The Ledes

Tuesday, July 7, 2015.

Washington Post: "Iran nuclear talks will push past an extended deadline set for Tuesday, a senior European diplomat said, but negotiations will continue in possible last-ditch efforts to find ways to limit Tehran’s atomic program."

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, July 6, 2015.

ABC News: "As Americans were celebrating the Fourth of July holiday, four Russian long-range bomber aircraft flew close enough to the US shores that they were intercepted by military fighter jets. The first set of two bombers flew near Alaska and just 30 minutes later a separate set flew far off the west coast of California. According to officials at NORAD the flights stayed within international airspace and at no time did any of the Russian bombers enter or get close to entering sovereign North American boundaries." CW: Sarah Palin saw them from her porch.

Los Angeles Times: About 18,000 attended a birthday celebrate for the Dalai Lama at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

New York Times: Pope Francis is in Equador.

AP: "The surviving escapee from a prison break and three-week manhunt will spend 23 hours a day in a maximum-security cell, much more confined than he and a fellow murder convict were in the prison from which they managed a getaway, officials said Sunday. David Sweat, who was shot and wounded during his June 28 capture, was taken early Sunday from Albany Medical Center to the infirmary at the Five Points Correctional Facility in the central New York town of Romulus...."

New York Times: The U.S. took the Women's World Cup in a 5-2 victory against Japan.

Public Service Announcement

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."

Washington Post (June 4): "The first-ever 'female Viagra' came one step closer to coming to market, as a key advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday afternoon to recommend that the FDA approve the drug with conditions. The committee voted 18-6 to recommend that the FDA approve flibanserin, a drug designed to boost the low sexual desire of otherwise healthy women."

White House Live Video
July 7

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

12:45 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at a lunch honoring General Secretary Nyugen Phu Trong of Vietnam

Go to


Guardian: "The Guardian’s story 'Philae comet could be home to alien life, say scientists' has been met with scepticism and outright dismissal by leading comet experts."

Grateful Dead, final concert, at Soldier Field in Chicago. New York Times photo.New York Times: "... the Grateful Dead played their fifth and final 'Fare Thee Well' concert on Sunday night at [Chicago's] Soldier Field, having vowed it would be their last as a group."

New York Times: "On the eve of the most anticipated publishing event in years — the release of Harper Lee’s novel 'Go Set a Watchman' — there is yet another strange twist to the tale of how the book made its way to publication, a development that further clouds the story of serendipitous discovery that generated both excitement and skepticism in February."

Here's a short film by activist Bree Newsome. The film won the best -short-film category at the BET awards (ca. 2010):

Washington Post: "After three years of work by Michelle Obama and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, a new look was unveiled [in the State Dining Room] Friday[, June 26,] that will be a design legacy of the Obama years." With slideshow, including former incarnations of the room.

Daniel Bethencourt & Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press: "Famed street artist Shepard Fairey, who visited Detroit last month to create the largest mural of his career, faces felony charges of tagging other properties across the city on his own time." The reporters put the charges in the larger perspective of street art.

David Haglund on "James Salter in the New Yorker."

Twelve beautiful bookshops.

Livraria Lello & Irmão, Porto, Portugal.

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Yesterday, 21st Century Fox announced that [Fox "News" leader Roger] Ailes would be reporting to Lachlan and James Murdoch. For Ailes, it was a stinging smack-down and effectively a demotion. Just five days earlier, Ailes released what now appears to be a rogue statement to his own Fox Business channel declaring that he would be unaffected by the announcement that Lachlan and James will take control of Fox as part of Rupert's succession plan."

The Waldorf-Hysteria. New York Post: Bride "hysterical," lets out "blood-curdling scream," when Waldorf is forced to cancel her million-dollar reception because drunken relatives of the groom allegedly shot some other guests & Waldorf employees. Here's more of the story. You can the boys out of Brooklyn, but....

Sophia A. McClennen in Salon: The real Jerry Seinfeld has become the TV character Jerry Seinfeld. Without the irony. So not funny.

Washington Post: "... thanks to diligent sleuthing and painstaking restoration by a team of art historians at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, the shadowy, richly colored 'Saul and David' is considered a Rembrandt masterpiece once more. It goes on display at the museum this Thursday, the star of a special exhibition entirely devoted to the painting and its tumultuous past."

New York Times: "Since [the] Clinton [Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York,] opened in 1845, dozens of inmates have escaped over, under or through the prison’s thick walls, their exploits detailed in breathless, often sensationalistic, newspaper reports of earlier eras." CW: As if the Times' extensive coverage of last week's escape wasn't sensationalistic. ...

New York Times: The life of a fugitive presents many opportunities to blunder -- and get caught.

Washington Post: "It’s a happy day for luggage manufacturers. The world’s major airlines could soon be changing their requirements for carry-on luggage, potentially forcing people to buy new bags. Working with airlines and aircraft manufacturers including Boeing and Airbus, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association, unveiled a new best-size guideline on Tuesday for carry-on bags at 21.5 inches tall by 13.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches deep. That's 21 percent smaller than the size currently permitted by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines."

CW: Okay, I finally found a Daily Mail story I'm willing to link. The hills are alive.

Stephen Colbert, Lyricist:

Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "Eight-hundred years ago this month, rebellious barons and a despised, cash-strapped king gathered in a verdant riverside meadow 20 miles outside London to seal an agreement that would change the course of history. The words of the Magna Carta have inspired democratic movements the world over and formed a basis for countless constitutions...." But not for Great Britain, which "is one of just three major democracies that lack formal, written constitutions." Some Britons are thinking it's time to fix that.

Washington Post: Actor Jason Alexander reveals why the "Seinfeld" show killed off George Costanza's fiancee Susan.

When a Cop Loves a Cheapskate. Taylor Berman of Gawker: "Last July, NYPD Officer Ymmacula Pierre and her partner found Kenneth Sanden dead after being called to his East Village apartment by a concerned relative. So Pierre allegedly did what any respectable cop would do: pocket the dead man’s Mastercard and use it to buy a diamond ring." Pierre ordered the ring while in her boyfriend's apartment, & that is where the ring was to be shipped. It appears to me that Pierre is (allegedly) a girl who believes in traditional marriage. Very sweet.

Dylan Byers of Politico (June 1): "Jake Tapper will take over as host of CNN's 'State Of The Union' on June 14, he announced Monday.... He replaces Candy Crowley, who served as host of 'SOTU' until late last year. Tapper will also continue to host his 4 p.m. weekday program, 'The Lead.'" ...

Mediaite (May 29): "CNN’s Jake Tapper will no longer moderate a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative’s upcoming conference in Denver, Colo., to avoid a conflict of interest involving the recent coverage of its parent foundation’s controversies."


Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, appears on the cover of Vanity Fair, with the cover & other photos by Annie Liebovitz. There's a firewalled cover story. ...

... Another reason to admire actor Jessica Lange: she didn't know what "trending on Twitter" meant.

Reuters: "A $100,000 check is waiting for a mystery woman who donated a rare Apple 1 computer to a Silicon Valley recycling firm. CleanBayArea in Milpitas, California, said on its website that a woman in her 60s dropped off some electronic goods in April, when she was cleaning out the garage after her husband died. The boxes of computer parts contained a 1976 Apple 1, which the recycling firm sold for $200,000 in a private auction. The recycler’s policy is to split the proceeds 50-50 with the person who donated the equipment. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak built the computers in 1976 and sold them for $666.66 each. Only a few dozen of the groundbreaking home computers are known to still exist."

New York Times: "On Tuesday, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, along with the Iziko Museums of South Africa, the Slave Wrecks Project, and other partners, will announce in Cape Town that the remnants of the São José [-- which sank off the Cape of Good Hope in 1795 --] have been found, right where the ship went down, in full view of Lion’s Head Mountain. It is the first time, researchers involved in the project say, that the wreckage of a slaving ship that went down with slaves aboard has been recovered."

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It Was Never Okay to Say "Nigger"

A couple of contributors have referred to this post by Neetzan Zimmerman of Gawker:

County Commissioner Jim Gile, 68, of Saline County, Kansas, was in a study session with his fellow commissioners when the subject of hiring an architect to design the repairs for the county's Road and Bridge Department building came up. Gile, a first-term commissioner who started serving in January, told the county that he preferred to hire an architect over having someone 'nigger-rigging it.'

According to Chris Hunter of the Salina Journal,

His comment brought laughter from others in the room. Salinan Ray Hruska, who attends most commission meetings and study sessions, asked Gile what he said. 'Afro-Americanized,' Gile replied.

So ha-ha, Gile thought saying "nigger" in a public meeting was pretty hilarious.

Now, let's look at Gile's "excuses," offered after the fact:

     (1) "... he meant to say 'jury-rigged.'" Because "jury" sounds a lot like "nigger," which sounds a lot like "Afro-American," so it was a slip of the tongue.

     (2) "It was a bad choice of words." Yeah.

     (3) Commission Chair Randy "Duncan said Friday that Gile's choice of words was not intended to offend anyone." So he had good intentions when he used a racial slur, then laughed about it.

     (4) "Gile said he grew up around the term, but it is something he shouldn't have used." Old habits die hard.

     (5) "I am not a prejudiced person. I have built Habitat homes for colored people." "Colored people": another great choice of words, a term that has been taboo for half a century. Evidently Gile forgot he knows how to say "Afro-American" -- as a "joke."

     (6) "Gile said he also has a close friend whom he regards as a sister who is black." So one of his best friends is black. This is one white boy who can't be a bigot.

     (7) "I don't ever do anything bad and don't know how to do anything bad. People know I am not." Well, maybe just this one time he did something bad.

As Zimmerman of Gawker & Commission Chair Duncan both point out, Gile's remark -- and his excuses -- were reminiscent of U.S. Rep. Don Young's (R-Alaska) casual remark last week about "wetbacks."

Like Gile, I am white and I grew up in the South. He and I are roughly the same age. I attended segregated public schools in a relatively poor section of the city. Racial prejudice was part of the fabric of the times. But "nigger" was never an acceptable term, and nobody I knew used it. You didn't hear it from students; you didn't hear it from teachers. You didn't read it in the newspaper; you didn't hear it on the radio. I won't say I never heard it. I did. But people who used racial slurs might as well have walked around wearing big signs that said "ignorant." Decent people -- and we're talking decent poor white people -- knew better.

There's a difference between the racial prejudice that pervaded the South (and elsewhere) and the racial animus that characterized the pushback against the civil rights movement. Whatever prejudices whites had against blacks -- and there were many -- they viewed as the nature of what was. They may have thought black people were "different" or "inferior" or should be "separated," but they took that as the "natural order of things," not as an indictment against a race of people.

What Gile was expressing was racial animus. He's Bull Connor, writ small. There are far too many like him still around. And one of the bad things they know how to do, to borrow Gile's phrase, is to lie. They are lying when they tell you they can't help these innocent little slips of the tongue because "they grew up around the term." They grew up knowing the term was taboo, that it was derogatory and that it was hurtful. They choose to use it anyway.

Where I grew up, people would call Jim Gile "white trash." I'll just refrain. Because I am a good, well-intentioned person who is not prejudiced and has a close friend who is white and I don't mean to offend anybody with my choice of words.


The Commentariat -- April 12, 2013

Julia Preston & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "A bipartisan group of senators has largely agreed on a broad immigration bill that would require tough border measures to be in place before illegal immigrants could take the first steps to become American citizens, according to several people familiar with drafts of the legislation." ...

... Erica Werner of the AP: "A bipartisan immigration bill soon to be introduced in the Senate could exclude hundreds of thousands of immigrants here illegally from ever becoming U.S. citizens, according to a Senate aide with knowledge of the proposals. The bill would bar anyone who arrived in the U.S. after Dec. 31, 2011, from applying for legal status and ultimately citizenship, according to the aide, who was not authorized to discuss the proposals before they were made public and spoke on condition of anonymity." ...

... CW: as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has learned it is difficult being part of a Gang of Eight Egomaniacs. How is one to become the Top Egomaniac? First, young Marco attempted to distinguish himself by dramatically announcing that he was putting the brakes on the group's efforts. That didn't work well as the Gang of Eight-Minus-One Ecomaniacs went right along doing stuff. So now, as Manu Raju of Politico reports, Marky Marco is "offering himself up as the public face of a bill that will split the Republican Party -- but that his allies hope will propel him to the front of the GOP presidential sweepstakes." You said you want more transparency in government? Well, there you have it. No one could be more transparent than Marco.

** The People v. the Congress of the United States. Tim Egan on federal gun safety legislation and those who oppose it. ...

... New York Times Editors: "Democratic leaders are trying to prevent some of these dangerous amendments [to the gun bill] from ever reaching the floor, and many will have trouble getting the necessary 60 votes. But Thursday's brief victory of common sense has shaken the antiregulation extremists, who are quickly gearing up to make the road ahead as difficult as possible." ...

... Whither the Turtle? David Rogers of Politico: "Thursday's Senate vote to move ahead with gun control legislation marked the fifth time in just two months that Democrats have won a procedural showdown by peeling off Republicans at the expense of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)... This fits a pattern seen increasingly since mid-February: McConnell steadfast in opposition even as his rank-and-file cross the aisle, raising fragile hopes of a bipartisan revival. Without overstating, it's a record that suggests a real shift as the Kentucky Republican has seemed to turn his attention single-mindedly to protecting his right flank at home where he faces re-election next year.... The immediate beneficiary is Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but also what some see as a fledgling legislative revival in the Senate itself." ...

... CW: Maybe the Kentucky Gestapo has beat down poor Mitch: Phillip Bailey, et al., of WFPL, Louisville, Kentucky: "A secret recording of a campaign strategy session between U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and his advisors was taped by leaders of the Progress Kentucky super PAC, says a longtime local Democratic operative.... Jacob Conway, who is on the executive committee of the Jefferson County Democratic Party, says that day, Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison, who founded and volunteered for Progress Kentucky, respectively, bragged to him about how they recorded the meeting." ...

... Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Jacob Conway, the Jefferson County Democratic Party's executive committee member who originally accused Progress Kentucky of making the recording, told NBC News he was on his way to talk to the FBI about the allegations. And the group's treasurer [who is not accused of being a party to the taping] confirmed he had quit his position after the audio was published." ...

... Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs: "McConnell has been going completely ballistic, comparing this to the Gestapo and Watergate; turns out it was a couple of guys standing in a public hallway with a smartphone, probably not doing anything illegal (although the jury’s still out on that)."

Greg Sargent: "Yesterday, GOP Rep. Greg Walden -- the chairman of the NRCC -- attacked the Chained CPI in Obama's budget as an assault on seniors. This was curious, because GOP leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor had expressed support for the idea only hours earlier.... Today reporters pressed Boehner on Walden's claims, and he distanced himself from the NRCC chair.... [SO] the GOP Congressional leadership is demanding that Obama embrace entitlement reform, and blasting him as unserious for failing to offer sufficient entitlement cuts. Obama has offered Republicans Chained CPI -- which is a Social Security benefits cut that Republicans themselves said they wanted. But the NRCC has now signaled Republicans may use this to pillory Dems in 2014 for going after seniors, just as Republicans attacked Dems on Medicare in the last two cycles.... This is not politics as usual." ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: Boehner twice deflected reporters' questions about whether or not Republicans would use Obama's budget -- with its cuts to Social Security & Medicare -- to attack Democrats in the 2014 elections." ...

... This is a Republican proposal. And cynical attempts to make it otherwise by some represent, I think, dissonance within the Republican Party, and we've seen plenty of condemnation from conservatives and Republicans of that sort of flagrantly ridiculous and cynical attempt to disown a proposal that emanated from Republican leaders. -- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney ...

... Jonathan Strong of Roll Call: Nothing "´╗┐change[s] the breathtaking cynicism of Walden's move.... Boehner declined to publicly urge Walden not to use chained CPI to attack Democrats, noting again that he had talked to Walden and 'we'll leave it at that.' Asked later in a Capitol hallway what he said to Walden, the speaker just laughed." Via Greg Sargent., who aptly pegs the Boehner-Walden two-step as "policy nihilism .... that helps explain why addressing the country’s problems has become all but impossible." ...

... Oh, gosh, the deficit hawks that operate the Washington Post Editorial Board are not impressed with Paul Ryan's fake "budget": Republicans' "pooh-poohing [Obama's budget] would be easier to take if the GOP had a real-world plan of its own. Instead, it pretends it can balance the budget without raising taxes -- but also without ever specifying the details of the spending that would be decimated, discretionary or otherwise. Mr. Ryan and others so far have wanted credit for fiscal prudence without political cost." They don't like Obama's budget either, of course, because it "it's not big enough.... But Mr. Obama has injected a courageous note of realism where the Republicans so far have shown none."

** Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) embarrassed government regulators during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Thursday morning as she demanded to know why they won't reveal how frequently big banks illegally foreclosed on homeowners. In January, regulators abandoned a case-by-case review of foreclosure fraud conducted by some of the nation's largest banks in favor of a $9.3 billion settlement. Under the deal, most of the 4.4 million homeowners who were foreclosed on in 2009 or 2010 received less than $1,000 each.... Warren pressed officials from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and The Federal Reserve for answers about how frequently banks broke the law, only to discover that regulators didn't know the exact number before reaching their settlement and were now unwilling to publicize the error rate." Listen to Warren at work ...

Edward Williams, in Salon: "The first lady elevated the conversation [about gun violence] Wednesday, during a rare return to her hometown of Chicago. In a city ravaged by violence, with more than 500 gun-related homicides last year alone, she spoke eloquently -- and apolitically -- transcending the partisan politics that seem to subvert her husband's efforts for reasonable gun control legislation. But what was most unique was for whom, and to whom, Michelle spoke. Her words gave voice to an oft ignored (but disproportionately affected) victim of America's gun violence: the black mother." Video of Obama's speech is in yesterday's Commentariat.

The Goldbugs. Paul Krugman: "Conservative-minded people tend to support a gold standard -- and to buy gold -- because they're very easily persuaded that 'fiat money,' money created on a discretionary basis in an attempt to stabilize the economy, is really just part of the larger plot to take away their hard-earned wealth and give it to you-know-who.... In modern America..., everything is political; and goldbuggism, which fits so perfectly with common political prejudices, will probably continue to flourish no matter how wrong it proves." ...

... Goldbugs, Ctd. Andrew Rosenthal: "The price of gold ... has fallen 17 percent since late 2011.... The explanation for this decline is fairly simple: Despite what the Ron Pauls of the world have been insisting for years, the Federal Reserve's loose monetary policy has not led to rampant inflation. The inflation rate was 1.6 percent in January and 2 percent in February."

Washington Post Editors: "President Obama is following through on the promise made at the start of his second term to stand up for the rights of the people of the District of Columbia. The inclusion in his proposed budget of a legislative provision that would give the District control over its own dollars is a significant development. With momentum building for budget autonomy -- D.C. residents are set to vote soon on a referendum on the issue -- Congress should take note and take the steps necessary to give the District its legitimate rights."

Peter Finn of the Washington Post: "The military justice system at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which has been dogged by charges of secret monitoring of proceedings and defense communications, became embroiled in a fresh controversy Thursday when it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of defense e-mails were turned over to the prosecution. The breach prompted Col. Karen Mayberry, the chief military defense counsel, to order all attorneys for Guantanamo detainees to stop using Defense Department computer networks to transmit privileged or confidential information until the security of such communications is assured."

Robert Parry: Tom Friedman is crazy. And stupid. Thanks to reader Bonnie for the link.

Right Wing World

Come out, come out, Dave Agema.Katie McDonough of Salon: "Family Research Council president and noted homophobe Tony Perkins hosted Republican National Committeeman and noted homophobe Dave Agema on the Wednesday broadcast of Perkins' 'Washington Watch' radio series.... Agema defended his decision to share a pseudoscientific 'research' paperthat alleges gays and lesbians are gonorrhea-riddled social deviants responsible for 'half the murders in major cities.' After expressing surprise that people found the 'research' and his subsequent comments to be hateful, Agema equated being gay with being an alcoholic...."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Marie Tallchief, a daughter of an Oklahoma oil family who grew up on an Indian reservation, found her way to New York and became one of the most brilliant American ballerinas of the 20th century, died on Thursday in Chicago. She was 88."

New York Times: "Jonathan Winters, the rubber-faced comedian whose unscripted flights of fancy inspired a generation of improvisational comics, and who kept television audiences in stitches with Main Street characters like Maude Frickert, a sweet-seeming grandmother with a barbed tongue and a roving eye, died on Thursday at his home in Montecito, Calif. He was 87."

Reuters: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed as 'unacceptable by any standard' weeks of bellicose warnings of impending nuclear war by North Korea and said Washington would never accept the reclusive state becoming a nuclear power. Kerry, addressing reporters after talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and leaders of the 28,000-strong U.S. military contingent in the country, also said the United States would defend its allies in the region if necessary."

AP: "Both of the white supremacist prison gang members whose names surfaced during an investigation into the slaying of Colorado's prisons chief are now behind bars. Colorado Springs authorities arrested Thomas Guolee, 31, around 5:30 p.m. Thursday.... Last week, fellow 211 Crew member James Lohr was arrested in Colorado Springs after a short chase."

AP: "Authorities say law officers in Arizona have intercepted an explosive device that was earmarked for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said late Thursday night that the device was contained in a package addressed to the sheriff at his downtown Phoenix office."

McClatchy News: "A promising young U.S. Foreign Service officer, three American soldiers and a civilian government contractor who were killed Saturday in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan probably wouldn't have been close to the blast if they hadn't gotten lost while walking to the school where they were to participate in a book-donation ceremony, according to an Afghan television reporter who was with them and was wounded in the attack.... A U.S. government official ... confirmed Wednesday night that the party had been on foot, and said earlier reports that they were in a vehicle convoy were inaccurate."

Al Jazeera: "Greece's unemployment rate reached a new record of 27.2 percent in January, new data has showed, reflecting the depth of the country's recession after years of austerity imposed under its international bailout."


The Commentariat -- April 11, 2013

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Dr. Ben Carson announced Wednesday that he is withdrawing as graduation speaker at Johns Hopkins University, ceding to demands from students concerned about his controversial recent comments about gay marriage."

Brad Plumer of the Washington Post picks the winners and losers in Obama's budget, with explanations. Winners: Medicaid, low-income taxpayers, hospitals, scientists, highway pavers, preschool, food-aid recipients. Losers: wealthy taxpayers & the finance industry, upper-income Medicare recipients, many Social Security recipients, farms & agribusiness, smokers, pharmeceutical makers, oil & gas & coal companies, the EPA. * ...

... Ezra Klein: "As the White House sees it, there are two possible outcomes to this budget. One is that it actually leads to a grand bargain, either now or in a couple of months. Another is that it proves to the press and the public that Republican intransigence is what's standing in the way of a grand bargain." ...

     ... Kevin Drum: "... the answer is behind Door #2.... The tax jihadists have reasserted their dominance, and there's zero chance that they'll agree to any kind of tax hikes. So: no grand bargain, and no cuts to Social Security." ...

     ... ** Steve Benen agrees with Drum:"The Beltway said Obama needed to reach out to Republicans, so he reached out to Republicans. The Beltway said Obama needed to schmooze Republicans in a more personal way, so he did that, too. The Beltway said Obama needed to be willing to alienate his own supporters, and the president's base has been duly outraged. The Beltway said Obama needed to put Medicare and Social Security on the table, and they're on the table. Will pundits who continue to blame 'both sides' for partisan gridlock look ridiculous in the coming months? I sure as hell hope so." ...

     ... "Imaginary Grownups." Paul Krugman: "Since the beginning, the Obama administration has seemed eager to gain the approval of the grownups -- the sensible people who will reward efforts to be Serious, and eventually turn on those nasty, intransigent Republicans as long as Obama and co. don't cater too much to the hippies. This is the latest, biggest version of that strategy. Unfortunately..., there are no grownups.... After all, if whoever it is that Obama is trying to appeal to here -- I guess it's the Washington Post editorial page and various other self-proclaimed 'centrist' pundits -- were willing to admit the fundamental asymmetry in our political debate, willing to admit that if DC is broken, it's because of GOP radicalism, they would have done it long ago." ...

... Matt Yglesias of Slate contrasts Obama's budget with Paul Ryan's. A quick, easy read. ...

... Speaking of Paul Ryan, Charles Pierce comments on this incredible Obama administration rationale for making old people pay for George Bush's wars & stuff:

We're not going to have the White House forever, folks. If he doesn't do this, Paul Ryan is going to do it for us in a few years. -- "A Longtime Obama Aide"

... Brett LoGiurato of Business Insider: "While the administration is portraying chained CPI as a concession to find compromise with Republicans, the proposal has infuriated Obama's liberal base. And for many of these progressives, it confirms concerns that they have harbored for some time." ...

     ... Here is economist Dean Baker's formal statement on chained CPI (which is worth a read). Here's what Baker told LoGiurato:

You piss on the people who care about Social Security, then you're serious. ...

     ... Digby: "It is simply not debatable that this agenda has been [Obama's] agenda since the beginning. He specifically said it, it cannot be any clearer." (With pre-2009 inauguration citations to prove it.) ...

... Digby looks at what Republicans & conservatives are saying about Obama's proposal. You'll be shocked, shocked to learn that some are shocked, shocked that this "budget really lays out kind of a shocking attack on seniors." ...

     ... Sarah Jones of PoliticusUSA: "The Republican’s budget guru [Paul Ryan] (who has yet to do the math on his budgets) dismissed the President's offer of chained CPI today, saying it isn't entitlement reform -- it's just 'clarifying a statistic.' Just last December, Republicans said they wanted Chained CPI more than any other 'entitlement' reform." (Emphasis added.) ...

     ... Greg Sargent: "Late last year, [John] Boehner and Mitch McConnell explicitly called on Obama to agree to Chained CPI, with McConnell even claiming that Chained CPI and Medicare means testing 'would get Republicans interested in new revenue.' But now that Obama has included those things in his budget, Republicans are not only still unwilling to contemplate new revenue; the chair of the NRCC is signaling that Republicans will us it to attack Democrats for 'coming back at seniors,' just as they did in 2012 and 2010." ...

     ... CW: I know references to Uncle Remus are politically incorrect, particularly re: a black president, but Boehner & McConnell specifically & successfully B'rer-Rabbited Obama. Hey, literature is literature, and Brer Rabbit is derived from African- & Native American folk hero-tricksters. ...

     ... Brian Beutler of TPM re: Republicans' attacks on Obama's chained CPI gambit: yeah, we toldja this would happen. ...

... Andrew Sprung of Xpostfactoid on how Obama's proposal to calculate Social Security benefits on the basis of chained CPI is giving him a lot of "serious" creds. He's been "serious" before. Via Jonathan Bernstein. ...

... Here's a Pro-bama Analysis from Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "The Obama budget proposal released Wednesday, like other White House budgets before it, also emphasizes the problem of inequality and the failure of the American economy to promote a thriving middle class.... The budget includes several proposals to tackle inequality and wage stagnation.... So far, the Obama administration has tackled the issue of inequality in two major ways. It has raised taxes on the wealthy, and it has expanded programs to aid lower-income Americans.... But if anything, the plight of the middle class has gotten worse since Mr. Obama took office, a result of long-existing economic trends and the after-effects of the deep recession." ...

... * Re: Plumer's picks above, he forgot -- Horses! Put Horses is the Winners' Column. Stephanie Strom of the New York Times: "The Obama administration has included a proposal in its 2014 budget that would effectively ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption."

President Obama introduces his FY 2014 budget:

** Ian Millhiser
of Think Progress: Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation yesterday during confirmation hearings for Sri Srinivasan's nomination to the influential D.C. Circuit Court. Grassley's bill: cut three seats from the D.C. court (& add two elsewhere). Read Millhiser's whole post. Grassley is a snake (with no disrespect meant to reptiles).

Alan Fram of the AP: "The Senate is ready to launch an emotion-charged debate on new gun restrictions.... In an opening showdown Thursday, senators were scheduled to vote on an attempt by conservatives to scuttle the Democratic bill before debate even started." ...

     ... New York Times Update, by Jennifer Steinhauer: "With families of victims of the Newtown, Conn., massacre watching silently from the chamber, the Senate thwarted a threatened filibuster with a vote of 68 to 31 and will proceed next week to debate a package of legislation that would expand background checks for gun buyers and increase the penalties for criminal sales, in addition to a variety of other amendments. Those include the renewal of the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. Twenty-nine Republicans voted against the measure, as did two Democrats." ...

     ... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The two Democrats who voted against proceeding, Mark Begich (Alaska) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), face difficult reelections in 2014." ...

... Michael Cooper, et al., of the New York Times: "Opponents of expanded background checks, including the National Rifle Association, argue that they would not prevent criminals from acquiring guns, since many get them through back-market sales or theft, or by getting 'straw purchasers' -- people who can pass background checks -- to buy guns on their behalf. But the checks have blocked purchases. Since 1998 more than a million potential sales have been rejected -- usually because the would-be buyers are convicted felons or fugitives from justice, or they have been involuntarily committed to a mental health institution, among other reasons. How many of those rejected buyers were able to buy guns without background checks, from private sellers in person or over the Internet, is difficult to say, in part because restrictions imposed by Congress make it difficult for law enforcement officials to track firearms sales." ...

     ... CW: we should stop blaming the NRA. Congress is the problem. It could be argued that the NRA has so exposed itself as craven and/or crazy in its responses to the Newtown massacre that it is actually helping the gun safety cause. ...

... Two Americas. David Klepper of the AP: " Rhode Island would ban the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines under legislation proposed Tuesday by the governor, attorney general and top lawmakers in response to the December school shooting in neighboring Connecticut. The measure would also stiffen penalties for a variety of gun crimes, require all handgun permits to go through the attorney general's office and create task forces to review state gun laws and the use of mental health records in background checks. Rhode Island already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country."...

... Michelle Obama spoke in Chicago yesterday about youth violence:

Charles Blow writes a terrific piece titled "Rand Paul Goes to Howard." -- Blow explains to Paul why "blah" people vote Democratic even though Republican Abe Lincoln freed the slaves & all. Doh! ...

... Dana Milbank: "'No Republican questions or disputes civil rights,' [Paul] proclaimed [at Howard]. 'I've never wavered in my support for civil rights or the Civil Rights Act.' Howzat? As a candidate in 2010, Paul questioned the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act's Title II, which prohibits private discrimination." Milbank retells some of the exchanges between Paul & his audience.

Gail Collins: some U.S. Senators are actually doing some legislating stuff.

Paul Fahri of the Washington Post profiles David Corn of Mother Jones.

Robert Mackey of the New York Times on the reactions to Margaret Thatcher's death. Contributor Roger Henry should be amused (see yesterday's Comments). ...

... Paul Krugman on why Margaret Thatcher's true Heir in America is -- Bobby Jindal! Happily, Krugman speaks ill of the dead AND the living.

Right Wing World *

I would point out that if you're a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change, and that certainly wasn't because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy. -- Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), testifying before a Congressional Committee on the Keystone XL pipeline ...

... Brad Friedman: "You may remember Barton from 2010, after the BP oil spill in the Gulf, as the man who actually apologized to BP's then CEO during a U.S. House hearing, for what he described as a White House "shakedown", after the company agreed to pay some $20 billion to help clean up the unprecedented disaster and help restore the livelihoods of many who lost everything thanks to the spill."

* Where the mind is a common thing to lose.

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "The gun Rick Warren's son used to kill himself was unregistered and purchased on the Internet, the pastor tweeted Thursday afternoon.... Sheriff's Department records show no one in the Warren family is registered to carry a concealed weapon in Orange County, and authorities have said they were struggling to determine where 27-year-old Matthew Warren obtained the weapon. A source close to the investigation confirmed it was a shotgun."

Washington Post: "North Korea likely has a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile, according to a new assessment by the Pentagon's intelligence arm that comes amid growing alarm over Pyongyang's warmongering. The conclusion by the Defense Intelligence Agency said the weapon would have 'low reliability,' but the disclosure during a congressional hearing Thursday is likely to raise fresh concerns about North Korea's capabilities and intentions."

New York Times: "On Thursday, federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against [Scott] London, [a long-time partner in accounting giant KPMG,] ... and Bryan Shaw, the owner and operator of a Los Angeles-area jewelry business..., laying bare a brazen two-year insider trading scheme. The Securities & Exchange Commissionfiled a parallel civil case against Mr. London and Mr. Shaw."

AP: "The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to a seasonally adjusted 346,000, signaling that the job market might be stronger than March's weak month of hiring suggested."

AP: "Storms packing rain, snow and dangerous winds raked the Midwest and spawned a possible tornado outside of St. Louis that prompted an emergency declaration from Missouri's governor. To the north icy weather left thousands without power and prompted Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to call out the state Nation Guard to aid residents as the state braced for another storm system that threatened to dump several inches of wet snow Thursday."

The Hill: "The struggling U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday backed off its plan to limit Saturday mail delivery, saying recent congressional action gave them no choice. The agency's board of governors said it still backed the plan to no longer deliver letters and other pieces of first-class mail six days a week, a move the Postal Service says will save some $2 billion a year. But the board said that the passage of a stopgap spending measure in Congress last month -- which kept language mandating six-day delivery -- has tied the service's hands and forced it to delay needed changes."


The Commentariat -- April 10, 2013

It's cherry blossom time in Washington. What could possibly go wrong in such a beautiful setting?

Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "President Obama plans Wednesday to unveil a $3.77 trillion spending plan that proposes modest new investments in infrastructure and education, major new taxes for the wealthy and significant reforms aimed at reducing the cost of Social Security and Medicare.... The White House plans to make the full document available on its Web site at 11:15 a.m." ...

     ... Update: here it is. ...

... Josh Lederman of the AP: "Liberal lawmakers from both chambers of Congress and a coalition of like-minded groups rallied outside the White House on Tuesday, voicing frustration at the Democratic president they say has let them down by proposing cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Organizers from more than 15 groups stacked nine file boxes in front of the White House that they said contained more than 2 million signatures on petitions urging Obama to reverse course on cuts included in the budget he will unveil Wednesday. Many of the groups, including the AFL-CIO and the National Organization for Women, played an active role in fueling Obama's re-election last year." ...

... Dana Milbank: Obama loves to have liberals protest his budget; he thinks our ire strengthens his hand (CW: as I said last week.) Obama's budget "is perhaps the most brazen attempt at triangulation in the Democratic Party since Bill Clinton (whose adviser Dick Morris popularized the term) defied liberals on welfare reform."

Aaron Blake & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The Senate will hold the first key procedural vote on a bill to curb gun violence Thursday as more than a half-dozen Republicans announced that they will join with Democrats to stop any attempt to block popular legislation drafted in response to a deadly shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. The vote would formally start the the most wide-ranging and ambitious battle over gun control in 20 years." ...

... John Bresnahan & Reid Epstein of Politico: "Sen. Joe Manchin says he is on the verge of a bipartisan deal to expand background checks for gun sales, an agreement that could lead to the biggest change in U.S. gun laws in nearly 20 years." ...

     ... Update: "Sens. Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey will unveil a bipartisan deal to expand background checks for commercial gun sales at a news conference Wednesday morning. The agreement could give political cover for enough Republicans to vote Thursday and exceed the 60-vote requirement needed to allow the Senate to proceed to what would be an emotional floor debate on gun control legislation." ...

... Greg Sargent: "As of now, seven Republican Senators have now confirmed that they oppose the hard right bloc and will support moving to debate [on the gun safety bill]. They are: John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Tom Coburn, Johnny Isakson, Dean Heller, Kelly Ayotte, and Susan Collins. Collins also says she's encouraged by the emerging compromise being negotiated by Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey.... [MEANWHILE], Senator Max Baucus [ConservaDem-Montana] confirmed today that he has not made up his mind on whether to support allowing the gun proposals to go to a debate. In other words, he isn't preparing to rule out joining [the filibuster]...." ...

... Philip Rucker & Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: "When she returns home [to Chicago] Wednesday to deliver a speech on gun violence, first lady Michelle Obama will be making a rare foray into the politics of the day that could presage a more activist role during her husband's second term."

Jeff Toobin, in the New Yorker: "The next Supreme Court confirmation hearing begins on Wednesday afternoon, April 10th. Technically, Sri Srinivasan is just a candidate for the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, but few are misled. The stakes in this nomination are clear: if Srinivasan passes this test and wins confirmation, he’ll be on the Supreme Court before President Obama's term ends." ...

... Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "With a coordination and an energy that echo a Supreme Court nomination fight, the Obama administration is pushing for the confirmation of [Sri Srinivasan,] a senior Justice Department lawyer, to the country's most prestigious appellate court. If the effort fails, it could lead to a confrontation with the Senate over the long-simmering issue of judicial nominees." ...

... Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "In a sign that President Obama's judicial nominees may be gaining momentum, the Senate voted 64 to 34 to seat Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz on the 3rd Circuit on Tuesday. The vote -- which came 397 days after the Senate Judiciary Committee initially approved Shwartz's nomination -- came as the White House has stepped up efforts to install several of its nominees on the federal bench."

Micah Cohen of the New York Times: "The two most unpopular governors up for re-election in 2014 are Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, an independent, and Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois, a Democrat. But the remaining eight governors with net negative job approval ratings are Republicans, including four who rode the Tea Party wave to power in blue and purple states in 2010 and now appear to be in some danger: Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, Gov. Paul LePage of Maine and Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan." ...

... Get out Your Hankies. Nate Silver on the woes of Bobby Jindal. CW: Silver compares Jindal to Romney, who was also an unpopular governor. Silver does of course note that Romney was unpopular in a blue state, whereas Jindal is unpopular in a red state. But what Silver doesn't mention, when talking about conservatives' impressions of Jindal, is this -- they could consider it a plus that Taxachusetts libruls didn't like Romney, but how can it be anything but a negative if Jindal isn't popular in a conservative state? I believe I'll have my jam on Jindal toast.

Stroganoff for All. Maureen Dowd tries to weave a common thread among the lives of three women who died this week: Margaret Thatcher, Lilly Pulitzer & Annette Funicello. The CW verdict: utter failure. What they had in common was their sex. Period. Next question: would Dowd write a similar column about three unique men who died during the same week? I doubt it. There's a furtive girls-are-all-alike sexism here that I find even more grating than the overt sexism of Douglas Martin's obit of scientist Yvonne Brill. If you disagree, say so. I'd like to hear some defense of Dowd. I can't think of one.

How a Law Becomes a Mashed-Potato Sandwich. Haley Edwards of the Washington Monthly: "Barack Obama's biggest second-term challenge isn’t guns or immigration. It’s saving his biggest first-term achievements, like the Dodd-Frank law, from being dismembered by lobbyists and conservative jurists in the shadowy, Byzantine 'rule-making' process." This article is as long as a novella, but without the sex. I read the first of 10 pages, & the only sex I found is a reminder that Nino Scalia, who may or may not have one foot in the grave, will not go quietly into that good night; he has cloned himself 9 times over, the most prominent clone being Eugene Scalia, a lawyer for the Street who easily has his way with the conservative D.C. Circuit Court. (See Srinivasan above.) Via Charles Pierce. ...

... Pierce, meanwhile, has noticed what I remarked on last week: "It turns out there is a red America and a blue America. It turns out that there is a conservative America and a liberal America. It turns out that the things that divide us are stronger than the things that unite us." ...

... If you want to read a 10-page "news" story that surely does have sex (of a sort) in it, then Jonathan Van Meter's piece, which will appear in the New York Times Magazine this Sunday, on Anthony Weiner & Huma Abedin should fill the bill. I'll pass.

Robert Redford: "It is not in our nation's best interest to pipe tar sands across our fields and aquifers so that the oil industry can reach the higher prices of overseas markets. How many red flags do we need before we realize that the solution is to stop tar sands expansion and say no to tar sands pipelines?"

Congressional Races

Rick Pearson & Bill Ruthhart of the Chicago Tribune: "Democrat Robin Kelly claimed victory tonight in a low-turnout contest to decide the successor to former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in a 2nd Congressional District with a history of scandal-plagued representation. With 77 percent of precincts counted, the former state lawmaker had about 73 percent of the vote to about 19 percent for Republican Paul McKinley, an unemployed political activist and ex-convict."

Making a Federal Case of It. Sarah Wheaton of the New York Times: "The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was looking into allegations by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky that political opponents bugged his campaign headquarters.... 'They were bugging our headquarters, quite a Nixonian move,' Mr. McConnell said Tuesday at a news conference. ... Without revealing the source, [Mother Jones] said, 'It is our understanding that the tape was not the product of a Watergate-style bugging operation.' ... On Tuesday, the [McConnell] campaign solicited cash and volunteers to 'stand with Senator McConnell against illegal wiretapping.'" (See yesterday's Commentariat for background & commentary.) ...

... Steve Benen: "... the hysterical reaction isn't helping McConnell's case. The Republican senator's office initially blamed 'the Left' for 'bugging' McConnell's campaign headquarters. Then McConnell aides blamed Mother Jones magazine. Then Team McConnell blamed a local liberal group called ProgressKY. Then McConnell sent out a fundraising letter arguing that 'the liberal media' is responsible.... With Team McConnell pointing at a new culprit every hour or so, they're starting to sound a little unhinged.... There' no evidence that anyone ... bugged McConnell's office." ...

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post has an interesting piece on U.S. law re: publishing illegally-obtained materials. Conclusion: "... the United States is an excellent place to practice journalism. Yes, reporters, you may accept clandestine recordings from law-breaking scumbags. Just don't help them do their work." ...

... Local News

Alaska GOP chair Debbie Brown. CW Note: if, like Brown, you are still sporting the same hairdo you had in 1972, consider an update.Things Are about Normal in Alaska Republican Party. Craig Medred of the Alaska Dispatch: "With the Alaska GOP set to meet Monday evening to decide the fate of party chairwoman Debbie Brown of Kasilof, she has seized the Republican headquarters in Anchorage and is threatening to arrest anyone who tries to enter the building." ...

... Charles Pierce: "There's going to be a lot more of this as those several states in which the devotees of Crazy Uncle Liberty (!) achieved enough actual political power to let their unique brand of sanctified paranoia run free.... Every stupid petty squabble is Lexington. Or Concord. It's a profound betrayal of the principles of freedom against which we must all man the barricades. Or, in this case, the place by the dump." ...

The Place by the Dump on Fireweed Lane and the Site of Brown's Last Stand. Courtesy of Google Earth, via Esquire commenter John Emery.

Bob McDonnell's Catering Caper. Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has said his daughter and her husband paid for their own wedding. So a $15,000 check from a major campaign donor to pay for the food at the affair was a gift to the bride and groom and not to him and therefore did not have to be publicly disclosed under the law, the governor says. But documents obtained by The Washington Post show that McDonnell signed the catering contract, making him financially responsible for the 2011 event. The governor made handwritten notes to the caterer in the margins. In addition, the governor paid nearly $8,000 in deposits for the catering. When the combination of the governor's deposit and the gift from the donor resulted in an overpayment to the caterer, the refund check of more than $3,500 went to McDonnell's wife and not to his daughter, her husband or the donor."

Max Fisher of the Washington Post: "... when the popular Chinese Web portal Sina posted an eight-minute segment from the ['Daily] Show' discussing the latest North Korean provocations, it racked up an astounding 2.8 million views and counting, as well as tens of thousands of comments, many of them praising the show. That appears to make it one of the most-watched 'Daily Show' clips ever. It also raises questions about whether China's flagging support for North Korea might reflect popular sentiment as well as Beijing's own geopolitical calculus." Here's the segment, which aired last week:

News Ledes

New York Times: "A heavily armed man is dead after the police stormed his suburban Atlanta home to rescue four firefighters taken hostage when they responded to a 911 call for medical attention to the house on Wednesday, officials said at the scene in Suwanee, Ga." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution story is here.

New York Times: "Robert G. Edwards, who opened a new era in medicine when he joined a colleague in developing in vitro fertilization, enabling millions of infertile couples to bring children into the world and women to have babies even in menopause, died on Wednesday at his home near Cambridge, England. Dr. Edwards, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his breakthrough, was 87."