The Ledes

Sunday, May 29, 2016.

New York Times: "Jane Fawcett, who was a reluctant London debutante when she went to work at Bletchley Park, the home of British code-breaking during World War II, and was credited with identifying a message that led to a great Allied naval success, the sinking of the battleship Bismarck, died on May 21 at her home in Oxford, England. She was 95." -- CW 

New York Times: Hedy "Epstein, a Holocaust survivor who spoke widely about the persecution of the Jews in Germany, and who spent most of her adult life working for a broad range of social justice movements, died on Thursday at her home in St. Louis. She was 91.” Epstein made international headlines when she was arrested in St. Louis in 2014 for protesting Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's actions in the aftermath of the Michael Brown police killing case. -- CW 

Washington Post: "Cassandra Q. Butts, who was President Obama’s classmate at Harvard Law School and a longtime member of the president’s inner circle who advised him throughout his political career and served as a deputy White House counsel, died May 25 at her home in Washington. She was 50." -- CW 

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, President Obama solemnly reflected on the meaning of Memorial Day and recognized the sacrifices made by the American warriors who never made it back home":

The Ledes

Saturday, May 28, 2016.

Washington Post: "Bryce Dejean-Jones, a guard for the New Orleans Pelicans, died after being shot in the abdomen early Saturday morning in Dallas, according to Dallas police. Dejean-Jones, 23, was found shot in an apartment breezeway. He died after being taken to a hospital." According to the manager of the apartment complex, Dejean-Jones "was attempting to enter the apartment of an 'estranged acquaintance' but instead entered a different unit and was shot." -- CW 

Washington Post: "A World War II-era fighter plane crashed into the Hudson River on Friday night, killing the pilot, according to New York authorities. Officials said William Gordon, the 56-year-old pilot from Key West, Fla., died in the crash, the Associated Press reported." -- CW

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (May 22): "An outbreak of a life-threatening illness that has been linked to foods packaged by a processing plant in Washington State has prompted a large-scale voluntary recall of frozen fruits and vegetables marketed under 42 brand names. The scale of the recall reflects the severity of the outbreak of the illness, listeria, and of concerns about how the contaminated food might have “trickled down” into other products, said Brittany Behm, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." -- CW

Washington Post: "After an epic duel of word masters, an 11-year-old Texan and a 13-year-old New Yorker tied Thursday night [May 26] in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the third year in a row two victors shared the championship trophy."

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

... Washington Post: The White House goes Scandinavian for a state dinner for the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

New York Times: "Morley Safer, the longest-serving correspondent on '60 Minutes' who was known as much for his hard-hitting reporting as the quirky stories he covered, will formally retire this week after a career in broadcast news that lasted more than 50 years, CBS said on Wednesday. Mr. Safer, 84, served on '60 Minutes' for all but two of its 48 seasons. He started scaling back his appearances on the show after he turned 80; his last segment, a profile of the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, aired in March.... An hourlong program on Sunday, “Morley Safer: A Reporter’s Life,” will, among other highlights, recall an investigation by Mr. Safer that resulted in the freedom of Lenell Geter, a black man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Texas. In an appearance on the special, Mr. Geter credited Mr. Safer with saving his life."

U.K. Telegraph: "A Canadian schoolboy appears to have discovered a lost Mayan city hidden deep in the jungles of Mexico using a new method of matching stars to the location of temples on earth....In hundreds of years of scholarship, no other scientist had ever found such a correlation.... Studying 22 different constellations, [William Gadoury] found that they matched the location of 117 Mayan cities scattered throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. When he applied his theory to a 23rd constellation, he found that two of the stars already had cities linked to them but that the third star was unmatched. William took to Google Maps and projected that there must be another city hidden deep in the thick jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The Canadian Space Agency agreed to train its satellite telescopes on the spot and returned with striking pictures: what appears to be an ancient Mayan pyramid and dozens of smaller structures around it."

Politico: "Fox News chief White House correspondent Ed Henry will not be appearing on the channel for the time being, following a report in In Touch Weekly that he cheated on his wife with a Las Vegas hostess. 'We recently became aware of Ed’s personal issues and he’s taking some time off to work things out,' a Fox News spokesperson told Politico in a statement."

New York Times: “'Hamilton,' the groundbreaking hip-hop musical about the nation’s founding fathers, has been nominated for 16 Tony Awards, the most in Broadway history." ...

... Here's the full list of Tony Award nominees.

MIT News: "For the first time, an international team of astronomers from MIT, the University of Liège in Belgium, and elsewhere have detected three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star, just 40 light years from Earth. The sizes and temperatures of these worlds are comparable to those of Earth and Venus, and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system. The results are published [Monday, May 2] in the journal Nature.... The scientists discovered the planets using TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope), a 60-centimeter telescope operated by the University of Liège, based in Chile."

Washington Post's Reliable Source: At an "afterparty hosted by MSNBC following the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner [Saturday, May 1]..., a scuffle broke out between Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters and Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief.... The two flailed around a bit, upending a table and bumping into several people. 'Punches were definitely thrown,' said one witness. Before any damage was done, several bystanders, including Sean Spicer, communications director at the Republican National Committee, separated the two."

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."

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:

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Tuesday
Mar112014

The Commentariat -- March 12, 2014

Mark Mazzetti & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "A festering conflict between the Central Intelligence Agency and its congressional overseers broke into the open Tuesday when Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the intelligence committee and one of the C.I.A.'s staunchest defenders, delivered an extraordinary denunciation of the agency, accusing it of withholding information about its treatment of prisoners and trying to intimidate committee staff members investigating the detention program." ...

... Via Roll Call, here's the full transcript of Feinstein's speech. ...

... ** New York Times Editors: Sen. "Dianne Feinstein has provided stark and convincing evidence that the C.I.A. may have committed crimes to prevent the exposure of interrogations that she said were 'far different and far more harsh' than anything the agency had described to Congress.... The lingering fog about the C.I.A. detentions is a result of Mr. Obama's decision when he took office to conduct no investigation of them. We can only hope he knows that when he has lost Dianne Feinstein, he has no choice but to act in favor of disclosure and accountability." ...

... Eli Lake of the Daily Beast: "The normally cool and calm director of the CIA, John Brennan, may have flinched Tuesday. After a scathing speech from Sen. Dianne Feinstein..., Brennan largely defended the CIA from charges that it illegally spied on Senate staffers.... But the CIA chief also left open the prospect that he may have been wrong. 'If I did something wrong,' Brennan said. 'I will go to the president and I will explain to him what I did and what the findings were. And he is the one who can ask me to stay or to go.'" CW: Sounds as if he's typed his resignation letter & is prepared to, well, fall on it. Which could lead to a paper cut, not a pre-existing condition that would preclude his getting a lucrative private-sector job. ...

... Paul Lewis of the Guardian: "... Edward Snowden accused the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee of double standards on Tuesday, pointing out that her outrage at evidence her staff were spied on by the CIA was not matched by concern about widespread surveillance of ordinary citizens." ...

If it is correct that the CIA breached the security of Senate computers, that is a very serious allegation. I would note, it is consistent with a pattern of the Obama administration, of disregarding the constitutional liberties of the citizenry and disrespecting the constitutional role of the United States Congress. And I would say that protecting the institutional authority of the U.S. Congress is not helped, when during the State of the Union, President Obama says, 'If Congress won't act, I will,' and virtually every Democrat in Congress stands and cheers. -- Sen. Ted Cruz (RTP-Texas)., forgetting to specifically mention Benghaaazi! ...

... David Corn of Mother Jones: "What Feinstein didn't say -- but it's surely implied -- is that without effective monitoring, secret government cannot be justified in a democracy. This is indeed a defining moment. It's a big deal for President Barack Obama, who, as is often noted in these situations, once upon a time taught constitutional law. Feinstein has ripped open a scab to reveal a deep wound that has been festering for decades. The president needs to respond in a way that demonstrates he is serious about making the system work and restoring faith in the oversight of the intelligence establishment. This is more than a spies-versus-pols DC turf battle. It is a constitutional crisis." ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: "There were crimes, after September 11th, that took place in hidden rooms with video cameras running. And then there were coverups, a whole series of them, escalating from the destruction of the videotapes to the deleting of documents to what Feinstein now calls 'a defining moment' in the constitutional balance between the legislature and the executive branch, and between privacy and surveillance. Senator Patrick Leahy said afterward that he could not remember a speech he considered so important." ...

... Dana Milbank: "President Obama's foes have been trying for years to uncover scandal in his administration. But the most damning allegation of wrongdoing was leveled on the Senate floor Tuesday morning -- by ... Dianne Feinstein.... The White House needs to cough up documents it is withholding from the public, and it should remove the CIA officials involved and subject them to an independent prosecutor's investigation. ...

... Maureen Dowd: "Barack Obama, the former Constitutional law teacher who became president vowing to clean up the excesses and Constitutional corrosion of W. and Cheney, will now have to clean up the excesses and Constitutional corrosion in his own administration. And he'd better get out from between two ferns and get in between the warring Congressional Democrats and administration officials -- all opening criminal investigations of each other -- because it looks as if the C.I.A. is continuing to run amok to cover up what happened in the years W. and Vice encouraged it to run amok. Langley needs a come-to-Jesus moment -- pronto." ...

... CW BTW: If you didn't watch Zack Galifianakis's "Between the Ferns" "interview" of President Obama yesterday, you missed something. President Obama is an excellent comedian. Although I had no trouble playing it early in the day yesterday, I did notice that there were loading problems both with my embed & at the Funny or Die site, as there are now (late Tuesday). An unintentional tribute to Healthcare.gov, I guess. (I had better luck in Chrome than in Firefox.) ...

Abe Lincoln would never have appeared on 'Funny or Die.' -- Bill O'Reilly

[Lincoln was] 'the first authentic humorist to occupy the Executive Office in Washington, his gift of laughter and his flair for the funny being taken as a national belonging. -- Carl Sandburg (via Steve M.)

Personally, I believe that Zack Galifianakis is a Russian agent. You would, too, if you followed O'Reilly's logic. Also, As Steve M. points out, O'Reilly -- the supposed co-author of a book about Lincoln -- seems to know nothing about Lincoln. But, hey -- Bill O'Reilly, Carl Sandburg -- who ya gonna believe? -- Constant Weader

** David Firestone, of the New York Times, responding to commenters' claims that unions "far outspend" the Koch brothers' political contributions: "... unions poured about $400 million into the 2012 elections. That almost matched the $407 million raised and spent by the Koch network in that same election cycle. Two brothers, aided by a small and shadowy group of similarly wealthy donors, spent more than millions of union members.... For the most part, unions, unlike the Koch network, don't try to disguise their contributions in a maze of interlocking 'social welfare' groups.... There's a world of difference between a small group of tycoons writing huge checks, and a huge group of workers writing small ones." P.S. Many Times commenters are ignorant, as is Kim Stassel of the Wall Street Journal.

Eduardo Porter of the New York Times: "In his bracing 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century,' which hit bookstores on Monday, Professor [Thomas] Piketty provides a fresh and sweeping analysis of the world's economic history.... The economic forces concentrating more and more wealth into the hands of the fortunate few are almost sure to prevail for a very long time. It is possible to slow, or even reverse, the trend, if political leaders like President Obama, who proposed that income inequality was the 'defining challenge of our time,' really push." Porter has a Q&A with Piketty here.

Michael Shear & Steven Greenblatt of the New York Times: "President Obama this week will seek to force American businesses to pay more overtime to millions of workers, the latest move by his administration to confront corporations that have had soaring profits even as wages have stagnated. On Thursday, the president will direct the Labor Department to revamp its regulations to require overtime pay for several million additional fast-food managers, loan officers, computer technicians and others whom many businesses currently classify as 'executive or professional' employees to avoid paying them overtime...."

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Almost a million people signed up last month for private health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, federal officials said Tuesday, bringing the total to date to 4.2 million but leaving the Obama administration well short of its original goal, with less than a month to go before the end of the open enrollment period."

The '60s Are Back. Emily Bazelon of Slate: "What the religious right really thinks of birth control: ... Protected sex demeans women by making men disrespect them.... By separating sex from childbearing, birth control is to blame for the erosion of marriage, for the economic difficulties of single motherhood, and even for the rotten behavior of men who beat their girlfriends and wives. Birth control is the original sin of modernity. Its widespread availability changed everything, for the worse." The right of women to have protected sexual relations is what the Supreme Court will decide in two cases coming before it this year.

Charlie Savage of the New York Times & Laura Poitras: Documents leaked by Edward Snowden "add new details to the emerging public understanding of a secret body of law that the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance C]ourt has developed since 2001. The files help explain how the court evolved from its original task -- approving wiretap requests -- to engaging in complex analysis of the law to justify activities like the bulk collection of data about Americans' emails and phone calls."

Nicholas Watt of the Guardian: "The European Union is on course to impose travel bans and to freeze the assets of Russian officials and military officers involved in the occupation of Crimea by next Monday if Moscow declines to accept the formation of a 'contact group' to establish a dialogue with Ukraine."

Where in the World Is Russ Feingold? Stuart Reid has the answer in a long Politico Magazine piece.

Congressional Race

Alex Cleary, et al., of the Tampa Bay Times: "Republican David Jolly on Tuesday night won the closely-watched, extremely expensive and relentlessly negative battle for Florida's 13th Congressional District, signaling trouble for Democrats as they head into the midterm elections and face the weight of Obamacare.... Jolly's victory over Democrat Alex Sink was secured about 7:30 p.m., and he will fill the seat that had been occupied more than four decades by his former boss, Rep. C.W. Bill Young, whose death in October set off the special election."

Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal: "Tuesday night's special election in Florida should be a serious scare for Democrats who worry that Obamacare will be a major burden for their party in 2014. Despite recruiting favored candidate Alex Sink, outspending Republicans, and utilizing turnout tools to help motivate reliable voters, Democrats still lost to Republican lobbyist David Jolly -- and it wasn't particularly close."

Greg Sargent: "... there are too many variables in play to say whether this means Dems will be in serious trouble in states like Michigan and Colorado many months from now. Maybe they will be, but we just don;t know yet." ...

** Charles Pierce: "If you want to take any lesson from the election in Florida, take this one. Defend the [Affordable Care Act]. Defend it on the basis of the fact that millions of people no longer face economic ruin because a member of their family might get sick. Defend the law on the basis of economic populism; marry your support for the law to an increase in the minimum wage, Elizabeth Warren's student-loan reform, and expanded unemployment benefits. (Tie it to this excellent idea that the president announced today.) Explain, in detail, why expanding Social Security makes sense in a stalled economy. Defend the law on the basis of the fact that the Republicans have absolutely nothing to offer on the issue...."

David Nir of Daily Kos: "Daily Kos Elections is moving this [November's] race [for Florida's 13th] from Tossup to Lean Republican, though we anticipate it will become less competitive and not more so in the future."

Beyond the Beltway Disgusting

Travis Gettys of the Raw Story: "... New Hampshire Republican ... State Rep. Kyle Tasker (R-Nottingham) posted an image Monday on his public Facebook page that showed two figures engaged in oral sex with the caption, '50,000 battered women and I still eat [mine] plain.'" ...

... William Tucker of Miscellany.blue posts the original Facebook entry. ...

... CW: New Hampshire legislators receive a salary of $100/year. Tasker is overpaid. His colleagues should impeach him.

News Ledes

New York Times: "After four days of reticence and evasive answers, the Malaysian military acknowledged on Wednesday that it had recorded, but initially ignored, radar signalsthat could have prompted a mission to intercept and track a missing jetliner -- data that vastly expands the area where the plane might have traveled. Radar signals from the location where the missing aircraft, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, was last contacted by ground controllers suggested that the plane may have turned away from its northeastward.... Military radar then detected an unidentified aircraft at several points, apparently headed west across the Malay Peninsula and out into the Indian Ocean, the head of the country's air force told reporters. The last detected location was hundreds of miles to the west of where search and rescue efforts were initially focused."

New York Times: "The nutritional supplement company Herbalife said on Wednesday that it had received a civil investigative demandfrom the Federal Trade Commission. The company has been the focus of a 15-month crusade by the hedge fund billionaire William A. Ackman, who has accused the company of being a pyramid scheme and has wagered $1 billion on its collapse."

Monday
Mar102014

The Commentariat -- March 11, 2014

NEW. Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "The chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday accused the Central Intelligence Agency of improperly removing documents from computers that committee staff members had been using to complete a report on the agency's detention program, saying the move was part of an effort to intimidate the committee. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and the chairwoman of the committee, suggested on the Senate floor that the agency had violated federal law and said the C.I.A. had undermined Congress's constitutional right to oversee the actions of the executive branch.... John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, denied Ms. Feinstein's assertions...."

Jay Newton-Small of Time: "As predicted, the Senate on Monday passed landmark legislation overhauling the regulations on how the Defense Department handles cases of sexual assault. The bill, passed the the legislation 97-0. It now goes to the House where passage is also likely. The measure's success was all but assured Friday after a competing bill sponsored by New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand failed to overcome a Senate filibuster.... Gillibrand ... vowed to continue fighting for her measure. The key difference between the two bills is that Gillibrand's legislation would have taken the prosecution of sexual assault cases out of the chain of command and given it to the Judge Advocates General Corps."

Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "Democratic Senators preparing to lead an all-nighter of climate speeches on Monday admitted a climate change bill would collapse in today's Congress -- but said they hoped to prime the politics for 2015 and the 2016 presidential race. More than two dozen Democratic Senators signed on to participate in an all-night session of speeches on climate change which was scheduled to run from about 6.30pm on Monday night to the start of the working day on Tuesday." ...

... Give 'em Hell, Harry. Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) used an all-night climate change campaign in the Senate to once again bash Charles and David Koch. 'It's time to stop acting like those who ignore this crisis -- the oil baron Koch brothers and their allies in Congress -- have a valid point of view,' Reid said Monday evening. 'But despite overwhelming scientific evidence and overwhelming public opinion, climate change deniers still exist. They exist in this country and in this Congress.'" ...

... New York Times Editors: "Mr. Reid's comments [about the Koch brothers] have gone to the heart of the matter. In his most recent speech [before last night], he pointed out that the fundamental purpose of the Kochs' spending is to rig the economic system for their benefit and for that of other oligarchs. They own an industrial network that ranks No. 14 on the list of the most toxic American air polluters, and got their money's worth in 2010 by helping elect a Republican House majority that has resisted environmental regulation.

ObamaScare, Ctd. Remember Julie Boonstra, the cancer patient who appears in a Koch-funded ad with an ObamaScare story that was largely debunked? Well, now, Jonathan Chait reports, Julie's story has been completely debunked. Turns out Julie is the ex-wife of a Republican county chairman AND, besides being protected under ObamaCare from insurance cancellation because of her illness, her new, ObamaCare-approved policy is substantially cheaper than her old one. Julie's reaction, via the Detroit News:

When advised of the details of her Blues' plan, Boonstra said the idea that it would be cheaper 'can't be true. I personally do not believe that.'

     ... Digby: "You know, I probably have as much disdain for Republicans as they have for me. But if one of them were to show me irrefutable proof that say, America has fewer gun deaths than other places due to our proliferation of gun ownership, I would have no choice but to believe it. These people simply put their fingers in their ears and sing 'lalalalala'." ...

     ... Glenn Kessler downgrades Julie's story from two to three Pinocchios. CW: Looks like a four to me. Maybe he's cutting her slack for stupid. Or cancer. ...

     ... CW: I strongly urge President Obama to send Julie to one of his re-education camps. ...

... OR, Maybe Julie could just watch "Between Two Ferns," definitely a better source of info on healthcare coverage than Koch TV:

     ... If you're confused, Michael Shear of the New York Times does his best to explain parody & satire. ...

     ... Update: Brian Fung of the Washington Post: "Zach Galifianakis is now Healthcare.gov's biggest traffic driver."

The GOP Is a Mess. Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "While much attention has been devoted to the split between the establishment and the Tea Party, the growing divide along generational lines among Republicans could cause a significant a rift. Younger conservatives are more firmly staking out a libertarian orientation on social issues in a way that will shape the 2016 presidential primary as candidates seek to appeal to activists who are in the party because of social issues and also to younger voters who see some aspects of cultural conservatism as intolerant." ...

... Joclyn Kiley of Pew Research: "Today, 61% of Republicans and Republican leaners under 30 favor same-sex marriage while just 35% oppose it. By contrast, just 27% of Republicans ages 50 and older favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry." ...

     ... There Must Always Be a Krugman. CW: As the GOP evolves (it's not impossible!), it was be more fair-minded on issues that have important social but more minor economic impacts. On matters that directly affect economic policy, think Gold Standard & Freeeedom! ...

... ALSO, Charles Pierce notices that even the best & the brightest GOP "intellectuals" -- Rand Paul, M.D., Duke; Bobby Jindal, M.Litt., Oxford -- are stoopid.

HHS Is a Mess. Elize Viebeck of the Hill: "The Obama administration is abandoning a surprise plan to alter Medicare's drug coverage after receiving withering criticism from Congress and K Street. Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner alerted lawmakers Monday that her agency would not go forward with a proposal to give insurers more leeway to limit the number of drugs they cover for Medicare beneficiaries.... The Obama administration's quixotic push to alter Part D in an election year stunned the healthcare world when the regulations came out in January. The vote on the House GOP bill to block the regulation is likely headed for approval in a bipartisan vote, and House Republicans have kept the bill on their schedule for the week."

Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Top senators are crafting a package that includes both direct aid to Ukraine and targeted sanctions in an effort to rapidly provide assistance to the new, pro-Western government in Kiev." ...

... Patrick Wintour & Paul Lewis of the Guardian: "Western officials will meet in London on Tuesday to identify Russians who will be subject to asset freezes and travel bans that officials hope will persuade Moscow to withdraw its presence from Crimea. The sanctions, which the British prime minister, David Cameron, indicated would be imposed within days, come as tensions escalate in the Crimean peninsula, where unidentified men reportedly fired warning shots as they moved into a Ukranian naval base on Monday."

Steven Myers of the New York Times: "As Russia tightened its grip on Crimea, Ukraine&'s ousted president appealed on Tuesday to the country's military units to refuse to follow the orders of the new interim authorities, declaring that he remained commander in chief and would return to the country as soon as conditions permitted."

Katie Glueck of Politico: "Former President Bill Clinton on Monday jabbed Russian President Vladimir Putin for treating Ukraine as a 'piece on the international chessboard' without concern for its people, and added that pushing the country toward a split was a 'crazy,' outdated maneuver."

Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "America's spy agencies are so focused on 'mass surveillance' that they have missed clues about terrorist incidents, such as last year's Boston Marathon bombing and an attempted attack on a jetliner on Christmas in 2009, former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden said Monday. In an hour-long video discussion hosted by the South by Southwest music, film and technology conference in Austin, Snowden, who is living in asylum in an undisclosed location in Russia, asserted that the National Security Agency's efforts to collect information in bulk have backfired." ...

... John Swaine & Jemima Kiss (which I assume are their real names) of the Guardian: "Edward Snowden ... insisted on Monday that his actions had improved the national security of the United States rather than undermined it and declared that he would do it all again despite the personal sacrifices he had endured." ...

... Video of the full interview is here. ...

... CW: Here's what I wanna know. If the NSA is such a savvy spy agency, can't they find Snowden when he's bopping around this undisclosed location giving hour-long video conferences? Oh, even tho he appeared "through seven proxies." ...

... AP: "A federal judge in San Francisco stopped the destruction of millions of telephone records collected by the National Security Agency more than five years ago. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, who is overseeing an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against the agency, issued a nationwide order Monday to safeguard evidence until March 19, when he will hold a hearing on extending the deadline further. The secret federal court that approved the agency's surveillance has required that documents be purged after five years for privacy reasons. On Friday, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court denied the federal government's request to keep the records for the sake of pending lawsuits." CW: Huh. I wasn't aware a district judge could overrule the FISA court. Guess so.

Longing for Lemmings. CW: I haven't punished myself lately, so I thought I'd read David Brooks. He is very worried that young Americans are not interested in getting into world conflicts. This is not because they're isolationists but because they have no faith in the top-down org chart, according to Brooks: "For the first time in recorded history, a majority of Americans believe that their country has a declining influence on what's happening around the globe.... We live in a country in which many people [naively] act as if history is leaderless. Events emerge spontaneously from the ground up. Such a society is very hard to lead and summon. It can be governed only by someone who arouses intense moral loyalty, and even that may be fleeting." ...

... CW: Not too sure how much world influence Americans thought the U.S. had in, say, 1789 or 1812 or 1864, even though Brooks may be surprised to learn that folks were recording history way back then. Brooks's column seems to be his supposedly-data-driven version of the Giuliani authoritarian wet dream.

Sharon Otterman of the New York Times: "The head bishop of the United Methodist Church in New York on Monday committed to ending church trials in his region for ministers who perform same sex-marriages, essentially freeing them to conduct a ceremony still prohibited under his denomination's laws."

AP: "Aretha Franklin has much R-E-S-P-E-C-T for President Barack Obama -- regardless of his spelling skills. At a White House concert last Thursday, Obama dropped the initial 'E' when trying to spell out 'respect' as the queen of soul does in her famous song. 'I'm sure the President had much on his agenda and was just a little tired,' the 71-year-old singer said in a statement Monday." CW: I hope we can now put behind us this embarrassing episode, so we don't have to read any more stuff like this:

... Taylor Bigler of the Daily Caller, republished on Fox Nation: "Aretha Franklin may spell out the word 'Respect' several times throughout her synonymous song, but that doesn't mean Harvard-educated President Obama knows how to spell it.... Come on, Barry! Every 30-year-old woman worth her salt knows the 'Respect' lyrics down pat...." ...

... That was last week. This was yesterday:

     ... Now mayb Fox "Nws" will nvr pick on Prsidnt Obama again.

Congressional Race

Ben Jacobs of the Daily Beast Does Not Believe All Politics Is Local: "Tuesday's special election in Florida's 13th congressional district is a big deal. It won't just determine whether House Republicans have a majority of 17 or 18, it will be the first significant referendum on Barack Obama's job performance and the Affordable Care Act in the president's second term." ...

... Greg Sargent (CW: rightly, I think) disagrees. "The special election is not a 'bellwether.'"

New Jersey News

Kate Zernicke & Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: "... long before the lane closings, the Port Authority ... had already been turned into a de facto political operation for Governor Christie, a review of the agency's operations since Mr. Christie took office suggests."

William Rashbaum & Kate Zernicke of the New York Times: "Federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Friday subpoenaed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for records related to potential conflicts of interest involving its chairman, David Samson, a prominent New Jersey lawyer and close political ally of Gov. Chris Christie, according to people briefed on the matter.... An examination of possible conflicts of interest involving Mr. Samson would appear to represent a significant widening of the scandal." ...

     ... Update. Shawn Boburg of the Bergen Record: "Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have withdrawn a subpoena seeking records related to Port Authority Chairman David Samson, knowledgeable sources said Monday afternoon. The subpoena, received by the Port Authority on Friday, was withdrawn Monday afternoon.... The exact reason was unclear, but the sources said that the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, who was already investigating the Port Authority's closure of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, would likely take over any potential inquiry into Samson...."

Darryl Isherwood of NJ.com: "Bridget Kelly has no Fifth Amendment right to withhold documents created while carrying out her job as a government employee, an attorney for the legislative committee investigating Bridgegate said in a brief filed in advance of tomorrow's hearing seeking to compel Kelly to answer a subpoena from the committee."

News Ledes

AP: "General Motors faced more pressure over its handling of a deadly defect in certain compact cars Tuesday as word leaked of a criminal investigation and two congressional committees opened probes into the matter. The Justice Department is investigating whether GM broke any laws with its slow response to a problem with ignition switches in compact cars from model years 2003 to 2007."

Washington Post: "Attorneys for an Army general [-- Brig. Gen Jeffrey A. Sinclair --] charged with sexual assault said Tuesday that they have decided to try to renegotiate a plea bargain with a new set of military officials after the judge determined that the case may have been improperly influenced by political concerns."

Tampa Bay Times: "Several polling places reported a good turnout early Tuesday as Pinellas County voters selected a new representative for District 13. The race between Republican David Jolly and Democrat Alex Sink has garnered national attention and prompted contributions of an unprecedented $12 million in campaign funds. A third candidate, Libertarian Lucas Overby, is also on the ballot."

New York Times: "The Malaysian authorities now believe that a jetliner missing since Saturday may have radically changed course around the time that it stopped communicating with ground controllers. But there were conflicting accounts of the course change and what may have happened afterward, adding to the air of confusion and disarray surrounding the investigation and search operation." ...

... New York Times: "The Malaysian police said on Tuesday that one of the two passengers known to have used stolen passports to board the missing Malaysian airliner was a 19-year-old Iranian who wanted to migrate to Germany and appeared to have no connection to terrorist organizations." ...

     ... New Lede: " International police authorities said on Tuesday that two Iranians known to have used stolen passports to board the Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared on Saturday were unlikely to be linked to terrorist groups, echoing an assessment by the Malaysian police that one of them was a 19-year-old Iranian who wanted to migrate to Germany."

... New York Times: "... according to [Interpol], only three countries -- the United States, Britain and the United Arab Emirates -- systematically screen travelers against the agency's database of stolen passports. "

Washington Post: Joe "McGinniss, the adventurous and news-making author and reporter who skewered the marketing of Richard Nixon in 'The Selling of the President 1968' and tracked his personal journey from sympathizer to scourge of convicted killer Jeffrey MacDonald in the blockbuster 'Fatal Vision,' died Monday at age 71."

Sunday
Mar092014

The Commentariat -- March 10, 2014

Anthony Faiola & Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "The head of Ukraine's new pro-Western government will meet with President Obama this week, the White House announced Sunday, as a defiant Russia took further steps to consolidate its hold on the Crimean Peninsula. The announcement of Wednesday's meeting in Washington with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk came as pro-Russia forces extended their reach in Crimea, surrounding a border post in the far west and blocking Ukrainian TV broadcasts to the heavily-Russian-speaking region.... There were reports of more troop movements into Crimea, with officials in Kiev estimating that 18,000 pro-Russian forces had fanned out across the region...." ...

... Tim Sullivan & Yuras Karmanau of the AP profile Sergey Aksyonov, Crimea's new prime minister: "'He wasn't a criminal big shot,' said Andriy Senchenko, now a member of Ukraine's Batkivshchyna party, which was at the forefront of the Kiev protests that led last month to the downfall of pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych. Senchenko described Aksyonov as a 'brigade leader' in a gang that was often involved in extortion rackets." CW: So he's a professional thug. The GOP should love this guy. ...

... Fred Kaplan of Slate: "When this crisis got underway two weeks ago, it seemed absurd that the United States and Russia might go to war over the fate of Ukraine. But both of their leaders have stumbled and bumbled so badly in the meantime, and the exit-ramp is so littered with bombs and barricades, nothing seems impossible." ...

... Kevin Drum: "... to suggest that [Putin] was motivated by weakness in US foreign policy is flatly crazy. He was motivated by fear; by shock over the speed of events in Kiev; by a sense of betrayal when the February 21 agreement collapsed; by nationalistic fervor; by domestic political considerations; by provocative actions from the new Ukrainian parliament; by an increasing insularity among his inner circle; and by just plain panic." ...

... Send in the Crazy. A critical reason for Putin's aggression has been President Obama's weakness. That Putin fears no retribution. Their policy has been to alienate and abandon our friends and coddle and appease our enemies. You better believe that Putin sees in Benghazi, four Americans are murdered and nothing happens, no retribution. You better believe that Putin sees that in Syria, Obama draws a red line and ignores it. -- Ted Cruz, on "This Week"

... Daniel Politi of Slate: "Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Fox News that there was little chance Ukraine would be able to get back control of Crimea. 'I do not believe that Crimea will slip out of Russia's hands,' Gates said in an interview on Sunday. 'You think Crimea's gone?' Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked. 'I do,' the former defense secretary replied. Gates also went on to defend Obama, noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin 'invaded Georgia when George W. Bush was president -- no one accused George W. Bush of being weak or unwilling to use military force.'" CW: Could be good news for Ukraine. Gates, an expert on Russia, gets a lot wrong about Russia & other stuff.

Paul Krugman: "... moving American policies part of the way toward European norms [of reducing inequality] would probably increase, not reduce, economic efficiency.... What's good for the 1 percent isn't good for America."

Sadhbh Walshe of the Guardian on slavery today -- not uncommon, & hiding in plain sight. CW: I don't mean to minimize the misery of modern slavery, but it seems to me to be an extension of the way many "respectable" corporations -- like WalMart & (especially) Amazon -- treat their "non-slave" workers. Modern-day slavery in the U.S. is a matter of degree.

Erica Goode of the New York Times: "In a little-noticed outcome of President Obama's Affordable Care Act, jails and prisons around the country are beginning to sign up inmates for health insurance under the law, taking advantage of the expansion of Medicaid that allows states to extend coverage to single and childless adults -- a major part of the prison population."

E. J. Dionne: "If conservative rethinkers such as [Paul] Ryan have more than rhetorical and tactical differences with [Ted] Cruz, they have yet to prove it." ...

Canadians are so polite, mild-mannered, modest, unassuming, open-minded. Thank God my family fled that oppressive influence before it could change me. -- Texas Sen. Ted Cruz

More funny stuff from the annual Gridiron Dinner here.

... Charles Pierce did do a fine takedown of Sarah Palin. We should, of course, carry Palin's performance past Palin, as Pierce does: " She is in perpetual tantrum, railing against her betters, which is practically everyone, and volunteering for the job of avatar to the country's reckless vandal of a political Id. It was the address of a malignant child delivered to an audience of malignant children." Thanks to Rockygirl for the link.

David Dayen at the New Republic: The Federal Reserve gives a subsidy, which "comes in the form of a 6 percent dividend, paid on stock that over 2,900 banks purchase to participate in the Federal Reserve system. Very few places where ordinary Americans park their money offer such a risk-free benefit. In 2012 (the last year with available data), the Fed gave away $1.637 billion in dividends to banks, tax-free in the majority of cases. And the Fed has been doing this for the last 100 years. It's one of the many unknown ways the Fed extends special benefits to Wall Street."

How to Make a Billion Dollars. Short a company, then lobby for its demise. Michael Schmidt & others report for the New York Times on hedge fund billionaire William Ackman's extraordinary efforts to bring down the nutritional supplement fim Herbalife.

Greg Palast in TruthDig: "... under a new Post Office plan endorsed by [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren, the P.O. would team up with commercial banks to cash in on payday predation, exempting themselves from the Warren rules.... The Post Office projects it can suck $8.9 billion a year from America's poorest if they can just get into this payday loan racket." ...

... CW: If, as Palast claims (rather obliquely) at one point that the USPS would charge 34 percent interest, then obviously it's a ripoff. And he's right about this: "Instead of letting American Express run tests on us, Senator, why not let post offices partner with not-for-profit credit unions to offer real banking services, not usury, to the public?" David Dayen wrote in January why USPS banking services are a great idea. Michelle Chen, writing for Bill Moyers' Journal is all for it, too, though she does caution about the type of relationship the USPS might develop with big banks.

White Shoes & Handcuffs. James Stewart in the New Yorker: "Many law firms have failed over the years, but none as spectacularly as Dewey & LeBoeuf, the namesake 'global super firm' of the former Republican Presidential nominee Thomas E. Dewey. On Thursday, Cyrus Vance, Jr., the Manhattan D.A., unveiled lengthy indictments charging Steven Davis, the firm's former chairman; Stephen DiCarmine, its executive director; and Joel Sanders, its chief financial officer."

Andrew Solomon of the New Yorker interviews Peter Lanza, the father of mass murderer Adam Lanza.

Sarah Posner in Politico Magazine: "Persecuted, which opens in theaters May 9, is a political thriller about an evangelist facing down a government threat to destroy religious freedom in America.... Persecuted screened this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside of Washington, D.C., and it couldn't have found a more sympathetic audience. The tribulations of the evangelist, not so subtly named John Luther, seem calculated to capitalize on conservative claims that a tyrannical government is infringing on their religious freedom." ...

     ... CW: You might want to read Posner's review in conjunction with the piece by Amanda Marcotte on the right's persecution fantasies, which I linked a couple of days ago.

Local News

Cowboys & Indians. The Sooners' Oklahoma land grab isn't over yet. Also, Jim Inhofe, always in there for anything despicable. David Rogers of Politico reports.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The mystery of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 deepened on Monday when a sweeping search failed to find any sign of the jetliner near its last known location, leaving experts to puzzle over how a Boeing 777 with 239 people aboard could have vanished without a trace. The search was set back by a number of false leads that seemed to underline how little investigators have been able to pin down about the progress of the flight." ...

... Guardian: "Confusion mounted on Monday over the identities of the two passengers travelling with stolen passports aboard missing flight MH370 after reviews of CCTV footage prompted a Malaysian official to describe them as resembling a black Italian footballer. Civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that the men, who had been travelling on stolen Italian and Austrian passports, were 'not Asian looking' and may have been part of a stolen passport syndicate."

Washington Post: "Russia and its sympathizers seized control of more Ukrainian military bases and facilities in Crimea on Monday while Moscow issued threatening statements about eastern Ukraine that signaled Russia's intention to play a significant role in the country's future. At least four Ukrainian military bases, including one stocked with missiles, were overrun by armed men in uniforms who say they are members of local self-defense units, which are typically under the command of Russian military officers. The headquarters of the Ukrainian naval fleet had its electricity cut, and the director of a military hospital was ousted and a replacement installed by the pro-Russian militia that took over." ...

... AFP: "Russia has deliberately sunk three of its own ships to block Ukrainian navy vessels entering a lake off the Black Sea, officers say, highlighting Moscow's determination to wear down the morale of Kiev's forces in Crimea." ...

... Reuters: "Russian President Vladimir Putin defended breakaway moves by the pro-Russian leaders of Crimea on Sunday in a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, according to the Kremlin."

Saturday
Mar082014

The Commentariat -- March 9, 2014

 

Martin Pengelly of the Guardian: "President Barack Obama on Saturday spoke to world leaders including David Cameron of Great Britain and François Hollande of France about the continuing crisis in Ukraine. Also on Saturday, secretary of state John Kerry warned his Russian counterpart that any steps to annex the Crimea region would 'close any available space for diplomacy'." ...

... In a Washington Post op-ed, Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attributes the Ukraine crisis to the Obama administration's "reset" of relations with Russia. ...

     ... CW: What you see here is the shaping of the 2016 presidential campaign. If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, we are going to hear again & again that she weakened the U.S.'s standing in the world, from emboldening the Russians to letting terrorists get away with murder (see Rand Paul/Benghaaaazi below). ...

... Historian Timothy Snyder in the New York Review of Books on Putin's takeover of the Crimea: "... propaganda is all that unites the tactics and the dream, and that unity turns out to be wishful. There is no actual policy, no strategy, just a talented and tortured tyrant oscillating between mental worlds that are connected only by a tissue of lies." ...

... David Remnick of the New Yorker on "Putin's pique."

Maureen Dowd sets up one her Diss-Obama columns, but she ends up criticizing everybody: Republicans, Democrats, pundits & Obama. Seems fair. ...

... Here's Obama, misspelling "RESPECT." CW: Sorry, I'm not shocked & horrified:

Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post: "One day after riveting a packed convention ballroom, tea party darling Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) topped the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll, his second consecutive victory in the conservative confab's contest. Paul won 31 percent of the vote (compared with the 25 percent he won last year), beating a crowded field of more than two dozen names, including a number of potential 2016 GOP presidential contenders. He crushed second-place finisher Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who came in with 11 percent." ...

Oh, just listen:

... Here's proof of Bachmann's claim to an "intellectual movement":

... Missed this one: Aqua Buddha Despatches the Clintons. Alexandra Jaffe of the Hill: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Friday knocked former President Clinton as a 'throwback to a sort of troglodyte time,' where men took advantage of women in the workplace.... He said, however, he doesn't believe Clinton's indiscretions should disqualify his wife from the presidency. However, 'not sending reinforcements into Benghazi should disqualify her,' he said."

Hillary Stout, et al., of the New York Times: "Federal safety regulators received more than 260 complaints over the last 11 years about General Motors vehicles that suddenly turned off while being driven, but they declined to investigate the problem, which G.M. now says is linked to 13 deaths and requires the recall of more than 1.6 million cars worldwide."

The First Amendment Meets the Second Amendment. Andrew Wolfson of the Louisville Courier-Journal: "In an effort its spokesman has described as 'outreach to rednecks,' the Kentucky Baptist Convention is leading 'Second Amendment Celebrations,' where churches around the state give away guns as door prizes to lure in nonbelievers in hopes of converting them to Christ." Via Steve Benen. ...

... Glenn Blain & Rich Schapiro of the New York Daily News: "An upstate [New York] pastor is planning to give away an unholy raffle prize at an upcoming service: an AR-15 assault rifle. 'We're honoring gun owners and hunters,' the Rev. John Koletas, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Troy, told the Daily News. 'And we're being a blessing and a help to people who have been attacked, viciously attacked, by socialists and anti-Christian people -- the politicians and the media.'" Also via Benen.

Congressional Race

Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times on the special election -- to be held Tuesday -- to replace long-time Florida GOP Rep. Bill Young.

News Ledes

Guardian: "Vice-President Joe Biden has given a stark assessment of the ongoing unrest in Venezuela, accusing President Nicolás Maduro of widespread human rights violations and saying the situation reminded him of Latin America's troubled and violent past. In a written interview with El Mercurio of Chile, where Biden arrived on Sunday at the start of his seventh official visit to the region, he called the unstable situation in Venezuela 'alarming' and said the Caracas government lacked even basic respect for human rights."

Los Angeles Times: "At least a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns kidnapped by Syrian rebels near Damascus in December were released on Sunday, according to Syria's official news agency and Lebanese media reports."

Guardian: "... John Kerry on Sunday released a statement marking the seventh anniversary of the disappearance of Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who went missing on an Iranian island and was last year reported to have been working for the CIA at the time."

Washington Post: "Vietnamese aircraft located possible debris from the vanished Malaysia Airlines plane late Sunday, including a rectangular object that could have been a door, but officials said it was too dark to confirm if they came from the airliner. Experts had been puzzled by the failure to find debris from the airliner nearly two days after it disappeared from radar screens in the Gulf of Thailand and was presumed to have crashed with 239 people on board."

New York Times: "... the discovery that two of the passengers [aboard the Malaysian airliner that disappeared over the Gulf of Thailand] were carrying stolen passports also raised the unsettling possibility of foul play." ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging developments.