The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, September 1, 2015.

Washington Post: "Overwhelmed by thousands of asylum-seekers, Hungarian authorities Tuesday briefly halted rail traffic from their nation’s main train station, the latest blow to borderless movement in Europe.... The asylum-seekers, many of whom are fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, hope to make it onward to Germany, which has promised shelter and sustenance for Syrians. By midday in Budapest, the train station had been reopened, but migrants were being kept away, Hungary’s state-owned news agency reported."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times [Aug. 20]: "As many as 60,000 American women each year are told they have a very early stage of breast cancer — Stage 0, as it is commonly known — a possible precursor to what could be a deadly tumor. And almost every one of the women has either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, and often a double mastectomy, removing a healthy breast as well. Yet it now appears that treatment may make no difference in their outcomes."

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

White House Live Video
September 2

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

New York Times: "Bloomberg News laid off as many as 90 journalists on Tuesday[, Sept. 1,] in its newsrooms in New York, Washington and across the world, part of a plan to refocus the organization’s coverage on business, finance, economics, technology and politics. The rationale for the dismissals was outlined in a lengthy memo to the staff from Bloomberg’s new editor in chief, John Micklethwait."

Maureen Dowd: Trump has got the best of Jeb! & Hillary: "Trump’s 'gusto,' as he likes to call it, has thrown into sharper relief the grinding-it-out, impatient entitlement, the overthinking and overcorrecting of Jeb and Hillary. Both campaign like they are owed, not because of their great national achievements, but because of their byzantine family dynamics."

The Oliver Brief. We do note, however, that the so-called 'Insular Cases,' which established a less-than-complete application of the Constitution in some U.S. territories, has been the subject of extensive judicial, academic, and popular criticism. See, e.g., Juan Torruella, The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid, 77 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 1 (2008); Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories, Youtube (Mar. 8, 2015), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CesHr99ezWE. -- Footnote, Paeste v. Guam, Ninth Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon

Jordan Golson of Wired: "Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage. The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars — there’s no flying beams of light, no 'pew! pew!' sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down. People keep flying their drones where they shouldn’t.... Luckily, there haven’t been any really bad incidents — that is, no one has been killed by a civilian quadcopter or plane, yet."

"The cream cheese is too damn much." Scott Lemieux and I agree.

Sunday Morning Come-Down. Politico: "Al Sharpton is leaving MSNBC's weekday dayside lineup, and moving to Sunday mornings. Sharpton's last weekday 'PoliticsNation' will be Sept. 4. He moves to Sundays a month later on Oct. 4, according to a memo sent to MSNBC staff by the channel's president Phil Griffin Wednesday evening."

Washington Post: "Stephen Hawking believes he’s solved a huge mystery about black holes."

Washington Post: "The case for canonizing [Sister Blandina Segale,] the 19th century Italian-born nun, whose run-in with Old West outlaw Billy the Kid is the stuff of legend, was presented at a ceremonial 'first inquiry' in Albuquerque on Tuesday. If approved, her name will be sent to the Vatican, where it will head down the long (and somewhat secretive) path toward sainthood."

New York Times: Can't sidewalk scaffolding be attractive? Yes, it can.

Terror in Toledo! ABC News: "A man caught on video the moment a public art installation in Toledo, Ohio -- a giant, 250-pound red ball -- decided to run away and start rolling down streets lined with parked cars. Part of a Toledo Museum of Art exhibit, the RedBall Project had been wedged between Roulet Jewelers and Ice Restaurant in downtown Toledo when a thunderstorm and strong winds this past Wednesday evening knocked the ball loose and caused it to start rolling away, according to Kelly Garrow, the museum's director of communications."

... AP: "America’s two foremost Democratic families, the Obamas and the Clintons, mingled on Saturday[,August 15,] as politics mixed with summer repose on swanky Martha’s Vineyard."

Washington Post: "Offering such perks as 'free' bags and 'free' airline tickets, [some credit] cards are big on promises, but they often fall short on the delivery. And although these financial instruments are legal, experts say they are not always worthwhile."

Kori Schulman of the White House: "Today (August 14), the White House joined Spotify — and our inaugural playlist was hand-picked by none other than President Obama. When asked to pick a few of his favorite songs for the summer, the President got serious. He grabbed a pen and paper and drafted up not one, but two separate summer playlists: One for the daytime, and one for the evening." ...

... CW: If you're subscribed to Spotify, you can play the President's list from the linked story (at "Today".)

Washington Post: "Google, one of the best-known brands on the planet, on Monday[, August 10,] radically restructured itself under the corporate name Alphabet, an almost unprecedented shift that reflects the company’s far-reaching ambitions and the vast Web it helped evolve. The move represents Google’s biggest push yet to ... turn the company into a multifaceted General Electric for the digital age."

Bureaucracies Move in Mysterious Ways. New York Post: "The city [of New York] moved to fire an employee for missing about 18 months of work, even though he had the best excuse of all time — he was dead. Bureaucrats at the Human Resources Administration filed charges against Medicaid-eligibility specialist Geoffrey Toliver accusing him of going AWOL — even though his death by cancer was reported in an online obituary.... 'It is my understanding that . . . his employer was fully aware that he was not able to come back to work,' Toliver’s brother Anthony told The Post. 'It is my understanding that my brother’s family spoke directly to his supervisor during his long hospitalization and informed them of his death.'” ...

... CW: Doesn't surprise me at all. When I lived in Manhattan, my mother sent me a gift which came directly from the catalog company from which she had bought it. My father had died a few years earlier, but my mother was still getting these catalogs in his name. So my father's name, not hers, appeared on the package as the giftor. He had never lived in New York City. He was not the addressee on the package. The package didn't come from New York City. And my father was dead. But never mind all that. A few months after I received the gift, I got a letter at my New York home addressed to my father. It was a notification from the city ordering my father to show up for jury duty. Or else.

 

Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "For years and years, plenty of websites (Mediaite included) have written about the many times Jon Stewart has 'destroyed,' 'annihilated,' or 'eviscerated' anything from terrorism to race relations to Fox News. Well..., on his penultimate night, Stewart discovered that he didn’t actually do any of that":

Exit Laughing. John Koblin of the New York Times: "Since [Jon] Stewart started hosting 'The Daily Show' 16 years ago, the country’s trust in both the news media and the government has plummeted. Mr. Stewart’s brand of fake news thrived in that vacuum, and turned him into one of the nation’s most bracing cultural, political and media critics. With his over-the-top presentation of the news — his arms swinging wildly, his eyes bulging with outrage, followed by a shake of the head and a knowing smile — Mr. Stewart attracted a generation of viewers ready to embrace an outlier whose exaggerations, in their view, carried more truth than conventional newscasts." ...

...Stewart hasn't done any interviews prior to ending his run on the "Daily Show," but he did sit down with "Daily Show" producers for an "exit interview" on Episode 20 of the "Daily Show Podcast without Jon Stewart." You can listen to it here.

Los Angeles Times: "Donald Sterling filed for divorce Wednesday[, August 5] in Los Angeles Superior Court, almost a year after a contentious legal fight with his wife, Shelly, led to the sale of the Clippers.... However, the court later rejected Wednesday’s filing because it was incomplete, according to a spokeswoman. The matter is expected to be re-filed."

New York Times: "Jason Fine, the editor of Men’s Journal, will take over as the managing editor of Rolling Stone as part of what the magazine’s publisher, Jann S. Wenner, described as a 'shake-up.'”

"Where Are My Pancakes?"

The Word Salad King. If Donald Trump's good friend & possible running mate Sarah Palin is the Word Salad Queen, it stands to reason that the Donald would be the king. Slate challenges you to diagram this "sentence." To help you out, Slate has transcribed the words in the order delivered. Not that the order delivered matters much:

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Wednesday
Jun052013

The Commentariat -- June 6, 2013

Julian Pecquet & Daniel Strauss of the Hill: "Two key Republican senators [John McCain & Bob Corker {Tenn.}] on Wednesday muted their criticism of Susan Rice, saying they would welcome the opportunity to work with her when she assumes the post of President Obama's national security adviser.... Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who previously had been softer on Rice than many of his colleagues over Benghazi, said the choice reflects poorly on Obama." ...

... Oh, speaking of the NSA. Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian: "The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon ... under a top secret court order issued in April. The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an 'ongoing, daily basis' to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.... The communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk -- regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing. The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19." Thanks to Dave S. for the link. ...

... The New York Times makes this their top story this morning, crediting the Guardian (i.e., Greenwald) for publishing the court order. Charlie Savage & Edward Wyatt report. ...

... Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post (where Greenwald's scoop is also the top story): "A senior Obama administration official said Thursday that the purported order 'does not allow the government to listen in on anyone's telephone calls' but relates only to 'metadata, such as a telephone number or the length of a call.' The official said such information 'has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States.' The official added that 'all three branches of government are involved in reviewing and authorizing intelligence collection' under the secret court, and Congress 'is regularly and fully briefed' on how the information is used."

David Graham of the Atlantic: "No more Mr. Nice President. For a brief few weeks this spring, the president was on what was universally, and rather uncreatively, described as a 'charm offensive.' But a series of high-profile power plays this week show suggest a White House that has either lost faith in the value of reaching out or is simply annoyed at a series of scandal investigations and isn't going to take it anymore. The moves may also reflect a concern that if the president doesn't move to set the tone for his second term, it may end up being defined by Republican-driven scandals. Whatever the case, the Obama Administration has this week dropped the 'charm' but is sticking with the 'offensive.'" ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "The unapologetic selections reflect a conclusion in the West Wing that when it comes to choosing personnel, the president can never satisfy Republicans who will find almost anyone objectionable. But his choices also highlight the complicated second-term balancing act for a president unconstrained by re-election concerns and therefore freer to challenge Congress, yet still hoping to forge deals by courting the opposition with dinners and White House meetings." ...

     ... CW: what Baker doesn't say is that Obama's so-called "controversial" nominations may reflect a deal with Harry Reid to break the filibuster of presidential nominations. We'll find out this summer.

Zeke Miller of Time: "On Thursday President Barack Obama will take his second trip back to North Carolina since the November election. The visit to the swing state he won by a hair in 2008 but lost last time around is to announce a new program called ConnectED, a five-year initiative to bring high speed Internet to 99 percent of American students. But the repeat state visit -- one of only a handful so far in the second term -- also highlights the Democratic Party's frustrations in North Carolina, its toehold into the South."

Matt Miller, in the Washington Post: "Republican nihilism and intransigence -- huge problems, so please don't arrest me, false equivalency police! -- can't explain the Democratic ambition gap. In fact, it's not clear that anything in my depressing inventory above would be meaningfully different if the GOP had vanished or capitulated. Rare instances aside, this means Democrats aren't offering ideas equal to the magnitude of our problems. Republicans, meanwhile, can't even see what the problems are." ...

... Kevin Drum: "I just don't know any longer what I'm supposed to think about a political movement whose primary raison d'être, one they no longer even bother to conceal, is an almost gleeful immiseration of the poor for the benefit of the rich. How is it that the wealthiest country on earth has come to this?"

Jim Avila & Serena Marshall of ABC News: "Bipartisan meetings in the House of Representatives on a comprehensive immigration reform bill have failed.... The stumbling block is GOP insistence that newly legalized workers now working in the shadows have no access to government-sponsored health care during their 15-year pathway to citizenship.... Democrats say that since these newly legalized immigrants would be paying taxes they should be eligible for benefits. The stalemate is not expected to be solved and any immigration legislation from the House would likely proceed in piecemeal fashion." ...

... Meghashyam Mali of the Hill: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Tuesday threatened to vote against the Gang of Eight immigration bill he helped draft unless there are further changes to the legislation.... On Monday, Rubio warned that the bill still did not have the 60 votes needed, contradicting his Gang of Eight colleagues Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) who said they hoped to win 70 votes, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who said he believed he had the numbers to pass the bill." ...

... Marco's "Self-Fufilling Prophecy." Ed Kilgore: "So when Sen. Marco Rubio disagreed with the prevailing assumption that the Gang of Eight immigration bill had at least the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster by his GOP colleagues, he knew something the rest of us didn't know: he was counting himself as a 'no' vote. And it turns out he's been working behind the scenes with John Cornyn (who voted against the bill in the Judiciary Committee) to draft an omnibus conservative 'poison pill' amendment to the bill that if passed would by all accounts unravel the whole bipartisan coalition...."

... Marco's Get-out-of-Immigration-Reform Card. David Drucker of the Washington Examiner: "Democrats are signaling their rejection of Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn's proposed amendment to the 'Gang of Eight' immigration reform bill. The Texas Republican on Wednesday unveiled a proposal he described as the 'antidote' for Republican concerns that the bill is too weak on border security. 'The Cornyn amendment ... would subject immigrants to a "trigger" that is unworkable - period,' [a Democratic] aide said. "This effort to make the pathway to citizenship unattainable is a bridge too far and it undermines a key principle of the reform bill.'" ...

... Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post: "The story on immigration reform remains very simple: Republicans, at some point, will have to decide whether they want it to pass or not. Not whether they'll vote for it -- most of them won't. But Democrats are happy to supply the bulk of the votes on this one, so all that matters is whether Republicans choose to let them or not."

Have Cake, Eating It, Too. So yesterday we heard that the GOP leadership loves Darrell Issa's attacks on the Obama administration. Today we hear from John Bresnahan & Jake Sherman of Politico that "Issa has earned the ire of Republican leadership with personal broadsides against the president and his aides." ...

... "Shameful." Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post: "Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) will hold a hearing [Thursday] on what he says is lavish spending at the Internal Revenue Service.... But as with most things involving the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, you have to separate fact from fiction, hyperbole from the ordinary." Ferinstance, "Issa is right about the number of conferences and their expense between 2010 and 2012. There were 225 conferences with a total price tag of $48,631,799. What Issa doesn't tell anyone is that spending on these IRS jamborees during that same period plummeted by 80 percent and that the number of conferences fell from 152 in 2010 to 24 in 2012." ...

... Stephen Ohlemacher & Alan Fram of the AP: "Internal Revenue Service officials can expect a grilling when they face lawmakers over the latest controversy to rock the agency: lavish spending at employee conferences. The IRS, however, is planning a robust defense at a congressional hearing Thursday. The agency has already imposed strict regulations to prevent expensive conferences in the future." ...

... Lisa Rein of the Washington Post: "The Internal Revenue Service said Wednesday that two managers who attended a conference the agency held in Southern California in 2010 have been placed on administrative leave for accepting free gifts in violation of government ethics standards. Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel said he has begun the process of firing the employees, who allegedly had free food delivered to their private hotel suites for a party during the three-day conference." ...

... According to John Stanton of BuzzFeed, one of the managers put on leave was "a top official in charge of implementing Obamacare." ...

... John McKinnon & Dionne Searcey of the Wall Street Journal: "Two Internal Revenue Service employees in the agency's Cincinnati office told congressional investigators that IRS officials in Washington helped direct the probe of tea-party groups that began in 2010. Transcripts of the interviews, viewed Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal, appear to contradict earlier statements by top IRS officials, who have blamed lower-level workers in Cincinnati." ...

... AND, following up on a Politico story linked yesterday, David Burghart in the National Memo: "When a gaggle of local Tea Party leaders came before the House Ways and Means Committee, complaining that their organizations had been unfairly and unconstitutionally 'targeted by the Internal Revenue Service for their personal beliefs,' the reception by the Republicans who control the committee was predictably credulous. Once more the June 4 hearings provided Tea Party groups an opportunity to play the victim and listen to politicians praise their courage and patriotism. But a closer examination of these particular Tea Party outfits by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights found copious evidence of political activity that might well have disqualified their requests for 501(c)(4) non-profit status.... The Republican leadership demonstrated no interest in ascertaining the actual facts of Tea Party involvement in prohibited political activity.... The unaddressed scandal is that the IRS let so many of these groups get away with what appear to be severe violations of the law. Toward the hearing's conclusion, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) indicated that the IRS' flagging of groups by name had been wrong but noted, 'No one has a God-given right to a tax-exempt status.' Tell that to the Tea Party."

Richard Lardner & Donna Cassata of the AP: "The outcry over the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military is spurring Congress to act, with a House panel moving ahead on Wednesday on stripping commanders of the ability to overturn convictions in rape and assault cases....The full House is expected to vote on the bill next week."

Ricardo Lopez of the Los Angeles Times: "In addition to the expected demand for more nurses and doctors to treat millions of newly insured patients, the federal Affordable Care Act is feeding a cottage industry in call centers. The law ... has spawned a hiring blitz by the state, major health insurers and many community groups that have to decode a lot of insurance lingo in a short amount of time to an incredibly diverse population. Before it rolls out its health insurance marketplace, called Covered California, the state is hiring hundreds of people at three call centers set to open this fall when enrollment begins Oct. 1. The state also needs an additional 20,000 enrollers across the state to inform consumers about their new health insurance options and the new penalties under the federal law if they don't get coverage starting in January. Those enrollers, who will earn $58 for each sign-up, will primarily work for nonprofit and community groups assisting the state."

Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post: "The White House has lost its bid to delay a ruling that makes emergency contraceptives available to women and girls of all ages. Three judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit did grant the White House its requested delay to keep one-pill products, like Plan B One-Step, restricted to females 15 and over. The court will not, however, allow any age restrictions on other two-pill emergency contraceptive products."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed the name of the Navy SEAL unit that carried out the Osama bin Laden raid and named the unit's ground commander at a 2011 ceremony attended by 'Zero Dark Thirty' filmmaker Mark Boal, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general's report obtained by a watchdog group. Panetta also disclosed classified information designated as 'top secret' and 'secret' during his presentation at the awards ceremony, says the draft IG report published Wednesday by the Project on Government Oversight.... The report does not make clear whether Panetta was aware that Boal was present at the ceremony.... The release of the findings in the draft report may also raise questions about why the document has been under wraps for so long, and which of its conclusions were known to White House officials prior to last November's election."

Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: "Since the [Affordable Care Act]'s passage in March 2010, critics have spent a total of about $400 million on television ads that refer to it, according to a new analysis by the Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media, which tracks such spending. Supporters have spent less than a quarter of that -- about $75 million -- on ads that cast the law in a positive light, according to the analysis. The biggest advertiser in support of the law has been the Department of Health and Human Services, which has run educational ads that mention it. Most of the negative ads have come from Republican outside groups, including Crossroads GPS, which was founded by Karl Rove and other top Republican strategists, and the National Republican Congressional Committee." ...

... Steve Benen: "With a public-relations imbalance like that, it's hardly a surprise that the public remains skeptical."

Aaron Blake & Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "As is befitting for a man known for his sense of humor, Frank Lautenberg's funeral was full of funny moments. But Vice President Biden outdid other speakers with a humorous tribute." Blake & Weiner publish some of Biden's punchlines.

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "On Friday, John Dingell, 86, [of Michigan] the former Democratic powerhouse who asserted jurisdiction over vast expanses of federal policy as the intimidating chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, will become the longest-serving member of Congress in history with his 20,997th day as a representative, surpassing the record held by Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia."

Jamie Stengle of the AP: "Susan G. Komen for the Cure is canceling half of its 3-day charity races next year because of a drop in participation levels, a spokeswoman for the ... breast cancer organization said Wednesday. The announcement comes about a year and a half after Komen experienced intense backlash after news became public of its decision to stop giving grants to Planned Parenthood for breast screenings. The funding was restored days later, though it didn't quell the controversy."

Lindsey Graham Isn't Sure About Me. Brian Fung of the National Journal: "'Who is a journalist is a question we need to ask ourselves,' he said. 'Is any blogger out there saying anything -- do they deserve First Amendment protection? These are the issues of our times.' The verbal slipup aside (of course bloggers are covered under the Bill of Rights!), Graham's riffing on constitutional law exposes one of the age-old tensions between journalism as a product and journalism as an activity. What Graham really meant to ask was whether bloggers deserve the specific protections of the First Amendment that are granted to the press.... But as the line between blogger and journalist has blurred, a far more relevant challenge is figuring out whether those protections apply to the behavior of finding and passing on (sometimes secret) information, or if they apply only to people with little plastic ID badges to prove their affiliation." CW: I thought all I needed was a cheap computer. Now I find I may need a plastic card, too.

Gail Collins: "... nothing major is going to happen for early-childhood education without an enormous groundswell of public demand. This is a cause that's extremely popular in theory. But its advocates have no power to reward or punish. Lawmakers who labor on behalf of preschool programs may get stars in heaven, but they don't get squat in campaign contributions. And the ones who eliminate money for infant care programs have no fear whatsoever that they'll lose an election over it."

CNN has the video of Michelle Obama's encounter with a heckler (see yesterday's Commentariat & Comments):

Right Wing World

Will Weissert of the AP: " A coalition of civil rights organizations filed a judicial misconduct complaint Tuesday against a conservative federal judge for comments she allegedly made during a speech that are seen as discriminatory. Judge Edith Jones of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans addressed the University of Pennsylvania law school on Feb. 20. Her comments were not recorded, but five students and one attorney who were in attendance signed affidavits on what was said.... Jones is accused of saying that certain 'racial groups like African-Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime,' and are 'prone to commit acts of violence' and be involved in more violent and 'heinous' crimes than people of other ethnicities.... Jones, who was believed to be on President George H.W. Bush's short list for the Supreme Court [Bush nominated David Souter instead], has been an outspoken critic of the Supreme Court and judges who do not adhere to a constructionist view of the law." Ronald Reagan appointed her to the Fifth Circuit. ...

... Ethan Bronner of the New York Times has more. ...

... AND Jordan Smith of the Austin Chronicle has even more.

David Crary of the AP: "In suburban Atlanta, northern Idaho and a number of other places, churches have moved swiftly to sever ties with the Boy Scouts of America in protest over the vote last month to let openly gay boys participate in Scouting. To date, it's far from the mass defection that some conservatives had predicted before the vote by the BSA's National Council. But the exodus could soon swell, depending on the outcome of the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting next week in Houston. Baptist leaders say the agenda is likely to include a resolution encouraging SBC-affiliated churches to phase out their sponsorships of Scout units."

Congressional Race

Here are analyses of the Markey-Gomez debate in the U.S. Senate special election to replace John Kerry of Massachusetts: Jim O'Sullivan of the Globe suggests neither was ready for prime-time. David Bernstein of the Boston Daily says both "passed their tests."

Local News

Mary Walsh of the New York Times: "Jefferson County, Ala., took a big step toward resolving its historic bankruptcy case on Tuesday, saying it had reached an agreement to refinance most of the debt at the heart of its financial breakdown.... JPMorgan [Chase] was widely expected to make big concessions as part of any bankruptcy settlement, because some former officials of the bank were found to have been involved in improprieties in connection with a county debt refinancing in 2002 and 2003.... A lawsuit by the county against JPMorgan over the improprieties, still active in state court, would be resolved as part of the proposed agreement." ...

... Charles Pierce: "What gets missed then, of course, is how these minor crooks got played by the big-league crooks in the financial-services sector, who look at other people's money the way other creatures look at carrion, and who look at people outside their industry as prey. Of course, Morgan found Jefferson County. It smelled easy money the way sharks smell blood, and of course it drained Jefferson County dry and threw away the husk. That is the system we have learned to tolerate, and even, in many cases, applaud."

News Ledes

NBC News: "Two Massachusetts men filed a lawsuit against The New York Post on Wednesday, saying they were falsely portrayed as the suspects behind the deadly Marathon bombing."

New York Times: "Esther Williams, a teenage swimming champion who became an enormous Hollywood star in a decade of watery MGM extravaganzas, died on Thursday in Beverly Hills, Calif. She was 91."

Philadelphia Inquirer: "A woman was found alive late last night amid the rubble of the collapse of two buildings in Center City that left five women and one man dead in one of Philadelphia's biggest tragedies in recent memory. The collapse occurred as shoppers fatefully filled the Salvation Army thrift story on a busy Wednesday morning, unaware that an excavation crew ripping down walls at a gutted building next door was about to yank a beam with heavy machinery. Bystanders rushed to help...."

AP: "Commemorations of the 69th annniversary of D-Day have begun with the stars-and-stripes being raised in a quiet ceremony at the American cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. Tourists, many from the U.S. and Britain, gathered in the still morning under a brilliant spring sky to witness the flag-raising amid the neat rows of thousands of white marble crosses and Stars of David marking the graves of U.S. servicemen and women fallen in the Allied invasion of Normandy that began June 6, 1944."

AP: "Heavy rain was pouring across much of Florida early Thursday as the first tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season headed toward the state's western coast and a new tropical storm warning was issued for a swath of the U.S. East Coast. Tropical storm warnings were in effect for a large section of Florida's west coast from Boca Grande to Indian Pass and for the East Coast from Flagler Beach, Fla., all the way to Cape Charles Light in Virginia." CW: it sure did pour in Fort Myers.

Reuters: "Syrian rebels seized a U.N.-manned crossing between Syria and Israeli-occupied territory on Thursday, opposition sources said, but Israeli security sources reported Syrian troops later retook it after heavy fighting. The rarely used crossing, in a U.N.-patrolled demilitarized zone on the Golan Heights, is the only transit point between Syrian and Israeli disengagement lines set in 1974. Battles for its control seemed likely to heighten Israeli security concerns stoked by Syria's civil war."

Reuters: "North and South Korea announced on Thursday they were planning to hold talks for the first time since February 2011, signaling attempts to repair ties that have been ruptured for months."

Tuesday
Jun042013

The Commentariat -- June 5, 2013

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "In a major shakeup of President Obama's foreign-policy inner circle, Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, is resigning and will be replaced by Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, White House officials said on Tuesday. The appointment, which Mr. Obama plans to make on Wednesday afternoon, puts Ms. Rice, 48, an outspoken diplomat and a close political ally, at the heart of the administration's foreign-policy apparatus.... The post of national security adviser, while powerful, does not require Senate confirmation. Mr. Obama also plans to nominate Samantha Power, a National Security Council official, as Ms. Rice's replacement at the United Nations on Wednesday. "

Advise and Consent

Michael Shear & Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "President Obama's announcement of three nominees to an important federal appeals court on Tuesday is adding fuel to a larger fight on Capitol Hill over whether the minority party in the Senate has too much power to thwart a president's agenda." ...

... Here, BTW, was Shear & Peters' original lede: "President Obama set a confrontation with Senate Republicans in motion on Tuesday morning by naming a slate of judges to a top appeals court and daring his rivals to block their confirmations." ...

... John Cole of Balloon Juice: "Only in the Beltway Media could the President doing his constitutionally approved duties be considered picking a fight. But, you know, both sides do it, so, let's just move along.... As long as the stenographers keep writing vapid pieces like this, [Republicans] are just going to keep on keeping on." ...

... Emily Bazelon of Slate: "This is an in-your-face response to Republican obstructionism. In other words, it's totally unlike Obama, who has been especially slow to put up nominees for the appeals courts and the district courts. But at this moment in time, it is very much in his self-interest. The president needs these judges to cement his own legacy.... Obama is also safeguarding the power the Constitution gives every president to select federal judges." ...

... Greg Sargent: Republicans deny they have been slow to confirm President Obama's judicial nominees, but some studies demonstrate that their obstructionism is, as Obama said yesterday, "unprecedented." There's even an "Index of Obstruction and Delay," & the winner is -- Republicans in the 112th Congress.

Burgess Everett of Politico: "The Senate will begin considering the landmark immigration reform bill next week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday morning."

Senate Race

David Halbfinger & Kate Zernicke of the New York Times: "Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, in a decision fraught with political implications, announced on Tuesday that he would schedule a special election in October for the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Frank R. Lautenberg. The decision to set the vote for Oct. 16, a Wednesday, was immediately attacked by Democrats in the state, who said the move by Mr. Christie, a Republican, amounted to squandering taxpayer money to protect his own political ambitions.... The special election to replace Mr. Lautenberg, a Democrat, will cost almost $12 million to stage, and will come barely three weeks before the regular November ballot.... The governor also scheduled primary elections for Aug. 13. The cost also will be nearly $12 million." ...

... Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal: "Republicans are fuming over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's decision to hold an early special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, with several Washington-based operatives suggesting he's putting his own interests ahead of the GOP's. The decision to hold a separate special election in October 2013 -- just two weeks before his own election -- would give any interested Republican candidates little time to announce, organize a campaign, and raise the necessary money to take on a top-tier Democrat.... While none wanted to be quoted publicly, all dripped with disdain for Christie's decision, calling it self-serving." ...

... Daniel Halper of the Weekly Standard: "In a move aimed at saving money, the New Jersey governor last year signed a bill to consolidate local elections." ...

... David Giambusso of the Star-Ledger: " While Newark Mayor Cory Booker is almost certain to jump into a special August U.S. Senate primary, he and his advisers declined to discuss the mayor's plans today after Gov. Chris Christie announced a hyper-abbreviated campaign schedule to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Frank Lautenberg." ...

... Nate Silver: "It may be reasonable to infer ... that Mr. Christie evaluated the Republican field and did not like what he saw -- and that Booker, [a Democrat,] is poised to win the Senate seat with relative ease." ...

... Josh Barro of Business Insider: Chris Christie proved again today that he's a political genius." (link fixed)


Donna Cassata of the AP: "Lawmakers outraged by sexual assaults in the military are moving swiftly to address the problem, tackling legislation that would strip commanders of their authority to overturn convictions in rape and assault cases.The House Armed Services Committee plans to consider a sweeping, $638 billion defense policy bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. Debate over numerous provisions on sexual assault, the war in Afghanistan, missile defense and the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is expected throughout the day Wednesday. A final panel vote is likely late into the evening." CW: Outraged? Really? Read the report. The legislators who drew up the House bill are not so outraged that they plan to alter more than a few egregious military practices. ...

... Young Men Are Natural-Born Rapists. David Edwards of Raw Story: "Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) on Tuesday suggested that the 'hormone level created by nature' was to blame for rapes in the military and that all pregnant servicewomen should be investigated to make sure their condition was the result of consensual sex. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on sexual assaults within the military, Chambliss opined that the Pentagon's decision to allow women in combat roles was only going to make the problem worse." With video, if you can't believe anybody would say such stupid stuff. ...

... Sandra Fluke Redux. Stacy Kaper of the National Journal: "The Senate Armed Services Committee takes up the issue of sexual assaults in the military at a hearing Tuesday -- a hearing where witnesses opposed to reform will outnumber supporters 18-2 and not a single sexual assault victim will testify.... With the bulk of witnesses representing the military, whose officers are unsurprisingly adverse to bills that strip them of authority over abuse cases, even reform supporters have little hope for legislation that goes beyond Defense Department recommendations." ...

... Maureen Dowd: "The brass agreed there was a 'cancer' in the military, but their rigid, nonsensical response boiled down to: Trust us. We'll fix the system, even though we don't really believe it's broken. They were unanimously resistant to the shift that several of our allies have made, giving lawyers, rather than commanders, the power to take cases to court." ...

... GOP Deepens Its Problems with Women. Jamelle Bouie in the Washington Post: "Given the wide number of sexual assault cases, it seems hard to argue that the current system is adequate to the scope of the problem. But these influential Republican senators [-- John Cornyn of Texas & James Inhofe of Oklahoma --] have adopted the case for the status quo.... The GOP will be on record as unwilling to take steps to deal with sexual assault in the military.... It's as if some Republicans are actively trying to take the party's weaknesses, and amplify them."

** I Can't Believe I Read It in Politico. Darren Samuelsohn & Lauren French: "The conservative groups testifying about overzealous IRS scrutiny during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing Tuesday can't get around a simple fact: All have been involved in the kinds of political activity that's ripe for red flags. Simple searches on Google, Facebook, Twitter and other news engines point to plenty of political activities that are the essence of what the IRS looks for when deciding who gets an exemption from Uncle Sam. The group leaders attended rallies to stop Obama administration priorities and ripped into the president's work on health care and missile defense. They spoke openly about defeating President Barack Obama in the 2012 election. They pushed for winners in state and local election races."

It's 1999 All Over Again. Dana Milbank: "... House Republicans have shelved a serious legislative agenda this year in favor of 24/7 investigations.... Rep. John Boehner's spokesman wrote on the House speaker's official blog that a speech by Obama on student loans was an attempt 'to change the subject from its growing list of scandals.' It's telling that the GOP leadership would view a student loan event as a distraction from scandals but wouldn't see the obsession with scandals as a distraction from pocketbook issues.... Republicans, after fighting Obama's economic policies for four years, may have no better option than to focus on scandal now that the economy is rebounding." ...

... Darrell, the Darling of the GOP. Shane Goldmacher of the National Journal: "For all the polite Washington handwringing over [Darrell Issa's calling Jay Carney a 'paid liar],' the truth is this: Issa's aggressive approach is just what the Republican House leadership wants. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor singled out Issa for praise at a closed-door GOP conference meeting on Tuesday. Hours later, Cantor gave him plaudits on national television.... Indeed, top House Republicans are lining up behind the Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, even as it becomes clear that Issa is stretching the evidence to support his claim that the IRS's targeting of tea-party groups was directed from Washington."

Tea Party Tax Policy

I think we ought to abolish the IRS and instead move to a simple flat tax where the average American can fill out taxes on postcard. Put down how much you earn, put down a deduction for charitable contributions, home mortgage and how much you owe. It ought to be a simple one-page postcard, and take the agents, the bureaucracy out of Washington and limit the power of government. -- Sen. Ted Cruz (RTP-Texas)

While it is important for Congress to investigate the most recent scandal and ensure all involved are held accountable, we cannot pretend that the problem is a few bad actors. The very purpose of the IRS is to transfer wealth from one group to another while violating our liberties in the process, thus the only way Congress can protect our freedoms is to repeal the income tax and shutter the doors of the IRS once and for all. -- Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)

Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post: "First lady Michelle Obama experienced a rare face-to-face encounter with a protester late Tuesday -- approaching the activist and threatening to leave a fundraiser if the person did not stop interrupting her speech.... A pool report from a reporter in the room said Obama 'left the lectern and moved over to the protester.' [The protester, Ellen] Sturtz, was escorted out of the room. She said in an interview later she was stunned by Obama's response. 'She came right down in my face,' Sturtz said. 'I was taken aback.'" ...

... CW: Excuuuuse me, Ms. Sturtz, but you repeatedly interrupted Obama, & you're complaining that she got in your face? While I agree with Sturtz's complaint, I don't approve of the way she chose to make it. I think hecklers hurt rather than help whatever their objective is. I've attended innumerable meetings in which public officials spoke, & I've never once interrupted or heckled them. And of course Michelle Obama is not a public official. (Come to think of it, the wife of the local mayor once got in my face after a meeting in which I spoke -- politely & when called upon -- against some proposal of the mayor's. I told her I wished she'd be as courteous to me as I was to her husband.) What do you think? Is heckling effective? Did Sturtz's outbursts advance her cause?

Whaaa, whaaa, whaaa. He never calls. He never writes. [Paraphrase.] -- Sen. Chuck Grassley, [RDopey-Iowa] on President Obama

Another 2012 Post-Mortem. Steven Shepard of the National Journal: "Nearly seven months after President Obama won reelection by a margin of 4 percentage points, the Gallup Organization, the world's best-known polling firm, identified in a new report four main reasons why their 2012 surveys badly understated Obama's support. The report, unveiled at a Tuesday morning event at the firm's headquarters in Washington, detailed the reasons why Gallup believes that its polls failed to predict Obama's victory. Gallup's final pre-election poll showed Mitt Romney leading Obama by a percentage point, 49 percent to 48 percent. But in the previous survey -- conducted immediately before Hurricane Sandy disrupted pollsters' plans in the week before the election -- Romney held a 5-point lead, 51 percent to 46 percent."

Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post: "A U.S. trade agency on Tuesday banned the sale of several iPhone and iPad models for infringing a Samsung patent, dealing a high-profile setback to Apple's crusade against copycats. If upheld, the ruling would show that at least some of Apple's iconic technology duplicated that of its primary competitor in the mobile-device market, an embarrassment for a company that has held itself up as the source of Silicon Valley's most groundbreaking innovations. Samsung, once a bit player in the cellphone market, now sells more smartphones than Apple around the world."

Erin Overbey of the New Yorker: "Forty-five years ago today, Robert F. Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel, in Los Angeles, shortly after winning the California Democratic primary. Coming on the heels of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., just two months earlier, the assassination of the forty-two-year-old candidate left the nation reeling with grief...."

Local News

Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post is still all over Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's dealings with Star Scientific: "Top aides to Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) expressed concerns about the governor's participation in a 2011 event at the governor's mansion that marked the launch of a dietary supplement made by a major McDonnell campaign donor, according to newly released e-mails." The governor's wife Maureen spearheaded the event, which, BTW, was billed as a "Lunch for Virginia Researchers." ...

... Washington Post Editors: "... , ethics controversies now threaten to swamp [McDonnell's] last year in office, shadowing not only his putative presidential or vice presidential ambitions but also his gubernatorial legacy.... What appear to be repeated instances of using definitional sleight of hand to skirt state disclosure laws have deepened suspicions that more damaging revelations about the governor may be forthcoming."

Steve Eder of the New York Times: "In early April, as the Rutgers president, Robert L. Barchi, was working to defuse a coaching abuse scandal, he named Gregory S. Jackson, a university administrator, to be his chief of staff. Jackson, though, was already facing his own legal problems. About three months earlier, Jackson was sued by four longtime employees in the university's career services office, all in their late 50s and early 60s. They said that he had engaged in a 'campaign of discriminatory actions' against them because of their age, ostracizing them and ultimately forcing their retirement. Barchi was aware of the lawsuit when he promoted Jackson, according to Rutgers officials."

Chris Gentilviso of the Huffington Post: "A Texas Tea Party activist is in hot water over comments charging that the Republican Party doesn't want black people to vote because of tough odds. Audio posted by Democratic group Battleground Texas on Tuesday has Ken Emanuelson, a leading state Tea Party figure, answering a question about black voters at a May 20 Dallas County GOP event.... Later on Tuesday, Emanuelson backtracked on his remarks, clarifying that it 'was a mistake' and nothing more than a 'personal opinion.'" Thanks to Jeanne B. for the lead.

 

News Ledes

Politico: 'Following a barrage of criticism from politicians, unions, airlines and consumers, John Pistole, [the TSA administrator,] said on Wednesday knives with blades just under 2.5 inches long and other items that could be used as weapons will not be allowed on board planes after all."

Philadelphia Inquirer: "Two buildings collapsed in a busy commercial strip of Center City Philadelphia this morning leaving 13 people injured and one other person still trapped amid the rubble. An older woman was pulled from the wreckage within the last several minutes. Reporters at the scene said firefighters are still surrounding an area of the building where the last person is apparently trapped, but officials have not given a condition of the last trapped victim."

AP: "U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg's nearly three decades in office and the causes he championed will be remembered at a funeral service in New York. A service was set for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Park Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan.... Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and members of Lautenberg's family were set to deliver eulogies."

New York Times: "In more than six hours of meetings over two days, with ample time for dinner and a sunset stroll beneath the San Jacinto Mountains, administration officials hope Mr. Obama and [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping], who met for the first time last year in Washington, will really get to know each other, while exchanging ideas about how best to manage a complex, sometimes combustible relationship between the world's two biggest economies."

AP: " The American soldier charged with killing 16 Afghan civilians during nighttime raids on two slumbering villages last year is expected to recount the horrific slaughter in a military courtroom Wednesday when he pleads guilty to avoid the death penalty. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is charged with premeditated murder and other counts in the March 2012 attacks near the remote base in southern Afghanistan where he was posted." ...

     ... Update: "The American soldier charged with killing 16 Afghan civilians during nighttime raids on two villages last year pleaded guilty Wednesday then described shooting each victim, telling a military judge he has asked himself "a million times" why he did it. To avoid the death penalty, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales pleaded guilty to multiple counts of murder at the hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle. He then read from a statement in a clear and steady voice, describing his actions for each killing in the same terms." The Seattle Times story is here.

Guardian: "Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of the biggest intelligence leak in US history, came face-to-face on Tuesday with the man who turned him in to military authorities. Adrian Lamo, a former computer hacker, was giving evidence at the court martial of Manning, whom he had never met but whose life he changed dramatically by informing on him to counter-intelligence officers."

New York Times: "Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's newspaper outpost [in London], appeared in court on Wednesday and denied five counts relating to the phone hacking scandal that forced the closure of one of the country's biggest tabloid newspapers and sent shock waves through the press, the police and the political establishment."

Monday
Jun032013

The Commentariat -- June 4, 2013

A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate--these are the folks who reap the largest rewards. The only way for even a putative meritocracy to hope to pass ethical muster, to be considered fair, is if those who are the luckiest in all of those respects also have the greatest responsibility to work hard, to contribute to the betterment of the world, and to share their luck with others. As the Gospel of Luke says (and I am sure my rabbi will forgive me for quoting the New Testament in a good cause): 'From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.' -- Ben Bernanke ...

... The full text of Bernanke's Princeton commencement address is here. ...

... ** Paul Krugman on Ben Bernanke's view of meritocracy (and why he favors a top tax rate of [at least] 73 percent). CW: A must-read, which raises the question: is Ben Bernanke the only Republican socialist?...

... Oh. Kevin Drum thinks maybe Bernanke is no longer a Republican.

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama will nominate two female lawyers and an African-American federal judge to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Tuesday, according to a White House official, in an effort to help reshape the federal judiciary before leaving office. The president will nominate veteran appelate lawyer Patricia A. Millett; Georgetown University Law Center professor Cornelia T. L. Pillard; and Robert L. Wilkins, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, according to the official.... Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, made it clear Monday Obama's nominees will face serious resistance." The New York Times story, by Michael Shear, is here. ...

     ... CW Update: in his nominating remarks, President Obama thoroughly smacked down Senate Republicans for obstructing his nominees & falsely accusing him of court-packing.

... ** Steve Benen: "... let's emphasize how uncontroversial this is -- there are vacancies on an important federal bench, so the president is sending qualified nominees to the Senate for consideration. Republicans are characterizing this as a scandalous power-grab, while many political reporters are describing this as Obama thumbing his nose at his political rivals. In reality, it's neither -- presidents filling judicial vacancies is basic American governance. It's Civics 101. That today's announcement is seen as somehow remarkable is evidence of just how broken the process has become." Read the whole post.

Natsha Lennard of Salon on the Bradley Manning trial.

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "The nation's military chiefs have told Congress in writing that they oppose or have strong reservations about a controversial bill that would reshape military law by taking sexual-assault cases out of the hands of commanders, setting up a likely clash with lawmakers who are pushing the idea. In a rare joint appearance, the uniformed leaders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to testify Tuesday before a Senate panel about what the Pentagon has described as an 'epidemic' of sex crimes in the ranks.... In an interview Monday, [Sen. Kirsten] Gillibrand [D-N.Y.] said the service chiefs' reluctance to weaken commanders' legal authority is inconsistent with their acknowledgment that most victims of sexual assault in the military do not trust their superiors to protect them or take their cases seriously."

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "The death of Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey poses new complications for the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill as they try to push their agenda through a Senate where even a single vote can derail legislation. So crucial was Mr. Lautenberg's reliably liberal vote in a Senate where his party held a 55-45 majority that Democratic leaders twice asked him in recent weeks to return to Washington to vote despite his failing health." ...

... David Halbfinger of the New York Times: "The death of Frank R. Lautenberg on Monday has left Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey with [an] opportunity ... fraught with pitfalls, none bigger than having to choose between improving his party's fortunes in Washington and furthering his own political ambitions at home." ...

... Rachel Maddow on yesterday's news, Doonesbury, Frank Lautenberg, & Chris Christie's choice:

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "Police may take D.N.A. samples from people arrested for serious crimes, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a 5-to-4 decision. 'When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody,' Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority, 'taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee's D.N.A. is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.' Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the majority opinion." ...

... The Supremes. New York Times Editors side with Nino & his backup group. CW: yes, a sexist remark, but this is an OTO (One Time Only): Scalia writes an opinion in which only Ginsberg, Sotomayor & Kagan concur.

Paul Kane of the Washington Post on the House GOP -- hey, it's in disarray, broken into warring factions! Ya gotta love sentences like this: "The cabal quickly fell apart when several Republicans, after a night of prayer, said God told them to spare the speaker." Can they govern? No, they can't. ...

... OR, as Barbara Morrill of Daily Kos puts it: "John Boehner can thank God for his job. Literally." ...

... ** Dana Milbank: "A third House committee joined the stampede to examine the IRS on Monday, and its chairman did exactly what you would expect somebody to do before launching a fair and impartial investigation: He went on Fox News Channel and implicated the White House.... [The] approach by House Republicans ... seems to follow the Lewis Carroll school of jurisprudence. Not only are they placing the sentence before the verdict, they're putting the verdict before the trial." ...

... Lauren French of Politico: "Daniel Werfel..., the man President Barack Obama tapped to fix the scandal-scarred IRS, is moving aggressively to restore some measure of credibility there." ....

... MEANWHILE, Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: Some powerful House Republicans, e.g., Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, think they can gin up such public anger at the IRS that they can translate it into significant public support for a tax code overhaul that "would mean sacrificing or curtailing some politically popular tax breaks, like education tax credits and the mortgage interest deduction." So, anger at this ...

     ... will cause taxpayers to think that raising their personal tax obligations (by losing popular deductions & taking advantage of other tax breaks) is a great idea. It could work!

Jay Carney's non-response response to Darrell Issa's calling him a "paid liar":

... Sabrina Siddiqui of the Huffington Post: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Monday became the latest Republican to reject Darrell Issa's comments that White House press secretary Jay Carney is a 'paid liar' in relation to the IRS controversy. But Graham went further than his Republican colleagues, saying there's no evidence that the White House ordered the tax agency to target conservative groups.... Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also pushed back on Issa's 'liar' charge during a TV appearance Monday morning." ...

... MEANWHILE, Jonathan Easley of the Hill: "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Monday accused the Justice Department (DOJ) of targeting reporters who are critical of the Obama administration. 'We have seen a consistent pattern in this administration, and the pattern is a willingness to use the machinery of government to target those they perceive as their political enemies,' Cruz said on Fox News." ...

... Not that Tailgunner Ted doesn't have a teensy credibility problem:

The Obama Justice Department has decreased the prosecution of violent gun crimes by 30 percent. -- Sen. Ted Cruz (RTP-Texas)

Cruz is comparing Obama's performance against a high that even the Bush administration achieved only once. Moreover..., the numbers depend in part on decisions by non-federal prosecutors. In cases when federal prosecutors have decided whether to act on a referral, the data show that Obama's record actually is better than Bush's. -- Glenn Kessler

Jordy Yager of the Hill: "The Justice Department on Monday said Attorney General Eric Holder did not lie to Congress in his testimony about a national security investigation involving Fox News reporter James Rosen. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik said DOJ never intended to prosecute Rosen, but was merely investigating him as part of a broader probe against a State Department employee believed to have leaked information to the reporter."

Andrew Rosenthal reviews the newest 2012 GOP post-mortem on "why young people don't vote Republican": when young people "were asked what words came to mind when they heard 'Republican Party,' the results 'were brutal -- closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned.'"

Ezra Klein debunks conservative Forbes columnist Avik Roy's pretend comparison-shopping for health insurance. CW: are conservatives "paid liars" or are they just pathetic ignoramuses? ...

... Okay, at the state level, legislators are just pathetic ignoramuses -- and vindictive ideologues. Klein again: A "study by the Rand corporation looks at the 14 states that have said they will opt out of the new Medicaid funds. It finds that the result will be they get $8.4 billion less in federal funding, have to spend an extra $1 billion in uncompensated care, and end up with about 3.6 million fewer insured residents. So then, the math works out like this: States rejecting the expansion will spend much more, get much, much less, and leave millions of their residents uninsured. That's a lot of self-inflicted pain to make a political point."

Frederic Frommer of the AP: " A Tampa, Fla., socialite and her husband claimed in a lawsuit Monday that the government willfully leaked false and defamatory information about them in the scandal that led to the resignation of Gen. David Petraeus as CIA director. Jill Kelley and Scott Kelley filed the lawsuit in federal court against the FBI, Pentagon and unidentified officials in the government, claiming the couple's privacy was violated."

The largest tornado ever recorded in the U.S.:

News Ledes

Russian Guards Nab Feline Smuggler! Raw Story: "The Russian prison service said Monday it had caught a cat being used as a courier to smuggle banned cell phones and chargers into a prison camp in the country's remote far north."

NBC News: "An American woman was gang-raped after accepting a ride in India, where previous sex attacks have sparked angry protests and scared off female tourists. Police said three men were being questioned Tuesday about the attack in a resort town in the foothills of the Himalayas, which is certain to focus new attention on the plight of women in India."

Reuters: "The court-martial of a soldier charged with using the WikiLeaks website for the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history heads into a second day on Tuesday, with a cyber crime investigator the day's lead-off witness. At the start of the trial on Monday, military prosecutors said Private First Class Bradley Manning, 25, had been driven by arrogance to leak more than 700,000 documents, combat videos and other data to the anti-secrecy website, hurting U.S. interests."

New York Times: "Reporting 'new levels of brutality' in Syria's more than two-year-old conflict, United Nations investigators said on Tuesday they believed chemical weapons and thermobaric bombs were used in recent weeks and urged the international community to cut off supplies of weapons that could only result in more civilian casualties." ...

     ... NBC News Update: "Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday defended a scheduled arms sale to Syria after the United Nations released a scathing report citing 'new levels of cruelty and brutality' by the regime of President Bashar Assad and calling for a halt to all arms transfers to the embattled country. Putin said any attempt to intervene militarily in Syria would be 'doomed to fail' and echoed the UN call for restricting arms sales -- but only to rebel forces trying to overthrow Assad."

Reuters: "China and Russia are expected to join four Western powers in voicing deep concern about Iran's atomic activities this week and pressing it to cooperate with a stalled inquiry by the U.N. nuclear agency, diplomats said on Tuesday."

AP: " A 22-year-old man died during an anti-government protest in a [Turkish] city near the border with Syria and officials gave conflicting reports on what caused his death, as hundreds of riot police backed by water cannons deployed around the prime minister's office in the capital Tuesday."

Sunday
Jun022013

The Commentariat -- June 3, 2013

Adam Clymer of the New York Times: "Frank R. Lautenberg, who fought the alcohol and tobacco industries and promoted Amtrak as a five-term United States senator from New Jersey, died Monday morning in Manhattan. He was 89." CW: in mid-April, the ailing Lautenberg returned to Washington to vote for gun control legislation. He also returned May 16, according to the Bergen Record, and "said he was feeling better and hoped to be in Washington more regularly." A brave man, right to the end. ...

... The Star-Ledger obituary is here.

... CW: worth noting: Gov. Chris Christie (R) will name his replacement. Not sure how New Jersey law works re: Senate vacancies, but we'll find out soon. Update: according to the Bergen Record, which was the first to report Lautenberg's death, Christie's "appointee would serve until a new senator is elected to a full six-year term in 2014." ...

     ... Update 2. Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Christie also will have broad authority to set a special election for the seat. Because of the high costs associated with holding an election, setting it for Nov. 5, 2013 seems like the natural choice. New Jersey is already holding its off-year state elections at that time.... But New Jersey special election law is a somewhat murky, with two provisions that are difficult to square up."

Jim Newell of Salon has a very good summary of the Sunday show folderol. Isn't it delightful that Stephanopoulos summoned Valerie Plame leaker Karl Rove to opine on the horrors of squelching leakers? CW: Newell is not as witty as Charles Pierce, but a reporter need only report what the gobshites are saying to get laughs. ...

... Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) claimed on Sunday that political officials in the Obama administration directed Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents in Cincinnati to target conservative groups applying for 501 (c)(4) status, but his charge fell apart when probed by CNN host Candy Crowley":

     ... Notice how, as Byron Tau of Politico points out, Issa "blasted White House press secretary Jay Carney on Sunday, calling him a 'paid liar' .... 'Their paid liar, their spokesperson, the picture behind, he's still making up things about what happened and calling this a local rogue,' Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), said..., gesturing to a graphic of Carney on the set." ...

... Alan Fram of the AP writes a report for the local papers, the gist of which is that Issa is blowing smoke &/or flat-out lying: "A government watchdog has found that the Internal Revenue Service spent about $50 million to hold at least 220 conferences for employees between 2010 and 2012, a House committee said Sunday. The chairman of that committee, Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican, also released excerpts of congressional investigators' interviews with employees of the IRS office in Cincinnati. Issa said the interviews indicated the employees were directed by Washington to subject Tea Party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status to tough scrutiny. The excerpts provided no direct evidence that Washington had ordered that screening. The top Democrat on that panel, Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said none of the employees interviewed have so far identified any IRS officials in Washington as ordering that targeting." Fram also goes into Issa's calling Carney a "paid liar," noting that Carney didn't say what Issa claimed he said. Too bad he doesn't mention that all that IRS line-dancing was going on under a Bush-appointed IRS commissioner. ...

... Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) continues her anti-woman campaign, arguing yesterday on "Press the Meat" that "federal legislation on workplace equity is condescending to women." Contributor MAG suggested in yesterday's Comments "that the congresswoman's annual pay is immediately reduced to $140,766 since she is fine with women earning 80.9% of what men earn!" ...

... Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "The Senate's third-ranking Democrat predicted Sunday that a bipartisan immigration reform package will pass the full Senate with broad support by the Independence Day holiday. 'We're going to put immigration on the floor starting on June 10. I predict it will pass the Senate by July 4,' Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on NBC's 'Meet The Press.' 'We're hoping to get 70 votes -- up to 70 votes, which means a lot of Republicans.'"

** Steve Coll of the New Yorker: "It seems likely that Holder or his deputies have authorized other press subpoenas and surveillance regimes that have not yet been disclosed.... More than a million people now hold top-secret clearances." ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "... the strength of the government's case against Stephen Jin-Woo] Kim, which is clear in this newly disclosed search warrant, makes one wonder again why Attorney General Eric Holder allowed his prosecutors to take the unprecedented step of naming [James] Rosen as an 'aider, abettor, and/or co-conspirator' to the alleged crime in order to search Rosen's e-mails." Post includes a facsimile of the Kim warrant. ...

... Bill Keller: "Even an imperfect shield law would restore a little balance in the perpetual struggle between necessary secrets and democratic accountability."

David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: "... one cockeyed farm-aid program that was supposed to end in 2003 ... is one of Washington's walking dead -- 'temporary' giveaway programs that have staggered on years beyond their intended expiration dates. Letting them live is an old and expensive congressional habit, still unbroken in this age of austerity. Now, both the House and Senate are trying to kill off this budget leftover, 10 years late.... In all, the program has cost at least $46 billion more than it was supposed to."

"The Geezers Are All Right." Paul Krugman: "... the long-term outlook for Social Security and Medicare, while not great, actually isn't all that bad. It's time to stop obsessing about how we'll pay benefits to retirees in 2035 and focus instead on how we're going to provide jobs to unemployed Americans in the here and now."

Krugman on "the spat" with Rogoff & Reinhart:

Katie Glueck of Politico: "The College Republican National Committee on Monday will make public a detailed report -- the result of extensive polling and focus groups -- dissecting what went wrong for Republicans with young voters in the 2012 elections and how the party can improve its showing with that key demographic in the future. It's not a pretty picture. In fact, it's a 'dismal present situation,' the report says." ...

... Maybe the Romney campaign, et al., should have invested more in listening to the kids instead of in counting their chickens ...

... Why Are They Doing This? Zeke Miller of Time: "On May 29, the Romney Readiness Project, the Republican candidate's transition organization known as R2P, published a 138-page report detailing how it prepared for a potential Romney victory. It is the product of a team of nearly 500, who labored in Washington and around the country to be ready to help Romney assume the reins of power on January 20th, 2013...."

... Erik Loomis of Lawyers, Guns & Money has one take on the Romney Readiness Project (which I can't publish because it's too short to excerpt). ...

... Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog hypothesizes, "I think it's meant to impress us, not make us laugh (even though we already knew about the alleged brilliance this project after word of it was spoon-fed to the press shortly after the election)." ...

... CW: it's still creepy. What do the ghost Romney presidency & Al-Qaeda have in common? Corporate style! ...

... Adam Martin of New York: "Not only does Al Qaeda have its share of HR headaches to deal with while trying to take over the world, it has a complaints department in case people have issues with its brand of militancy." CW: the fact that a complainant has to go to "an Islamic state HQ" to file his grievance probably cuts down a tad on complaints. ...

... ALSO CREEPY. McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed has a long piece on Strategy Group for Media, a conservative, Christian, right-wing, Republican consulting firm. Fairly fascinating, in a sickening way.

Cashing In -- Secretly. Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Maureen McDonnell, the wife of Virginia's governor, was paid $36,000 last year to attend a handful of meetings as a consultant to the philanthropic arm of one of the state's major coal companies, a top coal company official said. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) indicated on his annual financial disclosure forms for 2011 and 2012 that his wife served as a paid trustee of a family charity, the Frances G. and James W. McGlothlin Foundation. But in an interview, James McGlothlin said the $21 million family foundation never named McDonnell to its board. Instead, McGlothlin said, the family asked Maureen McDonnell to become an adviser to the charitable efforts of both the family foundation and the United Co., a natural resources and real estate company in Bristol, Va., that has made the McGlothlins one of the wealthiest families in the state.... By reporting that his wife was on the board, the governor never had to say on his financial disclosure form how much she was paid." ...

Gubernatorial Race

Zeke Miller & Alex Rogers of Time recount a few of the lowlights of "The Dirtiest Low-Down Campaign in America: Cuccinelli vs. McAuliffe." ...

Errin Whack of the Washington Post: "E.W. Jackson, the Republicans' choice for lieutenant governor [of Virginia], said Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II ... in 2010 ... suggested that he consider a run for lieutenant governor." Cuccinelli's campaign said Jackson "misconstrued" Cuccinelli's comments during the conversation.... Jackson has called homosexuality 'perverse,' compared Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan, and sharply criticized Obama over same-sex marriage and foreign policy. But the former Marine said that his remarks were not meant to be offensive and that as lieutenant governor he would strive to represent all Virginians, including homosexuals."

News Ledes

Reuters: "The manufacturing sector contracted in May, driving activity to the lowest level in nearly four years, in the latest sign the economy is encountering a soft patch. Still, growth is not expected to pull back sharply, and separate data on Monday showed construction spending rose slightly in April though it trailed expectations."

Boston Globe: "Boston Fire Chief Steve E. Abraira resigned today after less than two years on the job, following a clash with his command staff over his management style and handling of the Boston Marathon bombings, officials said."

AP: "The Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage will represent himself at his upcoming murder trial, meaning he will question the more than two dozen soldiers he's accused of wounding, a military judge ruled Monday. Maj. Nidal Hasan's attorneys will remain on the case but only if he asks for their help, the judge said. Hasan, 42, faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole...."

Reuters: " The American soldier accused of providing more than 700,000 secret documents to the WikiLeaks website goes on trial in Maryland on Monday charged with the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history. Private First Class Bradley Manning, 25, faces a possible life sentence without parole if convicted for the 2010 leak that outraged the U.S. government." ...

     ... New York Times Update here.

AP: " Violence has flared in Istanbul [for a 4th day] between a group of demonstrators and police on the fourth day of protests set off by a brutal police crackdown of a peaceful environmental protest." ...

     ... Update: "Secretary of State John Kerry..., who has traveled to Turkey three times since becoming America's top diplomat, said [Monday] the U.S. is following the situation closely and is troubled by reports of excessive force by the police. He also said Washington is 'deeply concerned' by the large number of people who have been injured. He called for an investigation into the violence and said respect for freedom of expression is critical to democracy."