The Ledes

Monday, November 20, 2017.

New York Times: "The Argentine Navy disclosed on Monday that the crew of a missing submarine had been ordered to return to its home port on Wednesday after reporting a battery failure. The revelation was the first official confirmation that the Navy had known since Wednesday — when the submarine vanished — that the vessel was contending with equipment malfunction and might have the lost the ability to propel itself.... A multinational effort is underway to try to locate the submarine and its 44-member crew, amid mystery about what happened to the vessel.... The disclosure about mechanical failure is likely to add to fears that the crew has been lost."

New York Times:"Della Reese, the husky-voiced singer and actress who spent almost a decade playing a down-to-earth heavenly messenger on the CBS series 'Touched by an Angel' and became an ordained minister in real life, died on Sunday night at her home in Encino, Calif. She was 86."

New York Times: "Charles Manson, one of the most notorious murderers of the 20th century..., died on Sunday in Kern County, Calif. He was 83 and had been behind bars for most of his life."

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, November 19, 2017.

Tennessean: "Country Music Hall of Famer, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee and Grand Ole Opry member Mel Tillis died early Sunday morning at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida...."

New Yorker: Thomas Hargrove, a retired journalist, is developing an algorithm to solve serial murders. Interesting & not a bit nutty. Hargrove's research suggests that the number of serial killers still out their doing their jobs is much greater than police departments realize (or will admit -- serial killers are bad for local tourism). Also too, the percentage of murders that get solved has dropped precipitously in the last half-century.

Donaldo da Trumpo. Guardian: "On Wednesday, a long-lost Leonardo da Vinci painting sold for $450.3m, rocking the art world.... On Thursday, that same art world was given a reality check, when a sketch by the less celebrated Donald Trump sold for just $6,875 at an auction in Los Angeles. Trump’s untitled piece, which depicts the Manhattan skyline, barely cleared its minimum price of $5,000.... The president took on his project in 2009 for a charity event. Trump seems to have used either pencil or ballpoint pen for the piece, which measures 8in x 5in. The sketch shows what appear to be skyscrapers, alongside something representing the Empire State Building. Nate D Sanders, the auction house handling the sale, presented the sketch in a 15in x 18in frame, along with a signed photo of Trump."

New York Times: "After 19 minutes of dueling, with four bidders on the telephone and one in the room, Leonardo da Vinci’s 'Salvator Mundi' sold on Wednesday night for $450.3 million with fees, shattering the high for any work of art sold at auction. It far surpassed Picasso’s 'Women of Algiers,' which fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in May 2015. The buyer was not immediately disclosed." ...

... New York Times critic Jason Farago calls the painting "a proficient but not especially distinguished religious picture from turn-of-the-16th-century Lombardy, put through a wringer of restorations.... The painting, when purchased at an estate sale in 2005 for less than $10,000, was initially considered a copy of a lost Leonardo, completed around 1500 and once in the collection of Charles I of England. [Some experts still think it's a copy.] Over time, its wood surface became cracked and chafed, and it had been crudely overpainted.... Cleaned by the conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini, the painting now appears in some limbo state between its original form and an exacting, though partially imagined, rehabilitation."

A D.C. Hotel for Liberals. Bloomberg: Eaton Workshop will open an anti-Trump hotel in Washington, D.C., late next spring. It's the "world’s first politically motivated hotel, the flagship for a global brand that’s built around social activism and community engagement."

Mike Isaac of the New York Times, in an article written in all tweets: "On Tuesday, [Twitter] said nearly all of its 330 million users would now be able to tweet with 280 characters, the exact total in this paragraph.... The only Twitter users who will remain at 140 characters are those who post in Japanese, Korean or Chinese, the company said. Those languages have alphabets that typically allow for the expression of more thoughts in fewer characters...."

Travel Advisory. New York magazine: "Oh Good, Southwest Airlines to Host Live Country-Music Concerts on Flights."

Constant Comments


Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. Des MacHale (often misattributed to H. L. Mencken)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling


The Commentariat -- May 28, 2015

ObamaWeb! Rebecca Ruiz of the New York Times: "For 30 years, the federal government has helped millions of low-income Americans pay their phone bills, saying that telephone service is critical to summoning medical help, seeking work and, ultimately, climbing out of poverty. Now, [FCC Chair Tom Wheeler] will propose offering those same people subsidized access to broadband Internet.... While the plan is likely to secure the support of the F.C.C.'s Democratic majority in a vote next month, it is almost certain to also set off fierce debate in Washington." CW: Gosh, whoever would oppose a modest plan designed to reduce income inequality & help American children?

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama will put off a confrontation at the Supreme Court over his immigration executive actions, choosing not to ask for permission to carry out the programs while a fight over presidential authority plays out in the lower courts, officials said Wednesday. As a result, Mr. Obama&'s vast overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, which he announced with great fanfare last November, might not be resolved until just months before he leaves office." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Charles Pierce: The Supreme Court is "now damned close to enshrining in law the principle that any electoral disadvantage -- self-inflicted or not -- that conservatives face is prima facie unconstitutional. First, they turn our elections into a plutocrat's playground (Citizens United, McCutcheon). Then they uphold in the main voter-suppression tactics designed by the candidates the newly corrupt system produces out in the states (Crawford). Then, they gut any remedy that the people against whom these new laws discriminate have in federal court (Shelby County.) And now, it appears, the day of Jubilee having been declared, the circle may be closing for good." ...

... CW: Nonetheless, it would seem that Little Johnnie & the Dancing Supremes could have some difficulty in sidestepping the 14th Amendment, as contributor Patrick pointed out yesterday, to wit: "... Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State...." They will have to declare that children & adult non-voters are not whole persons. That, as I noted yesterday, is the question. ...

     ... However, as several legal commentators have pointed out, the case the Supremes agreed to hear has to do with how the states determine the apportionment of legislative districts within their states, not how many "persons" form the basis for federal representation. ...

... BUT. Marty Lederman of Balkanization notes that when he was assistant solicitor general, John Roberts argued convincingly that one-man-one-vote must be applied to state districting. Lederman: "(Of course I am not suggesting the Chief Justice is or ought to be bound by what he argued as counsel for the government a quarter-century ago; I merely think that the substance of his argument in Garza was, and remains, quite compelling.)" Via Rick Hasen. ...

... Rick Hasen in Slate: "The conservatives behind Evenwel don't seem bothered much by the intrusion on states' rights that a decision in their favor would engender. That's because they are motivated more by the fact that noncitizens are getting representation, and in their belief that this is 'diluting' the voting power of citizens. They are the same people who backed attacks on affirmative action at the Supreme Court in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case and successfully got the Supreme Court to strike down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act in the Shelby County v. Holder case. It is an agenda not about states' rights but about getting the Supreme Court to force states to empower conservatives and force onto all of us the theories of representation and power they envision." ...

... Noah Feldman of Bloomberg provides a helpful -- and easy-to-read -- historical views.

Mark Stern of Slate: The Supreme Court will hear a case contesting a death-penalty jury decision in which Georgia prosecutors left a paper trail showing blatant racism in jury selection. The state supreme court, BTW, saw nothing wrong with that. "A victory for Georgia ... would be a huge setback for the criminal justice system. It could give prosecutors across the country free rein to employ the kind of warped Southern justice that helped send [Timothy Tyrone] Foster to death row."

Jerry Markon of the Washington Post: "As the Department of Homeland Security continues to pour money into border security, evidence is emerging that illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades. The nation's population of illegal immigrants, which more than tripled, to 12.2 million, between 1990 and 2007, has dropped by about 1 million, according to demographers at the Pew Research Center.... Current and former DHS officials acknowledge that a confluence of factors explains the decline in illegal migration, including demographic changes in Mexico, improvements in its economy and Mexico's crackdown on Central American migrants headed to the United States." ...

... Nigel Duara of the Los Angeles Times: "Demonstrations unfolded Wednesday at six Arizona border checkpoints, where protesters complained that the Border Patrol has turned their hometowns into intimidating militarized zones, among other border control issues that threaten the quality of their lives."

Dan Bilefsky of the New York Times: "European soccer officials said on Thursday that they would not boycott an election that is widely expected to lead to a fifth term as FIFA president for Sepp Blatter, despite their intensified opposition to his candidacy. After leading an emergency meeting with representatives from FIFA's six regional confederations to discuss a criminal inquiry by the United States earlier in the day, Blatter rebuffed a call from Michel Platini, Europe's top soccer official, to step down before the election on Friday." ...

... Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times: "Dogged for years by suspicions of corruption, the governing body for the world's most popular sport is now in the center of a sprawling, spiraling scandal.... The FIFA imbroglio, unearthed as part of a joint effort that includes the FBI and IRS, extends far beyond the average sports scandal." ...

... David Graham of the Atlantic reports on the FIFA (football) arrests -- which are now up to 14 & counting. Graham describes FIFA as a Mafia-like organization. ...

Claire Phipps & Damien Gayle of the Guardian: "Fifa sponsors, including Adidas, Visa and Coca-Cola, are calling for the body to reform its practices.... The crisis has also cast doubt over [Sepp] Blatter's leadership of the body. He is seeking a fifth four-year term as president this week, but leading figures in world football have called for him to reconsider his position." ...

... Jackie Kucinich of the Daily Beast: "The Clinton global charity has received between $50,000 and $100,000 from soccer's governing body and has partnered with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association on several occasions, according to donor listings on the foundation's website.... Bill Clinton ... was an honorary chairman of the bid committee put together to promote the United States as a possible host nation for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup."

Some Would Be Heroes. Contributor safari links to the obituary of conservationist Leo Drey. ...

... And Some Would Not. Adam Lerner of Politico: Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, "downplayed the effects of climate change at his company’s annual meeting Wednesday, telling shareholders his firm hadn't invested in renewable energy because 'We choose not to lose money on purpose.'... At the meeting, shareholders sided with the company's board and voted against a measure proposed by Father Michael Crosby and Sister Pat Daly, representatives of a Milwaukee-based Roman Catholic organization, to add a climate change expert to the company's board."

Presidential Race

Say Who? Alexander Burns of the New York Times: Former New York Gov. George Pataki "announced Thursday in a video on his website that he is running for president.... Mr. Pataki, who left office in 2006, is an unlikely match for the Republican Party of 2016. A former Yale debater with an easy public demeanor, he is a supporter of abortion rights and pushed as governor for anti-discrimination rules protecting gays and lesbians."

[Pataki] sees and believes that there's an opportunity in New Hampshire to put himself forth in this race. Its voters are much more moderate on social issues.... Of course he'll be battling Jeb Bush, who is considered the more moderate of the candidates running. But Jeb doesn't know to take a position on Iraq even after the disaster we've seen. -- Former goofball Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R.-N.Y.), a long-time ally of Pataki's

Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "Rick Santorum, who was the runner-up in the Republican primary race four years ago but has never been considered his party's heir apparent, is announcing his second presidential bid on Wednesday." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Dan Balz & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has been actively gauging reactions to a possible campaign for president in 2016, is now moving rapidly to assemble the staff and financial resources for such a bid and is looking to declare his candidacy sometime after June 30, according to knowledgeable Republicans." CW: Apparently god gave Kasich the signal. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Our Moral Dilemma of the Day: Should Christian bakers sell cake to sinners? ....

... Related Test Question: How is a mosque like a KKK march?

Katie Glueck of Politico: "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal lashed out at Sen. Rand Paul for his recent comments about the Islamic State, saying the presidential contender is unfit to be commander in chief and is taking the 'weakest, most liberal Democrat position' when it comes to fighting the militant group. Using unusually harsh rhetoric and an unusual forum, Jindal posted a statement condemning Paul on Wednesday on his 'office of the governor' website." CW: I'm trying to think of what other presidential hopeful is unfit for the job. ...

... Ed Kilgore surmises Bobby is "grabbing every media opportunity available to get the kind of attention that might bump up those polling numbers and earn a spot on the debate stage.... "Perhaps Jindal decided to get energized after reading a Times-Pic piece from Julia O'Donoghue drawing attention to a FiveThirtyEight analysis by Harry Enten of polls showing Bobby running dead last (technically, tied for dead last with John Kasich )among born again/evangelical voters, his obsessive target for many months now." ...

... CW: I sure want Bobby to be in the same circus ring with Li'l Randy during the Fox "News" clown show debates. It would be so fun to watch these pipsqueaks duke it out. ...

... Update. Add Christie to the scrim. Alexander Bolton of the Hill: Chris "Christie accused Paul of siding with the 'criminal' leaker Edward Snowden." ...

... Update 2. Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "... Jeb Bush sought to cast himself as a seasoned leader while faulting other candidates for shifting course to fit public opinion. Bush is not yet an official presidential candidate, but he suggested that others already in the race are being needlessly combative and that the eventual GOP presidential nominee should be 'hopeful and optimistic instead of grumpy and kind of reactionary.'... Bush made his comments as the featured guest on 'Calling Alabama,' a conference call series hosted by the Alabama Republican Party." ...

... Greg Sargent: "It's good that Bush is throwing down the gauntlet in claiming that GOP candidates should show courage in trying to persuade hostile GOP voters that legalization [of undocumented immigrants] is the only solution. But it remains to be see how far he'll go publicly. What's more, Bush does not deserve a pass here -- he, too, has equivocated on legalization."

Dana Milbank: "Ted Cruz, charlatan." Milbank points out how Cruz criticized President Obama for not bombing Syria at the same time Cruz was working against Congressional efforts to grant President Obama approval to bom Syria.

Adam Lerner: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker defended his decision to sign a law in Wisconsin mandating ultrasounds for women before they get abortions.... Defending the legislation against what he called the 'gotcha' media, Walker said, 'Most people I talk to, whether they're pro-life or not, I find people all the time who'll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids' ultrasound and how excited they are, so that's a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, you know we still have their first ultrasound picture. It's just a cool thing out there.'... Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards responded in a statement sent to NPR that 'Women are very clear that forced government ultrasounds are not "cool."'" ...

... CW: I'm pretty sure women will want to share photos of their aborted fetuses. Maybe frame the pix & hang them on the wall. What an asshole. P.S. Once again: thanks, Wisconsin!

Ha Ha. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: Carly Fiorina's attempted ambush of Hillary Clinton at a South Carolina hotel didn't go so well. ...

... Haberman: Meanwhile, Hillary called for a civil campaign, addressing "an unhappy memory from her last campaign in South Carolina, when her battle with Barack Obama grew intense and ugly." ...

... Patrick Healy of the New York Times: So then, in New Hampshire, Bernie takes a jab at Hillary for not taking a position on the TPP trade deal. ...

... Linda Greenhouse: "Hillary Clinton has been telling people ... that as president, she would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the Citizens United decision erasing limits on political spending by corporations.... Litmus tests can be problematic, for sure, but let's be intrigued rather than shocked that opposition to Citizens United has emerged as the latest one. During the presidential debates in 2012, neither candidate was asked a single question about the Supreme Court. If a Citizens United litmus test serves only to put the court on the campaign screen, where it urgently belongs, it will have done some good before the first vote is cast." ...

... Ken Vogel of Politico: "Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime confidant of Bill and Hillary Clinton, earned about $10,000 a month as a full-time employee of the Clinton Foundation while he was providing unsolicited intelligence on Libya to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to multiple sources familiar with the arrangement.... A Clinton loyalist who first earned the family's trust as an aggressive combatant in the political battles of the 1990s, Blumenthal continues to work as a paid consultant to two groups supporting Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign — American Bridge and Media Matters -- both of which are run by David Brock, a close ally of both Clinton and Blumenthal." ...

... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal judge issued an order Wednesday requiring the State Department to make public batches of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails every 30 days starting next month. U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras also set particular targets for the agency to meet each month as it wades through the roughly 30,000 emails totaling about 55,000 pages.... The State Department initially proposed releasing the vast majority of the emails in a single batch by next January, but Contreras rejected that suggestion, citing the public interest in the materials."

Beyond the Beltway

Putting Some Heart in the Heartland. Julie Bosman of the New York Times: "Nebraska on Wednesday became the first conservative state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty, with lawmakers defying their Republican governor, Pete Ricketts, a staunch supporter of capital punishment who had lobbied vigorously against banning it. After more than two hours of emotional speeches at the Capitol here, the Legislature, by a 30-to-19 vote that cut across party lines, overrode the governor's veto of a bill repealing the state's death penalty law. After the repeal measure passed, by just enough votes to overcome the veto, dozens of spectators in the balcony burst into celebration."

Colin Campbell & Ian Duncan of the Balitmore Sun: "Defense attorneys for six police officers facing criminal charges in the Freddie Gray case are seeking to have the case tried elsewhere in Maryland, saying their clients can't get a 'fair and impartial trial' in Baltimore."

Zach Stafford of the Guardian: "An Illinois judge has released a long-concealed picture that shows two Chicago police officers posing over an unidentified black man in antlers while holding rifles as if he had been hunted. The photo, which was given to police by federal prosecutors in 2013, was made public for the first time on Wednesday by Cook county Judge Thomas Allen. It was taken sometime between 1998 and 2003 at the Harrison police district station on the west side. This station is a mile south of Homan Square, the facility where the Guardian earlier this year identified alleged police misconduct and torture as well as other civil rights violations."

James Nord of the AP: "A South Dakota jury on Wednesday convicted former U.S. Senate candidate Annette Bosworth [R] of election law violations. The 43-year-old Sioux Falls physician had been charged with six counts each of perjury and filing false documents stemming from the mishandling of her candidate petitions. Jurors convicted her on all of those counts...."


The Commentariat -- May 27, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama will put off a confrontation at the Supreme Court over his immigration executive actions, choosing not to ask for permission to carry out the programs while a fight over presidential authority plays out in the lower courts, officials said Wednesday. As a result, Mr. Obama's vast overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, which he announced with great fanfare last November, might not be resolved until just months before he leaves office."

Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "Rick Santorum, who was the runner-up in the Republican primary race four years ago but has never been considered his party's heir apparent, is announcing his second presidential bid on Wednesday."

Dan Balz & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has been actively gauging reactions to a possible campaign for president in 2016, is now moving rapidly to assemble the staff and financial resources for such a bid and is looking to declare his candidacy sometime after June 30, according to knowledgeable Republicans." CW: Apparently god gave Kasich the signal.


Today's Existential Question:
Are You Still a Person if You Don't Vote?

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court said Tuesday that it will decide an important 'one person, one vote' case next term to determine whether states should consider total population -- or only eligible voters -- when drawing roughly equal legislative districts. A shift from using total population would have an enormous impact in states with large immigrant populations, where greater numbers are children or noncitizens. It would shift power from urban areas to more rural districts." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

David Savage of the Los Angeles Times: "The case was brought to the high court by Edward Blum, a conservative activist who two years ago won the Supreme Court ruling that struck down part of the Voting Rights Act. Blum also launched a constitutional challenge to the affirmative action policy at the University of Texas that is still pending."

Here's more on Blum by Morgan Smith of the New York Times (February 2012). Thanks to Victoria D. for the link.

The New York Times story on the case, by Adam Liptak, is here.

Richard Pildes in Election Law Blog: "In 1966, in the earliest days of the reapportionment revolution, the Court did hold that states could choose between equalizing population or eligible voters (Burns v. Richardson, 384 U.S. 73 (1966)). But a lot has happened in the maturation of the law in the ensuing 50 years; in general, the Court has placed greater emphasis on the use of more concrete, precise standards.... In practice, most states have used residents, not voters, for the baseline, but the doctrine leaves open the possibility that states could use other baselines. And as long as the baseline remains constitutionally undefined, states can manipulate the districting system by choosing one baseline over another...."

Ed Kilgore: "To put it another way, the plaintiffs in the case are attempting to replace the doctrine of 'one person, one vote' with 'one voter, one vote.'... In litigation going back to the early 1960s, when the 'one person, one vote' principle was first implemented under SCOTUS' direction, no federal court has previously held counting only voters (or voting-age people, or voting-eligible people) is required. So yeah, it would be a pretty big deal if that were to change."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "... if Republicans get their way, treating Latinos as non-persons in politics will be a lot easier...."

Julia Preston of the New York Times: "A federal appeals court on Tuesday denied the Obama administration's request to lift a hold on the president's executive actions on immigration, which would have granted protection from deportation as well as work permits to millions of immigrants in the country illegally. Two of three judges on a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, left in place an injunction by a Federal District Court judge in Brownsville, Tex. The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by Texas and 25 other states against actions President Obama took in November. Many of the initiatives were scheduled to take effect this month." ...

... Ian Millhiser explains.

Sean Cockerham & Lesley Clark of McClatchy News: "President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged the Senate to renew National Security Agency surveillance powers before they expire at midnight Sunday, as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul vowed to keep working to block the Patriot Act and the bulk collection of Americans' phone records.... White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, asked what Obama was doing to round up votes, suggested, without naming him, that Paul needs to put the country first as he runs for the Republican nomination for president." ...

Lori Aratani of the Washington Post: "Amtrak will install inward-facing video cameras on a majority of its Northeast Corridor trains by the end of this year, officials announced Tuesday, another in a series of safety measures the rail company has taken since a fatal May 12 derailment that killed eight people and injured more than 200. In a conference call with reporters, Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman said the cameras will allow railroad officials to monitor the actions of engineers while they are on the job." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Lisa Rein & Jonelle Marte of the Washington Post: "Hackers gained access to personal information of 104,000 taxpayers this spring, downloading an online service the Internal Revenue Service uses to give Americans access to their past tax returns, the agency said Tuesday. The information included several years' worth of returns and other tax information on file with the IRS, Commissioner John Koskinen said in a press conference. The thieves hacked into a system called 'Get Transcript,' clearing a security screen that requires users to know the taxpayer's Social Security number, date of birth, address and tax filing status."

Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "... it looks like all the time Democrats wasted on negotiating with [former Sen. Olympia] Snowe [R-Maine], and allowing her to help shape the legislation, has paid off. Snowe has, to my knowledge, become the first contemporaneous Republican senator, current or former, to acknowledge that a Supreme Court challenge meant to cripple Obamacare is built on a tissue of lies. If the Court sides with Obamacare opponents, her comments will become incredibly relevant to the ensuing political shitstorm." ...

... CW: Nonetheless, the confederate Supremes can & will (a) go with a "textual" reading -- i.e., what that one phrase says -- & (b) either cite comments by some of the many Republican legislators who have been pretending that the intent of the clause was to coerce the states into setting up their own exchanges, OR these so-called justices will ignore intent altogether. The only thing we don't know is whether Roberts &/or Kennedy have enough integrity to rule against this farce. It would not surprise me if all of the confederate Supremes ruled for the plaintiffs & hid behind the Congress-can-just-fix-it ruse. ...

... Charles Pierce: "The case itself is preposterous, a creature of the alternate universe of conservative epistemic closure come to blunder around in the lives of real people with real problems. And it's still a damn toss-up."

Joe Heim of the Washington Post: "... Indian American kids have placed a stranglehold on the Scripps National Spelling Bee, winning it now for seven years in a row and all but four of the last 15 years.... Bee organizers were appalled by the reaction to last year's contest, when Sriram, then 14, and his co-winner Ansun, then 13, were greeted with a barrage of racist comments on Facebook and Twitter." CW: Hay reel American kids arent dum. Sumbuddys cheeting. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Bryan Bender & Philip Ewing of Politico: "... when [Secretary of Defense Ash] Carter showed up for work on Monday, according to top aides, he was hailed as a hero of sorts by the top brass for bluntly saying what they have been privately warning for months. 'This is Carter calling it the way he sees it,' said a senior Pentagon official..., explaining that his public rebuke, in a brief interview aired on CNN's 'State of the Union' program, was not coordinated with the White House. 'There is a lot of people here who think that is an important message....' White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Carter's comments were 'consistent with the analysis that he's received from those who are on the ground,' but he also stressed that in many cases Iraqi troops had shown bravery in their battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant."

Rick Gladstone of the New York Times: "... if history is a guide, [the] fate [of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who is on trial in Iran on espionage & other charges,] may be tied to Iranian political tensions and calculations in the estranged relations between Iran and the United States that may have nothing to do with the accusations, according to political experts, relatives of prisoners and former prisoners."

Nick Gass of Politico: In compliance with a Freedom of Information Act request, the FBI has just released its file on Ben Bradlee, the legendary Washington Post editor-in-chief. It seems J. Edgar Hoover didn't like him much. The complete release is here.

We will now take a break from our regularly-scheduled links to legitimate news, analysis & opinion pieces to find out

What Terrible Things the Gays Are Doing Today

Gays Are Self-Indulgent Whiners. Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "The Nazi regime threw thousands of gay people into prison and concentration camps, and according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 'homosexuals were among the most abused groups in the camps,' where the Nazis subjected them to medical experiments 'designed policies to "cure" homosexuals of their "disease" through humiliation and hard work.'... But because gays weren't persecuted as harshly as European Jews, BarbWire columnist Christopher Ziegler claims today, Nazi persecution of gay people was a 'myth' propping up a contemporary 'pity party.'"

Gays Are Pedophiles Bent on Recruiting Wholesome Little Heterosexual Boys. Miranda Blue of Right Wing Watch: "... the American Family Association is urging its members to pull their sons from the Boy Scouts out of fear that gay troop leaders will sexually molest them and recruit them into homosexuality. Former AFA official Bryan Fischer, who hosts a daily program on the organization's radio network, called Boy Scouts head Robert Gates' support for admitting gay troop leaders 'a disaster, a moral catastrophe.' If gay men are allowed to lead Boy Scout troops, he said, 'It's no longer going to be Boy Scouts of America, it's going to be Gay Pedophiles Scouting For Boys.'"

Gays Are Gearing up to Persecute Christians. Miranda Blue: "Family Research Council President Tony Perkins wrapped up his group's annual 'Watchmen on the Wall' pastors' conference [last week] by warning the conservative pastors in the audience that although they 'may have five years' before they are dragged 'kicking and screaming' out of their churches if the Supreme Court strikes down same-sex marriage bans, they should start preparing their congregations for 'persecution.'" Also, too, it's already working in the Middle East because American gays are encouraging ISIS & other groups to persecute Christians.

Gays Are Threatening Democracy Itself. Brian Tashman: "In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, [Sen. Marco] Rubio [R-Fla.] warned that gay marriage represents 'a real and present danger' to America because gay rights advocates are bent on labeling any anti-gay messages, including those from churches, as 'hate speech.'" ...

     ... Tim Teeman of the Daily Beast: "Does Marco Rubio have any idea of the toxicity of the phrase he is flinging around to score some cheap political capital? Does he have any idea of the true 'hate speech' LGBTs have suffered, not just on political platforms at the hands of people like Marco Rubio in their stoking of their Christian voting base -- words like 'unnatural,' 'pretend families,' words of exclusion that seek to put us outside the boundaries of family, home, and love?"

Gays Are Defeating Humanity. Stephanie Kirchgaessner of the Guardian: "A senior Vatican official has attacked the legalisation of gay marriage in Ireland. The referendum that overwhelmingly backed marriage equality last weekend was a 'defeat for humanity', he claimed.... The remarks by the Vatican's top diplomat, [Cardinal Pietro Parolin,] who is seen as second only to the pope in the church's hierarchy, represent the most damning assessment of the Irish vote by a senior church official to date. It was a far more critical response than the circumspect reaction offered by archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin...."

CW: Congratulations, gay people. I had no idea you had so much power. Very impressive.

Marie's Sports Report

Matt Apuzzo, et al., of the New York Times: "Swiss authorities conducted an extraordinary early-morning operation [in Zurich] Wednesday to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges. As leaders of FIFA, soccer's global governing body, gathered for their annual meeting, more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel, an elegant five-star property with views of the Alps and Lake Zurich. They went to the front desk to get room numbers and then proceeded upstairs." ...

... Jere Longman of the Times provides some background. ...

... The Washington Post report, by Michael Miller & Fred Barbash, is here. The sports news sites don't have much of anything yet.

** Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Ryan Cooper of the Week: "... when it comes to Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and the 2016 race, it's clear that he's getting a raw deal. It's long since time the press gave him the respect he deserves.... The constant presumptions about the electoral viability of some candidate amounts to an attempt to influence the outcome of the election, whether it's intentional or not. That might be a justifiable enterprise with someone like former Rep. Ron Paul, who has an extensive history of racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism. But while Sanders has odd hair, and can be grouchy at times, he ... is a sitting United States senator who could easily finish second in the Democratic presidential primary.... Indeed, if anything Sanders is more credible than the likes of Paul and Cruz ..." who have received extensive & front-page MSM coverage even though they are doing poorly in GOP polls.

Presidential Race

Ben Jacobs of the Guardian: "Vermont senator Bernie Sanders formally launched his long-shot bid to unseat Hillary Clinton from the left on Tuesday in a Burlington, Vermont, park. Sanders ... will mount a populist campaign focused on income inequality, campaign finance reform and fighting climate change. He told the crowd of flag waving attendees on the sunny shore of Lake Champlain, 'Today, with your support and the support of millions of people throughout this country, we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally.'" ...

... Here are Sanders' full remarks. ...

... Steve Kornacki of MSNBC argues that Sanders will prove to be Clinton's most effective opponent. (CW: Bernie says he's not running against Clinton; he's running for president.) "A recent Iowa poll put Sanders at 14%, more than O'Malley, Webb and Chafee combined; and a New Hampshire poll gave him 18%, more than doubling up the other three. (That said, he still trails Clinton by around 50 points.)" ...

... CW: However, even if Sanders does much better than 14 percent in some primaries, Hillary will get almost all the "super-delegate" votes, so she's a cinch for the nomination. The whole idea of the super-delegate system is to assure there will never be another George McGovern-type nominee -- & this time around, that means Bernie. As an aside, the reason I started Reality Chex (which I intended to shut down after the 2008 election) was that I had to look all over the place to find out how Obama was doing in the super-delegate count, & I wanted there to be one place where readers could keep track. Initially Obama was way behind Hillary. (I used to write thank-you notes to the super delegates who came out for Obama. Especially in the early months, that took guts.) My best source, I must admit, was Mark Halperin.) ...

... AND what's not to love in Politico's characterization of Bernie's backers? Jonathan Topaz: "These weren't your everyday Americans who came out to support Bernie Sanders on Tuesday. The self-described democratic socialist kicked off his long-shot run for the White House in his adopted hometown of Burlington, Vt., a lakeside city full of characters who might not have passed the pre-selection process for Hillary Clinton's tour of roundtables.' ...

CW: Seems quite a number of Extraordinary Americans showed up for Bernie's announcement (or maybe they're mostly aliens from another planet or Canada):

Steve M.: "I defend Hillary Clinton because we have a horrible electoral system in which billions will be spent against the Democratic presidential candidate, so billions will be needed to keep the Supreme Court from being restocked with four fortysomething Scalias. I think she's all that's standing in the way of that. But I like what Bernie Sanders says."

ISIS didn't exist when my brother was president. Al Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out when my brother was president. -- Jeb Bush (R), remarks during a business rountable in Portsmouth, N.H., May 20

Bush seems to have fallen prey to Washington conventional wisdom, in which ISIS suddenly emerged into consciousness in the past year or so. That may be fine for armchair analysts or journalists. But that's little excuse for a presidential candidate.... Bush flatly stated as fact that ISIS did not exist when his brother was president -- and that al-Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out when Obama took office. Both statements are false...." -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post

Dana Milbank: Rand Paul's "new book, 'Taking a Stand,' came out Tuesday, and it is chock-full of lines that would position Paul well -- if he were running against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.... And though Paul may think his Republican Party's brand sucks, the primary voters don't necessarily share his view that the party is too old and too white. His candidacy has so far failed to ignite -- and, indeed, he seems to be fading as a force within the party." ...

... Jesse Byrnes of the Hill: "Sen. Rand Paul(R-Ky.) on Wednesday blasted members of his party for sending arms to the Middle East that have ended up in the hands of Islamic militants. Paul ... faulted GOP lawmakers for helping the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)."

Senate Race

Emily Kahn of Roll Call: "Arizona [Democratic] Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick will challenge Republican Sen. John McCain, according to a source with knowledge of Kirkpatrick's plans, giving Democrats a top recruit and a potential pickup opportunity. Kirkpatrick made calls Monday to inform people of her plans, the source told CQ Roll Call. Her bid also opens up Arizona's 1st District, a GOP-leaning seat spanning the northeast quadrant of the state."

Beyond the Beltway

Julie Bosman of the New York Times: "Gov. Pete Ricketts [R] of Nebraska vetoed a bill on Tuesday that would abolish the death penalty in the state, testing the strength of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who said they would try to override his decision.... Lawmakers quickly scheduled a vote to try to override the governor's veto for Wednesday afternoon.... In Nebraska's unicameral Legislature, three rounds of voting are required to approve a bill before it can reach the governor's desk. Last week, in the third round, the Legislature voted 32 to 15 in favor of abolition, two votes more than needed to override a veto."

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "The city of Cleveland has agreed to have its police department overseen by an independent monitor and subject its officers to strict and explicit new rules on the use of force, under a settlement with the Justice Department that was announced Tuesday. The agreement ... imposes some of the toughest standards in the nation on the department. It lays out an array of prohibitions in an effort to reduce violent encounters between the police and the community -- particularly its minorities -- and ingrain 'bias-free policing principles' throughout the department." ...

... has a full page of links to related stories.

News Ledes

Hill: "The Defense Department accidentally sent live anthrax to labs in nine states and is working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to contain it, the Pentagon said Wednesday. 'The Department of Defense is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their investigation of the inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis, also known as anthrax, from a DoD lab in Dugway, Utah, to labs in nine states,' said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman."

AP: "A second submariner has pleaded guilty to sharing videos of female officers undressing for a shower, continuing a case that a prosecutor calls a 'black eye' for the Navy's integration of women into the nation's sub fleet.... Electronics technician Joseph Bradley entered pleas Wednesday in a court-martial trial. He was sentenced to 30 days' confinement and a reduction in rank.... On Tuesday, missile technician Charles Greaves received two years in prison and a dishonorable discharge for making the videos. Five more male sailors face charges in the case."


The Commentariat -- May 26, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court said Tuesday that it will decide an important 'one person, one vote' case next term to determine whether states should consider total population -- or only eligible voters -- when drawing roughly equal legislative districts. A shift from using total population would have an enormous impact in states with large immigrant populations, where greater numbers are children or noncitizens. It would shift power from urban areas to more rural districts."

Lori Aratani of the Washington Post: "Amtrak will install inward-facing video cameras on a majority of its Northeast Corridor trains by the end of this year, officials announced Tuesday, another in a series of safety measures the rail company has taken since a fatal May 12 derailment that killed eight people and injured more than 200. In a conference call with reporters, Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman said the cameras will allow railroad officials to monitor the actions of engineers while they are on the job."

Joe Heim of the Washington Post: "... Indian American kids have placed a stranglehold on the Scripps National Spelling Bee, winning it now for seven years in a row and all but four of the last 15 years.... Bee organizers were appalled by the reaction to last year's contest, when Sriram, then 14, and his co-winner Ansun, then 13, were greeted with a barrage of racist comments on Facebook and Twitter." CW: Hay reel American kids arent dum. Sumbuddys cheeting.


** "The Myth of the Hero Cop." David Feige in Slate: "... if you compare the murder rate among police officers with the murder rate in several American cities, you find that it is far safer to be a NYPD officer than an average black man in Baltimore or St. Louis.... Arguments about the dangerous nature of police work drive the increasing militarization of police departments. The life-and-death nature of the job is used to push for extremely generous medical leave, overtime, and pay packages. Most insidious of all, the exaggerated danger and trumped-up heroism drives an us-versus-them mentality that suffuses contemporary big-city policing and bleeds into the criminal justice system, causing systemic imbalances that chronically favor the police over citizens. Together, this creates a sense of invincibility and righteousness among the police that is used to justify even outrageous behavior while simultaneously creating the perception among the public that the police are untouchable."

** Robert Pear of the New York Times: "They are only four words in a 900-page law [the Affordable Care Act]: 'established by the state.'... Who wrote them, and why?... The answer, from interviews with more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law, is that the words were a product of shifting politics and a sloppy merging of different versions. Some described the words as 'inadvertent,' 'inartful' or 'a drafting error.' But none supported the contention of the plaintiffs, who are from Virginia." Read the whole article. And hope Roberts & Kennedy do, too. ...

... Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP: "A Supreme Court ruling due in a few weeks could wipe out health insurance for millions of people covered by President Barack Obama's health care law. But it's Republicans -- not White House officials -- who have been talking about damage control. A likely reason: Twenty-six of the 34 states that would be most affected by the ruling have Republican governors, and 22 of the 24 GOP Senate seats up in 2016 are in those states." ...

... "Eerrrrrrntt!" Jennifer Haberkorn & Rachel Bade of Politico: "Preparing for a Supreme Court decision that could strike down Obamacare's subsidies for nearly 7.5 million people this summer, Senate Republicans are coalescing around a plan to resurrect them -- at a steep price for the White House. With several Senate Republicans facing tough reelections, and control of the chamber up for grabs, 31 senators have signed on to a bill written by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that would restore the subsidies for current Obamacare enrollees through September 2017. But the administration would have to pay a heavy price -- the bill would also repeal Obamacare's individual and employer mandates and insurance coverage requirements... But even if Johnson could somehow persuade Obama and Senate Democrats to accept his plan -- a herculean task -- the bigger problem will be his Republican colleagues in the House."

Michael de la Merced of the New York Times: 'The Daily Show' developed [a five-week industry boot camp designed to bring young veterans into the television business] over the last three years without publicizing it, but now, because [Jon] Stewart is preparing to leave the show, he has taken it into the open, urging other shows to develop their own programs to bring more veterans into the industry. 'This is ready to franchise. Please steal our idea,' Mr. Stewart said in an interview at his Manhattan studio recently."

Darlene Superville of the AP: "President Barack Obama on Monday saluted Americans who died in battle, saying the country must 'never stop trying to fully repay them' for their sacrifices. He noted it was the first Memorial Day in 14 years without U.S. forces engaged in a major ground war." (Also linked yesterday afternoon):

Charles Pierce wrote quite a nice piece on the way to celebrate Memorial Day. CW: While Pierce does not speak ill of parades, one has to wonder how many of the dead would like to be celebrated in a noisy parade. I suppose it's better than being celebrated by a sale on electronics, as I was urged by Best Buy to do today.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "A pair of grad students surveyed 2,000 state legislators and asked them what they thought their constituents believed on several hot button issues. They then compared the results to actual estimates from each district derived from national surveys.... Both liberal and conservative legislators -- thought their districts were more conservative than they really were." CW: So why are these hip liberal voters choosing Neanderthals to represent them? (As usual, apologies to actual Neanderthals, who were definitely smarter than the average Republican.)

Sinan Salaheddin of the AP: "Iraq on Tuesday announced the launch of a military operation to drive the Islamic State group out of the western Anbar province, where the extremists captured the provincial capital, Ramadi, earlier this month. Iraqi state TV declared the start of the operation, in which troops will be backed by Shiite and Sunni paramilitary forces...." ...

Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "American and allied warplanes are equipped with the most precise aerial arsenal ever fielded. But American officials say they are not striking significant -- and obvious -- Islamic State targets out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians.

... Nahal Toosi of Politico: "Vice President Joe Biden is trying to calm tensions with Iraq's leaders after the U.S. secretary of defense [Ash Carter] accused Iraqi troops of lacking the 'will to fight' Islamic State. Biden spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi on Monday to reaffirm U.S. support for Iraq's government and to recognize 'the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces,' according to a White House statement."

Thomas Erdbrink of the New York Times: "Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post correspondent accused by Iran of espionage who has been imprisoned for more than 10 months, went on trial in a Tehran courtroom on Tuesday morning, state news media reported. The trial, which is not open to the public, began at 10:30 a.m. at Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported. Mr. Rezaian’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and a photojournalist also went on trial alongside Mr. Rezaian, according to the state news agency IRNA." ...

     ... UPDATE: "The trial was adjourned after two hours, and the judge in the case, Abolghassem Salavati, will announce a date for the resumption of the proceedings...." ...

     ... NEW. The Washington Post report, by Carol Morello, is here. ...

... Here's a statement from Martin Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post.

Jeff Amy of the AP: "U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran -- the Mississippi Republican whose 2014 primary campaign drew national attention over an aspiring blogger's photos of his bedridden wife -- has married his longtime aide, his office said Monday. The wedding to Kay Webber took place privately Saturday in Gulfport. The senator's former wife, Rose Cochran, died in December at age 73 from dementia after living in a nursing home for 13 years. Political blogger Clayton Kelly took pictures of a bedridden Rose Cochran in April 2014, and officials say he intended to use the images to advance allegations that the senator was having an inappropriate relationship with Webber." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Presidential Race

Ken Thomas of the AP: Bernie "Sanders, who is opening his official presidential campaign Tuesday in Burlington, Vermont, aims to ignite a grassroots fire among left-leaning Democrats wary of Hillary Rodham Clinton. He is laying out an agenda in step with the party's progressive wing and compatible with [Elizabeth] Warren's platform -- reining in Wall Street banks, tackling college debt and creating a government-financed infrastructure jobs program." ...

Hadas Gold of Politico: "Hillary Clinton may feel like the press hounds and harasses her, but there's one segment of the media from which she's getting the kind of coverage you just can't buy: women's magazines.... A Politico review of several of the magazines' past few months of coverage suggests that readers will be getting a heavy dose of liberal cheerleading this campaign season along with their skincare, makeup and fashion tips.... It's enough to make Republicans scream."

Ringmasters Aim to Kick Some Clowns off the Car Running Board. Paul Waldman: "By saying they're going to support several candidates in the primaries, the Kochs are pledging to accelerate the winnowing process, by which the race's chaff can be sloughed off and the focus can stay on the serious contenders.... If the Kochs are ready to put some of their ample resources into the primary campaign, it's a sign that the enormous size of the primary field is generating some serious concern at the top of the GOP."

Is the Pope Catholic? Ben Schreckinger of Politico: Pope Francis is causing consternation among conservative Republican Roman Catholics & their pandering presidential candidates. "Like so much else about [Jeb] Bush, his embrace of Francis places him in sync with a majority of Americans but at odds with large swaths of the Republican primary electorate."

Beyond the Beltway

Mitch Smith & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "The city of Cleveland has reached a settlement with the Justice Department over what federal authorities said was a pattern of unconstitutional policing and excessive use of force, people briefed on the case said Monday. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)"

See today Comments, near the end:

News Ledes

Guardian: Texas governor Greg Abbott has expanded the emergency disaster zone in his state, adding 24 counties to a list of 13 affected by storms and flooding. Three people were reported dead and 12 missing as Oklahoma was also hit hard, while a tornado left 13 dead in a Mexican town just beyond the border." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "Flooding brought Houston[, Texas,] to a near-standstill Tuesday, sending normally tame rivers and bayous surging out of their banks, inundating streets and homes, and leaving highways littered with hundreds of abandoned, ruined cars. As much as 10 inches of rain lashed the Houston area overnight, and added to floodwaters flowing downstream from areas of central Texas that were swamped over the holiday weekend, causing waterways to rise from trickle to torrent faster than people could get out of the way." ...

... See also Jeanne Pitz's comment on this in today's Commentariat.