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Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

Click on the picture to see larger image.... Low Society News. AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress" CW: which, if you follow Reality Chex, you will know was enhanced by some really costly baubles that remind the bride of Grace Kelly or happy times or something.

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco." -- CW ...

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers." -- CW 

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends." -- CW

Washington Post: "Two months before Monday’s [May 8] announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations.In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that 'some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.' He accuses the national media of publishing 'fake news stories' — a direct echo of President Trump’s frequent complaint — and then asks viewers to visit the station’s website to share 'content concerns.' The piece was a 'must-run,' meaning news directors and station managers from Baltimore to Seattle had to find room for it.... While partisan coverage is a familiar staple of cable networks — Fox News on the right, MSNBC on the left — it remains mostly unheard of in broadcast TV, where it has generally been accepted that public airwaves should be used in the difficult-to-define public interest.” -- CW 

CNN: "21st Century Fox and the private equity firm Blackstone are in talks to launch a bid for Tribune Media, one of the nation's largest television broadcasting companies, a source with knowledge of the matter said Sunday. The deal currently under discussion would see Blackstone and Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox forming a joint venture. Blackstone would provide the cash for the acquisition while Fox would add all its owned-and-operated television stations to the joint venture." -- CW 

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- CW 

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 

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The Commentariat -- March 23, 2015

Doc Fix. Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "The House is inching closer to a major deal on Medicare payments that could help cement a legacy for Speaker John Boehner. Boehner has spent two months quietly working with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to finally solve a Medicare payment problem that has eluded congressional leaders for more than 20 years. The House leaders are expected to unveil their $200 billion Medicare deal early next week. Facing little opposition so far, the proposal is bringing Boehner closer than ever to tackling his long-time goal of entitlement reform."

Surprise! "Jobs-killing" ObamaCare is actually an "unprecedented" jobs-creator. Alex Wayne of Bloomberg Business: "More than 90 new health-care companies employing as many as 6,200 people have been created in the U.S. since Obamacare became law, a level of entrepreneurial activity that participants say may be unprecedented for the industry."

E. J. Dionne: "It would be wonderful if conservatives really wanted to deal constructively with the predicament [of income inequality] they so passionately describe. But thanks to the House and Senate GOP budgets, we now know that conservatives and Republicans (1) aren't serious about the plight of working-class and lower-income Americans and (2) would actually make their situations much worse. Their spending plans fail even on conservative terms: They are not fiscally responsible.... I'd respect these folks a lot more if they said what they clearly believe: They think more inequality would be good for us. It almost makes you nostalgic for the candor of the Mitt Romney who spoke about the '47 percent' and the Paul Ryan who once divided us between 'makers' and 'takers.'"

Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Republicans continue to excuse Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's anti-Arab remarks and open repudiation of the two-state solution, despite decades of bipartisan agreement that an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel is the only way to resolve the Israel/Palestinian conflict." ...

... Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "John McCain slammed President Obama on Israel on CNN's State of the Union this morning, telling the president to 'get over your temper tantrum' with Benjamin Netanyahu because 'the least of your problems is what Bibi Netanyahu said during an election campaign.'" ...

... CW: What to do when John McCain lectures you about having a temper tantrum? Laugh your head off. ...

Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "'I really do not need a lessons from people like Steve King on what it is to be Jewish or a Democrat,' [Rep. Steve] Israel [D-N.Y.] said on CNN's 'State of the Union.'... 'Steve King, who said America is a Christian nation, should not be lecturing Jews about how we should be Jewish,' Israel said.... King said during an interview Friday..., "... I don't understand how Jews in America can be Democrats first and Jewish second and support Israel along the line of just following their president.'" (See also yesterday's Commentariat.)

Devlin Barrett of the Wall Street Journal (published in Market Watch: "Federal investigators are preparing to file criminal charges against Sen. Robert Menendez [D-N.J.] as early as this week, following a legal battle over how much the Constitution shields lawmakers and their aides, according to people familiar with the investigation."

Michael Shear & Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times: "When President Obama meets this week with Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan's new president, he will finally be sitting across from an Afghan leader who is not brooding, agitated, suspicious or openly belligerent toward his American allies."

Ben Brody of Bloomberg Politics: "If the government rejects a Confederate flag license plate, does that violate the First Amendment? What about one taking a strong stand on abortion, or something even more controversial? Those are questions that Supreme Court justices will take up on Monday when they hear argument in Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, a case originating in Texas that will test whether it is the government or drivers who are 'speaking' on specialty license plates -- and what either might be allowed to say.... Texas -- which does celebrate an annual Confederate Heroes Day -- asserted in a case brief that it 'is fully within its rights to exclude swastikas, sacrilege, and overt racism from state-issued license plates 14 that bear the State's name and imprimatur.'" ...

... CW: Seems to me that any racist boob has a First Amendment right to fly the Stars & Bars, but s/he shouldn't be able to force a government entity to tacitly sanction it by printing it up on official items. We'll see what the Supremes say. In addition, one wonders if a state has the constitutional right to emblazon officials items with the flags of "foreign" countries. ...

... Robert Barnes of the Washington Post has more on the suit. Adam Liptak of the New York Times on Texas's decision to disallow the plates.

Paul Krugman: "Unfortunately, economic discourse in Britain is dominated by a misleading fixation on budget deficits. Worse, this bogus narrative has infected supposedly objective reporting; media organizations routinely present as fact propositions that are contentious if not just plain wrong.... Simon Wren-Lewis of Oxford University has dubbed this narrative 'mediamacro.'... An election [-- coming up in six weeks --] that should be about real problems will, all too likely, be dominated by mediamacro fantasies."

Coffee, Black, Please. Margaret Hartmann of New York: "As of today, Starbucks employees will no longer be writing '#RaceTogether' on cups, so it looks like you've missed your opportunity to end racism by harassing your local barista." Apparently they have some other great ideas to end racism in the U.S. Maybe you can come up with some suggestions. Maybe baristas could wear T-shirts that read, "You might be a racist if you ____(various)____. For example: ... "want a Confederate license plate so much you took it to the Supreme Court."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Today, the New York Times published an article about Hillary Clinton's e-mails which in all likelihood is based solely on Republican sources. And a Fox "News" host called them out on it. (Via Evan McMurry of Mediaite) ...

The emails have not been made public, and The New York Times was not permitted to review them. But four senior government officials offered descriptions of some of the key messages, on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to jeopardize their access to secret information. -- Michael Schmidt, New York Times

Can't the NY Times do better than this? No named sources and they didn't see the emails themselves and we are suppose to accept this as the facts?... This is what is wrong with journalism -- American people are fed what amounts to as gossip and the NYT is happy to feed it. And other journalists as they read this? Do they call the NYT out? nope, because for the most part this is so common no one sees it as a problem and / or they do it themselves. Anonymous sources should be used rarely, not routinely.... -- Greta Van Susteren of Fox "News"

Presidential Race

Boston Globe Editors: "Democrats wouldbe making a big mistake if they let Hillary Clinton coast to the presidential nomination without real opposition, and, as a national leader, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren can make sure that doesn't happen. While Warren has repeatedly vowed that she won't run for president herself, she ought to reconsider. And if Warren sticks to her refusal, she should make it her responsibility to help recruit candidates to provide voters with a vigorous debate on her signature cause, reducing income inequality, over the next year." ...

... John Wagner of the Washington Post: "As [former Maryland Gov. Martin] O'Malley positions himself to challenge Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination, he is competing for support not only with the former first lady and secretary of state but with [Elizabeth] Warren, a onetime Harvard law professor whose devotees haven't given up on a White House bid despite her repeated pledges that she is not running. For O'Malley, the advantage of wooing Warren supporters was clear as he spoke to big and small crowds on his first visit to Iowa this year: They are among the most energized Democrats, and they are hungry for an alternative to the more centrist Clinton. What was less clear is whether O'Malley, who barely registers in most polls, will become their natural fallback if Warren stays out."

Anne Applebaum in Slate: "There were a number of odd things about the Hillary Clinton email debate, but to me this was the oddest: the widespread conviction that the secretary of state's communications personal or otherwise -- would have been 'safe' in the hands of the State Department." Besides the spectacular leaks by Chelsea Manning & Ed Snowden, "Last week, even while Clinton was defending her decision to delete her email, the State Department was quietly shutting down its servers in an attempt to clean them, once and for all, of the Russian malware that has plagued the whole system for months."

Katie Zezima & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Hours ahead of an expected Monday morning announcement at Liberty University, Ted Cruz told supporters just after midnight that he was launching a White House bid. 'I'm running for president, and I hope to earn your support!' he tweeted." ...

... Hey, you can watch Ted's Biggest Moment live! I'll pass. (Somebody was singing God music as I linked this.) ...

... Fred Barbash of the Washington Post lays out a number of reasons why Liberty "University" is the perfect venue for Cruz's announcement & March 23 the perfect day to do it. ...

... CW: An excellent piece, Fred, but Twitter -- the repository of millions of brief, trivial banalities -- is a good place, too. ...

... Charles Pierce is pretty pumped about Cruz's big announcement: "Ted Cruz is an extremist fanatic. He represents politics and a vision of government that was out of date in 1860. He is connected, rhetorically for the most part, to the darkest manifestations of the American political Id. And he combines that with a kind of unendurable self-righteousness that has alienated even the other extremist fanatics in the conservative leadership elite. From an early age, Cruz has been taught that he is the hidden golden child of a fundamentalist America redemption.... The 2016 election has begun. The bar is set where you need a metal detector to find it." ...

(CW Note: I see where Fox "News"'s Chris Wallace "grilled" CIA Director John Brennan on why the Obama administration refused to call ISIS "Islamic extremists." So why is it left to Charles Pierce & Akhilleus to call Ted Cruz [or Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee, etc.] an "extremist fanatic"? Or, if you like, "extremist Christian fanatic.") ...

I just came back from New Hampshire where there's snow and ice everywhere. -- Ted Cruz, citing conclusive proof that climate change is not happening ...

... David Cohen of Politico: "California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday called Sen. Ted Cruz not qualified to be president, citing what he called his ignorance on climate change. Brown, a Democrat, was appearing on NBC's 'Meet the Press' to discuss California's severe drought. His appearance coincided with news that Cruz, a Texas Republican, will announce his candidacy for president Monday at Liberty University in Virginia. 'That man betokens such a level of ignorance and a direct falsification of the existing scientific data. It's shocking and I think that man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office,' Brown said after host Chuck Todd had played him a clip of a Cruz interview." CW: But, Jerry, it's snowing in New Hampshire! ...

... Andy Borowitz: "A disturbed Canadian man wants to try to get into the White House, according to reports. The man, who was born in Calgary before drifting to Texas, has been spotted in Washington, D.C. in recent years exhibiting erratic behavior, sources said.... Despite a record of ... bizarre episodes and unhinged utterances, observers expressed little concern about his plans to get into the White House, calling them 'delusional.'" CW: When I searched for an image of Cruz looking "disturbed," I had a lot of choice.

Charles Blow: Louisiana Gov. Bobby "Jindal has gone from being one of the most popular governors in the country to one of the least popular.... And in a desperate attempt at relevancy -- and press -- he has lately been sliding further into Islamic hysteria."

Senate Race

Marc Caputo of Politico: "Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy formally announced his campaign for Senate on Monday, saying he's ready to fight for the highly competitive seat regardless of whether or not Marco Rubio runs for reelection.... The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid have both signaled they support Murphy."

Beyond the Beltway

Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "A judge in Wisconsin struck down on Friday a state law that requires doctors performing abortions to secure admission privileges to nearby hospitals, temporarily blocking it. U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled that the measure, signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker (R) in July of 2013, violated the 14th amendment. 'The marginal benefit to women's health of requiring hospital admitting privileges, if any, is substantially outweighed by the burden this requirement will have on women's health outcomes due to restricted access to abortions in Wisconsin,' Conley wrote.... A spokesperson for Walker promised to appeal the decision."

News Ledes

Politico: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has secured the requisite majority of parliamentary members to form a government.... Israeli President Reuven Rivlin continues to meet with factions Monday, with an announcement tasking Netanyahu to form his government expected later in the day. Representatives from Kulanu -- a crucial centrist swing party -- met with Rivlin to recommend that the Likud party's Netanyahu be tasked with forming a new government, giving the current prime minister the absolute majority of 61 votes in his favor."

Guardian: "The governor of a southern Japanese island, home to tens of thousands of American troops, has triggered a potentially bitter confrontation with Tokyo and Washington after he ordered a halt to the construction of a controversial US marine base. Takeshi Onaga, who was elected governor of Okinawa last December on the back of vowing to block construction of the base, instructed Japan's defence ministry to suspend work at the site after local officials found builders had damaged coral reefs when they laid concrete blocks to help conduct underwater boring surveys."

New York Times: "The evacuation of 125 United States Special Operations advisers from Yemen in the past two days is the latest blow to the Obama administration's counterterrorism campaign, which is already struggling with significant setbacks in Syria, Libya and elsewhere in the volatile region, American officials said Sunday."

Guardian: "Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, who led the city-state for more than three decades, has died aged 91. Lee's son and current prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, announced the news in the early hours of Monday morning local time, prompting a flurry of tributes from world leaders."


The Commentariat -- March 22, 2015

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "President Barack Obama is operating under the assumption that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not support the creation of a Palestinian state, despite the Israeli leader's post-election efforts to recast himself as amenable to a two-state solution":

... Video & a transcript of the full interview is here.

Dickensian Dreams. Andrew O'Hehir of Salon: "The GOP's House and Senate majorities have unveiled their budget proposals, a fantastical and mendacious set of documents worthy of Mr. Bumble, the comic villain and font of incoherent conventional wisdom in Dickens' 'Oliver Twist.' Most people will ignore these proposals, for the sensible reason that they will not be enacted. But behind the patriotic-imperial posturing and foreign-policy bluster that have grabbed headlines lately, these imaginary budgets provide a glimpse of the rapacious utopia envisioned by the Koch brothers and their Tea Party-infused ideological mouthpieces, including Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker foremost among them." ...

... Bill Curry in Salon on the House & Senate's "budgets": "After all these years of bombardment by Republican 'tax and spend' rhetoric [Democrats] still don't know how to counterattack. The answer isn't sound bites or catchphrases but concreteness and specificity.... Getting Hillary Clinton to address an issue is like trying to get Miss Havisham ["Great Expectations"] to open a curtain and let in the sun. Presented with the gift of her seclusion, any would-be opponents can't even get in the race. In Congress, overly scripted Democrats hurl stale talking points at a budget they could tear to shreds with logic, evidence, specificity and just a tiny bit of boldness.... The Republican budget is a fiscal, economic and moral monstrosity. If Democrats can't unmask it they don't deserve the support of the millions who still rely on them to act as their tribunes."...

Cannibalism! The Orange Man Dines on Red Meat. Scott Wong & Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "Conservatives are seething after an outside group aligned with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) spent hundreds of thousands of dollars targeting a trio of Republican lawmakers over threats to shut down the Department of Homeland Security. Tea Party Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) equated the attack ads to GOP 'cannibalism,' while his conservative colleague Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) called them a 'stupid' tactic that would backfire. American Action Network, a nonprofit whose board includes former Boehner chief of staff Barry Jackson, launched the $300,000 ad campaign earlier this month with TV spots depicting terrorists and accusing GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Tim Huelskamp (Kansas) and Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) of putting 'our security at risk.' The campaign also included national ads on conservative talk radio, including shows hosted by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, and on digital ads in the district of nine other House Republicans." ...

Here is what I don't understand, I don't understand how Jews in America can be Democrats first and Jewish second and support Israel along the line of just following their President. -- Rep. Steve King (RTP-Iowa)

A congressional representative of a party which fetishizes the flag is saying that some citizens are being traitors by following their president' instead of supporting the leader of a foreign country. Indeed, he's really saying that Republicans support this foreign country over their own president. Now that's exceptional. -- Digby

Lydia DePillis of the Washington Post: A class-action lawsuit could change the U.S.'s exploitative au pair program.

Sean McElwee of Salon gathers up studies that identify "racial resentment" as a deciding factor in public policy; there is plenty of statistical evidence that white people who resent "blah" people oppose social safety net programs.

CW: Don't know how I keep missing Frank Rich, but his comments on this & that were delightful, as usual (March 19): "But first Aaron Schock must apologize to Julian Fellowes and the production team at Downton Abbey. That notorious Capitol Hill office -- created by an Illinois decorating firm appropriately named Euro Trash -- didn't remotely evoke Edwardian England. With its blood-red walls and busts of Republican presidents, it was nothing if not a Warren Harding -- era bordello out of Boardwalk Empire."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. "High Broderism." Scott Lemieux had in mind to teach a lesson on "how to be a hack." Luckily, he had just the model: "[Saturday], the editorial board of the Washington Post honors the memory of David Broder with a pitch-perfect parody of Both Sides Doitism. The thesis: the Republicans holding the nomination of Loretta Lynch hostage to try to leverage Democrats into accepting restrictions on abortion in an anti-sex trafficking bill shows that Democrats are the obstructionist party now." Lemieux goes on to dissect & discredit the paper's tricky language & "reasoning": "As always, the central premise is that Democrats can't possibly have any principled reason for defending hysterical women and their silly reproductive rights.... Yes, if you really care about women who have been coerced into sex work, one way of demonstrating that is being indifferent about restrictions intended to make it more difficult for them to end unwanted pregnancies that have a high likelihood of being the result of sex they did not consent to."

Presidential Race

Theodore Schleifer of the Houston Chronicle: "Sen. Ted Cruz plans to announce Monday that he will run for president of the United States, according to his senior advisers, accelerating his already rapid three-year rise from a tea party insurgent in Texas into a divisive political force in Washington. Cruz, scheduled to speak Monday at a convocation ceremony at Liberty University in Virginia, will not form an exploratory committee but rather launch a presidential bid outright...." ...

... CW: Cruz's choice of venue for his announcement is all you need to know about the type of campaign he will run.

Jeb Bush Has a "Vast" Plan to Fix Florida Presidential Elections Again. Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "The political apparatus surrounding former Gov. Jeb Bush, determined to avoid embarrassment in a state that has vexed his party and family in national elections, is plotting a vast operation aimed at turning Florida into a bulwark for his presidential campaign, according to dozens of interviews. The plan, code-named 'Homeland Security,' seeks to try to neutralize two potentially grave but homegrown threats to Mr. Bush's long-anticipated run for president: the likely challenge from a charismatic young Republican senator from Miami, Marco Rubio, who is expected to seek the Republican nomination himself, and a demographic drift within Florida that could doom Mr. Bush there in a fall campaign against a Democrat."...

... Karen Tumulty & Mary Jordan of the Washington Post write a generous profile of Columba Bush, Jeb's wife.

Marco Rubio, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee & bills his knowledge of foreign policy as a raison de vote for him for president, didn't know -- until John Kerry told him -- that Iran & the U.S. are both fighting ISIS. (Of course, Marco may not know it yet, as listening & understanding are way hard for him.) Now it falls on Jonathan Chait to explain to Marco that "Obama Isn't Nicer to Iran Than to Israel." ...

... CW: I wonder if, like Mitt Romney, Marco thinks "Syria is ... Iran's path to the sea." It wouldn't surprise me, because in Right Wing World, gut feelings best geography & feelings top facts every time, as Marco demonstrated on the Senate floor this past week. ...

... Steve M. thinks he's figured out the reason Rubio isn't topping the GOP presidential polls: "He's got nothing."

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a leading aspirant for the Republican nomination for president, made his state the 25th 'right-to-work' state in the nation on March 9.... He may soon get another crack at a worker-unfriendly law: Legislators have introduced a bill to abolish employees' legal right to at least one day off per week.... Walker hasn't said he would sign the bill, but he hasn't spoken out against it either.... Since Walker took office, Wisconsin's economic performance has ranked a dismal 35th in Bloomberg's economic index of states.... [The state] fell to 38th in the nation in job growth for the year ended Sept. 30, 2014.... Under Walker, Wisconsinites seem to be facing a double-whammy -- lousy performance at the state level, and a continuing assault on their household income."

Jonathan Easley of the Hill: "As many as 20 Republicans are taking a serious look at running for the White House in 2016. A handful of candidates have moved aggressively into the field, and others are expected to ramp up in the coming weeks, with several announcements expected in April." ...

... CW: Oh, it's a deep, deep "bench" of super-qualified candidates, like snakeoil pitchman Mike Huckabee & long-time-ago Sen. Rick Santorum, a man incapable of standing up to a voter who claimed President Obama tried to nuke Charleston, South Carolina. ...

... MEANWHILE, over on the other side, there is Lonesome O'Malley. John Wagner of the Washington Post: "Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley stepped up his critique of Wall Street excesses [in Davenport, Iowa,] Friday as he began his first swing through Iowa this year with a populist speech to an enthusiastic crowd of close to 300 people attending a Democratic dinner."

Beyond the Beltway

Prince of Wales, Liberal Icon, Goes to Mitch McConnell's Hometown to Attack Everything Mitch Stands for. James Bruggers & Jere Downs of the Louisville Courier-Journal: "Prince Charles breezed through Louisville on Friday and called for urgent restructuring of local and global economies to save humanity from itself. During a speech before a full house of several hundred people at the Cathedral of the Assumption, the Prince of Wales said that 'if we wish to maintain our civilization, we must look after the Earth (and) and keep it in harmony.'... [Charles] cited climate change, soil depletion and exploitation of the oceans and other natural resources as a serious threat.... 'You know we have come a long way when the future king of England comes to America to call for a revolution,' said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council...." ...

... CW: Oddly enough, the story doesn't mention Mitch. But you can bet Charles purposely saved that speech for Mitch's home turf (such as it is). Thanks to Unwashed for reminding us of this:

Yeehaw! (Why isn't that a Nevada flag Cliven is waving, or maybe a Bundy Nation flag?)The Bundy Family Nullification Party. Jon Ralston: "Mark your calendars for March 31, when an Assembly committee will hear a bill sponsored by Cliven Bundy's biggest supporter, [Michael] Fiore, and 14 other members of the GOP Ass. Caucus to essentially prohibit the federal government from owning land in Nevada (where it owns 85 percent) unless the state says so.(Yes, it's as crazy as it sounds.) The measure ... is a direct outgrowth of Bundy's refusal to pay grazing fees for decades and the confrontation almost exactly a year ago that drew militia members and others, including Fiore, to the ranch near Las Vegas and became a cause celebre for FOX News until Bundy began his disquisition on the history 'of the Negro.' Now the gang is getting back together for the hearing and planning to swarm Carson City. Ammon Bundy, who has defended his father, sent out an alert Friday, asking folks to come to the capital for the hearing. What could go wrong?"

KXAN (Austin, Texas) News: "An Austin lawyer is claiming responsibility for several stickers placed on East Austin businesses that claimed they were 'exclusively for white people.' Adam Reposa posted the video on YouTube and made a statement on Facebook saying he was trying promote the issue of gentrification in East Austin."

News Lede

ABC News: "The military is warning about 100 service members about an online threat by a group purportedly affiliated with ISIS that has posted their alleged personal details and called on sympathizers to take violent action against them. U.S. officials say the military services are notifying the families of the individuals named on the list. On Saturday, a previously unknown group identifying itself as the 'Islamic State Hacking Division' posted on a website the names, photos and home addresses of 100 American service members it said were involved in the U.S. airstrike campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria."


The Commentariat -- March 21, 2015

We Are So Over Bibi. Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The White House is stepping up its antagonism toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu despite his victory in this week's elections, signaling that it is in no rush to repair a historic rift between the United States and Israel. The sharpened tone indicates that the Obama administration may be re-evaluating its relationship with its closest ally in the Middle East, having lost patience with Mr. Netanyahu in the closing days of an election campaign in which he spotlighted deep disagreements with President Obama over a Palestinian state and a nuclear deal with Iran." ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM: "Even if Netanyahu is 'winning' in his battle with the White House, he is actually losing, because his country's interest is to maintain as cordial and as close relations with the United States as possible - in a way that transcends partisan divisions within the US.... US policy should change. Not on security, which should remain just as robust, but on the policy of blocking all external diplomatic pressure on the reasoning that leaving the Israelis free to settle things with the Palestinians between themselves is only way to reach a settlement." ...

... Dana Milbank: "Without a Palestinian state, Israel can be either a Jewish state or a democracy but not both. If it annexes the Palestinian territories and remains democratic, it will be split roughly evenly between Jews and Arabs; if it annexes the territories and suppresses the rights of Arabs, it ceases to be democratic." Milbank takes this personally. It's a very good column. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "It's pretty ironic: just as Bibi Netanyahu seems ready to get over the recent unpleasantness with the Obama administration and get back to the status quo ante of unfriendly cooperation, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives is packing for a trip to Israel that is inevitably being called a 'victory tour.'... [John Boehner] may claim he's just another Catholic tourist going to the Holy Land for Holy Week. But I suspect it's Netanyahu's resurrection rather than Jesus Christ's we'll eventually hear him talking about."

White House: "In this week's address, the President called on Republicans in Congress to stop playing politics with law enforcement and national security and confirm Loretta Lynch as Attorney General of the United States":

President Obama talks to the Huffington Post's Sam Stein about Loretta Lynch's stalled confirmation:

... Trymaine Lee of MSNBC: Eric Holder finds the delay in Lynch's confirmation to be "almost inconceivable" & "a little strange."

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The Obama administration on Friday unveiled the nation's first major federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing, the controversial technique for oil and gas drilling that has led to a dramatic increase in American energy production but has also raised concerns about health and safety risks." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Joby Warrick has the Washington Post's report.

Tim Egan: Republican leaders like John Boehner, Scott Walker & Joni Ernst who come from lower working-class families "are working to keep the downtrodden down. They are traitors to their class, with all the strutting moral superiority that comes with the conversion."

Gail Collins: "... there's a movement afoot to kick Andrew Jackson off the $20 bill and replace him with a woman. Finally, we've got a current event that's not depressing.... A website called 'Women on 20s' has posted biographies of 15 notable women in American history and invited visitors to vote for a female face to put in Jackson's place. The goal is to get the job done by the anniversary of women's suffrage in 2020."

AP: "The Justice Department is investigating the congressional expenses and business dealings of Rep. Aaron Schock, and FBI agents have begun issuing subpoenas to potential witnesses, a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Friday." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

CW: I know I've let you down by not publishing "Your Louie Gohmert Weekly Reader" lately, so here's a bonus edition, where Louie says lots of crazy things:

... Travis Gettys of the Raw Story: "Louie Gohmert can't wait any longer: 'It's time to bomb Iran.'... Gohmert pushed bogus claims that Obama had 'threatened to shoot down Israeli planes if they had gone to take out Iran's nuclear capability,' and he also falsely claimed the president had told Nigeria the U.S. would not aid in the fight against Boko Haram until the country legalized same-sex marriage." With audio, because you probably can't believe Gohmert said anything this silly.

Presidential Race

David Koch home, Palm Beach.

... Matea Gold of the Washington Post: "One of the next stops on the 2016 trail: David Koch's 30,050-square-foot Palm Beach mansion. A group of White House hopefuls, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, are scheduled to make a pilgrimage to the oceanfront estate of the billionaire industrialist on Sunday afternoon."

More About E-Mails. Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "The Justice Department is defending former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from a motion to subpoena her private emails under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). 'Such action is unnecessary and inappropriate under FOIA,' DOJ officials wrote in a legal briefing filed Thursday. Officials were responding to a case launched by Larry Klayman, the founder of the conservative watchdog group Freedom Watch.... The agency says that the Freedom of Information Act 'creates no obligation for an agency to search for and produce records that it does not possess and control.'" ...

... Here's the Politico story by Josh Gerstein. ...

... MEANWHILE, Trey Gowdy wants the whole server. Lauren French of Politico: "The chairman of the House Committee on Benghazi is formally requesting Hillary Clinton turn over her private email server to a third party for a 'neutral' investigation of its contents."

Beyond the Beltway

Francis Clines of the New York Times: "West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin [D], usually a reliable supporter of the National Rifle Association, vetoed a bill to scrap the current law that citizens have to get a permit and take gun safety lessons in order to legally carry a concealed weapon in the state.... Retention of the permit requirement was supported by more than 80 percent of respondents in a state poll. But statehouse legislators across the country have demonstrated more respect for gun lobbyists than for public opinion -- just as the national Congress did in refusing to enact safety precautions opposed by the N.R.A...."

News Ledes

Times-Picayune: "Richard White, the Kenner man accused of the Friday night (March 20) machete attack on a security checkpoint at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, died Saturday at 4:02 p.m., the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office announced. White, 63, was shot three times by JPSO Lt. Heather Sylve, stopping him as he chased TSA agent Carroll Richel with a machete near the Concourse B checkpoint." ...

... AP: "Authorities say the machete-wielding man who was shot at New Orleans' international airport after trying to attack passengers and security agents was carrying explosives at the time. Sheriff Newell Normand said suspect Richard White, who was shot three times by a security agent late Friday after approaching a security checkpoint spraying insecticide and brandishing a machete, was also carrying a bag loaded with six Molotov cocktails -- six Mason jars with cloth wicks soaked in gasoline."


The Commentariat -- March 20, 2015

Afternoon Updates:

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The Obama administration on Friday unveiled the nation's first major federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing, the controversial technique for oil and gas drilling that has led to a dramatic increase in American energy production but has also raised concerns about health and safety risks."

NEW. AP: "The Justice Department is investigating the congressional expenses and business dealings of Rep. Aaron Schock, and FBI agents have begun issuing subpoenas to potential witnesses...."


Is He Lying Now or Was He Lying Then? Jodi Rudoren & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Thursday tried to backtrack from his pre-election declaration that no Palestinian state would be established on his watch, but his new assertions appeared to do nothing to assuage an infuriated Obama administration. In a series of interviews with American broadcasters, Mr. Netanyahu also said he had not been trying to suppress the votes of Arab citizens with an Election Day video warning that they were being bused to polling stations in 'droves,' remarks that had also caused outrage at the White House and around the world.... President Obama waited nearly two full days before making a congratulatory phone call to Mr. Netanyahu on Thursday evening.... Mr. Obama told Mr. Netanyahu directly that the United States would have to 're-assess our options' after the prime minister's 'new positions and comments.'" ...

... William Booth & Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backtracked Thursday from a clear campaign statement that as long as he was the leader of Israel there would be no independent Palestinian state.... Netanyahu went on U.S. TV news shows -- and not Israeli programs -- on Thursday to walk back his statements.... The head-spinning pivot did not convince White House officials, who suggested Thursday that Netanyahu's maneuvers could prompt a shift in U.S. policy toward Israel, particularly in the United Nations...." ...

... William Saletan of Slate: "In the final days of his campaign, Netanyahu pitched himself to Israelis as the candidate who would stand up to President Obama, 'American money,' the 'international community,' and Israel's Arab minority. He bragged that he had used settlements to seize strategic Palestinian land, and he vowed to keep doing so. A day before the election, he renounced Israel's commitment to a Palestinian state. He pledged that if he were re-elected, he wouldn't permit such a state. He implored Jews to flock to the polls and drown out the ballots of Arab Israelis.... More than 55 percent of the electorate [voted for right-wing candidates]. It's more than 60 percent of Israel's Jewish voters. Netanyahu ... has proved that his people stand behind him.... Israel has descended to its current level of disregard for others [because] it hasn't paid a price.... We have enabled this behavior, and we must end it." ...

... Peter Beinart of the Atlantic argues that among the big losers in the Israeli election was AIPAC, which relies on bipartisan support for Israel.

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has begun an aggressive campaign to block President Obama's climate change agenda in statehouses and courtrooms across the country, arenas far beyond Mr. McConnell's official reach and authority. The campaign of Mr. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is aimed at stopping a set of Environmental Protection Agency regulations requiring states to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, the nation's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.... Since Mr. McConnell is limited in how he can use his role in the Senate to block regulations, he has taken the unusual step of reaching out to governors with a legal blueprint for them to follow to stop the rules in their states." ...

... CW PS: Thanks, Larry Tribe, for taking a paying gig to aid & abet the deterioration of the natural environment. I'm sure "Stooge to coal barons" is an eye-popping addition to your résumé. ...

... Eric Holthaus of Slate: "On Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that Earth's global temperature for February was among the hottest ever measured. So far, 2015 is tracking above record-warm 2014 -- which, when combined with the newly resurgent El Niño, means we're on pace for another hottest year in history. In addition to the just-completed warmest winter on record globally (despite the brutal cold and record snow in the eastern U.S.), new data on Thursday from the National Snow and Ice Data Center show that this year's peak Arctic sea ice reached its lowest ever maximum extent.... In a very real way, we can now say that for our given location -- the planet Earth -- global warming is now 'normal.' Forget debating -- our climate has officially changed." ...

... Elana Schor of Politico: "The Obama administration is set to unveil the first major nationwide safety restrictions on fracking, touching off a fresh political confrontation between the president and his critics in Congress and the energy industry."

Paul Krugman: "By now it's a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar 'magic asterisk' -- a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from. But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spending, one on revenue.... If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that's just in the first decade.... The modern G.O.P.'s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics.... The simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer.... We're looking at an enormous, destructive con job, and you should be very, very angry." ...

... CW: Okay, Democrats. If Paul Krugman can call your Republican friends con men, so can you. Let's hear a few Villagers chime in, too. The wonks have done the hard part -- reading & interpreting the GOP's so-called budgets; it's your job to share the news with the electorate.

Charles Pierce: "The willingness of the Republican party to tolerate an almost limitless amount of sheer public lunacy has led us to this moment, where the only answer [Rick] Santorum dares give to a woman who believes the president intended to nuke an American city was to say that he wasn't in Washington at the time." CW: You'll have to read Pierce's column to get the full gist of Santorum's abdication of his civic responsibility. I watched the video of the Santorum show yesterday, thanks to a lead from contrubtor James S., & was more stunned by Santorum's reply to the crazy lady (a retired schoolteacher?? Really??) than by the crazy lady's diatribe. His silence on her multiple insane claims is a profile in cowardice. ...

... This, BTW, is not the first time Santorum has been too frightened to stand up to a crazy audience member who made a loony remark about President Obama. If you were thinking of knitting him a sweater vest, my suggest would be to use yellow yarn for the body & a skein of Santorum Fecal Brown(TM) to knit the word "CHICKEN" across the chest portion. ("Chicken" here is, admittedly, only half a word, but the TM color choice should convey your meaning well enough.)

Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "Much of the surveillance video taken during a March 4 incident at the White House complex, in which Secret Service agents drove into a barricade marking off a bomb-threat investigation, has been erased.... Director Joseph P. Clancy, testifying before Congress for the second time this week, said the footage of the incident no longer exists, because of an agency practice of recording over surveillance video every three days." ...

... Beth Ethier of Slate has a bit more on the Secret Service's recorded-over tapes. As Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Chair of the House Oversight Committee, told CNN, "This is not your local 7-11. This is the White House."

David Zucchino of the Los Angeles Times: "A federal judge threatened Thursday to sanction the Justice Department if he finds that government lawyers misled him about the rollout of President Obama's plan to shield up to 5 million people from deportation.... [Judge Andrew] Hanen's barbed comments left little doubt that he sympathized with lawyers for the 26 states, who said they suffered 'irreparable harm' when federal officials granted more than 100,000 applications for deferred action after Obama announced the program Nov. 20. He said government lawyers had assured him that 'nothing was happening' regarding the applications."

Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "... the president of the United States telling the heir to the British throne that Americans prefer the royal family to their own politicians livened up an otherwise routine White House photo-op on Thursday.... [The conversation] was picked up by a boom mike deployed by an Associated Press radio journalist and relayed by a White House pool reporter."

Nick Gass & David Nather of Politico: Marty Nesbitt, a close friend of President Obama's, has purchased/"invested in" a beachfront Oahu home that was part of the set for the 80s TV series "Magnum, P.I." Nesbitt has acknowledged the purchase & the White House isn't talking, so there's plenty of speculation that Nesbitt made the purchase for the Obamas. The 80-year-old house is in disrepair. Here's more from Gina Mangieri of KHON Honolulu.

CLICK ON DOCUMENT TO SEE LARGER VIEW.... Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.): "I only break out the red pen on special occasions. So when I saw Marco Rubio's recent op-ed on Net Neutrality, you know I couldn't resist. It is intentionally misleading, poorly researched, and littered with errors. Marco, please don't draft essays on your return flight from Iowa. See me in my office and I'll walk you through Net Neutrality." Via Kay Steiger of Think Progress.

Marin Cogan of New York considers Aaron Schock's change-of-career options, "assuming he isn't eventually indicted."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. ...

... CW BTW: I'm not convinced the DOJ report "exonerates" Wilson as both Fox "News" & Jon Stewart contend; rather, it concludes that there is substantial eyewitness testimony & forensic evidence that Wilson had reasonable cause to fear for his safety to an extent that prosecutors could not prove a charge of excessive force. I don't think someone who creates a situation in which deadly force becomes (or may become) necessary is faultless. Brown was a citizen, & Wilson had a duty to protect him. Fox "News" commentators' reactions, to borrow a Fox "News" rhetorical device, were "racist, racist, racist." As contributor Whyte O. noted yesterday, Arizona cops found the means to take alive mass shooter & white supremacist skinhead Ryan Giroux even though Giroux was armed, resisting arrest & had just shot numerous victims.

Presidential Race

Clinton Rules. Jonathan Allen of Reuters: "In 2008, Hillary Clinton promised Barack Obama, the president-elect, there would be no mystery about who was giving money to her family's globe-circling charities. She made a pledge to publish all the donors on an annual basis.... In response to questions from Reuters, officials at the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and the foundation confirmed no complete list of donors to the Clintons' charities has been published since 2010." ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "... the [Wall Street] Journal reports [firewalled] that the [Clinton] foundation never stopped accepting money from foreigners with close ties to their governments. More than a dozen foreigners were top Clinton Foundation donors during that time, giving between $34 million and $68 million total. These include a member of the Saudi royal family and a former member of the Ukrainian parliament who was simultaneously lobbying the State Department to pressure Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to free his predecessor from jail." ...

... A. B. Stoddard of the Hill, who's a fairly conservative Villager, has this right: "Democrats know what's coming, just weeks from now when Clinton announces her run, and it won't be new or different. They've got only one candidate, who already ran and lost, whose policy positions of key interest to Democrats are not yet known, whose candidacy is based on her gender, desire for the job and feeling that it is her turn, and who is launching as she's responding to a congressional subpoena." ...

... CW: For me, besides her all-too-apparent sense of entitlement & her sleazy connections, Hillary's biggest deficit is that, despite Obama's 2008 concession, she is just not "likable enough." American voters, democracy or no, do want our president to be regal (see President Obama's comments yesterday to Prince Charles, linked above), but -- in absurdist fashion -- we also want to feel we could be friends with the king/queen.

Beyond the Beltway

It turns out that sharing & crude commenting on nonconsensual nude photos are okay because that's "satire." Amanda Marcotte suggests the a Penn State education may not be too comprehensive if the kidz don't know what satire is.

Mark Stern of Slate: New Hampshire legislators teach fourth-graders a lesson in democracy. CW: Maybe the kids should have saved their lunch money & hired a lobbyist.

Margaret Hartmann: "The body of a black Mississippi man reported missing earlier this month was found hanging from a tree on Thursday, prompting an investigation by local, state, and federal officials.... [Otis] Byrd was convicted of robbing and murdering Port Gibson convenience-store owner Elizabeth Trim in 1980. He served 25 years in prison and was paroled in 2006." The Jackson Clarion-Ledger story is here.

News Ledes

Weather Channel: "Winter Storm Ultima brought a snowy blanket to spring's official arrival (Friday 6:45 p.m. EDT). Winter weather advisories were posted for over 30 million in the Northeast, including the Philadelphia and New York City metro areas."

New York Times: "Robert W. Kastenmeier, a Wisconsin Democrat who in 32 years in the House was an early opponent of the Vietnam War and in 1976 earned the gratitude of authors when he managed the first general revision of copyright law since 1909, died on Friday at his home in Arlington, Va. He was 91."

AP: "Quadruple suicide bombers on Friday hit a pair of mosques controlled by Shiite rebels in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, unleashing blasts through crowds of worshippers that killed at least 137 people and wounded around 350 others in the deadliest violence to hit the fragile war-torn nation in decades."

Reuters: "A rookie Los Angeles police officer accused of killing a man after a fight in the bar district of a Southern California community was driven to a Texas city on the Mexican border by his father last week and has not been seen since, according to court documents filed on Thursday. Henry Solis, a 27-year-old probationary officer, is accused of shooting Salome Rodriguez Jr. multiple times on March 13 near several nightclubs in downtown Pomona...."

Wall Street Journal: "David Christopher Bird, a longtime Wall Street Journal reporter who was missing for more than a year, was found dead near his New Jersey home, police said."