The Ledes

Friday, July 25, 2014.

New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed a two-stage plan to halt the fighting in the Gaza Strip that would first impose a weeklong truce starting Sunday, an official involved in the negotiations said on Friday. As soon as the truce took effect, Palestinian and Israeli officials would begin negotiations on the principal economic, political and security concerns about Gaza, with other nations attending." ...

... AFP: "Israeli fire Friday pushed the Palestinian death toll in Gaza to above 800, as Washington pressed Israel and Hamas to agree a week-long humanitarian ceasefire and thrash out a durable truce."

AFP: "The United States on Thursday said it had evidence Russian forces were firing artillery from inside Russia on Ukrainian troops, in what officials called a 'clear escalation' of the conflict. Moscow is also planning to 'deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers' to the pro-Russian separatist forces in Ukraine, US deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said." ...

... AFP: "Ukraine's prime minister resigned after his governing coalition collapsed, plunging the former Soviet state into political limbo as it struggles to quell a deadly rebellion in the east.... Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he was stepping down over the "dissolution of the parliamentary coalition and the blocking of government initiatives" after several parties walked out on the ruling group. The collapse of the ruling coalition paves the way for early elections to be called by President Petro Poroshenko within 30 days."

New York Times: "As a detachment of French soldiers reached the crash site in Mali of an Air Algérie jetliner, officials in Paris said Friday that the accident was most likely weather-related and that the distribution of the wreckage over a limited area suggested that the plane probably hit the ground intact."


Guardian: "The Washington Post's correspondent in Tehran has been arrested along with his Iranian wife and two American photojournalists. Iranian judicial offficials confirmed on Friday that Jason Rezaian, who holds dual American and Iranian citizenship, had been detained and is under investigation."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, July 24, 2014.

New York Times: "A series of explosions at a school run by the United Nations sheltering hundreds of Palestinians who had fled their homes for safety from Israeli military assaults killed at least 16 people on Thursday afternoon and wounded many more. The cause was not immediately clear."

Bloomberg News: "Jobless claims fell by 19,000 to 284,000 in the week ended July 19, the fewest since February 2006 and lower than any economist surveyed by Bloomberg forecast...."

Guardian: "A flight operated by Air Algérie carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early on Thursday, the plane's owner said." ...

... New York Times UPDATE: "An Air Algérie jetliner with 116 people on board crashed early Thursday in a remote area of Mali near the borders with Burkina Faso and Niger, officials said."

The Guardian is liveblogging developments in the Gaza crisis. More than 700 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, many of them children.

Reuters: "A powerful Ukrainian rebel leader has confirmed that pro-Russian separatists had an anti-aircraft missile of the type Washington says was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and it could have originated in Russia. In an interview with Reuters, Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, acknowledged for the first time since the airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday that the rebels did possess the BUK missile system and said it could have been sent back subsequently to remove proof of its presence."

Los Angeles Times: "The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday night lifted its ban on U.S. flights to and from Tel Aviv."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, May 29:"The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was  eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday."

White House Live Video
July 25

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to


Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."


New Yorker illustration.

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


CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:


Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

Heller McAlpin reviews Marja Mills' book The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir of the writer's friendship with Harper Lee & her sister Alice Finch Lee, for the Washington Post.

According to this Daily Beast headline, the "World Awaits LeBron James' Decision." CW: Even though I so often do the sports report, it turns out I am not of this world.

Smart Girls Don't Swear. Vanity Fair "cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed" some of the Nixon tapes, "many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable." The post excerpts a few: Nixon on gays, Jews, swearing.

New York Times: Hillary Clinton's "memoir, 'Hard Choices,' has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein. It is a powerful statement about today’s publishing realities that Mr. Klein’s book, a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages, including one about a physical altercation between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama, has landed atop the New York Times best-seller list, knocking 'Hard Choices' to No. 2." ...

... If by chance you believe the major media are the exclusive haunts of "elite leftists," here's evidence it ain't so. Klein, the Times story notes, is "a former editor at Newsweek  and The New York Times Magazine."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast interviews Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times. Abramson still doesn't know what "management skills" means. Kinda makes you think maybe she doesn't have any.

Tim Egan: American children are too sheltered. The world isn't as scary as we think it is.

... Thanks to Bonita for the link. CW: I except you actually could purchase the materials at Hobby Lobby you'd need to make an IUD. However, Dr. Weader strongly advises against this do-it-yourself project.

New York Times: "The New Yorker is overhauling its website, making all articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers."

The New York Times Magazine publishes excerpts from a few of Warren Harding's love letters to Carrie Phillips. Also, he was a worse poet than he was a president. And Phillips was unfaithful to Harding; then she blackmailed him. Maybe it was because she was so turned off by all those letters where he personified his penis as "Jerry."

Guardian: A Princeton archaeologist has found what may be the world's oldest extant erotic graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia in the Aegean sea. Also, it is so gay.

Wherever in the U.S. you may live, if you missed your local news last night, we have it here. In fact, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, here's what will be on your local news tonight. Thanks to Bonita for the link:

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The Commentariat -- March 12, 2012

By popular request, here's my column on Brother Douthat's Sunday sermon in praise of -- wise Republican voters. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York magazine: "For Douthat’s argument to work, though, you have to assume that Romney won because ... he is intelligent and well-accomplished.... I see little evidence that this is the case."

** Adam Liptak's analysis in the New York Times of the Roberts Court, and the critical decision the Court will make on the Affordable Care Act, is something of a must-read.

Thomas Edsall in the New York Times: "Instead of serving as a springboard to social mobility as it did for the first decades after World War II, college education today is reinforcing class stratification, with a huge majority of the 24 percent of Americans aged 25 to 29 currently holding a bachelor’s degree coming from families with earnings above the median income." CW: read Edsall's post, with its shocking statistics that make his point; then remind yourself that Mitt Romney does not want to help poor & lower-middle class students get college degrees. He really is one mean prick.

** Ezra Klein in the New Yorker: the bully pulpit doesn't bully anybody; in fact, it's pretty ineffectual.

Colin Moynihan of the New York Times: In New York City, "For the last few months, [Occupy] protest organizers say, police officers or detectives have been posted outside buildings where private meetings were taking place, have visited the homes of organizers and have questioned protesters arrested on minor charges. 'The N.Y.P.D. surveillance does not appear to be limited to unlawful activity,' said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.... A police spokesman did not respond to a request for comment."

Gary Langer of ABC News: "More than half of Americans for the first time expect Barack Obama to be re-elected -- but that won't make it easy: Even as expectations have moved his way, rising gas prices have dented the president's rating on handling the economy, his overall job approval has slipped back under 50 percent and he's reverted to a dead heat in public preferences against Mitt Romney."

Jon Lee Anderson of the New Yorker: "All the signs are that the United States military and its NATO allies have not only outlived their welcome in Afghanistan but also passed the point at which their presence is anything other than toxic." ...

... Michael Hirsh of the National Journal: "Recent events in Afghanistan, including Sunday’s horrific shooting of Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier, are not just going to alter U.S. strategy there. They are very likely to upend it. Even before the latest tragedy, President Obama was trying to expedite his way out of that quagmire, which is already the longest war in American history, as he faced a tough fight at home for re-election. Now Obama is likely to only speed things up further." ...

... Gary Langer: "Sixty percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has not been not worth fighting and just 30 percent believe the Afghan public supports the U.S. mission there.... A majority in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, 54 percent, say the United States should withdraw its forces from Afghanistan without completing its current effort to train Afghan forces to become self-sufficient."

What Global Warming? MSNBC: "Great Lakes ice coverage declined an average of 71 percent over the past 40 years, according to a report from the American Meteorological Society." CW: No doubt part of God's plan to hold down home-heating bills in the Midwest.

Margaret Talbot of the New Yorker on the many ways attacking contraception coverage is a political loser

E. J. Dionne: "The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops will make an important decision this week: Do they want to defend the church’s legitimate interest in religious autonomy, or do they want to wage an election-year war against President Obama?"

David Dunlap of the New York Times: more than 100 years after expelling her, the Park Avenue Christian Church restores the membership of feminist reformer Elizabeth Bartlett Grannis.

Right Wing World

Quote of the Day. I told them they have ocular rectitis. That's when your eyes get confused with your butt, and it develops into a shitty outlook on life. -- John Boehner (R-Ohio), Speaker of the House, to the Republican caucus (CW: Peggy Noonan bleeped the word I have translated as shitty; the bowdlerization she used was "unnecessarily fecal"? Am I missing an adverb? Please advise.)

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "With two key Southern primaries on the horizon this week, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich sharpened their attacks against Mitt Romney on Sunday, as Mr. Santorum bluntly declared that his leading rival 'can’t close the deal,' and Newt Gingrich called Mr. Romney the party’s weakest front-runner since 1920."

Molly Ball of The Atlantic: actually, Mitt Romney is pretty funny. People misunderstand his dry, self-deprecating humor. Here's Mitt in 2007, explaining his hunting prowess to a group of Texans:

... Ned Martel of the Washington Post: "Dressage demands agility and finesse — and money. Ann Romney’s involvement in the sport has allowed her access to the heady world of high-level competition, but it has also exposed her to horse dealing. Two years ago, it resulted in a lawsuit against her alleging fraud in the sale of one of her horses. And that lawsuit provided testimony in which she spoke in unusual detail about the benefits — and the costs — of riding." CW: there's an exponential factor of people who can't afford to field a stable of warmbloods but can afford to go windsurfing. See John Kerry, 2004.

Digby comments on the Ken Griffin interview, which is here. (Griffin is that billionaire Chicago hedge-fund operator & Romney supporter who thinks the mega-rich don't have enough influence over politics.) "He sounds as if his political views were shaped by reading a couple of chapters of Atlas Shrugged in high school and multiple viewings of Red Dawn. In that respect I suppose he does personify the idea that absolutely anyone can become a billionaire no matter how little they know."

Local News

CW: especially if you live in Florida, you will want to read Tim Padgett's excellent summary in Time of the state government's pivot toward culture wars and away from superfluous stuff like higher education. I am ashamed to live here on Knuckledragger Drive at Neanderthal Palms Villas.

Jackie Borchardt of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News: "Before getting a prescription for Viagra or other erectile dysfunction drugs, men would have to see a sex therapist, receive a cardiac stress test and get a notarized affidavit signed by a sexual partner affirming impotency, if state Sen. Nina Turner has her way. The Cleveland Democrat introduced Senate Bill 307 this week.... Turner said if state policymakers want to legislate women’s health choices through measures such as House Bill 125, known as the 'Heartbeat bill,' they should also be able to legislate men’s reproductive health." Via Jud Legum of Think Progress.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The outrage from the back-to-back episodes of the Koran burning and the killing on Sunday of at least 16 Afghan civilians imperils what the Obama administration once saw as an orderly plan for 2012: to speed the training of Afghan forces so that they can take the lead in combat missions, all while drawing the Taliban into negotiations to end more than a decade of constant war." ...

... Washington Post: "The Taliban vowed Monday to take revenge for the killing of at least 16 Afghan civilians by a rogue American soldier, and the nation’s parliament said people 'have run out of patience' with foreign forces. In protesting the killings, some Afghan lawmakers demanded that the U.S. soldier in custody be tried in an Afghan court, the latest sign that the incident could mark an adverse turning point in the deteriorating relationship between Kabul and Washington."

New York Times: "In another milestone in the banking industry’s recovery from the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve this week will release the results of its latest stress tests, which are expected to show broadly improved balance sheets at most institutions."

Washington Post: "A Gaithersburg, [Maryland,] Catholic priest who triggered national debate late last month when he denied Communion to a lesbian at her mother’s funeral Mass has been placed on administrative leave from ministry in the Washington archdiocese."


The Commentariat -- March 11, 2012

Daylight Saving Time (United States) begins Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 2:00 am local time, except Arizona and Hawaii. Move your clocks ahead 1 hour ("Spring forward; fall back").

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer takes a look at how the New York Times handles Mitt's Mendacity -- the candidate's propensity to telling somewhere around a lie a day. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

CW: sorry, I meant to link this a while back but forgot (I think I did link to a story on this last year). David Savage of the Los Angeles Times: "Mary Brown, a 56-year-old Florida woman who owned a small auto repair shop but had no health insurance, became the lead plaintiff challenging President Obama's healthcare law because she was passionate about the issue.... But court records reveal that Brown and her husband filed for bankruptcy last fall with $4,500 in unpaid medical bills. Those bills could change Brown from a symbol of proud independence into an example of exactly the problem the healthcare law was intended to address."

Susn Saulny of the New York Times: "In Iowa, one of the crucial battlegrounds in the coming presidential election, and in other states, dozens of interviews in recent weeks have found that moderate Republican and independent women — one of the most important electoral swing groups — are disenchanted by the Republican focus on social issues like contraception and abortion in an election that, until recently, had been mostly dominated by the economy. And in what appears to be an abrupt shift, some Republican-leaning women like Ms. Russell said they might switch sides and vote for Mr. Obama — if they turn out to vote at all." ...

... Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "President Obama’s re-election campaign is beginning an intensified effort this week to build support among women, using the debate over the new health care law to amplify an appeal that already appears to be benefiting from partisan clashes over birth control and abortion."

David Catanese of Politico: "Washington Rep. Jay Inslee [D] is resigning his Hous seat to fully focus his attention on his gubernatorial campaign against GOP Attorney General Rob McKenna.... The move is a tacit acknowledgment that the Inslee campaign is not where Democrats would like it to be eight months from the open-seat election to replace Gov. Christine Gregoire."

Judd Legum of Think Progress fowards a story reported by "When it comes to advertisers avoiding controversial shows, it’s not just Rush From today’s TRI Newsletter: Premiere Networks is circulating a list of 98 advertisers who want to avoid 'environments likely to stir negative sentiments.' The list includes carmakers (Ford, GM, Toyota), insurance companies (Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm) and restaurants (McDonald’s, Subway)." ...

... Arthur Goldwag has a good post in Salon on "The Right Wing's Pornography of Resentment." Goldwag puts Limbaugh's crude weirdness in historical perspective. "Prudery and prurience often go hand in glove. Prurience and paranoia are fellow travelers as well."

There's a new storyline floating around the the Supremes' Citizens United decision (along with follow-up rullings based on Citizens) are not responsible for all that SuperPAC spending. Richard Hasen, writing in Slate, runs the numbers to refute this defense of the Court.

Nicholas Kristof: A British businessman, Robert Bittlestone, thinks he has found ancient Ithaca, and some scholars agree. Includes an interesting video.

Right Wing World

Josh Dorner of Think Progress: a billionaire Romney backer says the super-rich don't have enough influence over politics. Hedge fund billionare Ken Griffth said "that the ultrawealthy 'have a duty' to step forward and save the U.S. from what he says is a drift toward Soviet-style state control of the economy."

News Ledes

The Hill: "U.S. officials worked quickly to calm tensions after an American service member in Kandahar province opened fire on Afghan civilians Sunday, killing at least sixteen. President Obama said he was 'deeply saddened' by news of the attack, in a released statement. He said the shooting was 'tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan.'" ...

... New York Times: "A United States service member walked out of a military base in a rural district of southern Afghanistan on Sunday and opened fire on three nearby houses, killing at least 15 civilians, local villagers and provincial officials said." ...

     ... Story has been updated. New lede: "Stalking from home to home, a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children, in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan early on Sunday, igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility, Afghan and American officials said."

Washington Post: "In Wyoming, where some counties had held caucuses earlier in the week, Romney easily outpaced his rivals and won seven of the 12 delegates at stake. Santorum won three, Paul one. (One delegate went uncommitted.)"

Guardian: "A 12-year-old boy was among those reported to have been killed in Gaza on Sunday amid a spiralling round of militant rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes over the weekend that left at least 18 Palestinians dead and four people in Israel injured."

AP: "Across Japan, people paused at 2:46 p.m. — the moment the magnitude-9.0 quake struck a year ago — for moments of silence, prayer and reflection about the enormous losses suffered and monumental tasks ahead."


The Commentariat -- March 10, 2012

President Obama's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here. Ann Gearan of the AP: "President Barack Obama is hitting back at Republican criticism of his energy policies and his role in controlling gasoline prices. Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to underscore his administration's work to develop alternative energy sources and increase fuel efficiency.... He accused Republicans of a 'bumper sticker' approach to solving the nation's energy problems."

I've brought this forward from yesterday, as I submitted my column late yesterday. By popular request (see yesterday's Comments), I've written a column for the New York Times eXaminer, incorporating the wisdom of Gemli. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...

     ... Update: here's the new trailer for the film "On the Road":

Nicholas Kulish & Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "The International Monetary Fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, who is French, finds herself on a collision course with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, posing a test for the unusually close relationship between the two leaders. They have opposing stances on how much money is need to protect vulnerable economies, and how it should be raised."

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "The fragile gains Republicans had been making among female voters have been erased, a shift that has coincided with what has become a national shouting match over reproductive issues, potentially handing President Obama and the Democrats an enormous advantage this fall." ...

... Gail Collins: "Every time a state considers a 'personhood' amendment that would give a fertilized egg the standing of a human being, outlawing some forms of fertility treatment and common contraceptives, it reinforces the argument that the current abortion debate is actually about theology, not generally held national principles. And ... every time we have one of those exciting discussions about the Limbaugh theory on making women who get health care coverage for contraception broadcast their sex lives on the Internet, the more the Republican Party loses votes, money, sympathy — you name it."

President Obama spoke at the Rolls Royce engine manufacturing plant in Petersburg, Virginia, yesterday:

New York Times Editors: "The oceans have always served as a sink for carbon dioxide, but the burning of fossil fuels since the beginning of the industrial revolution, especially over the last 40 years, has given them more than they can safely absorb. The result is acidification — a change in the chemical balance that threatens the oceans’ web of life." CW: sounds like a hoax to me. God would never let this happen OR, alternatively, acidification is part of God's plan. See Jim Inhofe's Quote of the Day below.

Right Wing World

Quote of the Day. Genesis 8:22 [says] ... that 'as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.' My point is, God's still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous. -- Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla), presenting his proof that climate change is a hoax

Hey, y'all, Mitt likes them grits. He also says the federal government should run more like the Mississippi state government. CW: Yep, Mississippi is doing a great job; by per capita income, health & healthcare, & educational measures, it ranks 50th best among 50 states. But, hey, it's the most conservative (which tells you how well conservative principles translate to policy):

... Charles Blow is unimpressed with the new Cornpone Willard. "As a Southerner, I’ve never known us to find caricature endearing."

Nancy Cook of the National Journal: "One of Mitt Romney’s chief selling points as a presidential candidate is his business background and self-proclaimed ability to create jobs and boost a lagging economy.... Yet, Romney’s record from his days as Massachusetts governor paints a ... portrait ... of a politician who swept into office with big promises and a Harvard MBA but who failed to create a meaningful number of jobs for his home state and lacked a clear, concrete economic vision. Economists from Massachusetts also say Romney was never able to solve the structural problems inherent in the state’s economy — issues that now plague the country as a whole and will challenge whoever becomes president in 2013 -- such as the decline in manufacturing and the dearth of employment for less-educated, low-income workers." ...

Gov. Willard M. Aloof. Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "Even though he worked just a few hundred feet from them for four years, Mr. Romney displayed little interest in getting to know lawmakers and never developed real relationships with most members of the Democratic-dominated body, according to interviews with two dozen current and former lawmakers of both parties and members of the governor’s staff.... Mr. Romney wielded his veto pen as no Massachusetts governor has before or since. He issued 844 vetoes, most of which the legislature overrode, sometimes unanimously, in marathon sessions."

... Steve Benen details Willard's ten most audacious lies of the week. Why do the major media give next to no attention to Willard's unrelenting mendacity? Are they rooting for the guy? ...

... Paul Waldman of the American Prospect asks the same question.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones anticipates a summer of racism. CW: If he's right, I think it will backfire; except for the GOP base, Americans -- including people who are, well "race-conscious" -- are disgusted by overt racism. I think it will be even worse for racists now that "race-conscious" whites are accustomed to having a black president.

Josh Israel of Think Progress: "FreedomWorks for America, the super PAC for former Rep. Dick Armey’s (R-TX) FreedomWorks USA, just released new radio and TV ads urging the defeat of longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).... The new commercials note that Hatch 'voted 16 times' to raise the debt limit, allowing for $7.5 trillion of the national debt." But when Armey was in the House, he voted for more-or-less the same debt ceiling bills Hatch did. In other words, "FreedomWorks for America has invested about $500,000 into attacking Hatch for having a record that is not very different from Armey’s own." CW: purging the party of right-wing ideologues to replace them with right-wing nuts.

CW: I don't like to give Sarah Palin much attention, but what with "Game Change" being aired on HBO this weekend, we'll make an exception. Palin went on the Sean Hannity show Thursday night to assert that President Obama wants the U.S. to return to its pre-Civil War slave-holding days. I guess, like Stephen Colbert, Palin does not see skin color. That's great. And I find her charge totally credible.

Local News

** Robbie Brown of the New York Times: "The lieutenant governor of South Carolina, Ken Ard [R], resigned on Friday and pleaded guilty to criminal charges of spending campaign funds on personal expenses and fabricating donations.... Mr. Ard resigned in the morning, was indicted at 1 p.m. and then pleaded guilty at 3."

ABC News, Montgomery Alabama: the sponsor of a state senate bill requiring women seeking abortions to endure a transvaginal ultrasound screening has dropped the bill -- for now, anyway -- after protesters gathered at the State Capitol Thursday. Via the Maddow blog.

Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (RTP) has set up a legal defense fund, which suggests he is being investigated for violation of state elections laws. CW: what a shame if he were charged with or -- better yet -- convicted of -- a felony before he could be recalled.

News Ledes

Kansas holds caucuses today in the GOP presidential race. The Kansas City Star story is here. ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Showing his strength among conservative voters in the heartland, Rick Santorum decisively won the Kansas caucuses on Saturday." With 99 percent of the count in, Santorum won with 51.2 percent, Romney in 2nd with 20.9 percent, Gingrich with 14.4 percent & Paul with 12.6 percent.

Ha! Guardian: "The United Nations climate chief has warned that US voters risk ceding progress to China and Europe if they opt for a presidential candidate who denies climate change. Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told an audience in London: 'The one thing [the frontrunners for the Republican candidacy] have in common is saying they do not believe in climate change, so it's very much the decision of the US electorate.'" CW: as far as I can tell, not a single U.S. news outlet has covered her remark.

The Fine Print. Reuters: "A previously announced $25 billion settlement between five major banks accused of abusive mortgage practices and government officials will be filed in federal court on Monday.... Negotiators had hoped to file a settlement on Friday, but the deal was held up at the last minute over a disagreement between Nevada and Bank of America<...."

NEW. Houston Chronicle: "Two weeks after state officials announced plans to effectively ban Planned Parenthood from a health program for low-income women, the secretary of Health and Human Services confirmed in Houston Friday that federal funding for the program in Texas will end."

Guardian: "Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip have killed at least 14 people in an escalation of the worst clashes with Palestinian militants so far this year. The strikes began on Friday, when Israeli air raids killed the senior militant leader Zohair al-Qaisi, the secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC). Israel claimed he was targeted because he was planning an attack." Haaretz story here.

Reuters: "U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday to press for a political solution to Syria's year-long uprising, but violence raged on with a major army assault on the northwestern city of Idlib." Al Jazeera story here. And here's Al Jazeera's liveblog on Syria. ...

     ... New York Times Update: "High-level diplomatic efforts to stop the fighting in Syria yielded mixed results on Saturday as President Bashar al-Assad shut the door on any immediate negotiations with the opposition and escalated a new military assault on the city of Idlib. Mr. Assad told the United Nations envoy Kofi Annan that such talks would be fruitless as long as “terrorist groups” were operating in the country."

Reuters: "Several thousand Russians gathered in central Moscow on Saturday for a rally seen as a test of the opposition's ability to mount a sustained challenge to President-elect Vladimir Putin."


The Commentariat -- March 9, 2012

NEW. By popular request (see today's Comments), I've written a column for the New York Times eXaminer, incorporating the wisdom of Gemli. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...

The threats to women’s health care are very real, and they are only growing. We saw it on a panel on birth control in the House -- that didn’t include any women. We saw it in a young woman being called horrible names for telling the story of a friend in need. We see it in Republican efforts to allow a woman’s employer to dictate her access to birth control, and we are seeing it in state laws all across the country aimed at stripping women of their rights and so much more. On this International Women’s Day we celebrate our gains with the clear understanding that they must always be defended. We join with women everywhere to ensure that progress is not reversed. -- Patty Murray (D-Wash.), on the Senate floor yesterday ...

... Michelle Obama honors International Women of Courage:

... George Zornick of The Nation: "With most major media outlets covering International Women’s Day, Republicans on one House Judiciary subcommittee ... are holding a hearing on the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which would make it a crime for anyone other than a parent to accompany a young woman across state lines for abortion care. Anti-choice groups have already been very successful in limiting abortion clinics to select geographic areas, and this bill would make it harder for young women to access the services that do exist. NARAL Pro-Choice America is strongly opposed to the bill.... This bill, or some version of it, has been introduced in each Congress for the past fifteen years. The American Medical Association and many other major health care groups oppose the measure, because they view it as a roadblock to confidential access to physicians. House Republicans have picked a pretty bad day to make the push again." ...

... Proud to Be Misogynists! Steve Benen: "Rank-and-file House Republicans still want a vote on their own version of the Blunt Amendment, called the 'Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,' championed by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska. Most of the House GOP is already co-sponsoring the bill, and many still expect a floor vote, Senate opposition, and Republican leaders' squeamishness, notwithstanding."

The Tennessean: "Former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis said he and his wife Lynda were denied the right to vote Tuesday in his Fentress County hometown." Davis was not offered a provisional ballot, but later "someone" called him at home & told him he [and presumably, his wife] could cast a provisional ballot." Davis said, "I’m a former member of Congress, state senator, House member, mayor and all my life, I’ve been involved in the community, coaching Little League, participating in Boy Scouts and serving on boards here, and I’m denied the right to vote. It just doesn’t make sense.” CW: That's funny; the board of elections can find his phone number but they don't know where he lives??? The article doesn't say so, but Davis is a Democrat. Are we all surprised? Thanks to Dave S. for the link. ...

      ... AP Update: some elections official apologized to Davis. "it was a clerical error." CW: Gosh, I wonder how many "clerical errors" will be made November 6? ...

      ... Keith Olbermann interviews Lincoln Davis:

This is a disguise -- smoke and mirrors for a poll tax for the elderly and the disabled, regardless of the race, and for those who are dependent on public transportation. We're going back to the Jim Crow days. -- Texas State Sen. Mario Gallegos (D) on the new Texas voter ID law ...

... Lisa Olsen of the Houston Chronicle: "The state's contested voter ID law could provoke widespread complications in the upcoming presidential elections, with as many as 18 percent of all registered voters across Texas apparently lacking state government-issued photo IDs to match their voter registration cards.... The findings come from documents submitted by the state to the U.S. Department of Justice as part of an ongoing review of the new voter ID law.... The law appears to most heavily impact voters in 20 of Texas' majority Hispanic counties. In nine of those counties, 40 percent or more of registered voters did not perfectly match 2012 DPS data...." CW: Gov. Rick Perry (RTP) & AG Greg Abbott (R) say the law is necessary to prevent voter fraud. How much voter fraud has been detected? The article doesn't say, but assuming Texas is typical -- the answer is next to none. And for this, 40 percent of registered voters in some counties may be denied the right to vote. ...

... Rachel Maddow has a good wrap-up of the GOP's nationwide effort to suppress the vote:

** Andrew Delbanco of Columbia University writes a terrific op-ed in the New York Times on what "elite" colleges should be doing not just to improve their images but to improve their curricula.

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "President Obama has begun embracing housing policies that administration officials earlier thought unwise or unworkable as he embarks on his most aggressive push to address the nation’s foreclosure crisis and depressed real estate market since the first months of his tenure.... By addressing housing with such force lately, Obama has been able to draw a contrast with his Republican presidential rivals, who generally have favored a hands-off approach to the foreclosure crisis. He has also been able to salve wounds in his relationship with liberals." CW: Obama is not doing all that well with cynics who see this as an election-year ploy.

Amanda Beadle of Think Progress: Rush Limbaugh has scrubbed the transcripts of his shows in which he disparaged Sandra Fluke. ...

... Mark Judkis of the Washington Post: "The 'Hall of Famous Missourians' may not be the only place that will soon be decorated with a Rush Limbaugh sculpture: ... the sculpture will be available in an edition of six.... Collectors will be able to purchase one of the six Limbaugh sculptures cast in the same mold, for approximately $15,000."

Mary Clare Jalonick of the AP: "E-mails obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act don't contradict Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's assertion that he alone made the decision to oust [Shirley] Sherrod over a speech initially determined to have been racist. But they do show that White House officials were closely involved in the process from the first minutes the scandal began to emerge, offering advice and counsel to Agriculture officials." CW: from what I read, the White House looks better than the USDA; at least somebody in the WH said, "Hey, maybe we should look at the whole tape before we whack this woman."

Charlie Savage & the New York Times keep on keeping on trying to get hold of the memo authorizing the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) -- who surely has national ambitions -- on why it's a big mistake to vote for guys like the one sitting right next to him:

Ilyse Hogue of The Nation on Rep. Chellie Pingree's (D-Maine) decision not to run for the Senate because an "Independent" man decided to make it a three-way race. "... forcing [women's] issues out of the women’s ghetto into the light of priority evidently requires more female leadership, which means that maybe it is someone else’s turn to step aside."

Right Wing World

** Paul Krugman: A "new hostility to education is shared by the social conservative and economic conservative wings of the Republican coalition, now embodied in the persons of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. And this comes at a time when American education is already in deep trouble.... Whenever you hear Republicans say that they are the party of traditional values, bear in mind that they have actually made a radical break with America’s tradition of valuing education. And they have made this break because they believe that what you don’t know can’t hurt them."

Unless there’s a valid, legitimate and compelling public purpose, I don’t know why the government owns so much of this land. -- Mitt Romney

Is there any long-held, much-cherished American principle that Republicans and their media outlets will not renounce? -- Tim Egan

... CW: Egan explains the "legitimate & compelling purpose," but I don't think Romney is real enough to get it. One need not be a tree-hugger to see why this man should not be put in charge of the United States. He says it all in one sentence. He does not accept the idea that serve to ordinary people is a legitimate & compelling purpose.

E. J. Dionne: "... Nixon, rival to Romney’s father in 1968..., may best explain how Mitt Romney is managing his way toward a tepid triumph.... Nixon’s political resurrection came after a period of great ideological enthusiasm ... that led to Barry Goldwater’s historically significant but electorally disastrous nomination in 1964. Nixon knew that he needed the right wing but had no illusions about how its loyalists felt about him. 'They don’t like me,' Nixon said, 'but they tolerate me.' That is the best Romney is likely to do with the Tea Partyers and the Christian conservatives and the Southerners.... But as it was for Nixon, this may be enough."

Steve Benen: Republicans' vow to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act "appears to have been rebuffed and rejected.... For one thing, repeal can't pass. For another, a vote for repeal is a vote for higher taxes on small businesses, higher prescription drug prices for seniors, fewer protections for consumers, a larger deficit, and taking health care coverage away from millions of Americans. It's not exactly a smart election-year move." ...

... AND Besides That ...  Jake Sherman & John Bresnahan of Politico: Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is continuing his long losing streak; he is a "leader" with few followers.

News Ledes

Bloomberg News: "Employers in the U.S. boosted payrolls more than forecast in February, indicating companies are growing more optimistic about the expansion. The jobless rate held at 8.3 percent. The 227,000 increase in payrolls followed a revised 284,000 gain in January.... Job growth over the last six months was the strongest since 2006."

AP: "The U.S. military signed a last-minute agreement Friday to transfer its main detention center in the country to Afghan control in six months — a key step toward a long-term pact on U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.... Friday’s agreement extends a deadline set by Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the transfer of some 3,000 Afghan detainees at the Parwan facility, a U.S.-run prison adjoining its Bagram military base...."

Reuters: "Israel has asked the United States for advanced 'bunker-buster' bombs and refueling planes that could improve its ability to attack Iran's underground nuclear sites, an Israeli official said on Thursday."

New York Times: "Greece said Friday that it had clinched a landmark debt restructuring deal with its private sector lenders. The deal clears the way for the release of bailout funds from Europe and the International Monetary Fund that will save the country from imminent default."

New York Times: "An international diplomatic effort to nudge Syria’s president toward peace talks ran into difficulties on Friday even before it got under way when the leader of the main exile opposition group was quoted as rejecting the initiative." Al Jazeera story here. Al Jazeera's liveblog on Syria is here.

Reuters: Italian "President Giorgio Napolitano led a chorus of condemnation on Friday of Britain's failure to inform the Italian government before launching a botched rescue mission with Nigerian forces that led to the deaths of British and Italian hostages held by a militant Islamist group. Briton Chris McManus and Italian Franco Lamolinara, who were kidnapped in May while working for a construction company in northwest Nigeria, were killed by their captors during the raid, British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday." Guardian story here, with links to related stories.