assured us Kerry would win (though, to be fair, he hadn't taken account of the GOP's manipulation of the Ohio results). ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York magazine: "... the shock of the liberal analysts who expected a landslide does prove they misjudged the case, but their error lies not in underestimating the arguments, which they imbibed closely, but in overestimating the Republican justices."

... Reed Abelson & Katie Thomas of the New York Times: "Although it would be folly to predict what the court will conclude [on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act], policy experts, insurers, doctors and legislators are now seriously contemplating the repercussions of a complete change in course two years after the nation began to put the law into place."

Steven Erlanger of the New York Times: French "methods of combating homegrown terrorism ... are quite different [from those of the United States], stemming from different histories, legal systems and conceptions of the state.... With the largest number of Muslims in Europe — nearly 10 percent of the population, often concentrated in poorer neighborhoods — and closer proximity to the Middle East and North Africa, France has focused more on preventing the recruitment of potential terrorists through a regular infiltration of mosques and radical Islamic networks.

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "General Motors ... has confirmed that it is pulling funding from the Heartland Institute, an ultra-conservative thinktank known for its scepticism about climate change. The decision by the GM Foundation to halt its support for Heartland after 20 years underlines the new image the carmaker is seeking to project as part of its social responsibility programme.... The funding cut – just $15,000 a year – is small beer for the institute, which has a multi-million dollar turnover, largely from a single anonymous donor."

Michael Doyle of the Sacramento Bee: "San Joaquin Valley congressional candidate Jose Hernandez flew in space, but his astronaut identity is now under political fire. In a pointed new challenge, a Sacramento law firm is asking a judge to block Hernandez from describing himself as an "astronaut/scientist/engineer" on the June ballot. The lawsuit notes Hernandez has left NASA." Via Steve Benen. CW: Excuse me. After being drummed from his speakership for ethics violations & other stuff, Newt Gingrich is still Speaker for Life, but an astronaut is not an astronaut a year after he leaves the program to run for office? ...

... Here is Hermandez' response to the suit:

Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: "Last December, in response to an Op-Ed column by David Brooks, [Charles] Snelling [of Allentown, Pennsylvania] contributed a 5,000-word 'Life Report' essay to nytimes.com, devoting the final section to his wife [Adrienne's Alzheimer's] disease and his role in managing it.... On Thursday..., Mr. Snelling killed his wife and himself...." The essay Snelling wrote is here. Washington Post story here. ...

... Coincidentally -- Susan Jacoby in a New York Times op-ed: "... end-of-life planning is one of the few actions within the power of individuals who wish to help themselves and their society. Too few Americans are shouldering this responsibility.... As someone over 65, I do not consider it my duty to die for the convenience of society. I do consider it my duty, to myself and younger generations, to follow the example my mother set by doing everything in my power to ensure that I will never be the object of medical intervention that cannot restore my life but can only prolong a costly living death."

Right Wing World *

** CW: I hope you all will read this article by Chris Mooney, much of it excerpted from his book The Republican Brain, and tell us what you think about it. Obviously, the country cannot go on like this, with a considerable percentage of the population incurably delusional.

We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice. We don’t think the generals believe that their budget is really the right budget. I think there’s a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the Pentagon’s budget. -- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Chair of the House Budget Committee

There’s a difference between having someone say they don’t believe what you said versus ... calling us, collectively, liars. My response is: I stand by my testimony. This was very much a strategy-driven process to which we mapped the budget. -- Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

CW: Evidently Ryan figures the Chair of the Joint Chiefs & other top brass are lying to Congress when they cut their own budgets because they are not planning ahead for this:

Alex Pareene of Salon: "When John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman join forces, you can be sure of one thing: It will involve state-sponsored violence. Today, they want us to arm Syrian rebels. Though, you know, what they really wanted to call for was actually bombing the hell out of Syria, until there is freedom. They’re just taking it slow.... Sadly, Joe Lieberman will be leaving the U.S. Senate soon, which means John McCain and Lindsey Graham will need to find a new fake-Democrat best friend to add a patina of “bipartisanship” to their endless demands for explosions and shooting and death."

CW: Let that sink in. Paul Ryan is insisting the Pentagon take more money than the brass calculate they need at the same time he is slashing social safety net programs. So dedicated is he to taking from the taxpayer to give to the defense contractors that he is willing to publicly accuse the nation's top generals of perjury. P.S. Defense expert Ryan has never served in the military. He has, however, been the beneficiary of social safety net programs.

Kevin Drum: conservatives don't trust science. "This is not because conservatives are a bunch of undereducated yahoos.... Conservative elites have led the anti-science charge and the rank-and-file has followed. This is presumably part of the wider conservative turn against knowledge-disseminating institutions whose output is perceived as too liberal (academia, the mainstream media, Hollywood) in favor of institutions that produce more reliably conservative narratives (churches, business-oriented think tanks, Fox News). More and more, liberals and conservatives are almost literally living in different worlds with different versions of consensus reality."

As Rick Santorum fades in the polls & party leaders begin endorsing Romney because he's going to win (and not because they like him), Sam Stein & Jason Cheris of the Huffington Post dump their Santorum stuff. It's a pretty good read.

Pink Bowling Balls. I apologize for not linking this timely. Eric Dolan of Raw Story: "Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Wednesday told a young man not to use a pink ball at a bowling alley in Wisconsin. 'You’re not gonna use the pink ball. We’re not gonna let you do that. Not on camera,' he said.... 'Friends don’t let friends use pink balls,' he added." ...

... Erin Ryan of Jezebel: "... maybe Rick Santorum's aversion to a man bowling with a pink ball is rooted in the fact that Rick Santorum is a genitalia-obsessed homophobe with a God complex and no self awareness clinging for his life to the flimsy idea that in order for the world to continue existing as Santorum wants it to exist, boys must not bowl with pink balls. Is there anything gender or sex-related about which this man doesn't have a complex?"

* Where it's so comfy to live because everything and everyone is predictable -- even the warmongers.

Local News

Bruce Vielmetti & Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A federal judge in Madison on Friday ruled that portions of Act 10 - which removed most collective bargaining for most public employees - are unconstitutional. Though critics of the law welcomed the decision as a major victory, backers seemed unconcerned since it preserved a main limit on bargaining, and suggested broader restrictions would pass muster if applied to all state workers." ...

... Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) has made it official — he’s running against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) in this summer’s recall election." Journal Sentinel story here.

News Ledes

The Plot Thickens. Orlando Sentinel: "Tom Owen, forensic consultant for Owen Forensic Services LLC and chair emeritus for the American Board of Recorded Evidence, used voice identification software to rule out [George] Zimmerman [as the person crying for help on the 911 tape moments before Trayvon Martin was shot dead]. Another expert contacted by the Sentinel, utilizing different techniques, came to the same conclusion. Zimmerman claims self-defense in the shooting and told police he was the one screaming for help. But these experts say the evidence tells a different story."

New York Times: "The Muslim Brotherhood nominated its chief strategist and financier Khairat el-Shater on Saturday as its candidate to become Egypt’s first president since Hosni Mubarak, breaking a pledge not to seek the top office and a monopoly on power."

New York Times: "As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton worked hard on Saturday to focus attention on deepening security ties with the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf, she found herself having to deal with a surprising act of diplomatic defiance: the decision by the United Arab Emirates, an ally, to shutter the offices of an American-financed group that promotes democracy.

AP: "Maryland lottery officials announced early Saturday that their state sold what could become the world's largest lottery payout of all-time, but it wasn't immediately clear if that ticket holder would get sole possession of the $640 million jackpot or have to split it with other winners." ...

     ... Update: "Lottery ticket-holders in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland each selected the winning numbers and will split a $640 million jackpot that was believed to be the world’s largest such prize, a lottery official said Saturday."

Reuters: "The U.S. Secret Service is investigating a major cyber intrusion at an Atlanta-based payment processor that could expose millions of MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover cardholders to fraudulent charges. Processor Global Payments Inc said on Friday it had found 'unauthorized access' into its system early in March and notified law enforcement and financial institutions."

Thursday
Mar292012

The Commentariat -- March 30, 2012

CW: Today's comments are extraordinary. Treat yourself.

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "If the usual process occurs, the justices of the Supreme Court will gather around a large rectangular table Friday morning and, one by one, cast their votes on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care law. They will let the rest of us know the outcome in due time.... In a town where secrets are hard to keep, the Supreme Court is a striking outlier. The justices and their clerks know the outcome of cases almost immediately, but it’s rare for rulings to become known before the justices announce them." ...

... Paul Krugman: "... we don’t know how this will go. But it’s hard not to feel a sense of foreboding — and to worry that the nation’s already badly damaged faith in the Supreme Court’s ability to stand above politics is about to take another severe hit."

... Gene Robinson: Justice Anthony "Kennedy seemed to be genuinely looking for a principle that permitted a health insurance mandate but not a broccoli mandate. And [Solicitor General Donald] Verrilli gave him one. The market for health insurance is inseparable from the market for health care, he argued, and every citizen is a consumer of health care. Those who choose not to buy health insurance require health care anyway — often expensive care at hospital emergency rooms — and these costs are borne by the rest of us in the form of higher premiums." ...

... NEW. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The way to frame a Supreme Court argument meant to persuade Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is to talk about liberty. It is his touchstone and guiding principle, and his conception of liberty is likely to determine the future of President Obama’s health care law." CW: also, look for yet another snide remark from Scalia. ...

... Jack Balkin defines three limiting principles that justify "the individual mandate but doesn't give Congress unlimited power under the Commerce Clause." ...

... Ezra Klein interviews Constitutional Prof. Akhil Reed Amar, who makes it so simple even Scalia could understand it: "The limit is the Constitution. What Congress does has to be in the enumerated powers. One of those powers is the Interstate Commerce Clause. What are the limits on that power? It only applies to regulations that are interstate and commercial. So Congress has to be actually trying to address a commercial problem that spills over state lines. And that’s clearly true here. At any given nanosecond, millions of Americans are out of state.... And if ... any of these Americans fall sick, we go to a local ER. That’s an interstate issue. Similarly, if we don’t cover preexisting conditions, we have a lock-in for labor mobility — many workers will be unable to take better jobs out-of-state and thereby contribute more to their families and to the economy. And that’s what the Interstate Commerce Clause was all about: Getting rid of the impediments to genuine interstate commerce, to the free movement of goods and labor." ...

... Simon Lazarus of The New Republic defends Solicitor General Donald Verrilli against widespread criticism: "... having sat through the oral argument and re-read the transcript, I have to dissent. Especially on paper, Verrilli’s performance appears quite strong — and possibly more effective than that of his opponents, Michael Carvin and the justly renowned Paul Clement." CW: that's exactly the point I made the other day. The government may lose its case, but it won't be Verrilli's fault -- it will be the fault of Tea Party Justices using childish hypotheticals to claim that if they don't save America from ObamaCare, President Obama & the Democrats will make you eat bran & broccoli & force you to buy exercise equipment. ...

... David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix: "I have no idea where the justices will come down on the constitutionality issue. I just want people to back up and remember that when jackasses yap about the potential broccoli-gestapo tyranny that might in theory stifle the liberties of those handfuls of hypothetical Americans who wish to live free of health insurance, there are in reality millions of American children who, through absolutely no fault of their own, are in fact systematically denied access to basic health care every day." Read the whole post. ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker discusses some of the alternatives to the individual mandate -- none would be as good as the mandate, because the result would be to raise premiums & lower enrollment, but they would allow the law to function -- unless of course Scalia gets his way & strikes the whole law. Commenter Bill Kellett has a point: "So when OSHA demands safety glasses be worn they aren't requiring a product be purchased?"

     .... CW: every one of us buys stuff because the government says we must -- car buyers could save thousands of dollars if they didn't have to pay for all those pesky safety features; no, no one forces you to buy a car, but for perhaps the majority of American adults, a car is a practical necessity. Even if you take public transportation, you're paying for the federally-required features on the bus or the train. That is, the government requires almost everyone to buy -- or rent -- vehicular safety products: airbags, seat belts, horns! Moreover, if I take the city bus, it will never take me across state lines; the bus is not engaging in interstate commerce, but it must be built to meet federal safety standards, & I have to help pay for those features. It's a mandate.

 
Charles Pierce
on Trayvon Martin and "the way of the gun." An excellent post. A commenter on the post, Katherine Harris, writes, "I just want someone to explain to me, without laughing, how a twenty-eight-year-old man with no affiliation with any kind of organization carrying a concealed weapon in any way constitutes 'a well-regulated militia.'" ...

... CW: But I will disagree with Pierce on one thing. If Americans want safer gun laws, the one way to get them is to eviscerate the NRA, because it is they who are purchasing politicians & writing all this legislation for them. So if you belong to the NRA -- QUIT.

An Etiquette Lesson for White Conservative Guys  

Elspeth Reeve of The Atlantic volunteers to help out Victor Davis Hanson, a white conservative guy who complains in the National Review of Interracial Etiquette that

The country is obsessed with decoding a scratchy tape to ascertain whether Mr. Zimmerman said 'cold, coons, goons, or punks,' with the idea that if the garbled word proves a racial slur.... No one can explain why Mr. Martin felt a need to so self-identify [as No Limit Nigga on his Twitter account]; no one seems to care; and no one can provide rules of the conditions under which (who says it, and when, why, how) society must deplore the use of such an epithet."

     ... CW: yes, I know you think VDH is an incredible asshole (almost always an appropriate slur when applied to goons & punks like VDH [and why does he need three names?]), but Reeve is more patient. She writes, "... the rules are pretty clear: if you're white, don't use the N-word. But even if Hanson thinks there's some blurriness left, there's a really, really clear-cut situation when you should not say the N-word, or any other racial slur, is when you're considering shooting an unarmed teenager who happens to be black."

Teresa Smith of the Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Journal: "... the [Canadian] government has announced it will phase out the [penny] beginning this fall. The decision, announced in Thursday's federal budget, came down to dollars and cents. Due to inflation, 'the penny's burden to the economy has grown relative to its value as a means of payment,' according to budget documents."

 

Right Wing World *

... NEW. Julie Davis & Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News: "A Republican Party web-based advertisement uses altered audio from U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments to attack President Barack Obama’s health-care law. In a spot circulated [Wednesday], the Republican National Committee excerpts the opening seconds of the March 27 presentation of ... Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, in which he is heard struggling for words and twice stopping to drink water.... A review of a transcript and recordings of those moments shows that Verrilli took a sip of water just once, paused for a much briefer period, and completed his thought, rather than stuttering and trailing off as heard in the doctored version." ...

... Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog: the RNC ad "... also sets back the effort to get the Court to become more transparent.... The Justices now have before them a perfect illustration of the gross distortion that can instantly be made of recordings of their proceedings. What is to stop the same misleading stunt being pulled with the Justices’ own oral argument questions and comments? Nothing at all. The Court made a special exception in releasing the oral argument tape for the health care arguments so promptly, and it probably will hesitate before doing so again. If there were any chance that the Justices would permit cameras in the Court, I do not see happening now." Thanks to contributor Dave S. for the link.

* Where the motto is "If the facts don't fit, change 'em."

Local News

NEW. Tim Jones of Bloomberg News: Wisconsin "Governor Scott Walker will face a recall vote June 5 after election officials in Madison cleared the way for an ouster election. The Government Accountability Board, meeting in the state Capitol today, unanimously found that petition signatures seeking the recall of Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, both Republicans, met the legal standard to force an election Walker, whose opposition to unions touched off public fury, may become the third U.S. governor to be removed from office."

News Ledes

New York Times: "President Obama has determined there is enough oil in world markets to allow countries to rely less on imports from Iran, a step that could increase Western actions to deter Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, an administration official said Friday."

New York Times: "Eight days after the police shot dead the self-confessed killer of four Jews and three French paratroopers in southwestern France, elite units on Friday raided localities in several parts of the country and detained 17 people described as Islamic militants."

Washington Post: "European finance ministers agreed Friday to bolster the total capacity of their bailout funds to nearly $1 trillion, a temporary measure that aims to convince investors that they are serious about continuing to help struggling countries repay their debts."

New York Times: "Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin on Friday endorsed the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney, saying Republicans do not have the luxury of waiting until the party’s convention this summer to rally behind a nominee and start confronting President Obama."

AP: "The U.S. ambassador to Russia is perplexed over how a government-controlled television station seems to know his every move and concerned that his email and phone calls may be intercepted. In a series of tweets on Thursday, Michael McFaul said he encounters crews from the NTV channel wherever he goes."

Guardian: "A man who says he saw Trayvon Martin shot dead claims that the Florida teenager and his killer, George Zimmerman, were scuffling on the ground at the time with one on top of the other.... The anonymous man said he reported to police details of what he saw on the evening of 26 February, which included watching the gunman walking away from the fight apparently uninjured." Video of the interview, with CNN's Anderson Cooper, is here.

Wednesday
Mar282012

The Commentariat -- March 29, 2012

Adrienne Rich asks "What Kind of Times Are These?" Rich died Tuesday.

** I've added quite a few NEW links to yesterday's post on the Supremes' hearing of oral arguments on the challenges to the Affordable Care Act.

Edwidge Danticat in a New York Times op-ed: "... With draconian immigration laws spreading across the country, immigration detention is one of the fastest-growing forms of incarceration in the United States. There are more than 30,000 men, women and children in immigration custody...." Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee] & members of a subcommittee he chairs is holding a hearing which it titled, for fun, "Holiday on ICE," "seem to think the United States is too nice to the immigrants it detains. We are being too generous in deciding to give them safe water, an hour a day of recreation, and off-site medical care if they are in danger of dying.... The flippant title of the hearing shows a blatant disregard for the more than 110 people who have died in immigration custody since 2003. One of them was my uncle Joseph, an 81-year-old throat cancer survivor...."

Gail Collins: "You would think that this would be a great time to address the question of handgun proliferation, but it has hardly come up in Washington at all. This is because most politicians are terrified of the National Rifle Association." ...

... Now I've Seen Everything. Alex Seitz-Wald of Think Progress: "Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) donned a hoodie and took to the House floor this morning to speak out against the murder of Travyon Martin, but was shouted down and removed from the floor by the Republican speaker pro tem for violating House rules prohibiting the wearing of hats."

... Here's a bit more on Rush -- "the one politician to ever have beaten Barack Obama in an election" -- from Nicholas McCarvel of the Daily Beast. ...

... ANd from Peter Grier of the Christian Science Monitor, who discusses the House rules. ...

... Channing Joseph of the New York Times: "A police surveillance video obtained by ABC News shows George Zimmerman ... as he arrived at the Sanford, Fla., police station on the night of the shooting. Mr. Zimmerman, 28, said he shot the 17-year-old high school student, Trayvon Martin, in self-defense after a violent altercation in which Trayvon punched him in the nose, knocked him over and slammed his head into the sidewalk. Mr. Zimmerman has not been arrested or charged. His lawyer, Craig Sonner, has said Mr. Zimmerman’s nose was broken in the altercation. In the video, which shows Mr. Zimmerman in police custody shortly after Trayvon was shot, Mr. Zimmerman’s face and head show no obvious signs of injuries or blood."

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Right Wing World

Michael Hirsh of the National Journal: the Obama campaign might be well-advised "to cast [Mitt] Romney as Barry 'Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice' Goldwater, whose trouncing by LBJ in 1964 had a lot to do with public fears that he was a warmonger.... Previously [Romney] has virtually threatened war with Iran and the perpetuation of war in Afghanistan. But Romney's remarks to CNN about Russia, calling Moscow 'without question our number one geopolitical foe' and saying that the Russians 'fight every cause for the world's worst actors,' seemed to mark a new level of indiscretion for the hyperventilating former Massachusetts governor."

Mitt Romney tells Wisconsin voters what he calls "a humorous story" about his father's closing a Michigan auto plant & moving operations to Kenosha, Wisconsin. Only Romney -- who "likes to be able to fire people" -- would see the "humor" in putting people out of work:

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The only things more out-of-touch than Mitt Romney's 'joke' about his dad closing a factory are his policies that would give massive tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires and allow insurance companies to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions. He continues to be callous about the struggles that ordinary Americas face and his policies would make it harder-not easier-for anyone but the very wealthy to succeed. -- Lis Smith of the Obama campaign

... The Detroit News reports some background on the hilarious plant closing. ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times, in a post titled "The Lighter Side of Destroying Jobs," has more background on the Michigan plant closing. He adds, "Another candidate might have stayed away from a joke about closing auto plants. Considering that Mitt Romney’s private equity company forced thousands of layoffs at companies it purchased, and that he opposed a bailout of the auto industry that saved hundreds of thousands of jobs, it’s a subject he would be well-advised to avoid. But Mr. Romney doesn’t seem to have the internal warning signal granted to most politicians."

News Ledes

Yahoo! News: "The White House on Thursday accused Republicans criticizing President Barack Obama over his candid but caught-on-tape comments to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev — like presidential front-runner Mitt Romney and House Speaker John Boehner — of having an outdated 'Cold War' mindset and said Obama would happily fight for his policy through the election."

Washington Post: "Angry Senators on Thursday bowed to the will of the House with a 90-day extension of transportation funding two days before a deadline that could have shutdown highway and transit projects across the nation."

ABC News: "A 29-year-old-man was taken into police custody this morning at the Philadelphia airport after attempting to board a flight to San Francisco while carrying items that could have been assembled into an explosive device -- a vial with a fuse, a plastic bottle filled with explosive powder and three M-80 type fireworks."

AP: "President Barack Obama is renewing his call for Congress to end tax breaks to oil companies. In a Rose Garden speech Thursday, Obama will urge Congress to vote to end what the White House calls 'the billions in taxpayer dollars handed out to oil companies every year.'" ...

     ... Politico Update: "President Barack Obama repeated his plea Thursday for lawmakers to repeal billions in annual incentives for big oil companies ahead of a doomed Senate vote on the matter":

     ... Washington Post Update: "Senate Democrats followed by forcing a vote to end tax cuts for the five largest oil companies, which Republicans resoundingly defeated."

New York Times: "Top MF Global executives and their lawyers have been meeting with federal authorities investigating the collapse of MF Global and the firm’s misuse of customer money, according to testimony before a Congressional panel on Wednesday.... An important MF Global employee [Edith O'Brien] had declined to cooperate without first receiving a deal excusing her from criminal prosecution."

AP: "The annual Arab summit meeting opened in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Thursday with only 10 of the leaders of the 22-member Arab League in attendance and amid a growing rift between Arab countries over how far they should go to end the one-year conflict in Syria. As the summit opened, two explosions were heard in central Baghdad."

Here's the New York Times' obituary of musician Earl Scruggs.

Wall Street Journal: "The House overwhelmingly voted down a bipartisan budget proposal [which was based on the Simpson-Bowles Commission outline] Wednesday that would have directed lawmakers to reduce the federal deficit by more than $4 trillion over 10 years through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases." ...

... The Hill: "The House on Wednesday night unanimously rejected an alternative budget proposal [supposedly] based on President Obama's 2013 budget plan, dispatching it in a 0-414 rout. The vote came just hours after the White House cast the pending vote as a political 'gimmick,' an apparent attempt to downplay what many expected to be an ugly-looking vote for the White House." ...

The Hill: "The House on Thursday is poised to approve Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget measure, which would give Republicans a much-needed lift after months of intra-party squabbling." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "The House of Representatives on Thursday approved a $3.5 trillion budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on a 228 to 191 vote, largely along party lines."

New York Times: "Following a string of critical reports about its contracting practices in China, Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, visited Foxconn Technology’s manufacturing plant for the iPhone earlier this week, media reports said on Thursday." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "The Fair Labor Association said Thursday that more than half of the workers in Apple’s assembly plants exceed the company’s limit of 60 hours of work a week and that many face hazardous working conditions." ...

     ... Reuters Update: "In a landmark development for the way Western companies do business in China, Apple Inc said on Thursday it had agreed to work with partner Foxconn to tackle wage and working condition violations at the factories that produce its popular products."

Washington Post: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) endorsed Mitt Romney for president on Wednesday, becoming the latest big-name Republican to throw his support behind the likely Republican nominee."

Reuters: "Pope Benedict and Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, both octogenarians, joked about their age in a brief meeting on Wednesday and then Castro popped the question: so what do you do? The two world figures chatted for about 30 minutes at the Vatican embassy in Havana near the end of the pope's three-day visit to Cuba, where he called for greater freedom and a bigger role for the Catholic Church in the communist-led nation."

Reuters: "An angry Rupert Murdoch on Thursday declared war against 'enemies' who have accused his pay-TV operation of sabotaging its rivals, denouncing them as 'toffs and right wingers' stuck in the last century." In tweets!

Wednesday
Mar282012

The Commentariat -- March 28, 2012 Supreme Court Edition

NEW. Part 1 of my analysis, in the New York Times eXaminer, of the New York Times' coverage of the legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act is here. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...

... NEW. Also, be sure to read Dean Baker's takedown of the New York Times report on RomneyCare: "The NYT puts an anti-Obamacare piece in the news section."

The court commands no armies, it has no money; it depends for its power on its credibility. The only reason people obey it is because it has that credibility. And the court risks grave damage if it strikes down a statute of this magnitude and importance, and stretches so dramatically and drastically to do it. – Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., former Connecticut Attorney General

In a very fundamental way, this Medicaid expansion, as well as the provisions we discussed yesterday, secure of the blessings of liberty.... The Congress struggled with the issue of how to deal with this profound problem of 40 million people without health care for many years, and it made a judgment, and its judgment is one that is, I think, in conformity with lots of experts thought, was the best complex of options to handle this problem. Maybe they were right; maybe they weren't. But this is something about which the people of the United States can deliberate and they can vote, and if they think it needs to be changed, they can change it. And I would suggest to the Court, with profound respect for the Court's obligation to ensure that the Federal Government remains a government of enumerated powers, that this is not a case in any of its aspects that calls that into question. That this was a judgment of policy, that democratically accountable branches of this government made by their best lights. And I would urge this Court to respect that judgment and ask that the Affordable Care Act, in its entirety, be upheld. Thank you. -- Donald Verrilli, Solicitor General (Read Verrilli's entire final remark, beginning on page 79 @ line 14)

Links to audio & transcripts of today's sessions in today's Ledes.

** Also, do read Ken Winkes' essay in this page's Comments.

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "On the third day and final of Supreme Court arguments over the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care overhaul law, the justices on Wednesday shifted their attention to a question with enormous practical implications: If they strike down a key provision of the sprawling law, what other provisions would have to fall along with it?"

N. C. Aizenman & Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court began the final day of its review of President Obama’s health-care law Wednesday, considering whether all of the law must fall if part of it is found unconstitutional, and whether its proposed Medicaid expansion violates the federal-state partnership."

New York Times Editors: "By the time the proceedings were over, much of what the conservative justices said in court seemed like part of a politically driven exercise — especially because the issues addressed on Wednesday were not largely constitutional in nature. In fact, they were the kinds of policy questions that are properly left to Congress and state governments to answer, not the Supreme Court."

Jeffrey Doom-and-Gloom Toobin:

Au contraire, writes Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "The Supreme Court spent 91 minutes Wednesday operating on the assumption that it would strike down the key feature of the new health care law, but may have convinced itself in the end not to do that because of just how hard it would be to decide what to do after that. A common reaction, across the bench, was that the Justices themselves did not want the onerous task of going through the remainder of the entire 2,700 pages of the law and deciding what to keep and what to throw out, and most seemed to think that should be left to Congress.... The net effect may well have shored up support for the individual insurance mandate itself." ...

... BUT here's Denniston's analysis of the afternoon session: "Unless a closing oration by a top government lawyer stirs some real sympathy for the poor, the new health care law’s broad expansion of the Medicaid program that serves the needy may be sacrificed to a historic expression of judicial sympathy for states’ rights. It probably would require the Court to be really bold, to strike down a program passed by Congress under its spending power, and to do so for the first time in 76 years, but the temptation was very much in evidence in the final round of the Court’s hearings this week on the Affordable Care Act. It probably would be done by a 5-4 vote." Post has been updated.

Dahlia Lithwick describes the justices' behavior in the afternoon session: "... the discussion has disintegrated again into a Morning Joe-style roundtable about states’ rights, the states’ dangerous addiction to New Deal federal programs, and the possibility of sending the states back to rehab to work out their co-dependency issues."

** Andrew Koppelman of Salon: "The judges are being asked to take away health insurance from millions of people. And judging from what they said, they just might do it. Constitutional arguments that were clear howlers a few days ago now have a chance at becoming the law of the land." Koppelman does an excellent job of explaining the anti-Medicaid argument, how ridiculous it is, and how scary it is that the conservative justices, unlike any of the lower courts -- which all threw it out -- took the argument seriously.

NEW. Greg Sargent interviews Charles Fried, the former Solicitor General to Ronald Reagan. "lThere is a limiting principle,' Fried said. 'Congress can’t regulate something that isn’t interstate commerce.' At [Tuesday]’s hearing, [Justice] Kennedy suggested that it is beyond Congress’s authority to force people to purchase something they do not want. 'Can you create commerce in order to regulate it?' Kennedy asked. Fried ... said that under the mandate, Congress isn’t 'creating commerce,' it's merely regulating how inevitable commerce will be paid for. 'You’re not compelling commerce here,' Fried said. 'That assumes the commerce is the insurance. But the commerce is the health care. You’re regulating how it’s paid for. They’re not creating commerce; they’re creating the way you pay for it.'" ...

... NEW. Greg Sargent: "... in his interview with me about the limiting principle, former Reagan Solicitor General Charles Fried was scaldingly critical of the willingness of the conservative bloc of Supreme Court justices to traffic in some of the most well-worn Tea Party tropes about Obamacare. 'I was appalled to see that at least a couple of them were repeating the most tendentious of the Tea Party type arguments,' Fried said. 'I even heard about broccoli. The whole broccoli argument is beneath contempt. To hear it come from the bench was depressing.'"

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "The early outlines of the [Obama campaign's plan to deal with the healthcare issue] came into view on Wednesday as the administration aggressively promoted the more popular provisions of the health care law. That offered a glimpse of the next three months, as the court wrestles with its ruling on the most sweeping piece of domestic legislation since Medicare was created in 1965.... If the administration loses its argument, one early strategy is to run squarely against the Supreme Court." ...

... NEW. Amy Gardner of the Washington Post on the same subject.

NEW. Charles Pierce: "It's been clear for some time now that [Justice Antonin Scalia] is short-timing his job on the Supreme Court. The job bores him.... He's really just a heckler at this point."

NEW. E. J. Dionne: "It fell to the court’s liberals — the so-called 'judicial activists,' remember? — to remind their conservative brethren that legislative power is supposed to rest in our government’s elected branches.... If they strike down or cripple the health-care law..., a court that gave us Bush v. Gore and Citizens United will prove conclusively that it sees no limits on its power, no need to defer to those elected to make our laws."

MYOB. Andrew Koppelman of Salon has precisely the right answer to Alito's question yesterday about the limits of the Commerce Clause: "What Solicitor General Donald Verrilli evidently could not bring himself to say – and this may be why his answers to No Limits were so tangled and hard to follow — is that there is no such safe harbor. Government already forces you to buy insurance you may not want, and thereby to subsidize others, via Social Security and Medicare. The check on the abuse of this power is a familiar one: the ballot box." See also the New York Times Editors' take linked in yesterday's Supremes Edition. It's a different way of saying the same thing to the Court: MYOB. ...

     ... Update: In Verrilli's final plea to the Court, cited at the top of this post, he at last tells them to MYOB.

... CW: I am in complete agreement with something else Koppelman writes in the post above: "Perhaps [Justice Scalia] was just being a devil’s advocate, but let’s be clear: That’s who he was advocating for.... Here the purported champion of judicial restraint proposes reading brutal, unregulated capitalism into the Constitution. Fundamental rights are violated if government acts to keep sick people alive? The other objections to the law are merely confused. This one is evil." As I listened to the audio yesterday, that was exactly my reaction to Scalia's questions; that and the fact that Scalia so clearly takes pleasure in doing evil to the weak and needy.

David Frum, Confused Conservative, writing in the Daily Beast, is not convinced the Republican-appointed Supremes will save the Republican Members of Congress from their dereliction of duty. An interesting take, for what it's worth, which might not be much.

This country is in the grip of some people who have been so brainwashed that they have lost their relationship to reality itself. Even nations run by right wing dictators aren't this self-destructive. We are the most powerful nation on earth --- and we're basically at the mercy of a group of primitive paranoids. -- Digby

Jay Leno quizzes Willard Romney on health care (because Romney won't talk to real reporters):