Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week's address, the President repeated his call for Republicans in the United States Senate to give Chief Judge Merrick Garland a fair hearing and a vote":

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, April 29, 2016.

** New York: "An ISIS-linked hacking group has posted a hit list that includes the names of thousands of New Yorkers. The list, released by the ISIS-related group Caliphate Cyber United, reportedly includes as many as 3,600 names, some of whom are employees at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, but many of whom are average residents. Experts speculate that the list is being used as a scare tactic and that there’s no immediate threat." -- CW

NBC News: "A man infected with Zika virus in Puerto Rico has died from complications of the infection, health officials said Friday.... It's the first death in the United States from Zika virus." -- CW

Washington Post: "North Korea has sentenced a former Virginia man to 10 years in prison with hard labor for subversion, its official news agency said Friday, in the latest case involving an American being detained by Kim Jong Un’s regime." -- CW

Public Service Announcement

New York Times: "Taking a stance sharply at odds with most American public health officials, a major British medical organization urged smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes, saying they are the best hope in generations for people addicted to tobacco cigarettes to quit. The recommendation, laid out in a report published Thursday by the Royal College of Physicians, summarizes the growing body of science on e-cigarettes and finds that their benefits far outweigh the potential harms." -- CW

Washington Post: "More than a third of advanced-melanoma patients who received one of the new immunotherapy drugs in an early trial are alive five years after starting treatment -- double the survival rate typical of the disease, according to a new study."

Zoe Schlanger of Newsweek: "If you are eating fast food, you're probably also eating phthalates,... a class of chemicals that have been linked to everything from ADHD to breast cancer, ...[which] are common in food packaging, drink containers, the tubing used to transport dairy and the equipment used to process fast food." --LT

New York Times: "... a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series [by Walt Whitman] called 'Manly Health and Training,' were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.Now, Whitman’s self-help-guide-meets-democratic-manifesto is being published online in its entirety by a scholarly journal, in what some experts are calling the biggest new Whitman discovery in decades."

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

This is for safari:

... Via the New Yorker.

Washington Post: "Late last week, Comcast announced a new program that allows makers of smart TVs and other Internet-based video services to have full access to your cable programming without the need for a set-top box.  Instead, the content will flow directly to the third-party device as an app, including all the channels and program guide. The Xfinity TV Partner Program will initially be offered on new smart TVs from Samsung, as well as Roku streaming boxes.  But the program, built on open Internet-based standards including HTML5, is now open to other device manufacturers to adopt. As video services move from hardware to software, the future of the traditional set-top box looks increasingly grim. With this announcement, Comcast customers may soon eliminate the need for an extra device, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in fees."

BBC: "Dame Judi Dench and David Tennant have joined other stars at a gala marking 400 years since Shakespeare's death. Saturday's Shakespeare Live show in the playwright's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon included play scene performances, dance and music." Then this:

New York Times: "The Pulitzers are in their centennial year, and the winners announced by Columbia University reflected in part the changes sweeping the media landscape." Here's the full list of the prize winners, via the New York Times.

CW: The AP produced this video in January 2015, but I just came across it:

New York Times: "James Levine, who transformed the Metropolitan Opera during four decades as its music director but has suffered from poor health in recent years, will step down from his post after this season to become music director emeritus, the company announced Thursday."

Politico: "Gabriel Snyder, editor in chief of The New Republic for the past 17 months, is leaving the magazine in the wake of its sale to Win McCormack.... The masthead change marks the first big move since McCormack, a publisher, Democratic booster and editor in chief of a literary journal called Tin House, bought TNR from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in February after Hughes was unsuccessful at turning around the money-losing magazine’s business during his four years of stewardship."

The Great Octopus Escape. Guardian: "An octopus has made a brazen escape from the national aquarium in New Zealand by breaking out of its tank, slithering down a 50-metre drainpipe and disappearing into the sea. In scenes reminiscent of Finding Nemo, Inky – a common New Zealand octopus – made his dash for freedom after the lid of his tank was accidentally left slightly ajar. Staff believe that in the middle of the night, while the aquarium was deserted, Inky clambered to the top of his glass enclosure, down the side of the tank and travelled across the floor of the aquarium."

... Charles Pierce: "One of the best biographies I've ever read was Scott Berg's brilliant, National Book Award-winning account of the life of Maxwell Perkins, the editor at Scribner's who was responsible for bringing out the best work in Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Ring Lardner, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.... I'm going to be first in line to see [the film "Genius."] OK, so there won't be a line, but I'll be there nonetheless."

Michael Cavna of the Washington Post on the artistry in the film "All the President's Men."The real Woodward & Bernstein weigh in.

"You think old people are weirdos but then you understand that they don't see you and they can't hear you." Reuters: "The Genworth Aging Experience is a traveling show created by Genworth Financial Inc., an insurance company, in partnership with Applied Minds, a design and engineering company, that allows museum visitors to feel first-hand the effects of aging...[with the goal of building] empathy and awareness of the challenges elderly people face in everyday situations." -- LT note: this world could always use a little more empathy.

Washington Post: An archivist found the original patent for the Wright brothers' "Flying Machine" "in a special records storage cave in Lenexa, Kan., where it was sent at some point after it vanished around 1980." Somebody in the National Archives apparently had misfiled it.

New York Times: "A thousand years after the Vikings braved the icy seas from Greenland to the New World in search of timber and plunder, satellite technology has found intriguing evidence of a long-elusive prize in archaeology — a second Norse settlement in North America, further south than ever known. The new Canadian site, with telltale signs of iron-working, was discovered last summer after infrared images from 400 miles in space showed possible man-made shapes under discolored vegetation. The site is on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, about 300 miles south of L’Anse aux Meadows, the first and so far only confirmed Viking settlement in North America, discovered in 1960."

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Tuesday
Feb112014

State Visit of French President Francois Hollande

Michelle Obama, in a dress by Caroline Herrara, & two guys.

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "The guest list, as always, drew from the worlds of politics, business, sports, news media and entertainment, with a nod to Americans of French extraction. Among the most notable was Edith Windsor, 83, the New Yorker whose landmark lawsuit against the government for denying her tax benefits after the death of her female spouse knocked down the Defense of Marriage Act last year. Among the Hollywood names on the list: the film star Bradley Cooper; the television comedian Mindy Kaling; the actress Cicely Tyson; the film and television producer J. J. Abrams; the talk-show host Stephen Colbert; and the actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, currently playing a dysfunctional vice president in the HBO series, 'Veep.'”

Brent Logiurato of Business Insider has a more extensive list of notables attending the dinner.

Inside the kitchen for the French state dinner:

Lucy McCalmont of Politico: "Joining [President Obama], the first lady and French President François Hollande during Tuesday’s state dinner will be musician Mary J. Blige.... And while the Obamas might be hosting the French president, they will be saying 'bon appétit' to what is a traditionally American menu during the state dinner. The event, to be held in a tent on the South Lawn, according to a menu provided by the White House, 'celebrates the best of American cuisine.'” State dinner preview, via Politico:

David Nakamura & William Branigin of the Washington Post: "President Obama on Tuesday called Syria a 'crumbling' state and acknowledged that the United Nations remains 'far from achieving' its goal of returning stability and normalcy to the war-torn nation, but he again ruled out direct U.S. military intervention. Appearing with French President Francois Hollande at a White House news conference, Obama maintained that international pressure on Syria to account for and relinquish its stockpile of chemical weapons has begun to make progress even as the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has missed a series of deadlines."

Presidents Obama & Hollande joint news conference:

Officials ceremonies Tuesday morning:

Mark Landler of the New York Times: " President Obama welcomed President François Hollande of France to the United States on Monday, deferring for a day the customary ruffles and flourishes of a state visit to squire him to [Monticello,] the mountaintop estate of an American president long identified with France."

President Hollande arrives in the U.S.:

Monday
Feb102014

The Commentariat -- Feb. 11, 2014

Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Tuesday urged states to repeal laws that prohibit felons from voting, a move that would restore the right to vote to millions of people. The call was mostly symbolic -- Mr. Holder has no authority to enact these changes himself -- but it marked the attorney general's latest effort to eliminate laws that he says disproportionately keep minorities from the polls."

Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "In prepared testimony for her first appearance on Capitol Hill since being sworn in last week as the steward of the nation's economy, [Fed Chair Janet] Yellen noted the job market has made progress since the Fed began its latest round of stimulus in late 2012. The unemployment rate has fallen from 8.1 percent to 6.6 percent. But she said in the prepared testimony that even that rate is still too high." ...

... Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "Ms. Yellen's first public remarks as chairwoman were hard to distinguish from the last public remarks of her predecessor, Ben S. Bernanke. Speaking to the House Financial Services Committee, she emphasized that she was not seeking to change the Fed's course."

Alex Rogers of Time: "The House could vote as early as Wednesday on legislation to raise the country's borrowing limit, after Republicans met on Monday night in their latest effort to find elusive consensus on one of the final must-pass objectives before Washington goes into election mode. During a meeting in the basement of the Capitol, GOP leaders floated the idea of repealing a cut to veterans' pensions set to take place next year and attach that to a bill that would raise the debt ceiling for one year. It remains to be seen if a majority of the restive conservative conference will back party leadership, or if House Speaker John Boehner will be left to rely on Democrats to take action before what the Obama Administration has pegged as a critical Feb. 27 deadline." ...

... Sarah Mimms of the National Journal: "To get an agreement that would attract their own members and Democrats alike, House Republicans threw [Paul Ryan] ... under the bus just two months after he accepted congratulations alongside Sen. Patty Murray as the two who beat the odds and not only formulated -- but passed -- a two-year budget deal in one of the most intractable Congresses in memory.... Ryan specifically pushed for ... cuts [to retired military personnel's pension plans] in his negotiations with Murray late last year.... Asked about the plan Monday night, Paul Ryan repeatedly said, 'I've got nothing for you.'" ...

     ... Update. Elahe Izadi and Sarah Mimms of the National Journal: "House Republicans scrapped a plan they devised Monday night to raise the debt ceiling with an additional measure to reverse veterans' cuts. Instead, they're going clean, according to a source in the room. Leadership had wanted to extract something out of raising the debt ceiling and had settled on rolling back the $6 billion on cost of living cuts to military pensions. But Democrats have long insisted they won't give anything in return for raising the debt ceiling. The GOP plan would have relied on support from a good number of Democrats, since many conservatives will vote against raising the debt ceiling regardless of what's attached." Thanks to contributor Patrick for the link. ...

     ... Update, Ctd. Ashley Parker & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Facing a rebellion over his latest debt ceiling proposal, Speaker John A. Boehner on Tuesday told House Republicans that he would bring legislation to a vote that would raise the government's borrowing authority with no strings attached. 'You all know that our members are not crazy about voting to increase the debt ceiling,' Mr. Boehner said, explaining that his conference was frustrated with President Obama's refusal to negotiate over a debt ceiling increase. 'And so the fact is we'll let the Democrats put the votes up. We'll put a minimum number of votes up to get it passed.'"

¡No Más! Anna Palmer & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Immigration reform advocates are done playing nice with House Republicans. After holding their fire for years at the urging of the Obama administration, several immigration reform groups now plan to unleash their anger at the right. A new, more aggressive campaign kicks off Tuesday, when these groups say they will begin confronting Republican lawmakers at public appearances, congressional hearings and events back in home districts. The goal: Shame Republicans in swing districts into taking up the issue -- or make them pay at the ballot box in November." ...

... Gene Robinson: "... Obama has done everything humanly possible to make it easier for Republicans to support sensible reform. You know a party is dysfunctional when it can't take yes for an answer." ...

... Albany, New York, Times Union Editors: "Millions of lives kept on hold, again, all so some politicians can hedge their political bets." ...

... AND Greg Sargent posits that kicking the can down the road may be a particularly Stupid Republican Trick: "Consider the role of Ted Cruz, who is expected to run for president.... If Republicans try to pass reform in 2015, he'll have an opening to demagogue the heck out of the issue to appeal to a chunk of right wing GOP primary voters. He'll do all he can to turn the GOP primary process into an anti-amnesty sludge-fest." Yeah? Let's see Cruz top alligator moats & killer electric fences. ...

... Because Obama? No. Because Cruz. Umberto Sanchez of Roll Call: "Sen. Ted Cruz ... in recent weeks has undermined Boehner's approach on both immigration and the debt limit -- the two biggest issues the Ohio Republican has been trying to navigate through his conference. As Boehner unveiled his leadership team's immigration principles at the House GOP's retreat two weeks ago, Cruz and his staff simultaneously torched the push for an immigration overhaul this year on Twitter and in interviews, immediately playing the 'amnesty' card. 'Anyone pushing that right now should go ahead and put a Harry Reid for majority leader bumper sticker on the back of their car,' Cruz told reporters early last week. It's a line he's used with some frequency in recent days, and the implicit target is Boehner...." Via Greg Sargent.

Juliet Eilperin & Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration announced Monday it would give medium-sized employers an extra year, until 2016, before they must offer health insurance to their full-time workers. Firms with at least 100 employees will have to start offering this coverage in 2015." ...

... Jonathan Gruber in the Los Angeles Times: "Before [healthcare] reform, the best research suggests that job mobility among workers with health insurance was reduced by one-quarter because of fears about losing that coverage. By freeing workers from that fear, healthcare reform promises not only to make individual lives better but also to boost innovation and efficiency in the U.S. economy." ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "It's a reflection of just how committed to lying about that Congressional Budget Office report Republicans are that the CBO felt compelled to put out another memo, this one reiterating what was clearly stated in the actual report: As many as 2.5 million people may choose to leave full-time work when they have the option of getting affordable health insurance elsewhere. Not that 2.5 million jobs would be lost." ...

... Paul Waldman of the American Prospect: AOL CEO Tim Armstrong's claim that the company had to cut benefits because ... ObamaCare was met with ridicule because his is a high-profile company employing, um, lots of reporters. "But something similar is happening at companies all over America. Even though health insurance premiums have risen every year, this year management is saying, 'Don't blame us -- it's Obamacare.... There won't be national news stories about it, and if the HR person tells [employees] the company's hands are tied, they'll accept the explanation. The boss's escape from accountability is complete. An AP poll late last year found that 76 percent of people with employer-sponsored plans said that changes in those plans, like increased premiums and higher co-pays, were because of the Affordable Care Act. Almost all of them are wrong. So where could they have gotten that idea?" ...

     ... CW: This is something Democrats really have to figure out how to fight. And, unlike in the AOL case, they won't get much help from the media. After all, that's not the media's job. Just ask Tuck Chodd. ...

... Your Boss Knows You Have Herpes (and He Might Tell Your Co-workers). Natasha Singer of the New York Times: Armstrong's remark about "two AOL-ers that had distressed babies...," "made in a conference call with employees, brought an immediate outcry, raising questions over corporate access to and handling of employees' personal medical data." CW: Armstrong's remarks make all the hoohah about the government's "getting between you & your doctor" sound hollow. All along, your employer & your company's HR Department have been nosing through your medical files.

Christi Parsons of the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama plans to launch an initiative aimed at improving the lives of young black and Latino men by bringing businesses and foundations together with government agencies to change what an administration official called the 'school-to-prison pipeline.' The initiative, which Obama calls 'My Brother's Keeper,' is to be unveiled Thursday, the official said. It will mark the latest in a series of efforts by the president to spur social change outside the stalemated legislative process."

Waste, Fraud & Abuse. Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "An Army program meant to increase the number of recruits during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars devolved into an illegal free-for-all that could cost taxpayers close to $100 million, military investigators say, describing new details of what they called a long-running scheme among National Guard recruiters that went undetected for years. Army officials appeared before a Senate hearing on Tuesday and sketched out a huge criminal endeavor that has implicated more than 1,200 people -- 200 of them officers -- including two generals and dozens of colonels. Criminal investigators for the Army said soldiers, civilians and National Guard recruiters had used the program as a 'bounty' from which they could illegally collect money for recruiting soldiers they had not recruited."

Joe Nocera: U.S. bankers & retailers have been too cheap & "have spent way too much time blaming each other for the growing data theft problem" to switch from magnetic strip credit cards to the much more secure chip-and-PIN technology that is widely used in Canada & European countries.

Ben Protess of the New York Times: A "lawsuit filed by Better Markets, a group critical of Wall Street, challenged the constitutionality of the [$13 billion] deal [between the Justice Department & JPMorgan Chase], a landmark settlement stemming from accusations that JPMorgan overstated the quality of mortgage securities it sold before the financial crisis. In a complaint filed on Monday in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Better Markets argued that the Justice Department violated the constitutional principle of separation of powers when it 'unilaterally' struck the deal without a judge's blessing." CW: Okay, so maybe the Obama administration is "lawless."

John Swaine of the Guardian: "The Obama administration came under renewed pressure to disclose the legal grounds for its drone programme on Monday, amid reports that another US citizen accused of plotting attacks against Americans for al-Qaida overseas is to be assassinated. Legal experts and civil liberties campaigners urged the White House to explain the basis for a potential strike against the suspect, alleged to be an active 'facilitator' for the terrorist network and already responsible for deadly attacks on Americans."

Beyond the Beltway

Do Not Trust a Republican with Your Life. Amy Goodnough of the New York Times: "Last year, the Republicans who control [Arkansas]'s Legislature devised a politically palatable way to expand Medicaid under President Obama's health care law. They won permission to use federal expansion funds to buy private insurance for as many as 250,000 poor people instead of adding them to traditional Medicaid.... But just as the idea is catching fire in other states with Republican or divided leadership..., Arkansas may abruptly reverse course, potentially leaving the 83,000 people who have signed up so far without insurance as soon as July 1. Facing pressure from conservative challengers in the May primary, several Republicans who supported the plan last year are now considering switching their vote when the Legislature votes to reauthorize its financing, possibly as soon as next week. The defection of just one Republican could kill the program, state officials said."

"The Massive Progressive Protest You Didn't Hear About this Weekend." Esther Lee of Think Progress: "Somewhere between 80 to 100,000 people from 32 states turned out to protest four years of drastic state Republican initiatives in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Saturday. The 'Moral March on Raleigh' ... marched from Shaw University to the state capitol to push back against the 'immoral and unconstitutional policies' of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory during the 2013 NC General Assembly session. Since North Carolina Republicans took over both legislative chambers in 2010, legislators have eliminated a host of programs and raised taxes on the bottom 80 percent, repealed a tax credit for 900,000 working families, enforced voter suppression efforts, blocked Medicaid coverage, cut pre-Kindergarten funding, cut federal unemployment benefits, and gave itself the authority to intervene in abortion lawsuits." ...

... Steve M. "It's probably unreasonable to expect the mainstream media to cover this protest movement: it's not violent, nor is it (by conventional standards) heartwarming. More to the point, it doesn't involve a lot of white upmarket residents of the West Coast or the Northeast. The mainstream media cares about D.C. politicians and New Jersey's Chris Christie and Greenwich Village's Philip Seymour Hoffman. Nobody in the media cares about a largely black protest movement in (ugh!) North Carolina. Nobody, that is, except the right."

Carol Morello & Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "During his nearly seven-year stint as U.S. attorney, [Chris] Christie perfected a leadership style that enabled him to vault into the governor's mansion from a job that is not frequently used as a stepping stone to higher office. Along the way, he honed a brand of politics built largely on transactional relationships with supporters and adversaries alike. His approach has appealed to many voters. And yet..., Christie and his aides showed an early penchant for pushing boundaries in ways that have had ramifications.... In Washington, Christie's bosses were concerned about the appearance of several deals he struck with corporations that agreed to change their ways if they weren't charged in cases involving financial irregularities."

Beth DeFalco & Leonard Greene of the New York Post: "The New Jersey legislative committee investigating the Bridgegate scandal will probe records of helicopter rides Gov. Chris Christie took to see if he flew near Fort Lee while lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge were closed, sources told The Post. Lawmakers also want to know if the New Jersey governor took a ride with then-Port Authority exec David Wildstein...." ...

     ... Armando of Daily Kos sez he believes flight records will show Christie did fly over the GWB on 9/11. The GWB crosses the Hudson into the far northern part of Manhattan. The 9/11 site is of course downtown, & Trenton, New Jersey -- Christie's destination is south of that. Armando said Christie had no scheduled events that day in North Jersey. Ergo, a flyover the GWB & Fort Lee would be a curious detour. ...

By Stuart Carlson.

... Melissa Hayes & Michael Linhorst of the Bergen Record: "The special legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closure controversy is subpoenaing 18 individuals and groups, including additional staff in the governor's office and the State Police aviation unit." ...

... Michael Phillis of the Bergen Record: "Several current and former state employees have asked the attorney general's office to pay their legal fees related to the George Washington Bridge scandal which is being investigated by a joint committee in the Legislature and also the U.S. attorney's office." ...

... D. S. Wright of Firedoglake figures out why Rudy Giuliani is one of Christie's sole defenders: "Guiliani is under contract with Mercury Public Affairs, the consulting firm for Michael DuHaime, one of Christie's closest advisors also implicated in the Hoboken/Sandy aid scandal as his firm did polling to show there was support for a real estate development project.... So the only person of any note publicly defending Governor Christie in the Bridgegate scandal is being paid by one of Christie's closet advisors?"

Marc Santora of the New York Times: "Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York ... used his first State of the City speech on Monday to propose measures that he said would protect the poor, encourage undocumented immigrants to participate in city life and raise the minimum wage to help lift residents into the middle class. At the same time, he repeated his call for the city's wealthiest residents to pay more to help the less fortunate. It was the first time a Democrat has delivered the State of the City address in two decades, and Mr. de Blasio left no doubt that he was going to pursue a decidedly liberal agenda."

Presidential Election 2016

Alex Pappas of the Daily Caller: "Sources close to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough think he is seriously considering the prospect of leaving morning television to run for president in 2016." CW: Will select Mica as veep candidate. ...

... To advance his own presidential chances, Scarborough dumps on former BFF Chris Christie. Tal Kopan of Politico: "MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said Monday that New Jersey Chris Christie has become a 'distraction' to the Republican Governors Association. 'The fact is right now, he's a distraction to the RGA,' Scarborough said on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe.' 'If Republicans' job is electing governors and you got a guy running the RGA that has Republican candidates running away from him, that's a serious problem.'"

Tal Kopan: "Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Monday that when it comes to Hillary Clinton, Republicans will have a 'truckload' of material to use against her, and it's all fair game. Priebus said recent, repeated comments from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Texas) bringing up President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky as a critique of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are legitimate." ...

... Digby: "So everyone's wondering why in the heck the Republicans are dusting off their Lewinsky playbook.... The reason they are doing this is simple: the War on Women.... The War on Women opens the door for Republicans to do what pleasures them the most --- talk about other people's sex lives in detail even as they condemn it. It arouses them." ...

     ... Related. Sort of. Brian Resnick of the National Journal: "Reports of reports of a rumored forthcoming Washington Post article say that President Obama has been having an affair with Beyoncé. Curious that the two, who are some of the most followed and cloistered individuals in the world, could keep the relationship quiet until now.... Curiouser still that this is coming from Obama, who has long been reported to be gay. But this president has managed to keep a lot of his nefarious past and present quiet." Resnick finds more reports of Obama's "nefarious behavior."...

... Peter Beinart in the Atlantic: "So why the anti-Clinton offensive? Because Paul isn't speaking to most Americans -- he's speaking to the Christian right.... Given that one of his key selling points in the GOP primary will be his (relative) support among younger Americans, Paul can't exactly crusade against gay marriage or the legalization of pot. Bashing Bill Clinton provides a politically safer way to champion moralism."

... Tal Kopan: "Some of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's most private conversations, on issues from her husband's affair to health care policy, are part of newly published documents revealed in the archives of one of her best friends. The trove of documents include correspondence, journal entries, memos and interviews from the mid-1970s to about 2000 from one of Clinton's best friends, political science professor Diane Blair, who died in 2000. While they have been open to the public since 2010, The Washington Free Beacon reported on and published the contents of the files for the first time on Sunday night." CW: Some of the published items are interesting.

Right Wing World

Where even the so-called intellectuals are paranoid maniacs. Charles Pierce is on the case.

News Ledes

Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette: "More than 100,000 gallons of coal slurry poured into an eastern Kanawha County stream Tuesday in what officials were calling a 'significant spill' from a Patriot Coal processing facility. Emergency officials and environmental inspectors said roughly six miles of Fields Creek had been blackened and that a smaller amount of the slurry made it into the Kanawha River near Chesapeake."

New York Times: "Shirley Temple Black, who as a dimpled, precocious and determined little girl in the 1930s sang and tap-danced her way to a height of Hollywood stardom and worldwide fame that no other child has reached, died on Monday night at her home in Woodside, Calif. She was 85." The Los Angeles Times obituary is here.

San Diego Union-Tribune: "The electoral chaos caused by former Mayor Bob Filner comes to a close Tuesday as San Diego voters choose one of two City Council members -- Democrat David Alvarez and Republican Kevin Faulconer -- as the city's next mayor."

Reuters: "Frustrated about prospects of getting Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a long-term security deal, the United States is considering waiting until he leaves office before completing the pact and deciding on a troop presence beyond 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday."

Washington Post: "China and Taiwan held their first official government-to-government talks on Tuesday since splitting during a civil war in 1949, in an attempt to forge closer economic links and reduce tensions over the thorny issue of eventual re-unification."

Guardian: "Eleven days after the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, the US military's top special operations officer ordered subordinates to destroy any photographs of the al-Qaida founder's corpse or turn them over to the CIA, according to a newly released email. The email was obtained under a freedom of information request by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch."

Sunday
Feb092014

The Commentariat -- Feb. 10, 2014

Kimberly Dozier of the AP: "An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say, and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year. The CIA drones watching him cannot strike because he's a U.S. citizen and the Justice Department must build a case against him, a task it hasn't completed. Four U.S. officials said the American suspected terrorist is in a country that refuses U.S. military action on its soil and that has proved unable to go after him. And President Barack Obama's new policy says American suspected terrorists overseas can only be killed by the military, not the CIA, creating a policy conundrum for the White House." ...

... Jeremy Scahill & Glenn Greenwald: "The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes -- an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people."

Paul Krugman refutes all the phony Republican excuses for refusing to extend unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed. ...

... E. J. Dionne: Many thanks to Ron Paul, "... today's conservatives are in thrall to Austrian thinking, and this explains a lot of what is going on in Washington. Broadly popular measures such as raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment insurance -- normal, bipartisan legislation during the Keynesian heyday -- are blocked on the assumption that people are better off if the government simply keeps its mitts off the market.... When it comes to government policy, the Austrian economists paved the road to paralysis."

Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic: "Chuck Schumer is trying to call John Boehner's bluff over immigration reform.... Appearing on 'Meet the Press' Sunday, Schumer ... floated a new proposal designed to win Republican support for an immigration bill -- a proposal designed specifically to address concerns that Boehner raised last week.... At a press conference, Boehner indicated that his fellow House Republicans won't support an immigration bill because they don't trust President Obama to enforce it. Fine, Schumer said on Sunday -- let's postpone the new law's effective date until 2017, when Obama isn't president anymore." ...

... Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "A spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) rejected Schumer's idea saying it wold remove the impetus for Obama to enforce immigration laws during his remaining time in office. 'The suggestion is entirely impractical, since it would totally eliminate the President's incentive to enforce immigration law for the remainder of his term,' said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel." CW: Obviously, this is pure bull. (a) Obama is the Deportin'est President Ever, & (b) what conceivable difference is there between (1) current law (the House sits on its collective ass) & (2) current law (the House passes a bill that doesn't kick in until February 2017)?

Live Poets Society. Megan Wilson of the Hill: "Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Sunday said Democrats are pushing poetry as an alternative to holding a job.... 'What the liberals and the Democrats want you to believe is, "Well, but you'll have time to write poetry,"' Gowdy said. 'Well, that's great until you try and buy your grandkid a birthday present or you try and pay the heating bill.'"

Jerry Markon & Alice Crites of the Washington Post: "Accenture, the contractor urgently tapped to help fix the federal health-insurance Web site, is a favorite of corporate America but has a record that includes troubled projects and allegations of ethical lapses, a review of the consulting giant's history shows."

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times on the coordinated efforts by the Republican Party's leadership -- which, BTW, includes the Koch brothers -- to nip in the bud extremist Tea Party challenges to establishment candidates.

Deanna Fei, the mother of one of those "distressed babies" AOL CEO Tim Armstrong cited as the reason for cutting all employees' 401(k)s, writes a rebuttal in Slate: "Our daughter has already overcome more setbacks than most of us have endured in the span of our lives. Having her very existence used as a scapegoat for cutting corporate benefits was one indignity too many." Fei points out, among other things, that hers was not a "high-risk pregnancy," as Armstrong claimed. ...

... Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times on Tim Armstrong's repeated claim that AOL has an "employees first" policy: the ObamaCare-imposed costs of paying for care of "distressed babies" "wasn't Armstrong's only rationale for the 401(k) change. He also told CNBC that the company figured that its obligations to employees who were leaving AOL were at the 'bottom of the list' -- so why not screw them on their way out? If Armstrong listened to himself talk, he might learn why 'AOLers' might want to leave in the first place."

Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times: "Bill Keller, a columnist at The New York Times and its former executive editor, will leave the paper to become editor in chief of The Marshall Project, a nonprofit journalism start-up focused on the American criminal justice system." CW: Good riddance to an insufferable man. I do salute any effort to shed more light on our horrible, criminal justice system, so here's hoping Keller does some worthwhile work over there.

Annals of Slipshod Journalism

Jay Rosen tries to figure out what's wrong with Chris Cillizza, Tuck Chodd, Mark Halperin, Politico, et al. He dubs them "the savvy" & says they "sever any lingering solidarity between journalists as the providers of information, and voters as decision-makers in need of it.... [They] set up -- so it can speak to and cultivate -- a third group between these two: close followers of the game." As a class exercise, Rosen instructs us to read this piece by Cillizza, defending his "report" on the CBO report.

     ... CW: The line that particularly struck me was Cillizza's explanation of his charter: "My job is to assess not the rightness of each argument but to deal in the real world of campaign politics in which perception often (if not always) trumps reality." This is precisely what Friar Tuck argued last September when Ed Rendell said on "Morning Joe" that most people who oppose ObamaCare because they believe "stuff that's incorrect." Tuck said he agreed: "because they haven't even heard the Democratic message. What I always love is people say, 'Well, it's you folks' fault in the media.' No, it's the President of the United States' fault for not selling it." Later he tweeted, "point I actually made was folks shouldn't expect media to do job WH has FAILED to do re: ACA"

... Paul Krugman thinks the joke is on both Republicans & the "savvy" re: the CBO report: "By the end of the week a barrage of press reports, plus those mighty figures Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, had effectively changed the story from 'CBO predicts massive job losses' to 'Republicans lie about CBO report.' ... So the savvy cultists were wrong even on their own terms. And notice why they were wrong: It never occurred to them that understanding the real issues might matter, and so they were caught completely off guard when Republican lies about policy matters produced a backlash." ...

... Eric Lipton of the New York Times demonstrates how special interest groups, like the restaurant industry, fund phony think tanks & how the groups' lobbyists sell the think-tank "research" to media outlets as legitimate evidence to support their clients: "What is most important, said Lisa Graves, the executive director of an organization responsible for the online publication PR Watch, is that newspapers detail Employment Policies Institute's corporate ties when they cite research it publishes. Such disclosure happened in less than 20 percent of the cases over a three-year period, an analysis by PR Watch found. 'They are trying to peddle an industry wish list, but mask it as if they are independent experts,' she said. 'They are little more than phony experts on retainer.'" ...

     ... CW: it also apparently is "not the media's job" to point out the affiliations of an "expert"'s think tank. Liberals simply need to do a better job of "selling" junk research to media stenographers.

AND Driftglass makes a great catch: David Brooks cannot remember Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. CW: I would add that Brooks has never heard of Minority Leader Pelosi or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Outside the Beltway

Shawn Boburg of the Bergen Record: "A team of attorneys retained by Governor Christie's office in the aftermath of the George Washington Bridge scandal is seeking documents and a private interview with the Hoboken mayor [Dawn Zimmer], whose explosive allegations have added to the governor's woes.... But Zimmer, who has already met with the U.S. Attorney's Office and gave authorities a journal in which she recounted the alleged threat delivered by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, declined the invitation. We question whether it is appropriate for the Governor's Office, in essence, to be investigating itself, particularly when an investigation of the same subject matter is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney's Office,' Zimmer's attorney wrote.... In a show of force, [attorney Randy] Mastro, whose firm is charging the governor's office $650 per hour per attorney, wrote in his letters to Hoboken officials that he had assembled a team of 'five former federal prosecutors' to look into Zimmer's claims."

David Chen of the New York Times contrasts Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, with the last guy who had that job -- Chris Christie. CW: The main difference seems to be that Fishman is not a crooked pol. ...

... Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger Editorial Board:The Star-Ledger's endorsement of Chris Christie for re-election was "regrettable."

Presidential Election 2016

Jonathan Karl, the conservative hack masquerading as an ABC News reporter, writes, [David] "Petraeus has always shied away from politics, but in a new book he is quoted lavishing so much praise on Hillary Clinton, he seems to be endorsing her as a candidate for President. 'She'd make a tremendous president, Petraeus says in the new book 'HRC' by Jonathan Allen and Aimee Parnes. And for Petraeus, Exhibit A in why she would be a tremendous president is the very thing for which Republicans most aggressively attack Clinton: her performance as Secretary of State when the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked." Karl claims this is a shocker because Petraeus is the Republican's most popular general.

News Lede

Charlotte (North Carolina) Business Journal: "N.C. environmental officials now confirm arsenic levels in the Dan River exceeded state standards for at least two days following the coal ash spill a week ago from a shuttered Duke Energy plant. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources says it made an error when it indicated Thursday that the arsenic levels in the Dan River downstream from the spill were within state standards on Monday and Tuesday." (See also February 8 News Ledes.)

Saturday
Feb082014

The Commentariat -- Feb. 9, 2014

Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "The federal government will soon treat married same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples when they file for bankruptcy, testify in court or visit family in prison. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. was preparing to issue policies aimed at eliminating the distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex married couples in the federal criminal justice system, according to excerpts from a speech prepared for a Saturday event organized by a prominent gay-rights group."

David Sanger & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "Intelligence officials investigating how Edward J. Snowden gained access to roughly 1.7 million of the country's most highly classified documents say they have determined that he used inexpensive and widely available software to 'scrape' the National Security Agency's networks, and kept at it even after he was briefly challenged by agency officials. Using 'web crawler' software designed to search, index and back up a website, Mr. Snowden 'scraped data out of our systems' while he went about his day job, according to a senior intelligence official.... Mr. Snowden's 'insider attack' ... was hardly sophisticated and should have been easily detected, investigators found." CW: Fascinating. I liked the part about the NSA "granting anonymity" to the Times' sources.

Dana Milbank on "immoral" conservatism.

CW: This Washington Post story, by Sandhya Somashekhar, features two people who quit their jobs & are now getting subsidized health insurance. Somashekhar presents them as nice people who quit because of (1) a change of job duties & (2) a family illness. I'm just waiting for the Fox "News" stories about deadbeats & layabouts.

Sharon Begley & Julie Steenhuysen of Reuters: "Hundreds of people with HIV/AIDS in Louisiana trying to obtain coverage under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform are in danger of being thrown out of the insurance plan they selected in a dispute over federal subsidies and the interpretation of federal rules about preventing Obamacare fraud. Some healthcare advocates see discrimination in the move, but Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana says it is not trying to keep people with HIV/AIDS from enrolling in one of its policies under the Affordable Care Act...." ...

     ... CW: This seems like one of those inevitable glitches -- though obviously it doesn't feel like a mere glitch to the people affected -- that the bureaucrats & insurance companies should be able to work out. The question is, is there a mechanism for dealing with these kinds of problems? If so, it hasn't worked here yet.

Follow-up. Ha! Jia Lynn Yang of the Washington Post: "AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong told employees in an e-mail Saturday evening that he was reversing the company's 401(k) policy and apologized for his controversial comments last week.... The policy change would have switched 401(k) matching contributions to an annual lump sum, rather than being distributed throughout the year with every paycheck.... Armstrong tried to explain the changes Thursday but instead stirred up more bad publicity when he blamed the new federal health-care law and medical expenses associated with two 'distressed babies.'"

Slate has a world map showing Obama's 2nd-term nominees for ambassadorships which indicates how much many of the nominees contributed to Obama's campaign coffers.

Here's a reminder from George Will that George Will is creepier than David Brooks.

CW: This New York Times story, by Adam Nossiter, about the harsh treatment of gays in Nigeria, is hardly news (though a new, horrible anti-gay law just went into effect last month). I wonder why the U.N. & countries like, say, the U.S., don't sanction Nigeria in the same way we did South Africa during apartheid days. After all, the apartheid government didn't imprison or stone people for being black. According to the Nossiter story, a Pew Research survey found that 98 percent of Nigerians say homosexuality is "unacceptable." (Yeah, I guess they would say that or fear being "suspect.") You don't have to "accept" someone else's sexuality to treat him humanely. ...

     ... BTW, this story provides a good example of what happens when a country allows religious beliefs to trump human rights. Those self-righteous Little Sisters who won't even sign a form saying they object to contraception should give a little thought to the consequences of their fervor.

... Steve Benen argues that Republicans aren't necessary ignorant & loony; they just tell pollsters they hold ignorant & loony views because of "political tribalism in a period of stark polarization."

Kaitlynn Riely of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "A nun who worked for five years as a registered nurse at the Allegheny County[, Pennsylvania] Jail infirmary was fired last week for spearheading unionization efforts, an organizer for the United Steelworkers union said Monday. Sister Barbara Finch, a Sister of St. Joseph of Baden, had her security clearances revoked and was dismissed from her job Thursday after she expressed concerns about staffing, safety issues and patient care during meetings at the jail, said Randa Ruge, the union organizer.... The Steelworkers union on Friday filed an unfair labor practice charge against Corizon Health Inc., the Tennessee-based firm that manages county jail health services. The charge, sent to the National Labor Relation Board, is that Corizon dismissed her in retaliation for participating in union activities." Via Steve Benen. CW: Also, Finch appears to be another victim of privatization. This is not to suggest that Allegheny County loves public unions, but they have one. And another one.

Reuters: "A Tennessee judge who ordered a baby's name changed from Messiah to Martin, saying the former was reserved for Jesus Christ, has been fired, court officials said on Tuesday.... O. Duane Slone, presiding judge of the state's fourth judicial district..., did not give a reason in his order, but [Lu Ann] Ballew had previously been cited by the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct for an inappropriate religious bias. A hearing is scheduled for March 3.... The parents appealed [Ballew's order], and another judge held that Ballew's ruling was unconstitutional." Also via Benen.

News Lede

CNN: "Two [Brooklyn] men behind bars for more than half their lives over a triple murder walked free this week after DNA evidence tore holes in their convictions. Antonio Yarbough and Sharrif Wilson were teenagers when prison doors clanked shut behind them."