... Fortunately, we have the brilliant nonpartisan reporters at Politico to put the meeting in context. Carrie Brown, et al.: "President Barack Obama was once the biggest superstar on the international stage. On Thursday, he headed here to benefit from the popularity of his replacement:Pope Francis. The 50-minute meeting was a rare chance for Obama to associate himself with a world leader whose cool factor far outweighs his own, and it comes at a critical time in his presidency."
White House: "Along with ... King Philippe and Prime Minister di Rupo of Belgium, President Obama delivers remarks at Flanders Field Cemetery":
Michael Shear & Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama offered a sustained and forceful rejoinder against Russia on Wednesday, denouncing the 'brute force' he said it has used to intimidate neighbors like Ukraine and vowing that the United States 'will never waver' in standing up for its NATO allies against aggression by Moscow. In a speech meant as a capstone to his trip to Europe in the midst of an East-West confrontation with Russia, Mr. Obama addressed Moscow's justifications for its intervention in Ukraine point by point, dismissing them as 'absurd' or unmerited." Here's the transcript.
Here's video of a joint presser held earlier Wednesday:
Protest by Beethoven. The Odessa (Ukraine) Musicians for Peace & Brotherhood. Thanks to Haley S. for the link:
Eric Pfeiffer of Yahoo! News: "A new national survey of Americans without health insurance finds that more than half are not aware that the deadline to obtain coverage under the Affordable Care Act is less than a week away. The poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 61 percent of uninsured Americans either are not aware of the deadline or think it does not take effect until later than it does. Only 39 percent of uninsured individuals in the survey correctly identified the March 31 deadline." ...
... CW Note: The Obama administration has extended the deadline for some, but not for those whose excuse for not enrolling is "I had no fucking idea I had to try to sign up by March 31." ...
Another deadline made meaningless. If he hasn't put enough loopholes in the law already, the administration is now resorting to an honor system to enforce it. -- Speaker John Boehner
Another day, another Obamacare delay. -- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
... Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic: "For each one of these extensions or delays, the ultimate question is whether they change the law's ability to realize its basic goals -- which, in this case, means encouraging people to buy new private health plans while maintaining a stable insurance market. Giving people a little extra time to enroll wouldn't seem to impede this kind of progress. If anything, it would seem to enhance it. And maybe that's what really bothers some of the law's fiercer critics."
Game-Changer. Brian Bennett of ESPN: "In a potentially game-changing moment for college athletics, the Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Wednesday that Northwestern football players qualify as employees of the university and can unionize. NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr cited the players' time commitment to their sport and the fact that their scholarships were tied directly to their performance on the field as reasons for granting them union rights." The NLRB decision is here (pdf).
... John Cassidy of the New Yorker has more. The situation worsens, BTW. "New figures for 2012 from Saez, which came out too late to be included in Piketty's book, show the line hitting another new high, of more than fifty per cent."
Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times: "Reverse mortgages, which allow homeowners 62 and older to borrow money against the value of their homes that need not be paid back until they move out or die, have long posed pitfalls for older borrowers. Now many ... are discovering that reverse mortgages can also come up with a harsh sting for their heirs. Under federal rules, survivors are supposed to be offered the option to settle the loan for a percentage of the full amount. Instead, reverse mortgage companies are increasingly threatening to foreclose unless heirs pay the mortgages in full...."
Nicholas Kristof finds five wasteful welfare programs: "welfare subsidies for private planes..., welfare subsidies for yachts..., welfare subsidies for hedge funds and private equity..., welfare subsidies for America's biggest banks ... & large welfare subsidies for American corporations from cities, counties and states."
Paul Lewis of the Guardian: "One in 10 US secret service agents are aware of colleagues who have drunk excessively to the point they are 'a security concern', according to an internal survey of elite personnel whose responsibilities include protecting the president. Findings in the survey, buried in a recently released inspector general report, raise serious questions about the conduct of secret service agents, one of whom was found highly intoxicated at a hotel in the Netherlands on Sunday, hours before the arrival of Barack Obama this week." ...
... Carol Leonnig, et al., of the Washington Post: "As the U.S. Secret Service arrived in the Netherlands last weekend for a presidential trip, managers were already on high alert to avoid any further embarrassing incidents involving agents. The agency's director had admonished supervisors after two counter-sniper officers suspected of drinking were involved in a March 7 car accident during a presidential visit to Miami, according to several people with knowledge of the incident. The driver passed a field sobriety test and was not arrested."
Darrell Issa Is Still at It. AP: John Koskinen, "the head of the Internal Revenue Service, told House Republicans on Wednesday that it would take years to provide all the documents they have subpoenaed in their probe of how the agency handled tea party groups' applications for tax-exempt status.... Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., warned him he should comply with the request 'or potentially be held in contempt' of Congress, a sometimes threatened but seldom-used authority." ...
... David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on Thursday said on Thursday that the 'biggest tool we have is to shame' the Obama administration, but insisted that was not what he was trying to do with his investigations into the alleged IRS targeting of tea party groups."
Do I have the best credentials? Probably not, 'cause, you know, whatever. -- Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass) on why New Hampshire voters should make him their U.S senator
I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. -- Iowa State Sen. Joni Ernst, on why Iowa voters should make her their U.S. senator ...
... For some reason, Gail Collins doesn't think much of this crop of Senate hopefuls. Oh, she missed this genius:
We were fortunate growing up in the south. The president is a community organizer. You wonder if he ever worked with a poor person.... Insurance people they will tell you that they will go to a company and an employer will pay for everything, and there are some people who will not sign up. Turns out, those are my patients. They're illiterate. I'm not saying that to be mean. I say that in compassion. They cannot read. The idea they're going to go on the internet and work through a 16-page document to put in their data and sign up does not reflect an understanding of who is having the hardest time in our economy. -- Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician who is running for the Senate seat held by Mary Landrieu (D-La.)
Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "... Mississippi [is] the last major battlefield in the feud between the Tea Party and the Republican establishment. The state has become a well-funded proxy war" in the GOP primary race between Sen. Thad Cochran & TP challenger Chris McDaniel.
Millions in this country feel like strangers in this land. You recognize that, don't you? An older America is passing away. A newer America is rising to take its place. We recoil from that culture. It's foreign to us. It's offensive to us. -- Chris McDaniel
Black people are offensive to us. -- CW Dogwhistle Translation, as if you needed one
This nice-looking Republican gunman is running for Congress in Alabama. (Apparently he didn't read the ACA bill he shoots & shreds. He says he's going to replace it with a "market-based solution," unaware that the ACA is market-based; in fact, the market factor is what makes the law so cumbersome):
CW: I'm always a day late (at least) in linking Tom Edsall's New York Times column. This week he wrote about the Democrats' dismal prospects in the 2014 congressional elections -- not to mention the party's dismal chances in the 2016 presidential election. "The damage inflicted on the Democratic Party by the dysfunctional [Healthcare.gov] website and the reaction to it is hard to overestimate.... Going largely unmentioned in most analyses is the inability of the Obama administration to markedly improve the economy, which could end up playing a big role in the unraveling of the Democratic Party's electoral fortunes, not only in 2014 but also in 2016." ...
... Philip Bump of the Atlantic: "What Edsall glosses over, though, is that the congressional ballot data was artificially inflated by the complete train wreck of the government shutdown, which completely tanked Republican poll numbers. The Healthcare.gov mess certainly meant that the Democrats lost an opportunity to capitalize on a surprising lead -- a lead that was always bound to decline to some extent.
... CW: I still think David Atkins has it right about what's wrong. From a piece I linked a few weeks ago: "For a young voter or voter of color, voting for Democrats isn't a matter of hope for a better future. It's basically a defensive crouch to prevent the insane sociopaths from taking over. To provide real hope, Democrats would have to start pushing for a $15 minimum wage, for basic universal income, for single-payer healthcare, for a green jobs Apollo Program, for student loan forgiveness, and similar policies." If you want voter turnout, taking a "defensive crouch" won't do it. ...
... ALSO, this doesn't inspire confidence that Democrats are your friends:
... Democrats Behaving Badly
Josh Richman, et al., of the San Jose Mercury-News: "In a stunning criminal complaint, State Sen. Leland Yee has been charged with conspiring to traffic in firearms and public corruption as part of a major FBI operation spanning the Bay Area, casting yet another cloud of corruption over the Democratic establishment in the Legislature and torpedoing Yee's aspirations for statewide office. Yee, D-San Francisco, highlights a series of arrests Wednesday morning that included infamous Chinatown gangster Raymond 'Shrimp Boy' Chow, whose past includes a variety of charges including racketeering and drug crimes." ...
... OR, as Charles Pierce puts it, "... the FBI seems to be accusing him of having wandered into a Dashiell Hammett novel." ...
... Chris Megerian of the Los Angeles Times: "A criminal complaint released Wednesday says [Yee] ... wanted donations in return for connecting an Italian gangster from New Jersey with an international arms dealer. The gangster was an undercover federal agent. Although Yee is better known as a gun control advocate in the Capitol, the complaint says he talked tough about having shady contacts who could obtain automatic weapons."
Mark Washburn, et al., of the Charlotte Observer: "Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon [D] was arrested Wednesday on public corruption charges, with the FBI alleging he took tens of thousands of dollars in bribes -- including $20,000 in cash delivered in a briefcase last month to the mayor's office where he also solicited $1 million more. Cannon resigned Wednesday evening. He was arrested that morning at a SouthPark apartment used by undercover FBI agents after the mayor turned up expecting another payment, sources say."
Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press: "Wayne County [Detroit] Circuit Judge Wade McCree, who carried on an affair with a woman who had a case before him, is removed from office and will face a six-year suspension if he gets re-elected in November, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled today." McCree is a Democrat, appointed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. ...
... AND This Mystery Crook. Dan McGowan of WPRI: "State Rep. Nicholas Mattiello was overwhelmingly voted speaker of the Rhode Island House Tuesday, just five days after state and federal investigators executed two search warrants that targeted former Speaker Gordon Fox's [D] East Side home and State House office."
... Elsewhere Beyond the Beltway
** Karen Matthews of the AP: "New York state has the most segregated public schools in the nation, with many black and Latino students attending schools with virtually no white classmates.... The report by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California at Los Angeles looks at enrollment trends from 1989 to 2010. In New York City, the largest school system in the U.S. with 1.1 million pupils, the study notes that many of the charter schools created over the last dozen years are among the least diverse of all, with less than 1 percent white enrollment at 73 percent of charter schools. 'To create a whole new system that's even worse than what you've got really takes some effort,' said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project and an author of the report." ...
... CW: Of course the easiest way to mitigate school segregation is to have adults quit paying attention to what color the neighbors are when they look for a place to live.
Paul Egan & Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press: "Michigan's governor [Rick Snyder (R)] said the nearly 300 same-sex marriages performed Saturday in the state are legal, but Michigan won't recognize them because of a stay put on a judicial decision that would allow for the unions."
Joshua Miller of the Boston Globe: "Democrat Martha Coakley, one of 10 hopefuls aiming to succeed Governor Deval Patrick, is the front-runner in both the Democratic primary and against Republican Charlie Baker, according to a new poll. Among likely Democratic primary voters, she led the next closest Democratic candidate, Treasurer Steven Grossman, by 31 points, a new WBUR-FM survey conducted by The MassINC Polling Group found."
A Painful Debate. Akilah Johnson of the Globe: During a Tuesday night forum among Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates on LGBTQ issues, Democratic candidate Steve Grossman was "in the throes of passing a kidney stone." The story has inspired a Twitter account @GrossmansStone, with entries like, "Will you have Urethra Franklin sing at your inaugural?"
New York Times: " In the first barometer of global condemnation of Russia's annexation of Crimea, Ukraine and its Western backers persuaded a large majority of countries in the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday to dismiss the annexation as illegal, even as Russia sought to rally world support for the idea of self-determination.... The resolution garnered 100 votes in favor, 11 votes against, with 58 abstentions."
New York Times: "Australia announced on Friday morning that it had moved the search area for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 nearly 700 miles to the northeast, the latest in a long series of changes by the authorities on where they think the plane might have disappeared."
CNN: "A new classified intelligence assessment concludes it is more likely than previously thought that Russian forces will enter eastern Ukraine...." CW: No kidding.
New York Times: "After three weeks of urgent negotiations with the interim government in Kiev..., the International Monetary Fund announced on Thursday an agreement to provide Ukraine up to $18 billion in loans over two years to prevent the country's default."
Washington Post: "A Thai satellite spotted 300 floating objects in the southern Indian Ocean, where authorities say the flight of the missing Malaysia Airlines ended more than three weeks ago."