The Ledes

Monday, August 3, 2015.

New York Times: After being closed for five weeks, the Greek stock exchange reopened today, & prices plummeted.

AP: "Fire officials called for thousands of evacuations as numerous homes remained threatened by Northern California wildfires Monday, while more than 9,000 firefighters battled 21 major fires in the state, officials said. Wildfires were also burning in Washington and Oregon as the West Coast suffered from the effects of drought and summer heat."

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, August 2, 2015.

Los Angeles Times: "The Rocky Fire exploded overnight, burning 47,000 acres as of Sunday morning and threatening 6,000 structures in [California's] Lake, Yolo and Colusa counties. The U.S. Forest Service said "fire activity dramatically progressed"  late Saturday, forcing the closure of several state highways in the area. The fire is just 5% contained; about 12,000 people have been ordered to evacuate. Nearly 2,000 firefighters are battling the blaze and more are coming into the area."

Public Service Announcement

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."

Washington Post (June 4): "The first-ever 'female Viagra' came one step closer to coming to market, as a key advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday afternoon to recommend that the FDA approve the drug with conditions. The committee voted 18-6 to recommend that the FDA approve flibanserin, a drug designed to boost the low sexual desire of otherwise healthy women."

White House Live Video
August 3

11:10 am ET: President Obama speaks at the Young African Leaders Iniative

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing with Energy Secretary Ernest Munoz

2:15 pm ET: President Obama speaks on the Clean Power Plan

Go to


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.

Jane Hamshire of Firedoglake: "... I have decided to pass the torch on to Kevin Gosztola and Brian Sonenstein, who will launch their own media organization called Shadowproof that will build on the success of FDL."

Dylan Byers: "MSNBC has formally decided to cancel three programs -- 'The Cycle,' 'Now with Alex Wagner' and 'The Ed Show' -- as part of a larger effort to shift its daytime lineup away from opinion programming.... Alex Wagner and Ari Melber, a 'Cycle' co-host and MSNBC's chief legal correspondent, will remain with the network. Ed Schultz, the host of 'The Ed Show,' will leave the network, as will 'Cycle' co-hosts Abby Huntsman, Krystal Ball and Toure.... In September, MSNBC will add a 5 p.m. program hosted by 'Meet The Press' moderator Chuck Todd, while Brian Williams, the former 'Nightly News' anchor, will serve as the network's breaking news and special reports anchor."

If you can memorize & learn to use the University of New Hampshire's long list of "bias-free language," you can be the most politically-correct person in your neighborhood. Via Jonathan Chait. ...

... CW Etiquette Tip: calling out your friends for using outmoded terms like "overweight" & "rich" is not politically correct. Simply try to steer the conversation in a more "inclusive" direction. So if your friend says to you, "My rich neighbor got so overweight he has to use a wheelchair now," you say, "Oh, that person of material wealth has become a person of size who is wheelchair mobile? Wow! He's your neighbor? I remember him when he was a person experiencing homelessness who lacked advantages that others have." It sounds so natural, your friend will never realize you've corrected his biased, dated stereotypes. ...

     ... UPDATE: Turns out the university's president is biased against the bias-free language guide & he was unaware of its existence until this week. Also, a Republican state legislator is "outraged" & finds the guide a good excuse to cut funding for the state university. Naturally. Thanks to MAG for the lead.

Will Oremus of Slate likes Windows 10. CW: I haven't had the courage to try switching over yet. I'll lose EVERYTHING!

Fuck off! I’m done with you. -- Jon Stewart, to Wyatt Cenac

... Alex Jung of New York: Jon Stewart repeatedly yelled at Wyatt Cenac when Cenac questioned a "Daily Show" segment meant to be a defense against Fox "News" allegations that Stewart's Herman Cain imitation was racist. ...

... Maron's WTF podcast of his interview with Cenac is here. ...

... CW: Here's the thing, black people. When you confront white liberals with accusations of racial bias, WE WILL NEVER ADMIT IT. We will remind you that we have been fighting for black civil rights for 50 years (Bernie Sanders). We will tell you all lives matter (Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley). We will tell you that white people are responsible for expanding your rights (Hillary Clinton). We will deny your accusations (Every one of us). And all the while, we will be highly insulted, even if we don't tell you to fuck off. Because white people's feelings matter. And, after all we've done for you, we can't believe you would accuse us of racism.

Even when they're only lip-syncing, some entertainers are pretty damned talented. I'm not much of a fan of Tom Cruise's, but ...

Tech Crunch: "It’s no secret that Google+ didn’t quite work out the way Google envisioned and now, after already moving Google Photos out of the service, it’s starting to decouple Google+ profiles from its regular Google accounts."

Stupid Pet Tricks, Reptile Edition:

Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast: NBC News Chairman Andy Lack is replacing MSNBC's Ed Schultz with -- Chuck Todd. [CW: Excellent decision! Let's change "MSNBC" to "VPN" -- "Village People's Network."] "The only programs that appeared safe from disruption were Morning Joe..., hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski; Hardball ... with Chris Matthews; and The Rachel Maddow Show at 9 p.m. Those programs have performed respectably...." ...

We live in a time when much of the corporate media regards politics as a baseball game or a soap opera. Ed Schultz has treated the American people with respect by focusing on the most important issues impacting their lives.... I am very disappointed that Comcast [the parent company of NBC & MSNBC] chose to remove Ed Schultz from its lineup. We need more people who talk about the real issues facing our country, not fewer.... At a time when a handful of large, multi-national corporations own our major media outlets, I hope they will allow voices to be heard from those who dissent from the corporate agenda. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders

Washington Post: "The latest update from NASA's Kepler space telescope — designed to spot distant exoplanets — adds more than 500 new possible planets to the fray. That's in addition to the 4,175 planets already found by Kepler. And of those 500 new potential planets, scientists say, a dozen could be remarkably Earth-like. That means they're less than twice as large as Earth, are potentially rocky and are at the right distance from their host stars to harbor liquid water." ...

... Guardian: "Scientists on the hunt for extraterrestrial life have discovered 'the closest twin to Earth' outside the solar system, Nasa announced on Thursday."

Worst Person Ratings in the World. Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: Rumors are a'flyin' that MSNBC is headed for another line-up shake-up, which could include the Return of Dr. Olbermann, who is departing ESPN -- again. Because their third place in cable ratings wasn't as bad as their third place is now (sometimes 4th, behind Al Jazeera). And because the New Olbermann is now a suits-licking pussycat, unlike the Old Olbermann from way last week.

Some Would Be Heroes. Washington Post: Coast Guardsman Darren Harrity swims a mile in choppy, fuel-slicked sea to save four men in a leaky lifeboat.

New York Times: "What Pet Should I Get?" -- an aide to Dr. Suess's widow found the manuscript in a box. Dr. Suess -- Theodore Geisel -- died in 1991.

     ... Via BuzzFeed, for the fun of it.

Washington Post: "On Monday, famed physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian tycoon Yuri Milner held a news conference in London to announce their new project: injecting $100 million and a whole lot of brain power into the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, an endeavor they're calling Breakthrough Listen." ...

... CW: What a waste. You know all they'll find is angels hovering around a pantheon of some sort & maybe, if they're lucky, their long-dead pooches floating around Pet Heaven, which is real & wonderful.

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The Commentariat -- March 8, 2013

I published a "We the People" petition on the White House site. It has one signature. Please sign it unless you vehemently disagree, of course.


Hey, Peggy Noonan Is Still Ignorant! Dan Amira of New York has fun bashing the latest Noonsense. CW: I'll say this for Noonan -- her uncanny ability to make sweeping generalizations based on fleeting observations made during brief visits to Wal-Mart or a hotel or a neighborhood with Romney yard signs must be a great inspiration/challenge to Tom Friedman. ...

Also, sometimes a busy writer just has to plagiarize, then blame his "researcher" for "betraying" him like that. Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon on Juan Williams' inattention to "attribution." CW: you know Peggy Noonan doesn't plagiarize, because nobody else -- except Friedman -- would write that crap.

Peter Finn & Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "John O. Brennan was confirmed as CIA director on Thursday afternoon, after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) expressed satisfaction with the response he had received to his questions about the Obama administration's drone program.... In the final vote, Brennan was confirmed 63-34." The roll call results are here. ...

... Washington Post Editors: "The fact that [Sen. Rand Paul's] paranoid fantasies gained some traction is testimony to the administration's real failures in managing its counterterrorism campaigns. Mr. Obama has chosen to carry out hundreds of drone strikes against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, including one against a U.S. citizen, without any public accounting. Justice Department memos authorizing the attacks have not been disclosed; only this week were senators on the intelligence committee allowed to read them. The White House has devised a process for adding names to a target list for drone strikes but has never revealed even its outlines." ...

... Jeremy Herd & Justin Sink of The Hill: "The same day [Sen. Rand] Paul went to the Senate floor to press President Obama on whether drones could be used to kill American citizens within U.S. borders, Attorney General Eric Holder said Obama would soon speak to the public about the U.S. drone policy. The public address by Obama highlights the administration's understanding that it needs to give a fuller account of a program that is a hallmark of Obama's counter-terrorism policy -- but that was a covert policy not publicly acknowledged by the government just months ago." ...

... New York Times Editors: The Senate's report [on detention & interrogation techniques] may be the last hope for Americans to know the truth about what Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney authorized in the name of protecting our country -- decisions that caused enormous damage to its reputation worldwide. But it remains classified, and Mr. Brennan has not said whether he would support releasing a redacted version to the public. That is the only acceptable course. The cover-up of the Bush-era lawbreaking has to stop."

... Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "John McCain and Lindsey Graham assailed Senator Rand Paul's filibuster of an Obama administration nominee over drone policy a day earlier, suggesting an emerging split in the Republican Party over antiterrorism tactics.... Mr. Paul had said that he would try to hold up the nomination of John O. Brennan as director of the Central Intelligence Agency unless the administration answered unequivocally that President Obama did not have that power. The full Senate confirmed Mr. Brennan's nomination Thursday afternoon. Mr. McCain ... noted that Mr. Paul had raised the idea that the antiwar activist Jane Fonda could have been singled out for a strike during her criticism of that war.... 'To allege that the United States, our government, would drop a drone Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda, that brings the conversation from a serious discussion about U.S. policy into the realm of the ridiculous,' Mr. McCain said. Mr. Graham said he did not remember Republican critics attacking President George W. Bush for employing drone strikes, and he said the question for Republicans was, 'What are we up to here?'" ...

... Yoo Too. Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "John Yoo, the author of the Bush administration legal memos justifying the use of torture, thinks President Obama is really getting too much grief over targeted killing. And he wants Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) -- who filibustered Obama's nominee to head the CIA for 13 hours on Wednesday -- to lay off." CW: when the guys on your side are McCain, Graham & Yoo, you really may want to rethink your position. ...

     ... Update. Daniel Strauss of The Hill: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted fellow GOP Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday, saying the two 'think the whole world is a battlefield.'"

... Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs: "The right wing blogosphere is absolutely delighted with Rand Paul, of course, but it has nothing to do with his theatrical opposition to drones; it's because any Republican who acts out in public and bashes President Obama gets their uncritical support. They're already talking about having him run for President. Note that Sen. Paul is a frequent guest on the conspiracy-peddling Alex Jones show, where he co-signs every deranged fantasy. This is the new hero of the right."

... Hulse also has a blogpost on the GOP filibuster of Caitlin J. Halligan , whom President Obama nominated to a seat on the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia. The filibuster of Halligan "could renew a feud over rules governing filibusters and how the Senate handles high-level judicial nominations -- an issue that has torn the chamber for years. Democrats are already in discussions on how to respond to the Halligan filibuster. They believe Republicans are dead set against confirming qualified Obama administration nominees to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. They accuse Republicans of exaggerating their objections to Ms. Halligan to justify a filibuster under a 2005 agreement that short-circuited the last partisan showdown over filling judicial vacancies." ...

Law Prof. Adam Winkler, in The New Republic: "A number of legal scholars have argued that the filibuster is unconstitutional.... The first Senate filibuster occurred in 1841, a full half a century after the Founding... The constitutional challenge to the rule thus appears to be very much like Paul's anti-drone filibuster: a symbolic gesture whose value comes only from the expression of disagreement rather than a substantive measure that will change the outcome. So the filibuster will remain the law of the land, whether it's constitutional or not."

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a measure that would make the practice of illegally buying a gun for someone else a felony, and increase penalties for the crime. The measure, which addresses a practice known as straw purchasing, passed the committee by 11 to 7; the only Republican to vote in favor was Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa. Mr. Grassley's nod on the measure, which already had two Republican co-sponsors, was significant because he is the most senior member of the committee."

Philip Rucker & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: President "Obama wants to cement his legacy with a long-term deal to rein in the federal deficit and new immigration and gun laws, his advisers said. But his reelection victory, which brought a humiliating GOP defeat, has done little to break the logjam on taxes and entitlements. Now, advisers said, the president has concluded that the key might be to bypass talks with Republican leaders ... and instead find common ground with rank-and-file Republican lawmakers. So the president is in the midst of a charm offensive. Wednesday, he treated a dozen GOP senators to a dinner.... Thursday, he invited House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) ... to his private White House dining room for lunch. Next week, Obama will take a rare drive to Capitol Hill to meet with all lawmakers.... House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that he welcomed Obama's outreach, even though it means the president is sidestepping him and other party leaders." ...

... Charm Offensive, Ctd. Michael Scherer of Time: "... the spirit of the city is shifting, and the commonalities between the two parties, for the first time in several years, are taking center stage. This is how Washington once worked. The nation now waits to find out if it can work this way again." CW: isn't "charm offensive" something of an oxymoron? ...

... Alexander Bolton of The Hill: President "Obama told a small group of Republican senators who had dinner with him Wednesday evening that a deficit-reduction deal needs to happen in the next four to five months, according to three sources familiar with the meeting."

Former President Bill Clinton, in a Washington Post op-ed, urges the Supreme Court to overturnthe Defense of Marriage Act, which he signed into law.

Julie Pace of the AP: "President Barack Obama is playing down expectations for a Mideast peace breakthrough during his upcoming trip to Israel, telling American Jewish leaders that he won't be carrying a 'grand peace plan' when he arrives in the region later this month. Obama, in an hourlong private meeting at the White House on Thursday, acknowledged that near-term prospects for peace are bleak, according to a person who attended the discussion. But the president said a deal with the Palestinians remains the only way for Israel to achieve long-term security."

Paul Krugman: "Stocks are high, in part, because bond yields are so low, and investors have to put their money somewhere. It's also true, however, that while the economy remains deeply depressed, corporate profits have staged a strong recovery. And that's a bad thing! Not only are workers failing to share in the fruits of their own rising productivity, hundreds of billions of dollars are piling up in the treasuries of corporations that, facing weak consumer demand, see no reason to put those dollars to work.... What the markets are clearly saying, however, is that the fears and prejudices that have dominated Washington discussion for years are entirely misguided. And they're also telling us that the people who have been feeding those fears and peddling those prejudices don't have a clue about how the economy actually works." ...

... MEANWHILE, MSNBC's Imitation of Bill O'Reilly has teamed up with Village Economist Jeffrey Sachs (who is not a macro-economist) to pen a Washington Post op-ed titled on the front page of the Post's online edition, "Why Paul Krugman Is Wrong." The column title is "Deficits do Matter." CW: Scarborough just can't quit. I only glanced at what these guys wrote for -- literally -- ten seconds, tops, and in that time, I saw two straw men they'd erected. This is Conservo-Debate Tactic No. 1: (a) claim the liberal guy said something ridiculous, (2) show that whatever crap you made up is ridiculous, (3) claim victory. I'm assuming their whole essay is a sham.

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "Standing with survivors of domestic abuse and sex trafficking, President Obama on Thursday signed into law a renewal and expansion of the 19-year-old Violence Against Woman Act, a long-sought victory made possible last month when House Republicans quit blocking the measure's passage." ...

... I hope readers will take the time to listen to Diane Millich (sp??), who introduced Vice President Biden. Many House Republicans (and some Senate Republicans) opposed protecting her. It is mighty hard to keep on laughing at the misogynists running our country:

... AND Evidently the Misogynists Know It. Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post: "When Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill late last month, more than 130 House Republicans voted against it. But some of those same lawmakers are putting out misleading statements that make it look like they voted for the bill instead. [For example,] Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), for one, issued a statement with the headline, 'King Votes in Support of Violence Against Women Act.' But King didn't vote for the VAWA bill. Instead, he voted for a GOP alternative bill that failed to advance." Bendery goes on to list a number of other members of the House Old Boys Liars Club. Not all of the Old Boys are men, BTW. ...

... To wit, Lindsey Wise of McClatchy News, catches House Republicans Vicki Hartzler & Ann Wagner (both R-Missouri) pretending they voted for the VAWA even though they voted against it; they voted for the watered-down House bill, which didn't pass & later voted against the bill that did pass). The statement by Hartzler's spokesperson that she has "sympathy for women who've been abused on attacked" is really heartwarming. Apparently Hartzler does not have any sympathy for Millich, because Millich would have been specifically excluded in the bill Hartzler voted for, but is included in the bill Hartzler voted against. ...

... Steve Benen: "What happened to far-right conservatives having the courage of their convictions? If they opposed the Violence Against Women Act and felt the need to vote against it, then why pretend otherwise? ... Extremism is disconcerting, but by some measures, cowardice is worse."

Question: When Is Moving an Ounce of Blow Worse than Moving Millions of Dollars Worth?

     ... Answer: When You're Not a Bank. Thanks to contributor Barbarossa for the link. ..

... It's Not a Crime if It's Profitable. Linette Lopez of Business Insider: on March 6, "Attorney General Eric Holder spoke [to the same Senate committee] on the Justice Department's part. The agency did not prosecute any individual criminally for this matter in part, he said, because the size of large banks 'has an inhibiting influence -- impact on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate', Mr Holder told lawmakers. 'And I think that is something that we -- you all -- need to consider.'" CW: Holder's argument, then, is that "Corporations are people, my friend." If an individual works for a big bank & commits a crime that hurts the bank -- embezzlement, say, then some law enforcement agency will prosecute her. But Holder is arguing that an individual who commits crimes that are money-makers for the banks cannot be prosecuted because to do so would upset the industry. Make sense of that, please.

Tim Egan: "The people who grow grain for breakfast cereal and raise pigs for prosciutto are also among the biggest deniers of the consensus scientific view that humans have altered the earth's climate.... At first glance, this makes no sense, because farmers have the most to lose in a world of weather havoc.... Why the denial? Cost. Any fix in the sticks is likely to hit farmers hard, because they use a disproportionate amount of the fertilizers, chemicals and fossil fuels that power the American agricultural machine, and are likely to come under increased regulation.... [A farmer] should be put in charge of the daunting task of convincing food producers that nothing imperils their future more than climate change."

Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times: "The Santa Monica post office, with its distinctive PWA Moderne style, is one of about 200 post offices around the country, dozens of them architecturally distinctive buildings, that the Postal Service has indicated it may choose to sell in coming years because of its financial problems. Eleven historic post offices are already on the market in places like Yankton, S.D.; Gulfport, Miss.; Norwich, Conn.; and Washington.... So as the Postal Service tries to shrink, it is often finding itself in battle with groups trying to prevent what the National Trust for Historic Preservation last year labeled one of the most significant threats to the country's architectural heritage."

Root for China the Chinese Economy. Zachary Karabell in the Atlantic: "The consequences of a Chinese collapse ... would be severe for the United States and for the world. There could be no major Chinese contraction without a concomitant contraction in the United States. That would mean sharply curtailed Chinese purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds, far less revenue for companies like General Motors, Nike, KFC and Apple..., and far fewer Chinese imports of high-end goods from American and Asian companies. It would also mean a collapse of Chinese imports of materials such as copper, which would in turn harm economic growth in emerging countries that continue to be a prime market for American, Asian and European goods."

Congressional Race

Rachel Weiner & Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) will not seek reelection in 2014, he announced Thursday afternoon, saying he wanted to focus on the nation's challenges rather than politics." CW: Levin was one of the principal Senators who opposed serious filibuster reform. Thanks, Carl.

Right Wing World

One Crazy Thing You Have to Do to Win a GOP Presidential Nomination. Luke Johnson of the Huffington Post: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Thursday that he would not support a stopgap bill to fund the government unless it defunded President Barack Obama's health care law, allying him with tea party darling Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).... Rubio's position puts him to the right of House Republicans, who passed a continuing resolution Wednesday that does not defund the health care law upheld by the Supreme Court. The move caused ire in the conservative blogosphere, with RedState's Erick Erickson accusing the GOP of 'capitulation' and threatening primary challenges for House members who voted for it."

News Ledes

Reuters: "Employers stepped up hiring in February, pushing the unemployment rate to a four year-low, suggesting the economy is gaining traction despite the blow from higher taxes and deep government spending cuts. Nonfarm payrolls surged 236,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, handily beating economists' expectations for a gain of 160,000. The jobless rate fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008, from 7.9 percent in January. The decline reflected gains in employment as well as people leaving the labor force."

New York Times: "Angrily responding to the United Nations Security Council's unanimous decision to impose tightened sanctions, North Korea said on Friday that it was nullifying all nonaggression agreements with South Korea, with one of its top generals claiming that his country had nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles ready to blast off. Matching the harsh warning with a toughened stance, South Korea said on Friday that if Pyongyang attacks the South with a nuclear weapon, the regime of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, 'will be erased from the earth.'"

Reuters: "Kenya's presidential race tightened on Friday with frontrunner Uhuru Kenyatta gaining just under half of the ballots counted four days after the vote, raising the prospect of a tense run-off against his main rival Prime Minister Raila Odinga." ...

... New York Times: "... when the ballot counting began [in Kenya] this week, Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first president, surged ahead in the race for president and stayed out front as the margin narrowed early on Friday. Soon, the Obama administration and its allies could face a tough choice, made even more complicated by the appearance of taking sides against a candidate who may very well win.... He has been charged with heinous crimes, accused of using a vast fortune to bankroll death squads that slaughtered women and children. His running mate also faces charges of crimes against humanity, and as Kenya's election drew closer, the Obama administration's top official for Africa issued a thinly veiled warning during a conference call about the vote, saying that Kenyans are, of course, free to pick their own leaders but that 'choices have consequences.'"

AP: "Flight attendants, pilots, federal air marshals and even insurance companies are part of a growing backlash to the Transportation Security Administration's new policy allowing passengers to carry small knives and sports equipment like souvenir baseball bats and golf clubs onto planes. The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, which representing nearly 90,000 flight attendants, said it is coordinating a nationwide legislative and public education campaign to reverse the policy announced by TSA Administrator John Pistole this week. A petition posted by the flight attendants on the White House's 'We the People' website had more than 9,300 signatures early Friday urging the administration to tell the TSA to keep knives off planes."

AP: "More than 30 heads of government, including Cuban President Raul Castro and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, were scheduled to attend [the funeral of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela]. U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat, and former Rep. William Delahunt, a Democrat from Massachusetts, represented the United States, which Chavez often portrayed as a great global evil even as he sent the country billions of dollars in oil each year."


The Commentariat -- March 7, 2013

David Horsey of the Los Angeles Times: "The president personally picked up the tab for [a] private dinner at the Jefferson Hotel, and the guests were all Republican senators, including John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), John Hoeven (N.D.) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.). Coming out of the hotel after the two-hour meal, the senators had nothing but nice things to say about the gathering," although the meal got off to a rocky start when Toomey & Johnson proposed filibustering the appetizer course (clause after the end-quote may be inaccurate). ...

... Julie Pace of the AP: "A White House official says President Barack Obama has invited Rep. Paul Ryan for lunch at the White House Thursday.... The official requested anonymity in order to" avoid answering questions about why the President could not stomach sitting down to a full dinner with the former vice presidential candidate & ideological granny-starver, as he did with Republican Senators (part after the end-quote may be fanciful). ...

... Charles Pierce: "... there is simply nothing that the zombie-eyed granny-starver could propose that should be treated by any Democratic president any differently than a free introductory case of the mange.... He wants to demolish the social-welfare component of the government because he considers it philosophically illegitimate. He wants to establish an oligarchical system, not because it will profit him personally, although it will, but because he considers it the natural order of democracy. In every sense of the word, he is an extremist, the Louie Gohmert of economic policy. The president slapped him down to his face in an episode aboyt which Republicans have not yet stopped whining. Inviting him back into the discussion can do nothing but make you wonder how securely the fix already is in." ...

... Rosalind Helderman & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "The House took its first step to avert a government shutdown on Wednesday as President Obama began a series of rare meetings with Republican lawmakers, reviving chances for a long-term deal to reduce the federal deficit.... The House approved a six-month spending bill that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. The measure passed 267 to 151, with most Republicans supporting it and most Democrats voting against it. The stopgap measure would provide $982 billion.... But it would lock in the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester for the rest of the fiscal year. The bill will now head to the Senate, where Democrats are likely to seek amendments that would help blunt the effects of domestic spending cuts that began last week. But there is bipartisan optimism that a final version of the measure will clear Congress by the end of the month." ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "House Republicans will preserve Medicare cuts that their presidential nominee loudly denounced last year and accept tax increases they sternly opposed just months ago in a new tax-and-spending blueprint that would bring the federal budget into balance by 2023, senior Republicans said Wednesday. But the politically charged proposal, which emerged as the House easily passed legislation to keep the government financed through Sept. 30, is not expected to include workers currently 55 and over in major changes recommended for Medicare, after more moderate Republicans objected." ...

... E. J. Dionne: a "significant number of Republicans in the Senate -- possibly as many 20 -- who think what's going [re: the federal budget] on is foolish and counterproductive. The White House is betting that enough GOP senators are prepared to make a deal along lines that President Obama has already put forward."

Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: "Senate Republicans on Tuesday filibustered the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, blocking a nominee tapped last year by President Obama to serve on one of the country's most powerful courts. Tuesday's final roll call vote on cutting off debate was 54 to 45. One Republican -- Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) -- joined all 53 members of the Democratic caucus in voting to move ahead with Halligan's nomination, leaving the former New York state solicitor general six votes short of the 60 votes necessary for ending debate." ...

I am deeply disappointed that despite support from a majority of the United States Senate, a minority of Senators continues to block the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Nearly two and a half years after being nominated, Ms. Halligan continues to wait for a simple up-or-down vote. In the past, filibusters of judicial nominations required 'extraordinary circumstances,' and a Republican Senator who was part of this agreement articulated that only an ethics or qualification issue -- not ideology -- would qualify. -- President Obama (read the whole statement)

Duh. I hate to suggest this, but if this is an indication of where we’re headed, we need to revisit the rules again. We need to go back to it again. I'm sorry to say it because I was hopeful that a bipartisan approach to dealing with these issues would work. -- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Majority Whip ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "On Wednesday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) engaged in a marathon filibuster of John Brennan, Obama's nominee to head the CIA, protesting the administration's policy on the use of drones in lethal operations. Paul began speaking at noon and was still filibustering six hours later." CW: I checked at 9:15 pm ET Wednesday, & earlier. Other Senators are helping Paul. John Barrasso (RTP-Wy.) was speaking. ...

     ... Update. Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "A small group of Republicans, led by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, stalled the Senate on Wednesday by waging a nearly 13-hour old-school, speak-until-you-can-speak-no-more filibuster over the government's use of lethal drone strikes -- forcing the Senate to delay the expected confirmation of John O. Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.... Mr. Paul finally wound down shortly before 1 a.m. on Thursday, surrounded by a group of Republican senators and House members who had joined him on the Senate floor in a show of solidarity.

... ** Steve Benen has a rundown of how Senate Republicans have responded to the "filibuster reform" Harry Reid & Mitch McConnell agreed on a few months ago. It's shocking, if not surprising. ...

... ** Gail Collins has some excellent commentary, contrasting Rand Paul's filibuster with Mitch McConnell's paper filibuster. ...

... Greg Sargent: "The very fact that Paul's filibuster (one built on genuine convictions surrounding real issues that were fully aired in public) was treated as so extraordinary is a reminder of the degree to which we've accepted nonstop secret filibustering (which has become nothing more than a tool for partisan across-the-board obstructionism) as entirely ordinary."

Obama 2.0. Another Fox. Same Hen House. Peter Lattman & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Andrew J. Ceresney, who served as [S.E.C. nominee Mary Jo] White's lieutenant as both a defense lawyer and as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan, is a leading candidate to ultimately become her enforcement chief at the Securities and Exchange Commission.... A Washington outsider and relative unknown beyond legal circles, Mr. Ceresney would help set the tone for policing financial fraud, effectively making him a top cop on Wall Street.... At the S.E.C., Mr. Ceresney, 41, would have to police some of the same firms he spent a decade defending."

Ed O'Keefe & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Continued disagreements over whether to keep records of private gun sales prompted Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to move ahead Wednesday without the support of the Democrats and Republicans he's been meeting with for weeks in hopes of striking a deal to expand the national background check system, with limited exceptions. Schumer said he will reintroduce a proposal mandating background checks on all gun sales, private or commercial, on Thursday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing." ...

Silence of the Lambs. Reid Epstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama’s gun control agenda is looking more doomed by the day, but gun control advocates still haven't said a word to complain. That's no accident. The White House knew its post-Newtown effort would require bringing key gun control groups into the fold. So the White House offered a simple arrangement: the groups could have access and involvement, but they'd have to offer silence and support in exchange. The implied rules, according to conversations with many of those involved: No infighting. No second-guessing in the press. Support whatever the president and Vice President Joe Biden propose. And most of all, don't make waves or get ahead of the White House." ...

... ** Dave Gilson of Mother Jones answers the NRA's Crazy Arguments for Guns. Or, how to answer your gun-happy buddies when they spout "proofs" that guns make us all safer.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones on dumb reporting about the federal budget, etc.

Jeb (Not His Real Name)
Is Supposed to Be the Smart Bush

... as I understand it, three or four years from now, the deal is that the fed match [for Medicaid] goes from 95 back to what it is now, which is about 55 in Florida. -- Jeb (Not His Real Name) Bush, on CNN

... as everybody else understands it, "the federal government covers 100% of the cost of the expansion during the first three years and gradually reduces its contribution to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.... In his new book, Bush offered up a different reason to oppose the expansion, calling it "welfare" for the children of illegal immigrants. -- Pema Levy of TPM

Jeb Bush was a two-term governor of a large state with a large Medicaid population. Medicaid represented the second-largest item in the state budget..., and far and away the largest federal program directly affecting Florida's budget.... I don't think Jeb Bush deserves to be cut any slack for so fundamentally misunderstanding the financial terms of the Medicaid expansion. It's like a Nepalese mountain-climber missing Mount Everest. -- Ed Kilgore

Jonathan Chait: "If you have never seen Fox News before, here is a four-minute clip that captures the essence of the network so perfectly that you need never watch anything on it again. It's all here. At the center, you have an old conservative white guy who is enraged about a fact that exists only in his addled brain. At his side, there's a blonde sidekick who nods along with him but doesn't get in the way. And ready to absorb his anger is the network's Emmanuel Goldstein figure, feebly attempting a rebuttal that quickly devolves into a sniveling plea for civility:"

"Upgrade of Die." George Packer of the New Yorker tells a tale of two countries.

Contrary to what she told Terry Gross, Sandra Day O'Connor admits to Jon Stewart that she did have a few regrets about some of her Court decisions:

Local News

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "Arkansas adopted what is by far the country's most restrictive ban on abortion on Wednesday -- at 12 weeks of pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat can typically be detected by abdominal ultrasound. The law, the sharpest challenge yet to Roe v. Wade, was passed by the newly Republican-controlled legislature over the veto of Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, who called it 'blatantly unconstitutional.' The State Senate voted Tuesday to override his veto and the House followed suit on Wednesday, with several Democrats joining the Republican majority. The law contradicts the limit established by Supreme Court decisions, which give women a right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks into pregnancy, and abortion rights groups promised a quick lawsuit to block it."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The U.N. Security Council took direct aim at North Korea's leadership Thursday with new sanctions targeting cash transfers and luxury items, punishing the reclusive regime for its latest nuclear test while evoking a fresh torrent of threats from the North Korean capital. The sanctions, drafted by the United States and China and approved unanimously, were adopted against a backdrop of apocalyptic rhetoric from Pyongyang, including a threat to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against foreign 'aggressors,' a term traditionally interpreted to include the United States."

Washington Post: "A former spokesman for al-Qaeda and son-in-law of its founder, Osama bin Laden, was captured overseas and secretly brought to New York this month to face a criminal trial for allegedly conspiring to kill Americans, U.S. officials said Thursday. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was initially detained in Turkey last month but was taken into U.S. custody in Jordan while he was being deported to Kuwait, U.S. officials said. He is expected to appear in federal court Friday in the Southern District of New York."

Bloomberg News: "... the number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits fell to a six- week low, showing further improvement in the labor market."

Reuters: "An Italian court sentenced ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday to one year in jail over the publication by his family's newspaper of a transcript of a leaked wiretap connected to a banking scandal in 2006. Italian justice system rules mean that the 76-year-old media billionaire would not have to serve any jail time until the appeals process has been exhausted, and a higher court may still overturn the ruling."

AP: "North Korea vowed on Thursday to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States, amplifying its threatening rhetoric hours ahead of a vote by U.N. diplomats on whether to level new sanctions against Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test."

Reuters: "Safety regulators are poised to approve within days a plan to allow Boeing Co to begin flight tests of the 787 Dreamliner with a fix for its volatile batteries, a critical step towards returning the grounded aircraft to service, two sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday."


The Commentariat -- March 6, 2013

Obama 2.0 Richard Lardner of the AP: "The Senate Intelligence Committee voted Tuesday to approve [John Brennan,] President Barack Obama's pick to lead the CIA, after winning a behind-the-scenes battle with the White House over access to a series of top-secret legal opinions that justify the use of lethal drone strikes against terror suspects, including American citizens." ...

... Greg Miller has the story for the Washington Post. ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "Yes, the president does have the authority to use military force against American citizens on US soil — but only in 'an extraordinary circumstance,' Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday. 'The US Attorney General's refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening,' Paul said Tuesday. 'It is an affront the constitutional due process rights of all Americans.'" ...

... Digby: "This case is something a 5th grader could answer: anyone on American soil is subject to the US Constitution which guarantees them due process." ...

... "The Most Powerful Federal Agency You've Never Heard of." Ben Goad of The Hill: "Time is running out for President Obama to make one of his most influential appointments: a regulatory chief who will serve as the gatekeeper for an avalanche of new rules from federal agencies. With Congress mired in partisanship, Obama is expected to lean heavily on the use of executive power to enact his agenda. At the same time, scores of new rules are now under consideration at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the White House's clearinghouse for federal mandates."

Matt Spetalnick of the AP: "While the death of Venezuela's stridently anti-American President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday raised hopes in Washington for better U.S.-Venezuela relations, the Obama administration reacted cautiously as it weighed the prospects for a diplomatic thaw. President Barack Obama quickly reached out to Venezuelans, expressing an interest in a 'constructive relationship' in the post-Chavez era."

Jackie Calmes & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "With Republican leaders in Congress forswearing budget negotiations over new revenues, President Obama has begun reaching around them to Republican lawmakers with a history of willingness to cut bipartisan deals. Mr. Obama has invited about a dozen Republican senators out to dinner on Wednesday night, after speaking with several of them by phone in recent days.... And next week, according to those people and others who did not want to be identified, he will make a rare foray to Capitol Hill to meet separately with the Republican and Democratic caucuses in both the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House."

Debbie Wilgoren & Ashley Halsey of the Washington Post: "Schools and many government offices in the Washington area closed for the day on Wednesday as snow began to blanket the region, the first wave of a storm that forecasters said could dump five to 10 inches inside the Capital Beltway and significantly more to the north and west." ...

... Which Is Why This Is So Brilliant.... Ed O'Keefe & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Bowing to Mother Nature, the House will vote on a plan to continue funding the federal government through the end of the fiscal year on Wednesday -- one day earlier than initially scheduled.... Senior Senate aides noted that the worst portion of the storm is likely to come Wednesday morning and afternoon, making it plausible that the safer decision would be to postpone Wednesday's planned vote on a controversial judicial nomination until Thursday." Who do you think is smarter? -- John Boehner or Harry Reid?

David Espo of the AP: "The Obama administration and congressional Republicans are quietly working in tandem to blunt the impact of short-term spending cuts that kicked in with dire White House warnings a few days ago, with both sides eager to pocket the full savings for deficit reduction as they pivot to a new clash over Medicare." ...

... Meanwhile, the White House Website is prominently featuring President Obama's "Balanced Plan to Avert the Sequester and Reduce the Deficit."

Reuters: "Less than two months into his second term, President Barack Obama's approval rating has dropped and Americans blame him and his fellow Democrats almost as much as his Republican opponents for a fiscal mess." CW: thank you, news media, with special kudos to Bob Woodward & Bill Keller. ...

... AND the public now is in the GOP camp: 61 percent support the sequester, & 60 percent oppose cuts to the military, according to a new ABC News/WashPo poll. CW: The lesson here, IMHO, is that the public goes with the winner; when it looked as if Obama had the high ground, his numbers were up; when Republicans won the sequester battle, their agenda got the nod. It pays to win. ...

... Au Contraire, Greg Sargent argues, "Things suddenly change when you bring up specific government programs. Also, the poll doesn't offer respondents the option of choosing a mix between new revenues and cuts -- a position that has majority support in other polls -- which means it doesn't test the basic dispute at the center of the crisis." ...

... Steve Kornacki of Salon: "... we're probably stuck with the sequester for the rest of this fiscal year -- and maybe well beyond that. It's an outcome almost no one saw coming a year ago, and one made all the more remarkable by the fact that the most recent election seemed to represent a rebuke of the GOP and its embrace of Tea Party fiscal values."

Jake Sherman & Jonathan Allen of Politico: "Rep. Paul Ryan's budget is now expected to exempt seniors 55 years old and above from his Medicare overhaul -- despite his personal preference to raise that age to 56 -- according to several GOP sources familiar with his plans." CW: I love the way these Politico boys frame this story as one in which Ryan is looking for ways to "save Medicare." CW: Are they that stupid or are they on the take? Ryan had a change of heart (okay, inappropriate metaphor; that lying weasel has no heart) ...

... BECAUSE... Molly Hooper of The Hill: "House Republican centrists [were] furious that GOP leaders [were] considering abandoning their pledge not to change Medicare retirement benefits for people 55 years and older. According to several sources, a handful of centrist GOP lawmakers attending a recent Tuesday Group luncheon erupted when Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) broke the news." ...

... Bernie Becker of The Hill: "The new House GOP spending bill directs the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail six days a week, against the wishes of the nation's postmaster general.... Congress has used the appropriations process to force USPS, which has lost billions of dollars in recent years, to continue Saturday delivery for roughly three decades."

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "... misleading GOP claims about Obama's behavior is only half the story. The Republicans are also mischaracterizing their own behavior. With this new budget, Ryan doesn't appear to be offering new concessions. On the contrary, it looks like he's making new demands."

** "Lipstick on an Elephant." Frank Rich on the GOP resuscitation plan, which of course involves stealing elections. "... real Republican leaders don't want any reinvention that ventures much beyond forced smiles; retooled, focus-­group-tested language (in English and Spanish); and blather about 'the kids.'"

Alex Pareene of Salon: "According to a working paper from two political scientists who interviewed 2,000 state legislative candidates last year, politicians all think Americans are more conservative than they actually are. Unsurprisingly, Republicans think voters are way more right-wing than they actually are.... Elected Republicans are more conservative than their constituents, but they think their constituents are basically all psycho Freepers."

Noam Scheiber of The New Republic on "The Boehnerian Way." Insightful, funny, maddening. Bear in mind, Boehner has to deal with this guy (and a lot more like him) ...

... Congrats to Louie Gohmert (RTP-Texas) for winning the title Sequester Jester of the Week. In response to a White House announcement "that it would halt public tours due to the sequester cuts," Gohmert proposed the following Amendment to the Continuing Resolution:

At the end of division C (before the short title), insert the following: SEC. ll. None of the funds made available by a division of this Act may be used to transport the President to or from a golf course until public tours of the White House resume. ...

... George Condon of the National Journal: Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who's been out of jail for awhile, has written a book "packed with insider criticisms of some of Washington's biggest names of the past two decades. The targets for the longtime GOP officeholder are almost all fellow Republicans, including current House Speaker John Boehner; former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; the assistant attorney general who prosecuted him; Republican strategist Karl Rove; former President George W. Bush; former Vice President Dick Cheney; former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay; and Sen. John McCain." He accuses Boehner of doublecrossing him bigtime, & calls him "a chain-smoking, relentless wine drinker who was more interested in the high life -- golf, women, cigarettes, fun, and alcohol."

Lara Jakes of the AP: "Ten years and $60 billion in American taxpayer funds later, Iraq is still so unstable and broken that even its leaders question whether U.S. efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation were worth the cost. In his final report to Congress, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen's conclusion was all too clear: Since the invasion a decade ago this month, the U.S. has spent too much money in Iraq for too few results. The reconstruction effort 'grew to a size much larger than was ever anticipated,' Bowen told The Associated Press in a preview of his last audit of U.S. funds spent in Iraq, to be released Wednesday." ...

... Charles Pierce, commenting on the report: "George W. Bush should spend the rest of his days dogged by regiments of wounded veterans. Richard Cheney should be afflicted at all hours by the howls of widows and of mothers who have lost sons and daughters. Colin Powell -- and his pal, MSNBC star Lawrence Wilkerson -- should shut the hell up about how sorry they are and go off to a monastery somewhere to do penance for what they didn't have the balls to try and stop." ...

... Maureen Dowd gets a preview of a Showtime feature, "The World According to Dick Cheney." "The guy makes Al Haig look like a shrinking violet."

Tom Hamburger & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Some of the gun lobby's strongest allies are breaking with the National Rifle Association to support proposals that would expand background checks for private firearm sales.... The trade group for the nation's leading firearm manufacturers said it will not actively oppose the expansion of background checks, which are designed to prevent guns from reaching criminals or the seriously mentally ill."

Peter Wallsten & David Nakamura of the Washington Post notice Jeb (Not His Real Name) Bush is running for president.

What's the Matter with Sandra Day O'Connor? Here's the link to Terry Gross's interview of Justice O'Connor said. CW: I haven't listened to it, but the commenters to the NPR page here all agree with Reality Chex contributor Haley S. -- O'Connor was one "cranky old lady ... a painful performance." You might say she was Out of Order, the title of the book she's not-so-successfully pushing.

As contributor MAG wrote, Bill Keller's "response" to criticisms of his column is totally lame.

Roger Ailes, in his new book, excerpted in Vanity Fair: "Newt's a prick," & Obama is a lazy, B-ball-playin' Nee-gro. "He said so himself." Via Jillian Rayfield of Salon.

Rhonda Schwarz & Brian Ross of ABC News explain why they didn't carry the Bob Menendez-and-underaged-prostitutes story when it was presented to them & the Daily Caller in the week before the November election. ...

... As Erik Wemple of the Washington Post writes, "The ABC News story [linked above] isn't a game changer; it's a game ender." Case closed.

This Day in History. Scott Bomboy of the National Constitution Center: "On March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Dred Scott case, which had a direct impact on the coming of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln's presidency four years later."

Local News

Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times portrays America's Worst Governor Rick Scott (RTP-Fla.) as a changed man with whom only the Tea Party is unhappy. CW: I would portray him as a con man.

Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa: "Seven Republicans in the Iowa House are pushing a bill to prohibit parents of minor children from getting a 'no fault' divorce and the proposal could be debated in a House committee this week.... Rachel Scott of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence told lawmakers the changes proposed often make homes a more dangerous place.... All 50 states now have 'no-fault' laws allowing couples to divorce without citing evidence of wrong-doing from either spouse." Apparently one of the bill's sponsors, Tedd Gasbag Gassman, sees it as a way to embarrass his recently-divorced daughter & son-in-law, leaving the couple's 16-year-old daughter no choice but to become a slut. ...

... Oops! I see Kaili Joy Gray of Daily Kos already picked up on the slut thing. ...

... Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog: "I guess this is coming from that remade GOP I've heard so much about."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Insurgent fighters from Syria seized a group of United Nations troops on patrol in the disputed Golan Heights region between Syria and Israel on Wednesday and threatened to treat them as prisoners of war, an abrupt escalation in the Syrian conflict that entangled international peacekeepers for the first time."

Politico: "The number of anti-government groups in the United States is at an all-time high and has increased 800 percent since President Barack Obama took office, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center report. The SPLC identified 1,360 so-called patriot groups on the 'radical right' in 2012, compared with only 149 in 2008."

AP: "Airline passengers will be able to carry small knives, souvenir baseball bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment onto planes beginning next month under a policy change announced Tuesday by the head of the Transportation Security Administration. The new policy conforms U.S. security standards to international standards, and allows TSA to concentrate its energies on more serious safety threats, the agency said in a statement."

ABC News: "George Zimmerman's attorneys stunned court observers today by deciding to skip a 'Stand Your Ground' hearing slated for April that might have led to a dismissal of the charges in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin."

AP: "A senior U.S. envoy says Iran is committed to 'deception, defiance and delay' in how it deals with international concerns about its nuclear program. The hard-hitting comments by Joseph Macmanus to the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency reflect U.S. frustration over Iran's expanding uranium enrichment program and stalled attempts by the U.N.'s nuclear agency to probe suspicions that Tehran might have tried to develop nuclear weapons in secret."


The Commentariat -- March 5, 2013

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "Bill Keller Doesn't Understand Junior High School Civics." ...

... Steve Benen has a great takedown of Keller. ...

... And another terrific one by Greg Sargent. ...

... ** Ryan Lizza has a very fine post in today's New Yorker on "The Powerless Presidency," which dovetails with the comments Benen, Sargent, et al., and I made re: Keller's -- and other Very Serious Pundits' -- view of the presidency.

President Obama made remarks before his first Cabinet meeting of his second term, held yesterday:

Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "A bill proposed by House Republicans on Monday to keep the government operating for the remainder of the fiscal year also would serve to mitigate some of the most striking impacts of the across-the-board spending cuts enacted last week. For instance, legislation would prohibit the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency from defunding beds in detention facilities where illegal immigrants are being held." ...

One of the last presidents to balance the budget was Herbert Hoover. -- Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.)

... ** Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "Letting the sequester hit was just the first step in a pact forged in January between conservative leaders and Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to keep the government open and the nation out of default. Now comes step 2: adopting a budget plan that would wipe out deficits entirely by 2023. The strategy runs counter to warnings from prominent Republicans such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal against becoming 'the party of austerity.' ... [Some] GOP lawmakers ... fear the balanced-budget goal will force them to abandon a campaign pledge not to reduce Medicare benefits for those who are now 55 and older. 'I know a number of people who have real concerns about where this is going,' said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who said Medicare cuts targeting people as old as 58 are under discussion." ...

... Jake Sherman & Jonathan Allen of Politico: in his new proposed budget, to be revealed to reporters tomorrow, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is still planning for his Medicare voucher system, but now he will apply it to people 56 & younger, rather than to just those 55 & younger. "In a sign of how far the party has drifted to the right: The Republican Study Committee -- the party's conservative bloc -- might not pen its own budget this year, as it customarily does."

Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post: "... the austerity the federal government has enacted has ... been a significant drag on short-term economic growth":

PolitiFact: John "Boehner said [Sunday on 'Meet the Press"] that the White House and Democrats in the Senate have no plan to replace the sequester. He's wrong on both counts. Obama has a proposal for replacing sequestration cuts with a mix of tax increases and spending cuts. And Senate Democrats have filed a sequester-replacement bill taking a similar approach." CW: I can picture Boehner running around with his pants on fire; I like to think I'm not a diabolical person, but the image of Boehner with his pants on fire makes me laugh. ...

... Steve Benen: "Education Secretary Arne Duncan and House Speaker John Boehner both recently appeared on Sunday shows, made claims that were not true, and got caught.... Duncan acknowledged that he'd made a mistake, apologized, and set the record straight.... Boehner's office actually doubled-down on the lie, saying the falsehood is true if Republicans are allowed to change the meaning of basic words.... If you ever have the impression that the two sides of the political divide are playing by a very different set of rules, it's not your imagination."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Members of Congress will need to trim their office budgets by 8.2 percent as a result of the sequester, [Candice Miller {R-Mich.}] the chairwoman of the House Administration Committee said today.... Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) has announced that she will take an 8.4 percent monthly pay cut as a result of the sequester, in solidarity with others who are bearing the brunt of the cuts."

Alexander Bolton of The Hill: "A bipartisan group of senators has announced a deal to crack down on illegal trafficking and straw purchases of firearms.... Centrist Republican Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Susan Collins (Maine) have reached an agreement with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).... The bill strengthens the law prohibiting material false statements in connection with purchasing a firearm and strengthens penalties for purchasing a gun with intent to transfer it to someone involved in violent crime or drug trafficking."

Jackie Calmes & John Broder of the New York Times: "President Obama on Monday made three cabinet nominations -- for budget, energy and environmental policy — hours before his first cabinet meeting of his second term. Mr. Obama introduced Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the president of the Walmart Foundation in Arkansas and a familiar figure in the Democratic administration from her service in the Clinton administration, to be the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Ernest J. Moniz, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Energy Initiative, is the president's choice to take over for Steven Chu at the Energy Department. And Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator in charge of air and radiation at the Environmental Protection Agency, is the pick to replace the departing administrator, Lisa P. Jackson":

... John Broder & Matthew Wald of the Times: "Mr. Obama nominated Gina McCarthy, a tough-talking native of Boston and an experienced clean air regulator, to take charge at the Environmental Protection Agency, and Ernest J. Moniz, a physicist and strong advocate of natural gas and nuclear power as cleaner alternatives to coal, to run the Department of Energy. The appointments, which require Senate confirmation, send an unmistakable signal that the president intends to mount a multifaceted campaign in his second term to tackle climate change by using all the executive branch tools at his disposal."

Steve Kornacki of Salon on why Obama is dreaming if he thinks Democrats have a shot at regaining control of the House -- and, of course, retaining so-called "control" of the Senate in 2014. But all is not lost because there are signs Republicans are cracking on non-fiscal issues.

Jay Carney will continue to take George Will seriously:

Carol D. Leonnig & Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post: "An escort who appeared on a video claiming that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) paid her for sex has told Dominican authorities that she was instead paid to make up the claims and has never met or seen the senator, according to court documents and two people briefed on her claim.... The videotaped claims of two women, made with their faces obscured, were posted on the conservative Web site the Daily Caller.... Daily Caller Editor Tucker Carlson did not reply to phone calls and e-mails requesting comment." CW: Tucker can dish it out, but he can't take it. ...

... UPDATE. Dylan Byers of Politico: "The Daily Caller is claiming that the Washington Post confused its prostitutes in a recent report about the sexual allegations against Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez." The DC also insisted Post reporters did not contact the blog before running with their story. ...

... UPDATE Update. Dylan Byers: "The Washington Post tells Politico it is standing by its latest report on an escort who had made sexual allegations against Sen. Robert Menendez, including reporter Carol Leonnig's claim that she reached out to the conservative news site The Daily Caller prior to publication of the piece."

"Looking back, there may have been signs it was a fake." -- Hunter of Daily Kos. (Pictured: James O'Keefe, appearing on Fox "News" in the supposed pimp outfit he wore to entrap ACORN workers.)

AND, Speaking of ACORN, an Elephant Never Forgets. ... Zach Carter of the Huffington Post: "A new short-term budget bill introduced on Monday by House Republicans includes a bizarre provision banning federal funding to anti-poverty group ACORN, despite the fact that the group has already been stripped of federal funding -- and has been defunct for nearly three years."

Paul Krugman & Joe Scarborough get into it on Charlie Rose's show. As P. D. Pepe mentions in today's Comments, Charlie -- true to form -- could not STFU. Here's a clip:

... Jack Mirkinson, writing in the Huffington Post, describes the end of the debate. Sounds to me as if Scarborough went to total rude mode ...,

... BUT on his blog, Krugman wrote, "I feel that I just had my Denver debate moment: I was tired, cranky, and unready for the blizzard of misleading factoids and diversionary stuff (In 1997 you said that the aging population was a big problem! When Social Security was founded life expectancy was only 62!) Oh, and I wasn't prepared for Joe Scarborough's slipperiness about what he actually advocates (he's for more spending in the near term? Who knew?)" ...

... Economist Alan Blinder, in Politico: "Scarborough ... argued in Politico that Krugman's view is extreme, dangerous, and ... shared by almost no one else.... Scarborough invoked me as being on his side of the debate — which was news to me.... While there may be some small differences between Krugman's position on reducing the deficit and my own, they are pretty small.... Furthermore, Krugman and I are not occupying some obscure corner of the policy debate, where only weirdos live. A large number of economists are on our side. Others, of course, are closer to the Scarborough camp. The more important question is the substantive issue of the day: Should we be going for more fiscal austerity right now, or not? Those of us who say 'not' urge you to consider some pertinent facts: the unemployment rate remains sky high; fiscal austerity has failed in Europe, where it is harming growth; the U.S. Treasury can still borrow at super-low interest rates; and we have already made serious progress on the ten-year budget problem."

How to Tell Jeb Bush Is Running for President. Benjy Sarlin of TPM: "After years of building a reputation as the 'good' Republican on immigration, Jeb Bush shocked the reform community on Monday by ruling out a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a position solidly to the right of prominent GOPers like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). The news stunned immigration activists and aides working on a bill and who have long insisted that anything short of citizenship is a dealbreaker for reform -- especially given that Bush was decisively in the pro-citizenship camp just months ago." ...

How to Tell Jeb Bush Is Running for President. Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Jeb Bush disagrees with his own book hours after it's published.... Bush (R) told MSNBC's Morning Joe on Tuesday that he would support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants 'if you can craft that in law where you can have a path to citizenship where there isn't an incentive for people to come illegally' -- a position that puts him at odds with his new book, out today from Simon & Schuster. In Immigration Wars, co-authored with immigration lawyer Clint Bolick, Bush a[r]gues that denying a path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrations is 'absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences.'" CW: In a statement, Bush said he was going to show that amateur Mitt Romney how to winger-pander your way to the White House. He noted that the Bushes have a long history of doing it right. Also, he urged President Obama to do "one thing right" and deport Bobby Jindal. ...

... Beth Reinhard of the National Journal: "The stunning reversal by [Jeb Bush,] one of the Republican Party's leading champions of immigration reform and Hispanic outreach, at least in part, comes down to a colossal political miscalculation." ...

... Julie Lapidos of the New York Times has more. CW: at this point, I don't know WTF Bush's position on immigration reform is. Then again, neither does he. What's disturbing is that his book-selling & pandering & flip-flopping could have the effect of hurting millions of people living in this country -- but hey, who cares? Because It's All About Jeb (Not His Real Name).

Romney Is Still Lying. David Corn of Mother Jones: in his remarks to Chris Wallace Sunday, "Romney was playing the victim, claiming his 'unfortunate' comments had been 'twisted and distorted'.... All of Romney's defenses -- whether or not he was admitting wrong -- are undone by his own words.... Several ... GOP funders mentioned that they each had heard Romney make similar 47 percent-ish comments in private during the campaign. The response captured by my source at the Boca Raton fundraiser was not an outlier moment for Romney.... His ever-shifting and hollow explanations will mark him as a person who cannot take full responsibility for one of the most consequential statements he ever uttered."

The Washington Post drops its ombudsman forevah & substitutes -- maybe somebody else who maybe once in awhile will blog about something. Alyssa Rosenberg of Think Progress on why that isn't such a good idea.

Today In Pontif-EX

Forget the Shoes of the Fisherman. Henry Conway of the Guardian's fashion blog on ex Pope Benedict's legacy as a fashion maven: "My favourite item from his wardrobe is a short cape known as a mozzetta, the winter version of which is fur-lined, ermine-trimmed and made of crimson silk." Thanks to James S. for the link.

Right Wing World

Elspeth Reeve & Philip Bump of the Atlantic map out which conservatives are mad at other conservatives. it's a complicated chart, with explanatory notations.

Congressional Races

Jason Zengerle of New York magazine has a long piece on Mark Sanford's run for Congress. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Here's this man who grew up on a plantation and married an heiress, and then presided over a state that is a living monument to inequality, proudly championing the most churlish and self-righteous instincts of its privileged classes. But his new empathy still extends no further than people just like him." CW: Sanford & his fiancee would probably enjoy double-dating with the Romneys.

Alyssa Rosenberg of Think Progress: "... the Daily Caller, which has been trying to frame [actor Ashley] Judd's feminist beliefs as fringe, has launched the stupidest salvo against her at all: arguing that Judd, because she has done nude scenes for her work as an actress, 'has -- literally -- nothing left to show us.'"

Local News

"A Tale of Two Cities." Monica Davey of the New York Times: "Around the country, as businesses have recovered, the public sector has in many cases struggled and shrunk. Detroit may be the most extreme example of a city's dual fates, public and private, diverging.At times, the widening divide has been awkward, even tense. As private investors contemplated opening coffee bean roasters, urban gardening suppliers and fish farms, Detroit firefighters complained about shortages of equipment, suitable boots and even a dearth of toilet paper." CW: Yes, it is "awkward" to fight fires in sock feet. So when asswipes run the show, they forget to order asswipes?

Running Florida Like a Big Business. Carl Hiassen of the Miami Herald, in the National Memo: "Rick Scott campaigned for governor on the promise of running Florida like a big business, but the one big business that Florida actually runs is out of control. Citizens Property Insurance Corp. was created a decade ago, supposedly to help residents afford hurricane coverage for their homes. With 1.3 million policyholders, Citizens is the state's largest insurer of property. And it's been managed about as carefully as amateur night at your local strip joint. In fact, that's where one happy Citizens worker liked to use his company credit card." Etc., etc. Thanks to Barbarossa for the link.

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Dow Jones industrial average, which measures the performance of 30 blue-chip companies, closed with a gain of more than 125 points Tuesday, surpassing its previous record close of 14,164.53, which it achieved nearly five and a half years ago, a well as its record intraday high, set around the same time, of 14,198.10."

New York Times: "President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela died Tuesday afternoon after a long battle with cancer, the government announced, leaving behind a bitterly divided nation in the grip of a political crisis that grew more acute as he languished for weeks, silent and out of sight in hospitals in Havana and Caracas." ...

New York Times: "Hugo Chávez, who rose from poverty in a dirt-floor adobe house to unrivaled influence in Venezuela as its president, consolidating power and wielding the country's oil reserves as a tool for his Socialist-inspired change, died Tuesday, Vice President Nicolás Maduro said. He was 58."

Reuters: "Cellphone users should be allowed to switch their devices to any mobile carrier, the White House said on Monday in response to an online petition against the recent banning of the practice. More than 100,000 people signed the petition protesting the ban on switching imposed by the Library of Congress, which took effect in January. At issue is whether cellphone buyers, who get new devices at a heavily subsidized price in return for committing to long-term contracts, should be able to take their gadgets with them when they change carriers." CW: so now the Library of Congress is giving gifts to big telecom?

AP: "Los Angeles ... voters have been mostly indifferent about Tuesday's race for mayor. No single issue or candidate has seized their attention, much less their imaginations, in the contest to succeed outgoing Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa. The likely outcome in the heavily Democratic city will send two City Hall regulars, Eric Garcetti, 42, and Wendy Greuel, 51, to a May 21 runoff...."

Al Jazeera: "Syrian rebels battling troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad overran al-Raqqa after days of fierce fighting, and were now in 'near-total control' of the northern city, activists said. The fall of Raqqa, located on the Euphrates River, on Monday is a significant development in the two-year-old revolt against Assad. The rebels do not claim to hold any other provincial capitals. Residents in Raqqa destroyed a statue of late President Hafez al-Assad (Bashar's father), according to amateur video footage distributed by activists." The Guardian has a liveblog. ...

... Washington Post: "As a mass Syrian emigration spills into neighboring countries, relief organizations acknowledge that they can hardly keep up. The exodus is accelerating so quickly that the tally of need will almost certainly hit a grim milestone this week, when the number of Syrian refugees who have registered with the United Nations -- or are on months-long waiting lists to do so -- is expected to hit 1 million."

AP: "The United States and China have reached agreement on a new draft sanctions resolution to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear test, U.N. diplomats said late Monday.... The diplomats ... said the United States is expected to circulate a draft resolution to the full council at [a meeting today]." ...

... CBS News: "North Korea is vowing to cancel the 1953 Korean War cease-fire because of sanctions and ongoing U.S.-South Korean joint military drills."

Guardian: "Kenyans turned out in massive numbers on Monday to vote in a general election described as the most important, and nervously anticipated, in the country's 50-year history."