The Ledes

Thursday, August 21, 2014.

New York Times: "Some 10,000 mourners on Thursday buried three senior commanders of the armed wing of Hamas who were killed in predawn airstrikes by Israel, the most significant blow to the group’s leadership since Israel’s operation in Gaza began more than six weeks ago."

ABC News: "An American doctor who contracted Ebola will be released today from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, with details expected on the release of a second patient who also contracted the disease.... The virus has killed at least 1,229 and sickened 1,011 more, according to numbers released Tuesday by the World Health Organization. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have the most cases."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, August 20, 2014.

AP: "At least 34 sailors are being kicked out of the Navy for their roles in a cheating ring that operated undetected for at least seven years at a nuclear power training site, and 10 others are under criminal investigation, the admiral in charge of the Navy's nuclear reactors program told The Associated Press."

New York Times: "Israeli airstrikes killed a wife and baby son of the top military commander of Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates the Gaza Strip, hours after rocket fire from Gaza broke a temporary cease-fire Tuesday and halted talks aimed at ending the six-week conflict collapsed in Cairo. The fate of the commander, Mohammed Deif, the target of several previous Israeli assassination attempts, remained unclear, though Palestinian officials and witnesses said his was not one of three bodies pulled Wednesday from the rubble of the bombed Gaza City home." ...

... AFP: "An Israeli cabinet minister on Wednesday justified an air strike on Gaza that killed the wife and child of Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif, saying he was a legitimate target. 'Mohammed Deif deserves to die just like (the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama) bin Laden. He is an arch murderer and as long as we have an opportunity we will try to kill him'" Interior Minister Gideon Saar told army radio."

New York Times: "After nearly a week of inaction, a Russian aid convoy destined for the besieged, rebel-controlled Ukrainian city of Luhansk rumbled to life on Wednesday, with 16 of its trucks passing through a Russian border checkpoint. Before heading to Luhansk, though, the trucks still have to be checked by the Russian border service, Ukrainian border guards and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sergei Karavaytsev, an officer in Russia’s Emergencies Ministry, said in a telephone interview."

Guardian: "Russia has shut down four McDonald's restaurants in Moscow for alleged sanitary violations in a move critics said was the latest blow in its tit-for-tat sanctions tussle with the west." CW: Now that could make Putin unpopular.

AP: "Germany says it is prepared to arm the Kurdish fighters battling Sunni insurgents in northern Iraq. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Germany would closely coordinate its efforts with France, Britain and other European countries who are already delivering weapons to the Kurds."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
August 21

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Looking for a bucolic retreat where the townspeople will protect you from curious outsiders? Got about $700K to burn? Then you might be interested in purchasing the former home of fiction writer J. D. Salinger. the property is located in Cornish, New Hamphire:

... Many more pix & a virtual tour here.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

John Oliver on "native advertising." Via Juan Cole:

Justice Ginsburg on the Tumblr site Notorious R.B.G.:

Washington Post: "Former president George W. Bush has been writing a book about his father, former president George H.W. Bush. The book will be published in November."

"Homophonia." Caroline Moss of Business Insider: "An education blogger in Utah is out of a job today after writing [righting] a blog post explaining 'homophones' for the Nomen Global Language Center. Tim Torkildson said he was fired by [buy] his boss and NGLC owner, Clarke Woodger, for [four] promoting a gay agenda." Here's Torkildson's blogpost on his firing. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times: "New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission would do well to turn down the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion, which imagines replacing a prized garden on East 70th Street in Manhattan with a clumsy addition. The city should avoid another self-inflicted wound, and there are other options." CW: As I recall, the garden is that it is difficult to see from the street. I love the garden court & have spent a good deal of time there.

Martha Stewart has a drone.

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."


New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.


CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:


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The Commentariat -- March 28, 2012 Supreme Court Edition

NEW. Part 1 of my analysis, in the New York Times eXaminer, of the New York Times' coverage of the legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act is here. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...

... NEW. Also, be sure to read Dean Baker's takedown of the New York Times report on RomneyCare: "The NYT puts an anti-Obamacare piece in the news section."

The court commands no armies, it has no money; it depends for its power on its credibility. The only reason people obey it is because it has that credibility. And the court risks grave damage if it strikes down a statute of this magnitude and importance, and stretches so dramatically and drastically to do it. – Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., former Connecticut Attorney General

In a very fundamental way, this Medicaid expansion, as well as the provisions we discussed yesterday, secure of the blessings of liberty.... The Congress struggled with the issue of how to deal with this profound problem of 40 million people without health care for many years, and it made a judgment, and its judgment is one that is, I think, in conformity with lots of experts thought, was the best complex of options to handle this problem. Maybe they were right; maybe they weren't. But this is something about which the people of the United States can deliberate and they can vote, and if they think it needs to be changed, they can change it. And I would suggest to the Court, with profound respect for the Court's obligation to ensure that the Federal Government remains a government of enumerated powers, that this is not a case in any of its aspects that calls that into question. That this was a judgment of policy, that democratically accountable branches of this government made by their best lights. And I would urge this Court to respect that judgment and ask that the Affordable Care Act, in its entirety, be upheld. Thank you. -- Donald Verrilli, Solicitor General (Read Verrilli's entire final remark, beginning on page 79 @ line 14)

Links to audio & transcripts of today's sessions in today's Ledes.

** Also, do read Ken Winkes' essay in this page's Comments.

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "On the third day and final of Supreme Court arguments over the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care overhaul law, the justices on Wednesday shifted their attention to a question with enormous practical implications: If they strike down a key provision of the sprawling law, what other provisions would have to fall along with it?"

N. C. Aizenman & Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court began the final day of its review of President Obama’s health-care law Wednesday, considering whether all of the law must fall if part of it is found unconstitutional, and whether its proposed Medicaid expansion violates the federal-state partnership."

New York Times Editors: "By the time the proceedings were over, much of what the conservative justices said in court seemed like part of a politically driven exercise — especially because the issues addressed on Wednesday were not largely constitutional in nature. In fact, they were the kinds of policy questions that are properly left to Congress and state governments to answer, not the Supreme Court."

Jeffrey Doom-and-Gloom Toobin:

Au contraire, writes Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "The Supreme Court spent 91 minutes Wednesday operating on the assumption that it would strike down the key feature of the new health care law, but may have convinced itself in the end not to do that because of just how hard it would be to decide what to do after that. A common reaction, across the bench, was that the Justices themselves did not want the onerous task of going through the remainder of the entire 2,700 pages of the law and deciding what to keep and what to throw out, and most seemed to think that should be left to Congress.... The net effect may well have shored up support for the individual insurance mandate itself." ...

... BUT here's Denniston's analysis of the afternoon session: "Unless a closing oration by a top government lawyer stirs some real sympathy for the poor, the new health care law’s broad expansion of the Medicaid program that serves the needy may be sacrificed to a historic expression of judicial sympathy for states’ rights. It probably would require the Court to be really bold, to strike down a program passed by Congress under its spending power, and to do so for the first time in 76 years, but the temptation was very much in evidence in the final round of the Court’s hearings this week on the Affordable Care Act. It probably would be done by a 5-4 vote." Post has been updated.

Dahlia Lithwick describes the justices' behavior in the afternoon session: "... the discussion has disintegrated again into a Morning Joe-style roundtable about states’ rights, the states’ dangerous addiction to New Deal federal programs, and the possibility of sending the states back to rehab to work out their co-dependency issues."

** Andrew Koppelman of Salon: "The judges are being asked to take away health insurance from millions of people. And judging from what they said, they just might do it. Constitutional arguments that were clear howlers a few days ago now have a chance at becoming the law of the land." Koppelman does an excellent job of explaining the anti-Medicaid argument, how ridiculous it is, and how scary it is that the conservative justices, unlike any of the lower courts -- which all threw it out -- took the argument seriously.

NEW. Greg Sargent interviews Charles Fried, the former Solicitor General to Ronald Reagan. "lThere is a limiting principle,' Fried said. 'Congress can’t regulate something that isn’t interstate commerce.' At [Tuesday]’s hearing, [Justice] Kennedy suggested that it is beyond Congress’s authority to force people to purchase something they do not want. 'Can you create commerce in order to regulate it?' Kennedy asked. Fried ... said that under the mandate, Congress isn’t 'creating commerce,' it's merely regulating how inevitable commerce will be paid for. 'You’re not compelling commerce here,' Fried said. 'That assumes the commerce is the insurance. But the commerce is the health care. You’re regulating how it’s paid for. They’re not creating commerce; they’re creating the way you pay for it.'" ...

... NEW. Greg Sargent: "... in his interview with me about the limiting principle, former Reagan Solicitor General Charles Fried was scaldingly critical of the willingness of the conservative bloc of Supreme Court justices to traffic in some of the most well-worn Tea Party tropes about Obamacare. 'I was appalled to see that at least a couple of them were repeating the most tendentious of the Tea Party type arguments,' Fried said. 'I even heard about broccoli. The whole broccoli argument is beneath contempt. To hear it come from the bench was depressing.'"

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "The early outlines of the [Obama campaign's plan to deal with the healthcare issue] came into view on Wednesday as the administration aggressively promoted the more popular provisions of the health care law. That offered a glimpse of the next three months, as the court wrestles with its ruling on the most sweeping piece of domestic legislation since Medicare was created in 1965.... If the administration loses its argument, one early strategy is to run squarely against the Supreme Court." ...

... NEW. Amy Gardner of the Washington Post on the same subject.

NEW. Charles Pierce: "It's been clear for some time now that [Justice Antonin Scalia] is short-timing his job on the Supreme Court. The job bores him.... He's really just a heckler at this point."

NEW. E. J. Dionne: "It fell to the court’s liberals — the so-called 'judicial activists,' remember? — to remind their conservative brethren that legislative power is supposed to rest in our government’s elected branches.... If they strike down or cripple the health-care law..., a court that gave us Bush v. Gore and Citizens United will prove conclusively that it sees no limits on its power, no need to defer to those elected to make our laws."

MYOB. Andrew Koppelman of Salon has precisely the right answer to Alito's question yesterday about the limits of the Commerce Clause: "What Solicitor General Donald Verrilli evidently could not bring himself to say – and this may be why his answers to No Limits were so tangled and hard to follow — is that there is no such safe harbor. Government already forces you to buy insurance you may not want, and thereby to subsidize others, via Social Security and Medicare. The check on the abuse of this power is a familiar one: the ballot box." See also the New York Times Editors' take linked in yesterday's Supremes Edition. It's a different way of saying the same thing to the Court: MYOB. ...

     ... Update: In Verrilli's final plea to the Court, cited at the top of this post, he at last tells them to MYOB.

... CW: I am in complete agreement with something else Koppelman writes in the post above: "Perhaps [Justice Scalia] was just being a devil’s advocate, but let’s be clear: That’s who he was advocating for.... Here the purported champion of judicial restraint proposes reading brutal, unregulated capitalism into the Constitution. Fundamental rights are violated if government acts to keep sick people alive? The other objections to the law are merely confused. This one is evil." As I listened to the audio yesterday, that was exactly my reaction to Scalia's questions; that and the fact that Scalia so clearly takes pleasure in doing evil to the weak and needy.

David Frum, Confused Conservative, writing in the Daily Beast, is not convinced the Republican-appointed Supremes will save the Republican Members of Congress from their dereliction of duty. An interesting take, for what it's worth, which might not be much.

This country is in the grip of some people who have been so brainwashed that they have lost their relationship to reality itself. Even nations run by right wing dictators aren't this self-destructive. We are the most powerful nation on earth --- and we're basically at the mercy of a group of primitive paranoids. -- Digby

Jay Leno quizzes Willard Romney on health care (because Romney won't talk to real reporters):



The Commentariat -- March 28, 2012

CW: Matt Bai of the New York Times writes a long article for the Times Magazine on President Obama and Speaker Boehner's failed 2011 deficit-reduction negotiations. Much of this has been reported before, but Bai adds some reporting & puts it all together in a readable history. If you followed the negotiations last year, Bai's report won't make you appreciate Obama any more; for instance, the agreement he made to raise the Medicare eligibility age would cost lives AND more money.

Shaila Dewan & Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times detail a number of ways in which the deal the state attorneys general negotiated with banks helps the banks but does not help distressed homeowners.

"When in Doubt, Smear the Dead Kid." Dave Weigel on the right's "new cottage industry of 'truth about Trayvon' content, calibrated to convince people that they really shouldn't worry about the implications of this killing."

This Is Journalism. Stephen Colbert exposes Barack Obama's gun control conspiracy:

Right Wing World

Michael Shear & Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "Newt Gingrich is acknowledging that it is impossible for him to win the Republican presidential nomination outright and is cutting back on his staff and campaign schedule to focus on emerging victorious at the party’s convention this summer." ...

... CW: As one who does not follow the passions of Newt Gingrich except for laughs or while on hypocrisy watch, I was surprised to learn that the Newt always wanted to be a zoo director, a job which you might argue he held while Speaker. Now that even he has acknowledged his campaign is kaput & his only hope of becoming president is via a coup, perhaps he should think of switching careers. I hope some actual zoo director will give Newt a chance -- how about a job cleaning out the elephant exhibit, a shovel-ready job for which Newt is already well-qualified.

International Incident. Arnie Parnes of The Hill: "Russian President Dmitry Medvedev took aim at Mitt Romney on Tuesday, telling the GOP frontrunner to 'look at his watch,' and dismissing his comments that Russia was an enemy of the United States. 'We are in 2012 and not the mid-1970s," Medvedev said Tuesday, on the last day of a nuclear security summit in Asia. His comment came a day after Romney called Russia the United States’ 'No. 1 geopolitical foe.'" ...

... Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "On Tuesday morning when he was asked to respond to a comment Mitt Romney made that Russia is the United States’ number one geopolitical foe, [Speaker John] Boehner [said] ..., 'While the president is overseas..., I think it’s appropriate that we not be critical of him or of our country.' The comment could be interpreted as a subtle swipe at Romney...." CW: I do enjoy it when the son of a barkeep has to teach a rich son of a bitch a thing or two about decorum. ...

... Update. Andy Rosenthal of the New York Times: "If you’re a Republican candidate for the presidency, and you’re trying to figure out if you’ve reached the limits of acceptability in attacking Barack Obama, here’s an easy marker: Even House Speaker John Boehner thinks you’re tactless." ...

... Update 2. Cold War 2.0. Romney Keeps Shoveling. Eschewing Speaker Boehner's advice, Romney pens an op-ed for Foreign Policy criticizing President Obama for "bowing to the Kremlin."

Joe Romm of Think Progress: "Conservatives, led by Fox News, have been pushing a variety of lies about the Chevy Volt. They’ve falsely asserted that it is unsafe and a creation of the Obama administration, using absurd terms to discourage sales like, 'exploding Obamamobiles.' This relentless partisan campaign against American products and American jobs has been so successful that GM CEO Dan Akerson suggested it contributed to lower than expected demand.... [Monday], in an astonishing burst of candor, Fox & Friends has set the record straight with its story, 'Can the Chevy Volt help win the War on Terror?' Their conservative guest, Lee Spieckerman, CEO of Spieckerman Media, a self-described 'drill, baby, drill guy,' debunks every single right-wing myth about the Volt." Here's the video, thanks to reader Bill M. Steve Doucy's lead-in -- "It's all Obama's fault" -- is hilarious, & Spieckerman pretty much debunks it in the first seconds:

Local News

Voter Suppression Florida-Style. Michael Cooper & Jo McGinty of the New York Times: "Florida, which is expected to be a vital swing state once again in this year’s presidential election, is enrolling fewer new voters than it did four years ago as prominent civic organizations have suspended registration drives because of what they describe as onerous restrictions imposed last year by Republican state officials."

News Ledes

Reuters: "Banjo innovator and bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, died on Wednesday at a Nashville hospital at age 88."

New York Times: "Adrienne Rich, a poet of towering reputation and towering rage, whose work — distinguished by an unswerving progressive vision and a dazzling, empathic ferocity — brought the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse and kept it there for nearly a half-century, died on Tuesday at her home in Santa Cruz, Calif. She was 82."

Washington Post: "The Supreme Court will complete its review of President Obama’s health care law Wednesday by considering whether all of the law must fall if part of it is found unconstitutional, and whether the law’s proposed Medicaid expansion violates the federal-state partnership. New York Times story here. ...

... The New York Times The Lede blog is liveblogging the oral arguments; one begins @ 10 am ET; the second, & final, session begins at 1 pm ET. ...

     ... Update. The audio for today's morning session is here. The transcript is here (pdf). ...

     ... Update 2: The audio for this afternoon's session is here. The transcript is here (pdf).

ABC News: "The lead homicide investigator in the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin recommended that neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter the night of the shooting, multiple sources told ABC News. But Sanford, Fla., Investigator Chris Serino was instructed to not press charges against Zimmerman because the state attorney's office headed by Norman Wolfinger determined there wasn't enough evidence to lead to a conviction...."

Orlando Sentinel: "With the parents of Trayvon Martin looking on, congressional Democrats met Tuesday on Capitol Hill to explore ways they could use federal law to prevent a repeat of the Feb. 26 shooting in Sanford that claimed the life of the Miami Gardens teenager."

ABC News reports on the JetBlue pilot's meltdown:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Guardian: "The captain of a JetBlue plane screamed 'They're going to take us down!' and rambled about al-Qaida as passengers pinned him to the floor while another pilot took charge to make an emergency landing. An off-duty airline captain who was a passenger on the flight entered the cockpit, locked the door and landed in Amarillo, Texas, the airline said in a statement." This ABC News story adds some details. ...

     ... CNN Update: "A JetBlue pilot has been charged with interfering with a flight crew after his midair behavioral meltdown led to an emergency landing." You can read the criminal complaint here, (pdf) which is fairly scary.

Los Angeles Times: "A group led by Lakers legend Magic Johnson emerged Tuesday night as the new owners of the Dodgers, ending months of uncertainty for the storied but troubled baseball franchise."


The Commentariat -- March 27, 2012 Supreme Court Edition

Solicitor General Daniel Verrilli argues before the Supreme Court. Art by Dana Verourteren of the AP.Disaster!

** New York Times Editors: "If the Supreme Court hews to established law, the only question it must answer in this case is modest: Did Congress have a rational basis for concluding that the economic effects of a broken health care system warranted a national solution? The answer is incontrovertibly yes."

Kate Pickert of Time has a pretty good summary of Tuesday's arguments.

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "With the fate of President Obama’s health care law hanging in the balance at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, a lawyer for the administration faced a barrage of skeptical questions from four of the court’s more conservative justices."

N. C. Aizenman & Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday ended two hours of arguments about the key component of the nation’s health-care overhaul, with the court’s dominant conservatives appearing deeply skeptical that the Constitution gives Congress the power to compel Americans to either purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, traditionally the justice most likely to side with the court’s liberals, suggested that the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act invoked a power 'beyond what our cases allow' the Congress to wield in regulating interstate commerce."

David Leonhardt of the New York Times: "... it should not be much of a surprise if the court splits along political lines, much as it did in the Bush v. Gore ruling in 2000."

Dahlia Lithwick: "Obama’s signature legislative achievement will probably rise or fall on the opinion of John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy." With video of Lithwick discussing the oral arguments.

Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "If Justice Anthony M. Kennedy can locate a limiting principle in the federal government’s defense of the new individual health insurance mandate, or can think of one on his own, the mandate may well survive.  If he does, he may take Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and a majority along with him.  But if he does not, the mandate is gone.  That is where Tuesday’s argument wound up — with Kennedy, after first displaying a very deep skepticism, leaving the impression that he might yet be the mandate’s savior."

Brian Beutler of TPM: "In an exchange with a plaintiffs attorney, [Chief Justice] Roberts suggested he’s skeptical that the mandate and its penalties can be treated separately and may have opened the door to finding that Congress’ power to impose the mandate springs from its broad taxing power. 'The idea that the mandate is something separate from whether you want to call it a penalty or tax just doesn’t seem to make much sense,' Roberts said, over strong objections from attorney Gregory Katsas."

Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. should be grateful to the Supreme Court for refusing to allow cameras in the courtroom, because his defense of Obamacare on Tuesday may go down as one of the most spectacular flameouts in the history of the court." ...

     ... CW: I think Verrilli is (a) sick and (b) medicated. Listen:

     ... CW Update: I listened to all of Verrilli's argument, and it appears he just got off to a bad start. I thought he mostly did a credible job, and I am reminded once again that I could not do half as well as any lawyer who goes before the Supremes. I will agree with Serwer that Verrilli never answered the question asked by Alito & others, a question for which he should have had an answer on the ready: "So what are the limits of the Commerce Clause?" And he would have done well to make the point that the Editors of the New York Times do above: the only question before the Court is whether or not Congress was right to try to fix the national healthcare crisis. Plus, I am reminded yet again what a total dick Scalia is. (Another reason I couldn't appear before the Court -- I would tell Scalia he was a total dick.) I used to think Scalia was really clever in a malicious way; then I thought he was clever and crazy; now I think he's truly thick-headed -- he could not get over the broccoli question (which I treated as a joke in my column yesterday -- because it is a joke). I don't think he was playing dumb; I think he is dumb. Also, numerous commentators wrote about how great Paul Clement was in his arguments for the states; I listened to only some of what he had to say, and he was more repetitive than Verrilli; he kept harping on New Yorkers' not buying cars which could ruin the auto industry -- an argument that is as applicable as the broccoli thesis.

Stephen Colbert has "The Word":

Right Wing World *

Best Non-Apology Apology of the Week. I apologize to anyone offended by what one prominent black conservative called my ‘very practical and potentially life-saving campaign urging black and Hispanic parents not to let their children go around wearing hoodies.' -- Geraldo Rivera

Kevin Robillard of Politico: "House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) apologized Tuesday for accusing Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) of lying about the lack of female witnesses at a controversial hearing on contraception last month. And while Maloney accepted his apology, both members continued to push their version of events."

The Hill: Newt Gringrich explains how a brokered convention would/will work: "We'll basically have a national, electronic convention. I can imagine a circumstance, for example, where they suspended the keynote address on the first night and actually had a presidential debate in front of the delegates of the candidates." CW: that is, the GOP will throw out all those meaningless primary votes by the know-nothing rank-and-file, I'll get up and shatter my stupid competitors in an historic debate (everything I do is historic), after which I shall be anointed the nominee and Callista will get to wear her Tiffany's tiara.

Michael Memoli of the Los Angeles Times: "Newt Gingrich's campaign says that a new policy to charge supporters $50 to take a photo with the GOP hopeful is really a way to showcase the grass-roots strength of his shoestring campaign. Reporters traveling with the former House speaker on Monday took note of the new paid photo policy, observing that he had long taken pictures with people attending his events for free." CW: Newt is just planning ahead. A tiara from Tiffany's is expensive.

I'm Rich, for Pete's Sake. Reid Epstein of Politico: "At Mitt Romney’s proposed California beach house, the cars will have their own separate elevator. There’s also a planned outdoor shower and a 3,600-square foot basement — a room with more floor space than the existing home’s entire living quarters.... A project this ambitious comes with another feature you don’t always find with the typical fixer-upper: its own lobbyist, hired by Romney to push the plan through the approval process."

* Which, admittedly, includes the majority on the Supreme Court.


The Commentariat -- March 27, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer shreds -- if I do say so myself -- David Brooks' "historical perspective" on "Obamacare." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here. ...

** Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: how Barack Obama came around to supporting the individual mandate and why the C.B.O. is sometimes a banana. ...

... Dean Baker: It ain't just the tax code that accounts for growing income & wealth inequality in the U.S. A good, short read.

"Think of the Teachers and Cops!" Noam Scheiber of The New Republic on the latest anti-Volcker rule excuse, this one promulgated by Democrats who are beholden to the financial industry: really, it's wrong to regulate financial transactions because many of those trades involve financial instruments that may be owned by pension funds for public employees and other ordinary Americans. CW: Scheiber points out the obvious, "... when you take into account the risks the Volcker Rule is designed to check, it’s almost certainly a net positive for the average teacher or cop." ...

... Here's the underlying reporting by Robert Schmidt & Phil Mattingly of Bloomberg News. Title: "The Fight over the Volcker Rule Is Shifting in Wall Street's Favor." No kidding.

N. C. Aizenman of the Washington Post: "The individual insurance mandate, which requires virtually all Americans to obtain health coverage or pay a fine, was the brainchild of conservative economists and embraced by some of the nation’s most prominent Republicans for nearly two decades. Yet today many of those champions — including presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich — are among the mandate’s most vocal critics. Meanwhile, even as Democratic stalwarts warmed to the idea in recent years, one of the last holdouts was the man whose political fate is now most closely intertwined with the mandate: President Obama." ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "Just by getting this case to the high court ... the far right wing has already won something. As recently as three years ago, the idea of an individual mandate ... was largely uncontroversial.... As late as the spring of 2009, prominent Republican lawmakers like Charles Grassley ... publicly embraced the idea of the mandate as part of health care reform. If he or any other leaders of the GOP thought the mandate was an unholy violation of liberty, they kept it to themselves." ...

... Washington Post Editors: "... the individual mandate is necessary and constitutional." ...

... Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza of The Atlantic provides a primer on how the Supremes have interpreted the Commerce Clause, the Constitutional basis for the government's case defending the individual mandate.

Tea Leaves

CW: I just listened to all of the oral arguments on the ACA from yesterday -- which were actually about the AIA (the Anti-Injunction Act of 1867), and I have to say I was a bit at sea. However, Amy Howe of provides an excellent explanation "in plain English" of what the lawyers were talking about & what the justices were asking. ...

... Also, super-helpful is the analysis by Lyle Denniston of ...

... Dahlia Lithwick provides a lively account of the relatively boring proceedings. ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "... as George Washington University Professor Orin Kerr noticed, Chief Justice John Roberts did start one intriguing exchange towards the end. While questioning Gregory Katsas, the lawyer representing the states challenging the mandate, Roberts wondered whether the mandate really qualified as a mandate given the relatively weak penalties. (Remember, the maximum penalty for violating the insurance requirement and failing to pay the fee is a forfeiture of future tax refunds; there is no criminal sanction.) As Kerr notes at the Volokh Conspiracy blog, the whole premise of the lawsuits is that the mandate is a command (in this case, a command to buy insurance). But the Court could rule that the mandate is just a financial incentive for obtaining insurance, presumably rendering it constitutional." ...

... Consensus Opinion. Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "The fate of the Affordable Care Act will likely be decided before the 2012 election, as the first day of much-anticipated oral arguments at the Supreme Court concerning Obamacare showed the justices wary of the case for delaying a ruling."

Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "On Friday, Charlie Savage reported in the Times that Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. had signed new guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center that will allow it to collect more information about Americans, regardless of whether they have any connection at all to terrorism, and to keep it much longer.... In many cases, President Obama has merely kept in place President Bush’s more troubling national security policies. But in this instance he’s actually gone farther, in exactly the wrong direction."

President Obama spoke at Hankuk University in Seoul, South Korea, yesterday:

Frances Robles of the Miami Herald: "As thousands of people gathered [in Sanford, Florida] to demand an arrest in the Trayvon Martin case, a more complicated portrait began to emerge of a teenager whose problems at school ranged from getting spotted defacing lockers to getting caught with a marijuana baggie and women’s jewelry." See also story links in yesterday's News Ledes. ...

... Judd Legum of Think Progress: "Over the last 48 hours, there has been a sustained effort to smear Trayvon Martin, the 17-year old African-American who was shot dead by George Zimmerman a month ago." ...

... Emily Bazelon of Slate finds the newly-leaked police account less than credible. ...

... CW: here's something I don't get. Why is Zimmerman a right-wing cause celebre? I just don't see the fatal shooting of an unarmed kid as a political issue, and I definitely don't see any political point to taking sides and spreading lies about Martin or Zimmerman. I link to stories that report differing views because it seems to be the facts surrounding the shooting are the most important matter. Yet somehow there's a loud cacophony on the right bashing everyone from President Obama to Martin. The only explanation I can come up with is -- the right-wing blogosphere is essentially racist. Could it be?

Up with Chris Hayes on Atheism in America. More here:

Right Wing World

Katrina vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post: "It’s hard to point to a single priority of the Republican Party these days that isn’t steeped in moral failing while being dressed up in moral righteousness."

Thomas Edsall in the New York Times: "Assuming Romney is the 2012 nominee, renegade primary voters are doing their level best to submarine general election appeals to independents. There are signs that base Republican voters won’t turn out for Romney.... These lukewarm Republican primary voters are, in effect, threatening to abandon the nominee after forcing him to pass ruthless ideological litmus tests."

Kevin Baker in the New York Times: "The Republican effort to rally every conceivable outside entity to the party’s cause was wildly successful. Again and again over the years, conservative policy institutes have armed the party’s candidates with intellectual arguments, while the conservative media barrage has blasted a way through to high office for even the most lackluster Republican nominees. Yet increasingly this meant that the Republican Party was outsourcing both body and soul. Both what the party believed in and its ability to do the heavy lifting necessary to win elections was handed over to outside interests — outside interests that did not necessarily share the party’s goals or have any stake in ameliorating its tactics."

Samuel Jacobs of Reuters: "Republican Rick Santorum began his presidential campaign by roaming Iowa in a pickup truck, boosted by peppy television ads that showed him walking through a garden with his wife and holding his youngest daughter. Now, with his frustration apparently building over what he sees as slanted news coverage that favors Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, Santorum and his campaign are showing a dark side."

Alec MacGillis of The New Republic on "Obama's Secret Plan to Give Alaska to Russia." Apparently they're going nuts in Right Wing World because President Obama told President Medvedev that he (Obama) would have more flexibility after the election. CW: This could be because he will have more flexibility after the election, but as MacGillis points out, it well might be because he plans, you know, to give Putin there flying over our airspace the ground underneath it. ...

... Steve Benen: "Mitt Romney is feigning outrage, and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who's often confused about U.S. policy in Russia but likes to pretend otherwise, is looking for the fainting couch, but Obama's comments aren't exactly scandalous."

... Daniel Drezner of Foreign Policy is not too impressed with the right's histrionics because, well, they're wrong. ...

... Update. Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "President Barack Obama made light Tuesday of his frank comments to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Before sitting down at a plenary session for a Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Obama greeted Medvedev. 'Wait, wait, wait, wait,' he said, the AP reported. Grinning, he put his hand over the microphone."

News Ledes

President Obama spoke at the Nuclear Security Summit:

New York Times: "Stung by a cheating scandal involving dozens of Long Island high school students, the SAT and ACT college entrance exams will now require students to provide a photograph when they sign up for the exams, and officials will check those images against the identification the students present when they take the test."

Washington Post: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday considers the main constitutional question in its review of the nation’s health-care overhaul, whether Congress has the power to require almost all Americans to secure health insurance or pay a penalty." ...

     ... Update: The New York Times The Lede is now liveblogging the hearing. ...

     ... Update 2: The audio of this morning's session is here. The transcript is here (pdf).

Al Jazeera: "The Syrian government has agreed to accept the six-point plan by joint UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan on ending the violence in Syria, the former UN chief's spokesman has said. 'The Syrian government has written to the joint special envoy Kofi Annan, accepting his six-point plan, endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi said ... Tuesday."

Do-Nothing Congress. Washington Post: "House Republicans dropped plans Monday to vote on a three-month extension of federal highway funding, citing insufficient support for the measure. All federally-funded roadwork is slated to grind to a halt on March 31. If Congress fails to act before then, the federal government can not collect $93 million per day in gas taxes, millions of construction jobs could be put at risk and eligible commuters would have to wait longer for a planned boost in employer-paid public transportation subsidies."

New York Times: "The landmark trial of a senior official of the Philadelphia Archdiocese who is accused of shielding priests who sexually abused children and reassigning them to unwary parishes began on Monday with prosecutors charging that the official 'paid lip service to child protection and protected the church at all costs.' The defendant, Msgr. William J. Lynn, 61, is the first Roman Catholic supervisor in the country to be tried on felony charges of endangering children and conspiracy — not on allegations that he molested children himself, but that he protected suspect priests and reassigned them to jobs where they continued to rape, grope or otherwise abuse boys and girls." Philadelphia Inquirer story here.

Al Jazeera: "Eleven suicide vests have been found at the defence ministry compound in Afghanistan, which also houses the residence and office of the Afghan president. Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from the Afghan capital, Kabul, said on Tuesday ... 'Al Jazeera has been told by a high-level intelligence service source that the 11 suicide vests, packed with explosives and used by suicide bombers, have been found inside the ministry of defence headquarters -- one of the most secure, heavily guarded buildings in the Afghan capital.'"

Washington Post: "House Democrats have released an election year budget proposal they say would begin to curb deficits without making major changes to growing entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid by pairing spending cuts with higher taxes on the wealthy."

Al Jazeera: "Al Jazeera has said it will not air a video that it received showing three shooting attacks in Toulouse and Montauban in southern France this month. The network on Tuesday said the video did not add any information that was not already in public domain. It also did not meet the television station's code of ethics for broadcast." New York Times story here.

New York Times: "Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was released on bail on Monday after he was charged with involvement in a prostitution ring in Lille. The filing of the preliminary charges allows for further investigation."

NBC News: "The wife of a U.S. soldier accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians believes her husband could not have carried out the crime. “I don't think anything will really change my mind in believing that he did not do this,’’ Kari Bales told Today’s Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview that aired Monday." Includes video.