The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

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

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

CW: No idea why the picture is teeny-tiny.

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 

 


The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

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Monday
Feb022015

The Commentariat -- February 3, 2015

** Brooks Boliek, et al., of Politico: "On Thursday, [FCC Chair Tom] Wheeler[, a former cable company lobbyist,] is expected to present to the commission a set of rules that would treat broadband providers like utilities, effectively denying them the right to charge companies a premium for faster access to consumers and holding them accountable for any attempt to secretly impede the flow of data. When the commission finally approves them -- a vote is scheduled for late February -- it will mark the most significant rewrite of the rules of the road for the Internet in more than a dozen years and affect the competitive playing field for generations to come.... The origins of his dramatic pivot on this issue: an intense and relatively brief grass-roots lobbying campaign that targeted two people -- him and President Barack Obama." ...

... Thank you, John Oliver:

... And another big thanks to this Big Guy (Nov. 10, 2014):

David Sanger of the New York Times: "A year after President Obama ordered modest changes in how the nation's intelligence agencies collect and hold data on Americans and foreigners, the administration will announce new rules requiring intelligence analysts to delete private information they may incidentally collect about Americans that has no intelligence purpose, and to delete similar information about foreigners within five years."

Bill Curry in Salon: "Democrats are supposed to be the party of change but life in the bubble taught them to resist change.... As it is now organized and led, the Democratic Party is a corrupt and empty husk of an institution. But for all its patent defects I believe it offers the most direct path to progressive governance." Curry thinks progressives are too divided & must have a "conversation" that brings us all together in the way the Tea party movement brought the confederates together.

Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "The fight over immigration policy shifts to the Senate on Tuesday, with Democrats confident that they can block a homeland security financing bill that would reverse President Obama's directives to ease the threat of deportation against millions of undocumented immigrants. By using a filibuster to prevent a debate on the legislation, which has been passed by the House, Democrats are hoping they can force the new Republican majority to drop the immigration provisions and send the $40 billion spending bill to the president."

Justin Sink of the Hill: "The White House is looking to counter-program a vote by House Republicans to repeal ObamaCare by inviting a group of Americans who have benefitted from the law to meet President Obama. 'Today's meeting comes as Republicans in the House of Representatives vote to repeal the law and take these benefits away from millions of Americans,' a White House official said." ...

... Russell Berman of the Atlantic: "House Republicans will vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act again on Tuesday. It'll be the 56th shot they've taken at the law, and just like every other time they've tried to erase President Obama's signature achievement, this attempt is doomed to fail. Republicans have nowhere near the veto-proof majority they'd need to kill Obamacare.... They're doing it for the freshmen -- that is, the 47 House Republicans who just took office a month ago and have never had the high honor and privilege of voting to repeal Obamacare. By holding the vote, these lawmakers can head back to their districts and tell their constituents that yes, they did everything they could to get rid of the reviled law." ...

... Jennifer Haberkorn & Manu Raju of Politico: "The Supreme Court could be months away from blowing a huge hole in Obamacare -- and Republicans on Capitol Hill are at odds over how they'll respond if their side wins.... Some conservatives say the party should do everything in its power to kill the law if the Supreme Court rules their way. If Republicans in Congress try to preserve a crucial element of the law, conservatives say, it will be an all-out war within the GOP." ...

... Brian Beutler: "In a brief to the Supreme Court, dozens of public health scholars, along with the American Public Health Association, detail the harm the Court would create by ruling for the challengers in King vs. Burwell.... "'Using the national estimate that 8.2 million people can be expected to lose health insurance in the absence of subsidies on the federal marketplace, this ratio equates to over 9,800 additional Americans dying each year.'" CW: Let's see how many Supreme Court justices are willing to kill some 10,000 people a year in service of their political theology. Will it be four? Or five? I'm going to hope the Supremes are all lovely people, & not a one of them -- on the slender thread of one semantic slip-up -- is so craven as to knowingly & purposely jeopardize the lives & health of millions of Americans, in the process killing off thousands of them. I just might be wrong. ...

You're Not the Boss of Me. Josh Marshall of TPM: "... for older Americans, support for mandatory immunizations is overwhelming. And it just got lower and lower and lower the younger you go - with what looks like a steep turning points somewhere in the mid-30s. This is not good news." ...

... Presidential Race

Today in Crazy. Featuring GOP Presidential Contenders.

Calling Dr. Christie. Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie walked back comments he made [outside a vaccine lab in Cambridge, England,] Monday morning calling for 'balance' on the measles vaccine debate to allow for parental choice, asserting that 'there is no question kids should be vaccinated.'... Christie also took the unusual step of criticizing the president on foreign soil, saying Obama had been a poor negotiator, specifically regarding the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership." ...

... Charles Pierce: "This is like running a campaign on Teach The Controversy regarding Creationism, or a campaign based on the fact that 9/11 was an inside job." ...

... Catherine Thompson of TPM: "In an October 2009 interview with Fox Business Network's Don Imus, Christie defended the concerns of parents who believe in the theory that vaccines caused their children to develop autism. That belief stems from a now-debunked study linking vaccines to the disorder. "We need to look at all the different things affecting autism in New Jersey because we have the highest rate in the country, not just the environmental concerns but vaccinations,' Christie said. 'Parents of children with autism need to be heard, they need a seat at the table to be talking about these issues.'" ...

... Benjy Sarlin of NBC News: "Louise Kuo Habakus, an anti-vaccination activist who runs the site FearlessParent.org, provided a letter to MSNBC Monday in which Christie purportedly wrote that he understood their concerns about ties between vaccine mandates and autism -- long discredited by public officials -- and supported their push for parental choice. She shared a photo showing Christie meeting with her and what she said were other anti-vaccination activists with her organization, the NJ Vaccination Choice Coalition, as well as other autism groups at a meeting they organized with the then-candidate in August 2009.... The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog called out then-presidential candidates Barack Obama, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton in 2008 for suggesting the science around the issue was unsettled despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "Conservatives making vaccinating your kids a conspiracy liberal elitists inflict on your kids, like global warming or evolution, is just going to be awesome if you like lots of unnecessary death and suffering."

... Turns out the lab facility Christie visited in England is American-owned. AND, Steve M.: "as The Telegraph reports, Christie is in Cambridge, in part, 'to highlight New Jersey's pharmaceutical industry." (Also linked below.) So he's not just reinforcing superstition, he's insulting the industry he's there to promote. What an embarrassment."

... Also see digby on press secretary Josh Earnest's "milquetoast" response to a question about measles vaccines, way last week. "I'd guess they are afraid of people saying the state is intruding into the affairs of the family. But they do this all the time. The state forces people to use those car seats, after all. What's so different about this? And in this case, it's really not a matter of individual choice, is it? By failing to vaccinate, parents aren't just endangering their own kids they're endangering other people's kids. Even libertarians should have to take a big breath before they claim that's ok ... This is a very strange debate. These aren't obscure new protocols. They've been around forever and we literally have hundreds of millions of people walking around who lived to tell the tale." ...

... Steve M. pushes back against the rap on Obama & Hillary Clinton: "By September 2008...,Obama was angering the anti-vaxx community by telling an vaccine-skeptic blogger that he supported vaccination.... An anti-vaxx blog recently called Clinton 'the mother of the autism epidemic' because, in the first year of her husband's administration, she pushed for a law intended to increase childhood vaccination rates.... Oh, and a major focus of the Clinton Foundation is speeding up the rollout of new vaccines." ...

     ... UPDATE: See Michael Hiltzig's thorough vetting of Obama's statements on vaccinations. He shreds the "Obama-was-against-it-before-he-was-for-it" false storyline that has crept into mainstream media stories, like the one I cited above.

The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. -- Hillary Clinton, in a tweet Monday evening

Calling Dr. Paul (Who Is a Real, Self-Certified Doctor, BTW). Freeeedom! Jonathan Chait: "... the scent of crazy in the air inevitably attracted Rand Paul, who gave a disturbing interview to CNBC. ...

... Carrie Dann of NBC News: "Republican Sen. Rand Paul is standing by his statement that most vaccinations should be 'voluntary,' telling CNBC that a parent's choice not to vaccinate a child is 'an issue of freedom.' In an interview with the network Monday, Paul said that vaccines are 'a good thing' but that parents 'should have some input' into whether or not their children must get them. And he gave credence to the idea - disputed by the majority of the scientific community - that vaccination can lead to mental disabilities. 'I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,' he said." (Emphasis added.) CW: That kind of makes Li'l Randy the Michele Bachmann of 2016. ...

... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "For more than two decades, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was a member of a group, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, that advocated a link between vaccinations and autism, among other conspiracy theories. The AAPS, as Kentucky's Courier-Journal noted in a 2010 article on Paul's association with it, opposes mandatory vaccinations and promoted discredited studies, which linked the vaccine-component thimerosal to autism in children.... An adviser for the senator told BuzzFeed News that he does not know if Paul is still a member, but that the senator does not support all the group's views." ...

... Apparently Rand Paul has decided to go the Christie Bully route. Besides interrupting interviewer Kelly Evans several times, twice at the end of the interview he lectured her for being "slanted," "argumentative" & asking questions based on "distortions." In fact, Evans was only repeating information that was common knowledge &/or had been previously reported. ...

... ** Charles Pierce: "... I will decline to refer to what Paul did there as 'mansplaining,' and instead, fall back on the old standby, 'Jesus, what an dickhead.'"

Philip Rucker & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Medical experts reacted with alarm Monday as two top contenders for the Republican presidential nomination appeared to question whether child vaccinations should be mandatory -- injecting politics into an emotional issue that has taken on new resonance with a recent outbreak of measles in the United States.... Seth Mnookin, a professor at MIT who has written a book on the vaccination debate called 'The Panic Virus,' called the comments from Christie and Paul 'incredibly, incredibly irresponsible.' Such remarks, he said, 'basically fail at the first duty of a politician, which is to calm his constituents in moments of irrational crisis.'"

McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed: Christie "isn't the only prospective Republican presidential candidate making that argument. Carly Fiorina made similar remarks in an interview with BuzzFeed News a week ago. Asked whether a recent measles outbreak that has spread across 14 states signals further proof that children need to be vaccinated, Fiorina said, 'I think parents have to make choices for their family and their children.'... She went on, 'I think vaccinating for measles makes a lot of sense. But that's me. I do think parents have to make those choices. I mean, I got measles as a kid. We used to all get measles .. I got chicken pox, I got measles, I got mumps.'"

When Ben Carson Is the Sane Guy in the Room. Steven Yaccino of Bloomberg Business: "'Although I strongly believe in individual rights and the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit, I also recognize that public health and public safety are extremely important in our society,' [Ben] Carson, a well-known neurosurgeon and conservative speaker, wrote in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg Politics. 'Certain communicable diseases have been largely eradicated by immunization policies in this country and we should not allow those diseases to return by foregoing safe immunization programs, for philosophical, religious or other reasons when we have the means to eradicate them.'" ...

     ... UPDATE, via the New York Times: "Asked about the measles vaccine controversy on Monday, a spokesman for [former Texas Gov. Rick] Perry affirmed his commitment to 'protecting life' and pointed to efforts by his administration to increase immunization rates.... Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, also a possible 2016 candidate, was asked on Sunday about vaccinations on the ABC News program 'This Week,' and insisted that the science was clear and convincing. 'Study after study has shown that there are no negative long-term consequences,' he said. 'And the more kids who are not vaccinated, the more they're at risk and the more they put their neighbors' kids at risk as well.'" The Times story also cites Mike Huckabee as favoring vaccinations, but that was based on a 2010 post by Huckabee; the increasingly loony Huckabee might have changed his mind since.

David Graham of the Atlantic: "A world in which support or opposition to vaccination could become a partisan litmus test would be a dangerous one. It's not that hard to imagine -- just look at climate change, once a relatively uncontroversial issue that has shifted to the point that Republican officeholders widely reject it."

Many states (including California) make it relatively easy to refuse vaccination for 'philosophic' reasons. This does not, I suspect, mean that people are reading Immanuel Kant or John Stuart Mill; it means they are consuming dodgy sources on the Internet. -- Conservative WashPo columnist Michael Gerson

His Highness, King Christopher I. Kate Zernicke & Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: Chris Christie "shot to national prominence as a cheese-steak-on-the-boardwalk Everyman who bluntly preached transparency and austerity.... But throughout his career in public service, Mr. Christie has indulged a taste that runs more toward Champagne at the Four Seasons. He has also quietly let others pay the bills. That tendency ... has put him in ethically questionable situations, taking benefits from those who stand to benefit from him.... He made it clear when he campaigned for Mr. Romney in 2012 that he would do out-of-state events only if he was given a private plane, even during the primary, when the candidate's wife was still flying commercial to save money.... A Justice Department report after he left office found that he was the [federal] prosecutor who most often exceeded the charges allowed for hotel stays in different cities...." ...

... CW: It's true that Americans want their president to behave like royalty (unless he's black), but I doubt most Americans want a president who is as self-indulgent as a two-year-old: Christie eats too much, spends too much, vents too much, boasts too much. He's just too much.

Rachel Cohen of the American Prospect: "... compared to 'Bridgegate'..., Christie's [October 2010] veto of the new rail tunnel [under the Hudson River] is a far more serious scandal. For the sake of short-term political gain, Christie sacrificed the long-term interests of his state and the nation. The story of the blocked tunnel is also evidence of a wider problem: Republican leaders' refusal to deal with failing infrastructure for fear of raising taxes and antagonizing anti-tax groups on the right."

Dude! Don't worry about Rand Paul's wackadoodle views about freeeedom from vaccines, people. The real problem Paul has is the outfit he wore to the Koch brothers shebang. Also, he slouches. Ken Vogel & Tarini Parti of Politico: "Some attendees commented that Paul's appearance was 'cavalier'.... 'Jeans might work for a younger audience,' said another attendee, 'but these are old bulls who put on a tie every day to go to the office.'" CW: I like Paul's sartorial choice, though the jacket is a bit too dressy & the jeans look like they've seen the hot side of an iron.

Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast on GOP presidential candidates: "... despite all this spin from conservatives* about what a strong field this is, as usual the opposite is the truth. It's an astonishingly weak field, unified not only in their opposition to Barack Obama and the federal government but also in their hostility to actual ideas that might stand a chance of addressing the country's actual problems.... I finally sat myself down and watched that Scott Walker speech from last week that everyone is raving about.... It was little more than a series of red-meat appetizers and entrees: Wisconsin defunded Planned Parenthood, said no to Obamacare, passed some kind of law against 'frivolous' lawsuits, and moved to crack down on voter 'fraud' -- all of that besides, of course, his big move, busting the public-employee unions. There wasn't a single concrete idea about addressing any of the major problems the country faces.... Walker is even more vacuous on foreign policy, as Martha Raddatz revealed yesterday, twisting him around like a pretzel with a couple of mildly tough questions on Syria." ...

     ... * CW: And from the press! ...

... John Amato of Crooks & Liars: in the Raddatz Q&A, Walker "reminded me of a certain Alaskan governor who saw Putin's house from her home and didn't know what magazines she reads." ...

... BUT Kevin Drum of Mother Jones thinks Scottie is a quick study: "Walker still has a ways to go before he's ready for prime time. But I'll bet he gets there. He'll learn from his mistakes, and he's just about the only Republican candidate who has potential appeal to both tea partiers and mainstream voters. Six months from now minor early stumbles like this will be ancient history, and he'll have his campaign schtick much more finely honed. He remains a serious contender." ...

... PLUS, this just in from Steve M.: It looks as if Walker is Drudge's favorite, something that will matter in the primaries. Steve adds that it doesn't hurt that Scottie plays hardball & cites a few examples of what a dirty rotten scoundrel he is. ...

... AND Paul Waldman: "If you asked the same questions of Republicans who are supposedly more knowledgeable and experienced on foreign affairs, they'd give you the same empty, vague answers. Syria is a situation with no good options for the United States, but conservative dogma says that any international challenge can be solved if we show sufficient strength, toughness, and resolve.... So yes, chances are that Scott Walker's ideas about foreign policy are ill-informed and overly simplistic.... But that isn't because he's a governor, it's because he's a Republican politician." ...

... CW: In fact, that's exactly what Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) did Sunday, calling for 10,000 American troops to fight ISIS (also linked here yesterday). Graham fancies himself not just presidential timbre but a foreign policy expert. He has made numerous trips to the Middle East, including one where he & fellow Amigos John McCain & Joe Lieberman embraced Gaddafi.

Joshua Spivak, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, explains why the GOP has so many presidential contenders this year.

CW: I was intending to save this for the weekend, but Amy Davidson's New Yorker post on Republicans' papal problems is getting a good deal of attention, so here it is.

One Super Bowl Story. Ian Crouch of the New Yorker asks, "Did we just watch Julian Edelman play through a concussion?" Crouch lays out the symptoms of a concussion that Patriots wide receiver Edelman exhibited after being knocked down in "what appeared to be an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit" during the fourth quarter of Sunday's totally inconsequential game (and I mean that). Despite showing symptoms when he was hit, as well as during subsequent plays, Edelman finished the game. "After the game, when he was asked about the hit, Edelman said, 'We’re not allowed to talk about injuries.'" CW: That's right: cover-up is the rule. ...

... ESPN: "New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman was tested for a concussion and cleared to finish Super Bowl XLIX after taking a big hit in the fourth quarter, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person said Monday that Edelman, who caught the winning 3-yard touchdown pass, was checked on the New England sideline by medical staff and an independent neurologist.... On Monday, coach Bill Belichick was asked whether Edelman was checked for a concussion but largely sidestepped the question.

I'm a coach and I had a deal with our trainers and doctors. They're the medical experts and they don't call plays, and I'm the coach and I don't get involved in the medical part. When they clear players to play, then if we want to play them, we play them. The plays we call, I don't have to get approval from them. It's a good setup. -- Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, responding to a question about whether or not Julian Edelman suffered a concussion during the Super Bowl

Apparently coaches are "not allowed to talk about injuries," either. Cover-up is the rule. And you wonder why I'm not a sports fan. -- Constant Weader

Beyond the Beltway

Joe Fletcher of Addicting Information: "The Detroit Free Press recently ran an article [linked yesterday on the Commentariat] that told the story of James Robertson, a man who walks 21 miles a day to work, five days a week. The story went viral and the internet responded brilliantly. A GoFundMe fundraiser was created to try to raise enough money to buy a car for Robertson. In only seven hours, the crowdfund has not only reached the initial goal of raising $25,000, but has blown past it bringing in over $29,000 at the time this article was written. The crowdfund was started by Evan Leedy. Leedy is trying to get in contact with car dealerships, Ford, Chrysler, or GM to try to get a car." CW: If you contributed to the fund for Mr. Robertson, thank you very much. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... Sarah Larimer of the Washington Post has more. Contributions to the fund were up to $67,000 at the time of publication. ...

... Also from Bill Laitner of the Detroit Free Press, who wrote the original story about Robertson's arduous commute to work.

News Ledes

New York Daily News: "At least seven people were killed and at least 12 others were seriously injured when a Metro-North train hit a Jeep on the tracks in Westchester Tuesday and burst into a wild inferno, authorities said. The dead included the driver of the car and at least five train passengers, a police source said."

New York Times: "Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor whose mysterious death has gripped Argentina, had drafted a request for the arrest of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, accusing her of trying to shield Iranian officials from responsibility in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center here, the lead investigator into his death said Tuesday. The 26-page document, which was found in the garbage at Mr. Nisman's apartment, also sought the arrest of Héctor Timerman, Argentina's foreign minister. Both Mrs. Kirchner and Mr. Timerman have repeatedly denied Mr. Nisman's accusation that they tried to reach a secret deal with Iran to lift international arrest warrants for Iranian officials wanted in connection with the bombing."

New York Times: "In a new show of brutality for a group already known for displays of violence, the Islamic State released a video on Tuesday purporting to show the execution of a captive Jordanian pilot by burning him alive. The lengthy footage shows clips of Jordan's involvement in the United States-led airstrikes against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. At the end, the pilot, First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh, stands inside of a cage and is set on fire by an unidentified militant who uses a torch to ignite flammable liquid that has drenched the pilot's clothing." ...

... Washington Post: "The Islamic State's release on Tuesday of a video showing its fighters burning alive a captured Jordanian pilot sparked street protests calling for vengeance and threatened to draw this country's usually low-key monarch toward ever more direct confrontation with radical Islam. The Jordanian military, a close ally in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, vowed 'punishment and revenge' for the killing, which it said had probably been carried out in early January. The Associated Press reported late Tuesday that a Jordanian government spokesman confirmed that two prisoners had been executed." ...

... New York: "Just hours after ISIS released a video showing the execution-by-fire of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh, his government has pledged to avenge his death by expediting the execution of Sajida al-Rishawi, the woman militants tried to trade for Japanese journalist Kenji Goto." ...

... Reuters Update: "Jordan executed by hanging on Wednesday a jailed Iraqi woman militant hours after Islamic State fighters released a video appearing to show a captured Jordanian pilot being burnt alive in a cage, a security source and state television said. The militants had demanded the release of the woman, Sajida al-Rishawi, in exchange for a Japanese hostage who was later killed.... Ziyad Karboli, an Iraqi al Qaeda operative, who was convicted in 2008 for killing a Jordanian, was also executed at dawn, said the security source...."

Let This Be the Last We Hear of This Guy. AP: "Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong hit two parked cars with an SUV after a night of partying in Aspen, Colorado, but agreed to let his longtime girlfriend take the blame to avoid national attention, police reports show."

Sunday
Feb012015

The Commentariat -- February 2, 2015

President Obama discusses his proposed budget. Gee, he sounds like Krugman!:

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "President Obama will propose a 10-year budget on Monday that stabilizes the federal deficit but does not seek balance, instead focusing on policies to address income inequality as he adds nearly $6 trillion to the debt.The budget — $4 trillion in fiscal 2016 — would hit corporations that park profits overseas, raise taxes on the richest of the rich and increase the incomes of the middle class through new spending and tax credits. Mr. Obama will challenge the Republican Congress to answer his emphasis on wage stagnation...." ...

... Steven Mufson & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The massive document is a blueprint for what Obama has been calling 'middle-class economics,' but congressional Republicans are likely to view it merely as the president’s opening bid in a contentious process designed to forge a tax and spending plan for the new fiscal year." ...

... Juliet Eilperin & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "President Obama's budget request set for release Monday includes plans for a six-year, $478 billion public works program that would be paid for with a one-time 14 percent tax on overseas corporate profits." ...

... Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "The battle over the budget that President Obama will submit Monday is emerging as a proxy for the 2016 presidential election debate on national security, an area that for now appears to be Obama’s and Democrats’ greatest vulnerability. The president will ask Congress to break through its own spending caps — commonly referred to as “sequestration” — and allocate about $561 billion for Pentagon expenditures, about $38 billion more than is currently allowed under the law." ...

... Paul Krugman slams Bowles, Simpson & their coterie of "craven & irresponsible" ninnies. "So it’s important to understand who’s really irresponsible here. In today’s economic and political environment, long-termism is a cop-out, a dodge, a way to avoid sticking your neck out. And it’s refreshing to see signs that Mr. Obama is willing to break with the long-termers and focus on the here and now." ...

... CW: Remember that it was Obama himself who appointed Bowles & Simpson to head up the Catfood Commission. Around that time or shortly thereafter, I (among others) begged Krugman to sit Obama down & explain some sense into him. Krugman said he had tried. I know Krugman & other reporters meet with Obama off-the-record fairly often. It would appear Obama is finally listening. It took long enough. I should add, I guess, that I still think the Summers School of Economics is the White House's guiding hand. So maybe Krugman has convinced Summers. ...

... Matt Yglesias of Vox: "... It would be an overstatement to call it a liberal dream budget — left-wing Democrats could dream up plenty more — [but] for the first time it's really Obama's dream budget. This is the end of the 'grand bargain' era, and instead an opportunity for Obama to lay out his priorities for the long term — from transportation infrastructure to transforming child care. Rather than position himself in advance of a potential compromise, he wants to outline his vision for a future that will extend well beyond the life of his administration." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "... it is possible that nothing in [Paul] Ryan’s long and distinguished career in the field of shamelessness has ever exceeded his comments in yesterday’s New York Times on the Obama budget. Ryan’s complaint is that Obama’s economic policies have exacerbated the gap between the rich and the poor.... Notably, Ryan opposed every single one of these changes [which would have reduced inequality]: the higher taxes for the rich, and the lower taxes and more generous transfers to middle- and working-class Americans. In addition to opposing all of Obama’s inequality-reducing policies, Ryan advocated, along with Mitt Romney, a tax reform plan that would have necessarily increased taxes for the non-rich in order to finance tax cuts for the rich...." ...

     ... CW: Democrats need to learn to say this, & they need to learn to say it forcefully. So far, effectively countering Republican lies is a skill few Democrats have learned. ...

... Conservative Reihan Salam, in Slate, nails the upper middle class. CW: See also John Judis's post, linked under Presidential Race. The upper middle class very much influences Judis's middle-class voters, voters who can reasonably aspire to moving on up to the next rung & who watch the teevee where upper-middle-class pundits like David Brooks explain why Republicans are awfully reasonable.

Justin Sink of the Hill: "President Obama defended his campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in an interview airing Monday, saying the U.S. was 'doing exactly what we should be doing' to fight the terror network. Obama said critics of his strategy would have the U.S. redeploy tens of thousands of U.S. troops, but that ultimately such an effort would prove ineffective without local support." ...

... Oh, here's a critic now. Kristina Wong of the Hill: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, said on Sunday it would require 10,000 American 'boots on the ground' to stop the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria. Coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria won't destroy the group, but do help in some regard, Graham said on CBS's 'Face the Nation.'"

Marin Kogan of New York: Ron "Klain is leaving the temporary gig [as Ebola response "czar"] less than four months [after taking it on] to pretty good reviews. The pundits, to the extent to which they’ve commented on it at all, have generally copped to being too alarmist about the threat to the United States, and that the government response was better than they’d initially feared it would be. Republicans, meanwhile, haven’t turned him into a partisan punching bag, which is as good as a compliment by today’s standards of Congressional-executive branch interaction."

Michael Gordon & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "... after a series of striking reversals that Ukraine’s forces have suffered in recent weeks, the Obama administration is taking a fresh look at the question of military aid."

Annals of "Justice," Ctd. Maura Dolan of the Los Angeles Times: Federal judges have accused California of turning a blind eye to an "epidemic" of prosecutorial misconduct. "A 2010 report by the Northern California Innocence Project cited 707 cases in which state courts found prosecutorial misconduct over 11 years. Only six of the prosecutors were disciplined, and the courts upheld 80% of the convictions in spite of the improprieties, the study found.... [A] January hearing in Pasadena, posted online under new 9th Circuit policies, provided a rare and critical examination of a murder case in which prosecutors presented false evidence but were never investigated or disciplined.... 'I understand why they do that,' [9th Circuit Judge Kim] Wardlaw said. 'They are elected judges. They are not going to be reversing these things.'"

This Is Slightly Heartening. Timothy Jost in Balkanization: "The thirty [amicus] briefs [favoring the government in King v. Burwell] were filed by an extraordinary assemblage of states and state legislators, members of Congress, leading legal scholars, academics from a variety of other disciplines offering a wide range of perspectives, insurers, providers, and patients and their advocates.  By contrast the twenty-one amicus briefs filed last month by the challengers are far more limited in scope.  The challengers submitted briefs signed by a few Republican Congressmen, seven states, and a handful of conservative and libertarian legal scholars.  The rest of their amici were right-wing advocacy groups." Via Greg Sargent.

When he called Code Pink protesters "low-life scum" during a Senate committee hearing last week, Sen. John McCain was protecting Henry Kissinger. McCain says he isn't sorry. Just thought you'd like to know.

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. CW: I missed Steve M.'s excellent takedown of Mark Halperin, but it's not too late to read it & laugh. Nice addition by Steve's commenter Rick Massimo, too. ...

... Driftglass has a report on the lovely Andrew Sullivan/Tyler Cowan romance.

Presidential Race

John Judis of the National Journal: Middle-class Americans are trending Republican. "If Republicans are smart, they will nominate for president someone in the mold of George W. Bush in 2000 or the numerous GOP Senate candidates who won last year — a politician who runs from the center-right, soft-pedals social issues, including immigration, critiques government without calling for abolishing the income tax and Social Security, and displays a good ol' boy empathy for the less well-to-do. Such a candidate would cater to the Republican advantage among the middle class without alienating the white working class."

"How Yet Resolves the Governor of the Town?" Philip Rucker & Ann Gearan of the Washington Post: "Republican presidential hopefuls are busy auditioning on the world stage ahead of the 2016 campaign, trying to bolster their résumés and develop expertise as their party seizes on foreign affairs as a key theme in its effort to reclaim the White House." ...

     ... CW: Sorry, but I find it downright comical that Chris Christie's idea of expanding his international policy creds includes going to a soccer match in London & watching "Henry V" at the Globe Theatre. I guess the fact that the theatre is named the "Globe" & that soccer teams play in the "World" Cup gave him the idea that a stop in London would pretty much cover everything he needed to know. ...

... Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: Londoners have no idea who Chris Christie is. Eventually, Barbaro found one guy who volunteered that he recognized Senator Christie. ...

... Steve M. is not seeing President Christie. CW: If Steve's analysis of Christie's Iowa polling is any indication, Senator Crisco had better skip the Iowa caucuses. Steve: "... he has the highest negative rating in the potential field, because the only person whose negatives are higher is a loudmouthed fraud who's never going to run, Donald Trump (68%)." And you thought Iowa Republicans might be stupid. Obviously, not entirely. ...

... Let Them Catch Measles. Philip Rucker: "The morning after President Obama urged all parents to get their kids vaccinated against measles, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie broke with the president and said the government must 'balance' public health interests with parental choice.... Christie’s comments came after a laboratory tour at MedImmune, a biologics company that makes vaccines in Cambridge[, England]." ...

     ... CW: That's funny. Christie sure didn't want to "balance" personal choice when he quarantined Ebola nurse Kaci Hickox against her will & after she tested negative for the virus. The only consistency in Republican policies is public pandering. You might think that standing outside a vaccine-making lab to pander to anti-vaccine parents after touring a vaccine-making plant is kind of (a) rude & (b) anti-business. But, as cited in the Barbaro piece, Christie notes that he isn't running for anything in England. I suspect there will be no Sir Christopher.

Jeb Bush looks like he’s running for president. So now we know what the Bush family means by ‘no child left behind.’ -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) at the annual Alfalfa Club dinner Saturday

Michael Kruse of Politico in Politico Magazine: “Sitting recently on his brick back patio [in Clearwater, Florida,], Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.... Michael Schiavo was the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman from the Tampa Bay area who ended up at the center of one of the most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars. The fight over her death lasted almost a decade.... 'Trying to write laws that clearly are outside the constitutionality of his state, trying to override the entire judicial system, that’s very, very dangerous,' said Arthur Caplan, a New York University bioethicist who edited a book about the Schiavo case. 'When you’re willing to do that, you’re willing to break the back of the country.'” ...  

    ... CW: Although the story is balanced with comments from supporters of Jeb in this matter, it is, in toto, quite negative in its conclusion. This is a bit of a surprise, coming from a Politico writer. Thanks to contributor Bonnie for the lead. P.S. Welcome to frontrunner status, Jebbie.

David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post writes a straight report on the "self-certified" history of Rand Paul's opthamology career. Rand Paul declined to be interviewed. ...

     ... CW: Among the items which caught my eye, & which Fahrenthold never directly mentions, is the letter from Paul reproduced at the top of the story. In it, Mr. Libertarian seems to suggest that opthamologists should collude to up the price of cataract surgery. I'm not exactly up on my antitrust law, but last time I looked, such convenient arrangements were illegal under federal law. Looks as if young Dr. Paul was not all that into the free market. P.S. Welcome to first-runner-up in Iowa status, Randy. ...

          ... (BTW, in the story a former professor of Paul's says he remembers Paul as  "'Randy,' a "very nondescript ... very quiet" guy. We had it right all along, L'il Randy.)

Eric Bradner of CNN: "Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee ... called homosexuality part of a lifestyle, like drinking and swearing." ...

... Hudson Hongo of Gawker: "Predictably, Huckabee's comments were poorly received, with most media outlets using some variation on CNN's 'Huckabee Compares Being Gay to Drinking, Swearing.' Of course, Huckabee's dumb point about the gay 'lifestyle' was slightly different from — while no less insulting than — what that headline suggests, but it was understandably tough to parse all the stuff about drunk opera fans and Muslim dogs."

Beyond the Beltway

Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story: "Police in Davis, California are investigating an act of vandalism after fraternity members attending UC Davis woke up Saturday morning to discover Nazi swastikas spray painted on their frat house, CBS 13 is reporting."

Caroline Bankoff of New York: "In case you somehow forgot, [New York City] Mayor [Bill] de Blasio dropped the Staten Island Zoo's groundhog on Groundhog Day last year, and then the groundhog died. (Was it murder? Was there a cover-up? These questions remain hotly contested.) The zoo has since decided to bar mayors from holding groundhogs during the annual weather forecasting ritual.... In an article recalling last year's grisly episode, The Wall Street Journal revealed that the USDA recently determined that 'the ze federal Animal Welfare Act in 2014. The agency cited the use of an "untrained person" to handle the groundhog.'"

How to get to work in Detroit: Walk 21 miles a day. As Digby notes, James Robertson, who makes the daily commute, is just one of those 47 percent loo violated thazy moochers. CW: I had to walk five miles last week, partly in the dark, & I thought it was horrible. Also, it took me more than two hours.

Today in Responsible Gun Ownership. Daniel Politi of Slate: "In the latest episode of babies and handguns, a three-year-old in Albuquerque shot his mom and dad on Saturday afternoon. The boy apparently managed to get a handgun out of his mother’s purse and pull the trigger while Justin Reynolds and his pregnant girlfriend Monique Villescas were getting ready to order a pizza. The boy pulled the trigger and fired a bullet that hit his father’s buttock, exited through his hip and then struck the boy’s pregnant mother in the right shoulder, reports NBC’s local affiliate KOB. Both parents are recovering.... Reynolds says he’s just glad the bullet did not hit Villescas’ two-year-old daughter who was sitting next to her mother when the shot was fired." CW: Yeah, me too.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Martin Fackler of the New York Times: "When Islamic State militants posted a video over the weekend showing the grisly killing of a Japanese journalist, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacted with outrage, promising 'to make the terrorists pay the price.' Such vows of retribution may be common in the West when leaders face extremist violence, but they have been unheard of in confrontation-averse Japan — until now. The prime minister’s call for revenge after the killings of the journalist, Kenji Goto, and another hostage, Haruna Yukawa, raised eyebrows even in the military establishment, adding to a growing awareness here that the crisis could be a watershed for this long pacifist country."

Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post: "On Monday, [Dominique Strass-Kahn,] the man many thought would one day be president of France, will stand trial in the city of Lille in northern France. He’s faced with charges he helped procure sex workers for sex parties from Paris to Brussels to Washington. Dubbed the Carlton affair because it involves the Hotel Carlton in Lille, the case stars luxury hotel managers, freemasons, Viagra, purple carpet and even a brothel owner called 'Dodo the Pimp' (Dodo la Saumure). In a charging document that runs 240 pages, French authorities said Strauss-Kahn may have helped organize the affairs, during which female attendants were allegedly paid to have sex with businessmen." ...

... Here's the Guardian story, by Angelique Chrisafis.

Saturday
Jan312015

The Commentariat -- February 1, 2015

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Obama administration officials and other supporters of the Affordable Care Act say they worry that the tax-filing season will generate new anger as uninsured consumers learn that they must pay tax penalties and as many people struggle with complex forms needed to justify tax credits they received in 2014 to pay for health insurance. The White House has already granted some exemptions and is considering more to avoid a political firestorm. Mark J. Mazur, the assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy, said up to six million taxpayers would have to 'pay a fee this year because they made a choice not to obtain health care coverage that they could have afforded.'"

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "LAWYERS on average are much more liberal than the general population, a new study has found. But judges are more conservative than the average lawyer, to say nothing of the graduates of top law schools. What accounts for the gap? The answer, the study says, is that judicial selection processes are affected by politics." CW: Duh. Includes a chart of various types of lawyers & judges, as well as potential presidential candidates. Elizabeth Warren is the liberal high-water mark & Rand Paul is the wingiest of presidential-wannabee wingers, according to the researchers.

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel of the Washington Post: "Now, even as the economy recovers and taxpayer revenue is pouring back in, states have not restored ... funding [of public universities], and tuition keeps rising.... Total student debt now surpasses $1 trillion and is growing by the day. For the first time ever, according to a recent study, families are shouldering more of the cost of public university tuition than state governments."

Jonathan Tepperman of Foreign Affairs, in a Washington Post op-ed: "I met with [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad on Jan. 20 in Damascus -- his first interview by an American journalist since 2013.... Superficially, Assad said many of the right things, appearing conciliatory and eager to involve Western governments in his struggle against Islamist terrorism. But underneath the pretty words, he remains as unrepentant and inflexible today as he was at the start of the Syrian civil war four years ago. Assad seems to have no idea how badly the war is going, how impractical his proposals sound and how meaningless his purported overtures are."

Buy-Bye, Debbie. Javier Manjarres of the Shark Tank: "In an audio filed obtained by the Shark Tank, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) spoke to a group of Jewish Americans in South Florida....Wasserman Schultz ... broke with President Obama by calling out 'Islamic fundamentalists' for "leading" the "global war on terror," and saying that Jews are the reason why groups like ISIS are conducting terrorist attacks....Wasserman Schultz then recalls waking up one morning to MSNBC, and to her surprise, the network aired a biased 'Palestinian perspective' and 'panoramic view of the results of the war in Gaza.'"

God News

Adelle Banks of Religion News Service: "Religious and secular advocacy groups jointly called Thursday (Jan. 29) for greater clarity by the Internal Revenue Service regarding nonprofits and political activity. In a rare combined front, leaders of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, Alliance Defending Freedom, Public Citizen and the Center for American Progress met at the National Press Club to discuss ways the tax agency could better help nonprofits know what they can and cannot do under the law."

... AND NOW, for a Somewhat Different View.... Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "During a speech earlier this month at televangelist Morris Cerullo's annual conference, Mike Huckabee said that school shootings wouldn't take place if public schools organized daily prayers, religious assemblies, Bible readings and 'chapel services.' 'Because we were bringing Bibles to school people weren't bringing guns to school, except for the deer hunters who left them in their trucks,' Huckabee said." ...

... Steve Benen: "The obvious problem with rhetoric like this is that Huckabee supports a big-government solution -- having the state force religion on public-school children -- which flagrantly ignores the First Amendment. But there are some less obvious problems, too. For example, whether Huckabee knows this or not, gun violence in schools pre-dates Supreme Court rulings on school neutrality towards religion. For that matter, under existing law, Bibles aren't prohibited in public schools at all.... Huckabee seems to believe the mere presence of religious materials will prevent wrongdoing." ...

... CW: Yo, Steve, it takes irrational arguments to justify an irrational belief system.

Daniel Burke of CNN: "In at least one big and bruising culture-war battle, the Mormon church wants to call a partial truce. Convening a rare press conference on Tuesday at church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Mormon leaders pledged to support anti-discrimination laws for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, as long the laws also protect the rights of religious groups. In exchange, the Mormon church wants gay rights advocates -- and the government -- to back off." ...

... Hunter Schwartz of the Washington Post: "Two days after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it backed some nondiscrimination legislation, Idaho became the first heavily Mormon state to consider such a bill, and legislators there, including some who are Mormons, voted it down. The House State Affairs Committee voted 13-4 to hold a bill in committee that would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the Idaho Human Rights act, in effect killing the bill Thursday. The committee includes five Mormons, all of whom voted against it."

Selena Hill of the Latin Post: "Pope Francis made another landmark move in Vatican history by recently holding a meeting with a Spanish transsexual man and his fiancée. Pope Francis reportedly invited Diego Neria Lejárraga, a 48-year-old Spanish man who was born with a female anatomy, to a private meeting after Lejárraga wrote him a letter explaining that he was ostracized at his local parish in the western Spanish city of Plasencia."

Jill Tucker of the San Francisco Chronicle: "A Catholic priest, new to San Francisco and no stranger to controversy, has banned girls from acting as altar servers at Mass, a decision that sets his parish apart from all others in the archdiocese. The Rev. Joseph Illo, pastor at Star of the Sea Church since August, said he believes there is an 'intrinsic connection' between the priesthood and serving at the altar -- and because women can't be priests, it makes sense to have only altar boys." ...

... CW: Illo's edict is consistent with the views of Cardinal Raymond Burke & the New Emangelization Project, "formed to confront what it calls a 'man crisis' in the Catholic Church."

David Gibson of Religion News Service: "Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch ... are ... nearly doubling their investment in the business school of Catholic University of America, which is overseen by the U.S. bishops.... The grant fits with the Kochs' strategy of funding business and other programs at universities around the country.... But from the moment the first CUA donation was announced in the fall of 2013, many Catholic theologians and others raised questions about why the only pontifical university in the country would take so much money from the Kochs."

Antonia Blumberg of the Huffington Post: "Twenty-six percent of Americans and 27 percent of self-described sports fans believe God plays a role in determining which team will win a sporting event. Even more -- 53 percent of Americans and 56 percent of sports fans -- say God rewards faithful athletes with good health and success." ...

... CW: This is as close as I'm coming to Super Bowl coverage, unless Jesus actually carries the ball for the winning touchdown, then beams up a few of the faithful.

Presidential Race

According to Maureen Dowd, last year Mitt Romney went to Sundance to see the documentary about his 2012 run & suddenly got a bright idea: next time he could run as Himself instead of as one of those Fake Mitts he's so accustomed to adopting. CW: I don't know that we would have liked the real Mitt any better than the Fake Mitts; for some reason they all have the same policies.

Bowling for Billions. Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida plunged into all-out battle this weekend for the biggest unclaimed prize in American politics and the decisive advantage that could go with it: the billion-dollar donor network once harnessed by Mitt Romney. In hundreds of phone calls that began even before Mr. Romney formally announced on Friday that he was forgoing a third bid for the presidency, allies of Mr. Christie and Mr. Bush began putting polite but intense pressure on Mr. Romney's supporters to pick a side."

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) accused Jeb Bush of hypocrisy after The Boston Globe reported the former Florida governor was a heavy marijuana smoker while at an elite prep school. [Globe story also linked in yesterday's Commentariat.] Bush opposed a Florida medical marijuana ballot initiative last year even though he partook liberally of the herb while in high school.... 'I think that's the real hypocrisy, is that people on our side, which include a lot of people who made mistakes growing up, admit their mistakes but now still want to put people in jail for that,' [Paul] said. 'Had he been caught at Andover, he'd have never been governor, he'd probably never have a chance to run for the presidency,' he added." ...

     ... CW: This part is fun.

Karen Tumulty & Matea Gold of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney's decision to forgo a third try at the White House has settled the question of whether the 2016 GOP presidential field has a front-runner -- bestowing a coveted status on former Florida governor Jeb Bush that also raises new challenges and perils.... Two questions about Bush will be answered only by running: Will he be able to build a state-of-the-art campaign operation for a digital age? And does he have the retail political skills to prevail in early states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, which are a repetitive grind of town-hall meetings, living-room receptions and candidate forums?"

Scott Walker goes from 'Who?' to "Wow!" -- Kathy Obranovich of the Des Moines Register

... Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "Presidential stage newcomer Scott Walker, the conservative reform pit bull who inspired death threats from the left [CW: or so he says], has become the one to watch in the race for the Republican nomination a year out from the Iowa caucuses. At 15 percentage points, he leads a big, tightly packed field of potential contenders in a new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll of likely Republican caucusgoers. The caucuses are scheduled for Feb. 1, 2016."

Beyond the Beltway

John Marzulli of the New York Daily News: "The family of slain Bronx teen Ramarley Graham agreed to accept $3.9 million from the city [of New York] Friday to settle their wrongful death lawsuit.... The settlement comes amid an ongoing federal investigation by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara into possible civil rights violations against the NYPD cops involved in the Feb. 2, 2012 fatal shooting. Officer Richard Haste, who fired the fatal shot after chasing Graham, 18, from the street into his home, was initially indicted by the Bronx district attorney for manslaughter, but a judge threw out the case on a legal technicality. A second grand jury declined to indict the cop." Graham was black. Haste is white.

News Lede

Hill: The Pentagon announced Saturday that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been officially 'pushed out' of the Syrian border town of Kobani."

Saturday
Jan312015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 31, 2015

White House: "In this week's address, the President described the progress our economy has made, laying a foundation for a future that prioritizes middle-class economics":

Presidential Race

Mitt Loses Billionaires' Bowl. Ashley Parker & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "In a talk with his eldest son, Tagg, between runs down the mountain on Monday, [Mitt] Romney, 67, said he had all but decided against a third bid for the White House. The conversation, according to a person familiar with it, came after days of increasingly gloomy news reached the Romney family. Donors who supported him last time refused to commit to his campaign. Key operatives were signing up with former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. The Republican establishment that lifted Mr. Romney to the nomination in 2012 in the face of scrappy opposition had moved on."

This lovely woman will not be deciding the presidential election. And neither will you.... CW: So it wasn't Romney who "decided" against running. It was the moneybags. If you don't think this country is run by millionaires & billionaires, contemplate just who chooses the major party presidential candidates. The excitement over Obama in 2008 was partly about him, partly about his race, & partly that he was challenging the big-bucks candidate. I recall Hillary's telling some teevee interviewer in January 2008 that she would win the nomination. The source of her confidence wasn't chutzpah; it was her donor base.

"Mitt has only this much money."Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "In renouncing a new run for president Friday, Mitt Romney becomes the first big casualty of the invisible primary -- the behind-the-scenes competition for donors, endorsements and campaign operatives. Many candidates, including Mr. Romney, are plausible candidates on paper. But party elites winnow the field of prospective nominees by bestowing and withholding the resources and credibility necessary to run a presidential campaign.... [Mitt's "decision"] is also a reflection of the relative strength of the field, and perhaps especially Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who launched an aggressive, even pre-emptive campaign to recruit support in early December."

The text of Romney's statement, as prepared, is here.

A Sad Day for Gail Collins: "For all his faults, there are a lot of candidates in the Republican scrimmage who would make far worse presidents than Mitt Romney. Still, it's sort of a relief to see him go. Although I will miss that dog story." You will want to read Collins for her take on Mitt's announcement.

D. S. Wright of Firedoglake: "... both Bloomberg and The Daily Beast reported that Romney was getting ready to announce that his candidacy for president. Both outlets were forced to update their stories to show that the opposite of what they reported was true providing a sad commentary both on those organizations and the numerous wrong 'breaking' news stories that will come in the 2016 cycle." ...

... CW: That Bloomberg story, BTW, was by consumate "insider" & thoroughly obnoxious prick Mark Halperin. So there was a mini-silver lining to the billionaires' dismissal of Romney. Benjamin Mullin of Poynter has the screen grabs. ...

... The Horseshit Whisperer. Steve M. "All that happy talk, in Halperin's story and others, was Mitt's way of stroking the press so he'd be able to read that he absolutely should have won in 2012 and could certainly win in 2016, and in any event would be far and away the best person for the job. He believes that and he wanted to have that message reflected back to him -- and, obviously, he hoped he could persuade enough other people of his greatness to be a credible candidate again. These weeks of generating speculation were Mitt's Sunset Boulevard -- he's still big, it's the elections that got small! He's ready for his close-up, Mr. Murdoch!" ...

... CW: It wasn't all happy talk, Steve. Prior to Romney's conference call, Ed Kilgore cited bits from Halperin's piece which claimed to characterize Romney's view of rivals Jeb & Chris. Romney sees Jeb as "a small-time businessman..., weighed down .... [by] his family name." As for Crisco, Romney's vetting produced dirt that "would mushroom so broadly that Christie soon would be eliminated from consideration by voters and donors." ...

... Charles Pierce: "Ah, the Lady Ann has had enough of You People who think you should be president rather than Willard, whom god and a trust fund selected at birth. Notice that Willard and Lady Ann are publicly great friends of Jeb (!), but they free up anonymous People Who Are Familiar With Romney's Thinking to slip in the shiv."

Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "After announcing that he would not, after all, be mounting a third campaign for the US presidency, Mitt Romney signalled on Friday that he may forge a reconciliation with Chris Christie to stop Jeb Bush's bid for the Republican nomination next year.... Immediately after Romney's call to supporters, the New York Times reported that he would be having dinner with Christie on Friday evening."

Um, also Mitt & Ann had lunch with Chelsea Clinton Mezvinsky yesterday. So maybe he's preparing to back Chelsea's mom. Never mind that Mitt called former Secretary of State Mom "clueless" just a few days ago. Mitt thinks everyone who is Not-Mitt is "clueless." "We talked about disease. Brain disease." -- Ann Romney said of their lunch with Chelsea.

The thing that really struck me about Jeb more than anyone I ever met, is he understood that he was from the world that really counted and the rest of us weren't. It really was quite a waste of his time to engage us. This was kind of his family high school. There wasn't anything he could do to be kicked out so he was relaxed about rules, doing the work. This was just his family's place. -- Phil Sylvester, a classmate of Jeb's at Phillips Academy ...

... "Magic Carpet Ride." Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe on Jeb's schoolboy days at the toney Phillips Academy: "Classmates said he smoked a notable amount of pot -- as many did -- and sometimes bullied smaller students.... He had completed ninth grade in Houston, but he was advised to repeat it at Andover. Still, he barely got grades high enough to avoid being expelled, he said...." CW: Kranish is one of two Globe reporters who broke the dog-on-the-roof-of-the-car story. Americans, and Gail Collins in particular, have a deep debt to Michael Kranish.

CW: While we've had a lot of fun at the expense of risible GOP candidates, as contributor P. D. Pepe reminded us the other day, we won't be having so much fun when the GOP starts bringing up Bill Clinton's flying in planes with underage call girls, etc.

Frank Rich on "American Sniper," Presidents Koch & candidate Hillary: The lede of the Rich chat is buried in its very last paragraph: "The lead of the Politico article [about Hillary's candidacy] is buried in its very last paragraph, where it's noted that the 'next critical task' for the Clinton campaign is 'developing her message.' Indeed! What Hillary Clinton actually stands for beyond party boilerplate -- and, more pointedly, what she would actually want to do as president -- is the question that remains unanswered. Until it is, it doesn't matter who is put in charge of communicating it."

** Dana Milbank on Bernie Sanders' populism. CW: I think both Sanders & Milbank get it just right. Unfortunately.


Molly Ball
of the Atlantic: "... the combined convulsions of the House and Senate stand in stark contrast to the GOP's election promises about putting Congress back to work and ending gridlock on Capitol Hill.... The new dawn they promised isn't looking very different from last year's gridlock."

Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times: "Halting President Obama's deportation amnesty will end up hurting Uncle Sam's bottom line, the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday in a new report that is bound to cause more problems for Republicans trying to block the White House's executive action. While keeping illegal immigrants in the shadows would save the government billions on spending, it would also mean billions in taxes that never get paid, leaving the federal budget a total of $7.5 billion worse over the next decade than it would be if Mr. Obama's amnesties take effect as scheduled, the CBO said." ...

     ... CW: Oddly, this story is only being reported in the Right Wing News, as far as I can tell.

Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "A trio of Republican committee chairmen will immediately get to work on drafting the party's ObamaCare backup plan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced Friday. The working group is forming one day after McCarthy announced the House would vote next week to fully repeal ObamaCare, marking the first repeal vote of the GOP-controlled Congress.... The group, which includes Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), will also be charged with creating a 'contingency plan' to prepare for a looming Supreme Court decision that could undo Obamacare subsidies in 34 states." ...

... Ryan, BTW, is one of those slimy lawmakers who used to acknowledge that the ACA covered residents of all states, not just those who live in states which set up their own insurance exchanges. Howevah, Ryan has changed his mind now that it's convenient to pretend the ACA only covers people obtaining coverage through state exchanges. ...

... Ian Millhiser: "In 2011, one of the most influential conservative organizations in Washington D.C. flatly contradicted the central claim in a lawsuit seeking to gut the Affordable Care Act. Though Heritage later reversed its previously stated views on how to read Obamacare after it became advantageous for conservatives to publicly agree with the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, Heritage's 2011 paper adds to the wealth of evidence showing that the misreading of the law offered by the plaintiffs in this lawsuit was widely rejected by the law's supporters and by its opponents until the lawsuit itself gave conservatives an incentive to lend credibility to its central claim."

Jonathan Chait: "[Thursday], the Huffington Post was gracious enough to publish an item contributed by once-promising author turned mediocre blogger Barack Obama. That same day, Barack Obama told House Democrats to 'get informed, not by reading the Huffington Post.' This raises not only the question of why Obama does not want Congress to read his own work, but why the Huffington Post continues to employ him at all.... Fire this hack." Includes sample of classic hackery.

Michael Moore confirms that ten years ago, Clint Eastwood threatened to kill him.

I don't feel sorry for shooting the guy at all. -- Adam Torres, a Fairfax, Virginia, County police officer who shot dead an unarmed man with his hands raised

... Tom Jackman of the Washington Post on the August 2013 police-shooting death of John Geer. Other police officers, who were at the scene to cope with a domestic argument between Geer & his partner, & civilian witnesses all agree that Geer had his hands up & was unarmed. "... documents also show that Torres[, the shooter,] was involved in an argument with his wife in the 16 minutes leading up to his arrival at Geer's home...."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Charles Pierce takes several stabs at the New Republic & its lovely editors & contributors past. ...

... CW: I read the New Republic cover story the other day & meant to link it but forgot. Canadian journalist Jeet Heer on the New Republic's long history of racism & jingoism & elitism & some other bad. I guess Heer had to be polite because he wrote his report on TNR's dime, but the content, however nicely put, is a condemnation of a supposedly-liberal magazine. To me, that "supposedly-liberal" is the worst part. If you're a liberal reading what is sold as a liberal magazine, you have a bias to believe the content. Thus, you may come away thinking black people are too dumb to be reporters, too lazy to do honest work, & that these & other negative stereotypes are backed up by scientific proofs that the Negro is a genetically-inferior subspecies of the Great White Man. Because you read it in the the Great White New Republic.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Islamic State claimed to have beheaded a Japanese journalist in a video released Saturday night, the culmination of a two-week-long drama that appears to have cost the lives of two Japanese men. The video of the killing of the journalist, Kenji Goto, came two days after a deadline set by the extremist group expired, and the Jordanian government did not give in to its demand that a convicted would-be suicide bomber be exchanged for Mr. Goto's life."

New York Times: "Carl Djerassi, an eminent chemist who 63 years ago synthesized a hormone that changed the world by creating the key ingredient for the oral contraceptive known as 'the pill,' died at his home in San Francisco on Friday. He was 91."

New York Times: "... as officials in 14 states grapple to contain a spreading measles outbreak that began near here at Disneyland, the parents at the heart of America's anti-vaccine movement are being blamed for incubating an otherwise preventable public-health crisis."

Guardian: "Angela Merkel has ruled out the prospect of Greece securing further debt cuts from its creditor nations, potentially putting the country's new leftist government on a collision course with Brussels."

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Bobbi Kristina Brown, the 21-year-old daughter of the late Whitney Houston, was found face-down and unresponsive in a bathtub Saturday morning and was rushed to the hospital, Roswell authorities said. TMZ is reporting that sources close to the family say she's been place in a medically induced coma to address swelling. An AJC reporter was told to leave hospital property Saturday and no hospital representatives were available for official comment."