Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week's address, the President spoke to the merits of the high-standards trade agreement reached this past week. The Trans-Pacific Partnership helps level the playing field for American workers and businesses, so we can export more Made-in-America products all over the world, supporting higher-paying American jobs here at home":

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, October 9, 2015.

New York Times: "The Islamic State registered significant gains Friday in the area of northwestern Syria that Russian warplanes have been bombing heavily, taking six villages near Aleppo and threatening to cut off an important route north to the Turkish border. Late in the day, there were reports that rebels had reasserted control in one of the villages."

Houston Chronicle: "One Texas Southern University student was killed another wounded in a shooting Friday at a student housing complex on the campus in southeast Houston."

New York Times: "Israeli soldiers killed six young Palestinians on Friday in the Gaza Strip, including a 15-year-old boy, as they opened fire to quell crowds that hurled rocks and rolled burning tires close to the fence separating Gaza from Israel, Israeli military and Gaza health officials said."

New York Times: "The National Dialogue Quartet in Tunisia won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday 'for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011'.... The quartet comprises four organizations: the Tunisian General Labour Union; the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. But the Norwegian Nobel Committee emphasized that the prize 'is awarded to this quartet, not to the four individual organizations as such.'”

AP: "Officials say one person is dead and three others are wounded following an early morning shooting at Northern Arizona University. School public relations director Cindy Brown says the suspected shooter is in custody." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "G. T. Fowler, the chief of campus police, said that Steven Jones, a freshman, had opened fire after two groups of male students were involved in a confrontation. The police were able to take Mr. Jones into custody after he stopped firing the weapon and “everything calmed down for a few minutes,” Chief Fowler said."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post [Sept. 11]: "Aggressive treatment of high blood pressure can sharply cut the risk of heart attacks, strokes and deaths in people 50 and older, according to a landmark federal study released Friday that urges doctors to bring their patients’ blood pressure well below the commonly recommended target. The new research advises people with high blood pressure to keep their “systolic” pressure — the top number in the reading that health-care providers routinely tell patients — at 120 or below.

New York Times [Aug. 20]: "As many as 60,000 American women each year are told they have a very early stage of breast cancer — Stage 0, as it is commonly known — a possible precursor to what could be a deadly tumor. And almost every one of the women has either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, and often a double mastectomy, removing a healthy breast as well. Yet it now appears that treatment may make no difference in their outcomes."

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

White House Live Video
October 9

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

AND contributor D. C. Clark was kind enough to remind us of Eva Cassidy:

Here's a break from the parade of horribles in the left column:

A friend sent me this version. You'll want to supersize it:

MoviePilot: Quite a few people think the film "The Martian" -- which depicts an Earthly astronaut stuck on Mars -- is "based on a true story." ...

... CW: Reminds of Orson Welles' 1938 radio production of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds. History Channel: "Perhaps as many as a million radio listeners believed that a real Martian invasion was underway. Panic broke out across the country. In New Jersey, terrified civilians jammed highways seeking to escape the alien marauders. People begged police for gas masks to save them from the toxic gas and asked electric companies to turn off the power so that the Martians wouldn’t see their lights. One woman ran into an Indianapolis church where evening services were being held and yelled, 'New York has been destroyed! It’s the end of the world! Go home and prepare to die!'”

New York Times: "Europe’s highest court ruled on Tuesday that a widely used international agreement for moving people’s digital data between the European Union and the United States was invalid. The decision, by the European Court of Justice, throws into doubt how seamlessly global technology giants — the likes of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google — can continue to collect, manage and analyze online information from their millions of users in the 28-member bloc. The court decreed that the data-transfer agreement was invalid as of Tuesday’s ruling."

One More Reason Not to Let Jeff Bezos into Your House. Bloomberg: "Amazon.com Inc. will stop selling media-streaming devices from Google Inc. and Apple Inc. that aren’t easily compatible with its video service, the latest example of the company using its clout to promote products that fit with its own retailing strategy.The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an e-mail to its marketplace sellers that it will stop selling the Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast since those devices don’t 'interact well' with Prime Video." ...

... Karl Bode of Tech Dirt: "Amusingly, Amazon unloads what has to be one of the larger piles of ambiguous bullshit in defense of an anti-competitive position seen in some time: "Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime,' Amazon said in [an] e-mail [to sellers]. 'It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.'" Hilarious. Except it's up to developers to embed Chromecast support into their services and apps, and both Google and Apple publish open software development kits that allows any application to be utilized on both devices. In other words, it's Amazon's choice that Chromecast and Apple TV won't play nicely with Amazon Prime Instant Streaming. It has nothing to do with the devices not 'interacting well' with Amazon's services." ...

... Alison Griswold of Slate: "It will be interesting to see whether Amazon’s move with regard to streaming content raises any antitrust flags. Generally speaking, a company has breached antitrust laws when it has a monopoly and uses that monopoly to stifle competition."

Congratulations, Aliens! You are no longer in violation of U.S. copyright law:

... Our Long National Nightmare Is Over. Los Angeles Times: "In a stunning reversal of decades of copyright claims, [a federal] judge ruled that Warner/Chappell never had the right to charge for the use of the 'Happy Birthday To You' song. Warner had been enforcing a copyright since 1988, when it bought Birch Tree Group, the successor to Clayton F. Summy Co., which claimed the original disputed copyright.... Judge George H. King ruled that a copyright filed by the Summy Co. in 1935 granted only the rights to specific piano arrangements of the music, not the actual song."

When the posh British PM David Cameron was a lad, he fucked a dead pig. The antics of our own Aqua Buddha Boy pale by comparison.

New York Times: "It was a night of firsts, and a night for establishment cable at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday. Viola Davis became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for best lead actress on a drama series, for her role as a defense lawyer on ABC’s 'How to Get Away With Murder'; Jon Hamm won his first Emmy after seven previous nominations for his role as the tortured Don Draper on 'Mad Men'; and HBO, led by victories for the comedy 'Veep,' the drama 'Game of Thrones' and a four-part limited series, 'Olive Kitteridge,' had a triumphant showing, with 14 victories, including best drama and outstanding comedy series."


Washington Post: "When Pope Francis arrives in Washington this week for the start of a six-day visit to the United States, he might find at least one local spot that reminds him of home. That’s Brookland, a neighborhood in Northeast Washington so chockablock with Catholic institutions that it has been called 'Little Rome.'”

New York Times: "When the comedian Steve Rannazzisi has explained his success, which includes seven seasons starring on a popular TV show, 'The League,' and a one-hour special this Saturday on Comedy Central, he has frequently attributed it to decisions he made after narrowly escaping the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.... Confronted this week, though, with evidence that undermined his account, Mr. Rannazzisi, after a day of deliberation, acknowledged on Tuesday that his account was fiction."

Washington Post (Sept. 15): "King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain ... arrive in Washington this week for their first official visit.... The couple will meet with President Obama and Senate leaders on Tuesday (which happens to be the queen’s 43rd birthday), open an American-Spanish scientific conference at Georgetown University [where Felipe attended grad school], meet with American chief executives who do business in Spain, and head to Florida to celebrate the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine."

Perfect! Guardian: "Arnold Schwarzenegger is to replace Donald Trump as the host of the NBC reality show Celebrity Apprentice, the network has announced."

New York Times: "For the first time in more than a quarter-century, a new subway stop [in Manhattan] is open for business.... The extended subway line is a descendant of the train lines that ran along 11th Avenue from the mid-1800s until 1941." The stop is an extension of the No. 7 line. Exits are at 34th St. & 11th Ave.:



MoDo goes to Paris to check out Google's Google's Cultural Institute, which is on a mission to "digitally replicate and curate all art and culture on earth." CW: The Times should stop giving Dowd these difficult war-correspondenty assignments. Why isn't she in New York, checking out the runways during Fashion Week?

The President Awards the National Medals of the Arts and Humanities:

Washington Post: "New images of Pluto show the amazing diversity of" the planet's landscape. "Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team, added that the surface was 'every bit as complex as that of Mars,' with jumbled mountains, nitrogen ice flows, and possible dunes." Includes slideshow.

Wowza! New York Times: "Acting on a tip from spelunkers two years ago, scientists in South Africa discovered what the cavers had only dimly glimpsed through a crack in a limestone wall deep in the Rising Star cave: lots and lots of old bones. The remains covered the earthen floor beyond the narrow opening. This was, the scientists concluded, a large, dark chamber for the dead of a previously unidentified species of the early human lineage — Homo naledi. The new hominin species was announced on Thursday by an international team of more than 60 scientists led by Lee R. Berger, an American paleoanthropologist who is a professor of human evolution studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The species name, H. naledi, refers to the cave where the bones lay undisturbed for so long; 'naledi' means 'star' in the local Sesotho language." ...

... Here's the Life Sciences report. ...

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The Short Life of Umbrella-Gate

An Investigative Report

President Obama & PM Erdogan of Turkey at a joint presser Thursday.

Mr. President, when it rains it pours, but most Americans hold their own umbrellas. -- Sarah Palin

Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post elaborates on conservative outrage over President Obama's elitist, unamerican activity. (The true challenge of the conservative life is that one must exist in a perpetual state of outrage. It seems likely that the only reason liberals are liberals is that they are too lazy & irresponsible to live in a constant cloud of fury and existential indignation.)

Hawaii, Birthplace of Umbrella-Gate. Not surprisingly, then-Vice President Richard Nixon began the tradition of having retainers hold the umbrellas of Presidents & presidential hopefuls. Nixon began this practice in Hawaii, of all places, a year before President Obama was allegedly born there. The obvious similarities between the Nixon & Obama scandals are stunning & incontrovertible:

Update. Contributor Dan Sheerin adds this excellent image of President Gerald Ford one-upping the guy who handed him the top job. Ford's umbrella-holding serviceman is Lt. Col. Robert Blake, a military aide with a chestful of medals. AND, as Sheerin points out, you can purchase the photo on ebay. Buy It Now for $23.88! Like Obama, Ford was hosting foreign dignitaries, among them West German President Walter Scheel. Unlike Obama, who called for the umbrellas specifically for the benefit of PM Erdogan, Ford did not bother to protect his distinguished guests from the rain. A shocking diplomatic catastrophe made all the more curious by Scheel's apparent indifference (he's smiling in the photo) to the affront. Not to mention, Col. Blake, the Umbrella Man, looks pretty content, too.

President & Mrs. Reagan greet guests while scandalously standing under an umbrella which a retainer holds:

Carrying on the grotesque tradition which Nixon & the Reagans firmly established, Reagan's successor George H. W. Bush stands beneath an umbrella held by a marine. Note how the marine has to hold his arm WAY UP because the upper-crusty Bush has placed himself on a pedestal. Not surprisingly, Bush lost his re-election bid. Later, combat veteran Sgt. Randolph C. Bumbershoot told reporters that holding an umbrella for a tall guy standing on a pedestal was the most difficult mission of his military career.

     Update: Commenter DTA1401 has assumed that Marine means "U.S. Marine." As s/he says, "those are not American military uniforms." I think Sgt. Bumbershoot is a Maltese Marine.

Campaigning in 2008, Palin's hapless running-mate John McCain stands under an umbrella which an aide is holding:

When asked why he couldn't hold his own umbrella, McCain apologized, explaining he has difficulty raising his arms as the result of injuries sustained while in captivity during the Vietnam War. But his real reason was likely a fear of looking like this:

Update. Commenter American Vet -- one of those perpetual-state-of-outrage people -- observes, "Not one picture you posted, shows any American Military Personnel holding an umbrella for any leader. Investigative report indeed, big difference." Howz this? The man to the left of Bush Pere appears to me to be an "American Military Person" as does the man to the right of Bush Fils. Each of these apparent American Military Personnel is holding an umbrella for the President. (Note also that the populist Democratic president appearing in photo with Bush I is holding his own umbrella, & perhaps coincidentally, looks like the happiest guy in the crowd):

OOPS! Palin herself is not like "most Americans" who "hold their own umbrellas":




The Commentariat -- May 18, 2013

The President's Weekly Address:

     ... The transcript is here.

... Christi Parsons of the Los Angeles Times: " President Obama said Friday he wanted to put more Americans to work by slashing the amount of time it takes to grant federal approval for big job-creating projects. But Obama's choice of venue for his remarks -- a Baltimore company that makes mining and pumping equipment -- provided fodder for Republicans. They noted that the company president had, just the day before, testified on Capitol Hill in support of the Keystone XL pipeline, which the Obama administration has delayed for years over environmental concerns. Ellicott Dredges President Peter Bowe said the pipeline ... would pour money into his business. 'For us, it's all about jobs,' Bowe told members of the House Committee on Small Business on Thursday." ...

... CW: this is a good example of how second-term controversies develop. Odds are that if President Obama faced a re-election bid, his crack staff would have vetted Bowe & his business and would not have sent the President to Ellicot Dredges. Whether this oopsie was the result of B-team incompetence, laziness or political staff attrition, it is representative of second-term carelessness. ...

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "Two senior military officers ... Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the service's top commander ... said for the first time Friday that they were 'open' to proposed legislation that would overhaul military law in response to an epidemic of sexual assaults, acknowledging that victims lack faith in commanders to handle the problem.... A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced Thursday that they support a bill from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that would force the most significant changes in military law in 30 years by giving prosecutors, instead of unit commanders, the power to open investigations into serious crimes and send the cases to trial.... The Pentagon has resisted taking such power away from military commanders.... Ten days earlier, [Welsh] testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that he was opposed to the idea.... Although neither Dempsey nor Welsh endorsed the proposal, their comments aligned them with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has said he is willing to discuss it with lawmakers."

Brendan Nyhan, in the Columbia Journalism Review: "... media scandals are a 'co-production' of the opposition party and the press.... Reporters [should take] more responsibility for their role in creating and sustaining the media narratives that they are covering."

It's They're Obama's Watergate! Or Worse! Steve Benen makes a list of some of the nothingburgers Republicans have compared to Watergate. (Links are Benen's):

* Benghazi is "worse than Watergate." [Update: this argument comes up quite a bit.]

* The IRS controversy carries "echoes of Watergate."

* National security leaks are "worse than Watergate."

* A job offer for former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) might be "Obama's Watergate."

* "Fast and Furious" might be "Obama's Watergate."

* Solyndra "makes Watergate look like child's play."

* The White House's relationship with Media Matters might be "Obama's Watergate." ...

... Overreach? What Overreach? Dana Milbank on "Thursday morning's circus on the east lawn of the Capitol, where Republican lawmakers gathered with tea party leaders to declare their thoughts on the IRS scandal." CW: do read the quotes. And check out Ted Cruz's "sourcing." Milbank calls Cruz the "leader of the neo-McCarthyite wing of the GOP," a moniker that is precisely accurate. ...

Gail Collins reprises Friday's Congressional hearing on the IRS in which all the members of the committee expressed outrage. CW: maybe some of them will explode. ...

... For a more detailed retelling of the hearing, here's the final effort of Jonathan Weisman & Jeremy Peters of the New York Times. Also, Republicans are expanding the IRS scandalette into an attack on -- ObamaCare! ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "If there are any conservatively minded Inspector Clouseaus out there who would like to take the probe further, I suggest you get in touch with Committee chair Dave] Camp's office, or with [Paul] Ryan's. They need your help." ...

... Nice to see AP stories like this one by Ken Thomas & Steve Peoples. I hope a lot of local newspapers pick it up: " There's an irony in the Internal Revenue Service's crackdown on conservative groups. The nation's tax agency has admitted to inappropriately scrutinizing smaller tea party organizations that applied for tax-exempt status. But the IRS largely maintained a hands-off policy with the much larger, big-budget organizations on the left and right that were most influential in the 2012 elections and are organized under a section of the tax code that allows them to hide their donors.... Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS and the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity were among those that spent tens of millions of dollars on TV ads and get-out-the-vote efforts to help Republicans. Democrats were aided in similar fashion by Priorities USA, made up of former Barack Obama campaign aides, and American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, an opposition research group led by a former adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid." ...

... The Stupidest Part of the IRS Story. Bernie Becker of the Hill: "Steven Miller, the acting IRS commissioner, said Friday that last week's revelation that the IRS gave special scrutiny to Tea Party groups came from a planted question. Lois Lerner, an IRS official with oversight of tax-exempt groups, disclosed the scrutiny at an American Bankers Association conference last Friday after a question from a lawyer who has served on IRS advisory boards." ...

... David Kay Johnston calls on Lois Lerner to resign for multiple offenses. ...

... Garance Franke-Ruta of the Atlantic points out another lie Lerner told. ...

... Good piece by Lisa Rein & Dan Zak of the Washington Post: IRS personnel in Cincinnati -- the center of controversy -- are mystified by claims they are Nixonian political hacks out to get honest, law-abiding, tax-averse yahoos in tricorns. ...

... Nate Silver: Peggy Noonan is of the impression that the IRS is targeting conservatives for audits because she heard of four -- that's right, four -- conservatives who were audited last year. Noonan's storied "impressions" are absolute bunk. She doesn't have the barest understanding of the difference between an anecdote & statistical significance. CW: Here's the "logic": My rich Uncle Moe got audited right after he gave $2,500 to the Romney campaign. I don't vote & didn't get audited. Ergo, the IRS is targeting Republicans. So Obama can take away our guns & become dictator for life.

Greg Sargent: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is increasingly focused on the month of July as the time to exercise the so-called 'nuclear option' and revisit filibuster reform, and he has privately told top advisers that he's all but certain to take action if the Senate GOP blocks three upcoming key nominations.... Reid is eyeing a change to the rules that would do away with the 60-vote threshold on all judicial and executive branch nominations." Read the whole post. ...

... Jonathan Bernstein: "... Reid is doing an excellent job at this complex game; leaking this threat now and generally upping the ante on nominations in general seems to be exactly the way to go." ...

... Kevin Drum: "I think it's unlikely that Republicans will allow [Richard] Cordray's nomination [to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] to go forward, since they're blocking him mainly as a way of blocking the operation of the CFPB itself. More than likely, then, they'll call Reid's bluff. Then we'll find out just how serious he is." ...

... Justin Green of the Daily Beast: "... there's something not quite right about requiring a 3/5 majority for a duly elected President to appoint a cabinet. In a perverse way, if Republican intransigence on appointments finally persuades Reid to embrace filibuster reform on the limited scale Sargent describes, they'll have done the entire country a favor. I strongly believe in the filibuster for the legislative process. Permanent changes to law should not be able to sail through on a majority vote. But a circuit court judge and the head of the EPA are not permanent legislative decisions, and they deserve a simple majority vote." (Green favors the 60-vote rule for Supreme Court justices.)

Jed Lewison: Congressional Republicans are changing their debt-ceiling/hostage-taking strategy: now, instead of trying to convince voters that raising the debt ceiling is the end of civilization as we know it, they'll try to convince voters that their way of raising the debt limit is a must-do -- a tactic that clearly undercuts their ability to wage "economic terrorism."

Jeffrey Nugent, formerly the head of Revlon, says in a Washington Post op-ed that his wacko little brother Ted & the NRA are wrong about gun registration: "I believe strongly that expanding and improving mandatory background checks will keep a lot of people who aren't entitled to Second Amendment rights from having easy access to guns. As of today, a convicted felon can find a gun show or a private seller and buy a firearm without a background check. That loophole should be closed.... Why would responsible gun owners want to protect people who threaten not only our safety but our gun rights? The NRA has it wrong: Irresponsible gun owners are bad for everyone."

Unbelievable. No, Really. Unbelievable. Will Englund of the Washington Post: "All that low-tech equipment that Russian security officers displayed for the TV cameras after detaining Ryan Fogle, American diplomat and alleged spy, made it look as though he stepped right out of the annals of 1980s Cold War espionage. Now, the Interfax news agency is reporting that the wigs he allegedly had with him match a wig seized from Michael Sellers, a U.S. diplomat kicked out of the Soviet Union back in 1986. That wig is in the archives of the FSB, Russia's Federal Security Service.... It all looked a bit goofy. A compass? A street atlas? And the whole sequence of events is reminding some Russians of a popular Cold War miniseries here, about KGB agents dramatically thwarting Western spy plots...." ...

Local News

Rosalind Helderman & Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post: "While it's illegal for [Virginia] politicians to accept a gift in direct exchange for official acts, gifts often arrive from those who have sought or will seek some benefit from state government. In addition, the wording on the disclosure forms is so vague that it's difficult to discern any details about what the gift is for and about.... In Virginia, many members of the state legislature take gifts from people or firms with something to gain from government action. [Gov. Bob] McDonnell's predecessors, former Democratic governors Mark R. Warner and Timothy M. Kaine, took similar gifts.... But McDonnell's $19,000 gift [from the Redskins] last year was by far the largest reported by a Virginia governor in recent years." The Redskins' gift directly followed McDonnell's decision -- which was opposed by the state legislature -- to give the team $4 million of public money. Also, Virginia AG & former Kate Madison ward Ken Cucchinelli -- who is running for governor -- has taken large gifts that suggested a direct conflict-of-interest, at least one of which he failed to disclose.

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "A federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked enforcement of one of the country's most stringent abortion laws, an Arkansas ban on the procedure at the 12th week of pregnancy, saying the law was likely to be declared unconstitutional."

News Ledes

ABC News Denver: "Witnesses tell police a Federal Heights woman was killed when the new assault rifle she was showing to friends accidentally fired on Tuesday night. Witnesses and the husband told police the group had been drinking in the garage of the couple's home at 10024 Elliot St. when 22-year-old Anastasia Adair, a new gun enthusiast, went upstairs to a bedroom to get her recently purchased assault rifle."

AP: "Two commuter trains packed with rush-hour commuters collided in an accident that sent about 70 people to the hospital, severely damaged the tracks and threatened to snarl travel in the congested Northeast Corridor."

AP: "French President Francois Hollande has signed a law authorizing gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, after months of nationwide protests and wrenching debate. His signature means the first gay marriages may be celebrated in France within about 10 days. Hollande's office said he signed the bill Saturday morning, a day after the Constitutional Council struck down a challenge to the law."

AP: "North Korea fired three short-range guided missiles into its eastern waters on Saturday, a South Korean official said. It routinely tests such missiles, but the latest launches came during a period of tentative diplomacy aimed at easing tensions."

Chicago Tribune: "Siding with patients who say cannabis is the only drug that can safely ease their chronic pain, the Senate sent Gov. Pat Quinn a measure Friday that would make Illinois the 19th state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes."


The Commentariat -- May 17, 2013

Your Daily Scandal Sheet

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama, seeking to regain his footing amid persistent questions over last September's attack in Benghazi, Libya, called on Congress on Thursday to take action to bolster security at American Embassies. Mr. Obama made his appeal during a midday news conference with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. He also urged lawmakers to fully finance the State Department's budget request for diplomatic security."

Here's the presser:

** "He Is Not a Crook." Washington Post Editors: "Republicans and conservative media obsessed with what they regard as the Obama administration's scandalous coverup of the nature of the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11 have offered a shifting series of allegations [none of which has panned out]. By focusing on the phony issue of the talking points, Republicans are missing the opportunity to press for needed reforms at State and a more active U.S. policy in the Middle East. They should also be spurring a sluggish FBI investigation to determine who really organized and led the attacks in Benghazi.... Instead, with their bigger-than-Watergate rhetoric, the GOP's scandal-pushers are making themselves look small-minded, hyperpartisan and foolish." CW: read the whole editorial for a look at Chicken Little Government. ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM sees it as "pretty epic" that Major Garrett (previously of Fox "News") told Scott Pelley on the CBS Evening News that Republicans had leaked doctored "quotes" from the Benghazi e-mails in order to mislead reporters as to the White House's culpability in massaging the Benghazi talking points. Garrett concluded, on-air, "There is no evidence, Scott, the White House orchestrated these changes."

... Steve Benen: "Maybe this was just an innocent mistake, rather than a deliberate attempt at deception? Nope: "On Monday, Mother Jones noted that the Republicans' interim report included the correct version of the emails, signaling that more malice and less incompetence may have been at play with the alleged alterations. So, it appears there's a Benghazi scandal after all. It's not the wrongdoing Republicans alleged; it's the wrongdoing Republicans committed. The question for Darrell Issa is pretty straightforward: when does the investigation begin as to which Republicans lied to journalists and when?" ...

... Joe Strupp of Media Matters has a very good report on Jonathan Karl's sloppy reporting. It was his ABC News story that started the latest Benghazi eruption, when he "quoted" administration e-mails, "suggesting that he had personally reviewed the original documents," when in fact his reporting relied on a GOP source who gave him "summaries" of the e-mails. CW: Karl really had a responsibility -- in his original report -- to tell the public how he came by his information. All he had to do was write, "according to a Republican source, blah-blah," allowing readers to decide whether or not to believe the story. Why didn't he? Because then his "exclusive" would not have been so "explosive." It wasn't just Karl's Congressional friend who misled the public; it was Karl himself.

Asparagus. Probably not Louie's. No aspersion intended.There's just so much Louie Gohmert News I can take, so yesterday I avoided his claim that AG Holder cast aspersions on his asparagus, but if you can't believe a Congressman said that during a hearing, he does so near the end of this video, in which -- as Charles Pierce points out -- Louie takes such pride he has posted it on his Website.

NEW. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: J. Russell George, "the Treasury Department's inspector general, told senior Treasury officials in June 2012 he was investigating allegations that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative groups, disclosing for the first time on Friday that Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year.... Steven T. Miller, the acting I.R.S. commissioner who has resigned, called the agency's actions 'obnoxious,' but told the House Ways and Means Committee they were not motivated by partisanship. And in testy exchanges, he said he had not misled Congress, even though he did not divulge the targeting efforts of a Cincinnati unit examining 70,000 applications for tax exemption." ...

... NEW. William Branigin & Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: Sander "Levin [D-Mich.] asked Miller and George whether they found any evidence of political motivation by the IRS employees who reviewed the applications for tax-exempt status. 'We did not, sir,' each or them replied." ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama appointed Daniel I. Werfel, the controller of the Office of Management and Budget, to be the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, the White House announced Thursday." ...

... Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "More changes in the IRS leadership team were announced Thursday as well, with Joseph Grant, Commissioner of Tax Exempt/Government Entities Division, planning to retire on June 3, according to an IRS statement." ...

Goldfarb: "Senior lawmakers investigating what went wrong at the Internal Revenue Service are planning to focus on whether IRS officials misled Congress about a policy that targeted conservative groups for extra screening when seeking a tax exemption...." ...

... Here's David Kay Johnston talking about the IRS brouhaha. See also his CJR article linked yesterday. Thanks to James S. for the link:

** Margaret Talbot of the New Yorker on the AP subpoenas.

Steve Benen: "... in this case, the critiques [of President Obama] are especially incoherent since the so-called 'scandals' generating so much chatter about 'a White House in crisis' don't actually relate much to the White House. None of the stories -- Benghazi, the IRS, AP subpoenas -- points to a tyrannical dictator or a hapless onlooker." ...

... Ron Brownstein of the National Journal: "Republicans could find that stoking the flames of scandal may sear not only Obama's hopes but also their own." ...

These are all different agencies of government. This administration owns the failures, but not necessarily the direct blame ... we're looking at each individual case so it's very different than what you view historically as a target where it [was] always about President Clinton. This isn't about President Obama. -- Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) ...

Molly Hooper of the Hill: "House Republicans say they will not overreach on probing the Obama administration, having learned lessons from investigating the Monica Lewinsky scandal during the Clinton administration." ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The most pressing question for Congressional Republicans is no longer how to finesse changes to immigration law or gun control, but how far they can push their cases against President Obama without inciting a backlash of the sort that has left them staggering in the past." Love the accompanying photo of MoCs looking pensive:

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker states the obvious: "The larger problem with the scandal culture in D.C. is that, because each example of government wrongdoing quickly morphs into a partisan effort to attack the White House (the same was true when a Republican was President), the actual remedies for the problems uncovered become almost beside the point. A U.S. congressman will probably go farther in his party hierarchy by roughing up Obama than he will by helping to pass legislation to ensure that all diplomatic posts have adequate security. Likewise, the I.R.S. abuses suggest the need for both major tax reform and changes to campaign-finance laws, while a future dragnet of news media phone records could be prevented if a strong federal shield law were in place. Don't hold your breath waiting for any of these policy changes." ...

Dorothy Wickenden of the New Yorker speaks with Lizza, Talbot & Steve Coll about This Week in Scandals:

Ezra Klein has a very good rundown on the scandals that weren't.

Frank Rich on the scandals: "... fully a third of House committees are now devoted to investigating the Obama administration."

Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle on -- everything. Also thanks to James S.

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Democrats say that Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, in recent days has been trying to gauge whether there is sufficient support among Democrats to force a rule change that would limit the filibuster on presidential nominees. He could conceivably try to enact a rule change with a simple majority -- a tactic known as 'the nuclear option.' Any revisions to Senate rules usually require 67 votes.... Republicans insist they are only standing in the way of nominees who merit more scrutiny and pointed to the advancement of two more Obama administration choices on Thursday: Sri Srinivassan, whose unanimous approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee sends him to the full Senate for confirmation to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and Ernest J. Moniz, the president's pick for secretary of energy, who was confirmed on a 97-to-0 vote ... on Thursday afternoon." ...

... Charles Pierce: because President Obama is not nice enough to them, Senate Republicans continue to keep the National Labor Relations Board from functioning.

Thom Shanker & Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "President Obama summoned the Pentagon's senior leaders to the White House on Thursday, telling them that the levels of sexual assault across the armed services were a disgrace that undermined the trust essential to carrying out the military's mission effectively.... Also on Thursday, Senator Kirsten e. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, continued to gain support for a measure that would give military prosecutors rather than commanders the ability to decide which sexual assault cases to try. The goal is to increase the number of people who report crimes without fear of retaliation...."

Lisa Rein of the Washington Post: "... 'Peer-2-Peer' awards, which cost taxpayers $160,000 between fiscal 2009 and 2011, are among several flaws and violations of federal regulations the General Service Administration's inspector general found in a review of GSA's system of giving awards and bonuses and reviewing the performance of its top executives. The report, released late Thursday by Inspector General Brian D. Miller, found a system that lacked transparency and hid some of its practices from the Office of Personnel Management, the federal personnel agency. Executives' rights to appeal their performance reviews were not protected, many bonuses and cash awards were not properly vetted and they were made for questionable reasons, Miller found." CW: okay, could we please have some Congressional hearings on this outrageous $160K scandal? How about rolling some heads? How about jail time?

Richard Cowan & Rachel Younglai of Reuters: "Prospects for passage of a major immigration bill improved on Thursday when a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives declared they had reached a tentative deal, resolving disputes that had threatened to torpedo negotiations.... The final sticking point, according to congressional sources, was over whether illegal immigrants now in the United States who gain legal status under the bill could participate in the new healthcare law..., which Republicans want to repeal. None of the negotiators would comment on how the matter was resolved. Nor would they provide other details of the deal." CW: how refreshing to know that some members of Congress have been able to take time out of their scandalmongering duties to do some actual work.

AP: "The manager of the sexual harassment and assault response program at Fort Campbell, Ky., was arrested in a domestic dispute and relieved of his post, authorities said Thursday. Lt. Col. Darin Haas turned himself in to police in Clarksville, Tenn., late Wednesday on charges of violating an order of protection, and stalking, authorities said Thursday." CW: here's a question -- do the military pick out the worst Neanderthals on the base to be the top sexual harassment preventors, or do these guys just beg for the posts? Also, shouldn't female officers be in many of these jobs?

Carol Leonig & Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post: "Months after the FBI began probing allegations against Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), investigators are looking at whether someone set out to smear him while he was running for reelection last year and then ascending to his new post as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee...."

News Lede

Climate Change News. Reuters: "Six people were dead and seven missing after a powerful tornado ripped through a neighborhood that included housing for the poor in the north Texas town of Granbury, marking the deadliest severe storm outbreak in the United States so far this year."


The Commentariat -- May 16, 2013

Your Daily Scandal Sheet

Paul Waldman of the American Prospect: "It was often said of Bill Clinton that he was blessed in his enemies, and to a degree the same may be true of Barack Obama." ...

... Gail Collins: "It's been quite a week, what with the I.R.S. scandal, the Benghazi controversy and revelations about the Justice Department's sweep of The Associated Press's phone records. Plus, the Russians came up with an alleged American spy in a bad wig who they said was caught carrying a compass, an atlas of Moscow and a ridiculous traitor-recruitment letter." ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "President Obama announced Wednesday night that the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service had been ousted after disclosures that the agency gave special scrutiny to conservative groups. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., meanwhile, warned top I.R.S. officials that a Justice Department inquiry would examine any false statements to see if they constituted a crime. Speaking in the White House's formal East Room, Mr. Obama said Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew had asked for and accepted the resignation of the acting commissioner, Steven Miller, who as deputy commissioner was aware of the agency's efforts to demand more information from conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status in early 2012.... Mr. Holder's warning came as lawmakers stated unequivocally that I.R.S. officials had lied to them in failing to disclose the added screening despite being pressed repeatedly."

... Michael Hiltzig of the Los Angeles Times writes what for me is the definitive analysis of the IRS "scandal." I don't see why everybody else is having so much trouble with this. ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos gets it: "... while the politics is heating up, some important context is emerging, like the fact that liberal groups were targeted as well, and in fact the only group to have its application denied was a liberal group." ...

... David Kay Johnston of the Columbia Journalism Review makes several salient points., including about how inaccurate some news reporting has been (New York Times). ...

... Eric Holder tells Darrell Issa that the way he conducts himself is "inappropriate" and "shameful":

... Igor Bobic of TPM: "Attorney General Eric Holder testified Wednesday that his recusal from a criminal investigation into an administration leak of classified information last year was not done in writing." CW: sounds a little like a convenient, retroactive recusal. ...

... Dana Milbank: "Recusal is no excuse." ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Under fire over the Justice Department's use of a broad subpoena to obtain calling records of Associated Press reporters in connection with a leak investigation, the Obama administration sought on Wednesday to revive legislation that would provide greater protections to reporters in keeping their sources and communications confidential.... It is not clear whether such a law would have changed the outcome of the subpoena involving The A.P." ...

... Kevin Drum: "In 2010, such legislation was introduced, and died when it was filibustered by Republicans in the Senate. More generally, media organizations have been lobbying for a federal shield law for decades, and Congress has been resolutely unwilling to pass one.... Politically, Obama is basically daring Republicans to put their money where their mouths are. You want to make the DOJ leak investigation into an issue of executive overreach? Fine. Then rein it in. Pass a law making it clear what DOJ can and can't do in leak investigations."

Yeah, I Knew It: It's All David Petraeus's Fault. Michael Shear & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "E-mails released by the White House on Wednesday revealed a fierce internal jostling over the government's official talking points in the aftermath of last September's attacks in Benghazi, Libya, not only between the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, but at the highest levels of the C.I.A. The 100 pages of e-mails showed a disagreement between David H. Petraeus, then the director of the C.I.A., and his deputy, Michael J. Morrell, over how much to disclose in the talking points, which were used by Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, in television appearances days after the attacks.... The White House released the e-mails to reporters after Republicans seized on snippets of the correspondence that became public on Friday to suggest that President Obama's national security staff had been complicit in trying to alter the talking points for political reasons. While the e-mails portrayed White House officials as being sensitive to the concerns of the State Department, they suggest Mr. Obama's aides mostly mediated a bureaucratic tug-of-war between the State Department and the C.I.A." Here are the e-mails. Now you too can release snippets to suit your own purposes. ...

... ** Greg Sargent publishes an excellent response to the Benghazi hysteria from Tommy Vietor, former "spokesman for the National Security Council. He was intimately involved in coordinating the interagency debate over what to say publicly about the attacks." One thing Vietor explains is why the White House had its finger in the pie in the first place -- um, it's the law -- the law which of course Congress passed. ...

... Ain't Democracy Great? Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling: "PPP's newest national poll finds that Republicans aren't getting much traction with their focus on Benghazi over the last week. Voters trust Hillary Clinton over Congressional Republicans on the issue of Benghazi by a 49/39 margin and Clinton's +8 net favorability rating at 52/44 is identical to what it was on our last national poll in late March. ... 41% [of Republicans] say they consider [Benghazi] to be the biggest political scandal in American history to only 43% who disagree with that sentiment.... One interesting thing about the voters who think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history is that 39% of them don't actually know where it is. 10% think it's in Egypt, 9% in Iran, 6% in Cuba, 5% in Syria, 4% in Iraq, and 1% each in North Korea and Liberia with 4% not willing to venture a guess." By contrast, in a PPP survey conducted in August 1998, 87% who said they considered the Monica Lewinsky affair the biggest political scandal in American history were able to pinpoint the location of President Clinton's penis. Another 10% pointed to Clinton's head (also a correct answer). Only 3% were not sure. PPP survey via Charles Pierce.

Business as Usual. Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Under pressure from Wall Street lobbyists, federal regulators have agreed to soften a rule intended to rein in the banking industry's domination of a risky market. The changes to the rule, which will be announced on Thursday, could effectively empower a few big banks to continue controlling the derivatives market, a main culprit in the financial crisis.... Just five banks hold more than 90 percent of all derivatives contracts." CW: Republicans on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission naturally wanted to water down the regs. The deciding vote came from a Democratic commissioner who went along with the Republican commissioners & the banks: his name is Mark Wetjen, & before he got his current sinecure, he was a staffer for Harry Reid. Read the full article; it's going to get worse when commission chairman Gary Gensler, whose term is up, leaves.

Harry Reid Is Still Dithering. Brian Beutler of TPM: "If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to change the Senate filibuster rules -- either broadly, or more narrowly to fast track presidential nominees -- he'll need a strong case. Part of that case will rest on whether Republicans make good on their threat to block confirmation of Richard Cordray -- President Obama's non-controversial nominee to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- unless and until Democrats agree to weaken his agency's regulatory power.To that end, he'll hold a vote on Cordray's nomination next week."

Paul Krugman on the "debt crisis" that isn't: "To the millions of Americans who are out of work and may never get another job thanks to premature fiscal austerity, the VSPs would like to say, 'oopsies!' ... Correspondents tell me that at VSP Central, aka The Washington Post -- where deficit panic has pervaded the news pages as well as the opinion section -- the stunning new [CBO] deficit report is buried as a small item deep inside the paper. And Bowles and Simpson, who are now 26 months into their prediction of fiscal crisis within two years, will continue to be treated as revered gurus." CW: I caught a bit of NPR coverage of the new CBO numbers. I was encouraged that they had Dean Baker on to explain the facts; then -- at their he-said/she-said best -- they had Pete Peterson's No. 1 hackess (isn't that the term for a girl hack?) on to explain why the debt is still a MAJOR PROBLEM which can only be resolved by killing old people. Or something.

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "On Thursday, Mr. Obama will meet with senior Pentagon officials to discuss legislative responses to the sexual assault crisis. Also on Thursday, Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, the New York Democrat who has made this her signature issue this year, will introduce legislation that would give military prosecutors rather than commanders the power to decide which sexual assault cases to try. Ms. Gillibrand's goals are to increase the number of people who report crimes without fear of retaliation and to give legal power to military prosecutors. "

In not too many years, Texas could switch from being all Republican to all Democrat. If that happens, no Republican will ever again win the White House. New York and California are for the foreseeable future unalterably Democrat. If Texas turns bright blue, the Electoral College math is simple.... The Republican Party would cease to exist. We would become like the Whig Party. Our kids and grandkids would study how this used to be a national political party. 'They had Conventions, they nominated Presidential candidates. They don't exist anymore.' -- Ted Cruz. Yup, that Ted Cruz. ...

... Thomas Edsall, in the New York Times: "A group of Democratic operatives ... is determined to bring Texas back into the Democratic column. [The operation,] Battleground Texas, has put the fear of God into the Texas Republican Party."

Ken Ward, Jr., of the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette: "Today's Gazette story by Kate White about the Monday explosion that injured two workers at the Airgas facility in Putnam County included this bit of news: 'Members of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration arrived at the scene.' As best I can tell, this is the first time anyone from OSHA has ever visited this particular facility. OSHA data includes no record of the agency ever inspecting the site.... Unlike the nation's coal mines, other workplaces are not required to be inspected periodically by federal safety officials.... As the AFL-CIO explained in its latest Death on the Job report, at the current rate, it would take OSHA's small office in West Virginia -- they've got just 8 inspectors -- more than 100 years to inspect every workplace in the state." CW: Via Charles Pierce. Bear in mind, OSHA ignores these dangerous workplaces not because OSHA inspectors are lazy bureaucrats but because Congress limits the agency's funding (8 inspectors in the whole state of West Virginia). Employers are free to violate common-sense safety standards because that's the way Congress wants it.

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: Mark Sanford is back in Congress.

Maureen Dowd Dislikes Women & Democrats. I didn't link MoDo's column yesterday because I thought it was stupid. Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog does a nice job of explaining why.