Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President thanked Congress for its strong bipartisan support for efforts to train and equip Syrian opposition forces to fight ISIL":

The Ledes

Saturday, September 20, 2014.

Guardian: "The United States has quietly released 14 Pakistani citizens from military detention in Afghanistan, where the US holds its most secret cohort of detainees in its war on terrorism. The US military transferred the 14 to Pakistani government custody on Saturday. It did not publicize the release, as is typical with releases from the detention center on the outskirts of Bagram Airfield which is known formally as the Detention Facility in Parwan. A Pakistani human rights group instead announced the transfer and said it was the largest number of Pakistanis the US has thus far released."

New York Times: "Polly Bergen, an actress, singer and businesswoman who won an Emmy in 1957 for her portrayal of the alcoholic torch singer Helen Morgan and was nominated for another 50 years later for her role on the television show 'Desperate Housewives,' died on Saturday at her home in Southbury, Conn. She was 84."

New York Times: "The two candidates for president of Afghanistan have agreed on a power-sharing deal that will give the losing candidate substantial influence in the next government, initialing the American-brokered deal Saturday night and promising to sign it at a formal ceremony on Sunday. The deal promised an end at last to the tumultuous, five-month-long aftermath of the Afghan presidential elections, although previous settlements have repeatedly collapsed at the last minute despite the candidates’ promises."

New York Times: "A Texas man who scaled the White House fence made it through the North Portico doors on Friday night before being apprehended, the Secret Service said. The intruder, Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, was arrested just inside the doors and taken to George Washington University Hospital after complaining of chest pains, said Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman. None of the Obamas were home when the security breach occurred about 7:20 p.m., but White House staff members were evacuated as a precaution, officials said. President Obama and his daughters had left for the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., just minutes before the incident." ...

     ... New Lede: "The Secret Service will conduct an internal review of its security procedures around the White House after a man who jumped the fence Friday night at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue managed to make his way through the front door of President Obama’s home before being stopped, officials said Saturday." ...

     ... ** Washington Post UPDATE: "Within seconds, the man who relatives said served as a sniper in the Iraq War got to the front double doors of the North Portico, turned the brass knob and stepped inside the vestibule. There he was grabbed and subdued by an officer standing post inside the door. He was carrying a folding knife with a 2-1/2 inch serrated blade." ...

... Fox "News": "A New Jersey man was arrested Saturday outside the White House after driving up to a gate and refusing to leave, less than 24 hours after another man jumped the fence and got inside the presidential mansion before being arrested, which has resulted in increased security and a “comprehensive internal review,” according to the Secret Service."

New York Times: "Forty-nine Turkish hostages who had been held for months in Iraq by Islamic State militants were returned to Turkey on Saturday after what Turkey said was a covert operation led by its intelligence agency. The hostages, including diplomats and their families, had been seized in June from the Turkish consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul." ...

     ... Too Good to Be True? AP UPDATE: "Turkish authorities say they have freed 49 hostages from one of the world's most ruthless militant groups without firing a shot, paying a ransom or offering a quid pro quo. But as the well-dressed men and women captured by the Islamic State group more than three months ago clasped their families Saturday on the tarmac of the Turkish capital's airport, experts had doubts about the government's story."

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, September 19, 2014.

Guardian: "Alex Salmond declared he will stand down as Scotland's first minister and the lead of the Scottish National party after failing to secure a majority for independence, as the country's vote to remain in the United Kingdom foreshadowed months of constitutional turmoil. After 55% of Scottish voters rejected independence, a higher margin than suggested by the final opinion polls of the campaign, Salmond, who has dominated Scottish politics for the past decade, said he would quit in November."

CBS/AP: "France said Friday it had conducted its first airstrike in Iraq, destroying a logistics depot held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The office of President Francois Hollande's office said Rafale fighter jets struck the depot in northeastern Iraq on Friday morning and the target was 'entirely destroyed.'"

Guardian: "David Cameron has declared a 'clear result' in the Scottish independence referendum after Scotland voted by a 10.6-point margin against ending the 307-year-old union with England and Wales. Earlier, Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, struck a defiant note at a downbeat Scottish National party rally in Edinburgh, saying he accepted Scotland had not 'at this stage' decided to vote for independence. He paid tribute to what he called a 'triumph for democratic politics' and said he would work with Westminster in the best interests of Scotland and the rest of the UK – warning the leaders of the three main parties to make good on their promises of enhanced devolution for Scotland." ...

... The Guardian's liveblog on the referendum is here. ...

... The Scotsman's front page has links to numerous related stories. The paper's main story is here.

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
September 19

10:00 am ET: Annoucement of Department of Defense awards on biofuel production

10:15 am ET: President Obama & Vice President Biden host a White House event to launch the "It's on Us" campaign

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

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.


CW: Here's some cheery news. The MacArthur Foundation has named the newest recipients of its "genius" grants. I hope none of them is somebody you personally dislike (thus keeping it cheery). The AP article linked includes a slide show with mini-profiles of each grant recipient.

** CW: The best, most provocative piece of writing in the "news" today is A. O. Scott's piece in the New York Times Magazine on "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." If you don't watch a lot of TV & never see stupid movies, you will struggle with Scott's exemplary references. You may not accept all of his premises, & I think he falls short on defining "adulthood" (though maybe, like pornography, we're supposed to recognize it when we see it.). ...

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

Jeff Weiss, in the New York Times, profiles comedian Bill Maher, who is in the midst of a schtick aimed to defeat the U.S.'s worst Congressperson. You would be a good idea to read Weiss's piece with A. O. Scott's essay in mind. Maher (& even Weiss, who -- in ticking off "bad things" about Maher -- never mentions Maher's offensive attitudes about women) is a fine example of Scott's thesis.

Guardian: "Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, the royal family said on Monday morning. The announcement was made from Clarence House on Twitter.... The Duchess of Cornwall is suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with her first pregnancy, and is being treated by doctors at her apartments in Kensington Palace."

Washington Post: "After less than a year at the top of Politico’s masthead, veteran New York Times editor Rick Berke has resigned as the publication’s executive editor.... Friction had been on display in the newsroom almost from the beginning of his tenure. Berke, according to several current and former Politico employees, tried to impose some of the values of the world he came from — where multiple editors might weigh in, demand multiple drafts, and shape bigger, more ambitious stories — on Politico’s fast-moving, reporter-driven newsroom."


Jimmy Fallon & Maroon 5 singer & Voice judge Adam Levine stage a "musical impressions-off." This clip, from a show that aired this week (September 2), already has more than 8MM hits:

New York Times: "The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine. The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she 'cracked' and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.... The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch."

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.


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The Commentariat -- July 1, 2012

Bill Scher argues in a New York Times op-ed that Presidents Franklin Roosevelt & Lyndon Johnson also made deals with corporations as part of efforts to get corporate backing for liberal bills. Because President Obama "heeded this lesson of liberal history," he was able to get the ACA passed.

Prof. Pamela Kaplan, in a New York Times op-ed: "... the conservative majority ... laid down a cache of weapons that future courts can use to attack many of the legislative achievements of the New Deal and the Great Society -- including labor, environmental, civil rights and consumer protection laws -- and to prevent new progressive legislation. Far from being a source of jubilation, the term may come back to haunt liberals.... A Congress that can advance national priorities only through its taxing power is a Congress with little power at all." ...

... ** Anthony Kennedy Is No Moderate. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Four justices, including so-called moderate conservative Anthony Kennedy, joined a dissent that did not simply toss out two-hundred years of established law, it also called for the entire [Affordable Care] law to be repealed.... A court may not invalidate any constitutional part of a law unless it is 'evident' that Congress would have preferred that part to fall along with the parts the court just invalidated, yet Kennedy and his three co-ideologues would simply cast that rule aside...."

Patricia Zengerle of Reuters: "Voter support for >President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul rose after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it but most people still oppose the law, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Sunday. The online survey showed increased backing from Republicans and, crucially, the political independents whose support will be essential to winning the November 6 presidential election."

CW: this AP story by David Gram answers some questions Reality Chex contributors have raised about Vermont's single-payer health insurance project, which has been enacted but will not be fully implemented -- or funded -- till 2017.

Maureen O'Dowd applauds Queen Elizabeth II's conciliatory efforts toward the Irish. CW: wonder if, in one of her secret meetings with Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Queen Liz advised him to placate the Irish -- a very good idea for any Massachusetts political candidate. (See yesterday's Commentariat, plus Kings & Queens & Prime Ministers.)

Kate Wiltrout of the Virginian-Pilot: "The Navy will not use a target depicting a Muslim woman holding a gun at a new training range for SEALs in Virginia Beach. The announcement came hours after the Council on American-Islamic Relations asked the Pentagon to remove the target. A picture of the cardboard target, which shows a woman in a headscarf holding a pistol, was published in The Virginian-Pilot on Tuesday. The image shows verses of the Quran hanging on the wall behind the woman, which also generated criticism from the group."

Hippy Dippy Weatherman. Joe Romm of Think Progress: "How hot is it? It is so hot that NBC Washington’s Chief Meteorologist, Doug Kammerer, explained on air 'If we did not have global warming, we wouldn't see this.'" ...

... R.I.P., Al Sleet:

David Olinger & Eric Gorski of the Denver Post: "Eleven years ago, federal agencies announced a bold strategy to battle the growing threat of catastrophic wildfires.... The government's planned response: a sophisticated new computer system -- called Fire Program Analysis, or FPA -- that would enable firefighting agencies to coordinate their efforts and maximize their resources.... Federal agencies, led by the U.S. Forest Service, are still working on it." ...

... Michael Kodas & Burt Hubbard in the Denver Post: "The number of wildfires in Colorado has exploded during the past decade. So has the number of people living in high-risk fire zones. And public policies for dealing with both risk making the state's fire danger even worse. In the past two decades, a quarter-million people have moved into Colorado's red zones -- the parts of the state at risk for the most dangerous wildfires. Today, one of every four Colorado homes is in a red zone.... It costs millions to protect homes in the red zone from wildfires, but homeowners don't foot that bill exclusively. All taxpayers do. That creates a perverse incentive to build there despite risks."

Presidential Race

Preserving the Aristocracy. Karoli of Crooks & Liars: Mitt Romney said in a campaign speech he wants "citizens" who "work hard" to "get all the education they can afford." Know your place, poor people. With video.

Jim Rutenberg & Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "Propelled by a torrent of blistering television advertisements, President Obama is successfully invoking Mitt Romney's career at Bain Capital to raise questions about Mr. Romney's commitment to the middle class, strategists in both parties say...."

Right Wing World

His Meds Made Him Crazy. Forget all that preserving the integrity of the Court stuff. The real reason John Roberts decided to uphold the Affordable Care Act -- epilepsy medication made him do it. CW: I have no doubt we will soon learn that Elena Kagan spiked Roberts' Tea Party tea with a double dose of meds.

David Dayen of Firedoglake: "I keep seeing these confident predictions from health care experts that no state would be so foolish as to reject the Medicaid expansion for their state. I want to set up a poker game with these people, to provide for my family in retirement. How many times can you say 'well that's so radical and extreme, it could never happen!' and be wrong before you review your assumptions?"

News Ledes

New York Times: "The number of votes separating Representative and his top challenger, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, shrank to 802 over the weekend, as the New York City Board of Elections released a new, unofficial vote count that for the first time included numbers from all precincts in the 13th Congressional District. More than 2,000 absentee ballots and affidavit ballots -- those cast by people whose names, for some reason, did not appear on the voter rolls -- remain to be counted, a process that will not begin until Thursday morning."

Doris Sams, sometime between 1946-1950. Photo via Knoxville News Sentinel.New York Times: "Doris Sams, who pitched a perfect game and set a single-season home run record in the women's professional baseball world of the 1940s and 50s that inspired the movie 'A League of Their Own,' died Thursday in Knoxville, Tenn. She was 85."

New York Times: "Marcus Agius, the chairman of Barclays, is expected to resign on Monday, less than a week after the big British bank agreed to pay $450 million to settle accusations that it had tried to manipulate key interest rates to benefit its own bottom line." Guardian story here.

ABC News: "House Speaker John Boehner said today that Republicans are preparing to file a civil suit in an attempt to gain access to more information pertaining to the Justice Department's botched Fast & Furious cartel gun tracking program."

AP: "The much-hyped plan to end Syria's misery and guide its transition to democracy appears to have fallen flat despite the endorsement of Western powers.... The U.S. and its allies insist the plan will force Syrian President Bashar Assad from power. Russia disagrees and Assad is unlikely to acquiesce."

New York Times: Facebook is considering abandoning Nasdaq, the exchange Facebook blames for botching its IPO rollout.

Washington Post: "Daybreak Sunday found 789,358 in the Washington region still without power, facing another sweltering day and the prospect of returning to work Monday before electricity is restored to their homes.Many roads made impassable by fallen trees and the power lines they took down were reopened by Sunday as crews worked through the night to clean up the tangled aftermath of the storm that struck before midnight Friday." ...

... AP: "Millions across the mid-Atlantic region sweltered Saturday in the aftermath of violent storms that pummeled the eastern U.S. with high winds and downed trees, killing at least 13 people and leaving 3 million without power during a heat wave. Power officials said the outages wouldn't be repaired for several days to a week, likening the damage to a serious hurricane. Emergencies were declared in Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, the District of Columbia and Virginia." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "The Washington region suffered through another day of stifling heat Sunday, and thousands of people went without air conditioning as utilities called in reinforcements and the National Guard pitched in to help with storm cleanup. The heat index topped 100 again, and sultry weather was forecast for the entire Fourth of July week as legions sought refuge from sweltering homes and waited for work crews to make repairs."

The Denver Post has a page of stories on the Colorado fires here.

Houston Chronicle: "Some 50 million Mexicans go to the polls today in an election expected to return the presidency to the political party that undemocratically ruled the country for most of the last century." New York Times story here. ...

     ... New York Times Update: "The party that ruled Mexico for decades with an autocratic grip appears to have vaulted back into power after 12 years in opposition, as voters troubled by a bloody drug war and economic malaise gave its presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, a comfortable victory on Sunday, according to exit polls and early returns."

AP: "Syrian opposition groups on Sunday rejected a U.N.-brokered peace plan for a political transition in Syria, calling it ambiguous and a waste of time and vowing not to negotiate with President Bashar Assad or members of his 'murderous' regime."

AP: "A Soyuz space capsule carrying a three-man multinational crew touched down safely Sunday on the southern steppes of Kazakhstan, bringing an end to their 193-day mission to the International Space Station."

Guardian: "Former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, who earned a reputation as an uncompromising opponent of Palestinian statehood, has died aged 96."

Guardian: "WalMart has suspended a seafood supplier following complaints from workers at the plant that they were forced to work 24 hours at a time and had threats of violence directed at their families. In a statement, Walmart said a preliminary investigation uncovered "violations" at CJ's Seafood in Louisiana, where eight Mexican employees had complained of being mistreated by their bosses."


The Commentariat -- June 30, 2012

The President's Weekly Address:

CW: I'm reposting this, since it didn't go up till late yesterday. My column in the New York Times eXaminer today is titled "David Brooks -- Constitutional Scholar." The NYTX front page is here.

New York Times Quote of the Day. Right now, it's scary to get sick, because if you don't die from the sickness, you die when you see the bill. -- Gladys Vasquez, 50, a Houston home health aide who lacks health insurance.

Robert Pear & Michael Cooper of the New York Times: "Millions of poor people could still be left without medical insurance under the national health care law if states take an option granted by the Supreme Court and decide not to expand their Medicaid programs, state officials and health policy experts said Friday. Republican officials in more than a half-dozen states said they opposed expanding Medicaid or had serious doubts about it, even though the federal government would pick up all the costs in the first few years and at least 90 percent of the expenses after that." CW: And Krugman called these people cruel. Oh, how could he?

Jeff Toobin, Rick Hertzberg & Amelia Lester of the New Yorker on the Affordable Care case:

Michael Scherer of Time reports on how President Obama got the news of the Supreme Court's decision.

Peter Baker of the New York Times reviews the White House's failure to sell the Affordable Care Act; looks like they have big plans to drop the ball again. CW: big mistake. Obama, Biden & Democratic candidates should brag every day in every way on the popular aspects of the ACA, & they should append their boasts with, "And Republicans want to take that away from you. They want to deprive you of health insurance, put your family at risk, blah-blah." How hard is that? P.S. It's not an "individual mandate"; it's a "freeloaders fee," courtesy of Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) who appears on "Up with Chris Hayes" on MSNBC today.

The Broccoli Head Speaks. Prof. Randy Barnett, the righty-right libertarian who invented the legal thesis that Congress cannot regulate "inactivity" & who argued one of the anti-ACA cases before the Supremes, writes a Washington Post op-ed boasting that he won & telling you why you should vote for Willard (basically, because the Mittster will repeal the New Deal). Barnett, in my opinion, is a selfish piece of dung, & I disagree with most of what he writes, but I find it helpful to know the rationales of rational-sounding righties. And Barnett reinforced what I wrote about Brooks' column -- that the right is trying to expand the meaning of Roberts' ruling by interpreting his interpretation of the Constitution to bend their way. Also, if you tend to think lefties are exaggerating when they claim the right wants to repeal the New Deal & bring us all the way back to the gilded age, Barnett's op-ed will convince you we flamethrowers got it right. His op-ed is an admission of guilt that would hold up in court.

This Washington Post article by Robert Barnes & Del Quentin Wilbur explores whether or not Chief Justice Roberts changed his opinion late in the game.

There's more to a Supreme Court ruling than just the first page:

The real Frank Rich sees the Court's ruling as a second chance for President Obama and CNN's colossal blooper as the network's Waterloo. ...

... Andy Borowitz reports some other reactions to the ObamaCare decision. ...

... And Donald Trump says Chief Justice John Hussein Roberts' birth certificate is a fake; Sean Hannity finds Trumps revelation "very concerning."

Kyle Cheney of Politico: "The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate as a 'tax' has Republicans [CW: and Rush Limbaugh, whatever his party preference may be] charging that President Barack Obama has hiked taxes on millions of middle-class Americans. But they may run into a problem: Mitt Romney's individual mandate in Massachusetts works exactly the same way. And people are starting to notice.

Hoodwinked! Steve Benen: NPR, NBC, MSNBC & Fox "News" have all featured a guy named Joe Olivo, whom they represent in stories as an independent small business owner who doesn't like the Affordable Care Act. Well, guess what? Independent Joe is a member of the National Federation of Independent Business, the group that brought the suit against the ACA. "The NFIB -- which promotes Olivo's public appearances -- is also 'linked to the ALEC and Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS.' ... The Affordable Care Act is generally a great help to small businesses.... [Olivo is] not just expressing his own perspective; he appears to be representing the interests of a group trying to kill the health care reform law."

Presidential Race

Trip Gabriel & Robert Pear of the New York Times try to figure out Mitt Romney's health care preferences since Romney won't spell them out. What they come up with is pretty pitiful: higher costs for the old & the sick; not much for the poor.

Steve Benen chronicles 21 of Mitt's whoppers this week. And they are that: whoppers. Scripted lies, not slips of the tongue. Widely-debunked claims.

Right Wing World

Justin Sink of The Hill: in a Fox "News" interview, House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa, who led the charge against AG Eric Holder, likens Holder to "the Menendez brothers who killed their parents." With video.

News Ledes

New York Times: E-mails found by an investigative team headed by former FBI director Louis Freeh suggest that Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno may have actively sought to keep university officials from reporting to law enforcement the 2001 rape which Mike McQueary says he witnessed & reported to Paterno. Paterno did not write any of the e-mails which suggest his influence.

News outlets reported late Tuesday that Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) had beat back a primary challenge. Maybe not. Politico reports "... a strange case of missing precincts, questionable ballots and utter confusion over who's to blame for the mess and when the race might be settled.... As of Friday evening, 32 precincts -- six percent of all votes cast -- had yet to be accounted for. And another 2,447 affidavit ballots and 667 absentee votes hadn't been counted yet either. According to the city Board of Elections, Rangel's lead over second-place finisher state Sen. Adriano Espaillat stood at 1,032 votes, with enough outstanding ballots to alter the outcome."

New York Times: "Gov. Chris Christie on Friday curbed an effort by the New Jersey Legislature to improve oversight of the state's system of large, privately run halfway houses. Mr. Christie, a Republican who has close ties to a company that is the dominant operator of halfway houses in the state, used a line-item veto to reduce new disclosure requirements about halfway houses that the Democratic-controlled Legislature inserted in the state budget approved this week." CW: it seems the last governor New Jersey had who wasn't a criminal was Christie Todd Whitman, and that was a long time ago.

Washington Post: "More than 1.5 million homes and businesses across Maryland and Virginia lost power Friday night as one of the most powerful and punishing storms in months swept across the Washington region. Two fatalities were reported in the Springfield area of Fairfax County."

Denver Post: "Standing among the charred remains of the neighborhood hardest hit by the Waldo Canyon fire, a stunned President Barack Obama on Friday told the same firefighters who days earlier had fought to contain the flames and their devastation that the families whose homes they saved -- and the rest of the country -- are in their debt."

Washington Post: "The U.S. ambassador to Kenya, J. Scott Gration, a close adviser and friend of President Obama, announced his resignation Friday, weeks before the scheduled release of a U.S. government audit highly critical of his leadership at the embassy."

Washington Post: "Gov. Robert F. McDonnell on Friday reappointed Helen E. Dragas to a second four-year term on the University of Virginia's governing board, saying that the embattled board leader could help the school move past its recent leadership crisis. Dragas drew fierce criticism this month for orchestrating the ouster of the school's popular president, Teresa Sullivan. On Tuesday, Dragas reversed course and voted as part of a unanimous Board of Visitors to reinstate Sullivan."

New York Times: "President-elect Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood pre-empted the military's choreographed swearing-in ceremony by taking an oath of office a day early on Friday, in a televised speech to tens of thousands of supporters in Tahrir Square. But a promise Mr. Morsi made as part of his speech may provoke Washington: to work for the release of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the Egyptian-born militant Islamist convicted after the 1993 World Trade Center attack of plotting to bomb several New York City landmarks."

AP: "Russia's determination to preserve its last remaining ally in the Middle East collided head-on with U.S. and other Western powers' desire to replace Syrian President Bashar Assad with a democracy at a pivotal U.N.-brokered conference on Saturday. Efforts at bridging the Russia-U.S. divide hold the key to international envoy Kofi Annan's plan for easing power from Assad's grip through a political solution that ends 16 months of violence in a country verging on a full-blown civil war, in one of the world's most unstable regions."

Reuters: "U.N. Security Council called on Friday for global help to equip an African Union force hunting fugitive Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which lacks basic resources such as boots, food, transport and training."


Kings & Queens & Prime Ministers

Every day that I've been a United States Senator, I've been either discussing issues [or] ... in Secret Meetings with Kings and Queens and Prime Ministers.-- Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)

What I Learned in Secret Meetings
With Kings and Queens and Prime Ministers.

By Scott Brown, U.S. Senator

King Juan Carlos of Spain taught me how to kiss the ladies' hands:

CW: I once personally witnessed Juan Carlos kiss Hillary's hand. It was long ago and Juan Carlos was the Sexiest Man Alive.Speaking of hands, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia taught me how to hold hands with men:

Speaking of kisses, King Abdullah taught me how to do that, too:

Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain taught me that little royal wave that looks so appropriate when I wave at voters from my little red truck:

video platform video management video solutions video player

Prime Minister David Cameron taught me how to suck up to Rupert Murdoch:

Prime Minister Tony Blair taught me how to suck up to Rupert Murdoch:

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher taught me how to suck up to Rupert Murdoch:

I really know how to suck up to Rupert Murdoch.


The Commentariat -- June 29, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer today is titled "David Brooks -- Constitutional Scholar." The NYTX front page is here.

Art by DonkeyHotey.

** Neal Katyal, former Acting U.S. Solicitor General under President Obama, in a New York Times op-ed: "Time will tell whether today’s decision foreshadows things to come.... Americans are growing increasingly comfortable, if not always happy, with the idea of nine men and women in Washington handing down rulings that remove decisions from the legislative process or even rewrite legislation altogether. While Chief Justice Roberts wrote an opinion that was apolitical and deserves much praise for its statesmanship, he did so within a legal context that is becoming less and less democratic.... It makes imperative a serious conversation about judicial restraint." CW: Katyal goes into detail -- but clearly explained -- about the implications of the ruling on future legislation. Read the whole piece.

Prof. Laurence Tribe gets into the weeds -- a bit more difficult to comprehend than Katyal, but worth it.

Tom Scocca of Slate: "By ruling that the individual mandate was permissible as a tax, [Chief Justice Roberts] joined the Democratic appointees to uphold the law -- while joining the Republican wing to gut the Commerce Clause (and push back against the necessary-and-proper clause as well).... This is a substantial rollback of Congress' regulatory powers, and the chief justice knows it. It is what Roberts has been pursuing ever since he signed up with the Federalist Society. In 2005, Sen. Barack Obama spoke in opposition to Roberts' nomination, saying he did not trust his political philosophy on tough questions such as "whether the Commerce Clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce." Today, Roberts did what Obama predicted he would do." Thanks to Haley S. for the link. ...

Judge Richard Posner, a Reagan appointee to the Appellate Court, on why the Commerce Clause was sufficient grounds to uphold the ACA. Posner ends, "I am surprised, finally, by the lifelessness of the joint dissenting opinion."

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "I think Chief Justice Roberts ... threw himself on his sword for the court in a way that would have made William Rehnquist proud." ...

... Lithwick reminds us of this prescient April 4, 2012, post by Linda Greenhouse. ...

... In her post today, Greenhouse speculates that Roberts had a late-breaking change of heart & switched his decision from nay to yea. But she also notes that, however & whenever he came to his decision, he is playing a long game.

E. J. Dionne: "The court's mixed verdict could create problems, notably in its weakening of the law&'s Medicaid provisions in the name of states' rights. While the impact of this part of the ruling is not fully clear yet, the court may have effectively denied health-care coverage to a large number of poorer Americans." ...

... Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post: "That ruling, experts say, could leave some of the poorest Americans in a 'no-man's land:' Not covered by the federal entitlement program but not eligible for the subsidized health insurance."

Let me recommend the best medicine in the world: a long journey, at a mild Season, thro' a pleasant Country, in easy stages. -- James Madison, 1794

Health insurance itself is unconstitutional. James Madison, who wrote the damned Constitution, opposed doctoring altogether. But Congress could pass a mandate requiring leisurely sojourns in the Dordogne. -- Constant Weader Originalist

Smashing Broccoli. Charles Pierce: ... and why Sen. Jim DeMint (RTP-S.C.) is "the greatest walking argument there is that the Civil War was a complete waste of blood and treasure."

Paul Krugman: "... the winners from that Supreme Court decision are your friends, your relatives, the people you work with -- and, very likely, you.... The law that the Supreme Court upheld is an act of human decency that is also fiscally responsible.... At one level, the most striking thing about the campaign against reform was its dishonesty.... But what was and is really striking about the anti-reformers is their cruelty.... The cruelty and ruthlessness that made this court decision such a nail-biter aren't going away."

CW: my favorite videographer Jed Lewison of Daily Kos compares & contrasts Obama's & Romney's statements to the press. As Lewison writes, "Once again, it turns out that President Obama's best surrogate in making the case against Mitt Romney ... is Mitt Romney. Obama's campaign team couldn't in a million years have done a better job of making Mitt look small":

Alec MacGillis of The New Republic: "The fight over the Affordable Care Act now shifts fully into the political realm, with Mitt Romney (the law's pioneer!) as its last line of attack. Which means that it will be up to Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates to finally be making the forthright, full-throated defense they have until now shied from."

Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner & Affordable Care Act. (Actually, the photo was taken Wednesday, but it still works for me.) Photo via Steve Benen of the Maddow Blog.Steve Benen: "... it's worth singling out Nancy Pelosi, who fought harder and worked longer to get the nation to this point."

Helen Philpot comments on the ruling, which naturally leads her to remarks like this: "The only interest the Tea Party has in making government smaller is that a smaller government will more easily fit in a woman's vagina." Thanks to reader Bonnie for the link.

AND the Award for the Best Headline of the Day Goes to -- Dana Milbank: "The Umpire Strikes Back."

Right Wing World --
Taxes, Treason & Terrorism

Taxes! General Rushbo Gives the Foot Soldiers Their Marching Orders. Brett LoGiurato of Business Insider: Rush Limbaugh "railed against the Supreme Court on his radio show Thursday, blasting John Roberts and saying that America had 'been betrayed and deceived by the Supreme Court.' He said it was the 'largest tax increase in the history of the world. What has been upheld here is fraud, and the Internal Revenue Service has just become Barack Obama's domestic army.... That is what we face now. We were deceived. Obamacare was a lie. It was a stealth tax on all Americans, and nobody knew it until today. Not officially. Obama told George Stephanopoulos it wasn't a tax.'" With audio. CW: this is the same language I heard coming from all over Right Wing World yesterday, including from Members of Congress. The militaristic language is as absurd as it is scary. What is entirely deceptive about the claim of course is that for ordinary citizens it makes absolutely no difference what you call the penalty for not carrying health insurance. This is not, as Rushbo & the troops are pretending, a "new tax"; rather, it's a different name for a fine that was already in place. It is true that -- as Tom Scocca outlines above -- Roberts' ruling makes a huge difference because the effect is to limit Congress's ability to regulate interstate commerce. But in the instant law, that makes no difference to Joe Schmo. If he can afford to buy health insurance & doesn't, he's going to pay a fine/tax/penalty/premium/offset/whatchamacallit.

Treason! Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller: "Conservative leader and chairman of ForAmerica, Brent Bozell had harsh words for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. 'His reputation is forever stained in the eyes of conservatives, and there will be no rehabilitating of it,' Bozell said. 'He will be seen as a traitor to his philosophy. If the swing vote had been Kennedy, conservatives would have been disappointed, but not surprised.... But the fact that it was Roberts, I think, was shocking.... People are already talking about the idea that he could be replaced as Chief Justice.'"

Terrorism! Jake Sherman of Politico: "In a closed door House GOP meeting Thursday, Indiana congressman and gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence likened the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the Democratic health care law to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.... He immediately apologized."

Presidential Race

Tim Egan: Mitt Romney is still a weasel. CW: I think Egan is wrong when he writes that Romney would not "deny care to those with pre-existing conditions"; Romney has said more than once that people who don't have health insurance & can't get it are out of luck. But I might be wrong: maybe Romney has changed his position; it's been known to happen occasionally.

New York Times Editors: "Because the Supreme Court did not repeal the law, Mr. Romney vowed to do so himself on his first day as president, a vow that will be impossible to fulfill, not just on his first day, but ever if he cannot round up 60 votes in the Senate. Otherwise the heath care law will stay on the books, and ... he will have taken an oath to uphold it.... Much of what he said was flatly wrong. The law does not add 'trillions to our deficits and to our national debt.' It lowers the deficit...." ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times lays into a few more Romney lies. ...

... Jamelle Bouie in the Washington Post: "The fact that Romney has decided to fabricate knocks against the Affordable Care Act is a sure sign that this ruling was bad for his campaign."

Other Stuff That Matters ...

Eric Holder Is Black. Charles Pierce: "Out in front of the capitol, assistant Democratic leader Jim Clyburn had just finished saying, "This is not about oversight. This is about overkill.... This is Dan Burton, who was going after Ron Brown because of stuff he made up. Now it's Chairman Issa, going after Attorney General Holder over stuff he made up.' You will note that Clyburn didn't cite Bill Clinton, Burton's major target back in the day, but the late Ron Brown, another African-American cabinet member. Clyburn's meaning could not have been clearer. Then, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who is so good with the whip that 17 members spit in the administration's eye..., took the microphone, and the first thing he said was, 'This is not about race.'" CW: And the guy Eric Holder works for is black. And Eric Holder is fighting GOP efforts to disenfranchise black voters. No, this just could not be about race, could it, Steny? ...

... Dave Weigel of Slate on why Republicans can't celebrate their contempt citation of AG Eric Holder -- because, the citation wasn't about politics, see; it was about getting to the truth for the Terry family -- relatives of Brian Terry, the border patrol agent killed with a U.S.-purchased gun by members of a Mexican drug cartel. CW: I don't know why nobody says this: Terry was killed with an American gun because Republicans have made gun laws -- especially in Texas -- so lax that U.S. law enforcement could not prosecute the purchasers even though they knew what the gunrunners were up to. The GOP is blaming Eric Holder for laws they & their colleagues in state legislatures put in place. This is a classic case of passing the buck.

... And Stuff That Doesn't

Every day that I've been a United States Senator, I've been either discussing issues [or] ... in Secret Meetings with Kings and Queens and Prime Ministers.-- Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)

CW: I keep forgetting to run this. M. J. Lee of Politico, June 21: "Sen. Scott Brown raised eyebrows by saying in a radio interview Thursday that he has 'secret meetings with kings and queens' and other leaders every day." ...

... Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe: "Remember Scott Brown’s gaffe ... about meeting with kings and queens? His staff was quick to say the comment was a flub, acknowledging that the senator has not actually met with royalty. But the Massachusetts Democratic Party today released a video showing four prior examples when Brown used the same phrasing about meeting with 'kings and queens' while speaking to audiences as part of his reelection bid." CW: the video is truly hilarious:

News Ledes

The Hill: "Congress on Friday approved legislation that will extend federal highway programs through 2014, a low interest rate on student loans for one year, and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years. Leaders in the House and Senate negotiated the giant package, leaving no doubt that it would have enough support to pass. The bill will likely be the last major piece of legislation approved by Congress until after the November elections."

Swift Justice. Washington Post: "The Justice Department declared Friday that Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to withhold information about a bungled gun-tracking operation from Congress does not constitute a crime and he won't be prosecuted for contempt of Congress." The House voted Thursday afternoon to hold Holder in contempt. The DOJ wrote to Speaker Boehner announcing its decision in a letter dated Thursday but not released till today.

AP: "U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts joked that he'll spend some time on an 'impregnable island fortress' now that the court has ended a session that featured him casting the decisive vote to uphold President Barack Obama's health care law."

Denver Post: "The roaring Waldo Canyon fire that exploded into west-side neighborhoods of Colorado Springs destroyed 346 homes -- making it the most destructive wildfire in state history. It also has claimed at least one life. Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey announced late Thursday that human remains had been found in a burned home in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood." Includes map, links to related stories.

Guardian: "European leaders have pulled back from the brink of disastrous failure in their attempts to rescue the euro, throwing a lifeline to the weakest links in the eurozone by agreeing to shore up struggling banks directly, remove disadvantages for private creditors and move quickly towards a new supervisory regime for banks.... Italy and Spain stunned Germany by blocking progress until they obtained softer bailout rules in 14 hours of bad-tempered talks." New York Times story here.

New York Times: "As global powers prepared for an 11th hour effort to revive the stalled peace effort in Syria, Kofi Annan, the special envoy and mediator who called the meeting, said on Friday he was optimistic that that talks in Geneva would yield an acceptable result despite Russian calls for changes in his settlement ideas." ...

... BUT. AP: "Government troops rained tank and artillery shells down on a rebellious suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus Friday, killing at least 43 people over two days, opposition groups and activists said."

Washington Post: "The Air Force is investigating a growing sexual-misconduct scandal in its basic-training operations, with a dozen male boot-camp instructors under suspicion of assaulting, harassing or having sex with female recruits. The case originated with a single complaint filed a year ago by a woman at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. It has snowballed into potentially the worst sex scandal in the U.S. military since 1996."

Washington Post: "United Technologies, a major defense contractor, and two of its subsidiaries on Thursday acknowledged covering up the illicit sale of sensitive military software to China -- technology that the country later used to develop its first attack helicopter. Federal prosecutors announced criminal charges against the firms and a fine of more than $75 million for what they called a violation of U.S. export laws. Justice officials said the software sold to China posed a risk to American troops overseas and U.S. allies." CW: and you know the Pentagon will keep letting contracts to UT. So, big punishment.

New York Times: "Rupert Murdoch played offense on Thursday, embarking on a rare publicity campaign to extol the economic prospects of News Corporation's newspapers after announcing earlier that they would be spun off into a separate company." Guardian story here.

New York Times: "An anonymous survey of nearly 2,000 retired officers found that the manipulation of crime reports -- downgrading crimes to lesser offenses and discouraging victims from filing complaints to make crime statistics look better -- has long been part of the culture of the New York Police Department."

AP: "Japan and South Korea put on hold an intelligence sharing pact less than an hour before it was to be formally signed Friday, in a major embarrassment for both countries forced by a political outcry in Seoul."

AP: "China's first female astronaut and two other crew members emerged smiling from a capsule that returned safely to Earth on Friday from a 13-day mission to an orbiting module that is a prototype for a future space station."

ABC News: "A U.S. Army battalion commander was killed by a fellow soldier on Thursday in a shooting incident at Fort Bragg, N.C. The alleged gunman then shot himself and is in custody; a third soldier was slightly injured in the shooting."

AP: "Struggling BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. said Thursday it will delay the launch of new phones deemed critical to the company's survival and revealed its business is crumbling faster than thought. The Canadian company posted results for its latest quarter that were worse than analysts had expected. It's cutting 5,000 jobs and unexpectedly delaying the launch of its new phone operating system, BlackBerry 10, until after the holiday shopping season."