Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President discussed climate change and how the most ambitious climate agreement in history is creating private sector partnerships that are advancing the latest technologies in clean power.":

Hill: "President Obama will send a budget to Congress that increases the amount of funding toward clean energy research and development by about 20 percent, he said Saturday."

The Wires

White House Live Video
February 5

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Timess: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

New York Times: "Twitter is experimenting with introducing a longer form of tweet, according to two people familiar with the company’s plans, in what would be another gradual move away from the simplistic design sensibility that the service was originally founded upon. The project, which internally has been referred to as 'beyond 140,' is still in its testing phase and is not set to be introduced until at least March...."

Washington Post: "Four newly discovered elements managed to squeak their way in[to the periodic table] just before the end of 2015, filling up the table's seventh row and marking the first additions since 2011." CW: Since I know squat about chemistry, let me say here -- in the fullness of my ignorance -- that the periodic table should stick with elements that occur in nature. If chemists want a "sub-periodic table" to show off their lab-created, unstable elements, let 'em have it. I don't see how an "element" can be artificial. Anyone who knows what s/he's talking about is free to set me straight.

TPM: "Twitter announced Thursday it's bringing back Politwoops, the popular gaffe-tracking transparency tool that tracked politicians' deleted tweets, after unceremoniously killing off the service earlier this year.... Twitter revoked developer API access for the project, a venture of The Sunlight Foundation and The Open State Foundation, in August 2015."

If you are interested in what George Lucas thinks about the "Star Wars" series & other stuff, you can find out here, presuming Charlie Rose doesn't monopolize the conversation (okay, silly presumption). ...

... Later Lucas said he was sorry he said some of those nasty things.

... Hank Stuever of the Washington Post: The "final episodes of 'Downton Abbey' are among the show’s best since the first season — and they’ll reassure those hoping for the happiest possible endings for nearly every character."

BBC News: "A monument from a temple in the ancient city of Palmyra destroyed by so-called Islamic State (IS) is to be recreated in London's Trafalgar Square. The 2,000-year-old arch is all that remains of the Temple of Bel, part of the Syrian Unesco World Heritage site, captured by militants in May. It will be recreated from photographs, using a 3D printer. The institute behind the project hopes the arch will draw attention to the importance of cultural heritage." ...

... John Brennan & Sarah Knapton of the (Irish) Independent: "Ireland's saints and scholars were descended from farmers and bronze metalworkers from the Middle East and modern-day Ukraine, scientists have found. Researchers have sequenced ancient Irish human genomes for the first time. They discovered mass migrations to Ireland thousands of years ago resulted in huge changes to the ancient Irish genetic make-up. A team of geneticists from Trinity College Dublin and archaeologists from Queen's University Belfast made the findings, which show a massive shift in our genetic mix over the course of just 1,000 years. They believe the genetic influxes brought cultural change such as moving to settled farmsteads, bronze metalworking - and may have even been the origin of western Celtic language." ...

... CW: One trouble with denigrating certain ethnic groups: we're all cousins. Sorry, "white" people.

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Sunday
Nov172013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 18, 2013

** Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Gov. Steve Beshear (D-Ky.) & Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-Conn.), in a Washington Post op-ed: "In our states ... the Affordable Care Act, or 'Obamacare,' is working. Tens of thousands of our residents have enrolled in affordable health-care coverage. Many of them could not get insurance before the law was enacted. People keep asking us why our states have been successful. Here's a hint: It's not about our Web sites.... The Affordable Care Act has been successful in our states because our political and community leaders grasped the importance of expanding health-care coverage and have avoided the temptation to use health-care reform as a political football." ...

... The Best Health Care in the World. Is Someplace Else. New York Times Editors: "Even as Americans struggle with the changes required by health care reform, an international survey released last week by the Commonwealth Fund..., shows why change is so necessary. The report found that by virtually all measures of cost, access to care and ease of dealing with insurance problems, Americans fared poorly compared with people in other advanced countries.... The [ACA], however imperfect, is needed to bring the dysfunctional American health care system up to levels already achieved in other advanced nations." CW: This isn't news to Reality Chex readers, but it bears repeating. ...

... ** NEW. T. R. Reid of "Frontline" on the four basic healthcare systems established in various nations around the world. If you were wondering why ours is such a mess, Reid's brief post addresses that. Thanks to contributor Whyte O. for this illuminating link.

Julie Pace of the AP: "... the president is fighting to regain trust and credibility with the American people. Those are the same qualities that helped keep him afloat during those earlier battles.... As bad as things are for Obama, they may be worse for many members of Congress. Democrats in both the House and Senate worry the health care problems could dim their re-election chances next year. Republicans are saddled with historically low approval ratings and an internal debate over the direction of their party, though the heath law woes have proved a lifeline following the GOP's much-criticized handling of the government shutdown." ...

... Ed O'Keefe & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "The recent debacle over HealthCare.gov's rollout may have narrowed whatever perceived advantages Democratic candidates may have had over Republican opponents. In some minds, the health-care law's flubs have merged with the government shutdown to render an unfavorable verdict on all of Washington." ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "New Hampshire may be ground zero in the political war over the Affordable Care Act, a state where the three Democratic members of the congressional delegation are under serious threat because of the fumbled rollout of the health care law. Suddenly they must balance their loyalty to the White House with the needs of an angry constituency that has had to absorb some of the worst problems with the new law. The problems are many." ...

... Evan McMurry of Mediate: "'The political notion that next year's election, or 2016, the Republican platform is going to be getting rid of health care?' [David] Plouffe[, a former advisor to President Obama, said on ABC News's 'This Week.'] 'Millions of people will be signed up. It's an impossibility.'" ...

... David Morgan & Deborah Zabarenko of Reuters: "Two days after 39 House Democrats joined Republicans on a bill aimed at undermining the law known as Obamacare, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi denied that Democrats have lost confidence in Obama's ability to overcome a botched rollout of his signature domestic policy achievement." ...

... Greg Clary of CNN: "House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Sunday neither she nor President Barack Obama misled the American people when they said, during the run-up to the passage of Obamacare, that people could keep their health insurance plans. Pelosi clarified their remarks, saying they only meant people could keep their plans if they had already signed up before Obama signed the bill in 2010." ...

... Ashley Killough of CNN: Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), "the No. 3 House Democrat, on Sunday blamed a culture of sound bites for President Barack Obama's reneged promise that Americans would be able to keep their existing health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.... Clyburn, the House assistant Democratic leader, said Obama relied too heavily on a sound bite-friendly selling point, rather than spelling out that he was only referring to plans in place before the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010 and hadn't changed since." ...

... Aaron Davis of the Washington Post: "A day after he questioned President Obama's decision to unwind a major tenet of the health-care law and said the nation's capital might not go along, D.C. insurance commissioner William P. White was fired. White was called into a meeting Friday afternoon with one of Mayor Vincent C. Gray's (D) top deputies and told that the mayor 'wants to go in a different direction,' White told The Washington Post on Saturday.... White's statement was removed from the department's Web site sometime before Friday morning." ...

     ... The New York Times "The story is here. "Mr. White's statement took direct issue with Mr. Obama's decision, saying the president's policy reversal to allow the continuation of canceled policies 'undercuts the purpose of the exchanges, including the District's DC Health Link, by creating exceptions that make it more difficult for them to operate.'" ...

     ... Update. Aaron Davis: "A fuller accounting of D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray's (D) firing of the city's insurance commissioner is coming into view. Documents and interviews show that criticism of William P. White was immediate and fierce inside Gray's office last week when White issued a statement critical of President Obama's proposed fix to part of the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act.... White spent Sunday polishing his résumé."

... A Cautionary Tale. Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "Angry Americans voice outrage at being asked to pay more for health coverage. Lawmakers and the White House say the public just doesn't appreciate the benefits of the new health law. Opponents clamor for repeal before the program fully kicks in. The year was 1989, and the law was the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act, which was supposed to protect older Americans from bankruptcy due to medical bills. Instead it became a catastrophe for Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who learned the hard way that many older Americans did not want to be helped in that particular way. Seventeen months after President Ronald Reagan signed the measure with Rose Garden fanfare..., it was unceremoniously stricken from the books by lawmakers who could not see its demise come quickly enough." ...

... Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "... there ... appears to be little factual basis to make the hair-raising claim that, by launching the Web site on Oct. 1, the administration as putting the 'millions of Americans' personal information at risk,' as [Rep. Jim] Jordan [R-Ohio] put it, or that [R-Calif.] 'people who knew or should have known, in fact, just simply ignored it,' as [Rep. Darrell] Issa asserted.... Issa and Jordan certainly have the right to express opinions, but they can't tie their opinions to information that has already been disproved. ...

... Today's Munch Prize goes to Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal: "Obamacare is on life support. Democrats may begin calling for repeal if the law's problems don't get resolved soon.... Would President Obama sign a death warrant on his own signature legislation? That's almost impossible to imagine, but it's entirely reasonable that he may not have a choice in the matter." Kraushaar argues that there may soon be enough votes in Congress to override a presidential veto. ...

 

What are we here for? Did we come here to just put our approval ratings up on a shelf and admire them? Or are we here to try to make a difference -- to actually start solving some of the problems we've talked about for so long? -- President Obama, November 2010, after his advisors told him not to pursue healthcare reform because it could hurt his re-election chances ...

... Jon Favreau of the Daily Beast writes a full-throated defense of President Obama's efforts to reform the healthcare system. Since it's Favreau, Obama's former speechwriter, it's beautifully wrought. ...

... Elizabeth Bradley & Lauren Taylor, in the New Yorker, on yet another, more effective way, to save some lives & healthcare costs. They met a man who had no shoes, and soon he'll have no feet.

** Voter Suppression, Now & Forevah. The New Juan Williams in the Hill: "Last week, 20 House Republicans, including Louie Gohmert (Texas), Ted Yoho (Fla.) and Michele Bachmann (Minn.), took the first step to impeach Attorney General Eric Holder. They introduced articles of impeachment that target Holder for failing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and other sins, including not enforcing federal marijuana laws.... But there is a bigger story here. Having twice failed to defeat President Obama, the GOP persists in defying the will of the voters by making it difficult for this president to lead the government. That strategy includes blocking nominees to the cabinet, blocking nominees to the judiciary, shutting down the government and endless charges of scandal that result in hyper-political oversight hearings."

** Paul Krugman: "... the case for 'secular stagnation' -- a persistent state in which a depressed economy is the norm, with episodes of full employment few and far between -- was made forcefully recently at the most ultrarespectable of venues, the I.M.F.'s big annual research conference. And the person making that case was none other than Larry Summers.... If Mr. Summers is right, everything respectable people have been saying about economic policy is wrong, and will keep being wrong for a long time." ...

     ... CW: See Julie Pace's AP story above. If you want to know why Americans are disgusted with Washington politicians, Krugman describes the real reason: it's the economy, stupid. When people are doing everything they can, are "playing by the rules," yet still can't make ends meet, they looks elsewhere for the reason. And Washington is a good place to find the culprits. ...

... Another Plan to Sabotage the Economy. Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "Congressional Democrats and the White House, pointing to the sluggish recovery and the still-high jobless rate, are pushing once again to extend the period covered by the unemployment insurance program. But with Congress still far from a budget deal and still struggling to find alternatives to the $1 trillion in long-term cuts known as sequestration, lawmakers say the chances of an extension before Congress adjourns in two weeks are slim. As a result, one of the largest stimulus measures passed during the recession is likely to come to an end, and jobless workers in many states are likely to receive considerably fewer weeks of benefits." ...

... Peter Eavis & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "The push to reshape financial oversight hinges on negotiations in the coming weeks over the so-called Volcker Rule, a regulation that strikes at the heart of Wall Street risk-taking. The rule, which bans banks from trading for their own gain, has become synonymous with the Dodd-Frank overhaul law that Congress adopted after the financial crisis. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has strongly urged federal agencies to finish writing the Volcker Rule by the end of the year -- more than a year after they had been expected to do so -- and President Obama recently stressed the importance of the deadline."

Jay Newton-Small of Time: "The first congressional hearing on how to regulate virtual currencies will take place on Monday afternoon before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Called 'Beyond Silk Road: Potential Risks, Threats and Promises of Virtual Currencies,' the hearing comes six weeks after federal authorities took down the Silk Road, known as the 'Amazon for drugs,' and arrested its alleged founder, 29-year-old Ross Ulbricht.... Though the session promises to look at all virtual currencies, it will primarily focus on bitcoin, the cryptocurrency used by the Silk Web, according to advance testimony given to Time."

Peter Wallsten & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "Billionaire casino magnate Shel­don Adelson, whose record-breaking campaign spending in 2012 made him an icon of the new super-donor era, is leveraging that newfound status in an escalating feud with industry rivals over the future of gambling. Adelson, best known for building upscale casino resorts in Nevada and more recently in Asia, wants to persuade Congress to ban Internet betting. He says the practice is a danger to society and could tarnish the industry's traditional business model. Nearly all of his competitors ... disagree. They say regulated Internet gambling can be done safely and can boost the industry."

Ed O'Keefe: "Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) are leading opposing sides of a months-long disagreement over how the Defense Department should handle the reported rise of sexual assault in the ranks. An emotionally-charged debate is expected to play out on the Senate floor in the coming days as the Senate begins considering the annual defense authorization bill that sets military policy and pay levels." ...

... Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: "Brass slow-walk President Obama's marching orders on sex assault. President Barack Obama set a high bar for the Pentagon's civilian and military leaders in May when he delivered marching orders on sexual assault.... [Secretary of Defense Chuck] Hagel and [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin] Dempsey have been ... writing new rules on troop harassment, checking in on progress every week and pretty much prodding everyone, civilian and enlisted, to pick up their game. But privately, military officials also are trying to be realistic about what they can do -- and the rhetoric they're using and the policy prescriptions they're advocating fall well below the goals set for them by their commander in chief."

Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed profiles attorney Mary Bonauto, who has been instrumental in bringing about marriage equality.

** Edward McClelland, in Salon: "George Washington ... and Abraham Lincoln ... are the twin icons of [the American presidency].... Yet they represent different visions of an American economic order, differences that persist to this day. Washington stood for a system in which one man enriches himself by skimming off the excess value of his underlings' work. Lincoln stood for the principle that every worker is entitled to the full value of his own labor. Call it the battle between Washingtonomics and Lincolnomics. From the founding of this country up until the Civil War, Washington's order was dominant. It's been dominant in our era, too, ever since Washington's native South regained control of the federal government in the 1970s." CW: if there are any American historians among you who think McClelland's thesis is bull, please share.

Congressional Races

What amazes me is that she says she's running to be a new generation of leader. I'm not sure how sticking to the positions of the last 20 or 30 years is the best way to do that. -- Mary Cheney, on sister Liz Cheney's U.S. Senate campaign slogan ...

... All in the Family. Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Mary Cheney, a daughter of the former vice president, and her wife, Heather Poe, sharply criticized on Sunday a comment by by Ms. Cheney's sister, Liz Cheney, a candidate for the Senate in Wyoming, that they disagreed on the issue of same-sex marriage. 'Liz -- this isn't just an issue on which we disagree, you're just wrong -- and on the wrong side of history,' Mary Cheney, who is gay, wrote on her Facebook page." Update: Martin has expanded his story. ...

... Mark Stern of Slate: "This sleazy, rotten mess is the race that Wyoming GOP voters deserve.... In an intensely homophobic state like Wyoming, where the vast majority of GOP voters oppose marriage equality, any Republican primary is fated to be a grotesque pissing contest of anti-gay animus. That's why pro-Enzi SuperPAC ads slamming Cheney as a covert gay rights supporter are inundating Wyoming's airwaves: They work, appealing to voters' basest bigotries and helping Enzi open up a 52-point lead over his opponent."

Steve M. of NMMNB reflects on the election of Vance McAllister, a Republican who bested a crazier "establishment" Republican in a Louisiana special Congressional election. McAllister said that the ACA could not be repealed & that the state should accept Medicaid funds. See also yesterday's Commentariat.

The Assassination of President Kennedy

** James McCauley, in a New York Times essay: "... without question..., the remnants of the environment of extreme hatred the city's elite actively cultivated before the president's visit -- have left an indelible mark on Dallas, the kind of mark that would never be left on Memphis or Los Angeles, which were stages rather than actors in the 1968 assassinations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. For the last 50 years, a collective culpability has quietly propelled the city to outshine its troubled past without ever actually engaging with it.... [There have been] transient triumphs in the face of what has always been left unsaid, what the now-defunct Dallas Times Herald once called the 'dark night of the soul,' on which the bright Texas sun has yet to rise."

More on the "Wanted for Treason" flyers from Slate's Rebecca Onion.

Canadian News

Rob Ford.

News Ledes

AP: "The unusually powerful late-season wave of thunderstorms brought damaging winds and tornadoes to 12 states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and western New York.... Illinois was the hardest struck with at least six people killed and dozens more injured." The Chicago Tribune's main story is here.

Reuters: "Russian President Vladimir Putin told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday there was a 'real chance' to resolve the international standoff over Tehran's nuclear program. The Kremlin said Putin and Rouhani had spoken by telephone at the Russian leader's request, two days before negotiators from Iran and six global powers hold their next talks."

AFP: "Nelson Mandela remains in a 'stable but critical' condition, but 'continues to respond to treatment', the South African government said in its first update on his health since September."

AP: "A retired Minnesota carpenter, shown in a June investigation to be a former commander in a Nazi SS-led unit, ordered his men to attack a Polish village that was razed to the ground, according to testimony newly uncovered by The Associated Press. The account of the massacre that killed dozens of women and children contradicts statements by the man's family that he was never at the scene of the 1944 bloodshed.... On Monday, the prosecutor leading Germany's probe revealed to the AP that he has decided to recommend that state prosecutors pursue murder charges against 94-year-old Michael Karkoc."

Saturday
Nov162013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 17, 2013

** Joe Stiglitz in the New York Times: "We spend billions every year on farm subsidies, many of which help wealthy commercial operations to plant more crops than we need. The glut depresses world crop prices, harming farmers in developing countries. Meanwhile, millions of Americans live tenuously close to hunger, which is barely kept at bay by a food stamp program that gives most beneficiaries just a little more than $4 a day. So it's almost too absurd to believe that House Republicans are asking for a farm bill that would make all of these problems worse.... The proposal is a perfect example of how growing inequality has been fed by what economists call rent-seeking." ...

     ... CW: Here's my idea of torture. Force House Republicans into a special session on Thanksgiving Day. Make them stand in the well, one by one, & read Stiglitz's column aloud all day long. At the end of the day, reward these turkeys not with a nice roasted Thanksgiving turkey but with the carcass of one from a District soup kitchens.

Michael Tomasky in the New York Review of Books: "... there are a few reasons to think that Obama and the Democrats can reverse the recent surge of Republican power to some extent and win two modest but important victories. First, they could get the sequester lifted and increase spending in some categories again. Second, it now seems that entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, which Obama has shown a willingness to cut in the past, have a good chance to emerge unscathed." ...

... Sequestered. AFP: "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sounded an alarm bell Saturday about budget cuts he said threaten America's security and global military role, while 'gambling' over the risk of an unexpected threat. The cuts, which amount to nearly $1 trillion for the Department of Defense (DoD) over a decade, were 'too steep, too deep and too abrupt,' Hagel told a defense conference in California. 'This is an irresponsible way to govern, and it forces the department into a very bad set of choices,' he said. Automatic cuts of $52 billion set to take place in fiscal 2014 represent 10 percent of the Pentagon budget."

Only in America. Thankfully. New York Times Editors: "Judges, bound by mandatory sentencing laws that they openly denounce, are sending people away for the rest of their lives for committing nonviolent drug and property crimes. In nearly 20 percent of cases, it was the person's first offense. As of 2012, there were 3,278 prisoners serving sentences of life without parole for such crimes, according to an extensive and astonishing report issued Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union. And that number is conservative.... The report estimates that the cost of imprisoning just these 3,278 people for life instead of a more proportionate length of time is $1.78 billion.... If the United States is to call itself a civilized nation, it must end this cruel and ineffective practice."

Frank Bruni speculates on Bill Clinton's motives for goosing President Obama to allow Americans to keep their lousy health insurance policies. ...

... Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "The institutional apparatus of the Democratic coalition is shifting gears as party strategists, outside groups and the people who finance campaigns prepare for what they believe is an inevitable 2016 presidential bid by Hillary Rodham Clinton. As President Obama struggles with the debacle of his Affordable Care Act rollout and fights to regain his political standing, his party's machinery is already pivoting to the next campaign. Concrete steps are being taken to wage a general election contest with Clinton as the presumed nominee."

The Diddler. Tennessee Gov. Bill "Haslam [R], who had once promised a decision by summer's end [on whether or not to accept the ACA's Medicaid expansion provisions], is still trying to negotiate a new plan of his own with federal officials, hoping it will satisfy the competing constituencies. It would involve using federal money to place many of the state's poor on the federal health care exchange created by the act, rather than on Medicaid. But so far he has not persuaded federal officials..., and said he expected no quick resolution. Although he is not required to do so, Mr. Haslam has also promised not to enact anything without the approval of the Legislature, whose Republican majority, he said, was dead set against an expansion of Medicaid. Support for his alternative plan seems uncertain at best."

Zeba Siddiqui of Reuters: "UnitedHealth Group dropped thousands of doctors from its networks in recent weeks, leaving many elderly patients unsure whether they need to switch plans to continue seeing their doctors, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. The insurer said in October that underfunding of Medicare Advantage plans for the elderly could not be fully offset by the company's other healthcare business. The company also reported spending more healthcare premiums on medical claims in the third quarter, due mainly to government cuts to payments for Medicare Advantage services. CW: So Congress sticks it to their base -- elderly insured people -- & UnitedHealth drops the old folks' doctors. Are we going to see some Congressional outrage for these people losing their doctors? Huh? Huh?

Humor Break. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone: "I almost couldn't believe it when I heard that JP Morgan Chase was going to do a live Twitter Q&A with the public -- you know, all those people around the world they've been bending over and robbing for, oh, the last decade or so. On the all-time list of public relations screw-ups, it's hard to say where this decision by America's most hated commercial bank ... to engage the enraged public on Twitter ranks.... Unsurprisingly, the public barraged him with abusive Tweets, and the bank ultimately had to cancel the Q&A." ...

... Actor Stacy Keach reads some of the tweets "with perfect Inside the Actors' Studio gravitas," Taibbi notes:

Geithner Cashes In. Michael de la Merced & Peter Lattman of the New York Times: "Timothy F. Geithner will join the private equity firm Warburg Pincus as president, the firm announced on Saturday. It would be his first prominent position since leaving office as Treasury secretary this year."

Stan Greenberg in Politico Magazine: "In 2010, a record 10 percent of opposite-sex married couples told America's census takers that they lived in an interracial household -- up from 7.4 percent in 2000.... Race may be a thing of the past for most young Americans, but that is not yet the case for the base of the Republican Party, which is supremely conscious of its dwindling numbers in a country exploding with diversity. In my work for Democratic candidates and causes, my firm's focus groups have found that racial sentiment contributes significantly to the over-the-top hostility to Obamacare, and tea party groups' insistence on doing anything, even shutting down the government and risking a debt default, to stop it...." CW: To protect his gastrointestinal system, Richard Cohen should stay indoors with the curtains closed. Also, take away his pen & keypads. ...

... BTW, Richard Cohen gags a lot. Sarah Hedgecock of Gawker: "As it turns out, Cohen is something worse than a casual racist: he's a blatantly shitty writer who keeps going reflexively back to the same tired metaphor. Diving into the Post's archives, we found that Cohen, and the many real and hypothetical subjects of his columns, have been gagging in print for over 25 years."

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, in the New York Review of Books: "The Snowden Leaks and the Public."

Ken Starr Stands Up for His Child Molester Buddy. J. K. Trotter of Gawker: "What's Ken Starr up to these days? According to Virginia court documents, the famously pious former Clinton prosecutor recently pleaded with a Fairfax County judge to let a confessed child molester go free. Because he's a family friend.... It was just one of dozens of letters sent by as many Washington, D.C., and New York City power players -- including former ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson, a former aide to Laura Bush, a former GOP congressman, and a powerful partner at the insider law firm Akin Gump -- who wrote in praise of Christopher Kloman, a 74-year-old retired Potomac School teacher who has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting several female students under the age of 14. Kloman received a 43-year prison sentence in October.... the Starrs, in a letter written by Starr's wife Alice but signed by both, felt Kloman shouldn't go to prison despite his crimes because he 'took the time to chat' with their daughter...." CW: Yeah, I'll bet he did.

Michelle Cottle of BuzzFeed reviews Sarah Palin's "Christmas book": "As with pretty much everything the former governor does, this is all about Venting the Spleen of Sarah. And that's what makes it so gosh darn refreshing. Screw those treacly holiday offerings aiming to melt your heart or lift your spirits.... Good Tidings and Great Joy gives the finger to all that, offering instead Palin at her toxic best: snippy, snarky, snide, and thoroughly pissed off." ...

Not hilarious, but only a few steps away from reality:

This Week in God. Steve Benen: "On a Veterans' Day broadcast, Kenneth Copeland, a widely influential televangelist, and David Barton, a Republican pseudo-historian, relied on Scripture to argue that military veterans returning from war can't get PTSD because they're doing Godly work." CW: This is so wrong on so many levels; yet some veterans who need help won't get it because they've listened to these quacks.

Congressional Race

Stephanie Grace of Reuters: "Republican businessman Vance McAllister, a political newcomer who boasts of never having visited Washington, D.C., won a special election in Louisiana on Saturday to fill the congressional seat formerly held by fellow Republican Rodney Alexander." CW: Read the whole article; this guy sounds less bad than the party's preferred candidate, whom he beat. While one off-year Congressional election does not a movement make, it appears that even conservative white Southerners may be sick of some of the most egregious Stupid Republican Tricks. OR, maybe it's just that "Duck Dynasty" rules (see story).

News Ledes

AP: "Dozens of tornadoes and intense thunderstorms swept across the Midwest on Sunday, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities, killing at least three people and prompting officials at Chicago's Soldier Field to evacuate the stands and delay the Bears game."

AP: "A Boeing 737 jetliner crashed and burst into flames Sunday night while trying to land at the airport in the Russian city of Kazan, killing all 50 people aboard in the latest in a string of deadly crashes across the country. The Tatarstan Airlines plane was trying to make a second landing attempt when it touched the surface of the runway near the control tower, and was 'destroyed and caught fire,' said Sergei Izvolky, the spokesman for the Russian aviation agency."

Guardian: "Doris Lessing, the Nobel prize-winning author of The Golden Notebook and The Grass is Singing, among more than 50 other novels ranging from political to science fiction, has died at her London home aged 94." ...

     ... Update: Lessing's New York Times obituary is here.

Friday
Nov152013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 16, 2013

White House: "In his weekly address, President Obama discusses progress in American energy and highlights that we are now producing more oil at home than we buy from other countries for the first time in nearly two decades":

AP: "The Obama administration will allow some relatives of U.S. service members living in the country illegally to stay, according to a policy directive issued Friday. The nine-page memorandum is the latest in a series of immigration policy changes made by President Barack Obama since he took office. The department has long had the power to stop deportations for relatives of military members and veterans, but Friday's memo lays out how and when it can be used."

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post interviewed AG Eric Holder: "In the wide-ranging interview on Thursday, Holder also discussed the prosecution of the alleged Boston Marathon bomber, efforts to bring former NSA contractor Edward Snowden back to the United States, leak investigations and some of his plans."

Robert Pear & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "Defying a veto threat from President Obama, the House on Friday approved legislation that would allow health insurance companies to renew individual insurance policies and sell similar policies to new customers next year even if the coverage does not provide all the benefits and consumer protections required by the new health care law. The vote was 261 to 157, with 39 Democrats bucking their party leadership to vote in favor of the bill." This Times interactive graphic shows how each member voted. ...

... Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "... it's ... hard to fathom why 39 Democrats voted for a bill in the House that would allow people to retain current, substandard individual policies, and renew them next year even if they don't provide the basic coverage required by the Affordable Care Act." ...

... Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Republicans used a technicality on Friday to prevent the House of Representatives from considering a measure that would have extended additional consumer protections to beneficiaries who remain in their existing individual health care plans." Or, as the headline to this post aptly puts it, "Republicans reject Obamacare 'fix' because it includes too many consumer protections." ...

... William Branigin & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "... President Obama hastily summoned insurance industry executives Friday for what he called a 'brainstorming' session against the backdrop of widespread anxieties about how the new twist in his health-care law will be carried out. A day after announcing a plan to delay insurance cancellations in the individual market by one year, Obama is grappling with concerns that the shift could disrupt the market and lead to higher premiums. So far, two states -- Washington and Vermont -- have announced that they will not allow their health insurers to extend insurance policies that do not comply with minimum standards set by the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the health-care law widely known as Obamacare. Three other states -- Ohio, Florida and Kentucky -- announced that they would allow the renewals. At least eight states and the District of Columbia said they are trying to decide what to do...." ...

... Reed Abelson & Susanne Craig of the New York Times: "A day after they were caught off guard by President Obama's proposal to prevent cancellation of insurance policies for millions of Americans, top executives of some of the biggest insurance companies emerged from a meeting at the White House on Friday, expressing mixed feelings about whether the idea could work in every state.... The insurers, many of whom expressed anger that the president had not consulted them before Thursday's announcement, said they had come away from the meeting willing to work with the White House...." ...

... Ron Brownstein of the National Journal gets today's Munch Prize: "For decades, Democratic strategists have viewed universal health care as their best opportunity to reverse the doubt among many voters, especially whites, that government programs can tangibly benefit their families. Now the catastrophic rollout of the health law threatens instead to reinforce those doubts. That outcome could threaten Democratic priorities for years." CW: Don't worry, kids. There will be plenty more prizes in days to come. ...

... Update. Jonathan Bernstein on Brownstein's thesis: "For better or worse, there's little evidence that public opinion works that way.... In fact, it's almost the opposite. While public opinion is mostly stable over time on big-idea questions about ideology, to the extent that there is change it's pretty simple: Public opinion moves in the opposite direction from incumbents." ...

... "The Public Is a Thermostat." Bernstein links to this enlightening piece, dated June 2010, by fellow political scientist John Sides: "When government spending and activism increases, the public says 'too hot' and demands less. When spending and activism decreases, the public says 'too cold' demands more." Another nice feature of Sides' essay: he demonstrates that David Brooks doesn't know what he's talking about. ...

... Like most pundits, Gail Collins was underwhelmed by President Obama's apologies about the problems with the ACA: "The public is so inured to responsibility-taking by executives under fire that it's little more than a polite reflex, like 'thank you for your service.' George W. Bush took responsibility for the Katrina foul-ups, for heaven sake. Presidents have generally been bad about apologies. See: Richard Nixon resigning. ('I would say only that if some of my judgments were wrong, and some were wrong, they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest of the nation.') Bill Clinton was more forthcoming when he apologized for lying about Monica Lewinsky. ('I misled people, including even my wife.') But he had a little help from a grand jury." CW: For the record, I still think President Obama said exactly what he had to say, & he struck just the right tone. If you remember Bush's & Clinton's "apologies," they were canned, read-from-the-teleprompter statements of contrition. (Here's Bush.) ...

... Steve Benen: "Even by the standards of contemporary conservatism, there's something morally bankrupt about wealthy far-right forces targeting struggling Americans and telling them to go without access to basic health -- on purpose -- apparently because they don't like the president." ...

That's a scandal -- those people are guilty of murder in my opinion. Some of those people they persuade are going to end up dying because they don't have health insurance. For people who do that to other people in the name of some obscure political ideology is one of the grossest violations of our humanity I can think of. -- Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

... ** Charles Pierce enjoyed Michael Shear's piece in Friday's New York Times (linked in yesterday's Commentariat) on "Obama's Katrina" as much as I did. But Pierce's takedown of Nicolle Wallace's prattling on the same subject is a classic. ...

... Jamelle Bouie in the Daily Beast: "Failing to build a website that can reliably provide health-care coverage to consumers -- a noble goal hindered by flawed implementation -- is categorically different than a non-response to a natural disaster that claimed thousands of lives.... Overall, the comparison is superficial, subsuming serious differences for the sake of a banal point. As far as parallels go, it's glib, useless, and -- when you consider the terrible damage done by Katrina -- pretty shameful." ...

... Bill Scher of the Campaign for America's Future on "another way Obamacare is not like Katrina": "The failed Katrina response was the result of Bush taking an well-functioning government agency and deliberating degrading it: taking it from disaster management professionals, giving it to political cronies and beginning a process of reckless privatization. With the Affordable Care Act, President Obama is not tearing down an existing agency, but trying to build up a new government program from scratch.... New government programs typically suffer bumpy beginnings, but by facing up to new challenges, our government innovates and advances to better address problems the public wants solved." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "Obamacare rollout is merely Obama's most recent Katrina, following in the wake of previous Obama Katrinas such as the Gulf Oil spill, the 2009 swine-flu outbreak, the humanitarian disaster in Haiti, the General Motors bailout, Hurricane Sandy, Syria, and the now-forgotten springtime scandals.... If every one of Obama's Katrinas were an actual Katrina, America as we know it would long since have ceased to exist and we'd be living in a watery post-apocalyptic hellscape. If every one of Obama's Katrinas were an actual Katrina, America as we know it would long since have ceased to exist and we'd be living in a watery post-apocalyptic hellscape." ...

... ** The Handwriting Was on All the Walls. Jerry Markon & Alice Crites of the Washington Post: "The lead contractor on the dysfunctional Web site for the Affordable Care Act is filled with executives from a company that mishandled at least 20 other government IT projects, including a flawed effort to automate retirement benefits for millions of federal workers, documents and interviews show. CGI Federal, the main Web site developer, entered the U.S. government market a decade ago when its parent company purchased American Management Systems, a Fairfax County contractor that was coming off a series of troubled projects. CGI moved into AMS's custom-made building..., changed the sign outside and kept the core of employees, who now populate the upper ranks of CGI Federal."

... Jonathan Bernstein on President Obama's "plunging" poll numbers. ...

... Ed Kilgore on the same.


Charles Blow
on "Disrespect, Race and Obama."

Taking A Page from Rand Paul's Book. (Hey, Why Not?) Mary Bottari of Campaign for America's Future: "... Jon Romano, press secretary for the inside-the-beltway PR campaign 'Fix the Debt' and its pet youth group, The Can Kicks Back, have been caught writing op-eds for college students and placing the identical op-eds in papers across the country. This is the latest slip-up in Fix the Debt's efforts to portray itself as representing America's youth. Previously, they were caught paying dancers to participate in a pro-austerity flash mob and paying Change.org to gather online petition signers for them. The newspapers involved in the scam were not amused." The Gainesville (Florida) Sun, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and the New Hampshire Foster's Daily Democrat all have removed the plagiarized op-eds from their Websites. Via Charles Pierce.

AP: "JPMorgan Chase & Co. has reached a $4.5 billion settlement with investors who said the bank deceived them about bad mortgage investments. The settlement, announced Friday, covers 21 major institutional investors, including JPMorgan competitor Goldman Sachs, BlackRock Financial Management, and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. The mortgage-backed securities were sold by JPMorgan and Bear Stearns between 2005 and 2008."

Joe Nocera: Gary Gensler is leaving his post as head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. In implementing Dodd-Frank, he brought more transparency to the financial derivatives market. He also was responsible for cracking the Libor rate-fixing scheme that has led to big bank fines & some indictments. CW: I don't much trust Nocera's views, but the fact that House Republicans don't like Gensler's regs is a sign Nocera is on the right track. Michal Hirsh of the National Journal also credits Gensler, along with Elizabeth Warren, for doing "more than anyone in Washington to bulk up Dodd-Frank from its rather flimsy beginnings and turn it into a financial-reform law with some weight." So. It is possible to work for Golden Sacks for almost two decades & come out as a decent public servant. That's something.

Local News

John Upton of Grist: "Last year, the 17 refineries and two associated chemical plants in [Louisiana] experienced 327 accidents, releasing 2.4 million pounds of air pollution, including such poisons as benzene and sulfur, and 12.7 million gallons of water pollution. That's according to a report published Tuesday[PDF] by the nonprofit Louisiana Bucket Brigade, which compiled the data from refineries' individual accident reports.... The findings are grim, but they may actually understate the problem. The nonprofit claims many refinery accidents are underreported or covered up...." CW: Yeah, they're definitely ready to start refining Canadian oil sands. Via Charles Pierce.

Thursday
Nov142013

The Commentariat -- Nov. 15, 2013

NEW: Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: Justice Clarence Thomas addressed the conservative Federalist Society Thursday & told the audience he loved his job. If I may quote him directly, "Whoop-de-damn-do."

Jon Passantino of BuzzFeed: "President Obama threatened Thursday to veto a House bill that would allow insurance companies to continue offering existing health plans after millions received cancelation notices due to the Affordable Care Act.... The Administration supports policies that allow people to keep the health plans that they have,' the White House said in a statement Thursday evening. 'But, policies that reverse the progress made to extend quality, affordable coverage to millions of uninsured, hardworking, middle class families are not the solution. If the President were presented with [the bill], he would veto it,' the statement concluded." ...

... Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico: "Several insurance company CEOs have been called to a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House Friday afternoon." CW: Could be an awkward meeting after Obama kinda trashed them in yesterday's presser. See, esp., Karoli's & Beutler's reports below. ...

... Ashley Parker, et al., of the New York Times: "President Obama bowed to mounting political pressure from across the country and on Capitol Hill on Thursday and announced new rules that will let insurance companies keep people on health care plans that would not have been allowed under the Affordable Care Act.... Despite the president's reversal, Speaker John A. Boehner said that he intended to push ahead with a House vote Friday on a measure that would allow consumers to keep their canceled plans without penalty and allow others to sign up for them. Mr. Boehner said that he was skeptical of the president's plan, and that the new law needed to be overturned." ...

... CW: If you didn't hear the press conference & have time to listen while you're washing your socks or something, I think you'll be glad you did. The President, IMHO, hit exactly the right tone, especially when answering some of the snarkier questions. The full presser is available in yesterday's Commentariat. The transcript, via the Washington Post, is here. ...

... Ed Kilgore, on the other hand, was not impressed with "Obama's crow-eating presser": "... he occasionally made very good sense, but not with the sort of crisp or vivid language that would break through to regular folks who keep hearing Obamacare is a 'mess.'" ...

... Jonathan Cohn: "It's not clear how much impact [Obama's fix] will actually have, which means many (and probably most) of the people losing coverage aren't likely to get those same policies back. But it appears the plan does minimal damage to the rest of Obamacare, which means the millions of people about to get insurance for the first time -- or get cheaper, more comprehensive coverage than they had before -- will still get those benefits." ...

... Karoli of Crooks & Liars: "... the President said with regard to the one-year delay announced today, 'the Affordable Care Act is not going to be the reason why insurers have to cancel your plan.' He went on to describe what might have happened if they didn't have the ACA to blame, saying 'the insurance companies still may come back and say we want to charge you 20 percent more than we did last year, or we're not going to cover prescription drugs now. But that's in the nature of the market that existed earlier, and that's why I'm trying to fix it.'" CW: Answer that, John Boehner. ...

... KOMO News, Seattle, & the AP: Washington State Insurance "Commissioner Mike Kreidler said Thursday he won't allow insurance companies to extend their old policies that didn't meet the requirements of federal health care reform. An estimated 290,000 Washington residents have received notices that their old insurance policies will be canceled." ...

... ** Brian Beutler: President Obama's "solution combines a clever p.r. stunt, a stalling tactic, an act of retribution, the genuine possibility of transition assistance for some, and a large political and substantive gamble. It bears the hallmarks of desperation and frustration and determination, but it just might work. The idea isn't to retroactively fulfill the promise he made to everyone whose plans have been canceled, but to demonstrate to the public that there's now nothing in law requiring carriers to dump policyholders or uphold their cancellation notices, so that the public takes its concerns and grievances directly to the carriers." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "Obama's announcement mainly leaves the law in the same place it's been for a month and a half: waiting to see if the administration can fix the website." ...

... Gene Robinson: "It was a necessary retreat, but President Obama made clear Thursday that his bottom line remains unchanged: 'I'm not going to walk away from 40 million people who have the chance to get health insurance for the first time.' The president's pledge should be the nation's bottom line as well." ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: Obama's Katrina, blah blah. ...

... Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post: "For insurance regulators and health insurance carriers, though, [the President's] supposed glide path is about to create a whole bunch of headaches." ...

... Greg Sargent: It's unlikely that any of the legislative "fixes" that have been proposed will ever turn into a bill the President will sign. So the "fix" is in, and it's Obama's.

... Digby: "In the end it's ... older healthy people, who will join up right after the unfortunate sick people who've been denied insurance up until now. And that will go a long way toward stabilizing the exchanges and getting this off the ground, regardless of when the youngsters who think they are going to live forever can be coerced into jumping into the pool." ...

John Judis of the National Review: "Obamacare's launch fiasco will hurt us for years to come." CW: Uh-huh. So will the Benghazi fiasco, the IRS fiasco, the Syria fiasco, the Fill-in-the-Blank fiasco.

** Scott Lemieux in the American Prospect on "the indefensible filibuster of Nina Pillard." Lemieux's main point is crucial: it isn't just that Republicans are filibustering President Obama's nominees; they are filibustering moderate nominees: "Obama (like Clinton) has tended to pre-compromise by selecting more moderate nominees. The kind of judges Bush (II) and Obama are nominating are simply not comparable. Nominees like Pillard and Patricia Millett are not the liberal equivalent of radical Bush nominees like Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen." CW: Harry Reid & Senate Democrats simply must blow up the filibuster for the sake of future generations.

AP: "President Barack Obama is nominating a Harvard Medical School physician as the nation's next surgeon general. Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy is co-founder and president of Doctors for America, an organization that says its mission is to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, high quality health care. He also started a nonprofit that focused on HIV/AIDS education in India and the United States."

Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "Janet Yellen defended the Federal Reserve's stimulus program and communication efforts during a Senate hearing Thursday morning on her nomination to lead the central bank." ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker assesses Yellen's testimony: "The first woman to run the Fed isn't just a highly trained economist and a good communicator; evidently, she's also a pretty savvy politician."

Racism, Euro-Style. Paul Krugman: "What's scary here is the way this is turning into the Teutons versus the Latins, with the euro -- which was supposed to bring Europe together -- pulling it apart instead."

Charlie Savage & Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "The Central Intelligence Agency is secretly collecting bulk records of international money transfers handled by companies like Western Union -- including transactions into and out of the United States -- under the same law that the National Security Agency uses for its huge database of Americans' phone records, according to current and former government officials." ...

... Law Prof. Eric Posner, in Slate: The U.S. should continue spying on foreigners. "A government gains advantage from obtaining information about a person only if it can use force against that person. Foreigners are protected by national boundaries. That is why it makes sense to give constitutional privacy protections to citizens, and not to foreigners who live overseas. The call for an international right to digital privacy will go nowhere, because it makes no sense."

Foreign Affairs. Carol Leonnig & David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Secret Service agents and managers have engaged in sexual misconduct and other improprieties across a span of 17 countries in recent years, according to accounts given by whistleblowers to the Senate committee that oversees the department. Sen. Ronald H. Johnson (Wis.), ranking Republican on a Homeland Security subcommittee, said Thursday that the accounts directly contradict repeated assertions by Secret Service leaders that the elite agency does not foster or tolerate sexually improper behavior.... Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan hung up on a reporter seeking comment.... One whistleblower ... told The Post on Thursday that senior management was fully aware of agents hiring prostitutes on foreign and domestic trips."

David of Crooks & Liars: "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) faced howls of laughter from an audience in Washington, D.C. on Thursday when he claimed that he 'didn't want a shutdown' over President Barack Obama's health care reform law."

Joan Walsh of Salon follows up on comments Akhilleus made yesterday: "... it's outrageous that a man who has enjoyed many millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded medical care doesn't give a damn about the uninsured in our society, but that's Dick Cheney. Still, I was a little startled to hear the former vice president express total indifference to questions about his heart donor in a revealing interview with Larry King.... It's a window into his utter entitlement and self-absorption, and he comes off as an even bigger monster than I'd thought."

If you missed Nancy Youssef's analysis of Lara Logan's Benghaaaazi! "report," there's a link in yesterday's Commentariat. As Ed Kilgore writes, "The questions go on and on in ways that will make it difficult to maintain the scapegoating of [fake hero Dylan] Davies as having duped the innocent Logan.... CBS says it's now performing a 'journalistic review' of the whole story, but it sounds like the network is just a few feet ahead of the bloodhounds." ...

... Eli Lake of the Daily Beast: Dylan Davies "is going dark," claiming he received a note threatening his family. Wales police are investigating. CW: I hope his claim is untrue; it sounds like another hoax to me.

Some People Do Not Respect Mark Halperin

Driftglass: "The loud, gargling noise you may have heard earlier ... was the sound of NBC Legitimate Journalist Mark Halperin giving Glenn Beck one the the noisiest radio blowjobs I have heard in a long time. Highlights included Mr. Halperin explaining how 'honored' he was to be on Glenn Beck's radio show after which he spent several minutes loudly agreeing with Beck on the 'obvious' Liberal bias of the media, and how he has to explain to those few, ign'rant journalists who may dispute Mr. Halperin's infinite wisdom in such matters that whether it is true or not, 'over 50%' of Murrica believes the media to be the Commie Stooges of the Kenyan Usurper. And that is the important thing." ...

... "Hacko di Tutti Hacki." Charles Pierce: "For going on three decades now, there has not been a hackier hack on this little blue marble than Mark Halperin. He is the worst thing to happen to political journalism since the mob in Alton iced Elijah Lovejoy. He is walking journalistic potato blight. He is a living, breathing, suppurating punditizing boil on the asscheeks of a once-proud profession."

Fred Kaplan of Slate on why he's no longer a JFK assassination conspiracy theorist: He read the footnotes.

Local News

Patrick Marley & Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "In a late-night session that stretched from Thursday into Friday, Republicans in the state Assembly approved measures to reinstate Wisconsin's voter ID law, tighten early voting hours, limit the ability to recall elected officials, create anti-abortion license plates and restrict access to the site of a proposed iron mine in the North Woods.... [The bill] would allow voters to cast a ballot without a photo ID if they signed sworn statements saying they were poor and could not obtain a photo ID without paying a fee, had a religious objection to being photographed or could not obtain birth certificates or other documentation necessary to get a photo ID. All Republicans voted in favor of the bill and all Democrats against it.... The measure now goes to the Republican-run Senate, where it faces an uncertain future."

News Ledes

New York Times: "A senior Obama administration official said on Friday that a solution could be found for one of the major stumbling blocks to an agreement that would freeze Iran's nuclear program, and that the accord might be achieved next week."

Reuters: "China will ease its family planning policies and abolish a controversial labour camp system, according to a key document issued after a ruling Communist Party meeting, the official Xinhua news agency said on Friday. Couples will be allowed to have two children if one of the parents is an only child, as part of an adjustment of the birth policy to promote 'long-term balanced development of the population in China', it said."

Reuters: "A Chevron Corp. pipeline exploded near a tiny Texas town south of Dallas on Thursday, shooting flames high in the air and prompting evacuations from nearby homes and a school district, but no injuries were reported, the company and emergency officials said. The explosion south of Milford, Texas, was caused by a construction crew that accidentally drilled into a 10-inch liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) line.... He said all workers were accounted for."