The Ledes

Sunday, August 30, 2015.

New York Times: "Iran’s judiciary sentenced two people to 10 years in prison on Sunday for spying for the United States and Israel, but their names were not released, local media reported. It was not clear if the Iranian-American reporter Jason Rezaian, who faces similar charges, was one of them."

New York Times: "Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and acclaimed author who explored some of the brain’s strangest pathways in best-selling case histories like 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,' using his patients’ disorders as starting points for eloquent meditations on consciousness and the human condition, died Sunday at his home in New York City. He was 82." ...

... Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times: "Dr. Sacks ... was a polymath and an ardent humanist, and whether he was writing about his patients, or his love of chemistry or the power of music, he leapfrogged among disciplines, shedding light on the strange and wonderful interconnectedness of life — the connections between science and art, physiology and psychology, the beauty and economy of the natural world and the magic of the human imagination."

AP: "Los Angeles and the U.S. Olympic Committee have struck a deal that will make the city America's 2024 Olympic bidder pending approval by the city council next week. If the council approves the deal at a meeting Tuesday, the USOC will announce Los Angeles as its candidate, a person familiar with the process told The Associated Press."

AP: "Turkish fighter jets have carried out their first air strikes as part of the US-led coalition against Islamic State in Syria. A Turkish foreign ministry statement said that late on Friday the jets began attacking Isis targets across the border in Syria that were deemed to be threats to Turkey."

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week's address, the President spoke about his upcoming trip to Alaska, during which he will view the effects of climate change firsthand. Alaskans are already living with the impact of climate change, with glaciers melting faster, and temperatures projected to rise between six and twelve degrees by the end of the century":

The Ledes

Saturday, August 29, 2015.

Washington Post: "Thai authorities arrested a foreign man Saturday they said had been holed up in a suburban apartment with bomb-making equipment and stacks of passports, the first possible breakthrough in the deadly bombing at a Bangkok shrine nearly two weeks ago."

New York Times: "An Egyptian judge on Saturday handed down unexpectedly harsh verdicts in the trial of three journalists from the Al Jazeera English news channel, sentencing them to at least three years in prison on charges that human rights advocates have repeatedly dismissed as political in nature. The journalists, Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste, had said they were expecting to be exonerated or sentenced to time already served. Egyptian officials have strongly suggested they were eager to be rid of the case, which had become a source of international embarrassment for the government...."

Washington Post: "Tropical Storm Erika was losing its punch as it drenched Haiti and the Dominican Republic early Saturday, but it left devastation in its path, killing at least 20 people and leaving another 31 missing on the small eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, authorities said."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times [Aug. 20]: "As many as 60,000 American women each year are told they have a very early stage of breast cancer — Stage 0, as it is commonly known — a possible precursor to what could be a deadly tumor. And almost every one of the women has either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, and often a double mastectomy, removing a healthy breast as well. Yet it now appears that treatment may make no difference in their outcomes."

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

White House Live Video
August 28

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Maureen Dowd: Trump has got the best of Jeb! & Hillary: "Trump’s 'gusto,' as he likes to call it, has thrown into sharper relief the grinding-it-out, impatient entitlement, the overthinking and overcorrecting of Jeb and Hillary. Both campaign like they are owed, not because of their great national achievements, but because of their byzantine family dynamics."

The Oliver Brief. We do note, however, that the so-called 'Insular Cases,' which established a less-than-complete application of the Constitution in some U.S. territories, has been the subject of extensive judicial, academic, and popular criticism. See, e.g., Juan Torruella, The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid, 77 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 1 (2008); Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories, Youtube (Mar. 8, 2015), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CesHr99ezWE. -- Footnote, Paeste v. Guam, Ninth Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon

Jordan Golson of Wired: "Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage. The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars — there’s no flying beams of light, no 'pew! pew!' sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down. People keep flying their drones where they shouldn’t.... Luckily, there haven’t been any really bad incidents — that is, no one has been killed by a civilian quadcopter or plane, yet."

"The cream cheese is too damn much." Scott Lemieux and I agree.

Sunday Morning Come-Down. Politico: "Al Sharpton is leaving MSNBC's weekday dayside lineup, and moving to Sunday mornings. Sharpton's last weekday 'PoliticsNation' will be Sept. 4. He moves to Sundays a month later on Oct. 4, according to a memo sent to MSNBC staff by the channel's president Phil Griffin Wednesday evening."

Washington Post: "Stephen Hawking believes he’s solved a huge mystery about black holes."

Washington Post: "The case for canonizing [Sister Blandina Segale,] the 19th century Italian-born nun, whose run-in with Old West outlaw Billy the Kid is the stuff of legend, was presented at a ceremonial 'first inquiry' in Albuquerque on Tuesday. If approved, her name will be sent to the Vatican, where it will head down the long (and somewhat secretive) path toward sainthood."

New York Times: Can't sidewalk scaffolding be attractive? Yes, it can.

Terror in Toledo! ABC News: "A man caught on video the moment a public art installation in Toledo, Ohio -- a giant, 250-pound red ball -- decided to run away and start rolling down streets lined with parked cars. Part of a Toledo Museum of Art exhibit, the RedBall Project had been wedged between Roulet Jewelers and Ice Restaurant in downtown Toledo when a thunderstorm and strong winds this past Wednesday evening knocked the ball loose and caused it to start rolling away, according to Kelly Garrow, the museum's director of communications."

... AP: "America’s two foremost Democratic families, the Obamas and the Clintons, mingled on Saturday[,August 15,] as politics mixed with summer repose on swanky Martha’s Vineyard."

Washington Post: "Offering such perks as 'free' bags and 'free' airline tickets, [some credit] cards are big on promises, but they often fall short on the delivery. And although these financial instruments are legal, experts say they are not always worthwhile."

Kori Schulman of the White House: "Today (August 14), the White House joined Spotify — and our inaugural playlist was hand-picked by none other than President Obama. When asked to pick a few of his favorite songs for the summer, the President got serious. He grabbed a pen and paper and drafted up not one, but two separate summer playlists: One for the daytime, and one for the evening." ...

... CW: If you're subscribed to Spotify, you can play the President's list from the linked story (at "Today".)

Washington Post: "Google, one of the best-known brands on the planet, on Monday[, August 10,] radically restructured itself under the corporate name Alphabet, an almost unprecedented shift that reflects the company’s far-reaching ambitions and the vast Web it helped evolve. The move represents Google’s biggest push yet to ... turn the company into a multifaceted General Electric for the digital age."

Bureaucracies Move in Mysterious Ways. New York Post: "The city [of New York] moved to fire an employee for missing about 18 months of work, even though he had the best excuse of all time — he was dead. Bureaucrats at the Human Resources Administration filed charges against Medicaid-eligibility specialist Geoffrey Toliver accusing him of going AWOL — even though his death by cancer was reported in an online obituary.... 'It is my understanding that . . . his employer was fully aware that he was not able to come back to work,' Toliver’s brother Anthony told The Post. 'It is my understanding that my brother’s family spoke directly to his supervisor during his long hospitalization and informed them of his death.'” ...

... CW: Doesn't surprise me at all. When I lived in Manhattan, my mother sent me a gift which came directly from the catalog company from which she had bought it. My father had died a few years earlier, but my mother was still getting these catalogs in his name. So my father's name, not hers, appeared on the package as the giftor. He had never lived in New York City. He was not the addressee on the package. The package didn't come from New York City. And my father was dead. But never mind all that. A few months after I received the gift, I got a letter at my New York home addressed to my father. It was a notification from the city ordering my father to show up for jury duty. Or else.

 

Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "For years and years, plenty of websites (Mediaite included) have written about the many times Jon Stewart has 'destroyed,' 'annihilated,' or 'eviscerated' anything from terrorism to race relations to Fox News. Well..., on his penultimate night, Stewart discovered that he didn’t actually do any of that":

Exit Laughing. John Koblin of the New York Times: "Since [Jon] Stewart started hosting 'The Daily Show' 16 years ago, the country’s trust in both the news media and the government has plummeted. Mr. Stewart’s brand of fake news thrived in that vacuum, and turned him into one of the nation’s most bracing cultural, political and media critics. With his over-the-top presentation of the news — his arms swinging wildly, his eyes bulging with outrage, followed by a shake of the head and a knowing smile — Mr. Stewart attracted a generation of viewers ready to embrace an outlier whose exaggerations, in their view, carried more truth than conventional newscasts." ...

...Stewart hasn't done any interviews prior to ending his run on the "Daily Show," but he did sit down with "Daily Show" producers for an "exit interview" on Episode 20 of the "Daily Show Podcast without Jon Stewart." You can listen to it here.

Los Angeles Times: "Donald Sterling filed for divorce Wednesday[, August 5] in Los Angeles Superior Court, almost a year after a contentious legal fight with his wife, Shelly, led to the sale of the Clippers.... However, the court later rejected Wednesday’s filing because it was incomplete, according to a spokeswoman. The matter is expected to be re-filed."

New York Times: "Jason Fine, the editor of Men’s Journal, will take over as the managing editor of Rolling Stone as part of what the magazine’s publisher, Jann S. Wenner, described as a 'shake-up.'”

"Where Are My Pancakes?"

The Word Salad King. If Donald Trump's good friend & possible running mate Sarah Palin is the Word Salad Queen, it stands to reason that the Donald would be the king. Slate challenges you to diagram this "sentence." To help you out, Slate has transcribed the words in the order delivered. Not that the order delivered matters much:

Obama Slept Here

For a mere $22.5MM this Martha's Vinehard house on 10 acres can be yours. The Obamas stayed in the house for 8 days in 2013. The current owner bought the property, which has expansive views of the Atlantic & Chilmark Pond, in 2000 for about $3MM. So, hey, the price is negotiable. Slide show.

The Birth of Franklin. Washington Post: After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Glickman, a white California mother wrote to cartoonist Charles Schultz urging him to introduce a black character to his "Peanuts" cartoon strips. When Schultz demurred, saying he was afraid "it would look like we were patronizing our Negro friends," Glickman got two of her "Negro friends" who backed the idea to write to Schultz. A short time later, Schultz introduced Franklin. Oh, yes, & strips showing Franklin in an integrated! classroom upset Southern editors, according to Glickman.

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Monday
Jun172013

The Commentariat -- June 18, 2013

Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald: "The Obama administration Monday lifted a veil of secrecy surrounding the status of the detainees at Guantánamo, for the first time publicly naming the four dozen captives it defined as indefinite detainees -- men too dangerous to transfer but who cannot be tried in a court of law. The names had been a closely held secret since a multi-agency task force sifted through the files of the Guantánamo detainees in 2009 trying to achieve President Barack Obama's executive order to close the detention center. In January 2010, the task force revealed that it classified 48 Guantánamo captives as dangerous but ineligible for trial because of a lack of evidence, or because the evidence was too tainted. They became so-called 'indefinite detainees,' a form of war prisoner held under Congress' 2001 'Authorization for Use of Military Force.' The Defense Department released the list to The Miami Herald, which ... had sued for it in federal court in Washington, D.C. The Pentagon also sent the list to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on Monday, a Defense Department official said. According to the list, the men designated for indefinite detention are 26 Yemenis, 12 Afghans, 3 Saudis, 2 Kuwaitis, 2 Libyans, a Kenyan, a Moroccan and a Somali."

Stephen Castle of the New York Times: "Tensions over how to deal with the widening conflict and growing humanitarian crisis in Syria have dominated the two-day [G-8] meeting in Northern Ireland that ends Tuesday." ...

... Former NATO commander Wes Clark, in a New York Times op-ed, likens Obama's tentative arming of Syrian rebels to the West's use of force as a leverage to diplomatic solution for Kosovo in 1999. ...

... Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: "President Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, failed to resolve on Monday their significant differences over how to bring about an end to Syria's civil war, as each leader steps up military support for opposite sides in the worsening conflict. Meeting for two hours on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit, Obama and Putin discussed shared economic interests, the recent Iranian elections and global security issues that have put the leaders at odds in the past."...

     ... CW: Of greater interest to most Americans, President Obama failed in an aborted attempt to wrest from Mr. Putin's finger the Super Bowl ring which the Russian president stole from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Pollsters predicted an immediate dip in Mr. Obama's favorability numbers. Sen. Ted Cruz (RTP-Texas) interrupted his floor speech deploring immigration reform to remark, "It is now obvious to the American people that Barack Obama is not a Patriot. A Fox "News" panel concluded the incident proved Obama was a communist sympathizer. Several panel members identified Putin as president of the Soviet Union.

... Actually, the President's poll numbers are diving. Gloria Borger of CNN looks at why that is: "... the public's view of the Obama administration's handling of civil liberties is beginning to eerily resemble what the public thought about Bush: Forty-three percent in a new CNN/ORC poll say the administration has gone too far in restricting some civil liberties in order to fight terrorism. In 2006, 39% thought Bush had gone too far.... The president ... seems, at least right now, to be losing the benefit-of-the-doubt factor he has enjoyed because people think he's an honest guy who tries to do the right thing. The latest CNN/ORC polling shows that while 49% of Americans consider the president to be 'honest and trustworthy,' that's down 9 points -- in one month. And his approval rating has fallen 8 points to just 45%. The unkindest drop ... comes from Obama's stalwarts, younger voters. A huge 17-point decline among the under-30 set has got to be some sort of wake-up call." ...

     ... Update. OR, Maybe Not. Mark Blumenthal & Ariel Edwards-Levy of the Huffington Post say the CNN poll exaggerates the sudden drop in Obama's approval ratings. His poll numbers have been dropping steadily since January 2013; they didn't just plummet.

The Ed Snowden Story
Starring Ed Snowden

Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian: "The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has warned that the 'truth' about the extent of surveillance carried out by US authorities would emerge, even if he is jailed or murdered. In a live Q&A with Guardian readers from a secret location in Hong Kong, Snowden did not directly answer a question about whether he had more unpublished material. But he said: 'All I can say right now is the US government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.'" ...

With Glenn Greenwald, Who Plays Himself

Here's the livechat. Greenwald: "Snowden ... with the help of Glenn Greenwald -- take[s] your questions today on why he revealed the NSA's top-secret surveillance of US citizens, the international storm that has ensued, and the uncertain future he now faces. Ask him anything." ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times: "In the last few days..., Mr. Snowden's leaks have taken a questionable turn.... Revealing that [the NSA] was monitoring the computer traffic of foreign countries, and listening to their leaders, sheds no particularly useful light on the N.S.A.'s mission, or what most people believed its activities to be.... Apparently he believes that the United States shouldn't engage in spying except for countries with which it is at war.... What exactly was it he believed the intelligence world did when he first started making money by working for it?" ...

... Zeke Miller of Time: "Snowden's answers to 18 questions from readers demonstrated that he is not simply concerned about potential government monitoring of American citizens; he is an extreme skeptic of government surveillance of all sorts. In that sense, Snowden is emerging as an heir to Julian Assange.... Snowden's comments today make clear his agenda goes beyond protecting Americans from snooping by their own government.... Snowden also clarified one of his most explosive claims -- that even a single low-level intelligence analyst could pull up records on any American at a whim, a claim top current and former intelligence officials have strongly denied. Snowden said there was no technical impediment to such an action, merely a policy one. 'It's important to understand that policy protection is no protection -- policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens,' he said, voicing another tenet of the free-information movement for which he has become an avatar." ...

... BuzzFeed: in an interview with Charlie Rose, President Obama defends the NSA surveillance, claiming it is "transparent." (CW: Because, um, a secret court hold a secret hearing & secretly approves all the secret spying.) Link is to a partial transcript of the interview. ...

     ... Update. Here's a clip, via Aaron Blake of the Washington Post, who highlights "the 9 most important quotes" from the interview:

     ... The full video is here, on Rose's site. ...

... Katrina vanden Heuvel of the Nation, in the Washington Post: "We cannot accept a paternal pat on the head, with Americans and the Congress told to leave this to the professionals. At stake is the very heart of the Constitution and the democracy." ...

... Bill Moyers interviews Larry Lessig, who is terrified by Snowden's revelation that NSA analysts have the authority to surveil anybody (the government, BTW, has specifically denied this claim). Via Digby:

... Tim Shorrock, author of Spies for Hire, in a New York Times op-ed: "Seventy percent of America's intelligence budget now flows to private contractors.... In 2000, thanks in part to an advisory committee led by James R. Clapper Jr., now the director of national intelligence, the N.S.A. decided to shift away from its in-house development strategy and outsource on a huge scale.... First, it is dangerous to have half a million people -- the number of private contractors holding top-secret security clearances -- peering into the lives of their fellow citizens.... Second, with billions of dollars of government money sloshing around, and with contractors providing advice on how to spend it, conflicts of interest and corruption are inevitable.... Third, we've allowed contractors to conduct our most secret and sensitive operations with virtually no oversight.... Finally, there's the revolving door -- or what President Dwight D. Eisenhower called 'undue influence.'" ...

... Anna North of Salon on what makes whistleblowers blow. Thanks to contributor Barbarossa for the link.

David Rogers of Politico: "The White House warned Monday that it would veto the House farm bill as it now stands and signaled strongly that the fastest path to some compromise this summer would be by taking savings from crop insurance to offset Republican-backed cuts from food stamps."

Drip, Drip, Drip. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has continued to release only select portions of committee interviews with key Internal Revenue Service staffers despite calls to make the full transcripts public." He has been giving some reporters sneak peeks at portions of the interviews. CW: I can't think of a better way to prove that your "investigation" is a sham.

Lolita Baldor of the AP: "Military leaders are ready to begin tearing down the remaining walls that have prevented women from holding thousands of combat and special operations jobs near the front lines. Under details of the plans obtained by The Associated Press, women could start training as Army Rangers by mid-2015 and as Navy SEALs a year later."

The "New" GOP. Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "... many Republicans in Washington and in state capitals across the country seem eager to reopen the emotional fight over a woman's right to end a pregnancy. Their efforts will move to the forefront on Tuesday when House Republicans plan to bring to the floor a measure that would prohibit the procedure after 22 weeks of pregnancy -- the most restrictive abortion bill to come to a vote in either chamber in a decade.... Republican leaders acknowledge that its purpose is to satisfy vocal elements of their base.... Beyond Washington, advocates on both sides of the issue say the chance to limit abortion in the near future is very real." ...

     ... CW Worth Noting: compare Baldor's story to Peters' stories & look what you get: the military -- a conservative, male-dominated hierarchical fiefdom -- is less sexist & misogynistic than the democratically-elected Congressional GOP. ...

     ... Office of the President: "The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 1797, which would unacceptably restrict women's health and reproductive rights and is an assault on a woman's right to choose. Women should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care, and Government should not inject itself into decisions best made between a woman and her doctor.... If the President were presented with this legislation, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill." (pdf "pretty damned fine")

... The "New" GOP. Burgess Everett of Politico: "Ted Cruz didn't wait long to mount a legislative response to the Supreme Court's ruling against Arizona's voter registration rule. An amendment submitted by the Texas senator on Monday afternoon to the Senate's immigration bill would 'permit states to require proof of citizenship for registration to vote in elections for federal office.' Cruz's measure would amend the National Voter Registration Act." ...

... The "New" GOP. Erica Werner of the AP: "A key committee in the Republican-led House is preparing to cast its first votes on immigration this year, on a tough enforcement-focused measure that Democrats and immigrant groups are protesting loudly.... The House enforcement bill, by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., would empower state and local officials to enforce federal immigration laws, make passport and visa fraud into aggravated felonies subject to deportation, funnel money into building more detention centers, and crack down on immigrants suspected of posing dangers." ...

... The "New" GOP. Alexander Bolton of the Hill reports that as prep for his presidential bid, Li'l Randy has offered several amendments to gut Senate immigration reform legislation. No specific mention of alligators, moats or deadly electric fences. ...

     ... Wait, Wait, Leave That to John Thune. Susan Ferrechio of the Washington Examiner: "The Senate Tuesday will vote on four amendments to the comprehensive immigration reform bill, including one that would require a double-layer, 700-mile fence along the southern border before any of the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants could apply for green cards. The amendment by John Thune, R-S.D., would require construction of at least 350 miles of the fence before any illegal immigrants would be awarded legal status. The remaining 350 miles would have to be built for legalized immigrants to be able to apply for a green card." ...

... CW: How's that vow to "expand your base" going, guys?

Gubernatorial Race

Joann Kenen of Politico: "A former top Obama administration health official, Don Berwick, formally announced Monday that he is running for governor of Massachusetts. Berwick, a Democrat, is a physician and health policy expert who ran the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for President Barack Obama. But amid the heated politics of health reform, Republicans refused to confirm him to the position atop CMS. They said his comments praising Britain's health care system suggested he favored rationing, an interpretation he disputed."

News Ledes

Rolling Stone: "Michael Hastings, the fearless journalist whose reporting brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal, has died in a car accident in Los Angeles, Rolling Stone has learned. He was 33."

AP: "Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced at a ceremony on Tuesday that his country's armed forces are taking over the lead for security nationwide from the U.S.-led NATO coalition. The handover of responsibility is a significant milestone in the nearly 12-year war and marks a turning point for American and NATO military forces, which will now move entirely into a supporting role. It also opens the way for their full withdrawal in 18 months." ...

... Reuters: "Afghanistan will send a team to Qatar for peace talks with the Taliban, President Hamid Karzai said on Tuesday, as the U.S.-led NATO coalition launched the final phase of the 12-year war with the last round of security transfers to Afghan forces."

... Related New York Times story here.

     ... New York Times Update: "The Taliban signaled a breakthrough in efforts to start Afghan peace negotiations on Tuesday, announcing the opening of a political office in Qatar and new readiness to talk with American and Afghan officials, who said in turn that they would travel to meet insurgent negotiators there within days. If the talks begin, they would be a significant step in peace efforts that have been locked in an impasse for nearly 18 months...."

AP: "In some of the biggest protests since the end of Brazil's 1964-85 dictatorship, demonstrations have spread across this continent-sized country and united people from all walks of life behind frustrations over poor transportation, health services, education and security despite a heavy tax burden. More than 100,000 people were in the streets Monday for largely peaceful protests in at least eight big cities."

Washington Post: "Several U.S. Naval Academy football players will soon face charges in connection with the alleged rape of a female midshipman at an off-campus party more than a year ago, officials at the elite service academy in Annapolis said Monday. The rape allegations, along with accusations that Navy investigators and academy brass had dragged their feet, exploded into public view just as Congress was debating changes to the way the military handles sexual assault cases."

Desperately Seeking Jimmy. AP: "The FBI saw enough merit in a reputed Mafia captain's tip to once again break out the digging equipment to search for the remains of former Teamsters union leader Jimmy Hoffa, last seen alive before a lunch meeting with two mobsters nearly 40 years ago. Tony Zerilli told his lawyer that Hoffa was buried beneath a concrete slab in a barn in a field in suburban Detroit in 1975. The barn no longer exists, and a full day of digging Monday turned up no sign of Hoffa. Federal agents were to resume the search Tuesday."

Sunday
Jun162013

The Commentariat -- June 17, 2013

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "Arizona may not require documentary proof of citizenship from prospective voters, the Supreme Court ruled in a 7-to-2 decision on Monday. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, No. 12-71, said a federal law requiring states to 'accept and use' a federal form displaced an Arizona law.... The decision ... effectively affirmed a 2010 ruling from a three-judge panel that included Justice Sandra Day O'Connor...." The decision is here. Justices Thomas & Alito dissented. More details from Tejinger Singh of SCOTUSblog.

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "President Obama on Monday opened a three-day diplomatic trip to Northern Ireland and Germany ... with young residents of [Belfast, Northern Ireland]..., urging them to build on the peace that America helped broker 15 years ago." The AP story, by Jim Kuhnhenn, is here.

Shawn Pogatchnik of the AP: "British Prime Minister David Cameron says leaders gathering Monday for the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland should reach speedy agreement on trade and tax reforms, and draw inspiration from the host country's ability to resolve its own stubborn conflict."

David Sanger of the New York Times: "President Obama's top foreign policy aides said Sunday that they planned to press Iran's newly elected president to resume the negotiations over his country's nuclear program that derailed in the spring. But while the election of the new president, Hassan Rowhani, a former nuclear negotiator who is considered a moderate compared with the other candidates, was greeted by some administration officials as the best of all likely outcomes, they said it did not change the fact that only the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would make the final decision about any concessions to the West."

Ramzy Mardini, who served in the Bush II State Department, in a New York Times op-ed: President Obama should not have listened to President Clinton's opinion on Syrian intervention. "The Syrian revolution isn't democratic or secular; the more than 90,000 fatalities are the result of a civil war, not a genocide -- and human rights violations have been committed on both sides. Moreover, the rebels don't have the support or trust of a clear majority of the population, and the political opposition is neither credible nor representative. Ethnic cleansing against minorities is more likely to occur under a rebel-led government than under Mr. Assad.... And finally, a rebel victory is more likely to destabilize Iraq and Lebanon...." ...

... Robert Fisk of the UK Independent: "... a military decision has been taken in Iran -- even before last week's presidential election -- to send a first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad's forces against the largely Sunni rebellion that has cost almost 100,000 lives in just over two years. Iran is now fully committed to preserving Assad's regime...."

** Jill Lepore writes an absolutely fascinating little "history of privacy" in the New Yorker and concludes by highlighting the "paradox of an American culture obsessed, at once, with being seen and with being hidden, a world in which the only thing more cherished than privacy is publicity. In this world, we chronicle our lives on Facebook while demanding the latest and best form of privacy protection -- ciphers of numbers and letters -- so that no one can violate the selves we have so entirely contrived to expose." The article is particularly interesting to me because Lepore wraps her story around the British government's invasion of the privacy of Italian radical Giuseppe Mazzini, a friend of my family's. ...

... "Snoop Scoops." Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker: "The N.S.A. programs represent a troubling increase in state power, even if — so far, and so far as we know -- they have not occasioned a troubling increase in state wrongdoing. Obama's 'difficult questions' have a new urgency." ...

... Ewen MacAskill, et al., of the Guardian: "Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Some delegates were tricked into using internet cafes which had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their email traffic. The revelation comes as Britain prepares to host another summit on Monday -- for the G8 nations, all of whom attended the 2009 meetings.... The evidence is contained in documents -- classified as top secret -- which were uncovered by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden...." ...

... Anthony Faiola of the Washington Post: "British and American spy agencies monitored the e-mails and phone calls of foreign dignitaries at two major international summits in London, according to a new trove of documents supplied by Edward J. Snowden ... and disclosed by the Guardian newspaper." ...

... CW: Once again, Snowden has revealed classified information that the public does not need to know and which could harm national security by destabilizing international relations. That the Brits & the U.S. spy during international conferences is hardly a shocker, & this revelation does not expose any wrongdoing. Snowden has trashed his pretense of patriotism. At the same time, as contributor Ken Winkes suggested in a comment a few days ago, he has also exposed one of the weaknesses of libertarianism -- when every citizen makes his own rules, he undermines his own state. ...

... Mehashyam Mali of the Hill: "The intelligence community on Sunday rejected claims from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and reports that suggested analysts were able to listen to domestic phone conversations without warrants. 'The statement that a single analyst can eavesdrop on domestic communications without proper legal authorization is incorrect and was not briefed to Congress,' said the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in a statement." ...

... CW: In an interesting autopsy on how CNET had to walk back -- & eventually repudiate -- its story that the NSA can listen to your every phone call, Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog takes this overview, which I share: "There's a lot to dislike about this approach to national security. There's plenty to be appalled at. But the government really isn't as interested in most of us personally as some of us seem to want to believe." ...

     ... Ultimately, the real problem is that Ike's "military-industrial complex" is now the "military-industrial-financial-spying complex," & most Congressmembers, absent campaign finance reform, are beholden to at least one arm of the behemoth. Booz Allen has been a big campaign contributor, in the last few years, giving much more to Democrats than to Republicans. So when Congressman X has to decide whether or not the Ed Snowdens of the company should be able to access (and scoop up) top secret data, Mr. X is more concerned with pleasing Booz Allen than he is with shoring up national security. I have no confidence that Congress -- even a quasi-responsible Congress, which we certainly don't have now -- is capable of making decisions in the public interest on this or on a host of other issues. ...

... Ben Geman of the Hill: "White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said President Obama will make more remarks about National Security Agency telephone data and internet surveillance programs in the coming days. McDonough, speaking on CBS on Sunday, said Obama holds the privacy of Americans 'sacrosanct' and is seeking to strike the right balance between civil liberties and securing the country against the threat of terrorist attacks."

Paul Krugman: "Last week the International Monetary Fund, whose normal role is that of stern disciplinarian to spendthrift governments..., argued that the sequester and other forms of fiscal contraction will cut this year's U.S. growth rate by almost half, undermining what might otherwise have been a fairly vigorous recovery. And these spending cuts are both unwise and unnecessary. Unfortunately..., Christine Lagarde, the fund's head, called on us to 'hurry up with putting in place a medium-term road map to restore long-run fiscal sustainability.' ... The whole argument for early action on long-run fiscal issues is surprisingly weak and slippery.... Influential people need to stop using the future as an excuse for inaction. The clear and present danger is mass unemployment, and we should deal with it, now."

The Word According to Cheney

I think he's a traitor. I think he has committed crimes in effect by violating agreements given the position he had. I think it's one of the worst occasions in my memory of somebody with access to classified information doing enormous damage to the national security interests of the United States. -- Dick Cheney on Ed Snowden

Evidently it slipped Cheney's memory that -- almost certainly at Cheney's behest -- his top aide Scooter Libby revealed the name of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame in retaliation for her husband's revelation that one of the major pieces of 'evidence' Cheney cited for going to war in Iraq was fake. -- Constant Weader

Josh Israel of Think Progress: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney (R), whose false statements helped propel the United States into an eight year war in Iraq, said Sunday that citizens should simply 'trust' the federal government on matters of privacy and security. In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Cheney laughed off questions about why federal surveillance of phone records need be kept secret, suggesting that since the people who authorize the program are elected by voters, voters should simply trust their judgment." CW: I usually follow the rule, "If Dick Cheney likes it, it can't be good." ...

... AND exactly how does Cheney's "trust" in the government jibe with this remark, made in the same interview? -- Erik Wasson of the Hill: Cheney "said Obama's alleged handling of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the IRS harassment of conservatives means that people had weakened the president. 'I don't think he has credibility,' Cheney said." So, um, we should trust our top elected official on massive secret surveillance but not on anything else?

Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warns that the GOP will go into a "demographic death spiral" if they don't pass immigration reform:

... The Grim Reaper? Esther Lee of Think Progress: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R- FL), the architect of a comprehensive immigration bill that would legalize 11 million undocumented immigrants, refused to say on Sunday whether he supports the legislation he helped draft. He instead claimed that the measure does not have strong border enforcement provisions and would not receive bipartisan support." ...

     ... Related AP story, by Philip Elliott, here. ...

... Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "Senators are girding for a contentious floor fight next week over more than 100 immigration reform amendments that will be crucial to determining whether the chamber approves comprehensive legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has warned members to prepare for a long slog in dealing with the deluge of amendments -- including the prospect of weekend votes -- in a bid to pass immigration reform before the July 4 recess." Cox lists six contentious amendments that would have major impacts on the Senate bill. ...

... Eric Lipton & Julia Preston of the New York Times: "A surge in migrant traffic across the Southwest border into Texas has resulted in a milestone: the front line of the battle against illegal crossings from Mexico has shifted for the first time in over a decade away from Arizona to the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. This shift has intensified a bitter debate under way in the Senate over whether the border is secure enough now, or ever will be, to move ahead with legislation that could give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants already here."

Congressional Race<

Frank Phillips & Michael Levenson of the Boston Globe: "Democrat Edward J. Markey holds a solid lead over his Republican rival, Gabriel E. Gomez, as the two enter the final week of the special US Senate campaign, according to a new Boston Globe poll. Markey, who has driven up concerns about his GOP opponent with a barrage of hard-hitting television ads, leads Gomez 54 percent to 41 percent, with only 4 percent of the respondents saying they were still undecided about whom to support in the June 25 election."

Your Louis Gohmert Weekly Reader

Evan McMurry of Mediate: "On the House floor on Friday, Texas Representative Louie Gohmert accused various federal agencies of aiding Islamic terrorists organizations such as the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America in their attempts to enact Sharia Law.... Gohmert accused the Obama administration of changing policy so that the FBI, State Department, and others had to 'partner with' CAIR and ISNA, rather than treat mosques as terrorist recruitment centers.... 'They want Sharia law to be the law of the land, not our Constitution.'"

The Putin Report -- The Ring Caper

News Ledes

New York Times: "Pharmaceutical companies that pay rivals to keep less-expensive generic versions of best-selling drugs off the market can expect greater federal scrutiny after a Supreme Court ruling on Monday. In a 5-to-3 vote, the justices effectively said that the Federal Trade Commission can sue pharmaceutical companies for potential antitrust violations, a decision that is likely to increase the number of generic drugs in the marketplace and benefit consumers.... Justice [Stephen] Breyer's decision, which was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, reversed a decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had thrown out the F.T.C.'s case.... Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. recused himself from the case."

AP: "The United States and Cuba will resume talks this week on restarting direct mail service despite a deadlock between Washington and Havana over detainees that has largely stalled most rapprochement efforts.... U.S. and Cuban diplomats and postal representatives will meet in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday for technical talks aimed at ending a 50-year suspension in direct mail between the United States and the communist island."

New York Times: "Turkish authorities widened their crackdown on the antigovernment protest movement on Sunday, taking aim not just at the demonstrators themselves, but also at the medics who treat their injuries, the business owners who shelter them and the foreign news media flocking here to cover a growing political crisis threatening to paralyze the government of Prıme Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan." ...

... AP: "Turkish trade unions urged their members to walk out of work Monday and join demonstrations in response to a widespread police crackdown against activists following weeks of street protests." ...

     ... Reuters Update: "Turkish riot police backed by water cannon faced off with around 1,000 trade union workers in the capital Ankara on Monday, after a weekend of some of the worst clashes since anti-government protests erupted late last month." ...

... Reuters: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday she was shocked at Turkey's tough response to anti-government protests but she stopped short of demanding that the European Union call off accession talks with the candidate country. 'I'm appalled, like many others,' Merkel said of Turkey's handling of two weeks of unrest that began over a redevelopment project in an Istanbul park but has grown into broader protest Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government."

AP: "Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who was allowed to travel to the U.S. after escaping from house arrest, said Monday that New York University is forcing him and his family to leave at the end of this month because of pressure from the Chinese government. The university denied Chen's allegations."

Saturday
Jun152013

The Commentariat -- June 16, 2013

Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "Al Gore has called on Barack Obama to veto the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, describing it as 'an atrocity'."

Glenn Greenwald, Short Version: Democrats are hypocrites. Also, "... we are very busy working on and writing the next series of stories that will begin appearing very shortly." CW: probably doesn't make the Obama administration too happy that someone as volatile as Greenwald is sitting on stuff that actually could compromise national security. ...

... Greenwald: "... the stories thus far published by the Guardian are already leading to concrete improvements in accountability and transparency." ...

... Paul Harris of the Guardian: "... the Age of Obama is not one of hope and change; it is the era of the National Security President." ...

... Meh. Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "A recent briefing by senior intelligence officials on surveillance programs failed to attract even half of the Senate, showing the lack of enthusiasm in Congress for learning about classified security programs. Many senators elected to leave Washington early Thursday afternoon instead of attending a briefing with James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and other officials." ...

... Dan Roberts & Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "The US intelligence community has written to Congress to confirm the existence of two sweeping surveillance programmes revealed by the Guardian, but defended their legality and usefulness in preventing terrorism. In the fullest official account yet of how the US gathers domestic telephone data and overseas internet traffic, the document sent on Saturday claims that both programmes were authorised by Congress under section 215 of the Patriot Act and section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. This has been disputed by a number of senators and congressmen, including one of the authors of the Patriot Act, who say it is more sweeping than they envisaged, but the document details a number of internal checks put in place since that seek to minimise the exposure of private data obtained inadvertently from citizens who are not terrorist suspects." ...

... Kimberly Dozier of the AP: "Top U.S. intelligence officials said Saturday that information gleaned from two controversial data-collection programs run by the National Security Agency thwarted potential terrorist plots in the U.S. and more than 20 other countries -- and that gathered data is destroyed every five years. Last year, fewer than 300 phone numbers were checked against the database of millions of U.S. phone records gathered daily by the NSA in one of the programs, the intelligence officials said...." ...

... ** Barton Gellman of the Washington Post: "Foreigners, not Americans, are the NSA's 'targets,' as the law defines that term. But the programs are structured broadly enough that they touch nearly every American household in some way.... The White House, the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the record for this article. A senior intelligence official agreed to answer questions if not identified." ...

... ** Thom Hartmann: "Privatization enthusiasts praise contractors as efficient and responsible purveyors of public service, but corporations, by virtue of being corporations, are incompatible with the functions of representative government. The lack of accountability or transparency inherent to corporations isn't a huge deal if a company is making, say sneakers, but it is a problem if that company is in control of an essential part of the commons like national security." Thanks to contributor Tommy B. for the link. ...

... ** David Sanger & Nicole Perlroth of the New York Times: "... as Booz Allen profits handsomely from its worldwide expansion..., which sells itself as the gold standard in protecting classified computer systems and boasts that half its 25,000 employees have Top Secret clearances -- [it has] a lot of questions to answer. Among the questions: Why did Booz Allen assign a 29-year-old with scant experience to a sensitive N.S.A. site in Hawaii, where he was left loosely supervised as he downloaded highly classified documents about the government's monitoring of Internet and telephone communications, apparently loading them onto a portable memory stick barred by the agency?" ... Removing contractors from the classified world would be a wrenching change." The writes profile Mike McConnell, vice-chair of Booz Allen, & one of Dubya's NSA directors, who has passed through the revolving government/private sector door more than once. Oh, P.S. "A new job posting appeared on [Booz Allen's] Web site for a systems administrator in Hawaii, 'secret clearance required.'"

... John Broder & Scott Shane of the New York Times: Ed Snowden, high-school dropout, considers himself a "great mind." ...

... Carol Leonnig, et al., profile Snowden for the Washington Post. CW: I assume there are millions of video-game players who are not delusional sociopaths, but I must say that game geekiness is frequently prelude to outrageously destructive behavior. Inasmuch as a predilection to geekiness can produce a skills set of particular utility in cybersecurity work, I'd say we have a problem, Washington. ...

Karen DeYoung & Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: "President Obama's decision to begin arming the Syrian rebels followed more than a year of internal debate over whether it was worth the dual risks of involving the United States in another war and seeing U.S. weapons fall into the hands of extremist groups among the rebels. The White House said the final push came this week after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded with 'high certainty' that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces had used chemical weapons against the rebels. But U.S. officials said that the determination to send weapons had been made weeks ago and that the chemical weapons finding provided fresh justification to act." ...

... The Return of Obambi. The Post story came out Saturday morning in the town where MoDo lives. But apparently Dowd didn't read her local paper because in today's column, she credits Bill Clinton (with a hat-tip to John McCain) for getting Obama to send a few arms to Syrian rebel forces. Dowd even selectively read the Times story by Peter Baker, which she cites in her column. According to Baker, "While an aide said Mr. Obama's decision was made even before Mr. Clinton's comments this week endorsing more robust intervention, the president ended up satisfying neither side in the Syrian debate."...

... McCain's Former Sidekick Cannot See Syria from Her Back Porch. Erik Wasson of the Hill: "... Sarah Palin told a Washington audience Saturday that the U.S. should not get involved in the Syrian civil war.... 'Until we have a commander in chief who knows what he is doing....let Allah sort it out!' she told the Faith and Freedom Coalition. The statement shows how far Palin has drifted from former running mate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is the chief Senate proponent of U.S. military action to help the Syrian rebels."

... David Herszenhorn of the New York Times: "The Russian government on Saturday stepped up its attack on the accusation by the United States that Syria had used chemical weapons in its civil war, saying that evidence cited by the Americans was unreliable because the samples were not properly handled by experts until they reached a laboratory."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev came to the attention of the FBI on at least two occasions prior to a Russian government warning in March 2011 that said he appeared to be radicalizing, FBI Director Robert Mueller said in Congressional testimony this week. The earlier references have led some lawmakers to question whether the FBI acted too quickly in closing an assessment of Tsarnaev's potential ties to terrorism done in response to the Russian request."

A Reason for Immigration Reform. Immigrants are more fertile, and they love families, and they have more intact families, and they bring a younger population. Immigrants create an engine of economic prosperity. -- Jeb Bush

Local News

War on the Constitution. David Knowles of the New York Daily News: "Texas Gov. Rick Perry is fighting on the front lines in the so-called 'war on Christmas.' On Thursday, Perry signed what has been dubbed the 'Merry Christmas bill' into law. The measure allows schools to display religious symbols such as nativity scenes and Christmas trees so long as at least one other religious image or secular icon is also included. In addition, the new law allows staff members and students at the state's public schools to exchange traditional holiday greetings, such as 'Merry Christmas,' 'Happy Hanukkah' and 'happy holidays' without fear of reprisal.... At the Thursday signing ceremony for the new law, cheerleaders from Kountze High School wore t-shirts that read 'I cheer for Christ.' In May, a Texas judge ruled that the cheerleaders could continue to display signs at football games emblazoned with Bible verses." ...

... Oh, Crap. Virgin Mary Still Earns Only 77 Percent of Joseph's Pay. Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) vetoed a bill on Friday that would have allowed women suffering wage discrimination to take legal action, alleging that the measure 'duplicates federal law, which already allows employees ... to file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.' ... Forty-two states have passed s[t]ate-based equal pay laws, recognizing that Lilly Ledbetter was not enough."

News Ledes

Reuters: "Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said he had cut all diplomatic ties with Damascus on Saturday and backed a no-fly zone over Syria, pitching the most populous Arab state more firmly against President Bashar al-Assad. Addressing a rally called by Sunni Muslim clerics in Cairo, the Sunni Islamist head of state also warned Assad's ally, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hezbollah, to pull back from fighting in Syria."

AP: "North Korea's top governing body on Sunday proposed high-level nuclear and security talks with the United States in an appeal sent just days after calling off talks with rival South Korea."

AP: "Turkish riot police on Sunday sprayed tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators who remained defiant after authorities evicted activists from an Istanbul park, making clear they are taking a hardline against attempts to rekindle protests that have shaken the country. Bulldozers cleared all that was left of a two-week sit-in and police sealed off the area to keep demonstrators away from the spot that has become the focus of the strongest challenge to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his 10 years in office."

AP: "A solar-powered plane nearing the close of a cross-continental journey landed at Dulles International Airport outside the nation's capital early Sunday, only one short leg to New York remaining on a voyage that opened in May."

Friday
Jun142013

The Commentariat -- June 15, 2013

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... Here's the transcript. AP story here.

Here's the link to Juan Cole's piece on arming Syrian rebels, which Kate M. discusses in the Comments. The kicker for me: Cole's reminder of the U.S. arming of Afghan jihadists in the 1980s, a policy that worked so well it brought us Al Qaeda & the Taliban & the long-term destabilization of both Afghanistan & Pakistan: "You never, ever want to encourage the rise of private militias and flood a country with high- powered weaponry." ...

... Dan Roberts, et al., of the Guardian: "The White House will use next week's G8 summit to seek international support for further intervention in Syria that may go beyond the limited military assistance announced on Thursday night, in an attempt to force the Assad regime and its Russian allies into meaningful peace talks."

Dana Milbank: "Where have all the liberals gone? ... With some exceptions, progressive lawmakers and the liberal commentariat have been passive and acquiescent toward the secret spying programs, which would have infuriated the left had they been the work of a Republican administration." ...

... Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "The National Security Agency's blanket collection of US citizens' phone records was 'not really the American way', Al Gore said on Friday, declaring that he believed the practice to be unlawful. In his most expansive comments to date on the NSA revelations, the former vice-president was unsparing in his criticism of the surveillance apparatus, telling the Guardian security considerations should never overwhelm the basic rights of American citizens. He also urged Barack Obama and Congress to review and amend the laws under which the NSA operated." ...

... AP: " Facebook and Microsoft Corp. representatives said that after negotiations with national security officials their companies have been given permission to make new but still very limited revelations about government orders to turn over user data. The announcements Friday night come at the end of a week when Facebook, Microsoft and Google, normally rivals, had jointly pressured the Obama administration to loosen their legal gag on national security orders." ...

... Vindu Goel of the New York Times: "Facebook ... said that in the last six months of 2012, it had 9,000 to 10,000 requests for information about its users from local, state and federal agencies. Those requests covered 18,000 to 19,000 user accounts.... Facebook said it was legally prohibited from saying how many of the data requests were related to national security. But generally speaking, the vast majority of the law-enforcement data requests received by tech companies are for other matters, like local criminal cases."

Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: Elijah Cummings stands up to Darrell Issa. It appears Issa is withholding as "sensitive" the testimony of a self-described "conservative Republican" IRS agent in the Cincinnati office who "said that he and he alone first 'centralized' the Tea Party cases, without any direction from any superiors and without any political motivation." Cummings has been pressing Issa to get over his "sensitivity." "For the right..., the potential high crimes and misdemeanors don't have to have taken place. They just need to have been presented as plausibilities on Fox and Friends.... And even if the case collapses, then it's all still good in a way, because it can be chalked up to a vast media conspiracy to protect Obama." CW: I think one thing that really pisses off Republicans is that in their hearts they know they're wrong.

I wonder what Marco Rubio's problem is with equal rights for gays. (Yeah, I asked that yesterday, too.) Think Progress catches him making the argument that laws protecting women & minorities are "established law," (video at link) but, as Steve Benen notes, Marco didn't see any reason to, um, establish new law protecting gays from employment discrimination; to wit, ENDA -- the Employment Non-Discrimination Act -- which now has 50 Senate co-sponsors.

An answer to the haters who made such racist remarks that Cheerios had to disable the YouTube comments section accompanying the ad. Watch all the way through:

Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress: "If you are going to base all your efforts to win political power on a single economic theory, as conservatism has over the last 30 years, you might want to make sure it works. But that's what's so surprising about supply-side economics: Despite the fact that its central claim has been belied by decades of economic experience, it persists.... Contrary to supply-side's central thesis, the wealthy are precisely the wrong people to whom to give tax cuts." Via Jonathan Bernstein.

Sensational News! Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Employers will struggle to comply with the new health care mandates, drop insurance coverage, increase costs, and lay off workers! Low-income employees will be subject to sky high premiums, a health care mandate they can't afford, or go uninsured altogether!" Or so the AP reports. "But skip down to the end of the piece and you'll find a curious quote from Neil Trautwein of the National Retail Federation, which represents the very employers the AP claims are going to take advantage of the health law's impurities to increase health care costs for low-income workers while avoiding its penalties. He appears to disagree entirely with the AP's premise...." ...

... Tim Egan: "... In six months' time, the heartless practice of refusing to let sick people buy affordable health insurance -- private-sector death panels, the most odious kind of American exceptionalism -- will be illegal.... The law, as honest conservatives predicted, before they orphaned their own idea, is injecting competition into a market dominated by a few big names.... Out among the states that are actively building the foundations of Obamacare, the law seems to be doing what it was supposed to do.... As in 1935 and in 1965, the ossified right is warning once again of an impending end to American life as we know it. Thankfully, they're right." ...

... The Sky Is Falling. Again Aaron Carroll: "... history repeats itself when it comes to health care reform. Everyone acts as if what we're doing is crazy new, as if it's never been done before.... We're seeing the same thing again with respect to Medicaid and the ACA. Many of the claims about the expansion's imminent failure involve arguments that aren't new. In fact, they were the same as those being employed against traditional Medicaid decades ago." Carroll & his assistant Jaskaran Bains, provides examples of "media coverage of Medicaid when it was passed."

When all you do is talk to people who are owners, talk to folks who are Type A's who want to succeed economically, we're talking to a very small group of people. No wonder they don't think we care about them. No wonder they don't think we understand them. -- Rick Santorum, boy populist, explaining why Mitt Romney lost in 2012 ...

... Not. My. Fault. Veep first-runner-up Paul Ryan has quit blaming "urban voters" & claims he & Romney lost because of ObamaCare & ObamaRhetoric. ...

... CW: funny how it's always some kind of messaging problem & never the substance of GOP philosophy & policies.

RE: Smart Judicial Ruling against Obama. Pam Belluck of the New York Times profiles Judge Edward Korman, who made the Obama administration to make the morning-after pill available to women of all ages without a prescription.

RE: Stupid Judicial Ruling against Obama:

I expect consequences. So I don't just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody's engaging in [sexual assault], they've got to be held accountable -- prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period. -- Barack Obama, May 7, 2013 ...

... Erik Slavin of Stars & Stripes: "Two defendants in military sexual assault cases cannot be punitively discharged, if found guilty, because of 'unlawful command influence' derived from comments made by President Barack Obama, a judge ruled in a Hawaii military court this week. Navy Judge Cmdr. Marcus Fulton ruled during pretrial hearings in two sexual assault cases -- U.S. vs. Johnson and U.S. vs. Fuentes -- that comments made by Obama as commander in chief would unduly influence any potential sentencing, according to a court documents obtained by Stars and Stripes."

Ben Fox of the AP: "The men undergoing forced-feeding [at Guantanamo] aren't permitted to speak to journalists, but Ahmed Zuhair knows what the experience is like. Until he was released from U.S. custody in 2009, he and another prisoner had the distinction of staging the longest hunger strikes at the prison. Zuhair kept at it for four years in a showdown that at times turned violent.... Zuhair, a former sheep merchant who was never charged with any crime during seven years at Guantanamo, stopped eating in June 2005, and kept up his protest until he was sent home to Saudi Arabia in 2009.... Zuhair spoke to The Associated Press in a telephone interview along with his lawyer, Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at City University of New York." ...

... Former Bush II attorney John Bellinger: three weeks ago President Obama announced he would appoint a special envoy "to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries." But the president has yet to appoint an envoy (or envoys) & it appears he's having trouble filling the job(s). Via Jonathan Bernstein.

Local News

Ben Pershing of the Washington Post: in Virginia, "neither major party nominated a woman for governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general this year. In fact, former attorney general Mary Sue Terry (D) is the only woman to have won statewide office in Virginia.... Terry ... ran unsuccessfully for governor against George Allen in 1993. She was elected attorney general in 1985 and won reelection in 1989.... Virginia is one of only seven states with no women in statewide elective office."

News Ledes

Guardian: "The Perth radio presenter Howard Sattler says he will pursue legal action against Fairfax radio after he was sacked for asking Julia Gillard whether her partner was gay. Sattler's live radio interview on Thursday night made international headlines after he asked the prime minister about Tim Mathieson's sexuality."

AP: "China<'s Cabinet has announced measures to curb the country's notorious air pollution, one of the many environmental challenges facing the country that are increasingly angering the public. The broad measures approved by the State Council include putting strict controls in place for industries that produce large amounts of waste and pollution, but it will likely be up to local governments to work out the details."

New York Times: "Iranian officials spent Saturday tallying votes in the nation's presidential election, with a surge of interest apparently swinging the tide in the favor of the most moderate candidate. With a fraction of the vote counted, the moderate candidate, Hassan Rowhani, was holding a strong lead, but it was uncertain whether he would exceed the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff next week." ...

     ... Guardian Update: "The moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani has won the Iranian election and will succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president, Iran's interior minister announced on national television on Saturday. Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar said Rouhani had secured just over the 50% of the vote needed to avoid a runoff, after a turnout of 72%."

AP: "... jellyfish-shaped balloons that Google released this week from a frozen field in the heart of New Zealand's South Island hardened into shiny pumpkins as they rose into the blue winter skies above Lake Tekapo, passing the first big test of a lofty goal to get the entire planet online. It was the culmination of 18 months' work on what Google calls Project Loon, in recognition of how wacky the idea may sound. Developed in the secretive X lab that came up with a driverless car and web-surfing eyeglasses, the flimsy helium-filled inflatables beam the Internet down to earth as they sail past on the wind."

AP: "Protesters will press on with their sit-in at an Istanbul park, an activist said Saturday, defying government appeals and a warning from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the two-week standoff that has fanned nationwide demonstrations to end."