The Ledes

Friday, October 9, 2015.

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."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, October 8, 2015.

New York Times: "Paul Prudhomme, the chef who put the cooking of Louisiana — especially the Cajun gumbos, jambalayas and dirty rice he grew up with — on the American culinary map, died on Thursday in New Orleans. He was 75.

Air Force Times: "Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, who helped take down a gunman on a train in Belgium, was stabbed four times in the chest in Sacramento early Thursday morning, Air Force Times has learned.... Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Karns said in an email in Air Force Times, "... He is currently in stable condition." Sacramento police tweeted: 'The assault incident is not related to a terrorist act.  Assault occurred near a bar, alcohol is believed to be a factor.'”

Motherboard: "On Wednesday, a jury in Sacramento, California, found Matthew Keys, former social media editor at Reuters and an ex-employee of KTXL Fox 40, guilty of computer hacking under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act. In 2010, Keys posted login credentials to the Tribune Company content management system (CMS) to a chatroom run by Anonymous, resulting in the defacement of an LA Times article online. The defacement was reversed in 40 minutes, but the government argued the attack caused nearly a million dollars in damage."

New York Times: "The leadership of world soccer’s governing body plunged into chaos on Thursday, as three of the game’s most powerful figures, including Sepp Blatter, the longtime president of FIFA, were suspended amid an investigation by the Swiss authorities into suspected corruption. In addition to Mr. Blatter, Michel Platini, who is a FIFA vice president and the head of European soccer’s governing body, and Jérôme Valcke, FIFA’s secretary general who was already on disciplinary leave, were “provisionally banned” from the sport. The suspensions took effect immediately."

Reuters: "The number of Americans filing new applications for jobless benefits fell more than expected to near a 42-year low last week, pointing to ongoing tightening in the labor market despite the recent slowdown in hiring."

New York Times: "Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarussian journalist and prose writer, won the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday 'for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time,' the Swedish Academy announced."

Washington Post: "The United Auto Workers union narrowly avoided a strike against Fiat Chrysler of America early Thursday morning, announcing an agreement less than two days after threatening to pull as many as 40,000 workers off the job while contract negotiations soured."

The Week: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his wife, Landra Gould, filed a product liability lawsuit Tuesday in Clark County, Nevada, against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid said was behind an accident in January that injured his eye."

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 8

11:00 am ET: Michelle Obama honors the 2015 class of the National Students Poets program

12:15 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the American Job Creation & Infrastructue forum

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to


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: " 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 Commentariat -- May 12, 2013

See also commentary from MAG & safari in yesterday's Commentariat that got spammed & is now despamified.

Obama 2.Zero. Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Just days after Republicans used Senate rules to block two nominees from moving to the next step in the confirmation process despite the fact that both have the support of a majority of senators, Democrats are planning to force committee votes without Republican consent. If Democrats do push the nominees through to the full Senate, they would almost certainly set off a Republican filibuster, which would jeopardize the confirmations and, for now, leave vacancies at the top of two federal agencies."

** What Republicans Are Doing While We're Not Looking. Teresa Tritch of the New York Times: "There are two good things to say about the Working Families Flexibility Act, which passed the House this week with 220 Republican and three Democratic votes. One, the bill is bound to go nowhere in the Senate and, two, even if it did advance, the White House has threatened to veto it. The bill, in brief, is worse than meritless; it is a fraud.... The bill would amend long-standing labor law by allowing private-sector employers to offer compensatory time off in lieu of time-and-a-half pay for overtime.... There is nothing to stop an employer from discriminating against those who prefer payment by cutting back on their overtime hours. Nor would employers face any real deterrent against forcing unpaid overtime on workers who fear losing their jobs if they object. The recourse for coerced workers would be to sue, a far-fetched and unaffordable option for most people." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the heads-up. ...

... Judith Warner of Time has more.

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon: "Republican members of Congress raised no objections when they first saw internal emails detailing the evolution of the administration's talking points on Benghazi almost two months ago, senior administration officials said..., and House Speaker John Boehner declined to attend or send a representative to that briefing." ...

... CW: I wish I had time to watch this discussion among Bill Maher, Joy Reid, Glenn Greenwald & Charlie Cooke on Benghazzzzzzi. I hope you do.

Lauren French of Politico: "Senior Internal Revenue Service officials knew employees were singling out conservative groups for extra scrutiny as early as 2011, according to a watchdog agency's report set to be released next week, POLITICO has confirmed from a congressional source. The disclosure that senior officials knew agents were flagging applications containing the words 'patriot' or 'tea party' contradicts public statements by former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. He repeatedly denied that his agency was targeting conservative groups when asked by Congress last year." CW: Keep in mind this little factoid French doesn't mention: Shulman is a Dubya appointee. But she does write this: "The disclosures are guaranteed to heighten Republican fears that the agency is targeting the administration's political enemies and hands the GOP a fresh issue to use in attacking President Barack Obama's administration." ...

... Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP writes a more balanced report.

Aqua Buddha Is Still Crazy. Ezra Klein: Sen. Rand Paul (RTP-Ky.) claims in a fundraiser e-mail that President Obama "is working with 'anti-American globalists plot[ting] against our Constitution.' This [U.N. Small Arms] treaty, [which is the subject of Paul's scary e-mail] at least as described here, is total fantasy. The hoax-busters at will catch you up, and just for good measure, PolitiFact gave similar claims the old pants-on-fire. This is black helicopter stuff from Paul."

Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog summarizes the shocking scandals and "the dangerous Satanic power of Barack Obama." Such a quick read I have a sneaking suspicion Steve is not sufficiently scandalized.

This post by Evan McMurry of Mediate about a Koch-BuzzFeed immigration forum is mostly inside-baseball stuff, but McMurry ends with a lovely knock at the Heritage Foundation: "If you classify everything to the left of 'immigrants are inherently dumb' as amnesty, the world will indeed look like a conspiracy in favor of it."

Judge John d'Amico, writing in Salon, notes that the Tea Party doesn't seem to understand our founding documents.

Gail Collins on corrupt state legislatures. Pathetic &, as usual, funny.


The Commentariat -- May 11, 2013

The President's Weekly Address:

     The transcript is here.

Why Jim Inhofe Isn't Funny Any More. Justin Gillis of the New York Times: "The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years." ...

... GOP Climate Change Civil War. Coral Davenport of the National Journal: "... deep fissures are emerging between, on one side, a base of ideological voters and lawmakers with strong ties to powerful tea-party groups and super PACs funded by the fossil-fuel industry who see climate change as a false threat concocted by liberals to justify greater government control; and on the other side, a quiet group of moderates, younger voters, and leading conservative intellectuals who fear that if Republicans continue to dismiss or deny climate change, the party will become irrelevant."

Aw, Shucks. Dave Weigel: Jason (Hispanics Are Dumb) Richwine resigned his position at the Heritage Foundation, & evidently Jim DeMint graciously accepted. Plus, Richwine fan Charles (Blacks Are Dumb) Murray reacts: DeMint has no integrity, loyalty or balls. CW: that's not a news flash, Chuckie. ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York: the Richwine/Heritage/racist/nativist debacle pretty much assures the passage of immigration reform.

... CW: So is a Not-Totally-Insane wing of the GOP emerging? -- one that rejects the climate-change-as-hoax nonsense & one that sez immigrants are our friends, fer instance? I don't see how moderation of nuttiness & nastiness can happen as long as every Republican member of Congress in every Republican-leaning district is subject to a Tea Party challenge.

Soaking the Poor to Attract the Rich. John Hechinger & Janet Lorin of Bloomberg News: "U.S. colleges ... are using financial aid to lure rich students while shortchanging the poor, forcing those most in need to take on heavy debt, a report found. Almost two-thirds of private institutions require students from families making $30,000 or less annually to pay more than $15,000 a year, according to the report released today by the Washington-based New America Foundation. The research ... undercuts the claims of many wealthy colleges that financial-aid practices make their institutions affordable, said Stephen Burd, the report's author. He singled out schools -- including Boston University and George Washington University -- that appear especially pricey for poor families."

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "A long-simmering dispute over the White House's account of the deadly assault on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, flared up on Friday, with a disclosure of e-mails that show the White House was more deeply involved in revising talking points about the attack than officials have previously acknowledged. The e-mails, which the administration turned over to Congress, show the White House coordinating an intensive process with the State Department, the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and other agencies to obtain the final version of the talking points, used by Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, in television appearances after the attack." ...

... Jeremy Holden of Media Matters: "ABC News is buying into right-wing scandal mongering over the tragic September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, with an 'exclusive' report that doesn't stand up to minimal scrutiny, with flaws that are being used by the right to call for a major investigation.... None of this largely rehashed debate disproves what Gen. David Petraeus, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, testified in November: that the intelligence community signed off on the final draft of the talking points, and that references to terrorist groups in Libya were removed in order to avoid tipping off those groups." ...

... Probably You Had No Idea This Would Happen. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "The National Republican Congressional Committee is using the debate over Benghazi to raise money." ...

... Here's the original fundraiser flyer, which some draft changes Jamison Foser found. Via Jonathan Bernstein:

Oh, Crap. Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: " The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday. Organizations were singled out because they included the words 'tea party' or 'patriot' in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.... Lerner said the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias. After her talk, she told The AP that no high level IRS officials knew about the practice." CW: we are nevah, evah gonna hear the end of this. ...

... For starters, Charles Pierce points us to Michelle Malkin: "Obama IRS admits witch hunt against Tea Party, patriot groups." ...

... Good golly, Miss Malkin, you plumb forgot to mention this. Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "The IRS Commissioner at the time was Douglas Shulman, who had been appointed by President George W. Bush." ...

... Ezra Klein: "The problem wasn't that the IRS was skeptical of tea party groups registering as 501(c)4s. It's that it hasn't been skeptical of Organizing for America, Crossroads GPS, Priorities USA and Heritage Action Fund registering as 501(c)4s. The IRS should be treating all these groups equally and appropriately -- which would mean much more harshly."

Texas Injustice. New York Times Editors: "... racial bias in [the Duane Buck death penalty] case reflects a wide and disturbing pattern in death penalty prosecutions in Harris County, Tex., where Mr. Buck was tried. A recent study found that from 1992 to 1999 the county prosecutor was three times as likely to seek the death penalty for blacks in murder cases as they were for whites, and juries were twice as likely to impose capital punishment."

Sarah Mervosh, et al., of the Dallas Morning News: "Federal bomb possession charges against a [West, Texas,] paramedic Friday spurred a new state and local criminal investigation into the deadly fertilizer plant fire and explosion. But authorities said there weren't yet any indications of a connection between the blast and the arrest of a man who responded to it. Bryce Reed, 31, previously told The Dallas Morning News that he assumed radio command of the April 17 incident after the explosion killed his superiors and colleagues. He is now accused of giving a pipe bomb to an unnamed person in nearby Abbott on April 26, the day after he played a prominent role in the memorial service for 12 emergency responders killed in the blast.... [ATF] agents spent hours at the Waco home of [Reed's] in-laws. Meanwhile, West officials for the first time told the state agency that licenses paramedics that Reed was let go two days after the explosion. A reason wasn't given." Via Charles Pierce.

"Sonnet from the GOP." How do we obstruct thee? Andrew Rosenthal counts the ways.

Aw, Shucks. Dave Weigel: Jason (Hispanics Are Dumb) Richwine resigned his position at the Heritage Foundation, & evidently Jim DeMint graciously accepted. Plus, Richwine fan Charles (Blacks Are Dumb) Murray reacts: DeMint has no integrity, loyalty or balls. CW: that's not a news flash, Chuckie. ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York: the Richwine/Heritage/racist/nativist debacle pretty much assures the passage of immigration reform.


The Commentariat -- May 10, 2013

Julie Pace of the AP: " President Barack Obama is launching a new effort to rally the public around his hotly disputed health care law, a strategy aimed at shoring up key components of the sweeping federal overhaul and staving off yet another challenge from Republicans. The president will specifically target women and young people, groups that backed him overwhelmingly during his presidential campaigns. During a Mother's Day-themed event at the White House on Friday, Obama will promote the benefits of the law for women, including free cancer screenings and contraceptives, and ask moms to urge their uninsured adult children to sign up for the health insurance 'exchanges' that open this fall."

Zeke Miller of Time: "President Barack Obama's campaign-style, jobs-focused swing through the Texas technology core on Thursday was notable mainly for what it left out -- any plan for putting his proposals into law." CW: okay, pundits say President Obama should publicly promote his agenda even though he can't get Congress to do squat. So when he does that, Miller complains that he doesn't have "a plan for putting his proposals into law." What, exactly, would that plan be? Taking House Republicans hostage & incarcerating a half-dozen GOP Senators? Sounds feasible. ...

... AND what about this, Mr. Miller? Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Mr. Obama announced Thursday an executive order creating three ... manufacturing hubs using $200 million from the budgets of five agencies: the Departments of Defense, Energy and Commerce, and the National Science Foundation and NASA. White House officials said the president would continue to push for Congress to finance the remaining hubs."

Douglas Brinkley interviews Joe Biden for Rolling Stone.

Paul Krugman discusses recent talk about a bond bubble and/or a stock bubble in the manner of Harry Truman's economists: "On the one hand...; on the other hand."

Stupid Republican Tricks, Ctd. -- The "Pay China First Act." Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The House voted Thursday to allow the Treasury to continue to make payments to foreign and domestic federal creditors and Social Security recipients in the event of a stalemate over the government's statutory borrowing limit, digging in for another debt ceiling standoff, which is looming in the fall.... Even if the Treasury could pull off the difficult task of managing incoming taxes and outgoing payments on a daily basis, about 25 percent of the government would have to shut down for lack of money.... Tony Fratto, a Treasury and White House spokesman in the Bush administration..., called the bill 'technically impossible and politically disastrous.'" ...

... Stupid Republican Tricks, Ctd. Sahil Kapur of TPM: "The top two Republicans in Congress informed President Obama on Thursday that they will refuse to fulfill their duty under the Affordable Care Act to recommend members of a new board with the power to contain Medicare spending.... In a letter to President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) noted their original opposition to Obamacare, reiterated their intent to repeal it entirely, and declared that they would not make any appointments to the Independent Payment Advisory Board." ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "That Medicare 'raid' [McConnell & Boehner complain of] is the same raid Paul Ryan included in his budget, the budget that actually does destroy Medicare by privatizing it into a crippled voucher system. To save money. Which is the point of the IPAB, reducing Medicare costs. But McConnell and Boehner don't want to reduce Medicare spending by making it more efficient. They want to reduce Medicare spending by privatizing it and making seniors pay for their own damned health care."

Erica Martinson & Darren Goode of Politico: "President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency is in jeopardy after Republicans formed a united front Thursday to deny her a vote in committee. Democrats erupted in frustration at the GOP 'obstructionism' [yes, do put that in quotation marks because a Republican boycott is in no way "real obstructionism."] and vowed to find a way to push Gina McCarthy's nomination through the Environment and Public Works Committee, despite the last-minute Republican boycott of the vote. But even then, McCarthy could still face a filibuster on the Senate floor -- and won't have the 60 votes she needs, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told his Democratic allies Thursday morning. He pleaded with the Senate to finally heed liberals' pleas to change the filibuster rules so that nominees can be confirmed through majority vote." ...

... Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones: "The blockade on McCarthy is even more noteworthy because ... she worked for Mitt Romney back when he was governor of Massachusetts, as well as Connecticut's Republican former Gov. Jodi Rell." CW: Wow! McCarthy was in one of those binders full of women!

Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg News: the Internet -- which often raises to national prominence local stories of horrible gun deaths -- may trump the NRA. CW: I like Wilkinson's definition of "responsible gun owners":

... many gun owners are not paragons of probity. Some are drunks, drug addicts, wife-beaters, criminals or simply reckless, stupid, irresponsible humans with atrocious judgment. It's anybody's guess, for instance, how many of the one million concealed carry permit holders in Florida are a danger to themselves and others. (Trayvon Martin isn't around to make his guess.)

... AND Wilkinson quotes David Frum on the same:

... guns are easily available to everybody, responsible or not. It's an empty compliment even to refer to "responsible gun owners" - many of them are people who through good luck simply have not had their irresponsibility catch up with them yet."

DIY Guns. Tim Murphy of Mother Jones: "Defense Distributed, the Texas-based company specializing in 3-D-printed plastic firearms, took down its downloadable files on Thursday at the request of the State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Control Compliance. The company posted a blueprint for the first fully-operational printed plastic handgun, 'The Liberator,' on Monday at its site, DEFCAD; the file was downloaded more than a 100,000 times in its first three days." Also, luckily for you handy do-it-yourselfers, "the takedown notice from the DTCC has its limitations. For one thing, there are already a number of 'mirror' sites that essentially replicate DEFCAD but are not controlled by ... anyone in the United States.... You can also download the plans for the Liberator or various component parts from the Pirate Bay, the notorious Swedish file-sharing index site." CW: where's the NRA's Second Amendment outrage on this? Well, I'd say they're on the government's side, because homemade guns might cut into their sponsors' bottom line.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: FBI Director Robert "Mueller's 12-year tenure under two presidents [link fixed] is facing new scrutiny, months from his longtime plans to step down in September, as hearings begin on Capitol Hill into what happened in Boston and why.... He has always had supporters in both parties in Congress. Now, instead of coasting into retirement, Mr. Mueller will spend the final months answering tough questions about how the bombing suspects slipped away.... He became director on Sept. 4, 2001."

William Finnegan of the New Yorker: "The long-awaited immigration-reform bill written by the haplessly named Gang of Eight in the United States Senate got buried this week, not unexpectedly, by a great mudslide of amendments -- more than three hundred, at last count.... Many were malicious. Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, proposed that anyone who had ever lived illegally in the U.S. be barred for life from U.S. citizenship.... (CW: worth noting -- Cruz is the son of a Cuban immigrant.) Senator Mike Lee ... of Utah would permit undocumented immigrants to remain employed on the condition that they work in low-status, badly paid jobs, specifying 'services performed by cooks, waiters, butlers, housekeepers, governesses, maids, valets, baby sitters, janitors, laundresses, furnacemen, care-takers, handymen, gardeners, footmen, grooms, and chauffeurs of automobiles for family use.' (A pro-reform group called this the Chauffeur Carve-Out. I like the 'footmen' touch.)" ...

... The Washington Post has a list of the committee rulings -- so far -- on key amendments. ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: the phony think-tank Heritage Foundation hits a speed bump built by Republicans. ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "Jason Richwine, the coauthor of the conservative Heritage Foundation's controversial study on the supposed $6.3 trillion cost of comprehensive immigration reform, has received much attention and criticism for his 2009 Harvard dissertation that argued there was 'a genetic component' to racial disparities in IQ.... [At a 2008 forum,] he contended that today's nonwhite immigrants are dumber [than earlier European immigrants]. After he made his remarks in 2008, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that 'Richwine's remarks were warmly received on white nationalist blogs.' ... Richard Alba, a sociology professor at the City University of New York and an author of several books on race and assimilation, called Richwine's remarks 'appalling.'" ...

... Chris Moody of Yahoo! News: Oh, and when he's not scribbling for the Heritage Foundation, Richwine writes for the White Supremacist News. ...

... Jamelle Bouie in the Daily Beast: "... people are skeptical when anyone attributes persistent racial difference to genetics. It doesn't help that proponents of the view tend to overlap with the fringes of Western life....There's more than enough information to conclude that if the right wing is attracting racists and white supremacists, it might want to reevaluate its approach to politics." ...

... CW: What's the matter with Harvard? First we have Reinhart & Rogoff, then we have Ferguson, now we have this guy Richwine. (And let's not forget TED CRUZ.) In most major universities, Richwine's dissertation would not be accepted by his major professor, & if the professor was a crackpot who did accept it, the paper would not get past the dissertation committee.

Kayla Webley of Time: "... Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., introduced her first piece of legislation this week, a proposal that would allow students to take out government educational loans at the same rate that big banks pay to borrow from the federal government. Under her Bank on Student Loans Fairness Act, for one year, new student borrowers would be able to take out a federally subsidized Stafford loan at 0.75%, compared with the current 3.4% student loan rate.... Her legislation is well-timed as Congress gears up to debate student loan rates, which are set to double on July 1. Unless legislators vote to extend the 3.4% rate for another year, some eight million students will be forced to pay back their loans plus 6.8% in annual interest."

Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog: "Richard Blumenthal is a hero. Mike Lee is a lying extremist," incapable of reading 219 words. Allow Steve to demonstrate.

An excellent piece by Norm Ornstein, in the National Journal, on the limits of presidential power. A sample: President "Clinton once taught Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama a lesson, cutting out jobs in Huntsville, Ala. That worked well enough that Shelby switched parties, joined the Republicans, and became a reliable vote against Clinton. George W. Bush and Karl Rove decided to teach Sen. Jim Jeffords a lesson, punishing dairy interests in Vermont. That worked even better -- he switched to independent status and cost the Republicans their Senate majority. Myths are so much easier than reality."

All Benghazi, All the Time. Julian Pecquet of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) came under increased pressure Thursday to create a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack. A day after three State Department whistle-blowers criticized the administration's response to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) suggested the Speaker risked becoming 'complicit' in a cover-up if he doesn't create a special panel." ...

... "The Stop Hillary 2016 Campaign." Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "In case you have any lingering doubt about the true agenda of House Republicans in [Wednesday's] Benghazi hearing, check out these numbers*:

  • 15: Number of times President Barack Obama was mentioned during the hearing
  • 71: Number of times fmr. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was mentioned

      If this were still before election day 2012..., those numbers would be reversed -- the president would have been the one getting five times as many mentions as Hillary." ...

... AND, look what Karl Rove has wrought (via Greg Sargent):

... Jonathan Karl of ABC News: "When it became clear last fall that the CIA's now discredited Benghazi talking points were flawed, the White House said repeatedly the documents were put together almost entirely by the intelligence community, but White House documents reviewed by Congress suggest a different story. ABC News has obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack."

... Karl also has an interesting post on an RNC-produced Benghazi attack ad against the President, which Romney nixed because he wanted to "focus on the economy." With video of the ad.

Eric Pfeiffer of Yahoo! News: "Americans really, really trust Hollywood. They are, however, far more skeptical of Washington, D.C. A new survey on the most trusted people in America finds actors taking the top three spots: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Denzel Washington. The first politician to appear on the list is former President Jimmy Carter, who comes in at number 24." ...

... Andy Borowitz: "Republican lawmakers asked increasingly tough questions today as they held another day of hearings to investigate, in the words of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California), 'Hillary Clinton's suspiciously high poll numbers and what can be done to make them lower.'"

Local News

Ian Urbina, et al., of the New York Times: "Texas has always prided itself on its free-market posture. It is the only state that does not require companies to contribute to workers' compensation coverage. It boasts the largest city in the country, Houston, with no zoning laws. It does not have a state fire code, and it prohibits smaller counties from having such codes.... But Texas has also had the nation's highest number of workplace fatalities -- more than 400 annually -- for much of the past decade. Fires and explosions at Texas' more than 1,300 chemical and industrial plants have cost as much in property damage as those in all the other states combined for the five years ending in May 2012. "And a lot of Texans -- including, of course, Rick Perry -- like it that way. ...

... CW: I see a connection between Texans' attitudes toward unnecessary disasters caused by human failings (including & especially, greed) & Tim Egan's paean to Westerners who happily live with impending natural disasters.

AP: "A pivotal vote Thursday in the Minnesota House positioned that state to become the 12th in the country to allow gay marriages and the first in the Midwest to pass such a law out of its Legislature. The 75-59 vote was a critical step for the measure, which would allow same-sex weddings beginning this summer. It's a startling shift in the state, where just six months earlier voters turned back an effort to ban them in the Minnesota Constitution. The state Senate plans to consider the bill Monday and leaders expect it to pass there too. Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged to sign it into law." ...

... AND this, via Kate M.:

News Ledes

Reuters: "A pair of bombs targeting the offices of candidates running in this weekend's election killed three people Friday in northwest Pakistan, the latest attacks in what has been a bloody campaign. At least 130 people have been killed in attacks on candidates and party workers since the beginning of April. The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for most of the attacks, saying the country's democracy runs counter to Islam."

Reuters: "A woman was rescued on Friday after spending 17 days trapped under the rubble of a Bangladesh factory building that collapsed on April 24, killing more than 1,000 people, police and military officials said. Bangladeshi television channels broadcast live footage of emergency service workers pulling the woman from the collapsed building, as onlookers burst into cheers."


The Commentariat -- May 9, 2013

** Charles Pierce: "Congress seems on the brink of ceding not only the power to conduct acts of war ... but its clearly designated power to create and conduct a war itself.... Any member of Congress who votes for a permanent [Authorization to Use Military Force] along these lines is acting contrary to the expressed will of the Founders and contrary to the plain text of the Constitution itself. Ditto for any president who acts upon it, and any court that upholds it. Absent an amendment, Congress cannot constitutionally abandon its war powers to another branch of government. Oh, in reality, it can do it, and it has, and it likely will in the future, but it cannot cloak what it does in the Constitution because the Constitution was specifically written to say otherwise." ...

     ... Here's the underlying story, by John Bresnahan of Politico.

Obstructionism 2.0. Rachelle Younglai & Roberta Rampton of Reuters: "The Senate's top Republican on Wednesday came out strongly against President Barack Obama's labor secretary nomination, accusing Thomas Perez of being a crusading ideologue who would bend the laws to advance his agenda. The speech from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggests that Republicans will throw up procedural hurdles to prevent Perez from serving as the Obama administration's next labor secretary." Thanks to contributor Diane for the link.

... Obama 2.0. New York Times Editors: "President Obama has picked a former telecommunications lobbyist and campaign fund-raiser to serve as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, raising serious questions about hid 2007 pledge that corporate lobbyists would not finance his campaign or run his administration... [The nominee, Tom Wheeler] was also a big 'bundler' for Mr. Obama in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, which means ... it is almost certain that he raised money from people whose companies he would regulate, creating potential conflicts of interest." ...

... CW: This pick is a career move for Obama. He's going to leave office a young man. He & his wife still have a long future to consider. Some of that future would certainly benefit -- directly or indirectly -- from keeping on the good side of media moguls. (Obama's choosing Mary Jo White to head the S.E.C. was a similar career move.)

Richard Cowan & Thomas Ferraro of Reuters: "A Senate committee on Thursday rejected a Republican proposal [offered by GOP Delayer-in-Chief Chuck Grassley] that would have significantly delayed the legalization of 11 million undocumented residents in the United States as part of a broad immigration bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-6 against the amendment. It was the first major test of a bipartisan bill that is being debated in the Senate." ...

... Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg News: "... Obama has ceded much of the spotlight on immigration to Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who has been actively trying to sell immigration reform to the conservative base. Among Republicans, and perhaps among Democrats, too, it's possible immigration reform is now more identified with Rubio than with Obama.... If that's so, it's an example of the 'permission structure' at work."

Sarah Kliff & Dan Keating of the Washington Post: "For the first time, the federal government will release the prices that hospitals charge for the 100 most common inpatient procedures. Until now, these charges have been closely held by facilities that see a competitive advantage in shielding their fees from competitors. What the numbers reveal is a health-care system with tremendous, seemingly random variation in the costs of services."

Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post: "The veteran diplomat who oversaw the response to the deadly attacks on U.S. installations in eastern Libya last year offered a riveting account on Wednesday of that frantic night, as House Republicans sought to use his testimony to bolster their view that the Obama administration tried to shield embarrassing facts about the ordeal. Gregory Hicks, the deputy chief of mission in Libya during the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks, testified before a House committee that he was frustrated when the U.S. military turned down a request to dispatch four Special Operations troops from Tripoli to Benghazi the next morning, saying he felt they were urgently needed to help evacuate Americans." ...

... Jeremy Peters & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "A State Department official on Wednesday offered the first public testimony from an American diplomat who was on the ground in Libya the night last September when the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi was attacked. And he said he was later demoted for raising questions about how the attack was handled." CW: Oh. A disgruntled employee. Who coulda guessed? ...

... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: Hicks' account was riveting, & the public deserved to hear it. ...

... Kevin Drum: "Was Benghazi mishandled? Maybe. Are there lessons to be learned? Probably. Is there a scandal or a coverup? There's never been any evidence of it, and there still isn't. This is a show that goes on and on without end, but it never delivers a payoff. Issa and his colleagues need to start paying more attention to stuff that actually matters, and give up on the Fox-friendly conspiracy theories that never pan out. Enough's enough." ...

... Steve Benen: according to Darrell Issa & Friends, "This was a hearing so significant, so monumental, that Republican staffers on Capitol Hill felt the need to make movie posters to help promote it. Issa over-promised and under-delivered. The dramatic hearing that Republicans and Fox News hoped to use to bring down the Obama presidency and permanently derail Hillary Clinton's still-unknown ambitions did neither -- there's still no conspiracy; there's still no cover-up; there's still no political scandal.... Enough should be enough at this point, but if recent history is any guide, the next pointless hearing is just around the corner." ...

... Update: Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post tries to pinpoint what we learned from Hicks' testimony.

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "Lawmakers across Capitol Hill furiously turned their attention on Wednesday to sexual assault in the military, as members scrambled to introduce legislation focused on preventing and better prosecuting attacks, and continued sharp questioning of Air Force leaders about recent events that have underscored the problem." ...

... MEANWHILE, at the NRA. Dyland Stableford of Yahoo! News: "Anti-violence groups are criticizing the NRA for allowing a vendor at its annual conference to display 'the Ex,' a scantily-clad, blood-splattered female shooting-range target. According to Zombie Industries, the company that produces the $89.95 Tactical Bleeding Zombies, the targets are 'life-sized, three-dimensional tactical mannequins that 'bleed' when you shoot them.'" With photo. CW: yes, some spoilsports have no tolerance for encouraging gun-toting he-men to murder their ex-wives & girlfriends.

Holy Moola, Batman! What Happened to He-Said/She-Said Reporting? Jackie Calmes & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The nation's unemployment rate would probably be nearly a point lower, roughly 6.5 percent, and economic growth almost two points higher this year if Washington had not cut spending and raised taxes as it has since 2011, according to private-sector and government economists. After two years in which President Obama and Republicans in Congress have fought to a draw over their clashing approaches to job creation and budget deficits, the consensus about the result is clear: Immediate deficit reduction is a drag on full economic recovery."

We have spent more than what we have brought into this government for 55 of the last 60 years. There's no business in America that could survive like this. No household in America that could do this. And this government can't do this. -- John Boehner ...

... Josh Barro of Bloomberg News: John Boehner accidentally explains that federal deficit spending is not dangerous. "It's hard to think of better evidence for the sustainability of budget deficits than the fact that we have run them for 55 of the last 60 years.... Boehner doesn't really care about the public debt, as he made clear when he repeatedly supported debt-expanding measures under a Republican president. What Boehner and House Republicans really want are excuses to cut federal spending, particularly on programs such as Medicaid and food stamps that support low-income Americans. But those cuts are unpopular, so Republicans frame fiscal debate to make such cuts appear necessary to avoid disaster." Also, the accompanying chart which compares the rate of grown of U.S. public debt & WalMart's debt is illuminating. (WalMart up 5,760 percent since 1987; U.S. public debt up 600 percent.) Barro also explains to 5th-graders some differences between the government & a household. ...

... Paul Krugman on "the dwindling deficit." P.S. Simpson & Bowles (does anybody remember who they are?) are idiots.

Millionaires Party. If millionaires were a political party, that party would make up less than 10% of the country, but it would have a filibuster-proof super-majority in the Senate, a majority in the House, a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court, and a man in the White House. If the Millionaires' Party ever gets its act together, watch out. -- Nick Carnes of Duke University

Carnes' research -- and common sense -- shows that the simple fact of being a white-collar millionaire leads to different priorities. It leads to different social circles. It leads to different bills. -- Ezra Klein

Have Cake, Eating It, Too. Steve Benen reiterates the chain of chained CPI events: "1. Congressional Republicans demand that the White House put chained CPI on the table as part of budget talks. 2. President Obama reluctantly agrees to put chained CPI on the table as part of budget talks. 3. Congressional Republicans criticize the chained CPI policy they said they wanted.... What's stopping the president from simply walking away from the idea he doesn't like anyway?" CW: sounds like a plan (perhaps one hatched Way Back When.

Congressional Races

Greg Sargent: "Two new polls show Dem Congressman Ed Markey with a solid lead over GOP challenger Gabriel Gomez: Suffolk University finds him up by 52-35, while WBUR finds him up by 46-38. However: Both polls show that very large chunks of the Massachusetts electorate are not familiar with Gomez, so there's still a long way to go for Markey." ...

Gabriel Gomez home in a Cohasset historic district. Boston Globe photo.... Tax Scammer. Frank Phillips of the Boston Globe: "Republican US Senate nominee Gabriel E. Gomez claimed a $281,500 income tax deduction in 2005 for pledging not to make any visible changes to the facade of his 112-year-old Cohasset home, a concession so valuable that it is classified as a charitable contribution under a federal law designed to protect historic homes. But Gomez and his wife, Sarah, were already barred from making any changes to the exterior of their home under the bylaws of the local Historical Commission, raising the question as to whether their donation -- the price of which is based on the loss of value in their real estate -- had any monetary worth.... Five weeks after the Gomezes claimed the deduction, the Internal Revenue Service listed programs such as this ... as one of its 'Dirty Dozen tax scams.'"

Gail Collins does not seem all that upset about Mark Sanford's election victory, & John Boehner does not seem all that thrilled about it.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The United States on Thursday expanded its roster of those violating Iran sanctions, blacklisting four Iranian companies and one individual suspected of helping the country enrich nuclear fuel. It also singled out two other companies.... [Wednesday] the Senate introduced legislation that could effectively deny the Iran government access to an estimated $100 billion worth of its own money parked in overseas banks...."

AP: "A 72-foot-long, high-tech catamaran sailboat capsized Thursday in San Francisco Bay while practicing for the America's Cup races this summer, killing an Olympic gold medalist from England and injuring another sailor, authorities said. Artemis Racing said Andrew 'Bart' Simpson died after the capsized boat's platform trapped him underwater for about 10 minutes shortly after 1 p.m."

AP: "California's attorney general sued one of the nation's largest banks Thursday, alleging that JPMorgan Chase & Co. used illegal tactics in its debt collection efforts against about 100,000 credit card holders. The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court says the company filed thousands of debt collection lawsuits each month between 2008 and April 2011 using improper practices that shortcut procedures required by California law." New York Times story here.

New York Times: "... new accounts out of Kizlyar, [Russia,] where [Tamerlan] Tsarnaev spent time with a cousin who is a prominent Salafi Islamist leader, have begun to flesh out a picture of what he did during his six months in Russia last year."

New York Times: "A judge ordered the man accused in the kidnapping of three women and a young child to be held on $8 million bail, $2 million for each case, on Thursday morning. The man, Ariel Castro, 52, appeared in court for the first time since his arrest during an arraignment hearing in municipal court in Cleveland. Mr. Castro did not speak and kept his head down and his eyes lowered during the proceedings."

** Los Angeles Times (via the Chicago Tribune): "Five days before two bombs tore through crowds at the Boston Marathon, an intelligence report identified the finish line of the race as an 'area of increased vulnerability' and warned Boston police that extremists may use 'small scale bombings' to attack spectators and runners at the event."

AP: "Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in an undisclosed location outside the city of Worcester, police said Thursday after a frustrating weeklong search for a community willing to take the body."

New York Times: "Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a son of former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Thursday, according to media reports, throwing an already violence-ridden election campaign into more tumult."

Reuters: " The head of the Arab League on Thursday welcomed a new effort by Russia and the United States to seek a negotiated end to Syria's civil war and called on the Syrian government and opposition to participate."

AP: " A fire at a sweater manufacturer killed eight people -- including a senior police officer, a Bangladeshi politician and a top clothing industry official -- barely two weeks after the collapse of a building housing other garment factories where the death toll approached 1,000 on Thursday. Unlike the collapse at the Rana Plaza building, which was blamed on shoddy construction and disregard for safety regulations, the Tung Hai Sweater factory appeared to have conformed to building codes."

Reuters: " The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless aid fell last week to its lowest level in nearly 5-1/2 years, signaling labor market resilience in the face of fiscal austerity."

Cyber-Heist! Reuters: "The U.S. government charged eight individuals with stealing debit card data from two Middle Eastern banks in a scheme that prosecutors said netted $45 million in a matter of hours - a crime they called one of the biggest bank heists in history. A New York-based group hacked into credit card processors' computers to steal Mastercard Inc debit card data, which they used to make approximately 36,000 transactions over a total of 10 hours in 24 countries, the Justice Department said."

AP: "The Statue of Liberty is reopening July 4 after Superstorm Sandy flooded the island where it stands. The statue has been closed since Sandy struck the region on Oct. 29 and damaged much of Liberty Island's infrastructure. The statue itself is on higher ground and was not damaged."