The Ledes

Monday, September 1, 2014.

Guardian: "The UK and US governments have criticised, in unusually strong language, Israel's decision to approve one of the largest appropriations of Palestinian land for settlement in recent decades. The UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said he deplored the move as 'particularly ill-judged'."

Al Jazeera: "Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shia armed volunteers have retaken more northern towns from the Islamic State group, killing at least two of its senior fighters, sources have told Al Jazeera. A day after breaking the siege in the town of Amerli north of Baghdad, government forces retook the town of Sulaiman Bek on Monday, removing another key stronghold of the Islamic State group." ...

... Guardian: "Barack Obama on Monday formally notified Congress that he had authorised targeted air strikes in Iraq to help deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged Shia town of Amerli, the White House said in a statement."

Washington Post: Pakistan's "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was clinging to power Monday as protesters stepped up their assault on government buildings while the capital was gripped with fear and confusion about whether the country’s powerful military will step in to defuse the tension. As the demonstrations calling for the prime minister’s resignation enter their third week, Sharif is trying to navigate Pakistan’s worst political crisis in more than a decade."

Guardian: "The American government on Monday asked North Korea to release three Americans currently held in the communist country, after foreign media outlets were allowed to interview detainees. 'Out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle, Matthew Miller, and their families, we request the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] release them so they may return home,” said Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the State Department, in a statement. 'We also request the DPRK pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care.'”

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, August 31, 2014.

New York Times: "Israel laid claim on Sunday to nearly 1,000 acres of West Bank land in a Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem — a step that could herald significant Israeli construction in the area — defying Palestinian demands for a halt in settlement expansion."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia called on Ukraine on Sunday to begin talks on “the statehood” of that country’s rebellious southeast, a vague and provocative turn of phrase he used while demanding that the Ukrainian government negotiate directly with pro-Russian separatists."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
September 1

9:30 am ET: Vice President Biden speaks at Detroit's Labor Day parade

2:55 pm ET: President Obama speaks a LaborFest 2014

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New York Times: "The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards was a win for broadcast and cable television, which earned numerous awards as the digital gate-crasher Netflix was nearly shut out. AMC’s 'Breaking Bad' scored big on Monday night, winning a total of five awards, including its second consecutive prize for outstanding drama series. The crime drama, about a high school teacher who receives a diagnosis of lung cancer and starts selling crystal meth with a former student, concluded its final season." Here's the L.A. Times' coverage.

... Via Slate.

Looking for a bucolic retreat where the townspeople will protect you from curious outsiders? Got about $700K to burn? Then you might be interested in purchasing the former home of fiction writer J. D. Salinger. the property is located in Cornish, New Hamphire:

... Many more pix & a virtual tour here.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

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Wednesday
Jun272012

The Commentariat -- June 28, 2012

Here's my column in the New York Times eXaminer. Take the Op-Quiz! The NYTX front page is here.

Ethan Bronner of the New York Times: "Commentators from across the political spectrum have been saying that Justice Scalia, who is the most senior as well as, hands down, the funniest, most acerbic and most politically incorrect of the justices, went too far." ...

... E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post: "Justice Antonin Scalia needs to resign from the Supreme Court.... He really seems to aspire to being a politician -- and that's the problem. So often, Scalia has chosen to ignore the obligation of a Supreme Court justice to be, and appear to be, impartial." ...

... ** Joan Walsh of Salon: Scalia's "brazen partisanship might wake Americans up to the court's increasingly radical political agenda." ...

... Walter Dellinger in Slate: Psst. Nino. This country's states are not sovereign.

... AND the Old Goat Just Made up Stuff. Judge Richard Posner: "... the suggestion that illegal immigrants in Arizona are invading Americans' property, straining their social services, and even placing their lives in jeopardy is sufficiently inflammatory to call for a citation to some reputable source of such hyperbole. Justice Scalia cites nothing to support it." Posner cites some statistics that & assumptions that belie Scalia's argument.

Walter Dellinger on why the Court ruled against the Montana campaign finance case without hearing it: "the court's majority did not want to hear argument on whether in Montana, or anywhere else, independent expenditures can give rise to an appearance of corruption, because the court's conclusion in Citizens United on this point is almost surely wrong. For the majority's point of view, the less said about that, the better.... There is ... no external check on buying offices or other favors from government when money flows through independent committees."

Connor Simpson of the Atlantic: "Attorney General Eric Holder spent the night before his contempt vote mingling with the rest of Congress, including the GOP, at a barbecue for their families on the White House grounds." ...

... President Obama speaks at the barbecue. He seems so relaxed!

... Al Sharpton discusses the upcoming vote on contempt of Congress charges against AG Eric Holder with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), columnist Dana Milbank & writer Katherine Eban, whose 6-month investigation for Fortune revealed that Congressional charges about the "Fast & Furious" incident are fictional (Eban's story, also linked yesterday is here):

... Ryan Reilly of TPM: "A day ahead of a vote to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said his committee is no longer even strongly suspicious that highest ranking law enforcement officer in the country knew that guns 'walked' during the botched ATF operation known as Fast and Furious."

... Jonathan Allen of Politico: "The Congressional Black Caucus plans to walk off the House floor during [today]'s votes to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress, according to a letter being circulated among members of Congress." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Illustration for Rolling Stone by Victor Juhasz."The Scam Wall Street Learned from the Mafia." Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone: "... three Wall Street wiseguys spent the past decade taking part in a breathtakingly broad scheme to skim billions of dollars from the coffers of cities and small towns across America. The [big] banks achieved this gigantic rip-off by secretly colluding to rig the public bids on municipal bonds, a business worth $3.7 trillion. By conspiring to lower the interest rates that towns earn on these investments, the banks systematically stole from schools, hospitals, libraries and nursing homes -- from 'virtually every state, district and territory in the United States,' according to one settlement. And they did it so cleverly that the victims never even knew they were being ­cheated." When they were caught, the banks accepted fines, but government entities go "right on handing [them] billions of dollars in public contracts."

Making The Da Vinci Code a Reality. Adele Stan of AlterNet: "The pope's new PR strategist not only hails from Fox News; he belongs to the secretive Opus Dei society and lives in an all-male house cleaned by women members." Stan looks at the little distractions Greg Burke is supposed to cover up put in a favorable light.

Julian Borger of the Guardian: "A landmark case brought by a former United Nations employee against the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has cast light on what activists describe as a pervasive culture of impunity in an organisation where whistleblowers are given minimal protection from reprisals. James Wasserstrom, a veteran American diplomat, was sacked and then detained by UN police, who ransacked his flat, searched his car and put his picture on a wanted poster after he raised suspicions in 2007 about corruption in the senior ranks of the UN mission in Kosovo (Unmik)."

Local News

"War on Voting." Julian Brookes in Rolling Stone: "[Wednesday] This afternoon, the New Hampshire Legislature successfully overrode Gov. John Lynch's [D] veto of a voter ID law requiring voters to present driver's licenses, state-issued non-driver's identification cards, passports or military IDs before casting a ballot, though it doesn't come fully into force until after the November election. In Michigan, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder looks likely any day now to sign a bill requiring volunteers to attend state-approved training sessions before they can register voters.... The bill makes no provision for training sessions! Not only that, but volunteers have to have to sign an affidavit making them liable for registration offenses -- offenses that aren't specified! The bill is basically a copy a Florida law, parts of which a federal judge shot down in May, saying they had 'no purpose other than to discourage' voting."

As Marvin Schwalb said in commentary here some while back, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) numbers don't add up. But as Kate Zernike of the New York Times reports, Christie is doubling down on his fantasy numbers. He "derided the director of the nonpartisan office who downgraded the revenue estimates as a partisan hack, a 'Dr. Kevorkian of the numbers.' ... He promises to flog Democrats 'all long, hot summer' in town-hall-style meetings.... At a town-hall event on Tuesday..., Mr. Christie referred to [Paul Sarlo, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee,] with a profanity.” CW: Christie called Sarlo "an arrogant S.O.B." Video here.

News Ledes

Guardian: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been served with a police letter saying he has to present himself to a London police station on Friday. Assange has been seeking political asylum inside Ecuador's embassy in London since last week as he tries to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about alleged sex offences."

Contemptible Contempt. Washington Post: "The House of Representatives voted Thursday to make Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. the first sitting attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress for withholding documents requested as part of a congressional investigation into a botched gun-running operation. On a vote of 255 to 67, the Republican-led House successfully sanctioned Holder for failing to cooperate with an ongoing probe into Operation 'Fast and Furious' ... On a separate vote, lawmakers voted 258 to 95 to approve a civil contempt charge against Holder." ...

... Washington Post: "The House plans to vote Thursday on whether Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. should become the first sitting attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress for withholding documents requested as part of a congressional investigation into Operation 'Fast and Furious.'"

For News Ledes related to the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act, see the next entry forward -- "ObamaCare."

Murdoch Steps Aside. From the Guardian liveblog: "The surprise in News Corp's announcement is that Rupert Murdoch will, for the first time in 60 years, not directly run the company's global stable of newspapers. He will be chairman of the new publishing business, but that is likely to be seen as a ceremonial role compared with his close involvement with his newspapers in the past."

Savvy Businessmen, My Ass. New York Times: "Losses on JPMorgan Chase's bungled trade could total as much as $9 billion, far exceeding earlier public estimates, according to people who have been briefed on the situation."

New York Times: "Some 26,000 people were forced to evacuate late Tuesday when the Waldo Canyon [Colorado Springs, Colorado] fire, as the blaze is known, exploded without warning -- just a day after officials reported making progress on it.... President Obama planned to survey the damage on Friday." The Denver Post front page currently links to numerous stories on the fires.

New York Times: "Overcoming lingering historical animosities with its former colonial master, South Korea said on Thursday that it would sign a treaty with Japan that would encourage the sharing of sensitive military data on their common concerns: North Korea's nuclear and missile threats and China's growing military expansion in the region."

Reuters: "Apple Inc's suppliers in China have violated local labor laws when they imposed excessive overtime and skimped on insurance, a New York-based labor rights group, [China Labor Watch,] said."

New York Times: "On Friday, Peter Madoff -- more than three years after his brother, Bernard, confessed to running a vast Ponzi scheme that swindled investors out of billions of dollars -- is expected to appear in Federal District Court in Manhattan and plead guilty to criminal charges, according to prosecutors."

Tuesday
Jun262012

The Commentariat -- June 27, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is a review of today's New York Times op-ed page. It's short. The NYTX front page is here.

"Five Signs the U.S. Is Undergoing a Coup." Jim Fallows of the Atlantic elaborates on a post he wrote (& I linked) last week. Thanks to Dave S. for this link. (Fallows changed the title of his post; I like the more imprudent one.)

Bernie Sanders & Ed Schultz on more-or-less the same subject:

... ** Continuing That Theme. Paul Krugman & Robin Wells review three books & mention a fourth in the New York Review of Books. Bottom line: "President Obama bears some of the blame...; he chose to listen to the wrong people, and arguably missed his best chance to turn the economy around. (Just to be clear, this isn't a suggestion that Mitt Romney would do better.... If he wins, he will make a bad situation much, much worse.) But ultimately the deep problem isn't about personalities or individual leadership, it's about the nation as a whole. Something has gone very wrong with America, not just its economy, but its ability to function as a democratic nation. And it's hard to see when or how that wrongness will get fixed."

Get off the Dime, Ben! New York Times Editors: with politicians refusing to act, the U.S. Federal Reserve & the European Central Bank must step in to rescue the economy.

** NEW. Katherine Eban in Fortune: "AFortune investigation reveals that the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. How the world came to believe just the opposite is a tale of rivalry, murder, and political bloodlust." ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The National Rifle Association has joined a Republican push to make Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. the first sitting cabinet member to be held in contempt of Congress, turning a once obscure fight over a gun-smuggling investigation into a proxy war over gun control.... The N.R.A. is pressing to win Democratic votes...." CW: Gail Collins has wondered out loud what the NRA would do now that it has everything it wants. Well, here's her answer -- meddling in stuff only peripherally related to gun laws. Next up, they'll be scoring defense budget votes. And so forth.

The GOP Alternative to ObamaCare = Nothing. Jake Sherman of Politico: "Republicans still have only one thing in mind when it comes to President Barack Obama's health care law: full repeal. If the Supreme Court wholly or partially strikes down the law on Thursday, House Republicans won't rush to pass a bill that allows young adults under 26 to stay on their parents' insurance. They won't pass legislation forcing insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions. And the gap in drug coverage that requires seniors to pay more out of pocket -- the so-called donut hole -- won't immediately be closed." ...

... NEW. The Democratic Alternative. Brian Beutler of TPM: "The progressive activists who put the public option at the heart of the health care reform debate in 2009 and 2010 will return in 2012 to press Democrats to back a single-payer ["Medicare for All"] system if the Supreme Court throws out the Affordable Care Act on Thursday."

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: Justice "Alito's ruling [in Knox v. SEIU] struck at the heart of American unionism. By laying the groundwork for creating a right for nonmembers to avoid dues payments, he came close to nationalizing the right-to-work laws that 23 states have adopted.... As [Justice] Sotomayor noted in a somewhat astonished dissent [Justice] Ginsburg and Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan dissented on this point as well), this wasn't the question before the court. Neither side had argued that issue in their briefs or oral presentations.... Knox creates a legal disparity between [corporations & workers]: a worker's free-speech right entitles him to withhold funds from union campaign and lobbying activities, but not the value of his work from the company's similar endeavors." Meanwhile, "In the world according to Nino, Arizona has the rights of a nation-state, but Montana must submit to the Gang of Five. You're sovereign when Scalia agrees with you; you're nothing when he doesn't."

... CW: P. D. Pepe made me read that Janet Malcolm article on confirmation hearings, which featured the loathsome Sam Alito. Service on the Court has not mellowed him; I think you have to read both this and this to understand what's behind Alito's hissy-fit Monday, in which he read his dissent from the bench, on the Court's decision invalidating general and mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile murderers. The law that so agitated Alito is one that is not even controversial. And Alito more than likely applied the very reasoning that so riled him yesterday to his rationale for striking down the ACA (which we'll know for sure Thursday).

CW: While I'm on my soapbox, there an important aspect of the dissenting opinion that I don't think any commentators have developed. That is Chief Justice Roberts' argument that mandatory sentencing of juveniles can't be "cruel & unusual" because so many states do it. (Here's conservative tut-tutter George Will agreeing with that thinking.) As far as I know (and I well may be wrong), this is the first time a member of the Court has separated out "unusual" as a standard for application of the Eighth Amendment. For instance, FindLaw notes that "No universal definition [of "cruel and unusual punishment"] exists, but any punishment that is clearly inhumane or that violates basic human dignity may be deemed 'cruel and unusual.'" By this standard, the death penalty could never be declared unconstitutional because it is legal under federal and many state laws. What Roberts is doing and Will is popularizing, as I see it, is creating a new definition of "cruel and unusual" which would severely restrict application of the Eighth Amendment. In fact, the best way for states to get away with treating people inhumanely would be to do it a lot. So. Pepper-spraying protesters? Can't be "cruel and unusual" because cops are doing it everywhere! See Fallows above, re: coup.

Juliet Lapidos of the New York Times: "A new study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows what liberals have always suspected: States that don't impose an income tax are not more competitive. No income tax? No boost. Drawing from the study, Bloomberg News reports that 'the nine states with the highest personal income taxes on residents outperformed or kept pace on average with the nine that don't tax their residents' incomes.'"

Presidential Race

Finally, a Public Opinion Poll That Matters. M. J. Lee of Politico: "The majority of Americans, nearly 65 percent, say Obama is better suited than Romney to handle an alien invasion, according to a new National Geographic Channel poll."

Charles Pierce thinks President Obama's stump speech -- and its message -- are not nearly enough.

Jared Favole of the Wall Street Journal: "Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday continued the Obama campaign's attacks on Mitt Romney's business career, saying to a group of union workers that the presidential hopeful is good at creating jobs -- but only overseas, not in the U.S."

Justin Sink of The Hill: "Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney argued Tuesday that if the president's signature healthcare legislation was overturned Thursday by the Supreme Court, it would mean that President Obama's first term was a waste." With video.

Right Wing World

NEW. Orrin Hatch -- RTP, Utah. Dave Weigel of Slate argues, correctly I think, that the Tea Party really won in Utah. Yes, Orrin Hatch won the primary (and will win re-election), but a Freedom Works spokesman boasted of "the 180-degree change in Senator Hatch's votes and rhetoric over the past two years."

Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post: "This week in crazy? We have Darrell Issa endorsing a completely nutso theory that Fast and Furious was all a plot to rally people around gun control.... And then Jon Kyl today raised impeachment as a remedy to Barack Obama's new plans for enforcing immigration policy.... This kind of thing did not happen on a regular basis when George W. Bush was president."

Left Wing World

Admittedly, this is a Politico production, but there's definitely some truth to it:

Local News

Iowa, Where Voting Is a "Privilege," Not a Right. Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: Iowa "is exhibiting one of the boldest exercises in tilting the ballot box, via Gov. Terry Branstad's [R] determination to reduce the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons to a number closely approximating zero.... There's not a question in my mind that these people would reinstitute poll taxes if the courts and Grover Norquist would let them."

News Ledes

Bloomberg News: "Republican and Democratic congressional leaders are weighing whether to delay automatic federal spending cuts until March 2013, according to a House aide and industry officials who were briefed on the discussions."

New York Times: "Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York has begun investigating contributions to tax-exempt groups that are heavily involved in political campaigns, focusing on a case involving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been one of the largest outside groups seeking to influence recent elections but is not required to disclose its donors."

Los Angeles Times: Stockton, California "will become the nation's largest city to seek protection under the U.S. bankruptcy code after its City Council on Tuesday stopped bond payments, slashed employee health and retirement benefits and adopted a day-to-day survival budget. City Manager Bob Deis ... is expected to file bankruptcy papers immediately."

AP: "A stubborn and towering wildfire jumped firefighters' perimeter lines in the hills overlooking Colorado Springs, forcing frantic mandatory evacuation notices for more than 9,000 residents, destroying an unknown number of homes and partially closing the grounds of the sprawling U.S. Air Force Academy." The front page of the Denver Post currently has links to numerous stories about the fire.

Washington Post: "More than 7 million college students could be spared higher loan rates under a deal reached Tuesday by Senate leaders. The agreement would freeze the interest rate for a year, preventing it from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1.... The proposal's passage will be contingent upon an embrace from the GOP-held House...."

New York Times: Two lawsuits are challenging the lack of air-conditioning in most Texas state prisons, claiming a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel & unusual punishment.

AP: "Gunmen raided the headquarters of a pro-government Syrian TV station early Wednesday, killing seven employees, kidnapping others and demolishing buildings, officials said. The government blamed terrorists and described the killings as a 'massacre.'"

Guardian: "Anglo-Irish relations took a momentous step forward on Wednesday when the Queen [Elizabeth II] shook hands with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness. The historic encounter between the former IRA commander - now Northern Ireland's deputy first minister - and the Queen was unthinkable a little over 10 years ago. But the success of the peace process and the Queen's acclaimed visit to the Republic of Ireland last year ... paved the way for their meeting."

AP: "Assailants attacked the offices of Microsoft in Athens, [Greece,] early Wednesday, driving a van through the front doors and setting off an incendiary device that burned the building entrance, police said."

Monday
Jun252012

Los Supremos

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on publisher & chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.'s control of the New York Times editorial page. The NYTX front page is here. ...

... I especially recommend this commentary on Apple employment practices by Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute and the underlying article by David Segal of the New York Times.

RE: Janet Maslin's New Yorker article on Supreme Court confirmation hearings that contributor P. D. Pepe mentions in the Comments, I think you can read it here. It is subscriber-firewalled, but the firewall appears to have been lifted. You have to increase the image size & cursor around the pages.

Arizona v. U.S. -- Immigration Enforcement.

Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog: "In sum, that opinion barred Arizona from enforcing three provisions of its controversial anti-immigrant law, S.B. 1070, and put off a constitutional reckoning on a fourth provision. But beyond those bare conclusions, the [Anthony] Kennedy opinion was a strong victory for the notion that immigration policy, under the Constitution and federal laws, is for the federal government, not for the individual states, including those on the borders most affected by illegal entry." Denniston explains the details of this complicated ruling: He also comments on Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent, which he wrote

... was just short of a political talking-points document, essentially choosing up sides in this year's presidential campaign -- indeed, it took sides in a week-old development in the ongoing political controversy over how President Obama is using his powers. That opinion ... reached far outside the record of the case to find reasons to denounce the Obama Administration for supposedly not even wanting 'to enforce the immigration laws as written.' Even for a judge who wears his sentiments on the sleeve of his robe, this was remarkable, and not one of his colleagues would sign on to those remarks.

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate finds the first good argument against cameras in the courtroom: Justice Kagan "continued to look uneasy as Scalia went on scolding Justice Kennedy." Kennedy seemed unperturbed.

Prof. Paul Campos in Salon: Scalia's dissent was "written by a man who obviously no longer cares that he sounds increasingly like a right-wing talk radio host rather than a justice of the Supreme Court, and that his dissents are starting to read more like hastily drafted blog posts than sober judicial opinions. Like many a graying eminence, Scalia is becoming a caricature of his younger self. This is a serious problem, given that the Supreme Court continues to devolve into an institution dominated by cranky senior citizens, who are harder to get rid of than the longest-serving members of the old Soviet politburo. Indeed, Scalia seems headed down the path previously trod by those justices who clearly didn't know when to hang up their robes."

Nadine Zylberberg of the New Yorker dishes up some bon mots from earlier Scalia dissents. They're quite amusing & prove the truism that one can be simultaneously smart & crazy.

Walter Dellinger in Slate: "What is striking to me about the court's decision in the Arizona immigration case is what a total victory this decision was for the U.S. government and for the solicitor general. Press coverage that leads with the notion that the court upheld the 'key provision' or suggesting that the overall outcome was a 'split verdict' seems way off base to me. The feds won."

"Winning Arizona." Alex Koppelman of the New Yorker: The suit became "something of a referendum on the President's recent decision to use the force of 'prosecutorial discretion' to implement his own version of the DREAM Act.... And Obama won that referendum. 'Discretion in the enforcement of immigration law embraces immediate human concerns,' Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. 'The equities of an individual case may turn on many factors, including whether the alien has children born in the United States, long ties to the community, or a record of distinguished military service.'"

Statement from the President.

Victory! Dana Milbank: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed S.B. 1070 into law & strongly advocated for it, was evidently totally unable to understand the ruling, and put out a statement declaring victory. ...

... M. J. Lee of Politico: "Just hours after hailing the Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona's immigration law as a 'legal victory' for her state, Gov. Jan Brewer changed her tone, accusing the Obama administration of telling her state to 'drop dead.' ... The Obama administration announced that it was revoking agreements with Arizona police over the enforcement of federal immigration laws."


American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock
-- the Montana Campaign Finance Law.

David Firestone of the New York Times: "The justices ... must be aware of the transformation of American politics that followed their Citizens United decision in 2010. They have watched as hundreds of millions of special-interest dollars flowed into super PACs, and into secretive advocacy groups that violate the court's own preference for disclosure. But ... when the court had an opportunity to reconsider its application of Citizens United..., the court's five conservative justices struck down -- without oral argument -- a Montana law that prohibited corporate spending in elections.... It's hard not to conclude that the conservative justices ... are quite content with the domination that big money is giving to business interests in this year's races."

E. J. Dionne: "Will everyone please finally admit that conservatives actually don't care a whit about states' rights unless invoking states' rights happens to be helpful to the conservative agenda? ... Breyer wrote..., 'Montana's experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court's decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court's supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.' ... A Supreme Court nominee named John Roberts ... said during his confirmation hearings that the court should be wary of overturning precedent and should pay attention to factors 'like settled expectations, like the legitimacy of the court, like whether a particular precedent is workable or not, whether a precedent has been eroded by subsequent developments.' ... It's a shame that the current Chief Justice Roberts has so little in common with the John Roberts who testified before the Senate."

"Corrupt Practices" Wins Again. Andrew Leonard of Salon: "Corporate profits are at an all-time high, while wages are at an all-time low. This kind of thing doesn't happen by accident. It requires sustained pressure over time; changes in the tax code and labor laws, decisions by courts. It is the result of billion of dollars worth of lobbying. It represents one of the greatest capitalist success stories of the modern age -- the near complete subversion of a democracy to serve corporate interests. And it's getting worse all the time -- a process exacerbated by Citizens United."

Alex Altman of Time: "... if you oppose Citizens United, the summary reversal is probably a good thing. There is, as [Justice Stephen] Breyer noted, little indication that any of the conservative justices who reshaped U.S. election law through Citizens United are currently inclined to change their minds on the merits of the case, regardless of the consequences that have manifested.... Had the Court taken the case now, the likeliest result would have been for Citizens United to be upheld or extended.... That would make it harder for a Court with a more liberal bent to undo or alter the law going forward."


Miller v. Alabama
-- Youthful Murderers.

Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog: "At a minimum, any life-without-parole sentence for an adolescent murderer will get very heavy scrutiny if it goes to the Supreme Court. Indeed, the Court said it expects such a sentence to be uncommon from here on." The opinion, written by Justice Elena Kagan, is here (pdf).


In an interview with Gail Sheehy for the Daily Beast, Bill Clinton makes the case for Democrats -- way better than Republicans for the economy, for jobs & for health care; he spells out the consequences of the ACA being struck down. Clinton is still a closer; you'd buy a used car from the guy.

Presidential Race

Trip Gabriel & Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court's decision on Arizona's strict immigration law gave President Obama another shot at energizing Latino voters, while Mitt Romney defended states' aggressive efforts to fight illegal immigration." CW: the article is pretty interesting; the Supremes did not help Romney today, nor did he help himself, but I'm afraid his friends on the Court will be way more helpful Thursday.

Michael O'Brien of NBC News: "Mitt Romney's campaign is weathering increasing media scrutiny of the candidate's stubborn refusal to address major issues..., threatening to transform a standoff with the media into an issue in itself in the campaign. The latest example: [Romney's] ... general refusal to opine directly on today's Supreme Court decision striking down many aspects of Arizona's tough immigration law.... Romney's statement sidestepped the decision itself in an initial written statement, and turned its scrutiny toward President Obama."

"The difference between 'outsourcing' and 'offshoring' ..."

** James Downie of the Washington Post recaps three articles about Mitt Romney & Bain Capital -- all of which we've linked here in previous days. "The Romney of Bain Capital had little time for anything beyond profits. Efficiency and the bottom line ruled. Who cared about the jobs lost, the livelihoods destroyed and the lines crossed, as long as Bain got its money?" Downie equates the fired employees to voter-citizens and Bain investors to his big-money donors today. "If his record as a business leader is any indication, don't think for a moment President Romney will put your vote, or our laws, above his investors." ...

... CW: a couple of stories I read about Romney's weekend lalapalooza for donors in Park City, Utah, noted how comfortable Romney seemed schmoozing with his fatcat friends. If you wonder why Romney is -- by contrast -- so ill-at-ease among us hoi polloi, I'm pretty sure I know: he is afraid he'll inadvertently reveal that he plans to run roughshod over our pitiful little lives. It isn't that he is ashamed of this; he sees nothing wrong with ruining the lives of millions, but he knows he needs to hoodwink us to get what he wants.

Kelly Cernetich of Politics, PA: "Pennsylvania State "House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) suggested that the House's end game in passing the Voter ID law was to benefit the GOP politically.... 'Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.' The statement drew a loud round of applause from the audience.... Critics ... called it an admission that [Republicans] passed the bill to make it harder for Democrats to vote -- and not to prevent voter fraud as the legislators claimed." Via Greg Sargent. CW: No kidding. Looks like grounds for a lawsuit.

Other Stuff That Matters

Paul Fahri of the Washington Post: "Major news outlets, print and TV, turn mainly to male sources for their take on abortion, birth control and Planned Parenthood, according to a study by 4th Estate, a research group that monitors campaign coverage. Women don't even rate as the most common sources for reports about 'women's rights,' a catch-all category that excludes reproductive issues, the group said. Women accounted for ... 31 percent of the sources in these reports, with men in the majority, 52 percent, and institutions and organizations comprising the balance. On some topics, such as abortion, men were four to seven times more likely as women to be the ones offering an opinion." At one point in his report, Fahri notes, "Yes, I -- a man -- consulted another man for his opinion on why women's views aren't sought out by media types on women's issues."

Brian Vastag of the Washington Post: "The 2010 BP oil spill accelerated the loss of Louisiana's delicate marshlands, which were already rapidly disappearing before the largest oil spill in U.S. history, a new study reports. As the oil washed into the marshlands, it coated and smothered thick grasses at their edge. When the grass died, deep roots that held the soil together also died, leaving the shore banks of the marshlands to crumble...."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Surviving one of the toughest re-election fights of his career, Representative Charles B. Rangel fended off four challengers on Tuesday to win the Democratic nomination for a 22nd term in Congress."

New York Times: "Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a six-term Utah Republican, fended off a primary challenge from a Tea Party-backed insurgent candidate on Tuesday, a result that showed the power of money, organization and incumbency to overcome grass-roots anger at the Washington establishment."

New York Times: "Nora Ephron, an essayist and humorist in the Dorothy Parker mold (only smarter and funnier, some said) who became one of her era's most successful screenwriters and filmmakers, making romantic comedy hits like 'Sleepless in Seattle' and 'When Harry Met Sally,' died Tuesday night in Manhattan. She was 71."

** Washington Post: 'The University of Virginia governing board voted unanimously Tuesday to reinstate Teresa Sullivan as president, more than two weeks after board leaders had forced her to resign. The board's vote to rescind Sullivan's June 10 resignation completed an unprecedented cycle of events at U-Va. that had plunged the state flagship university into political chaos, with 16 days of mass protests, no-confidence votes and talk of mass faculty defections."

Politico: "In a surprisingly sweeping win for the Obama administration's climate policies, a federal appeals court said Tuesday that the EPA is 'unambiguously correct' in the legal reasoning behind its regulation of greenhouse gases. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit strenuously backed the EPA's finding that the climate-altering emissions pose a danger to the public health and welfare. It also upheld the agency's early requirements for vehicles and new industrial plants while rejecting every challenge brought by a host of industry groups, states and other critics."

AP Item: "A top EU official is calling for countries that use the euro to grant a European authority the power to demand changes to their national budgets as part of a grand vision to save the currency. Other ideas in the plan, published Tuesday by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on the council website, include issuing medium-term debt backed by all countries and a banking union with a single authority that would insure banking deposits and have the power to recapitalize banks directly." ...

     ... Update: the New York Times' full story on the proposal.

Washington Post: "NATO on Tuesday condemned the downing of a Turkish jet by Syria as 'completely unacceptable,' and Turkey put Syria on notice that it would retaliate for any future violations along its border."

Wall Street Journal: Rupert Murdoch's "News Corp. is considering splitting into two companies, separating its publishing assets from its entertainment businesses. The split would carve off News Corp.'s film and television businesses, including 20th Century Fox film studio, Fox broadcast network and Fox News channel from its newspapers, book publishing assets and education businesses...." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Top executives at News Corporation will meet on Tuesday to discuss a potential breakup that would sever the media company's underperforming newspapers from its lucrative entertainment assets. The spinoff, which could be announced as early as this week, comes as News Corporation's newspapers, once the foundation of Rupert Murdoch's $50 billion media empire, face financial strain and a decline in print advertising." ...

     ... New York Times Update 2: "The spinoff proposal will be reviewed by the News Corporation board on Wednesday and a decision to split up the company could be made as early as Thursday."

"NBC News has obtained a copy of a seven-page letter from House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa to Barack Obama that raises the stakes in the stand-off between Congress and the attorney general."

Sunday
Jun242012

The Commentariat -- June 25, 2012

CW: Everybody is writing about health care in anticipation of the Supreme Court's ruling -- expected this week -- on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, so I guess I should share:

This is the year of the Supreme Court’s Obama smack down. -- Adam Winkler, law professor

... Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "The impending health care ruling by the Supreme Court has become this city's O. J. Simpson verdict crossed with a papal conclave -- polarizing, maddeningly unpredictable and shrouded in mysterious signaling. The ruling is expected to come this week, either shortly after 10 a.m. on Monday, the last scheduled day of the term, or on an extra day later in the week." ...

... Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post: "Some prominent legal scholars say a series of tactical decisions by President Obama's legal team may have hurt the chances of saving his landmark health-care legislation from being gutted by Supreme Court conservatives. The warnings are a preview of the finger-pointing certain to ensue if the law is overturned." ...

... Bob Drummond of Bloomberg News: "The U.S. Supreme Court should uphold a law requiring most Americans to have health insurance if the justices follow legal precedent, according to 19 of 21 constitutional law professors who ventured an opinion on the most-anticipated ruling in years. Only eight of them predicted the court would do so." ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "Death and taxes aren't the only certain things in life. Accident, illness, and injury are too.... The Affordable Care Act won't help all [Americans].... But it will help an awful lot of them. In fact, it's already starting to make a difference.... A decision to strike down even part of the law would have grave consequences -- for the court's legitimacy and, perhaps, the norms that make our constitutional system function." ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York magazine on the moral issue: The Republican party "is the only mainstream political party in the advanced world" that holds that citizens should be deprived "of basic medical care" if they can't afford it. ...

... Chait on how badly the Court may "screw up Obamacare." Chait explains, BTW, what will happen this week: the Court is "announcing whether Anthony Kennedy hates health care reform a lot or only a little, because everybody assumes the other four Republican justices hate it so much they'll declare it unconstitutional," despite the fact that it is obviously constitutional. ...

... Robert Barnes of the Washington Post writes about the Obama administration's poor showing in cases before the Court, but the administration's losses, as Barnes documents, are not all attributable to the conservative-liberal divide. ...

... AND E. J. Dionne gets to the heart of the matter: "if [the Court] throws out all or part of ... 'Obamacare,' we will need a fearless conversation about how a conservative majority of the court has become a cog in a larger right-wing project to make progressive political and legislative victories impossible." ...

... ** FINALLY. CW: Jim Fallows expresses exactly what I was getting at yesterday -- in fact, he traces the recent history in one sentence: "when you look at the sequence from Bush v. Gore, through Citizens United, to what seems to be coming on the health-care front; and you combine it with ongoing efforts in Florida and elsewhere to prevent voting from presumably Democratic blocs; and add that to the simply unprecedented abuse of the filibuster in the years since the Democrats won control of the Senate and then took the White House, you have what we'd identify as a kind of long-term coup if we saw it happening anywhere else."

Paul Krugman: "Why won't the Fed act [to stimulate job growth]? My guess is that it's intimidated by those Congressional Republicans, that's it's afraid to do anything that might be seen as providing political aid to President Obama, that is, anything that might help the economy. Maybe there';s some other explanation, but the fact is that the Fed, like the European Central Bank, like the U.S. Congress, like the government of Germany, has decided that avoiding economic disaster is somebody else's responsibility. None of this should be happening.... The fundamentals of the world economy aren't, in themselves, all that scary; it's the almost universal abdication of responsibility that fills me, and many other economists, with a growing sense of dread."

The Washington Post excerpts Little America, a book by Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who writes that "infighting and incompetence within the American government" -- i.e., the Obama administration -- characterized the Afghanistan war effort: "a war cabinet arrested by vicious bickering among top national security aides; diplomats and aid workers who failed to deliver on their grand promises; generals who dispatched troops to the wrong places; and headstrong military leaders who sought a far more expansive campaign than the White House wanted. Through their bungling and quarreling, they wound up squandering the first year of the surge." ...

... Anne Gearan of the AP: "As President Barack Obama considered adding as many as 40,000 U.S. forces to a backsliding war in Afghanistan in 2009, Vice President Joe Biden warned him that the military rationale for doing so was flawed, a new book about Obama's expansion of the conflict says. The book, 'Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan,' also says that in planning the drawdown of troops two years later, the White House intentionally sidelined the CIA. Obama purposely did not read a grim CIA assessment of Afghanistan that found little measurable benefit from the 30,000 'surge' forces Obama eventually approved...."

Washington Post Reporters: John "Boehner [R-Ohio] is one of 34 members of Congress who took steps to recast their financial portfolios during the financial crisis after phone calls or meetings with [Treasury Secretary Henry] Paulson; his successor, Timothy F. Geithner; or Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, according to a Washington Post examination of appointment calendars and congressional disclosure forms. The lawmakers, many of whom held leadership positions ... in the House and Senate, changed portions of their portfolios a total of 166 times within two business days of speaking or meeting with the administration officials. The party affiliation of the lawmakers was about evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, 19 to 15." Here are links to related content.

Josh Israel of Think Progress: "Last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) claimed that the White House decision to invoke executive privilege to prevent the release of some documents related to the 'Fast and Furious' investigation indicated some sort of admission of a White House cover-up. Today, pressed by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) admitted that there is absolutely no evidence to back up Boehner's allegation." With video. ...

... BUT. Alexander Bolton of The Hill: "House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) predicted Sunday that Republicans and Democrats would vote to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress this week." CW: yeah, and as we learned from Chris Hayes yesterday (see link in June 24 Commentariat), the Oracle Issa got a little help from the NRA, which is scoring votes on Holder.

Rachel Donadio of the New York Times has a good follow-up story on the Vatican's hiring of Fox "News" correspondent & Opus Dei member Greg Burke as a "message strategist." (See link in yesterday's Commentariat to the AP breaking story.)

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has launched a campaign calling on British Home Secretary Theresa May to stop the extradition to the U.S. of U.K. student Richard O'Dwyer, who is facing alleged copyright offenses because he posted links to sites that allowed viewing or downloading of TV content usually not available outside the U.S. Wales' op-ed in the Guardian is here, with links to related content.

Presidential Race

** Ruthless Romney & the Junk Bond King. Michael Kranish & Beth Healy of the Boston Globe: "...at the height of the 1980s buyout boom ... Mitt Romney went in search of $300 million to finance one of the most lucrative deals he would ever manage. The man who would help provide the money was ... famed junk-bond king Michael Milken. What transpired would become not just one of the most profitable leveraged buyouts of the era, but also one of the most revealing stories of Romney's Bain Capital career.... It is one that Romney has rarely, if ever, mentioned in his two bids for the presidency, perhaps because the Houston-based department store chain that Bain assembled later went into bankruptcy.... At the time of the deal, it was widely known that Milken and his company were under federal investigation, yet Romney decided to go ahead.... He used junk-bond financing to turn a $10 million investment into a $175 million profit for himself, his partners, and his investors." CW: this is a 4-pager & worth reading.

     ... Via Margaret Hartmann of New York magazine.

Local News

Katharine Seelye of the New York Times: "Three years after voters in Maine rejected same-sex marriage, they will consider the matter again in November. This time, advocates say they have reason for optimism."

News Ledes

Boston Globe: "President Barack Obama, campaigning in Mitt Romney's backyard, criticized his Republican rival anew Monday for what his re-election campaign says is a record of shipping American jobs overseas." ...

... New York Times: "Elizabeth Warren opened for President Obama at his Boston fund-raiser on Monday, ripping into his rival, Mitt Romney ... using themes from her own campaign."

Montana campaign law "summarily reversed" 5-4. Update: the order is here (pdf). ...

** Per SCOTUSblog, Justice Kennedy announcing Arizona case. "Most of the key provisions of [Arizona] SB1070 (3 of 4) are invalidated. One provision is held not to be proved preempted; it must be construed.... The provision that the Court says is not yet preempted is the 'check your papers' provision that commands officers to check immigration status. Update: here's the opinion on Arizona v. U.S. "The upshot of the SB1070 ruling is that, for now, Arizona can apply the 'check your papers' provision. And the Court's opinion is a guide to the State on how to apply that provision without being invalidated.... The Court's decision on the 'show your papers' provision strongly suggests it will have to be read narrowly to survive.... On net, the #SB1070 decision is a significant win for the Obama Administration. It got almost everything it wanted. Scalia would uphold Az. law in toto. CW characterization: Scalia, totally pissed off, is reading his 7-page dissent from the bench. ...

... The healthcare ruling will be Thursday at 10am. The SCOTUSblog liveblog will start at 9am at the latest.

... AP Item: "The Supreme Court has reaffirmed its two-year-old decision relaxing limits on corporate campaign spending [i.e., Citizens United]. The justices on Monday reversed a Montana court ruling upholding state restrictions.By a 5-4 vote, the court's conservative justices said the decision in the Citizens United case in 2010 applies to state campaign finance laws and guarantees corporate and labor union interests the right to spend freely to advocate for or against candidates for state and local offices." ...

... ** New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Monday delivered a split decision on Arizona's tough 2010 immigration law, upholding its most controversial provision but blocking the implementation of others." ...

... ** Washington Post: "The Supreme Court on Monday rejected much of Arizona's controversial immigration law, but upheld other provisions, giving a partial victory to the Obama administration."

New York Times: "As more high-ranking Syrian officers were reported on Monday to have defected to Turkey, the European Union urged the government in Ankara to show restraint in a crisis over the downing of one of its jet fighters by Syria, an episode that has heightened regional tensions over the 16-month crisis there." ...

... AP: "Dozens of members of Syria's military defected to Turkey overnight with their families, a Turkish official said Monday, at a time of heightened tensions between the two countries over Syria's downing of a Turkish military plane. The state-run Anadolu news agency said 33 soldiers crossed into Turkey overnight and the group -- 224 people in all -- included a general and two colonels." ...

... AP: "Syria's Foreign Ministry spokesman says his country has 'no hostility' toward Turkey as tensions soar between the former allies three days after Syria shot down a Turkish plane. Jihad Makdissi said on Monday that the Turkish plane violated Syrian air space. Turkey said the plane had unintentionally strayed into Syria's air space, but was inside international airspace when it was brought down."

New York Times: "Documents unsealed in a fraud case against Pfizer suggest that research officials were less than forthcoming about the safety of the arthritis drug Celebrex during an early trial study."

Guardian: "Lawyers acting for the convicted serial paedophile Jerry Sandusky have said that they tried to withdraw from the case at the beginning of proceedings because they had insufficient time to prepare a proper defence. The claim, from Sandusky's main defence lawyer Joe Amendola, lays down a possible line of argument should he decide, as expected, to appeal his sexual abuse conviction."