The Wires
The Ledes

Wednesday, April 25, 2018.

Los Angeles Times: "Authorities have arrested a former police officer who is suspected of being one of California’s most prolific serial killers and rapists — the Golden State killer. According to law enforcement sources who were unauthorized to speak publicly about the case, a local and federal task force apprehended the suspect late Tuesday evening. A 72-year-old Citrus Heights resident, Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., has been arrested on suspicion of murder and is being held without bail, according to Sacramento County jail records. In the 40 years since the Original Night Stalker began his campaign of terror in Sacramento and moved south through Oakland, Santa Barbara and Orange counties, he had remained unidentified. The attacker was also dubbed the East Area Rapist and the Golden State killer, and authorities say he is responsible for 12 killings, 45 rapes and more than 120 residential burglaries between 1976 and 1986."

... Guardian: "The Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to a boy. Kate and Williams’s third child was born at 11.01am at St Mary’s hospital, Paddington, central London. The baby weighed in at 8lb 7oz. The birth was announced to the public by Kensington Palace with a tweet.... The new Prince of Cambridge is fifth in line to the throne, and is Queen Elizabeth II’s sixth great-grandchild."

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie on "Why I take my political advice from country & western stars":

I would have voted for [Donald Trump] because, even though he was offensive, he seemed honest. Do you want straight or polite? Not that you shouldn’t be able to have both. If I were voting, I just don’t want bullshit. I would have voted for a feeling that it was transparent. And politics has a reputation of not being that, right? -- Shania Twain, a Canadian C&W performer

Especially if you're into very high-end decorative porcelain, here are some highlights of David & Peggy Rockefeller's collection that will go on auction beginning May 1. Unless you're a Rockefeller, your grandmother's curio cabinet never looked quite like this. To access the full Christie's catalog on the Rockefeller estate objets, start here.

Oh Noes! The Local: "Rome's Jewish community is embroiled in a standoff with Israel's top religious authority after it declared the Eternal City's cherished dish of 'carciofi alla giudia' (deep-fried whole artichoke) not kosher. The crisp golden delicacies are a speciality of the Roman-Jewish cuisine and a prominent feature on menus. But Israel's Chief Rabbinate said the method of cooking the artichoke whole made it impossible to clean properly and it didn't therefore adhere to kosher standards. 'The heart of the artichoke is full of worms, there's no way you can clean it,' said the head of imports of Israel's Rabbinate, Yitzhak Arazi, in an interview with national newspaper Haaretz. 'It can't be kosher. It's not our politics, this is Jewish religious law.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This would be a tragedy. I've had Jewish-style artichokes in Rome's old Jewish quarter, & I'm pretty sure god would approve.

New York Times: Turns out the reboot of "Roseanne" is the result of ABC Entertainment's plan to become the Trump Nation's go-to teevee network, a strategy that began to take shape the day after Trump's election. "The top markets for the debut [of "Roseanne"] read like a political pollster’s red-state checklist: Cincinnati; Kansas City, Mo.; Tulsa, Okla. Liberal enclaves like New York and Los Angeles did not crack the top 20." ...

... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: If, like Medlar & me, you happened to miss the premiere/reboot of the "Roseanne" show, where Roseanne Barr plays a Trump supporter (as she is in real life),

This video is dedicated to the Wives of Trump. Thanks to a friend for the link:

Here's a related story by Avi Selk of the Washington Post: "Deep-sea anglerfish sex ... is an endless horror. Every. Single. Time. A male anglerfish's first and only sexual adventure results in his becoming permanently fused — by his lips, no less — to the side of a relatively gargantuan female that resembles David Cronenberg's nightmare about the shark from 'Jaws.'”

 

An Outsider Artist Who Changed Modern Painting. New York: "In the 1940s, a 16-year-old girl captured the minds of the art world’s elite. The self-taught Algerian artist, Baya Mahieddine (1931-1988) — known as Baya — is finally being celebrated in the first North American exhibition of her work, at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, through March 31. Baya used gouache as her primary medium, depicting a world without men but full of bright images of women, nature, and animals." Baya influenced, among others, Picasso & Matisse, which is kinda obvious.

I posted this for no other reason than this is the first time I've seen it. But the "national policy" Tommy announces is more true today than ever in American history. To those of you too young to have seen a Carson monologue, I apologize:

ObamaTV. New York Times: "Former President Barack Obama is in advanced negotiations with Netflix to produce a series of high-profile shows that will provide him a global platform after his departure from the White House, according to people familiar with the discussions.Under terms of a proposed deal, which is not yet final, Netflix would pay Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, for exclusive content that would be available only on the streaming service.... The Netflix deal, while not a direct answer to Fox News or Breitbart.com, would give Mr. Obama an unfiltered method of communication with the public similar to the audiences he already reaches through social media...."

Chicago Tribune: "A new scientific study claims that bones found in 1940 on the Pacific Island of Nikumaroro belong to [American aviator Amelia] Earhart, despite a forensic analysis of the remains conducted in 1941 that linked the bones to a male. The bones, revisited in the study 'Amelia Earhart and the Nikumaroro Bones' by University of Tennessee professor Richard Jantz, were discarded. For decades they have remained an enigma, as some have speculated that Earhart died a castaway on the island after her plane crashed." Jantz's conclusion is based on measurements of the bones taken by a medical doctor in 1941.

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. -- H. L. Mencken (probably)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling

Wednesday
Dec302015

The Commentariat -- Dec. 31, 2015

Griff Witte & Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post: "Revelers in cities worldwide will ring in 2016 under extraordinary security with law enforcement agencies deploying extra police, shutting down popular venues and warning of an increased threat of terrorism following recent attacks in Paris and California."

Justin Gillis of the New York Times: "With tornado outbreaks in the South, Christmas temperatures that sent trees into bloom in Central Park, drought in parts of Africa and historic floods drowning the old industrial cities of England, 2015 is closing with a string of weather anomalies all over the world. The year [is] expected to be the hottest on record.... Rain in the central United States has been so heavy that major floods are likely along the lower Mississippi River in coming weeks. California may lurch from drought to flood by late winter. Most serious, millions of people could be threatened by a developing food shortage in southern Africa." ...

... Darryl Fears & Angela Fritz of the Washington Post: "From the top of the world to near the bottom, freakish and unprecedented weather has sent temperatures soaring across the Arctic, whipped the United Kingdom with hurricane-force winds and spawned massive flooding in South America."

Annals of Journalism. Cara Anna of the AP: "Sixty-nine journalists were killed around the world on the job in 2015. Twenty-eight of them were slain by Islamic militant groups, including al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The New York-based organization says Syria again was the deadliest place for journalists, though the number of deaths there in 2015 -- 13 -- was lower than in previous years of the conflict."

The Koch Party. Ken Vogel of Politico: Charles & David Koch "have quietly assembled, piece by piece, a privatized political and policy advocacy operation like no other in American history that today includes hundreds of donors and employs 1,200 full-time, year-round staffers in 107 offices nationwide. That's about 3½ times as many employees as the Republican National Committee and its congressional campaign arms had on their main payrolls last month, according to Politico's analysis of tax and campaign documents and interviews with sources familiar with the network. And the staggering sum the network plans to spend in the 2016 election run-up ― $889 million ― is more than double what the RNC spent in the previous presidential cycle."

Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic: "In America, we have decided that it is permissible, that it is wise, that it is moral for the police to de-escalate through killing.... A state that allows its agents to kill, to beat, to tase, without any real sanction, has ceased to govern and has commenced to simply rule."

Nick Corasaniti & Rachel Shorey of the New York Times: "First and last names. Recent addresses and phone numbers. Party affiliation. Voting history and demographics. A database containing this information from 191 million voter records was mysteriously published over the last week..., alarming privacy experts who say the information can be used for phishing attacks, identity theft and extortion. No one knows who built the database, or precisely where all the data came from, and whether its disclosure resulted from an inadvertent release or from hacks. The disclosure was discovered by an information technology specialist, Chris Vickery, who quickly alerted the authorities and published his findings on Databreaches.net." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "Republican lawmakers criticized the Obama administration Wednesday after a report that U.S. eavesdropping on Israeli officials during the Iran nuclear negotiations had picked up communications with members of Congress and Jewish American organizations. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced that the panel will look into the findings of the Wall Street Journal report and whether all laws and rules were followed. The House Oversight Committee asked the National Security Agency for copies of its policies on screening intercepted communications from members of Congress. Several candidates for the GOP presidential nomination also expressed alarm about the report, although it was not immediately clear whether any had participated in the intercepted phone calls with Israeli officials." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "... so far, virtually all of the reaction involves two questions: (1) Should the U.S. be spying on our ally Israel?... And (2) should the Executive branch be spying, even incidentally, on the Legislative branch?... But there should be a third question raised as well: Should members of Congress be consorting with agents of a foreign government to thwart U.S. diplomacy?... It would be preferable if American politicians who want to signal to conservative Evangelicals or to Sheldon Adelson that Bibi's policies will be their own could find a way to do so without meeting with people who are under U.S. intelligence surveillance. Their hatred of Barack Obama is no excuse for disloyalty to the United States."

Sarah Wheaton & Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico: "President Barack Obama's bid to assert himself in his final year will begin with long-awaited executive actions on gun control which are expected to be released next week, shortly after he returns to Washington. The White House is putting finishing touches on several measures in an effort to make progress on curbing gun violence, an issue the president and close aides have found frustratingly intractable, before the race to replace him enters prime time."

"Thanks, Obama." Josh Barro of the New York Times: "Data released by the I.R.S. on Wednesday shows that tax rates on the income of America's 400 wealthiest taxpayers rose sharply to 22.9 percent in 2013, erasing a majority of the last two decades' decline in their effective tax rate. As described in an article in The New York Times on Wednesday, tax rates on America's 400 wealthiest taxpayers fell sharply from the late 1990s through 2012, when their average effective income tax rate fell to 16.7 percent from 26.4 percent.... The spike in the wealthiest people's tax rates was mostly achieved ... through initiatives of President Obama.... One was the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which extended the so-called Bush tax cuts for most taxpayers, but allowed certain breaks for people making over $500,000 to expire. The other was the Affordable Care Act, which imposed new taxes on high earners, applying to both regular income and income from capital gains The Relief Act also led to the restoration of rules, repealed under President George W. Bush, that limit the value of tax deductions (like those for mortgage interest and state income taxes paid) for people with high incomes."

Elise Labott of CNN: "The Treasury Department is preparing sanctions against a number of Iranian and other international companies and individuals for their alleged role in developing Iran's ballistic missile program, U.S. officials said Wednesday. Officials said the move was in response to Iran's test launching of two ballistic missiles in October and November."

... Chief White House photographer Pete Souza releases his "Year in Photographs." ...

... CW: I watched every minute of President Obama & Jerry Seinfeld chatting in "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee."

Presidential Race

We take only the Muslims. We don't take the Christians. If you're Christian, it's almost impossible to get into this country. -- Donald Trump, on U.S. immigration practices

This, too, will be common knowledge in crackpot circles by next Tuesday. I'm not sure a presidential campaign has ever catered so successfully to America's Stupidest People. -- Hunter of Daily Kos ...

... Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "Donald Trump "is strongest among Republicans who are less affluent, less educated and less likely to turn out to vote. His very best voters are self-identified Republicans who nonetheless are registered as Democrats. It's a coalition that's concentrated in the South, Appalachia and the industrial North, according to data provided to The Upshot by Civis Analytics, a Democratic data firm. Mr. Trump's huge advantage among these groups poses a challenge for his campaign, because it may not have the turnout operation necessary to mobilize irregular voters." ...

... Rajeev Syal of the Guardian: "The [British] government has responded to a petition calling for Donald Trump to be banned from coming to Britain by pointing out that it has powers to exclude foreign nationals if their presence is 'non-conducive to the public good'.... After the petition gained more than 500,000 signatures, the government released a statement that did not go as far as to say that he would be stopped from entering the UK, but did say Theresa May found Trump's remarks in relation to Muslims 'divisive, unhelpful and wrong'." ...

... Yastreblyansky, covering for Steve M.: Trump's remarks in Iowa about Ted Cruz have "a distinct racist smell." Trump is counting on his ignorant audience not to know that Cruz is as whitey-white as they are. CW: Also, too, tho Yastreblyansky doesn't mention it, Cruz's loony father Rafael is an evangelical, & a preacher at that. So I'm not sure what Trump was talking about when he told the good white people, "In all fairness, to the best of my knowledge, not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba, OK?"

... Dexter Thomas of the Los Angeles Times: "Donald "Trump is ... a white-people problem. ... White people should ... feel ashamed -- as white people -- of Donald Trump. Whites need to stand up and say that they will not allow Trump to hijack their culture, or to conduct his racist politics in their name.... This year, a community has begun to organize around their whiteness and a desire to return to a (largely fictional) vision of what used to be, to 'make America great again.' The challenge now is for whites who care about social justice to create an alternative movement. They'll need to vow to work with their neighbors -- for many of whom America was never particularly 'great' -- to make America better."

Scott Higham & Manuel Roig-Franzia of the Washington Post: "When Marco Rubio was majority whip of the Florida House of Representatives, he used his official position to urge state regulators to grant a real estate license to his brother-in-law, a convicted cocaine trafficker who had been released from prison 20 months earlier.... In July 2002, Rubio sent a letter on his official statehouse stationery to the Florida Division of Real Estate, recommending [his brother-in-law] Orlando Cicilia 'for licensure without reservation.'... Rubio did not disclose in the letter that Cicilia was married to his sister, Barbara, or that the former cocaine dealer was living at the time in the same West Miami home as Rubio's parents. He wrote that he had known Cicilia 'for over 25 years,' without elaborating." ...

     ... CW: Some while back, when the Post published a story about Rubio's brother-in-law, who is ten years Rubio's senior, I argued that Rubio should not be held responsible for what his in-law did when Rubio was a boy. That's still true. But this story poses an entirely different matter. ...

... Charles Pierce: "Marco Rubio Has Gone Full Neocon. Invade here! Invade there! Invade everywhere! And don't forget the waterboard."

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "... Jeb Bush is canceling reserved advertising time in Iowa and South Carolina, the latest reminder of his struggles to connect with voters -- and a sign of possible fundraising troubles. The decision will keep Bush from paying for roughly $3 million of reserved TV time in January -- a little more than $1 million in Iowa just under $2 million in South Carolina. Instead, Bush plans to redeploy roughly 50 staffers to the four states that hold the first contests next year."

Big Midwestern Cities (& Black Police Shooting Victims) Look All Alike. Margaret Hartmann: Jeb! confuses Cleveland with Chicago, reminds everyone how bad the last Bush presidency was by nicknaming a state senator "Hurricane Katrina."

Ed Kilgore: Former New York Gov. George "Pataki was seeking the presidency via a 'moderate lane' that no longer exists. Yes, there are genuinely moderate Republican voters, and a lot more conservative voters who self-identify as 'moderate' to distinguish themselves from the fire-breathing fanatics who used to be found only in the fever swamps of the John Birch Society and other far-right groups. But the constellation of heavily funded ideological groups exerting power in the Republican Party, and the structure of the nominating process, make something like a Pataki candidacy a nonstarter...."

Beyond the Beltway

Ryan Felton of the Guardian: "Michigan governor Rick Snyder apologized on Tuesday for the debacle that caused the city of Flint's water supply to be poisoned by lead, while the top state environment official resigned in light of a report that chiefly placed the blame for the crisis on his department.... Flint has been embroiled in a never-ending stream of water quality issues that began in April 2014, when the city started pulling water from a local river as a cost-saving measure. The switch took place while Flint was operated by a state-appointed emergency manager...." Read the whole story. (Also linked yesterday.)

Christine Hauser & Daniel Victor of the New York Times: "The authorities in Pennsylvania announced criminal charges on Wednesday against the entertainer Bill Cosby stemming from a woman's accusation that he drugged and sexually abused her at his home in a suburb north of Philadelphia, in 2004. Kevin Steele, Montgomery County's district attorney-elect, said that Mr. Cosby faces a felony charge of aggravated indecent assault. He said the investigation involved a 'relationship' between Mr. Cosby and the woman, Andrea Constand, that came about from her work with the basketball team at Temple University, Mr. Cosby's alma mater." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Manuel Roig-Franzia & others of the Washington Post have more on the story.

     ... The criminal complaint against Cosby is here. ...

... Colin Moynihan & Graham Bowley of the New York Times: "While dozens of women have come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Cosby, the Constand case is unique, not only because it is the singular case that has resulted in criminal charges, but also because there exists so many documentary, albeit conflicting, accounts of what took place."

AP: "Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Wednesday that Chicago police must be better trained to distinguish between when they can use a gun and when they should use a gun, after a series of shootings by officers sparked protests and complaints that police are too quick to fire their weapons. Emanuel announced changes in police training and department policies on use of force during a news conference. He also said the police department will double the number of Tasers available to officers...." ...

... ** Rick Perlstein, writing in the New Yorker, takes a brief look at Rahm's brilliant career. Perlstein credits Rahm with screwing up the Democratic party for the past two decades. CW: In fairness, Rahm had a lot of help.

Richard Winton & James Queally of the Los Angeles Times: "Enrique Marquez Jr., the man who purchased two of the weapons used to kill 14 people inside a San Bernardino social services center earlier this month, was indicted Wednesday on additional charges related to the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, federal prosecutors said. Prosecutors unveiled a superseding indictment that brings the total number of charges against Marquez to five. He faces up to 50 years in federal prison if convicted."

Katherine Krueger of TPM: "A loosely organized group of self-styled patriots is convening in rural Oregon Saturday in hopes of provoking another showdown with the federal government, this time in support of a father and son ranching duo convicted of torching public land. Dwight Hammond Jr., 73, and his son Steven Hammond, 46, are due to report to federal prison Jan. 4 for starting a series of wildfires on federal lands in 2012.... Now a cast of right wing-rabble rousers are coming to their defense, including the infamous anti-Muslim activist Jon Ritzheimer and Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.... The decentralized group has called on Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward to create a sanctuary so the Hammonds won't have to surrender to federal authorities, The Oregonian reported. After Ward refused, he received death threats and was labeled an 'enemy of the people.'"

Daniel Victor of the New York Times: "Federal marshals said on Wednesday that it was uncertain when Ethan Couch, the Texas teenager known for using an 'affluenza' defense in a fatal drunken-driving case, would be returned to the United States from Mexico to face charges of violating his parole. Mr. Couch, 18, and his mother, Tonya, 48, were arrested Monday night in Puerto Vallarta after the United States Marshals Service tipped off the Mexican authorities to their location. He was made famous by the successful defense that he should not go to prison for killing four people in an accident because he suffered from too much privilege stemming from his family's wealth."

Way Beyond

Milan Schrueur of the New York Times: "In the six weeks since the Paris terrorist attacks, law enforcement agencies in Brussels, where most of the attackers lived or had ties, have been denounced as slow, unresponsive, disorganized and even incompetent. To this list of woes, another was added on Wednesday: Officials are investigating accounts of an alcohol-fueled 'orgy' at a police station one night last month while Brussels, the Belgian capital, was nearly shut down over fears of a copycat terrorist attack." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Ceylan Yeginsu of the New York Times: "A major Turkish military operation to eradicate Kurdish militants in Turkey's restive southeast has turned dozens of urban districts into bloody battlefields, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians and shattering hopes of reviving peace as an old war reaches its deadliest level in two decades."

News Ledes

Reuters: Emanuel L Lutchman, "a 25-year-old man accused of planning to attack a restaurant in [Rochester in] upstate New York on New Year's Eve, has been arrested and charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State militant group, the US Department of Justice said on Thursday."

AP: Tonya Couch, "the mother of fugitive 'affluenza teen' Ethan Couch, will likely remain jailed for several days in Los Angeles after being deported from Mexico, investigators said on Thursday."

Washington Post: "A fire broke out at the Address Hotel in downtown Dubai on Thursday just hours before a planned New Year's Eve fireworks display nearby."

AP: "Belgian authorities on Thursday announced the arrest of a 10th person in connection with last month's bloodbath in Paris and said six others have been detained for questioning over a suspected plot to stage new attacks in Brussels during the holidays."

Wednesday
Dec302015

The Commentariat -- Dec. 30, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Nick Corasaniti & Rachel Shorey of the New York Times: "First and last names. Recent addresses and phone numbers. Party affiliation. Voting history and demographics. A database containing this information from 191 million voter records was mysteriously published over the last week..., alarming privacy experts who say the information can be used for phishing attacks, identity theft and extortion. No one knows who built the database, or precisely where all the data came from, and whether its disclosure resulted from an inadvertent release or from hacks. The disclosure was discovered by an information technology specialist, Chris Vickery, who quickly alerted the authorities and published his findings on Databreaches.net."

Christine Hauser & Daniel Victor of the New York Times: "The authorities in Pennsylvania announced criminal charges on Wednesday against the entertainer Bill Cosby stemming from a woman's accusation that he drugged and sexually abused her at his home in a suburb north of Philadelphia, in 2004. Kevin Steele, Montgomery County's district attorney-elect, said that Mr. Cosby faces a felony charge of aggravated indecent assault. He said the investigation involved a 'relationship' between Mr. Cosby and the woman, Andrea Constand, that came about from her work with the basketball team at Temple University, Mr. Cosby’s alma mater."

Milan Schrueur of the New York Times: "In the six weeks since the Paris terrorist attacks, law enforcement agencies in Brussels, where most of the attackers lived or had ties, have been denounced as slow, unresponsive, disorganized and even incompetent. To this list of woes, another was added on Wednesday: Officials are investigating accounts of an alcohol-fueled 'orgy' at a police station one night last month while Brussels, the Belgian capital, was nearly shut down over fears of a copycat terrorist attack."

Ryan Felton of the Guardian: "Michigan governor Rick Snyder apologized on Tuesday for the debacle that caused the city of Flint's water supply to be poisoned by lead, while the top state environment official resigned in light of a report that chiefly placed the blame for the crisis on his department.... Flint has been embroiled in a never-ending stream of water quality issues that began in April 2014, when the city started pulling water from a local river as a cost-saving measure. The switch took place while Flint was operated by a state-appointed emergency manager...." Read the whole story.

*****

Noam Scheiber & Patricia Cohen of the New York Times: "With inequality at its highest levels in nearly a century and public debate rising over whether the government should respond to it through higher taxes on the wealthy, the very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes. Some call it the 'income defense industry,' consisting of a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and anti-tax activists who exploit and defend a dizzying array of tax maneuvers, virtually none of them available to taxpayers of more modest means. In recent years, this apparatus has become one of the most powerful avenues of influence for wealthy Americans of all political stripes.... All are among a small group providing much of the early cash for the 2016 presidential campaign."

Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "U.S. intelligence agencies recently fought off a move by Congress to require the CIA and other spy services to disclose more details about high-ranking employees who have been promoted or fired, despite pledges to be more open and accountable. The disputed measure was designed to increase scrutiny of cases in which senior officers ascend to high-level positions despite problems ranging from abusive treatment of subordinates to involvement in botched operations overseas." ...

... Ha Ha! Looks as if those reprobates at the NSA were spying on Bibi & his BFFs in the GOP. Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "The U.S. captured communications from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his aides and swept up the content of private conversations with U.S. lawmakers, giving the Obama administration insight into Israel's lobbying efforts against the international nuclear deal with Iran, according to a new report. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the National Security Agency (NSA) swept up information that White House officials considered valuable as it sought to counter Netanyahu's vocal opposition to the nuclear deal between Iran, the U.S. and other world leaders. Netanyahu reportedly remained a top priority for the snooping, according to the report, despite President Obama saying two years ago he would curb eavesdropping on allies." CW: Sorry about that ha ha. I'm shocked, shocked that we would spy on our good friend Bibi. ...

... Nolan McCaskill of Politico has more on the spy story. I was able to pick up the original Journal story, by Adam Entous & Danny Yadron, via Google. The lede is "President Barack Obama announced two years ago he would curtail eavesdropping on friendly heads of state after the world learned the reach of long-secret U.S. surveillance programs." (Of course if you have a WSJ subscription, you won't have to jump thru the Google hoops.) And there's this from the Journal story, which also is shock, shock, shocking:

Stepped-up NSA eavesdropping revealed to the White House how Mr. Netanyahu and his advisers had leaked details of the U.S.-Iran negotiations -- learned through Israeli spying operations -- to undermine the talks; coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes, according to current and former officials familiar with the intercepts.

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "Congressional Republicans are planning to start the new year with another attempt to ban federal funds for Planned Parenthood. But after five years of fruitless legislative attacks, the House vote next week is likely to be the last, conservative activists say, until a Republican moves into the White House.... This month..., hard-line Republicans, including several who are running for president, were all but silent as Congress passed an annual government spending bill that would maintain about $500 million in Medicaid reimbursements for the network's health services to low-income people. (Federal law prohibits funds for most abortions.)"

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. AP: "Kalobios, the troubled drugmaker taken over by Martin Shkreli last month, is seeking bankruptcy protection less than two weeks after his arrest on securities fraud. The San Francisco company was recently informed by Nasdaq that it would be delisted because of Shkreli's indictment." CW: Boo-fucking-hoo. P.S. I hope I haven't unknowingly invested in Kalobios. If so, boo-fucking-hoo for me, too.

Presidential Race

Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "You have undoubtedly heard that primary polls aren't necessarily very predictive far from an election. With just a month to go until the Iowa caucuses, I'm writing to tell you that ... it's still true.... In 2004, John Edwards held 7 percent of the support in Iowa with a month to go; he won around 32 percent. In 2008, John McCain held 18 percent in New Hampshire; he won with 37 percent. In 2012 in Iowa, Rick Santorum held 5 percent; he won with 25 percent.... Last-minute swings ... often happen without anything huge triggering them."

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "For years, President Bill Clinton was the best friend Donald J. Trump always hoped to have. When scandal engulfed Mr. Clinton's White House, Mr. Trump leapt to the president's defense.... In the past week, any semblance of a friendship between Mr. Trump and Bill Clinton came to an ugly end.... 'If Hillary thinks she can unleash her husband, with his terrible record of women abuse, while playing the women's card on me, she's wrong!' Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Monday.... Mr. Trump's tactics could backfire. Mrs. Clinton had some of her highest approval ratings ever after revelations that Mr. Clinton had a relationship with [Monica] Lewinsky, a 22-year-old White House intern." ...

... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Less than a decade ago, Donald Trump could be spotted on TV or in print gushing over Hillary Clinton. He publicly praised her health care plan (it had an individual mandate). He said he liked Clinton and her husband 'very much.' He said she would do a good job negotiating with Iran. During the heat of the 2008 campaign, Trump took to his own blog to praise Clinton, writing that she'd make a great president."

Ed Kilgore of New York: "The four candidates who have already dropped out of the contest (Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and Lindsey Graham) have a combined résumé of 86 years in elected office. The four who lead most polls (Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson) together have 16 years of experience in elected office, and 13 of those are possessed by the 'youth candidate,' Marco Rubio.... If, as many observers believe, the contest boils down to a Cruz-Rubio battle, it will involve two freshman members of the U.S. Senate, one of whom devotes most of his time to attacking that institution (Cruz), and another who is laboring to live down his only notable legislative accomplishment (Rubio and his comprehensive immigration-reform bill). And Beltway Republicans will feel fortunate to have that choice, instead of you-know-who." Also, too, Rubio never shows up for work, so that whittles his "years in the Senate" experience down to "months in the Senate."

Emma Roller of the New York Times: "2015 was the Year of Trump because he is the perfect candidate for our viral age. His success tells us a lot about the nature of what goes viral and how it reflects our beliefs and our fears.... That Mr. Trump is both volatile in nature and allergic to nuance is part of his viral success.... 'Conservatives tend to be a lot more reactive to negative information and they also tend to be a lot more insular in nature, and they also tend to have less tolerance for ambiguity,' Professor [Bradley] Okdie said.... Mr. Trump is an echo chamber for certain corners of the far right, as evinced by his popularity with white nationalists and the so-called alt-right movement of mostly online activists." Thanks to Victoria D. for the link.

Travis Gettys of the Raw Story: "Another protester was violently ejected from a Donald Trump rally Monday night in New Hampshire -- this time by a self-described celebrity boxer.... A Trump supporter later identified as Todd 'The Punisher’ Poulton, pounced on [a] man [who had yelled 'fascist"], and witnesses said they knocked over an elderly man in the scuffle.... The boxer, whose face is partially covered by a tattoo, slammed the unidentified protester onto the bleachers, and a police officer came to break up the fight before Poulton could land a punch." Includes video, if you're into Jerry Springer-type campaign events.

Philip Bump of the Washington Post: If Ted Cruz, who opposes subsidizing renewable fuel, wins the Iowa caucuses in the state where corn is king, it may be the end of ethanol. CW: What a shame.

Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Ohio Gov. John Kasich has secured the support of Ron Burkle, a billionaire investor who has been a prominent supporter of Democrats over the years -- including the Clintons. Burkle is slated to host a Jan. 12 fundraiser for the Republican presidential candidate at the Soho House in Los Angeles...." CW: Burkle & Bill Clinton used to be close, until that whole "Air Fuck One" stuff -- and Burkle's shady business deals -- made news. BTW, John, when God told you to run for president, did he also tell you to make deals with the devil?

Alexander Burns of the New York Times: "George E. Pataki, the former three-term New York governor who undertook a long-shot presidential bid that failed to catch fire, withdrew from the presidential race on Tuesday, urging Republicans in a televised message to nominate another candidate who could bring the country together.... The next president must unite the country, Mr. Pataki said, 'If we're truly going to make America great again,' an allusion to the campaign slogan of Donald J. Trump, who Mr. Pataki has often criticized."

Beyond the Beltway

Jane Morice of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Cleveland Councilman Jeff Johnson announced Tuesday night via Twitter that he plans to request the city law director to file negligent homicide charges against the officers involved in the Tamir Rice case." ...

... ** New York Times Editors: "Tamir Rice of Cleveland would be alive today had he been a white 12-year-old playing with a toy gun in just about any middle-class neighborhood in the country.... But Tamir, who was shot to death by a white police officer that day, had the misfortune of being black in a poor area of Cleveland, where the police have historically behaved as an occupying force that shoots first and asks questions later. To grow up black and male in such a place is to live a highly circumscribed life, hemmed in by forces that deny your humanity and conspire to kill you." ...

     ... CW: Read the editorial. I have seldom, if ever, seen the Times editorial board so unequivocally condemnatory. Good for them. ...

... MEANWHILE, the Cleveland Plain Dealer editors/chickenshits call for demonstrators to be peaceful. ...

... Ari Melber of MSNBC in a Washington Post op-ed: Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim "McGinty used the grand jury as more of a sounding board for an exoneration of the potential defendants, rather than as a review of possible charges against them. His 70-page report reads like defense counsel brief, not a neutral assessment of potential charges.... This approach -- using the grand jury to review arguments on behalf of potential police defendants, not to prosecute them -- fits the model of several recent inquiries of police shootings.... Prosecutors in these cases hide behind the grand jury process.... Our founders put grand juries in the Constitution so that citizens could check overzealous prosecutors.... It is a historical oddity that today some prosecutors are using grand juries to present the defense's side and avoid any charges at all." ...

... CW: So what we're talking about here is prosecutorial nullification. ...

... Shaila Dewan & Timothy Williams of the New York Times: "Even as the number of police officers facing charges has notably risen, driven by video evidence and a national debate over law enforcement tactics, convictions have proved as elusive as ever." ...

... CW: I know black cops & Latino cops aren't any better or worse than white cops, on the whole, but I don't see why any two-person police team that patrols a primarily black or Hispanic neighborhood doesn't include at least one cop who shares the ethnicity of the community. This approach most certainly will not solve all problems (neighborhoods shouldn't be segregated in the first place), but I don't think a black cop would have been so ready to shoot Tamir Rice dead in two seconds.

Mireya Villarreal of CBS News (Dec. 28): "A torrent of methane gas has been spewing into the air for weeks in the small town of Porter Ranch north of Los Angeles, forcing thousands to evacuate. Infrared video shows gas rolling off the top of a nearby ridge, down into the community of Porter Ranch. It was shot by a law firm representing several homeowners who are now filing lawsuits against Southern California's gas utility company." Contributor Unwashed discussed this two days ago.

Manny Fernandez & others of the New York Times update the story on poor-little-rich killer Ethan Couch & his mother Tonya Couch, who have been arrested after fleeing from Texas to Mexico.

Way Beyond

Old Habits Die Hard? Pamela Constable of the Washington Post: "At a ceremony inaugurating the new 'Afghan Pentagon' [in Kabul] Monday, President Ashraf Ghani stressed the importance of building a modern military, subservient to the nation's constitution and laws rather than to powerful individuals. He portrayed the gleaming new facility, built with U.S. funds, as the central command for that mission.... But 150 miles east, in the embattled district of Achin, news was spreading of an atrocity committed by a private pro-government militia over the weekend. After Islamic State forces captured and beheaded four of its members, Afghan officials reported, the militia retaliated by decapitating four Islamic State prisoners, later placing their heads on piles of stones along a main road.

CW: I will now take a break to shovel some snow. It's 23 degrees out there. Yikes! ...

     ... Update: Aaah, 23 feel like 43 when you're shoveling snow.

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Forecasts are calling for record or near-record crests of the Mississippi River and its tributaries as a week of torrential rainfall drains into the basin. More than 20 people have died in the floods, and the worst has yet to come. The disastrous river flooding is the result of a month's worth of excessive rainfall, most of which has fallen over the past week."

Washington Post: "A powerful winter cyclone -- the same storm that lead to two tornado outbreaks in the United States and disastrous river flooding -- has driven the North Pole to the freezing point this week, 50 degrees above average for this time of year."

AP: "Turkish police on Wednesday detained two suspected Islamic State militants who were believed to be planning suicide attacks during New Year celebrations in central Ankara, officials said. The two men were detained in a raid on a cell house in the low-income Mamak neighborhood of Ankara, where police also seized a suicide vest armed with a bomb, an explosive device that was fortified with ball bearings and metal sticks and placed inside a back-pack as well as bomb-making equipment, according to the Ankara Chief Prosecutor's office."

Monday
Dec282015

The Commentariat -- Dec. 29, 2015

Be sure to read today's Comments section. It's 5 am here, & the comments already are packed with wisdom (as they are most days). BTW, I may lose power today, so if Reality Chex looks stunted, it's only because I'm sitting in the dark. -- Marie

Paul Krugman: "Obama the Job Killer":

Walter Mondale, in a New York Times op-ed: "American diplomats have made remarkable progress across a number of fronts, from climate change to checking Iran's nuclear ambitions. Such success depends on making common cause with our allies, an effort led by America's ambassadors. And yet, thanks to Senate politics, dozens of ambassadorial nominations have been delayed unnecessarily.... When it comes to security, an ambassador acts as a sort of general, coordinating diplomatic and intelligence activities. Without someone in that post, lapses are likely.... Despite the vital national interest in working with Norway and Sweden, the Senate has failed to take a vote on nominees for the ambassadorships to either country, nominees who were unanimously approved by the Foreign Relations Committee this summer.... This is an unconscionable abuse of senatorial power...." Oh, and Marco Rubio is an idiot (paraphrase). CW: Mondale is, of course, a former senator, former vice president, & former ambassador to Japan & respected expert on international relations. No one is better qualified to speak out on this issue.

Cecilia Kang of the New York Times: "The F.A.A. said it was in charge of anything in the air. The agency took the position as part of an introduction of new recreational drone rules, which included requiring users to register in a national database starting this month. The F.A.A.'s new stance sets up potential clashes across the country. Local and state lawmakers, concerned about the safety and privacy risks that drones pose, have been passing rules about the machines at a rapid pace."

"Democracy" for the Few. Digby, in Salon, on the many ways Republicans are trying -- as they long have done -- to suppress the minority vote. ...

... THESE People Think That's a Right Good Idea. Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed: The success of Donald Trump's candidacy has encouraged a disparate group of white nationalists who call themselves the "alt right," an alternative to conservative (or "cuckservative," in their incarnation) policies. They're kind of confused about what their movement represents: secession, bashing Jews & other minorities, or just making what they think are clever or ironical derogatory comments on Websites they populate. While they claim not to be white supremacists (they say they don't care that Trump has a Jewish daughter), immediately after Gray interviewed a prominent alt right guy for this piece, "... a stream of anti-Semitic tweets came my way, without a word of this story having yet been written or published." CW: As far as I can tell, the main difference between the alt right & the Klan is that the alt right (a) doesn't have outfits, & (b) is less sociable, working mostly out of the isolated anonymity of their basements.

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian (Dec. 26): "Lawyers representing Guantánamo Bay detainees who have been held at the camp in Cuba for up to 14 years without charge or trial have accused President Obama of stalling on his promise to close the military prison."

David Sanger & Andrew Kramer of the New York Times: "A Russian ship left Iran on Monday carrying almost all of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium, fulfilling a major step in the nuclear deal struck last summer and, for the first time in nearly a decade, apparently leaving Iran with too little fuel to manufacture a nuclear weapon. The shipment was announced by Secretary of State John Kerry and confirmed by a spokesman for Russia's civilian nuclear company, Rosatom. Mr. Kerry called it 'one of the most significant steps Iran has taken toward fulfilling its commitment' and American officials say that it may now be only weeks before the deal reached in July will go into effect."

New York Times Editors: "... the [qualified] victory [of Iraqi forces in Ramadi] is the clearest sign yet that the Islamic State, after laying claim to huge parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, is losing momentum and in retreat.... It is estimated that the group's control of Iraqi territory has shrunk by 40 percent since last year.... Iraq's leaders will need a political and military strategy for holding Ramadi permanently before they can move on to retake Mosul."

Brian Bennett of the Los Angeles Times: "Tashfeen Malik apparently claimed she was pregnant when she was interviewed by a visa officer after she had applied for permanent U.S. residence in the fall of 2014.... It appears that Malik, who was born in Pakistan, became pregnant shortly after she arrived in the U.S. on July 27, 2014, on a K-1 fiancee visa. The couple had previously married in Saudi Arabia, and then obtained a marriage license from Riverside County on Aug. 16, 2014.... Malik's pregnancy may have been noted as evidence to show her marriage was legitimate."

Jim Fallows: President "Obama doesn't watch TV news. Good."

Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "President Barack Obama will host Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March, the White House announced Monday. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will hold a state dinner with Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, on March 10."

Beyond the Beltway

Cory Shaffer of Cleveland.com: "A Cuyahoga County grand jury on Monday elected not to bring criminal charges against the two Cleveland police officers involved in last year's fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. The decision not to indict officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback brings to an end a months-long criminal investigation into the high-profile shooting. Monday's decision comes more than 13 months after the shooting, which catapulted Cleveland into the national debate about police use of force." ...

... Leilla Atassi of Cleveland.com: "On the heels of a grand jury's decision Monday not to indict the Cleveland police officers involved in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, [Cleveland] Mayor Frank Jackson pledged a thorough administrative review of the events surrounding the shooting last November." ...

Tamir Rice's death was a heartbreaking tragedy and I understand how this decision will leave many people asking themselves if justice was served. We all lose, however, if we give in to anger and frustration and let it divide us. -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich, in a statement

... Sara Dorn of Cleveland.com: "Supporters of the 12-year-old boy shot to death by a Cleveland police officer gathered at the site of the shooting Monday afternoon after Cuyahoga County prosecutors announced the officers involved will not face criminal charges." ...

... The New York Times story, by Mitch Smith, is here. ...

... ** Leon Neyfakh of Slate: "The [grand jury's] decision was influenced by [prosecutor Timothy] McGinty's belief -- presented to the grand jury as a formal recommendation -- that there was no probable cause to conclude that [Tamir] Rice's shooting had been a crime, as well as by testimony from witnesses and experts who appeared before the jurors in closed-door hearings.... The central concept in the case ... is known in law enforcement circles as 'officer-created jeopardy': situations in which police officers are responsible for needlessly putting themselves in danger, committing an unforced tactical error that makes them vulnerable -- and then using deadly force to protect themselves.... Questions arise because of a 1989 Supreme Court ruling in Graham v. Connor, which established the constitutional test by which all use of force cases involving the police must be evaluated in court." ...

... Jamelle Bouie of Slate: "Strip away the rhetoric, and McGinty has made a clear statement about police conduct: If police perceive a threat to their lives then they've de facto justified their actions regardless of context, even if it ends with taking the life of a child. That includes situations like the Rice shooting, where police chose to create a confrontation, rather than manage an encounter.... What we see with Tamir Rice -- and what we've seen in shootings across the country -- is what happens when the officer's safety supercedes the obligation to accept risk."

Danica Coto of the AP: "A Puerto Rico policeman fatally shot two high-ranking officers and a policewoman on Monday following an argument and hostage taking at work that temporarily shut down the station in the U.S. territory's second largest city, authorities said. The suspect was immediately placed under arrest. The suspect, Guarionex Candelario Rivera, held a female lieutenant, a male commander and a policewoman hostage in an office before he killed them, police spokeswoman Mayra Ayala told The Associated Press. She said authorities were about to start negotiations with the 50-year-old suspect when the victims were killed."

Natasha Korecki of Politico: "In the midst of a police crisis that has drawn national scrutiny and calls for his resignation, [Chicago] Mayor Rahm Emanuel is returning early from a Cuban vacation that was to span about 16 days, his office confirmed Monday." CW: Perhaps worth noting: it's illegal for U.S. citizens to vacation in Cuba; Rahm took his whole family on the unlawful jaunt.

** Chico Harlan of the Washington Post: "In the metropolitan areas of the Deep South, government policies and rising real estate prices have pushed the poor out of urban centers and farther from jobs. Low-income people have, in turn, grown more reliant on public transit networks that are among the weakest of quality in the country. When they search for work, they step into a region where pay tends to be low and unemployment tends to be high.... The safety net has expanded for those who can hold down jobs, but it has shrunk for those who cannot." ...

... Joe Mozingo of the Los Angeles Times: "With the lowest median income of any city its size in the state, San Bernardino has become one of the cheapest places to live in urban Southern California. That has given immigrant families ... an affordable place they hope will launch their children into America's middle class. The terror attack this month drew the president and throngs of national media to a city well known for its failings. Some residents took that tragedy as a cue to remind one another on social media that run-of-the-mill shootings and robberies continue at an alarming rate."

Our Ignorant, Violent Bigots. Peter Holley of the Washington Post: "White Americans continue to attack American Sikhs, often because the white ignoramuses think the Sikhs are Muslims. "'Over the last few weeks, the level of intimidation is worse than it was after Sept. 11th,' Harsimran Kaur, the Sikh Coalition's legal director, told The Post. 'Then, people were angry at the terrorists and now they're angry at Muslims, anyone who is seen as Muslim, or anyone who is perceived as being "other."'"

Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times: "... two private bankers who worked at a Bedford-Stuyvesant branch of JPMorgan Chase, Jonathan Francis and Dion Allison..., and their accomplices withdrew about $400,000 from the accounts [of elderly or dead bank clients] over two years, according to [a New York state] indictment.... JPMorgan Chase has already faced accusations of fraud among staff members this year. In April, an investment adviser, Michael Oppenheim, was charged in Federal District Court in Manhattan with stealing $20 million from seven of the bank's clients. Also in April, another employee, Peter Persaud, who worked at a Chase branch in Brooklyn, was accused of selling customer data ... to an informant and an undercover officer."

Evan Perez of CNN: "Mexican authorities have detained so-called 'affluenza' teen Ethan Couch and his mother near the popular Mexican Pacific beach resort town of Puerto Vallarta, officials briefed on the matter told CNN. Couch, 18, went missing earlier this month, two years after he made national news when he was sentenced to probation for a drunken driving crash that killed four people.... The case ... drew widespread attention after a psychologist testified that Couch, who was 16 at the time, suffered from 'affluenza,' describing him as a rich kid whose parents didn't set limits for him."

Presidential Race

Being called wacko by a pathological liar like Mr. Trump makes me think he is getting nervous that the American people are catching on to his pathetic policies, which include giving hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to billionaires like himself while refusing to raise the $7.25 an hour minimum wage. -- Bernie Sanders, in a statement ...

... Jana Kasperkevic & Edward Helmore of the Guardian: "Donald Trump ... has changed his mind about wages: Americans aren't earning enough.... 'Wages in are [sic] country are too low, good jobs are too few, and people have lost faith in our leaders. We need smart and strong leadership now!' Trump tweeted on Monday. The opinion appeared to reverse what [Trump] ... said in November during the fourth Republican debate.... '[T]axes too high, wages too high, we're not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave [the minimum wage] the way it is,' Trump said at the time.... [Sen. Bernie] Sanders ... [said] on CBS Face the Nation on Sunday, 'This is a guy who does not want to raise minimum wage,' he said of Trump. 'In fact, he has said that wages in America are too high.' Trump lashed back at Sanders, tweeting: '[Bernie Sanders] -- who blew his campaign when he gave Hillary a pass on her e-mail crime, said that I feel wages in America are too high. Lie!'" ...

... CW: It would appear that the guy who claims to have "the world's greatest memory" is suffering from senile dementia. Some may call his charge that Sanders lied to be clever obfuscation. I call it demented. ...

... Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump unleashed a torrent of criticism at the publisher of an influential New Hampshire newspaper on Monday and at the paper's preferred candidate, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. The double-barreled attack came after the publisher, Joseph W. McQuaid of The Union Leader, wrote an editorial comparing Mr. Trump to 'Biff,' the egomaniacal entrepreneur in the 'Back to the Future' movies. Mr. Trump responded by giving an interview to WMUR, a local television station with a deep rivalry with The Union Leader, in which he called Mr. McQuaid 'a real lowlife' who had repeatedly asked him for personal favors." ...

     ... CW: You'll have to read Haberman's full post to get the gist of Trump's tirade. It would be difficult to write a daily feature called "Who Did Trump Insult Today?" because he insults so many people every day. He's a real sicko. ...

... Katherine Krueger of TPM: "After months of free buzz around his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump is planning a substantial television advertising blitz that could cost upwards of $2 million a week ahead of the Iowa caucuses, according to a Fox News report."

Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: Rick Santorum wants you to know that it wasn't Donald Trump who has been featured in ISIS anti-American propaganda; it was he, "Catholic crusader and American politician" Rick Santorum. Kaczynski provides the proof.

Josh Barro of the New York Times explains Ted Cruz's "simple, radical tax plan," which consists primarily of a 10 percent flat tax & a 16 percent value-added tax (VAT). CW: Barro discusses the inflationary effect of the plan & how the Fed would likely try to control it, but he doesn't mention how Ted's retro plan to return to the gold standard (no, I'm not kidding) might constrain the Fed's ability to react to Ted's radical plan. Maybe Barro, like Wall Street, thinks Ted is kidding about the gold standard.

     ... CW: Nor does Barro, who is a conservative, note, as James Kwak does, that "60% of the tax cut goes to the top 1%.... The only policies we have that limit the transmission of wealth from generation to generation are the estate tax and taxes on investment income. Eliminating one and slashing the other, as Ted Cruz proposes, is the single biggest step we can take toward becoming an aristocracy of inherited wealth."

Jim Newell of Slate has a kind of funny post titled "Ben Carson needs to get over himself." It's accompanied by a funny video of Ben Carson closing his eyes.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Daniela Deane of the Washington Post: "Belgian police arrested two people over the weekend suspected of planning a New Year's Eve attack on 'symbolic places' in Brussels, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.... Islamic State propaganda, military-type clothing and computer material was also seized in the raids [in several cities], prosecutors announced, but no weapons or explosives."

Angus Hervey of Medium finds "11 reasons why 2015 was a great year for humanity."

News Ledes

Weather Channel: "... floods have already been responsible for at least 17 deaths in the Plains and Midwest. In Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon activated the National Guard to support emergency personnel and protect communities affected by the floods."

Washington Post: "The U.S.-led military coalition against the Islamic State killed a key leader in Syria who had direct ties to the terrorists who carried out the attacks in Paris and was actively planning more attacks against the West, the Pentagon said Tuesday. Army Col. Steve Warren, the top spokesman for the coalition, told reporters that Charaffe al Mouadan was killed Dec. 24 in an airstrike."

AP: "Israel's former prime minister Ehud Olmert is to go to prison in February for his role in a bribery scandal after the country's supreme court reduced his sentence from six years to 18 months. The court partially accepted his appeal and cleared the ex-premier of the main bribery charge but upheld part of his conviction for taking a lesser bribe."

NBC News: "Country singer Craig Strickland has been declared missing following a duck-hunting trip in stormy conditions with a friend who turned up dead. Officials began searching for Strickland -- lead singer of country-rock group Backroad Anthem -- and his 22-year-old friend Chase Morland on Sunday after they failed to return from duck-hunting on Kaw Lake, according to NBC affiliate KFOR. Morland's body was found in the lake on Monday, according to a statement from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol."