The Ledes

Friday, May 29, 2015.

Washington Post: "The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized pace of 0.7 percent in the first three months of the year, according to government data released Friday morning, a tumble for a recovering nation that until recently seemed poised for takeoff. The contraction, the country’s third in the aftermath of the Great Recession, provides a troubling picture of an economy that many figured would get a lift from cheap oil, rapid hiring and growing consumer confidence. Instead, consumers have proved cautious, and oil companies have frozen investment — all while a nasty winter caused havoc for transportation and construction and a strong dollar widened the trade deficit."

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 29

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to



New York Times: "Charter Communications is near a deal to buy Time Warner Cable for about $55 billion, people with direct knowledge of the talks said on Monday, a takeover that would create a new powerhouse in the rapidly consolidating American cable industry.... The potential acquisition of Time Warner Cable completes a lengthy quest by Charter and its main backer, the billionaire John C. Malone, to break into the top tier of the American broadband industry. If completed, the transaction would be the latest in a series of mergers remaking the market for broadband Internet and cable television in the United States." ...

     ... Update: "Charter Communications agreed on Tuesday to buy its much larger rival Time Warner Cable for $56.7 billion in a deal that would transform the company into one of America’s largest cable and broadband operators."

Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

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

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The Commentariat -- March 19, 2013

Jonathan Weisman & Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "With the expected Senate passage as early as Tuesday of broad legislation to finance the federal government through Sept. 30, a lucky few programs will be spared the brunt of the automatic spending cuts -- known as sequestration -- now coursing through the federal government. Managers, especially in the Defense Department, will be given more flexibility to implement $85 billion in cuts.... The worst of the cuts in federal spending to a major infant nutrition program would be reversed. Embassy security and construction could be spared in the wake of the consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya. And child care subsidies, once seen as critical to the success of welfare reform, would take a haircut, not the hammer blow that President Obama once loudly warned was coming."

Katrina vanden Heuvel of the Nation, in the Washington Post: "Last week in Washington was a tale of two budgets. One of them used popular, common-sense plans to create millions of jobs. The other had a battery of discredited ideas that would kill jobs and derail the recovery. Guess which one much of the mainstream media were chattering about?"

Peter Baker & Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "Mr. Obama's nomination [for labor secretary] of Thomas E. Perez, who has racked up record discrimination and housing claims as head of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, generated criticism from some Senate Republicans who called him a divisive and political choice." ...

... Brian Beutler of TPM thinks the Perez confirmation process will not go well for the GOP: "Perez is a Hispanic leader and as head of DOJ's civil rights division one of the Obama administration's most progressive officials.... Thus, on the day of its unveiling, the Growth And Opportunity Project [a/k/a the 'Outreach to Schmucks" program] faces a major challenge to its own raison d’être. [Wait till] the party's simultaneously filibustering a qualified candidate to be the only Latino in Obama's second-term cabinet [while] the conservative media lapses into another Sotomayor-like spectacle of racial panic and drags elected officials with them." Rush Limbaugh is already there, saying Perez "might as well be Hugo Chavez and is comparing him to the Grand Kleagle of Klan." ...

Hola, Amigos!... This out of David Vitter's office: "U.S. Sen. David Vitter [RHookers-La.] announced his commitment to block the nomination of Thomas Perez as Secretary of the Labor Department until the Department of Justice responds to his 2011 letter related to spotty enforcement of the National Voter Registration Act in Louisiana. Perez was closely involved in the controversial New Black Panther voter intimidation case before the Department of Justice." ...

     ... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "The decision to drop most of the allegations against the New Black Panther defendants -- the decision that many on the far right now object to -- happened on May 18, 2009. Perez did not take over the Civil Rights Division until the next October." Read the whole post. ...

... AND this from Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III [RConfederacy-Ala.]: "... illegal workers ... illegal immigration ... Casa de Maryland ... fringe advocacy group ... illegal immigrants ... illegal labor sites ... illegal immigrants ... illegal immigrants ... flawed immigration policies ... undermines legal work requirements." Beauregard got all that into two short grafs. ...

... Steve Benen has a pretty good overview of the Rush-Malkin-Vitter-Sessions Latino Outreach Program. It's going well! Hispanic voters are sure to take notice.

Joe Nocera: "... as a longtime Democratic member of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations -- and as its chairman since 2007 -- [Carl] Levin [Mich.] has done more than anyone to expose the scams, the conflicts, the wrongdoing and the sheer idiocy of the financial industry from the run-up to the financial crisis to the present day. Every time Levin's subcommittee holds a hearing, it should shame Attorney General Eric 'Too Big to Jail' Holder Jr." Nocera adds,

Sometime in the next few months, the permanent subcommittee plans to call the Internal Revenue Service to task for allowing the political super PACs to be classified as tax-exempt 501(c)(4)s. 'Tax-exempt 501(c)(4)s are not supposed to be engaged in politics,' he said. 'It is against the law to do so.' Then he added, with a certain undeniable relish, 'We're going to go after them.'

Gary Langer of ABC News: "Support for gay marriage reached a new high in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, marking a dramatic change in public attitudes on the subject across the past decade. Fifty-eight percent of Americans now say it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to wed." ...

... Andy Borowitz: "The decision of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to support same-sex marriage after learning that his son was gay has inspired hundreds of other Republican lawmakers to stop speaking to their children immediately, G.O.P. leaders confirmed today."

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "Justices Antonin Scalia and Sonia Sotomayor clashed Monday during Supreme Court oral arguments about whether states may require residents to submit proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The outcome of the case is uncertain as the justices appeared narrowly divided." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... the Arizona case is a straight-out matter of the extent to which federal election laws may trump (or more technically, 'pre-empt') state election laws." ...

... CW: I'm just waiting for Scalia to declare the entire Constitution unconstitutional because the framers went to the Constitutional Convention with the original intent to revise the Articles of Confederation, not to scrap the Articles & write a new constitution. Probably the only thing holding him back is that dumping the Constitution would put him out of his job-for-life.

Jennifer Preston of the New York Times: "... Alexandria Goddard, a crime blogger whose early and dogged research helped bring national attention to the [Steubenville rape] case, is still fending off criticism that she helped create 'an Internet lynch mob.' 'I am just the messenger here,' said Ms. Goddard, 45, who once lived in Steubenville and began following the case closely after she read what was being said online about the 16-year-old victim.... Her expertise creating social media profiles of teenagers whose parents want to know what their children are doing online gave her a distinctive window on the situation."

Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post has an excellent explanation of the Cypriot bailout crisis. Russian mobsters!

Tom Heneghan of Reuters: "With every day Pope Francis reigns, his style reveals more contrasts with his predecessor Benedict in ways that amount to an unspoken criticism of how the retired pontiff conducted his papacy. The enthusiasm former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio has ignited among Catholics by approaching the job like a parish priest rather than a papal monarch points to a yearning for a leader the Church has not seen since the charismatic Pope John PaulII." ...

... Elsewhere in religious news, the History Channel is defending its hit series "The Bible," whose producer Mark Burnett cast an Obama look-alike as Satan, a resemblance first noted by Glenn Beck. ...

... Andy Towle of Towleroad: Burnett's advisors on the project comprised an "interfaith panel included pastors Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes, Bishop Michael Sheridan, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez ... a 'Who's Who' of notorious evangelical homophobes." ...

Glenn Greenwald: yes, the Iraq War was about oil. Bush speechwriter David Frum, who was privy to talks between Darth Cheney & Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile whom neocons planned to install as Iraqi leader, confirms the talks were about oil. Frum's Newsweek piece is here.

Hey, it's EIGHT Pinocchios for Michele Bachmann in her outstanding CPAC performance -- four yesterday, four today. Glenn Kessler: "...there really aren't enough Pinocchios for such misleading use of statistics in a major speech."

It is one thing for the New York Times to print op-eds by ultra-conservatives, but WTF are they doing running an op-ed by Senate candidate & renowned crackpot Rep. Paul Broun (RCrazy-Ga.)?

Local News

Jack Healy of the New York Times: "Eight months [after the Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting, Gov. John] Hickenlooper [D-Colo.] is poised to sign some of the toughest new gun control laws in the nation, capping a journey that has transformed a popular, data-driven Western Democrat who takes his son shooting into an unlikely frontman for bringing new gun laws into the center of the United States. The bill signing is expected on Wednesday."

Pretend President Paul News *

Erica Werner of the AP: "Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is endorsing a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants, a significant move for a favorite of tea party Republicans who are sometimes hostile to such an approach. In a speech to be delivered Tuesday morning to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the potential 2016 presidential candidate declares, 'If you wish to live and work in America, then we will find a place for you.' ... Paul's path to citizenship would come with conditions that could make it long and difficult for illegal immigrants."

* Had I been president..., I would have relieved you of your post. -- Rand Paul to Hillary Clinton

News Ledes

AP: "Federal authorities say a civilian defense contractor who works in intelligence at Pacific Command gave his Chinese girlfriend information on existing war plans and U.S. nuclear weapons. Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, appeared in court Monday to face one count of communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it and one count of unlawfully retaining national defense documents and plans." CW: the "girlfriend" is 27. Another bummer for Bishop: his girlfriend doesn't really love him. Just a bad day all around.

AP: "Just hours ahead of an expected vote in the country's 56-member Parliament on the seizure of a percentage of deposits, officials sought to limit the impact on small savers. A new draft bill discussed in Parliament's finance committee proposed to spare all deposits below €20,000 ($25,900) from a charge. Those between €20,000 and €100,000 would still have a 6.75 percent charge imposed, and those above €100,000 would be hit for 9.9 percent, in line with the original plan.... A vote in favor of the bank account confiscation is needed if Cyprus is to get €10 billion in rescue loans from its euro partners and the International Monetary Fund. The seizure of deposits is meant to raise €5.8 billion, which is part of the country's rescue."

AP: "Syria's opposition coalition early Tuesday elected a little-known American-educated IT manager and Islamic activist to head an interim government to administer areas seized by rebel forces from President Bashar Assad's troops. Ghassan Hitto received 35 votes out of 48 ballots cast by the opposition Syrian National Coalition's 63 active members during a meeting in Istanbul."

Reuters: "Pope Francis inaugurated his papacy on Tuesday with an address calling for the defense of the weakest in society and of the environment, saying that otherwise the way was opened to death and destruction. Addressing an estimated 200,000 people and many foreign leaders gathered under bright sunshine in St. Peter's Square, the Argentine pope underlined his constant message since he was elected by a secret conclave of cardinals last Wednesday - that the Church's mission was to defend the poor and disadvantaged." CW: still, it never crosses the minds of John Boehner, Paul Ryan & other GOP Catholics that Saint Peter will condemn them to hell, fire & brimstone for their anti-Christian policies. Kinda makes one think they just might be pretend Catholics. ...

... Here are excerpts from Francis's homily, provided by the Vatican.

Reuters: "A dozen car bombs and suicide blasts tore into Shi'ite districts in Baghdad and south of the Iraqi capital on Tuesday, killing more than 50 people on the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. Sunni Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda have vowed to step up attacks on Shi'ite targets since the start of the year in an attempt to provoke sectarian confrontation and undermine Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government."

Chicago Tribune: "Ruth Ann Steinhagen, whose shooting of Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus in 1949 inspired part of the [Bernard Malamud] novel 'The Natural,' died in Chicago at 83."


The Commentariat -- March 18, 2013

** Michael Luo of the New York Times: "The National Rifle Association and its allies are challenging states' efforts to take guns away from domestic violence offenders who have been served with civil protection orders.... In statehouses across the country, though, the N.R.A. and other gun-rights groups have beaten back legislation mandating the surrender of firearms in domestic violence situations.... Intimate partner homicides account for nearly half the women killed every year, according to federal statistics." Read the whole article. This is a situation where the NRA has persuaded state & federal legislators to effectively grant licenses to kill (mostly) women. ...

... Benjamin Goad of The Hill: "A growing number of states are moving forward with legislation to exempt them from new federal gun controls and, in some cases, brand as criminals anyone who tries to enforce them. While many of the bills are considered symbolic or appear doomed to fail, the legislative explosion reflects a backlash against legislative and regulatory efforts in Washington to tamp down on gun violence."

Paul Krugman: "The really striking thing, during the run-up to the [Iraq] war, was the illusion of consensus. To this day, pundits who got it wrong excuse themselves on the grounds that 'everyone' thought that there was a solid case for war. Of course, they acknowledge, there were war opponents -- but they were out of the mainstream.... What we should have learned from the Iraq debacle was that you should always be skeptical and that you should never rely on supposed authority. If you hear that 'everyone' supports a policy, whether it's a war of choice or fiscal austerity, you should ask whether 'everyone' has been defined to exclude anyone expressing a different opinion. And policy arguments should be evaluated on the merits, not by who expresses them...."

Obama 2.0. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama plans to announce Monday that he will nominate Thomas E. Perez, who heads the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, to be the next secretary of labor, a choice that promises to provoke a debate with Republicans about voting rights and discrimination."

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "In Congress, Republicans are pushing an agenda that is almost identical to the one that their party lost with in November, with no regrets and few efforts to reframe it even rhetorically. The House will vote this week on the third iteration of Mr. Ryan's budget, which would again try to turn Medicare into a subsidy for private insurance purchases, slash the top income tax rate and cut deeply into programs the president campaigned to protect. On Wednesday, Senate Republicans forced a vote to eliminate financing for the president's health care law. The effort failed, 52-45, but it was at least the 54th time that one chamber or the other had voted on a proposal to repeal all or part of the law, which was enacted three years ago.... Which raises the question: What are elections for?" ...

... AND. Greg Sargent watched the Sunday shows: "The GOP position, with no exaggeration, is that the only way Republican leaders will ever agree to paying down the deficit they say is a threat to American civilization is 100 percent their way; they are not willing to concede anything at all to reach any deal involving new revenues to reduce the deficit, or to get the entitlement reform they want, or to avert sequestration they themselves said will gut the military and tank the economy But ... but ... but Obama needs to lead and prove he's Serious by offering still more entitlement cuts than he already has!"

... BUT -- Lipstick on an Elephant. AP: "The Republican National Committee will formally endorse immigration reform on Monday and outline plans for a $10 million outreach to minority groups -- gay voters among them -- as part of a multi-step roadmap designed to make the GOP more 'welcoming and inclusive' for voters who overwhelmingly supported Democrats in 2012." ...

     ... Update: the report is here. ...

... Zeke Miller of Time: "More than anything, [the report] is a rejection of the politics of 'arithmetic,' as RNC Chairman Reince Priebus will say when he announces the report's recommendations in a thinly veiled shot at Mitt Romney's 47 percent comments. 'The RNC cannot and will not ..write off any demographic, community, or region of this country.'"

... UH-OH. Alexander Burns of Politico: "An outside group aligned with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has commissioned a report that warns conservatives against adopting an all-spending cuts, all-the-time message, and suggests that leaders on the right put a heavier emphasis on less abstract issues such as education and gas prices. The poll, commissioned by the nonprofit YG Network and obtained by Politico, shows that even Americans concerned about deficits and debt are far more concerned with their own personal economic well-being."

Fire Ed DeMarco. Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "Prominent state attorneys general are calling on President Obama to fire the acting director[ Edward J. DeMarco] of the Federal Housing Finance Agency and name a new permanent director, arguing that current policies are impeding the economic recovery. Under ... DeMarco, the F.H.F.A., which oversees the bailed-out mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, has refused to put in place a White House proposal to reduce the principal on so-called underwater mortgages.... Led by Eric T. Schneiderman of New York and Martha Coakley of Massachusetts, the attorneys general argue that writing down the principal on underwater mortgages ... would aid the recovery. They note that write-downs were a central part of a multibillion-dollar mortgage settlement that 49 state attorneys general negotiated with five major banks a year ago."

I tend to agree with Glenn Greenwald's column, published last week, on President Obama's penchant for secrecy. ...

... BUT Driftglass's note of caution is worth heeding: "Mr. Greenwald does have the litigator's fetish for framing every sentence in the most aggressively dichotomous way possible down cold. Ordering dessert with him must be a bitch; 'Are you going to order the tiramisu or are you objectively pro-Hitler?' Because in Glennview there are always two-and-only-two acceptable positions on all issues: agreeing with Glenn 100% right down the line and worse-than-Cheney." Read all of Driftglass's post.

Charles Pierce responds to this BBC report, which I linked this past weekend & thought was a very big deal, but which received little attention here in the Good Ole U.S.A.: "There were 22,000 more Americans who died in Vietnam after Nixon sabotaged the peace talks in order to win an election."

CNN Feels Really Sorry for Rapists. David Edwards of Raw Story: "CNN broke the news on Sunday of a guilty verdict in a rape case in Steubenville, Ohio by lamenting that the 'promising' lives of the rapists had been ruined, but spent very little time focusing on how the 16-year-old victim would have to live with what was done to her":

... Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs: "CNN continued with this awful slanted reporting throughout the afternoon ... even after a storm erupted on social media, condemning their coverage. The sheer contempt they showed for their audience, and for the victim of this terrible crime, was breathtaking." ...

... Mallory Ortberg of Gawker: "It's perfectly understandable, when reporting on a rape trial, to discuss the length and severity of the sentence; it is less understandable to discuss the end of two convicted rapists' future athletic and academic careers as if it were somehow divorced from the laws of cause and effect. Their dreams and hopes were not crushed by an impersonal, inexorable legal system; Mays and Richmond raped a girl and have been sentenced accordingly.... That isn't how rape trials ought to be discussed by professional journalists." ...

... Charles Pierce monitors the Sunday shows, including CNN's poor-little-rapists marathon.

Right Wing World *

Has-Beens Bickering. Sahil Kapur of TPM: Palin & Rove take swipes at each other. AND more from David Edwards of Raw Story.

E. J. Dionne asks if conservatives "believe in American greatness.... Conservatives ... need to consider where the strong America they honor came from in the first place."

"At CPAC, the Marriage Fight is Over." Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed: "Opponents of gay rights spoke to a nearly empty room, while supporters had a standing room-only crowd:"

Joe Coscarelli's story on the son of the New York City Fire Chief -- who is apparently in line to become an FDNY firefighter -- is not the type of local story I usually link, but it's disgusting enough to read. And you know the little Nazi (perfectly apt term here) is gonna get the job.

* Where there is sometimes good news.


The Commentariat -- March 17, 2013

Faith & Begorrah! I've been working so hard I forgot it was St. Paddy's Day. No corned beef and green beer at our house this year. Also, another day of next to no posting for me. I should be getting back to normal-ish Monday. -- CW

** David Taylor of BBC News: "Declassified tapes of President Lyndon Johnson's telephone calls provide a fresh insight into his world. Among the revelations - he planned a dramatic entry into the 1968 Democratic Convention to re-join the presidential race. And he caught Richard Nixon sabotaging the Vietnam peace talks... but said nothing."

Andrew O'Hehir in Salon on a progressive view of the papacy. Hint. It's a fraud! Thanks to contributor Barbarossa for the link. A very interesting perspective.

Right Wing World

The Perfect Couple. "Senator Ted Cruz of Texas introduced Sarah Palin on Saturday, crediting her for his election." -- New York Times. AP photo.Sarah Wheaton of the New York Times: "Sarah Palin's ... reception at a large gathering of conservatives on Saturday underscored her enduring popularity with the right. In a speech here, she offered zingers for the Republican base but also a strenuous defense of her Tea Party friends who are challenging the Republican establishment." ...

... Rebecca Schoenkopf of Wonkette sorta liveblogged Palin's speech, so if you just happened to miss it, Schoenkopf's re-cap is mighty helpful.

Jillian Rayfield of Salon: "A panel hosted by the Tea Party Patriots, intended to teach CPAC attendees how to fight back against charges that they are racist, devolved quickly into the crowd shouting down a liberal black woman who repeatedly tried to ask questions." CW: we're not racists; we just think black people should be grateful to slaveholders for feeding & clothing them. Yes, both these views were sincerely expressed during the panel discussion. The ungrateful slaves guy is Scott Terry, & apparently one of his fave books is "Slavery Defended," which convinced him that slavery was "a moral good." ...

... So then after a white guy screams at a black guy, they throw the black guy out.

Pretend President Paul Wins Another Election. Emily Schultheis & James Hohmann of Politico: "Rand Paul edged out Marco Rubio in the presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday, reinforcing their standing as the preeminent favorites of the Republican base heading into 2016. Sen. Paul (R-Ky.) received 25 percent and Sen. Rubio (R-Fla.) 23 percent of the 2,930 votes cast by attendees at the conference. Former Sen. Rick Santorum finished third, with 8 percent."

Jonathan Martin of Politico: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker acknowledged in an interview Friday that he’s open to a presidential bid and pointedly declined to pledge to serve a full four-year term if he’s reelected next year." CW: I also am open to a presidential bid. If elected, I will serve. I hope most of you are polished your oaths of office, too. (You'd better. You won't get much help from CJ Roberts.)


The Commentariat -- March 16, 2013

I will be away again most of the day today, so I won't be posting. -- Marie

Please sign the White House petition "Save Social Security." If you think means-testing is a good idea, see my argument as to why it is not -- it's the 12th comment in the Comments section.

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post: the White House put out a chart yesterday that suggests Medicare is no longer growing faster than G.D.P., which is at odds with most projections. ...

... Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post: "And if that's the case, there's really no deficit problem.... What this really means is that we need an immediate moratorium on 'grand bargain' talk." CW: can you hear us now, Mr. Prez?

Michael Tomasky of Newsweek: "When Republicans say Obama needs to show 'leadership,' what they mean is that he ought to just embrace the Ryan budget."

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "House Republicans unanimously voted down a measure Friday that would have raised the federal minimum wage, from its current $7.25 per hour to $10.10 by 2015. Six Democrats joined 227 Republicans in voting it down; 184 Democrats voted yes. The legislation was proposed as a last-minute amendment upon passage of the SKILLS Act, which reauthorizes a jobs training program." CW: Quick, somebody put all the kids of House Republicans to work at minimum wage. (See Sen. Rob Portman [R-Ohio]. sudden gay-rights advocate.) ...

... Jonathan Chait: "By Portman’s own account..., he opposed gay marriage until he realized that opposition to gay marriage stands in the way of his own son's happiness.... The signal failure of conservative thought is an inability to give any weight to the perspective of the disadvantaged.... Why should any of us come away from his conversion trusting that Portman is thinking on any issue about what's good for all of us, rather than what's good for himself and the people he knows?" ...

... Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "Mr. Portman said that he and his wife were surprised to learn their son was gay but that they 'were 100 percent supportive.' Supportive enough to tell the Romney campaign that his son was gay, but not supportive enough to back off his public opposition to equal rights for gay people while he was under consideration for the V.P. slot.... He says that the issue of marriage equality should be left up to the states.... Until this week, Mr. Obama also took that position as part of his 'evolution' on the issue, but has now dropped it. And for good reason. It's sort of like, say, letting states decide whether to ban inter-racial marriage."

Ted Cruz Doesn't Understand the Constitution. Greg Sargent: "The truly wrongheaded aspects of his remarks concern his assertions about the First and Fourth Amendments -- which embody a simplistic view of the Bill of Rights." See also Patrick's comment in yesterday's Comments section. I don't know if Patrick is a lawyer, but I know he's smarter than Ted Cruz. One of the most striking problems of conservatism is that it seems to preclude its adherents from seeing the world in terms other than stark black-and-white. ...

... Gail Collins: Cruz "could not have asked [Feinstein his Bill of Rights question] in a more patronizing way if he had illustrated his remarks with pictures of large, brightly colored stick figures.... Cruz sat sullenly while Feinstein gave her response. 'I would note that she chose not to answer the question that I asked,' he said when she finished. Other Democratic senators jumped in and pointed out some of the ways that other parts of the Bill of Rights were, indeed, limited by exceptions. Interestingly, none of the Republicans came to Cruz's support."

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure to reinstate a ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004. The vote followed the passage of three other measures: one that would expand the use of background checks to private gun sales, one that would make the already illegal practice of buying a gun for someone who is legally barred from having one -- known as a straw purchase -- a felony and increase penalties for the crime, and one that would renew and increase financing for school safety efforts." Now the question is what will Harry Reid -- friend of the NRA -- do?

Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times: "A top JPMorgan Chase executive struggled to defend his actions on Friday as lawmakers scrutinized the bank's multibillion-dollar trading loss. For nearly an hour, the executive, Douglas L. Braunstein, was berated for playing down JPMorgan's risky bets to investors and regulators on a conference call in April, just weeks before the bank disclosed the costly blowup.... The long, and often tense, Congressional hearing on Friday put JPMorgan in a tough position. While the investment bank has tried to distance itself from the trading debacle, the hearing, which follows a nine-month inquiry, is renewing the pressure on JPMorgan and its influential chief executive, Jamie Dimon."

Daniel Wakin, et al., of the New York Times: "For the first time since the election of Pope Francis two days ago, the Vatican on Friday formally defended him from accusations that, decades ago, in the so-called Dirty War in his home country of Argentina, he knew about serious human rights abuses but failed to do enough to halt them. The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said there had 'never been a credible accusation against him' relating to the period in the 1970s when he was the superior of the Jesuit order in Argentina." CW: well, all right then. That settles that, doesn't it? ...

... Rachel Maddow speaks to Sister Simone Campbell about Pope Francis. Thanks to Waltwis for the heads-up:

... The New Yorker's Joan Acocella and Margaret Talbot join host Amy Davidson to discuss how Pope Francis might change the Church.

Local News

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "The House of Delegates voted 82-56 to repeal Maryland's death penalty on Friday, making the state the sixth in as many years to abolish executions and delivering a major legislative victory to Gov. Martin O'Malley. The bill, which passed the Senate last week, now heads to the governor for his signature. O'Malley (D) has lobbied lawmakers for years to end capital punishment, and he put the full weight of his office behind it this session."

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "Little more than a week after Arkansas adopted the country's most stringent abortion limits, banning the procedure at 12 weeks of pregnancy, the North Dakota Legislature on Friday passed a more restrictive bill that would ban most abortions as early as 6 weeks into pregnancy. The Legislature, which is dominated by Republicans, also passed a second measure that would ban abortions sought because of a genetic abnormality or to select the sex of the child. Both bills must be signed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple, a Republican, to become law. As of Friday afternoon, the governor had not said whether he would do so.No other state has barred abortions because of evidence that a fetus has a genetic defect like Down syndrome, which rises in incidence with maternal age, leading many pregnant women to seek tests for the disorder.

Right Wing World

Dana Milbank: "The cardinals of the conservative movement, assembling for their annual [CPAC] confab, skipped the usual recitations of their common creed in favor of an emotional and inconclusive argument over what had gone wrong with their movement, how it could be fixed, and who, in a puff of white smoke, could lead them to spiritual renewal."

Aaron Blake & William Branigin of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney made a wistful but triumphant return to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, receiving standing ovations from the audience as he expressed optimism about the Republican Party's future and vowed to work with conservatives to achieve 'larger victories' after failing to win last year's presidential election." Article includes briefs on other brilliant CPAC speeches.

Steve Benen: "How does Wayne LaPierre argue against an idea that 91% of Americans endorse? According to his speech at CPAC, by repeating some of the silliest paranoia imaginable.... LaPierre is creating an imaginary threat to an imaginary proposal. His entire fantasy is built on the notion that a background check system necessarily means a national registry -- that there is no effort to create such a registry in reality is an inconvenient detail he prefers to ignore."