The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, August 31, 2015.

New York Times: "Former Gov. Marvin Mandel, whose record of modernizing Maryland’s state government was overshadowed by a messy divorce and a fraud conviction for helping associates profit from a racetrack deal, died on Sunday in St. Mary’s County, Md. He was 95." While in office, he left his wife for another woman. Of the other woman, whom Mandel married, his first wife Bootsie asked, “How can she be a first lady when she isn’t a lady first?” ...

     ... The Washington Post obituary is here. The Baltimore Sun's obituary is here.

NBC News: "Dr. Wayne Dyer, the self-help guru whose best-seller 'Your Erroneous Zones' was adopted by millions as a guide to better living, has died at 75, his family and publisher said Sunday."

New York Times: "Wes Craven, a master of horror cinema and a proponent of the slasher genre best known for creating the Freddy Krueger and 'Scream' franchises, died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 76."

Public Service Announcement

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."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

White House Live Video
August 28

12:00 noon ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to


Maureen Dowd: Trump has got the best of Jeb! & Hillary: "Trump’s 'gusto,' as he likes to call it, has thrown into sharper relief the grinding-it-out, impatient entitlement, the overthinking and overcorrecting of Jeb and Hillary. Both campaign like they are owed, not because of their great national achievements, but because of their byzantine family dynamics."

The Oliver Brief. We do note, however, that the so-called 'Insular Cases,' which established a less-than-complete application of the Constitution in some U.S. territories, has been the subject of extensive judicial, academic, and popular criticism. See, e.g., Juan Torruella, The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid, 77 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 1 (2008); Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories, Youtube (Mar. 8, 2015), -- Footnote, Paeste v. Guam, Ninth Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon

Jordan Golson of Wired: "Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage. The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars — there’s no flying beams of light, no 'pew! pew!' sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down. People keep flying their drones where they shouldn’t.... Luckily, there haven’t been any really bad incidents — that is, no one has been killed by a civilian quadcopter or plane, yet."

"The cream cheese is too damn much." Scott Lemieux and I agree.

Sunday Morning Come-Down. Politico: "Al Sharpton is leaving MSNBC's weekday dayside lineup, and moving to Sunday mornings. Sharpton's last weekday 'PoliticsNation' will be Sept. 4. He moves to Sundays a month later on Oct. 4, according to a memo sent to MSNBC staff by the channel's president Phil Griffin Wednesday evening."

Washington Post: "Stephen Hawking believes he’s solved a huge mystery about black holes."

Washington Post: "The case for canonizing [Sister Blandina Segale,] the 19th century Italian-born nun, whose run-in with Old West outlaw Billy the Kid is the stuff of legend, was presented at a ceremonial 'first inquiry' in Albuquerque on Tuesday. If approved, her name will be sent to the Vatican, where it will head down the long (and somewhat secretive) path toward sainthood."

New York Times: Can't sidewalk scaffolding be attractive? Yes, it can.

Terror in Toledo! ABC News: "A man caught on video the moment a public art installation in Toledo, Ohio -- a giant, 250-pound red ball -- decided to run away and start rolling down streets lined with parked cars. Part of a Toledo Museum of Art exhibit, the RedBall Project had been wedged between Roulet Jewelers and Ice Restaurant in downtown Toledo when a thunderstorm and strong winds this past Wednesday evening knocked the ball loose and caused it to start rolling away, according to Kelly Garrow, the museum's director of communications."

... AP: "America’s two foremost Democratic families, the Obamas and the Clintons, mingled on Saturday[,August 15,] as politics mixed with summer repose on swanky Martha’s Vineyard."

Washington Post: "Offering such perks as 'free' bags and 'free' airline tickets, [some credit] cards are big on promises, but they often fall short on the delivery. And although these financial instruments are legal, experts say they are not always worthwhile."

Kori Schulman of the White House: "Today (August 14), the White House joined Spotify — and our inaugural playlist was hand-picked by none other than President Obama. When asked to pick a few of his favorite songs for the summer, the President got serious. He grabbed a pen and paper and drafted up not one, but two separate summer playlists: One for the daytime, and one for the evening." ...

... CW: If you're subscribed to Spotify, you can play the President's list from the linked story (at "Today".)

Washington Post: "Google, one of the best-known brands on the planet, on Monday[, August 10,] radically restructured itself under the corporate name Alphabet, an almost unprecedented shift that reflects the company’s far-reaching ambitions and the vast Web it helped evolve. The move represents Google’s biggest push yet to ... turn the company into a multifaceted General Electric for the digital age."

Bureaucracies Move in Mysterious Ways. New York Post: "The city [of New York] moved to fire an employee for missing about 18 months of work, even though he had the best excuse of all time — he was dead. Bureaucrats at the Human Resources Administration filed charges against Medicaid-eligibility specialist Geoffrey Toliver accusing him of going AWOL — even though his death by cancer was reported in an online obituary.... 'It is my understanding that . . . his employer was fully aware that he was not able to come back to work,' Toliver’s brother Anthony told The Post. 'It is my understanding that my brother’s family spoke directly to his supervisor during his long hospitalization and informed them of his death.'” ...

... CW: Doesn't surprise me at all. When I lived in Manhattan, my mother sent me a gift which came directly from the catalog company from which she had bought it. My father had died a few years earlier, but my mother was still getting these catalogs in his name. So my father's name, not hers, appeared on the package as the giftor. He had never lived in New York City. He was not the addressee on the package. The package didn't come from New York City. And my father was dead. But never mind all that. A few months after I received the gift, I got a letter at my New York home addressed to my father. It was a notification from the city ordering my father to show up for jury duty. Or else.


Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "For years and years, plenty of websites (Mediaite included) have written about the many times Jon Stewart has 'destroyed,' 'annihilated,' or 'eviscerated' anything from terrorism to race relations to Fox News. Well..., on his penultimate night, Stewart discovered that he didn’t actually do any of that":

Exit Laughing. John Koblin of the New York Times: "Since [Jon] Stewart started hosting 'The Daily Show' 16 years ago, the country’s trust in both the news media and the government has plummeted. Mr. Stewart’s brand of fake news thrived in that vacuum, and turned him into one of the nation’s most bracing cultural, political and media critics. With his over-the-top presentation of the news — his arms swinging wildly, his eyes bulging with outrage, followed by a shake of the head and a knowing smile — Mr. Stewart attracted a generation of viewers ready to embrace an outlier whose exaggerations, in their view, carried more truth than conventional newscasts." ...

...Stewart hasn't done any interviews prior to ending his run on the "Daily Show," but he did sit down with "Daily Show" producers for an "exit interview" on Episode 20 of the "Daily Show Podcast without Jon Stewart." You can listen to it here.

Los Angeles Times: "Donald Sterling filed for divorce Wednesday[, August 5] in Los Angeles Superior Court, almost a year after a contentious legal fight with his wife, Shelly, led to the sale of the Clippers.... However, the court later rejected Wednesday’s filing because it was incomplete, according to a spokeswoman. The matter is expected to be re-filed."

New York Times: "Jason Fine, the editor of Men’s Journal, will take over as the managing editor of Rolling Stone as part of what the magazine’s publisher, Jann S. Wenner, described as a 'shake-up.'”

"Where Are My Pancakes?"

The Word Salad King. If Donald Trump's good friend & possible running mate Sarah Palin is the Word Salad Queen, it stands to reason that the Donald would be the king. Slate challenges you to diagram this "sentence." To help you out, Slate has transcribed the words in the order delivered. Not that the order delivered matters much:

Obama Slept Here

For a mere $22.5MM this Martha's Vinehard house on 10 acres can be yours. The Obamas stayed in the house for 8 days in 2013. The current owner bought the property, which has expansive views of the Atlantic & Chilmark Pond, in 2000 for about $3MM. So, hey, the price is negotiable. Slide show.

The Birth of Franklin. Washington Post: After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Glickman, a white California mother wrote to cartoonist Charles Schultz urging him to introduce a black character to his "Peanuts" cartoon strips. When Schultz demurred, saying he was afraid "it would look like we were patronizing our Negro friends," Glickman got two of her "Negro friends" who backed the idea to write to Schultz. A short time later, Schultz introduced Franklin. Oh, yes, & strips showing Franklin in an integrated! classroom upset Southern editors, according to Glickman.

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The Commentariat -- April 15, 2013

Jennifer Steinhauer & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "In spite of a vote last Thursday in favor of debating new gun measures, some Democrats who are facing re-election next year in conservative states have already said they will not vote for the background check measure offered by Senators Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, forcing Democrats to look desperately across the aisle to fill the gaps. Republicans, in the meantime, are bitterly torn between moderates who feel pressure to respond to polls showing a majority of Americans in support of some new gun regulations and conservatives who are deeply opposed to them. Further, an impending immigration bill may force Republicans to choose between softening their stance on either immigration or guns, but not both." ...

... Meghashyam Mali of the Hill: "Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Sunday defended his bipartisan proposal with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to expand background checks, saying that lawful gun owners had nothing to fear. 'If you are a law-abiding gun-owner, you're gonna like this bill,' said Manchin, appearing with Toomey, on CBS's 'Face the Nation.' ... But the two senators acknowledged that their bill still faced an uphill climb to passage. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has publicly backed the bill and reports said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) would be the second Republican to support expanding background checks." ...

... Kelly O'Donnell of NBC News: "Speaking exclusively to NBC News, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is the first GOP senator to say publicly she will vote for the bipartisan compromise on expanded background checks for the sale of guns online and at gun shows."...

... Kevin Liptak of CNN: "Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said he was 'very favorably disposed' to the compromise measure that could come up for a vote as early as this week." ...

... Tom Hamburger & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "In anticipation of Senate votes this week on a proposed expansion of criminal background checks for firearms sales, one gun rights organization broke with the powerful National Rifle Association on Sunday to urge support for a compromise drafted by Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.). The endorsement by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms -- which calls itself the second-largest gun rights organization in the country, behind the NRA, claiming 650,000 members and supporters -- is one of several moves over the past few days that have provided a boost to the hopes of proponents of background checks." ...

... E. J. Dionne: "Because the accounts from the Sandy Hook families have been so moving and so wrenching, it is common to say that a gun bill is being carried along 'on a wave of emotion.' ... This has it exactly backward. The truth is that the Newtown slaughter has finally moved the gun debate away from irrational emotions, ridiculous assumptions, manipulative rhetoric -- and, on the part of politicians, debilitating terror at the alleged electoral reach of those who see any new gun regulations as a step into totalitarianism. These bills are being taken seriously precisely because we are finally putting emotion aside. We are riding a wave of reason.... Consider this gem from the NRA's Wayne LaPierre: 'Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face -- not just maybe. It's not paranoia to buy a gun. It's survival.' The only thing the gun lobby has to sell is fear itself."

Brian Bennett & Lisa Mascaro of the Los Angeles Times: "The U.S. admits about 1 million legal immigrants per year, more than any other country. That number could jump by more than 50% over the next decade under the terms of the immigration reform bill that a bipartisan group of senators expects to unveil as early as Tuesday.... The immigration package includes at least four major provisions that would increase the number of legal immigrants, according to people familiar with it."

Zeke Miller of Time: "The Republican National Committee voted unanimously Friday to reaffirm the party's commitment to upholding the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, upending party efforts to grow support among younger voters. A resolution introduced Wednesday by Michigan committeeman Dave Agema, who came under fire last month for posting an article describing gays as 'filthy' on his Facebook page, passed the full RNC by a voice vote and without debate. A second resolution reaffirming 'core values' of the party -- including opposition to same-sex marriage -- was also passed." CW: never mind that Dave, IMHO, is fighting his essential gayness.

Larry Summers, in a Washington Post op-ed, looks at Washington gridlock through rose-colored glasses.

"Gitmo Is Killing Me." Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, in a New York Times op-ed: "I've been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity. I've been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial."

Bill Keller: "... by turning [the CIA] into a killing machine, we may have paid a price in national vigilance."

Paul Krugman doesn't like bitcoin. I don't understand bitcoin. Krugman links to this explanation in the Economist, but I still don't understand bitcoin.

... Today is tax day, & I owe the fed. Maybe I can pay in bitcoins. ...

... Andre Tartar of New York highlights some great state tax exemptions, and a few from other countries, like the Netherlands, where you can deduct the cost of training to become a witch. ...

... Apropos of Krugman's column -- Clara Denina of Reuters: "Gold dropped as much as 6.3 percent on Monday to below $1,400 per ounce for the first time since March 2011 as the market's downward momentum gained speed after more than four months of investor selling. Investors ditched gold along with other commodities from oil to copper after a less-than-forecast growth in China's gross domestic product in the first quarter stoked doubts about the health of the global economy. This added to last week's fears of central bank sales from Europe, prompted by a proposed sale of Cyprus bullion holdings, and concerns about a reduction in monetary stimulus. Adding to selling pressure, exchange-traded funds hit their lowest in more than a year on Friday." ...

... James Surowiecki of the New Yorker critiques the David Stockman School of Economics, which apparently is a division of the Harvard Divinity School. CW: short piece, good read.

"Look How Quickly the U.S. Got Fat." Via James Hamblin of the Atlantic:

Right Wing World *

If babies had guns they wouldn't be aborted. -- Texas Rep. Steve Stockman's campaign bumper sticker

* Where you can't make up this stuff.

News Ledes

President Obama speaks about the explosions in Boston:

Video via Boston Globe:

AP: "Police say at least three people have been killed in the explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Police commissioner Ed Davis confirmed the three deaths but provided no details." ...

... Boston Globe: "Two people were killed and at least 125 others were injured this afternoon as two powerful explosions detonated in quick succession near the Boston Marathon finish line in Boston's Back Bay section, transforming a scene of athletic celebration into bloody chaos." ...

... AP: "Police in Los Angeles, New York City, London and other cities worldwide stepped up security Monday following explosions at the Boston Marathon." ...

... NBC News: "Two explosions went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday as runners completed the race and thousands of people cheered them on. Witnesses told NBC News that there were widespread injuries, some severe. Video from the finish line showed screams and an enormous cloud of white smoke, and about 20 seconds between the blasts. The Associated Press reported that bloody spectators were being carried to a medical tent that had been set up to care for tired runners. Jackie Bruno, a reporter for New England Cable News, said on Twitter that she saw people's legs blown off." The AP story is here. The Boston Globe is liveblogging developments. ...

     ... The New York Times has a map showing where the explosions occurred. ...

     ... The Times has updates on its blog the Lede.

Atlantic: "The winners of this year's Pulitzer Prizes were announced this afternoon, in all 21 categories.... Here's the list via Pulitzer's website, where you can also see the finalists.

CBS News 11 Dallas-Fort Worth: "Sources tell CBS 11 that Former Justice of the Peace Eric Williams will be charged with capital murder in the deaths of Mike and Cynthia McLelland, and Mark Hasse. Williams was booked into Kaufman County Jail early Saturday morning for making terroristic threats and 'insufficient bond.' He's being held on a $3 million bond.... Williams had a history with both Mike McLelland and Mark Hasse. The two prosecuted and secured a conviction against him back in 2012 for Burglary and Theft By A Public Servant. Surveillance cameras caught Williams taking computer equipment from a county building." ...

... AP: "A medical examiner says a man who died in the infield during the NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway shot himself in the head. The Tarrant County (Texas) medical examiner's office on Sunday said the death of 42-year-old Kirk Franklin of Saginaw, Texas, was a suicide. Fort Worth police have said a man who was camping in the infield died of a 'self-inflicted injury' after getting into an argument with other campers. The incident happened late in the Sprint Cup race."

AP: "Hugo Chavez's hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, has won Venezuela's presidential election by a stunningly narrow margin that highlights rising discontent over problems ranging from crime to power blackouts. His rival demanded a recount, portending more headaches for a country shaken by the death of its dominating leader."

Reuters: "Dish Network Corp on Monday offered to buy Sprint Nextel Corp for $25.5 billion in cash and stock.... Sprint shares jumped about 13 percent before the U.S. market open on Monday."

AP: "Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has been increasing for a third year in a row and is heading for a record high, the U.N. said in a report released Monday. The boom in poppy cultivation is at its most pronounced in the Taliban's heartland in the south, the report showed, especially in regions where troops of the U.S.-led coalition have been withdrawn or are in the process of departing. The report suggests that ... international efforts ... to wean local farmers off the crop ... are having little success."


The Commentariat -- April 14, 2013

Jon Chait of New York on how "the mysterious inner workings of [John] Boehner's mind" determine whether or not a bill becomes a law. CW: And, as I noted months ago, it becomes law only if Boehner decides to let the House minority push the bill through. "What makes this process especially perverse is that it not only removes House Republicans from the negotiations -- it eliminates all transparency. All the decision-making power rests on Boehner's control of the voting schedule."

Maureen Dowd profiles Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who has unexpectedly found himself leading the fight for gun safety legislation. ...

... Karen Tumulty & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "As the Senate prepares to begin debate next week on the biggest gun-control bill in nearly two decades, the gun rights lobby and its Senate allies are working on a series of amendments that could have the opposite effect -- loosening many of the restrictions that exist in current law. Most worrisome to those who advocate new gun limits is an expected amendment that would achieve one of the National Rifle Association's biggest goals: a 'national reciprocity' arrangement, in which a gun owner who receives a permit to carry a concealed weapon in any one state would then be allowed to do that anywhere in the country." ...

... WBUR Boston: "... Team NewtownSTRONG ... is running [in the Boston Marathon tomorrow] to support NewtownSTRONG, a charitable foundation raising scholarship money for the siblings of children lost in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn...." With audio. Thanks to contributor Julie for the link. ...

... Steve Benen: according to Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, if the Congress passes a bill requiring universal background checks, pretty soon the feds will be rounding up Christians. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's the plan. And a right good reason to support the bill. But Benen is not convinced: "I can understand the appeal of silly arguments like these -- they combine paranoia, fear of government, and a persecution complex, all staples of the religious right's political identity -- but the fact that conservatives are relying on them suggests they can't think of legitimate arguments based on reality. When one can't win a policy debate by sticking to the facts, it suggests the debate itself is already over." ...

... Which brings to mind Wayne LaPierre, whom Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Jodi Cantor profile in the New York Times.

Jim Kuhnhenn & Julie Pace of the AP: "By voluntarily putting entitlement cuts on the table, particularly a proposal to slow the rise of Social Security benefits, [President] Obama has no other gambit to win tax increases from Republicans. With many Democrats balking at what he's already offering, it's not politically feasible for him to offer the GOP anything more. Puzzled Democrats maintain that Obama not only has given away his leverage, he also has threatened the very identity of his party, which sees the Social Security Act of 1935 as one of its signature achievements."

Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times: "Here's hoping that one priority [of new S.E.C. chief Mary Jo White] is to determine, and ramp up, investigations and whistle-blower complaints that are approaching their five-year statute of limitations. For a lot of cases involving questionable practices and disclosures arising from the mortgage bust of 2008, time is running out." One of those whistle-blower cases in against SunTrust Banks, which allegedly sold a boatload of "liar loans" to Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac.

Tom Shanker of the New York Times: "After a series of scandals involving high-ranking officers, the American military for the first time will require generals and admirals to be evaluated by their peers and the people they command on qualities including personal character. The new effort is being led by Gen.Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as part of a broad overhaul of training and development programs for generals and admirals.... It is likely that the review will lead to a reduction in the overall number of generals and admirals, and the size of personal staffs, communications teams and security details. The review also looked at whether administrative staff members assigned to commanders had been used to run personal errands for officers and their spouses." CW: Surprise! The brass don't like it.

Prof. T. M. Luhrmann, in a New York Times op-ed: Some evangelical churches "implicitly invited people to treat God like an actual therapist. In many evangelical churches, prayer is understood as a back-and-forth conversation with God -- a daydream in which you talk with a wise, good, fatherly friend. Indeed, when congregants talk about their relationship with God, they often sound as if they think of God as some benign, complacent therapist who will listen to their concerns and help them to handle them.... For them, God is a relationship, not an explanation." CW: Or as a character in the 2004 screen version of Elmore Leonard's The Big Bounce said, "God is just an imaginary friend for grownups." (I couldn't find this citation in the novel; the line appears in the film twice.)

Cameron Joseph of the Hill: "The Democrat who said the leaders of the liberal group Progress Kentucky told him they bugged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) campaign office is backing off a key part of his earlier account. Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee member Jacob Conway originally said the two cofounders of the small liberal super-PAC told him they had bugged McConnell's office. Now, Conway says he may not have talked to Shawn Reilly, one of the men he identified."

Local News

Danielle Dreilinger of the Times-Picayune: Louisiana "Gov. Bobby Jindal defended his school voucher program in a whirlwind interview Friday with NBC-TV newswoman Hoda Kotb.... Jindal also said he has no problem with creationism being taught in public schools as long as a local school board OK's it." ...

... Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs: "despite his talk about 'moderation,' Bobby Jindal is just as much of a religious fanatic reactionary as any other Republican.... I believe this is the first time Jindal has come right out and said he's in favor of teaching creationism in public schools, although it's been obvious from his political agenda. This is the GOP 'reformer' -- just another anti-science caveman."

"Courage in Kansas." New York Times Editors: "Nearly four years after an anti-abortion extremist opened fire and killed a Wichita abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller, as he stood in the foyer of his church, a new medical clinic offering comprehensive reproductive health services -- including abortions through the first trimester of pregnancy -- opened on April 3. It is in the building that once housed Dr. Tiller's clinic.... The fact that it has opened at all is remarkable, and is a tribute to the perseverance and courage of those involved in the project, especially Julie Burkhart, a former colleague of Dr. Tiller who directs the Trust Women Foundation, which owns the clinic."

... Chas Sisk of the Tennessean: "After a confrontation with an 8-year-old girl and other activists, along with mounting opposition from fellow Republicans, state Sen. Stacey Campfield dropped his effort to tie welfare benefits to grades, asking that the legislation be held for further study."

News Ledes

AP: "Months of increased tension at the Guantanamo Bay prison boiled over into a clash between guards and detainees Saturday as the military closed a communal section of the facility and moved its inmates into single cells. The violence erupted during an early morning raid that military officials said was necessary because prisoners had covered up security cameras and windows as part of a weekslong protest and hunger strike over their indefinite confinement...."

AP: "Dr. Hilary Koprowski, a pioneering virologist who developed the first successful oral vaccination for polio, died this week at his suburban Philadelphia home. He was 96. Although not as well-known as fellow researchers Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, Koprowski's 1950 clinical trial was the first to show it was possible to vaccinate against polio, the crippling and sometimes fatal disease that's now all but eradicated."

AP: today is election day in Venezuela.

AP: " The United States says it's committed to defending Japan and opposes any coercive action by China to seize territory under Japanese control in the East China Sea. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. isn't taking a position in the dispute over the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China."


The Commentariat -- April 13, 2013

Contributors' comments on Reality Chex are always superb. If you missed those to my post on Jim Gile, I highly recommend you give them a read.

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "President Obama has asked the mother of a six-year-old killed in last December's massacre in Newtown, Conn., to stand in for him in addressing the nation this weekend. Francine Wheeler, whose son, Ben, was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, will deliver the president's weekly address that is aired on television and radio, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Friday." New York Times story, by Sarah Wheaton, here:

... See also Charles Pierce's commentary on the Politico piece on the Newtown family members, linked below. CW: what is galling about this week's address is that Wheeler has to make this plea to the Cowardly Congress, begging members to just do their damned jobs. ...

... Dana Milbank has more on how the Newtown family members pressured senators. (The difference between Milbank's characterization & Politico's is striking.)

Gail Collins, on President Obama's budget: "... anything that makes Paul Ryan this enthusiastic is scary." ...

... Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: President Obama's plan to calculate Social Security benefits based on chained CPI "would mean less money for the elderly. But it would also mean less money for children. One underappreciated point is that Social Security benefits millions of children and working-age Americans, as well as older adults." ...

... Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP: "... President Barack Obama's budget would raise ... Medicare premiums ... [for] comfortably retired seniors, adding to a surcharge that already costs some 2 million beneficiaries hundreds of dollars a year each. More importantly, due to the creeping effects of inflation, 20 million Medicare beneficiaries would end up paying higher 'income related' premiums for their outpatient and prescription coverage over time. Administration officials say Obama's proposal will help improve the financial stability of Medicare by reducing taxpayer subsidies for retirees who can afford to pay a bigger share of costs. Congressional Republicans agree with the president on this one, making it highly likely the idea will become law if there's a budget deal this year." CW: I guess I'm "comfortably retired" because the Feds take out about a fifth of my Social Security payment to cover the Medicare premium, a hefty deduction that makes me "uncomfortable."

Obama 2.0. John Broder of the New York Times: "Sally Jewell officially became the 51st interior secretary on Friday, taking the oath at noon from retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in the Supreme Court's West Conference Room, one of two formal ceremonial conference rooms at the court.... The Senate approved her nomination on Wednesday on a vote of 87 to 11."

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama's personal income has plummeted in the four years since he was first inaugurated, thanks mostly to declining sales of his two best-selling books, according to his 2012 tax returns released on Friday. For 2009, Mr. Obama and Michelle Obama reported earning $5.5 million in income, almost all of it from royalties related to Mr. Obama's books, 'Dreams from My Father' and 'The Audacity of Hope.' Sales of the books made him a multimillionaire. By 2012, the couple's taxable income had dropped to about $608,000, with only about $273,000 from sales and royalties from the books, according to the tax return. Most of the income came from Mr. Obama's presidential salary of $400,000 per year." A pdf of the Obamas' tax return is here. The Bidens' tax return is here.

Kirk Johnson of the New York Times: "Under an agreement signed with the Obama administration last year, and just now taking shape, Oregon and the federal government have wagered $1.9 billion that -- through a hyper-local focus on Medicaid -- the state can show both improved health outcomes for low-income Medicaid populations and a lower rate of spending growth than the rest of the nation."

News Flash! Corporations Are Not Democracies. James Stewart of the New York Times: At 41 publicly traded companies where directors actually lost their elections last year, meaning that more than 50 percent of the shareholders withheld their votes of approval..., they remained in their posts.... That an electoral system unworthy of Soviet-era sham democracies is flourishing today in corporate America is largely thanks to the management- and director-friendly policies of Delaware, where more than half of United States companies are incorporated and where the corporate franchise tax contributes disproportionately to the state's revenue. State law controls board governance, and Delaware has long tolerated [so-called] plurality voting [where] ... directors run unopposed and just one vote is enough to be elected."

Graft, Virginia-Style. The Washington Post Editors whack Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell for taking bribes gifts to family members from a Virginia CEO in exchange for promoting his company's products.

In a few grafs about a disgusting piece by Jim VandeHei & Mike Allen, Charles Pierce sums up what's the matter with Politico.

Local News

Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post: "The Virginia Board of Health voted Friday to require clinics that perform abortions to meet strict, hospital-style building codes that operators say could put many of them out of business."

News Ledes

Reuters: "A former justice of the peace in Kaufman County, Texas, whose home was searched as part of the probe into the killings of the local district attorney, his wife and a prosecutor, has been arrested on suspicion of threatening violence, officials said on Saturday. Eric L. Williams, 46, was arrested on Friday on charges of making a 'terroristic' threat, which generally involves a threat to commit violence.... It was not immediately clear whether the alleged threat had any connection to the slayings...."

AP: "Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad resigned on Saturday, leaving the Palestinians without one of their most moderate and well-respected voices just as the U.S. is launching a new push for Mideast peace."

New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry arrived [in Beijing] on Saturday to seek China's help in defusing the growing tensions with North Korea." ...

     ... AP Update: " The United States and China committed Saturday to a process aimed at ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons, with the Obama administration gaining at least the rhetorical support of the only government that can exert significant influence over the reclusive North."

Washington Post: "As promised, Russia on Saturday released the names of American officials who are now banned from the country, in retaliation for the Magnitsky list made public in Washington on Friday. The United States imposed visa and banking sanctions on 18 Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses. Russia responded by naming 18 Americans it accuses of human rights violations at the Guantanamo prison camp, or of having had a role in the detention of Russian citizens in third countries."

Reuters: "The retrial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was aborted on Saturday when the presiding judge withdrew from the case and referred it to another court, causing an indefinite delay that sparked anger in the courtroom. Lawyers said that while the transfer would give prosecutors more time to draw on new evidence in an unpublished fact-finding commission's report into the repression, it could delay the case by months, increasing the risk that Mubarak, 84, may never be finally convicted and sentenced."


It Was Never Okay to Say "Nigger"

A couple of contributors have referred to this post by Neetzan Zimmerman of Gawker:

County Commissioner Jim Gile, 68, of Saline County, Kansas, was in a study session with his fellow commissioners when the subject of hiring an architect to design the repairs for the county's Road and Bridge Department building came up. Gile, a first-term commissioner who started serving in January, told the county that he preferred to hire an architect over having someone 'nigger-rigging it.'

According to Chris Hunter of the Salina Journal,

His comment brought laughter from others in the room. Salinan Ray Hruska, who attends most commission meetings and study sessions, asked Gile what he said. 'Afro-Americanized,' Gile replied.

So ha-ha, Gile thought saying "nigger" in a public meeting was pretty hilarious.

Now, let's look at Gile's "excuses," offered after the fact:

     (1) "... he meant to say 'jury-rigged.'" Because "jury" sounds a lot like "nigger," which sounds a lot like "Afro-American," so it was a slip of the tongue.

     (2) "It was a bad choice of words." Yeah.

     (3) Commission Chair Randy "Duncan said Friday that Gile's choice of words was not intended to offend anyone." So he had good intentions when he used a racial slur, then laughed about it.

     (4) "Gile said he grew up around the term, but it is something he shouldn't have used." Old habits die hard.

     (5) "I am not a prejudiced person. I have built Habitat homes for colored people." "Colored people": another great choice of words, a term that has been taboo for half a century. Evidently Gile forgot he knows how to say "Afro-American" -- as a "joke."

     (6) "Gile said he also has a close friend whom he regards as a sister who is black." So one of his best friends is black. This is one white boy who can't be a bigot.

     (7) "I don't ever do anything bad and don't know how to do anything bad. People know I am not." Well, maybe just this one time he did something bad.

As Zimmerman of Gawker & Commission Chair Duncan both point out, Gile's remark -- and his excuses -- were reminiscent of U.S. Rep. Don Young's (R-Alaska) casual remark last week about "wetbacks."

Like Gile, I am white and I grew up in the South. He and I are roughly the same age. I attended segregated public schools in a relatively poor section of the city. Racial prejudice was part of the fabric of the times. But "nigger" was never an acceptable term, and nobody I knew used it. You didn't hear it from students; you didn't hear it from teachers. You didn't read it in the newspaper; you didn't hear it on the radio. I won't say I never heard it. I did. But people who used racial slurs might as well have walked around wearing big signs that said "ignorant." Decent people -- and we're talking decent poor white people -- knew better.

There's a difference between the racial prejudice that pervaded the South (and elsewhere) and the racial animus that characterized the pushback against the civil rights movement. Whatever prejudices whites had against blacks -- and there were many -- they viewed as the nature of what was. They may have thought black people were "different" or "inferior" or should be "separated," but they took that as the "natural order of things," not as an indictment against a race of people.

What Gile was expressing was racial animus. He's Bull Connor, writ small. There are far too many like him still around. And one of the bad things they know how to do, to borrow Gile's phrase, is to lie. They are lying when they tell you they can't help these innocent little slips of the tongue because "they grew up around the term." They grew up knowing the term was taboo, that it was derogatory and that it was hurtful. They choose to use it anyway.

Where I grew up, people would call Jim Gile "white trash." I'll just refrain. Because I am a good, well-intentioned person who is not prejudiced and has a close friend who is white and I don't mean to offend anybody with my choice of words.