The Ledes

Friday, October 28, 2016.

Washington Post: "The figures released by the Commerce Department indicate the economy is picking up steam after a slow first half of the year. In the second quarter, the economy had grown at a disappointing annual pace of only 1.4 percent. This is a developing story. It will be updated." CW: At 8:40 am ET, that the whole story. The headline is "U.S. economy grew at annual pace of 2.9 percent in the third quarter, exceeding expectations." That's a good headline for Democrats.

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

Washington Post: "Paul Beatty won the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday evening in London, becoming the first American ever to take home the prestigious award. His satirical novel 'The Sellout' beat five other finalists for the $60,000 prize, which also essentially guarantees substantial new sales and interest around the world. Amanda Foreman, chair of the Booker judges, called 'The Sellout' 'a novel for our times. . . . Its humor disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.' Originally published last year in the United States, 'The Sellout' is an outrageously funny satire of American race relations. The protagonist, a black man whose father was killed by police, wants to reinstitute segregation in his California town. He eventually lands before the Supreme Court in a bizarre case involving slavery. 'The Sellout' also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in March." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Comic actor, movie star and America’s best friend Bill Murray tried to sum up the emotions of being honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night [Oct. 23] at the Kennedy Center. 'My theme tonight is what is it like to be beloved,' a straight-faced Murray told the crowd at the end of the two-hour salute. 'It’s hard to listen to all those people be nice to you. You just get so suspicious.'”

Hill: Actor Bill Murray "spoke with President Obama, who congratulated him for winning this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a White House official said. Asked by reporters in the Oval Office if he met with Murray, Obama said 'absolutely,' but didn’t reveal what else they discussed."

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

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.

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The Commentariat -- July 30, 2014

** Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Nearly every criminal case reviewed by the FBI and the Justice Department as part of a massive investigation started in 2012 of problems at the FBI lab has included flawed forensic testimony from the agency, government officials said. The findings troubled the bureau, and it stopped the review of convictions last August. Case reviews resumed this month at the order of the Justice Department, the officials said."

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that if the House passes a $659 million border bill with policy changes, he could use it as a vehicle for comprehensive immigration reform. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is trying to round up enough votes for a pared-down border bill that spends far below the president's request for $3.7 billion and includes policy changes to speed the deportation of illegal minors from Central America. Reid said the policy changes would give him an opportunity to attach the comprehensive immigration reform bill that the Senate passed last year with the support of 14 Republicans." ...

... CW: Gee, I wonder if John Boehner, who has repeated claimed he wanted to pass comprehensive immigration reform, will work with Reid on this? ...

... Steven Dennis of Roll Call: "Speaker John A. Boehner vowed the House would not allow the Senate to add any 'comprehensive immigration reform bill or anything like it, including the DREAM Act' to the House's $659 million border bill Tuesday. 'Senator Reid, embarrassed that he cannot strong-arm the Senate into passing the blank check President Obama demanded, is making a deceitful and cynical attempt to derail the House's common-sense solution,' the Ohio Republican said in a statement...." ...

... Erica Werner of the AP: "Even as they grapple with an immigration crisis at the border, White House officials are making plans to act before November's mid-term elections to grant work permits to potentially millions of immigrants who are in this country illegally, allowing them to stay in the United States without threat of deportation, according to advocates and lawmakers in touch with the administration. Such a large-scale move on immigration could scramble election-year politics and lead some conservative Republicans to push for impeachment proceedings against President Barack Obama, a prospect White House officials have openly discussed."

Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "The Senate on Tuesday sent a highway bill back to the House with changes, putting the legislation up in the air with only three days left to act before the August recess. The Senate voted 66-31 to amend the House's $10.9 billion funding bill so that the funding only lasts until Dec. 19. That would force lawmakers to pass another extension in the lame-duck session after the election."

Richard Oppel of the New York Times: "The Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to confirm Robert A. McDonald, the 61-year-old former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to take the helm of the sprawling and embattled Department of Veterans Affairs after a scandal over the manipulation of patient wait-time data led to the ouster two months ago of Eric Shinseki."

Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that McDonald's is jointly responsible for workers at its franchisees' restaurants, a decision that if upheld would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide. Richard F. Griffin Jr., the labor board's general counsel, said that of the 181 unfair labor practice complaints filed against McDonald's and its franchisees over the last 20 months, he found that 43 had merit on such grounds as illegally firing or threatening workers for pro-union activities."

Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "The European Union on Tuesday overcame months of misgivings about forcefully confronting Russia and unleashed a wave of tough economic sanctions intended to push Moscow into backing down from its destabilizing role in eastern Ukraine. President Obama immediately followed the European action by announcing a new round of U.S. sanctions that he said would impact 'key sectors of the Russian economy,' including 'energy, arms and finance.'"

Bradley Klapper & Donna Cassata of the AP: "Democrats and Republicans in Congress vowed urgent support Tuesday for a $225 million missile defense package for Israel, boosting the likelihood that legislation will clear Congress before lawmakers begin a monthlong vacation at week's end.... Amid a daily barrage of Palestinian rocket fire, Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system has been credited with knocking hundreds of missiles out of the sky. While the Obama administration has pressed for a cease-fire, it also has backed Israel's desire to replenish its missile defense stockpiles. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel extended Israel's request to Congress last week."

William Booth & Ruth Eglash of the Washington Post: "Domestic support for [Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu]'s prosecution of the war in Gaza, which has left more than 1,200 Palestinians dead, has only grown over the past three weeks, as the Israeli public and political class rally behind an aggressive, definitive campaign against Hamas and its rockets and tunnels. The deep support among Israelis, from left to right, for the military's Gaza offensive and Netanyahu's leadership is almost unprecedented, political analysts say.... Analysts say the current Gaza offensive is more popular than past major military campaigns -- in 2008-2009 and in 2012 -- because more Israelis are now under the threat of more powerful rocket fire from Gaza.... But the Israeli military's discovery of more than 30 tunnels, built and used by Palestinian militants to enter Israel and attack soldiers, has particularly shocked the Israeli public and galvanized support for the war." ...

Ilene Prusher of Time: "Israeli officials have said in the past week that their main goal in the war against Hamas in Gaza is to destroy as many of what it calls 'terror tunnels,' the underground passages built by the militant group that have repeatedly been used to infiltrate Israel. But following a day in which Hamas militants managed to kill 10 Israeli soldiers, Israel responded Tuesday with massive air strikes that seemed aimed at both major infrastructure as well as the visible symbols of Hamas's power in the Gaza Strip." ...

... Jonathan Chait writes a thoughtful piece titled, "Why I Have Become Less Pro-Israel." ...

... Paul Waldman in the American Prospect, on being "pro- or anti-Israel": "... once you step outside it and stop worrying about which team you're on, it can become easier to see things clearly."

Oleksandr Savochenko of AFP: "When Ukraine's military offensive to oust pro-Russian rebels from the restive east began in mid-April with humiliated soldiers meekly surrendering their armoured vehicles it looked doomed to failure. But after more than three months of brutal fighting that has claimed some 1,100 lives, a sudden advance by battle-hardened government forces in recent weeks has seen them snatch back a string of key towns and left the once confident insurgents scrambling." ...

... Timothy Heritage of Reuters: "With an about-turn all but impossible for [Russian Presidnet Vladimir] Putin after a fierce media campaign that has demonized the West, painted Ukraine's leaders as fascists and backed the rebels to the hilt, he appears to have passed the point of no-return."

Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "Boehner and other Republican leaders are now trying to walk an impossible tightrope. On one hand, they're arguing that they have no interest in impeaching the president -- they know that it would be a political catastrophe if they did -- and any suggestion to the contrary is nothing but Democratic calumny. On the other hand, they're arguing that Obama is a lawless tyrant who is trampling on the Constitution.... Like so many of their problems, this one has its roots in the uncontrollable Tea Party beast that they nurtured but can't control." ...

... Jonathan Capehart: John Boehner calls impeachment talk a "scam" emanating from the White House, but House GOP leaders refuse to say they've taken impeachment "off the table." ...

... Sahil Kapur of TPM: "President Barack Obama's promised executive actions on immigration are shaping up to put Speaker John Boehner in a bind between the passions of his conservative base and the GOP's long-term viability as a national party."

... Bob Cusack of the Hill: "A Republican congressman opposes legislation that would authorize a lawsuit against President Obama for his executive actions. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) told The Hill that the lawsuit, spearheaded by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), is 'theater, is a show.'

CW Interlude: Hey, Jones sounds like the rare reasonable Republican here, doesn't he? But wait, there's more:

     "'Why not impeach instead of wasting $1 million to $2 million of the taxpayers' money? ... If you're serious about this, use what the founders of the Constitution gave us,' Jones said.... Other Republicans who have expressed support for impeachment include Reps. Louie Gohmert (Texas), Steve Stockman (Texas) and Michele Bachmann (Minn.). Pressed on the lack of support in the House Republican Conference for impeachment, Jones said, 'That's why the Republican Party is in trouble.'" ...

... Steve M. "Boehner is winning this one. He may still lose if Obama makes an immigration move and the crazies howl for impeachment. But he's also giving them a reason not to."

Greg Sargent has a good explanation of how the language on which Halbig hangs ended up in the final bill. This explanation completely undercuts the Halbig plaintiffs' argument. CW: Not that it matters. If this case gets to the Supreme Court, I'll be surprised if the Ideologues show the slightest interest in facts & reason. ...

... Brian Beutler of the New Republic questions the integrity of conservative healthcare reporters who have suddenly become "Halbig Truthers," often contradicting their own earlier reporting.

Sofia Resnick of RH Reality Check: "When a very pregnant Felicia Allen applied for medical leave from her job at Hobby Lobby three years ago, one might think that the company best known for denying its employees insurance coverage of certain contraceptives -- on the false grounds that they cause abortions -- would show equal concern for helping one of its employees when she learned she was pregnant. Instead, Allen says the self-professed evangelical Christian arts-and-crafts chain fired her and then tried to prevent her from accessing unemployment benefits.... Her allegations -- as well as those brought by other former Hobby Lobby employees -- call into question the company's public claims when it comes to protecting life and operating its business with Christian values. Additionally, they highlight a practice by which Hobby Lobby prevents its employees from seeking justice through the courts." ...

... Erik Loomis of Lawyers, Guns & Money: "... forcing employees to sign documents waiving their right to sue the company in order to be hired should be as illegal as the yellow-dog contract. I would ask how something like that is even legal in this nation, but of course I already know why -- because corporations control our lives in ways they have not in a century." ...

... CW: I don't see any inconsistency here. The Hobby Lobby Corporate Person does not believe in unemployment insurance. After all, "the Lord helps them that help themselves." (Okay, that's a Greek [or other ancient] saying with no Biblical equivalent, but the Hobby Lobby Corporate Person has a First Amendment right to its own special beliefs.) Those Hobby Lobby moms should have thought of that. And also too, the HLCP does not believe anyone should sue it, as it believes it is infallible. In support of that theology, I would note that the HLCP has god-like characteristics -- for instance, an ordinary mortal cannot see it & must infer its existence from the testimonials of the Five Dancing Supremes.

David Frum, former Dubya speechwriter, in the Atlantic: "... for all its merits, the [Paul] Ryan [poverty] plan is backward-looking.... The proposal is premised on a way of thinking about poverty that made excellent sense a decade ago -- but that is not equal to the more difficult circumstances of today." [Next,a graf about Bush's marvelous "compassionate conservative..., faith-based initiative."] "Ryan's anti-poverty proposals ... start from an assumption that poverty is an unusual and marginal issue in U.S. society.... Unless Ryan has utterly repudiated his previous budget plans, his ... [proposals] do imply large cuts in other forms of means-tested assistance, most likely food stamps and Medicaid." CW: Frum goes on to make his own proposals, which are TERRIBLE. ...

... More on David Frum from Bag News: "Defending Israel with the objectivity and intensity of the Bush speech writer he once was, David Frum, the Senior Editor at the Atlantic, alleged to his 100k Twitter followers on Thursday (not once, but eight times) that the NYT, Reuters (and AP, apparently in collusion, too) had staged a photo in a Gaza hospital." You'll have to read the whole post to see why Frum just might be wrong. CW: It is quite difficult to take conservatives seriously, even when you try. ...

     ... Kristen Hare of Poynter: "The New York Times says Atlantic senior editor David Frum is incorrect to claim that some photos taken in Gaza last week were faked or staged. 'David Frum's claims are false,' Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told Poynter. Frum sent several tweets last week claiming the photos were faked."

CW: Here's something I missed while driving. Matt George of the National Constitution Center: "Last Saturday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the city [of Washington, D.C.] cannot prohibit individuals from carrying firearms in public."

Not with a Bang but a Whimper. Jake Sherman & Anna Palmer of Politico on Eric Cantor's final days as House Majority Leader.

Beyond the Beltway

Campbell Robertson of the New York Times: "A federal appeals panel on Tuesday blocked a Mississippi law that would have shut down the only abortion clinic in the state. The three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, ruled by 2 to 1 that in closing the state's sole clinic, Mississippi would have shifted its constitutional obligations to neighboring states. Closing the clinic, the court said, would place an undue burden on a woman's right to seek an abortion. The ruling upholds a preliminary injunction...."

Chris Geider of BuzzFeed: "After Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall had been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for more than a month, the Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered her to stop doing so for the time being. Hall's office reported Tuesday that it granted 202 licenses to same-sex couples since starting doing so last month."

Steve Pardo & Christine Ferretti of the Detroit News: Detroit "Mayor Mike Duggan vowed Tuesday to help customers who can't afford to pay their water bills, while holding those who can accountable as he began to take over responsibility for the city's Water and Sewerage Department. Duggan's statements to help 'the truly needy' came after Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr decided Tuesday to let the mayor assume more control over the department -- something the mayor has pursued to help solve regional and city rifts on water policy." ...

... ** Detroit as a Platonic Experiment. Jason Stanley, a philosophy professor, writes a compelling New York Times op-ed on the "emergency management" of Detroit. CW: This might be the best piece of "applied philosophy" I've ever read.

Virginia Is for Extramarital Lovers. Matt Zapotosky & Julian Jouvenal of the Washington Post: "The marriage of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife Maureen had 'broken down' and the first lady had developed a crush on the man who is the star witness at the couple's high-profile corruption trial, her attorney said Tuesday.... [Maureen's attorney William] Burck told jurors Maureen McDonnell was not a wife scheming with her governor husband so they could enrich themselves; she was instead a woman craving attention as her own marriage soured.... It's clear ... that the first couples' deteriorating marriage will be central to their claims of innocence and the trial will delve into painful detail about their relationship." ...

... More from Trip Gabriel of the New York Times on Bob McDonnell's My-Wife-Is-a-Tramp defense.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The United States economy rebounded heartily in the spring after a dismal winter, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday, growing at an annual rate of 4 percent from April through June and surpassing economists' expectations. In its initial estimate for the second quarter, the government cited a major advance in inventories for private businesses, higher government spending at the state and local level and personal consumption spending as chief contributors to growth."

Guardian: "At least 19 Palestinians were killed and about 90 injured early on Wednesday when a UN school sheltering people was hit by shells during a second night of relentless bombardment that followed an Israeli warning of a protracted military campaign. Gaza health officials said at least 43 people died in intense air strikes and tank shelling of Jabaliya, a neighbourhood of Gaza City. The death toll included the people at the school who had fled their own homes." ...

     ... AP Update: "Israel unleashed its heaviest air and artillery assault of the Gaza war on Tuesday, destroying key symbols of Hamas control, shutting down the territory's only power plant and leaving at least 128 Palestinians dead on the bloodiest day of the 22-day conflict. Despite devastating blows that left the packed territory's 1.7 million people cut off from power and water and sent the overall death toll soaring past 1,200, Hamas' shadowy military leader remained defiant as he insisted that the Islamic militants would not cease fire until its demands are met."

Los Angeles Times: "Pacific Gas & Electric was charged Tuesday with lying to regulators during the immediate aftermath of the deadly 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight people and ravaged a San Bruno, Calif., neighborhood. The new indictment includes obstruction charges related to what the company said about its records immediately after the incident, according to a release from the Northern District of California U.S. attorney's office. The filing comes three months after an April indictment claimed that PG&E violated federal pipeline safety laws."

Los Angeles Times: "A top Los Angeles utility official faced tough questions Tuesday night about the response to a massive pipe break that flooded UCLA and surrounding areas with millions of gallons of water and threatened the near-term use of Pauley Pavilion. The rupture of the 90-year-old main sent a geyser shooting 30 feet in the air and deluged Sunset Boulevard and UCLA with 8 million to 10 million gallons of water before it was shut off more than three hours after the pipe burst, city officials said."

Reuters: "Militant fighters overran a Libyan special forces base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday after a battle involving rockets and warplanes that killed at least 30 people. A special forces officer said they had to abandon their main camp in the southeast of Benghazi after coming under sustained attack from a coalition of Islamist fighters and former rebel militias in the city."


The Commentariat -- July 29, 2014

** Juan Williams in the Hill: "A group of top evangelicals -- key supporters of the GOP for decades -- wrote to ask Congress last week to protect the children and offer them full consideration in court as refugees. But the GOP's obstructionism of anything the Obama White House proposes now stands in the way of faith-based compassion for these children. 'If Republicans move forward on this, we're now jumping in right in the middle of President Obama's nightmare and making it ours,' said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).... Republicans are deaf to calls for mercy for children because they are playing for political gain." Williams puts the lie to all of the GOP's obstructionist arguments re: immigration reform.

Julian Hattem of the Hill: "Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will introduce legislation on Tuesday to put sweeping new limits on U.S. surveillance and peel back the curtain on controversial spying programs."

Andrew Sorkin of the New York Times: "Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, recently said, 'I love America.' Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, wrote an opinion article saying, 'Investing in America still produces the best return.' Yet guess who's behind the recent spate of merger deals in which major United States corporations have renounced their citizenship in search of a lower tax bill? Wall Street banks, led by JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. Investment banks are estimated to have collected, or will soon collect, nearly $1 billion in fees over the last three years advising and persuading American companies to move the address of their headquarters abroad (without actually moving).... These deals are expected to sap the United States Treasury of $19.46 billion over the next decade...." These are the same Wall Street banks "which received help from American taxpayers in the form of hundreds of billions of dollars in loans." ...

... Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, in a Washington Post op-ed, urges Congress to act immediately to close the loophole that allows businesses to employ this tax inversion scheme. ...

     ... CW: See also Paul Krugman's column, linked yesterday. So who's a better American? Jamie Dimon or the kid at McDonalds? Corporations may be people, my friend, but they are people who do not wish to live in "real America." And, yes, you can blame Congress for letting these fake people get away this real travesty. ...

... Danny Vinik of the New Republic: "It's obvious why Republicans are so hostile to closing tax loopholes and cracking down on tax cheats: the IRS scandal, in which conservative organizations received inordinate scrutiny from the agency as it vetted groups claiming to be 'social welfare organizations.' Republicans argue that the agency cannot be trusted. 'There's not a whole lot of confidence right now about what the Internal Revenue Service does among the American people, let alone members of Congress,' Rep. Pat Tiberi told Politico. 'Why should we give them more tools to harass taxpayers?'" ...

     ... The Dog Will Eat My Homework. CW: So the standard excuse for the do-nothing Congress is now, "We can't trust Obama/the IRS/Immigration Services/the EPA/Whoever to properly execute the law, so passing legislation is a waste of time." Never mind that do-nothing fits right into their political scheme.

"Inflation OCD." Paul Krugman: "... there are two topics on which, in my experience, conservatives become completely unhinged, red-in-the-face angry and screaming. One is health care, where the possibility of a successful government-backed program is unacceptable despite the fact that everyone, even America for its seniors, does it, and the other is monetary policy. It's time to stop pretending that these are rational discussions, and start looking for the roots of the compulsion."

Martin Matishak of the Hill: "House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a $17 billion bill meant to reform the Veterans Affairs Department, setting up a scramble this week to send the legislation to President Obama's desk. The new bill would provide $10 billion for veterans to seek private care at hospitals and clinics outside the VA, and $5 billion to allow the department to hire more doctors, nurses and medical staff. Another $1.5 billion could be spent on leases to use other medical facilities at 27 sites around the country." ...

... Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Monday that the Senate would vote on the confirmation of Robert McDonald to be Veterans Affairs Secretary at 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday. Last week, the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee cleared McDonald's nomination in a 14-0 vote."

Philip Bump of the Washington Post: It won't be long till we have political campaigns run entirely by superPACS, where "The candidate is just himself, and the PACs do everything else." Chris McDaniel's failed campaign for U.S. Senate in Alabama Mississippi came mighty close: 3/4ths of his campaign chest came from outside groups like Freedom Works & the Club for Growth. And the superPACS like it that way: "'In some ways, this race is kind of a model of what we want to do in other races,' FreedomWorks for America's national political director Russ Walker told us...."

Paul Waldman in the American Prospect: "Democrats used to marvel at Republicans' political skill. But it's been a decade since the GOP won a victory in policy or elections that wasn't pre-ordained by circumstance." ...

     ... CW: I'm not sure I agree with Waldman. It takes a lot of skill to run campaigns based on disinformation & lies -- and win. GOP candidates do that all the time. Plus, conservatives -- though not necessary party operatives -- have skillfully used the courts to obtain & enhance GOP objectives. I marvel every day at how such a bunch of dumbclucks & schemers manage to stay in office. It may just be the inertia & inattention of voters that get these morons re-elected, but I've gotta think the party's manipulation of the facts -- and the media -- plays a big part.

Adam Taylor of the Washington Post: "Anyone who has made even a passing glance at the Israeli media in the past few days will have noticed the incredible chorus of criticism being directed at John Kerry right now. The secretary of state has been lambasted by all sides for his apparent failure in attempts to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.... It all became so much that on Monday, the Obama administration was forced to push back against what it said was a "misinformation campaign' against Kerry."

Gillibrand Legitimizes Cruz. Burgess Everett of Politico: "Sens. Ted Cruz and Kirsten Gillibrand united on Monday to push a resolution condemning Hamas in its war against Israel, building on their burgeoning bipartisan alliance. The resolution from the Texas Republican and New York Democrat strongly criticizes Hamas for using 'innocent civilians as human shields,' tags Hamas and other terrorist groups with the blame for thousands of rocket attacks on Israel launched from Gaza and demands that Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemn Hamas's tactics." ...

... Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Sen. Ted Cruz lifted his hold on State Department nominees after FAA officials briefed him this morning on their decision to bar U.S.-based airlines from flying to Israel for 36 hours last week.... 'Nevertheless, I remain concerned that the Administration was so willing to impose grave economic harm on our friend and ally Israel in order to try to pressure them into acceding to Secretary Kerry's foreign policy demands,' Cruz said."

** Maya Rhodan of Time: "A new report estimates the cost of mitigating the effects of climate change could rise by as much as 40% if action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is delayed 10 years -- immediately outweighing any potential savings of a delay. The White House's Council of Economic Advisers, U.S. President Barack Obama's source for advice on economic policy, compared over 100 actions on climate change laid out in 16 studies to extract the average cost of delayed efforts. Released Tuesday, the findings suggests policymakers should immediately confront carbon emissions as a form of 'climate insurance.'" ...

... Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "Failing to adequately reduce the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change could cost the United States economy $150 billion a year, according to an analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisers released on Tuesday." ...

... Ari Phillips of Think Progress: "Going into their annual meeting in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, ALEC -- the secretive organization that brings together conservative politicians and major corporate interests -- is looking to recalibrate their approach to repealing or obstructing a range of clean energy initiatives after a year of state-level defeats. The 40-year-old group, which has been pushing a corporate-backed, free market-driven agenda for decades, is beholden to a number of utilities and fossil fuel companies that bankroll them...." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) needs no advice from ALEC. He implied the EPA is a terrorist organization.

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) blamed President Barack Obama for a reported increase in uninsured Mississippians. The problem is, Bryant didn't acknowledge that he's been a staunch opponent of expanding Medicaid under Obamacare and refused to encourage enrolling in private coverage through" ...

     ... Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "Which is like you offering me an umbrella, me saying, 'No thanks,' and then coming back later and saying, 'Why the hell did you offer me an umbrella? Look how wet I got in the rain! This is all your fault!'"

Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic finds a January 2010 e-mail from a top Congressional staffer working on the ACA which effectively refutes the Halbig plaintiffs' theory that Congress intended to offer Medicaid expansion funds only to residents of states that created their own exchanges.

Jonathan Chait writes a realistic assessment of Paul Ryan's new "anti-poverty plan." Ryan, in trying to reset himself as a compassionate conservative in anticipation of a probable presidential run, still engages in double-speak & non-answers to questions about the apparent central flaw in his plan: throwing money at the states & trusting them to spend that money on the poor:

... over the last few years, the United States has conducted a vast experiment that has proven his assumption wrong in the most horrifying way possible. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts allowed states to opt out of accepting Medicaid money to give health insurance to their poorest citizens. The money is, essentially, free.... In a display of almost fanatical indifference to the well-being of their most vulnerable citizens, nearly every Republican-controlled state government has eschewed this free money. Not only have state-level Republicans failed to display deep concern for the poor, they seem to actually enjoy subjecting them to intense physical and financial distress.

Satanists Have First Amendment Rights, Too. The Satanic Temple has found an amusing way to exploit [link fixed] the Supremes' Hobby Lobby decision, twisting it to favor abortion rights. Warning: actual science involved! Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress reports.

Meredith Shiner of Yahoo! News exposes the supposedly bipartisan advocacy group No Labels as a partisan lobbying scam. CW: This was pretty obvious from the get-go, but Shiner puts facts to the suspicions.

Black Women All Look Alike. Allie Jones of Gawker: "Buried in a New York Times piece about Rand Paul's efforts to woo black voters is the story of the most Mitt Romney thing Mitt Romney has ever done: confuse two famous black women in media. According to Donna Brazile, Romney called her 'Gwen' [as in Ifill] during the 2012 campaign." CW: Romney also mistook Michelle Obama for Oprah Winfrey & Serena Williams for Venus Williams. Oka-a-ay. We'll give him that last one.

Beyond the Beltway

Dana Milbank: After one of his constituents died partly because the local hospital closed when it couldn't get federal aid, a white Southern Republican mayor went on a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., in support of the Medicaid expansion portion of the ACA. Gov. Pat McCrory (RTP) & the GOP-controlled state legislature -- including House speaker Thom Tillis who is the party's U.S. Senate nominee -- have blocked the expansion. CW: Note how the White House is totally tone-deaf here, ignoring a golden opportunity to demonstrate the importance of this law to Americans of every political persuasion. I never get over my surprise at Democratic incompetence.

Robert Barnes & Jenna Portnoy of the Washington Post: "A federal appeals court panel on Monday upheld a decision that said Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. By a 2 to 1 vote, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond said that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed under the Constitution regardless of sexual orientation." ...

... Andrew Kenney of the Raleigh News & Observer: "N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper [D] believes that Monday's federal appeals court decision on Virginia's gay marriage ban eventually will allow gay marriage in North Carolina -- and Cooper has no plans to intervene.... However, the ruling won't immediately affect North Carolina because 'no judge has ruled on North Carolina's law,' Cooper said in a written statement. North Carolina voters in 2012 voted by a wide margin to encode a ban on gay marriage into the state's constitution. Cooper's decision will again bring him to loggerheads with the General Assembly's leadership. The leaders of the state Senate and House last year hired outside lawyers to look over the attorney general's shoulder in gay-marriage cases.... Cooper previously has said that he personally supports same-sex marriage but would defend the state's laws."

Thomas Kaplan & Susanne Craig of the New York Times: New York "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday delivered a feisty and unrepentant defense of his handling of an anticorruption panel he created and then abruptly shut down, after five days in seclusion during which he encountered some of the harshest criticism he has faced as governor.... His office had defended its actions in a 13-page response that appeared online along with The Times's report. On Monday, he echoed many of those points, but also seemed to contradict them. His revised defenses for his office's handling of the anticorruption panel, called the Moreland Commission, seemed increasingly difficult to untangle." ...

... Lloyd Green of the Daily Beast: Cuomo's "disbanding of an anti-corruption commission was shocking -- and his straight-out-of-Nixon justification even more so." Green compares Cuomo's arrogance to that of Louis XIV.

Tina Moore of the Daily News: "Police are investigating whether a cop put a seven-months-pregnant woman in a chokehold while busting her for illegal grilling in Brooklyn -- an incident caught on film. Photos released Monday by an East New York advocacy group show Rosan Miller, 27, struggling with a cop who appears to have his arm around her neck. The NYPD prohibits the use of chokeholds." CW: Chokehold aside, this looks like a case of Grilling While Black.

Congressional Races

Nate Cohn of the New York Times notes that polls show that among registered voters (as opposed to likely voters), there is no "Republican wave"; rather, Democrats have gained a bit. This does not mean that Republicans can't take control of the Senate because "This year's Senate contests are being fought on Republican-leaning turf."

Ben Jacobs of the Daily Beast: "Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, appears to believe states can nullify federal laws. In a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Ernst said on September 13, 2013 at a for[u]m held by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition that Congress should not pass any laws 'that the states would consider nullifying.' As a state senator, Ernst co-sponsored a "Tenther" resolution "States cannot nullify federal laws, of course. In embracing the concept of nullification, Ernst harkens back to a discredited theory that the Constitution is a compact and states are free to void federal laws that they dislike. This view was widely promoted by John Calhoun, the great Southern advocate of slavery prior to the Civil War and was touted by segregationists in the 1950s and 1960s." ...

... Steve M. acknowledges that Jacobs' characterization of Ernst's remarks aren't quite fair. Then he produces a partial list of laws that by Ernst's logic -- that the Congress should not pass laws states might consider nullifying -- should never have been passed. Steve begins with the Bill of Rights.

I'm not sure why the National Review's leaking of Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn's old campaign strategy book is such big news, but everybody's reporting on it, so here's the NR story, by Eliana Johnson. ...

... Update. Alex Altman of Time: "... the memos are a classic example of what is known in Washington as a Kinsley gaffe: when a politician errs by accidentally revealing the truth.... The existence of the memos is not a surprise; any campaign worth its salt undertakes a study of its perceived weaknesses. The Nunn memos are remarkable less for their judgments than for the fact that a hapless adviser apparently posted them on the Internet.... When you're trying to sell a candidate as authentic, a long look at the careful packaging can't help." ...

     ... CW: Really? I believe I'll pull a Diogenes & go in search of the voter who thinks political candidates are "authentic."

Marie's Sports Report

Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times: "A judge gave Shelly Sterling a sweeping victory Monday afternoon and cleared the way for Steve Ballmer's record $2-billion purchase of the Clippers to proceed. In a tentative oral decision, Judge Michael Levanas ruled in Sterling's favor on all three counts and rejected virtually all of Donald Sterling's arguments in the probate trial in Los Angeles Superior Court."

News Ledes

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Jesse Ventura won his defamation case against the estate of author Chris Kyle, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who said he punched out the former Minnesota governor for criticizing the SEALs' role in the Iraq war. The jury awarded a total of $1.845 million: $500,000 in defamation damages and $1.345 million for 'unjust enrichment.' ... Jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict, as instructed. Instead, with the consent of both sides, they voted 8 to 2 in Ventura's favor."

AP: "A senior PLO official has called for a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire in the Gaza war, saying he is also speaking in the name of Hamas."

Guardian: "Gaza endured a night of relentless bombardment that brought some of the heaviest pounding since the start of the conflict three weeks ago, in the hours after the Israeli political and military leadership warned of a protracted offensive. Palestinian officials say more than 110 people have been killed in Gaza in the past 24 hours."


The Commentariat -- July 28, 2014

NEW. Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "Medicare's financial health is improving, according to a new official forecast that says that the program will remain solvent until 2030 -- four years later than anticipated a year ago -- because of the Affordable Care Act and lower-than-expected spending on hospital stays.... The trustees [for Medicare & Social Security] found relatively little change, however, in the finances of Social Security. The forecast says that the program;s trust funds will have enough money to pay all the retirement and disability benefits it owes until 2033"

Apparently Not a Joke. Peter Schroeder & Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "House Republicans want to use their final week in Washington before the August recess to send a signal that they are ready to govern. As the country's attention turns to the fight for control of the House and Senate, Republicans want to show they are capable of handling two of the nation's toughest issues: the thousands of children crossing the border, and the veterans in need of healthcare." ...

... David Atkins, in the Washington Monthly: "... it's remarkable to watch: even as Boehner gives his far right pro-impeachment flank a carrot by initiating a preposterous and unpopular lawsuit, he holds the stick of losing elections to persuade them to actually do something halfway reasonable on immigration and healthcare for veterans." ...

... Jake Sherman & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "House Republicans fear the backlash. They know their summer will be long if they cannot pass a bill to deal with the influx of migrant children at the Texas-Mexico border. Most of them know it's the right thing to do -- especially in an election year. But it's still far from clear it can get done." ...

... Jim Newell of Salon: "It's audacious enough for Boehner and company to think that anything they do, at this point, will show that they 'can govern.' What's worse is how low they've set the bar for effective governance with regards to their action on this border bill. Their goal for the week isn't to reach a compromise with Senate Democrats and get a border bill to the president's desk by week's end. It's simply to pass a piece of legislation out of the House." ...

... Julian Hattem of the Hill: "Leaders in the House and Senate have reached a deal on legislation to reform the Veterans Affairs Department and are poised to unveil it on Monday."

Today in American Oligarchy

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "An explosion of spending on political advertising on television -- set to break $2 billion in congressional races, with overall spots up nearly 70 percent since the 2010 midterm election -- is accelerating the rise of moneyed interests and wresting control from the candidates' own efforts to reach voters. In the first full midterm cycle where outside groups have developed a sophisticated infrastructure, the consequences are already becoming apparent: a harshly negative tone dictated by the groups and a nearly nonstop campaign season that could cause voters to tune out before Election Day."

Paul Krugman:on the "Tax Avoidance du Jour: Inversion.... There is ... one big difference between corporate persons and the likes of you and me: On current trends, we're heading toward a world in which only the human people pay taxes.... The federal government still gets a tenth of its revenue from corporate profits taxation. But it used to get a lot more -- a third of revenue came from profits taxes in the early 1950s, a quarter or more well into the 1960s. Part of the decline since then reflects a fall in the tax rate, but mainly it reflects ever-more-aggressive corporate tax avoidance -- avoidance that politicians have done little to prevent."

Driftglass has a lovely little essay on the pundits gathering on "Press the Meat" to "sit shiva for David Gregory's career" AND on some excellent examples of Gregory's usual journalistic expertise. CW: Personally, I appreciate Gregory's repeated acts of journalistic malpractice. I tend to feel sorry for anybody about to lose his job, whether deservedly or not. Gregory spares me from having to exercise my natural compassion for his bad turn of luck.

Beyond the Beltway

Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "In their much-anticipated federal corruption trial set to begin Monday, former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen ..., will submit themselves to a potentially humiliating spectacle that will showcase an intimate view of their frayed marriage and odd personal relationships.... Together, he and his wife are fighting 14 criminal charges of public corruption and lying on financial documents." ...

... Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "The governor [-- Terry McAuliffe (D) of Virginia -- ] and his Legislature are dug in, engaged in ugly trench warfare. The most powerful member of its congressional delegation, an implacable foe of the president, was tossed out in a primary for being too wishy-washy. And a former governor and his wife go on trial on Monday on charges they used his office as an A.T.M., cashing in for goodies like a Rolex watch and designer clothes. This state, which once took pride in the 'Virginia Way,' a plain-vanilla politics of civility, consensus and relatively clean government, has become a setting of national political melodrama...."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The United States has concluded that Russia violated a landmark arms control treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile, according to senior American officials, a finding that was conveyed by President Obama to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin in a letter on Monday."

New York Times: "The United States and Europe put aside their differences and agreed on Monday to sharply escalate economic sanctions against Russia in a set of coordinated actions driven by the conclusion that Moscow has taken a more direct role in the war in Ukraine. After months in which European leaders were hesitant to go as far as the Americans, the two sides settled on a package of measures that would target Russia's financial, energy and defense sectors. In some cases, the Europeans may actually leapfrog beyond what the United States has done, forcing Washington to try to catch up."

Guardian: "Dutch and Australian police have failed to reach the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 for a second day as clashes rage in a town on the road to the area." ...

... Washington Post: "The Ukrainian military on Monday captured a strategically important swath of territory close to the debris field of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a spokesman said, dealing a blow to pro-Russian rebels but raising new questions about whether an investigation at the site will ever yield conclusive evidence about the attack on the airliner."

NEW. Washington Post: "Israel will press its air and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, preparing his country for a longer and bloodier campaign and dashing hopes that the three-week-old conflict would end soon." ...

... Washington Post: "International efforts to end the devastating three-week-old Gaza war intensified Monday with the U.N. Security Council calling for an 'immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' in the conflict that has already claimed the lives of more than 1,035 Palestinians and 43 Israeli soldiers. The ravaged coastal enclave was relatively quiet Monday as Palestinians started celebrating the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday that caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Israel mostly held its fire overnight, shelling only a site in the northern Gaza Strip in response to rockets fired from there." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Explosions rocked a major hospital and a neighborhood of Gaza City on Monday, leaving at least 10 people dead, witnesses reported." ...

... New York Times: "On Sunday, however, [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry was having difficulty accomplishing even ... a succession of temporary cease-fires..., despite a phone call in which President Obama, in a sign of mounting impatience, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to embrace an 'immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' while the two sides pursued a more lasting agreement. ...

... A White House readout of the conversation between Obama & Netanyahu is here.


What Carlyle Says

That old, arrogant, white Congress is helping us depopulate. We have thousands of children trying to get into the country and the politicos are screaming invasion! We have thousands of educated and loyal "Dreamers", raised in this country that Congress wants to send back to their parents country. Are we nuts? -- Carlyle, Reality Chex contributor, Commentariat July 26

... I’m hoping that my governor will utilize Article 1, Section 10, that allows a state that is being invaded — in our case more than twice as many just in recent months, more than twice as many than invaded France on D-Day with a doubling of that coming en route, on their way here now under Article 1, Section 10, the state of Texas would appear to have the right, not only to use whatever means, whether it’s troops, even using ships of war, even exacting a tax on interstate commerce that wouldn’t normally be allowed to have or utilize, they’d be entitled in order to pay to stop the invasion. -- Rep. Louie Gohmert (RDumb-Texas), ca. July 10, 2014

Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its 'one percent,' namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.' ... This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant "progressive" radicalism unthinkable now? -- Tom Perkins, billionaire venture capitalist, Wall Street Journal op-ed, January 24

... there are 47 percent ... who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.... These are people who pay no income tax.  -- Mitt Romney, GOP presidential nominee, September 18, 2012

We risk hitting a tipping point in our society where we have more takers than makers in society, where we will have turned our safety net into a hammock that lulls able bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency. -- Rep. Paul Ryan, Summer, 2012

Meghan Crepeau of Red Eye Chicago: "More than 1,000 fast-food workers from around the country gathered Friday and Saturday [in Villa Park, Illinois,] to support an agenda including a $15 minimum wage and the right to unionize. The convention was mainly funded by the Service Employees International Union and other labor organizations." One of their biggest targets: McDonalds.

From Saturday at noon till Sunday night, I drove 1,520 miles. To keep myself alert, I stopped at no fewer than six McDonalds along the route for iced tea or hot coffee. Every person who served me was a person of color. (So good for McDonalds for its colorblind hiring practices.) Every one of those servers was super-courteous and friendly. They all completed my orders in a matter of seconds, not minutes.


The one exception was at my last stop, which I made at around the 1,375 mile-mark. When I arrived, the counterperson was out of sight, though I guessed s/he was preparing the order of a customer who had arrived before I did & seemed to be waiting to collect his Happy Meals or whatever. For reasons having nothing to do with McDonalds, I was a little miffed that I wasn't getting that immediate service to which I had so recently become accustomed. I had not veered into Perkins/Romney territory, but I did think, "Hey, kid, whoever & wherever you are, get with it."

Then the server -- a young man whom I guess to be of Central American origin -- came from the kitchen with the waiting customer's order in hand. He moved quickly, then just as quickly took & filled my order. Like the other servers I met on my trip, he was friendly & cheerful.

Mitt Romney is right about one thing: Those workers should not be "dependent upon government." Instead, they should be receiving a living wage for the hard, stressful work they do with skill & good humor. They should not need to supplement their meager wages with food stamps & other government programs that subsidize the businesses of the one-percenters who employ them. And, yes, these workers should be paying taxes -- because they should be earning enough to pay taxes. As for all that mooching & taxlaxity, not a one of them will ever get a "government handout" of the size Mitt Romney (and likely Tom Perkins) takes every year in Congress-blessed tax breaks & offshore schemes. Every one of those workers, as far as I would guess, has more character than these whiney, resentful, selfish rich guys & those stupid, nasty Congressmen.

Paul Ryan is right, too. We need more makers like the people who work at McDonalds & fewer takers like vulture capitalists & so-called citizen-legislators who spend their time in Congress trying to shaft poor workers & further enrich vultures like Perkins & Romney.

That last server, the one I thought might be a tad too slow to satisfy my ridiculous demand for instant service? When I write, "he took my order in hand," I mean that literally. He had only one arm.

I don't know how that young man lost his arm, but it would not be surprising to find he had been the victim of a Central American gang. Mutiliation & dismemberment are what those gangsters do.

So, yeah, I'm with Carlyle. There's very little question in my mind that the people who served me at McDonalds are better, more productive Americans than the uber-wealthy venture capitalists who liken workers' demands for a reasonable minimum wage to the Kristallnacht mobs or who call underpaid workers moochers. They are better Americans than a life-long government dependent who uses his government "service" to deprive people of the types of benefits he himself received. They are better Americans than a rabblerouser who would wage war on child refugees.

To the young people who have lived in this country most of their lives & want to stay, I say, "Thank you for coming. I hope you didn't make a mistake in choosing to stay." To the children fleeing violence & death, I say, "Bienvenidos." And "Buena suerte."