The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: (August 2): "Federal health authorities on Monday urged pregnant women not to visit a South Florida neighborhood where new cases of the Zika virus have emerged, the first time officials have warned against travel to part of the continental United States due to the outbreak of an infectious disease.” -- CW

New York Times: "The veteran television personality Jane Pauley will replace Charles Osgood as the anchor of the highly rated CBS show 'Sunday Morning.' Mr. Osgood, who is retiring, announced the news on his last show on Sunday. Ms. Pauley’s first day in the role will be Oct. 9, and she will become only the third anchor of the show, which started in 1979." -- CW 

New York Times: "Modern humans evolved in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago. But how did our species go on to populate the rest of the globe?.... In a series of extraordinary genetic analyses published on Wednesday, researchers believe they have found an answer. In the journal Nature, three separate teams of geneticists survey DNA collected from cultures around the globe, many for the first time, and conclude that all non-Africans today trace their ancestry to a single population emerging from Africa between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago.... All non-Africans are closely related to one another, geneticists found, and they all branch from a family tree rooted in Africa.... There are also clues that at least some modern humans may have departed Africa well before 50,000 years ago, perhaps part of an earlier wave of migration." -- CW ...

... CW Note to White Racists: You, too, are black. It's way past time to give up your quest for "racial purity"; it's genetically impossible. This, BTW, is something non-ignoramuses have known for a couple of decades. No wonder you hate science.

 

The Los Angeles Times has extensive coverage of the Emmy Awards here.

The video below will most likely be taken down for copyright infringement, so watch it while you can. It's pretty funny. Here's a WashPo report on Jeb!'s cameo on the opening bit for the Emmy Awards. Also, ABC may put up a video of it here, but they have nothing at all up on the awards ceremony as of 8:30 am ET, Monday, Sept. 19.

Chris Welch of the Verge: "Twitter is about to make a big change to the way that tweets work.... Beginning September 19th, the company will cut down on exactly which types of content count toward the platform's 140-character limit. Media attachments (images, GIFs, videos, polls, etc.) and quoted tweets will no longer reduce the count. The extra room for text will give users more flexibility in composing their messages."

You'll want to supersize this one:

 

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, unsuccessful in his bid to become Donald Trump's running mate, has reimagined himself as a celebrity, instead. He'll appear this season on "Dancing with the 'Stars,'" competing against other fabulous celebrities like Ryan Lochte, unless Lochte is unavoidably detained in a Brazilian jail. (Here's a link to Perry's veepstakes proffer. Of course Trump ultimately rejected Perry, but promised to make him head of some agency or department Perry probably can't remember.) CW: As always, we concentrate on the serious, important news because politics ain't funny.

...Washington Post: Charles Osgood, who is 83 years old, announced Sunday, August 28, that he was retiring as host of the long-running CBS show "Sunday Morning." "He will stay on through Sept. 25. Osgood has been the face of the weekly program since 1994, when he took it over from its first host, Charles Kuralt." -- CW 

... Guardian: "The search for life outside our solar system has been brought to our cosmic doorstep with the discovery of an apparently rocky planet orbiting the nearest star to our sun. Thought to be at least 1.3 times the mass of the Earth, the planet lies within the so-called 'habitable zone' of the star Proxima Centauri, meaning that liquid water could potentially exist on the newly discovered world." -- CW 

Guardian: "A fisherman in the Philippines has kept what might be the largest natural pearl ever found hidden in his home for more than 10 years. The enormous pearl is 30cm wide (1ft), 67cm long (2.2ft) and weighs 34kg (75lb). If it is confirmed to have formed within a giant clam, as has been reported, it would likely be valued in excess of US$100m." CW: Looks like there will be a fight on this: when he moved house, the fisherman entrusted it to his aunt for safekeeping. "With his permission, she offered the pearl to the mayor, Lucilo R Bayon, to serve as new tourist attraction of city." -- CW 

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Thursday
Jul032014

The Commentariat -- July 4, 2014

From Page 1 of Thomas Jefferson's rough draft of the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed....

Punctuation Matters. Jennifer Schuessler of the New York Times: "A scholar is now saying that the official transcript of the document produced by the National Archives and Records Administration contains a significant error -- smack in the middle of the sentence beginning 'We hold these truths to be self-evident,' no less. The error, according to Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., concerns a period that appears right after the phrase 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' in the transcript, but almost certainly not, she maintains, on the badly faded parchment original. That errant spot of ink, she believes, makes a difference, contributing to what she calls a 'routine but serious misunderstanding' of the document. The period creates the impression that the list of self-evident truths ends with the right to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,' she says. But as intended by Thomas Jefferson, she argues, what comes next is just as important: the essential role of governments -- 'instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed' in securing those rights.'" ...

... CW: If you look at Jefferson's draft (excerpted above; full page 1 here), the punctuation following "happiness" is a semicolon, & there is another semicolon following "consent of the governed." That is, he meant it as one long sentence, with independent clauses meant to hang together.

That action evinces disregard for even the newest of this Court's precedents and undermines confidence in this institution. -- Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissent on an order for temporary injunction in Burwell v. Wheaton College ...

* ... Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "In a decision that drew an unusually fierce dissent from the three female justices, the Supreme Court sided Thursday with religiously affiliated nonprofit groups in a clash between religious freedom and women's rights. The decision temporarily exempts a Christian college from part of the regulations that provide contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The court's order was brief, provisional and unsigned.... The order, Justice Sotomayor wrote, was at odds with the 5-to-4 decision on Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which involved for-profit corporations. 'Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word, Justice Sotomayor wrote. 'Not so today.'" ...

     ... The brief order, Scalia's one-line concurrence, & Sotomayor's long dissent are here. ...

... Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "Expanding the rights of religious opponents of birth control, a divided Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon spared an Illinois college -- and maybe hundreds of other non-profit institutions -- from obeying government regulations that seek to assure access to pregnancy prevention services for female workers and students. In the same order, the majority essentially told the government to modify its own rules if it wants to keep those services available. Three Justices wrote a sharply worded dissent, accusing the majority of creating on its own a 'new administrative regime' that will seriously complicate the operation of the birth control mandate under the new federal health care law." ...

... Micah Schwartzman, Richard Schragger & Nelson Tebbe in Slate:" Hobby Lobby is for religion what Citizens United was for free speech -- the corporatization of our basic liberties. But Hobby Lobby is also unprecedented in another, equally important way. For the first time, the court has interpreted a federal statute, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (or RFRA), as affording more protection for religion than has ever been provided under the First Amendment.... The court has eviscerated decades of case law and, having done that, invites a new generation of challenges to federal laws, including those designed to protect civil rights.... The Roberts Court is now unconstrained by precedent. It has loosened itself from decades of First Amendment doctrine and has begun remaking the law of free exercise." ...

     ... CW: Yeah, not bound by precedent set way back on Monday.

... Caitlan MacNeal of TPM: "A reverend in Illinois organized a demonstration to hand out condoms outside of a local Hobby Lobby store in order to protest the Supreme Court's ruling on contraception, the Daily Herald reported. Rev. Mark Winters of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Naperville, Ill..., told the Daily Herald that he wanted the protest to show that not all Christians oppose birth control. He also said he hoped to get people to question whether the Supreme Court's decision was fair to Hobby Lobby employees' religious freedom. 'You can make the religious freedom argument, you can make the argument about contraception, but ultimately, for me, this is about power,' he said. 'Jesus had a lot of issue with powerful people using power over the powerless.'" ...

... Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "A flurry of Supreme Court decisions this year on reproductive rights, executive power and other issues could play a prominent role in the midterm elections this fall, rallying base voters on both sides and laying the groundwork for the larger fight to come in 2016."


Paul Krugman
: "The basic story of what went wrong [with the economy] is, in fact, almost absurdly simple: We had an immense housing bubble, and, when the bubble burst, it left a huge hole in spending. Everything else is footnotes. And the appropriate policy response was simple, too: Fill that hole in demand. In particular, the aftermath of the bursting bubble was (and still is) a very good time to invest in infrastructure.... But what actually happened was exactly the opposite: an unprecedented plunge in infrastructure spending.... And it's about to get even worse. The federal highway trust fund ... is almost exhausted. Unless Congress agrees to top up the fund somehow, road work all across the country will have to be scaled back just a few weeks from now.... The combination of anti-tax ideology and deficit hysteria (itself mostly whipped up in an attempt to bully President Obama into spending cuts) means that we're letting our highways, and our future, erode away."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Dylan Stableford of Yahoo! News: "New York Times columnist David Brooks gets a lot of hate mail. And he doesn't read the comments section. 'I used to read them, but it was just too psychologically damaging,' Brooks said in an interview with Yahoo News' Katie Couric at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Tuesday. 'So then I would ask my assistant to read them.' Brooks was shocked at the volume of 'punishingly negative' comments when he joined the Times in 2003. 'It was the worst six months of my life,' he said. 'I had never been hated on a mass scale before.' CW: The post includes video of the full hour-long Couric-Brooks interview."

Beyond the Beltway

Michele Richinick of NBC News: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a gun control bill on Wednesday that would have banned magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate called the restriction of the number of bullets 'trivial,' and denied such a limit could prevent future mass shootings.... Hours before Christie's decision, several families from Newtown, Conn., personally delivered a petition to Christie to encourage him to reduce the legal limit of magazines. More than 55,000 individuals supported their request. The governor wasn't available to meet with the parents...." CW: In other words, Gov. Confrontational & Mr. Straight Talk didn't have the guts to face the parents & tell them that their children's deaths by weapons equipped with high-capacity magazines were "trivial." Coward. Hypocrite. Huge sack of shit.

Ryan Takeo of KPIX: "The city of Berkeley[, California,] will require medical marijuana dispensaries to give away two percent of the amount of cannabis they sell each year free to low-income patients."

I don't want to get into the debate about climate change, but I will simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There are no factories on Mars that I'm aware of. -- Kentucky state Sen. Brandon Smith, at a Natural Resources & Environmental hearing, explaining why coal can't possibly be contributing to climate change

... while the average temperature on Earth is roughly 58 degrees Fahrenheit, the average temperature on Mars is approximately -80 degrees Fahrenheit. In Sen. Smith's defense, he's only off by about 138 degrees or so, which happens sometimes.... There were plenty of other amazing and 'insightful' quotes in this hearing ... where the people who say Mars is the same temperature as Earth allege that climate scientists don't know what they're talking about. -- Blogger Joe Sonka

An Upside to Manhattan's One-Way Avenues: Danielle Tcholakian & Murray Weiss of DNAinfo: "A man who was driving the wrong way on Seventh Avenue early Wednesday was caught with assault rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and several knives -- and police found a note in his car saying he wanted to die in combat, police said." Via New York.

Senate Race 2014

Physicians Against Birth Control. Bruce Alpert of the Times-Picayune: "The Bill Cassidy Senate campaign announced Thursday that the candidate's unmarried 17-year-old daughter is pregnant as she prepares for her senior year at a Baton Rouge high school. Cassidy, a Republican congressman from Baton Rouge, said in a statement provided NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune that his daughter faces 'a more challenging future' and that she has his and his wife Laura's unconditional support. The baby is expected later this summer.... Both Bill Cassidy and his wife, Laura, are physicians." Cassidy is the front-runner in the Louisiana GOP Senate race. ...

     ... I doubt his daughter will be getting an abortion. Cassidy, who is "staunchly pro-life," opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest. Planned Parenthood gave Cassidy a zero percent rating. So did the National Education Association & the Human Rights Campaign. He has a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee.

Senate Races 2016

Dave Weigel of Slate: "... the 2016 election map gives Democrats a chance to refight the troublesome 2010 elections, and to do so with Hillary Clinton atop the ballot. The best case 2014 scenario for Democrats is that they only hold the Senate by one or two votes." Weigel lists "seven Senate races Democrats should be optimistic about in 2016."

News Ledes

New York Times: "In the latest turn in the yearlong tensions with Germany over American spying, a German man was arrested [by the German government, I surmise] this week on suspicion of passing secret documents to a foreign power, believed to be the United States. The American ambassador, John B. Emerson, was summoned to the Foreign Office here and urged to help with what German officials called a swift clarification of the case."

New York Times: "Richard Mellon Scaife, the Pittsburgh philanthropist and reclusive heir to the Mellon banking fortune, whose support for right-wing causes laid the foundations for America's modern conservative movement and fueled the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton, died on Friday. He was 82. Mr. Scaife's death was reported by the The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a newspaper he owned. No cause of death was given." ...

... For your amusement, here's a 2008 Vanity Fair story on how Scaife's second marriage went.

Wednesday
Jul022014

The Commentariat -- July 3, 2014

That nice Dan Balz over at the Washington Post does his best not to scold President Obama: "From the Rose Garden to the Cabinet Room to near the Key Bridge in Georgetown, the president has signaled more than mere annoyance at the state of affairs at the halfway point of this year. His disdain for congressional Republicans has steadily increased; his disrespect for their tactics has hardened into contempt. With immigration reform dead for this year, if not for the remainder of Obama's presidency; with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) threatening to sue him for alleged misuse of presidential power; and with other important legislation stalled in the House, the president has given voice to his frustrations with a series of partisan blasts. It culminated Tuesday with a mock dare to the speaker and his followers in the House: 'So sue me!' ... His public appearances, despite whatever comments he makes about his desire to work with Congress, have been designed to sharpen the partisan divisions, to belittle the Republicans and to say to middle-class families and especially unmarried women that he’s with them and the Republicans aren't."

Repeal That, Suckers. Alexandra Sifferlin of Time: "About 20 million Americans have gained health insurance or enrolled in new insurance under the health care reform law, according to a new report. The report from the Commonwealth Fund, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, credits President Barack Obama's health reform law with an estimated 20 million enrollments as of May 1."

Paloma Esquivel, et al., of the Los Angeles Times: "The dramatic standoff in Murrieta[, California, in which U.S. protesters blocked buses carrying immigrant mothers & children from Central America,] highlighted a current of angst over the influx and underscored the challenges the government may face as it moves to transfer immigrants away from border areas, where detention facilities are overcrowded. Many minors who arrive by themselves are being transferred to emergency shelters in Texas, Oklahoma and California, while some children accompanied by a guardian are being sent to processing stations in Laredo and El Paso, Texas, and Murrieta and El Centro, Calif. Most will be released with orders to appear in immigration court. Immigration officials have not said exactly how many people will be moved."

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "Target has joined the growing list of major commercial chains that have taken a stance against the gun lobby, announcing that customers carrying rifles will not be welcome in any of its stores even in states where 'open carry' of weapons is legal.... The announcement comes a month after Target found itself in the middle of a ferocious battle between pro-gun activists and their gun-safety opponents.... Target's capitulation brings it in line with several other of the largest retail corporations in America which have previously announced policies designed to keep guns out of their stores, including Starbucks, Jack in the Box, Chipotle, Sonic and Chili's."

Corporations are people, my friend. Women? Not so much. -- Erin Ryan of Jezebel

(I missed linking Ryan's column, published Monday, but you shouldn't miss reading it. It's a gem. -- Constant Weader)

Molly Ball of the Atlantic: The Hobby Lobby decision is already "beginning to reverberate: A group of faith leaders is urging the Obama administration to include a religious exemption in a forthcoming LGBT anti-discrimination action. Their call, in a letter sent to the White House Tuesday, attempts to capitalize on the Supreme Court case by arguing that it shows the administration must show more deference to the prerogatives of religion." ...

... ** Ian Millhiser of Think Progress on "the most partisan Supreme Court justice of all." Read Millhiser's take on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is at odds with everything else I've read on the act. Millhiser extracts clauses that make it pretty clear the RFRA does not support Hobby Lobby; rather it specifically legislates against Hobby Lobby's religious exemption scheme.

... David Corn & Molly Redden of Mother Jones: "For a decade or so, Hobby Lobby and its owners, the Green family, have been generous benefactors of a Christian ministry that until recently was run by Bill Gothard, a controversial religious leader who has long promoted a strict and authoritarian version of Christianity. Gothard, a prominent champion of Christian home-schooling, has decried the evils of dating, rock music, and Cabbage Patch dolls; claimed public education teaches children 'how to commit suicide' and undermines spirituality; contended that mental illness is merely 'varying degrees of irresponsibility'; and urged wives to 'submit to the leadership' of their husbands.... In March, he was pressured to resign from his ministry, the Institute in Basic Life Principles, after being accused by more than 30 women of sexual harassment and molestation -- a charge Gothard denies." ...

... "Supreme Court Reveals Its Class Bias." E. J. Dionne: "It's not often that social and corporate conservatives come together, but the five right-of-center justices on the Supreme Court fashioned exactly this synthesis in their Hobby Lobby decision this week. In a religious freedom case related to birth control, the majority focused on the liberties of the company's owners, not of those who work for them. More than that, the justices continued to press their campaign to create an entirely new legal regime under which corporations enjoy rights never envisioned by our Founders or the generations who followed them. ...

... Ed Kilgore in TPM: "... the new conservative Christian gospel of 'religious liberty' ... would if given the power to do so impose their beliefs about zygotes on the rest of us.” ...

Reuters photo.... CW: I was struck by this photo of these lovely young women celebrating the Hobby Lobby decision & otherwise "courageously abolishing abortion." You know perfectly well that all of them use contraception products, at least one of them will need emergency contraception at some time and/or will get an abortion.

Why Sex Is Like Bowling & Stamp Collecting
(Except Sex Is "Horrifying")

... sexual relations are basically a voluntary activity.... Sex is only a human want (like bowling or stamp collecting), not an actual need. So sex is merely optional -- a sort of luxury good, especially when not making any babies.... If people like having carnal relations, perhaps they can pay for the consequences of it themselves, instead of making the unwilling, horrified employer pay. -- Attorney David Boyle, in an amicus brief supporting Hobby Lobby. Via Jessica Valenti of the Guardian

This is a pretty hilarious brief. Elsewhere in it Boyle wonders why the ACA doesn't mandate women's using a version of the rhythm method. No, really; see pp. 8 ff. Next year, we should write us some amicus briefs. -- Constant Weader

... David of Crooks & Liars: "CNN host Ashleigh Banfield on Wednesday highlighted the 'hypocrisy' of Hobby Lobby for investing in companies that made the same birth control products that it refused to provide to female employees." ...

     ... CW: Akhilleus mentioned the Greens' hypocrisy in yesterday's comments. Another way to look at it: the Greens' goal was to limit use of these emergency birth control methods, not just by Hobby Lobby but by other companies' insurance plans & of course by individual women. It was their goal, in other words, to reduce the sales of these products. The investment at issue is not in the Greens' personal portfolio (though they could be invested there, too) but in Hobby Lobby's 401(k) plan for its employees. So one must extrapolate that not only did the Greens want to reduce their employees' insurance coverage; they also hoped to reduce the value of the employees' retirement plans. Awfully Christian of them. ...

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dissent, Musical Version (via BlueGal in Crooks & Liars):

... CW: It seems to me that the thrust of the Greens' belief may be based not so much on abortion as it is on opposition to extramarital sex. The kinds of contraception that will not cover are those that women use "after the act"; that is, when they've had unplanned sex. The Five Supreme High Priests, however, have made clear in their post-ruling clarification (see AP story linked yesterday) they're opposed to sexual relations entered into for purposes other than procreation. I've focused on this as a women's issue, but obviously it's also an issue for men & boys who have relations with women in their reproductive years. And it is very much, as E. J. Dionne implies, one that discriminates against women (& men) of limited means. The lucky duckies (like themselves) for whom birth control is an incidental expense -- or no expense at all because their insurance pays for it -- all win a get-out-of-childbirth-free pass. In their vast right-wing conspiracy to re-establish a stark contrast between haves & have-nots, I cannot think of a more personal, intrusive or damaging way of doing so.

Thanks to Kate M.

Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "Civil libertarians saw their hopes for curtailing the National Security Agency's massive digital surveillance program dimmed in the wake of a report from a US government privacy board vindicating much of the international communications dragnet."

No Apologies. Manipulating People Is What We Do. Gail Sullivan of the Washington Post: "On Wednesday, Facebook's second-in-command, Sheryl Sandberg, expressed regret over how the company communicated its 2012 mood manipulation study of 700,000 unwitting users, but she did not apologize for conducting the controversial experiment. It's just what companies do, she said."

AP: "The Vatican has formally recognised the International Association of Exorcists, a group of 250 priests in 30 countries who liberate the faithful from demons.... More than his predecessors, Pope Francis speaks frequently about the devil, and last year was seen placing his hands on the head of a man supposedly possessed by four demons in what exorcists said was a prayer of liberation from Satan." CW: Hey, why not? Exorcism isn't much crazier than a lot of other doctrine.

Gail Collins is running a quiz today. No mention of exorcists, but she did get in a fortuneteller.

President Obama promotes the collectivist, effeminate, elitist sport of soccer:

Beyond the Beltway

Expanding the mandatory waiting period [for an abortion] presupposes that women are unable to make up their own minds without further government intervention. This is insulting to women, particularly in light of what the law already requires. -- Gov. Jay Nixon (D-Mo.) ...

... Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) rejected a measure on Wednesday that would have required women to wait three full days before being allowed to have an abortion procedure. His veto prevents Missouri from joining Utah and South Dakota, which are the only two states in the nation that currently have a 72-hour abortion waiting period on the books.

Jack Healy of the New York Times: "... last week, after a federal appeals court struck down Utah's ban on same-sex unions, [Hillary] Hall[, the county clerk in Boulder, Colorado,] decided the time had come to start issuing same-sex marriage licenses in Colorado, where they are not allowed. The move drew 97 delighted couples to the clerk's offices, but it also put this liberal college town in the Rocky Mountain foothills on a collision course with the state's Republican attorney general, John Suthers. Mr. Suthers's office urged Ms. Hall to stop issuing licenses for same-sex marriages and warned of 'further action' if she did not. He warned that the unions were invalid under Colorado's Constitution...."

Danny Vinik of the New Republic explains why a Quinnipiac U. poll released yesterday that claimed Americans think Obama is the worst modern president is meaningless.

Gubernatorial Race

The "47 Percent." Joey Bunch & Kurtis Lee of the Denver Post: "On Wednesday, as Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez toured Colorado to 'build unity,' a video surfaced that ... shows Beauprez in a speech to the Denver Rotary Club in 2010 making comments that echo those that hurt Mitt Romney's challenge to President Barack Obama two years later." ...

... Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "... what's revealing about this factoid is that when it is offered, you almost never hear it followed by a particular policy argument about taxes.... That's because the 47 percent argument isn't really about tax policy. It's about aiming resentment downward, dividing Americans into the virtuous and the contemptible."

Senate Race

Alexis Levinson of Roll Call: "A conference call held by Sen. Thad Cochran's campaign quickly devolved into chaos and ended Wednesday after one of the participants repeatedly asked racially charged questions." So they arrange for an open conference call, yet they have no way to shut up crank callers? Just stupid.

News Ledes

Reuters: "U.S. employment growth jumped in June and the jobless rate closed in on a six-year low, decisive evidence the economy was moving forward at a brisk clip after a surprisingly big slump at the start of the year. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 288,000 jobs, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for April and May were revised to show a total of 29,000 more jobs created than previously reported."

New York Times: "Palestinian militants in Gaza fired 14 rockets into southern Israel early Thursday, hitting two houses in the border town of Sderot, after Israel carried out 15 airstrikes overnight against Hamas-related targets in Gaza in response to earlier rocket fire, the Israeli military said."

Tuesday
Jul012014

The Commentariat -- July 2, 2014

It's not crazy, it's not socialism. It's not the imperial presidency -- no laws are broken. We're just building roads and bridges like we've been doing for the last, I don't know, 50, 100 years. But so far, House Republicans have refused to act on this idea. I haven't heard a good reason why they haven't acted -- it's not like they've been busy with other stuff. No, seriously. I mean, they're not doing anything. Why don't they do this? -- President Obama, Tuesday, speaking near the (Francis Scott) Key Bridge on the Georgetown waterfront

... Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama called on congressional Republicans on Tuesday to take quick action to fund infrastructure projects throughout the country, arguing that failing to do so could mean huge layoffs for Americans this year.Stepping up criticism of his opponents on Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama poked derisive fun at Republicans as he urged them to join Democrats to pass legislation that would replenish the Highway Trust Fund, which is expected to exhaust its resources by August":

Thomas Black and Caelainn Barr of Bloomberg News: "Employment may be headed for a 'breakout year' as companies feel more secure adding to payrolls following several years of demand rising only to stumble on threats from U.S. budget standoffs, a debt-ceiling induced default and a European credit crisis, said Marisa Di Natale, a director at Moody's Analytics. 'It's the first year in several where we haven't had some kind of manufactured fiscal showdown in Washington, which weighs on business confidence and consumer confidence,' Di Natale said." CW: In case you missed the point, here's an independent analyst effectively blaming Republicans for repeatedly tanking the economy. The example President Obama illuminates in his speech embedded above is just one small example of the GOP's wanton willingess to hurt millions of Americans in service of their own agenda & perceived self-interests.

Hillary Owes Boehner a Thank-You Note. Jonathan Chait: "The failure of the House to pass a bill of any kind represents a fascinating case study of a party unable to act on its recognized political self-interest."

** AP: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed that its decision a day earlier extending religious rights to closely held corporations applies broadly to the contraceptive coverage requirement in the new health care law, not just the handful of methods the justices considered in their ruling.... Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby Inc. and a Pennsylvania furniture maker won their court challenges Monday in which they refused to pay for two emergency contraceptive pills and two intrauterine devices.... Tuesday's orders apply to companies owned by Catholics who oppose all contraception.... The justices also ordered lower courts that ruled in favor of the Obama administration to reconsider those decisions in light of Monday's 5-4 decision." ...

     ... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "That argument you keep hearing from the Right, about how Hobby Lobby still offers 16 kinds of birth control that they don't believe is abortion-y, so quit your bitchin' libs? Yeah, well, the Supreme Court punched a hole in that one." ...

... Abby Haglage of the Daily Beast: "There are at least 80 other companies fighting to be the next Hobby Lobby." CW Note: Haglage wrote this piece before the Five Dancing Supremes took their encore Tuesday, indicating that these companies don't have to sue. They can just move forward with their program to deny whatever type of contraceptive coverage the CorpPerson doesn't "believe in." ...

... Dawn Johnsen, in ScotusBlog, writes a terrific summary of the devastating effect this ruling with have on women. "The typical American woman wishing to have only two children spends thirty years, three-quarters of her reproductive life, seeking to avoid unintended pregnancy. Half of all pregnancies in the United States (more than three million a year) are unintended. More than half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy. Forty percent of unintended pregnancies end in abortion. Three in ten American women will have an abortion at some point in their lives. Reducing unintended pregnancy through the contraceptive coverage guarantee undeniably will reduce the need for abortion." Read the whole post....

     ... CW: The ruling is not so much about abortion as it is about controlling the sex lives of working women. These "good Catholic" justices believe the purpose of sex is procreation, so if (poor) women are going to have sex, they should be having babies, too. It's what God intended. ...

     ... For some reason, the rules don't apply to justices themselves. The five justice have fathered zero, one, two, three & nine children, so I'd guess the wives of at least three of the five used contraceptive drugs or devices at some time in their childbearing years. Of course, they could afford whatever they chose.

... Steve Coll of the New Yorker compares American conservatives' efforts to restrict women's reproductive rights to the Taliban's ban on polio vaccines. "Perhaps the Supreme Court's majority cannot fully imagine that religiously motivated litigants -- Muslim, Christian Scientist, Hindu, or other -- as qualified and as American as the Hobby Lobby owners might ultimately use Monday's ruling to enforce beliefs far outside of the decades-long campaign of Christian evangelicals and Catholics to limit the reproductive rights of women."

... Steve Stromberg of the Washington Post argues that Congress should repeal or revise the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a "law erected very high barriers to the government regulating anything that conflicts with anyone's religious beliefs," & which conservatives on the Supreme Court applied to the Hobby Lobby case. The Post's editors made the same point in Tuesday's paper. CW: Well, yeah. And that's going to happen. In an election year. When Republicans are celebrating the Hobby Lobby decision as a win for "religious freedom." I think even Democrats would vote against gutting a law titled the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act," especially one that Congress passed almost unanimously & Bill Clinton signed. ...

... Paul Horwitz, in a New York Times op-ed, elaborates: "... it was easy to lose sight of the fact that [Hobby Lobby] was a statutory case, not a case decided under the First Amendment's protection of freedom of religion." ...

... The New York Times Editors urge the Supreme Court to grant ScotusBlog press credentials, something it has refused to do for spurious reasons. "Professional standards are necessary, but, by any measure, Scotusblog meets them. Its importance is demonstrated by its audience, which is not just top journalists and members of the public. According to the site's internal data, Scotusblog's single biggest user is the Supreme Court itself."

Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "An independent executive-branch board has concluded that a major National Security Agency surveillance program targeting foreigners overseas is lawful and effective but that certain elements push 'close to the line' of being unconstitutional. The 'unknown and potentially large' collection by the agency of e-mails and phone calls of Americans who communicate with foreign targets is one aspect that raises concerns, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said in a report released online Tuesday night." The Guardian's report, by Spencer Ackerman, is here. The report is here (pdf).

Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: Ahmed Abu Khattala, "the militia leader who has been charged in connection with the 2012 killing of the United States ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, has provided American interrogators with 'voluntary statements' that corroborate 'key facts' about the attacks, the Justice Department said in a court document filed Tuesday night." CW: Gee, that happened when he wasn't in solitary confinement an exclusive suite at the Guantanamo Resort? Doesn't seem possible. ...

... Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Ahmed Abu Khattala, one of the suspected ringleaders of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, voiced opposition to the presence of a U.S. facility there in the days before the assault and organized the attacks out of a sense of ideological fervor, according to government prosecutors.... Abu Khattala, who was indicted Saturday on a charge of conspiracy, will appear Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court in Washington for a detention hearing...." ...

... "The Government's Motion for Pretrial Detention" is here.

Maureen Dowd has a good column on Cheney & Co.

Martin Savidge of CNN: "Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier held captive for five years by militants before his release a month ago, has ventured several times off an Army base in Texas as part of the effort to get him used to everyday life in America, a military spokeswoman said." Via Margaret Hartmann of New York. ...

... Kirk Johnson & Matt Furber of the New York Times profile Beau Bergdahl. OR, what happens when a kid reared on "a conservative theology of biblical inerrancy" is exposed to the world of ideas.

Beyond the Beltway

Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker skims the surface of the Texas Republican party platform. "... if you want a glimpse of what a nontrivial and apparently growing segment of one of America's two great political parties believes in its heart of hearts, and what it says when it is essentially talking to itself," read on.

Brett Barrouquere of the AP: "A federal judge in Kentucky struck down the state's ban on gay marriage on Tuesday, though the ruling was temporarily put on hold and it was not immediately clear when same-sex couples could be issued marriage licenses." ...

... Winger Allahpundit: "The judge is a Bush 41 appointee, nominated to the federal bench by, er, Mitch McConnell."

Right Wing World

In Right Wing World, even gag gifts are evidence that a psychotic Iranian Muslim (Shiite, I presume) Hitlery-y woman is secretly running the U.S.A. (& making white men bow down to her).

News Ledes

New York Times: "The abduction and killing of a Palestinian teenager whose burned body was found in a Jerusalem forest on Wednesday further poisoned relations between Israelis and Palestinians and prompted international outrage as the police investigated the death as a possible Israeli revenge killing."

Reuters: "U.S. companies hired 281,000 workers in June, marking the biggest monthly increase since November 2012 and well above market expectations, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday. Private job gains in May were 179,000. Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast that the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 200,000 jobs last month."

Ann Coulter gets a break. Elitist frites-eating Belgians knock U.S. out of World Cup competition.

NIMBY. Los Angeles Times: "Amid rising concern over a surge of young immigrants crossing the border illegally, flag-waving protesters blocked three busloads of detainees in Riverside County on Tuesday, preventing them from reaching a Border Patrol processing station in Murrieta[, California].... The incident came one day after [Murietta Mayor Alan] Long urged residents to protest the federal government's decision to move the recent immigrants -- the first of what he said was to be a series of arrivals -- to the facility in his city."

Monday
Jun302014

The Commentariat -- July 1, 2014

A Rotten Day for Poor Working Women *

Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "In an opinion filled with strongly implied invitations to file a new case to go even further, the Supreme Court, dividing five to four, ruled on Monday that public employees cannot routinely be required to join labor unions or to support them by paying dues. If state or local government workers who oppose unionism take the hint, this new decision may well spawn new lawsuits that could spell doom for organizing those workers for collective action."

Here's a statement by President Obama's press secretary criticizing the ruling.

Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View: "The unions averted, for now, a far greater disaster: the possibility that the court would reverse its precedent and hold that no public employees at all can be made to contribute to unions' collective-bargaining costs. That result could've broken many public unions. But the sword of Damocles still hangs over them." Feldman has a good, brief explanation of the case that informs Harris: Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. ...

Laurence Tribe in Slate: "... Alito and the conservative majority treated employees who were compelled to pay union fees as if they were being dragooned into involuntary association. This can hardly be described as a natural interpretation of the economic reality, much less the only plausible one.... Most broadly, Harris is the latest chapter in the troubling story of the Roberts court indulging attenuated constitutional arguments against economic regulation.... The Roberts court seems to be forgetting one of the principal lessons of constitutionalism since the New Deal: Economic policy should be made by legislatures, not courts." CW: Yeah, Larry, and what you are forgetting is that Johnnie & His Supremes find the New Deal abhorrent, & they fully intend to overturn it, bit by bit. ...

... Emily Bazelon of Slate: "... for people with disabilities who want to live on their own, and the workers who make that possible, it's a real blow." ...

... New York Times Editors: "... there was no mistaking the ominous antipathy toward collective bargaining and workers' rights behind Justice Samuel Alito Jr.'s majority opinion, which was joined by the four conservative members of the court."


Amy Howe of ScotusBlog explains the Hobby Lobby decision "in plain English.... Today's decision is an unqualified victory for Hobby Lobby, Conestoga, and the families that own them. The companies can provide their female employees with health insurance, and that health insurance can include access to some forms of birth control, but they are not required to violate their religious beliefs by subsidizing forms of birth control that they believe would make them complicit in abortions."

Molly Redden in Mother Jones: "Health care experts say [the Obama] administration can cover woman affected by today's ruling similar to how it currently covers women working for nonprofit, religiously affiliated organizations.... Indeed, the five justices who ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby made the accommodation a key piece of their decision." ...

     ... CW: That seems fair. We taxpayers pick up the tab for all of the for-profit companies that claim a religious exemption (70 have already challenged the ACA contraceptive mandate). ...

... BUT Lyle Denniston argues that Hobby Lobby didn't solve anything, as companies like Hobby Lobby are unlikely to file the necessary forms that would allow a (federally-subsidized) "middle man" or the federal government to provide contraceptive coverage. CW: Yay! More lawsuits in the service of injustice. ...

... Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Battles over health care and religious rights are sure to continue.... About 50 cases involving nonprofit organizations and a similar number involving for-profit companies are pending in federal courts around the country, and many of those plaintiffs intend to push forward with the argument that they should be able to opt out of providing or authorizing coverage that conflicts with their religious beliefs." ...

Wherein the part of Lucy is played by Sam Alito & the part of Charlie Brown by Barack Obama.... CW: Pear points out (as does Denniston) that non-profits have filed suit against accepting the Obama administration's "accommodation" to their religious beliefs. In the most prominent suit, that brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Sisters claim that the accommodation requires them to "... deputize a third party to sin on their behalf." Here is where both Alito & Kennedy are too cute by half. They write that the accommodation for nonprofits would work well for for-profit corporations, too, never acknowledging that the very method they recommend is the subject of several pending lawsuits. (Update: Garrett Epps of the Atlantic: "... at oral argument Hobby Lobby's lawyer had refused to stipulate that his clients would accept it.") In this regard, Alito actually taunts the administration: "'We do not decide today whether an approach of this type complies' with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act for all purposes," he writes. In other words, we're recommending a way to remedy our ruling today, but we'll find that way unconstitutional next year.

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "The White House on Monday afternoon called on Congress to 'take action to solve [the] problem' created by the Supreme Court in its ruling that closely held corporations cannot be forced to comply with the contraception mandate under Obamacare. 'Today's decision jeopardizes the health of women that are employed by these companies,' White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. He added: 'We believe that a company should not be able to assert their views to deny employees federally mandated coverage.'"

I will work with my colleagues and the administration to protect this access, regardless of who signs your paycheck. Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women's access to health care, I will. -- Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)

Birth control costs about $600 a year. That financially impacts women; it prevents them from being able to join the middle class. Let's keep in mind, birth control has affected women economically positively since its creation, and this is going to turn the dial back. -- Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Chair of the Democratic National Committee

Paige Cunningham & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "The Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision deepened partisan division in Congress over the government's role in health care with Republicans praising the ruling for protecting religious freedom and Democrats panning it for intruding into women's health care decisions -- and promising legislation to try to restore the coverage." ...

... Karie Glueck of Politico: "Hillary Clinton on Monday called the Supreme Court's ruling in the contraception-related Hobby Lobby case 'deeply disturbing.'" ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times: "This was a political decision and it is absolutely proper for Democrats to use it as a weapon in the midterm election campaign. Minutes after the court ruled that closely held corporations have religious rights that permit them to deny contraceptive benefits to employees, Democrats made clear that they would use the case to remind women of the personal consequences of this kind of conservative ideology.... The court based its decision not on a Constitutional principle but on an act of Congress, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Acts of Congress can be overturned or changed if the right lawmakers are in place, and Hobby Lobby is a good reminder to voters that important policies are often not in the hands of nine justices, but in their own." ...

... Jeff Toobin: "When it comes to the most fundamental issues before the court, the most important factor is not the legal arguments but the identity of the judges -- and the presidents who appointed them."

... our decision in these cases is concerned solely with the contraceptive mandate. -- Justice Sam Alito, writing for the majority in the Hobby Lobby case. ...

... Kevin Drum: "Basically, [Alito is] making the case that abortion is unique as a religious issue. If you object to anything else on a religious basis, you're probably out of luck. But if you object to abortion on religious grounds, you will be given every possible consideration. Even if your objection is only related to abortion in the most tenuous imaginable way -- as it is here, where IUDs are considered to be abortifacients for highly idiosyncratic doctrinal reasons — it will be treated with the utmost deference. This is not a ruling that upholds religious liberty. It is a ruling that specifically enshrines opposition to abortion as the most important religious liberty in America."

** Ian MillHiser of Think Progress: "For many years, the Supreme Court struck a careful balance between protecting religious liberty and maintaining the rule of law in a pluralistic society.... With Monday's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, however, this careful balance has been upended.... The upshot of Alito's opinion is that, for the first time in American history, people with religious objections to the law will be able to ignore many laws with impunity unless the government's decision to enforce the law overcomes a very high legal bar that few laws survive." ...

... ** Scott Lemieux in the American Prospect: "While the burden of the contraceptive 'mandate' on employers is trivial, the burden the majority's exemption creates on employees is substantial. By holding that the former trumps the latter, the majority goes far beyond what Congress intended in RFRA." ...

... New York Times Editors: "The Supreme Court's deeply dismaying decision on Monday in the Hobby Lobby case swept aside accepted principles of corporate law and religious liberty to grant owners of closely held, for-profit companies an unprecedented right to impose their religious views on employees." ...

... Dana Milbank highlights the majority's twisted logic in attributing religious beliefs to what Justice Ginberg noted was, in the words of Chief Justice John Marshall (the 4th U.S. chief justice), "an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law." (CW: So much for originalism.) Milbank adds, "There was a certain risk in having Alito deliver the 5-to-4 opinion defending corporate personhood, because his mannerisms are strikingly robotic for a human. Assigned both of Monday's opinions, Alito delivered a 33-minute monologue — his only departure from the text before him was to raise his head mechanically at intervals and glance at a table to his right."

... Digby: "When [the Supremes] go to such lengths to soothe people that they aren't setting a hugely significant precedent that makes little sense, that's what they're doing."

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: "What other companies can ignore which other laws on what real or dreamed-up religious grounds? That is something the majority decision in Hobby Lobby leaves shockingly undefined. Ginsburg called it 'a decision of startling breadth,' one that could allow for-profit corporations to 'opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.' Alito, in his opinion, denies this; so does Anthony Kennedy, in a concurrence. But neither does so persuasively...."

Sandra Fluke in the Washington Post: "Some imagine closely held corporations as family-run small business. Actually, closely held corporations make up more than 90 percent of the businesses in this country. They employ 52 percent of the labor force, and the 224 largest closely held corporations had combined revenues of $1.6 trillion in 2013. Some of these companies include Dell, Toys 'R' Us, Heinz, Dole Foods, Petco, Stater Bros and yes, even Koch Industries."

Sally Kohn of the Daily Beast: "Reliance on junk science, backwards ideas about religious freedom -- it's all there in the conservative majority's awful Hobby Lobby ruling."

Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be 'perceived as favoring one religion over another,' the very 'risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude. -- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent

... Jay Michaelson of the Daily Beast: "... as Justice Ginsberg ... writes, in holding that Hobby Lobby is entitled to its own factual universe, in which contraceptives cause abortion and providing insurance is the same as using it, the Court has opened the door to any number of wild religious claims." ...

... Papists! Charles Pierce: "Right up through the Court's decision today, in practice, the RFRA has been repurposed to establish a privileged position within the law to a certain set of religious beliefs -- those beliefs curiously coinciding with the political movement in which several of the Justices were formed. And, again, it's not like nobody saw this coming, either. In his Memorial And Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, [James] Madison warned against privileging one set of religious beliefs over the other."

Steve M. "The decision just reeks of ignorance, paternalism, contempt, and condescension. And I don't think either conservatives or political insiders quite get that. They can't imagine that this comes off as a double whammy of woman-shaming and cheapness, with bosses in a crappy economy denying female workers one more crumb and saying they're doing it because anyone who wants that crumb is morally contemptible."

Yeah, BUT. Kate Pickert of Time offers "4 reasons the ruling means less than you think." CW: Pickert apparently takes Alito at his word & pays no attention to Ginberg's dissent. Moreover, she seems completely ignorant of Roberts' predilection for dismantling protections for ordinary Americans piecemeal fashion. Otherwise, an insightful post! Update: See also Jeff Toobin post following links re: the Hobby Lobby decision.

Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic: "The obvious solution to this dilemma is to take health insurance away from employers altogether.... But the people and groups who oppose government's providing insurance directly tend to be the same people who object to the contraception mandate. That's not a coincidence. While I don't doubt the religious objections to birth control are sincere, I do think they are masking another belief conservatives bring to this debate: As a general rule, conservatives don't think government should be compelling them to pay for other people's medical expenses."


No, people, #5OldBigots do not run ScotusBlog.

** Jeff Toobin in the New Yorker: "The Supreme Court concluded its term today with a pair of decisions widely described as 'narrow' -- that is, of limited application except to the parties in the lawsuits. Don't believe it. In fact, the Court's decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn conform to an established pattern for the Roberts Court. It's generally a two-step process: in confronting a politically charged issue, the court first decides a case in a 'narrow' way, but then uses that decision as a precedent to move in a more dramatic, conservative direction in a subsequent case." ...

... Garrett Epps of the Atlantic on "the Supreme Court's cold indifference to America's workers.... Both opinions are like time bombs; they will keep exploding for a number of terms to come. The majority, meanwhile, seems to be having fun."

* Of course not all home healthcare workers are women, but "more than 90 percent ... are women. About 30 percent are black, and 12 percent are Hispanic." Hobby Lobby pays better than companies that require similar work, & workers get Sundays off. Also, they begin every staff meeting with a Christian prayer. AND they play Christian music! Hallelujah! Sam Alito might like cute little puppies, but he has nothing but contempt for poor- & lower-middle-class working women.


Jennifer Epstein
of Politico: "President Barack Obama said Monday that the White House is preparing an executive order banning job discrimination among federal employees on the basis of gender identity. Obama mentioned the planned measure while addressing a White House reception marking LGBT Pride Month. The White House announced earlier this month that the president also intends to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity -- a measure for which LGBT rights groups have long clamored":


Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama announced his intention Monday to nominate former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, as he vowed to continue to push to reform the troubled agency":

Tom Cohen & Cassie Spodak of CNN: "It's their fault, President Barack Obama said Monday in blaming Republican inaction on immigration reform for escalating problems including a surge of undocumented children crossing the border from Mexico." CW: An excellent get-off-your-ass speech:

... New York Times Editors: "It says a lot about the state of immigration politics that Republicans instantly rejected Mr. Obama's demand for reform but that many may be only too happy to help him deport more children."

Snowden, Ctd. Ellen Nakashima & Barton Gellman of the Washington Post: "Virtually no foreign government is off-limits for the National Security Agency, which has been authorized to intercept information 'concerning' all but four countries, according to top-secret documents. The United States has long had broad no-spying arrangements with those four countries -- Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — in a group known collectively with the United States as the Five Eyes. But a classified 2010 legal certification and other documents indicate the NSA has been given a far more elastic authority than previously known, one that allows it to intercept through U.S. companies not just the communications of its overseas targets but any communications about its targets as well."

We Look Beyond the Beltway
For a Little Levity & Good News

Greg Hilburn of the Monroe, Louisiana News Star: "The Kissing Congressman, "Fifth District U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, will seek re-election, reversing course after previously saying he wouldn't be a candidate.McAllister made his official announcement during a news conference Monday.... More than 75 supporters greeted him with enthusiastic applause.... The freshman congressman had previously said he wouldn't seek re-election following a scandal in which a video was published showing the married McAllister kissing a former married staffer, but he soon recanted." ...

... Alexander Burns of Politico: "Louisiana Rep. Vance McAllister has no shortage of problems in his surprise bid for reelection: Party leaders loathe him, aggressive challengers have already stepped up within the GOP and that nickname – 'The Kissing Congressman' -- that won't go away. And then there's the matter of McAllister's debt. The wealthy Louisiana lawmaker who won his seat in a special election last November now starts his comeback bid carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial liabilities on his campaign account. At the end of March -- before the revelation of McAllister's extramarital dalliance with a congressional staffer -- the Republican's campaign reported owing $207,275 to a variety of political consultancies and law firms. His campaign also owed $395,000 to McAllister, who took out a massive personal loan in the midst of his self-funded special election campaign." CW: This guy is so qualified to represent the people.

Sam Hall of the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger: "The chairman of the Mississippi Federation of College Republicans [Evan Alvarez] has resigned his post and 'will be changing my party affiliation to Democrat in the next few days.'" CW: Hall's report makes pretty clear that Alvarez's decision was precipitated by friction with teabaggers in the organization, but Alvarez's statement announcing his resignation, which appears at the end of Hall's report, is well worth a read. He cites multiple examples of what is wrong with the GOP, every one of which most of us would agree with. Democrats aren't going to be turning Mississippi blue anytime soon, but Alvarez's statement shows that Democrats -- or at least "reasonable" Republicans -- have a chance with white Mississippians.

Rene Stutzman of the Orlando Sentinel: "A Sanford judge [Monday] put an end to George Zimmerman's libel suit against NBC Universal. Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson ruled that the former Neighborhood Watch volunteer is entitled to no money from the media giant. She issued a summary judgment in the network's favor, meaning that unless an appeals court reverses her, the case is now dead." Via Joe Coscarelli of New York.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Paul Mazursky, an innovative director and screenwriter who both satirized and sympathized with America's panorama of social upheavals in the late 1960s and '70s in films that included 'Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,' 'Blume in Love' and 'An Unmarried Woman,' died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 84.

Guardian: "General Motors's safety crisis over deadly ignition switches has deepened with the recall of 8.23m cars linked by the carmaker to three deaths. The latest recalls, which now total 29m this year, boosted the number of deaths acknowledged by GM to at least 16 in cars with switch-related problems. The automaker said it now knows of 61 crashes tied to faulty ignition switches, although US lawmakers and safety regulators have said they expect the death toll to climb."

Washington Post: "Israeli aircraft pounded dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday after vowing to extract a heavy price from the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which it accuses of killing three kidnapped Israeli teenagers on the West Bank." ...

... Washington Post: "President Barack Obama is condemning what he calls a 'senseless act of terror against innocent youth' in the Mideast and offering U.S. help to find those who killed three teenagers. Obama is extending condolences to the families of the teens found by the Israeli military on Monday, two weeks after they were allegedly abducted by Hamas militants."

Washington Post: "President Obama has authorized another 200 U.S. troops to secure the American Embassy in Iraq as well as Baghdad's international airport, bringing the total U.S. deployments to Iraq this month to 775."

Reuters: "Ukrainian forces struck at pro-Russian separatist bases in eastern regions with air and artillery strikes on Tuesday after President Petro Poroshenko announced he would not renew a ceasefire but go on the offensive to rid Ukraine of 'parasites'. Within hours of Poroshenko's early morning announcement, the military went into action against rebel bases and checkpoints in the east which has been in separatist ferment since April."

AP: "Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been detained and was reportedly being questioned by financial investigators Tuesday in a corruption probe that is rattling France's conservative political establishment. A judicial official said Sarkozy was in custody in the Paris suburb of Nanterre." CW: So the French aren't so genteel, after all. We would never have the bad manners to take our criminal ex-presidents & veeps into custody for questioning. Unfortunately.