The Wires

CW: Looks as if the Google News & stock market widgets are kaput & the Reuters widget is intermittent. We'll see what happens over the next few days with these.

The Ledes

Sunday, November 23, 2014.

Washington Post: "Marion Barry Jr., the Mississippi sharecropper’s son and civil rights activist who served three terms as mayor of the District of Columbia, survived a drug arrest and jail sentence, and then came back to win a fourth term as the city’s chief executive, died early on Nov. 23 at United Medical Center in Washington. He was 78." Barry's New York Times: obituary is here.

Washington Post: "Negotiators working to slow Iran’s nuclear program and ease sanctions pressed forward with talks Saturday amid indications that they are at an impasse with two days left before a deadline for an accord." ...

... Reuters: "Iran says it will not be possible by a 24 November deadline to reach a comprehensive deal with world powers aimed at resolving the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, the Iranian Students News Agency ISNA reported on Sunday." ...

     ... New York Times UPDATE: "With a deadline for an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program just a day away, American officials finally acknowledged Sunday that the two sides would not reach a deal by Monday’s deadline but would probably extend the talks a second time to explore a series of possible solutions."

Guardian: "The Obama administration announced the release of another Guantánamo Bay detainee on Saturday, rebuking recent calls from congressional Republicans to stop the transfers entirely. A Saudi man who has spent 12 years at the wartime detention facility, Muhammed Murdi Issa al-Zahrani, will return to Saudi Arabia and enter the kingdom’s rehabilitation program. The transfer brings the detainee population of a prison Barack Obama has vowed for six years to close down to 142 men, 72 of whom the Pentagon considers pose little enough threat as to be eligible for transfer."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
November 25

11:10 am ET: President Obama makes a personnel announcement

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

2:15 pm ET (maybe): President Obama honors recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to


The Rockefellers Are Leaving the Building. New York Times: "By this time next year, they will have vacated the 56th-floor aerie [in 30 Rock] they have occupied since 1933 and moved to somewhat less rarefied headquarters across 49th Street. One of the country’s great dynastic families is downsizing."

Elaine Maine at the AFI Awards honoring Mike Nichols' lifetime achievements:

Frank Rich remembers Mike Nichols.

Erik Wemple: Bill Clinton discusses why his mother-in-law Dorothy Rodham watched Fox "News."

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Bill Cosby’s dazzling, decades-long career as one of America’s most beloved entertainers appeared to be toppling this week amid a succession of allegations painting Cosby as a serial sexual predator." ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "In the latest fallout from the sexual assault accusations involving the comedian Bill Cosby, NBC and Netflix have set aside projects with Mr. Cosby, and a lawyer for him issued a denial of a new claim from a woman who said he raped her decades ago. NBC said on Wednesday that it had dropped plans to develop a new situation comedy starring Mr. Cosby. The decision followed a week of revelations about accusations of rape and sexual assault against him." ...

... In an interview earlier this month, Cosby tried to get the AP to "scuttle" his "no comment" out of the videotape, suggested the reporter would not be considered "serious" if the AP didn't comply:

A Man for All Women. Jessica Roy of New York: "Karl Stefanovic is a beloved anchor on Australia's version of the Today show.... Over the weekend, Stefanovic made a startling confession: He's been wearing the same exact knock-off Burberry suit on-air every single day for a year, and — shockingly — nobody noticed. Stefanovic says he pulled the stunt to make a statement about how women on TV are judged much more harshly than men, particularly for their appearances. 'No one has noticed; no one gives a shit,' he said in an interview with Fairfax Media.'Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.'"

David Carr of the New York Times offers belated kudos to John Oliver & conceded, among other things, that Oliver was responsible for bringing "attention to the debate on net neutrality.... The show’s sudden influence was felt most acutely on the arcane issue of net neutrality, which Mr. Oliver introduced this way: 'Oh my god, that is the most boring thing I’ve ever seen! That is even boring by C-Span standards.' But after a string of jokes explaining the technology, the stakes and the power dynamics, Mr. Oliver concluded with a call to the underbelly of the Internet to urge the F.C.C. not to cave to moneyed interests and demand that the web remain a level playing field." Read the whole post. ...

... "Preventing Cable Company Fuckery":

... Matt Seitz of New York: " Last Week is doing what media watchdogs (including the Peabody Awards) keep saying that The Daily Show does — practicing real journalism in comedy form — but it's doing it better, and in a simpler, yet more ambitious, ultimately more useful way. If Stewart's show is doing what might be called a reported feature, augmenting opinions with facts, Oliver's show is doing something closer to pure reporting, or what the era of web journalism calls an 'explainer,' often without a hook, or the barest wisp of a hook."

Brian Stelter of the New York Times on how Stewart, Colbert & especially Oliver put net neutrality on the radar:

Clyde Haberman of the New York Times on the story of Lindy Chamberlain, the Australian woman who was convicted of killing her baby in the midst of a media blitz, then later exonerated. "... it took nearly three more decades before a coroner, in 2012, finally issued what the now-divorced parents had long sought: full vindication in the form of a death certificate formally ascribing Azaria’s fate to a dingo attack." With video from the Retro Report.


Anna Silman of Salon: "As long as there have been Aaron Sorkin shows on air, there have been parodies of Aaron Sorkin shows. His signature tropes — the Sorkin sermon, the high speed walk-and-talk — have been parodied so extensively that they’ve become cultural artifacts unto themselves, recognizable even to those who never watched the shows that spawned them. [Thursday] night on 'Late Night With Seth Meyers,' the Sorkin parody machine reached its self-referential apex, not just parodying these familiar tropes but also naming the tropes as they parodied them."

... Silman has embedded a number of other Sorkin parodies in her post.

"Triple Elvis (Ferus Type)" by Andy Warhol. Would you pay $82 million for this picture? BTW, you can get a swell copy of it for $29.99 on ebay.... New York Times: Christie's has its biggest auction night evah. CW: The super-rich are still super-rich.

The Guardian claims it will tell you here everything you need to know about the Rosetta comet landing. CW: Oh yeah? The data it sends back will probably just lead to a lot more of those bogus "scientific theories."

Jon [Stewart]'s problem is he has his head so far up Obama's ass he cannot see clearly, he is obviously better suited to reading his joke writers material, and making his clapping seal audience happy. -- Sean Hannity, supporting Stewart's point that Hannity is "the most loathsome dude" at Fox "News"

The New Yorker begins a metered paywall today, November 11. It will allow you to link to six free articles a month.

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-- Constant Weader

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The Commentariat -- June 29, 2012

My column in the New York Times eXaminer today is titled "David Brooks -- Constitutional Scholar." The NYTX front page is here.

Art by DonkeyHotey.

** Neal Katyal, former Acting U.S. Solicitor General under President Obama, in a New York Times op-ed: "Time will tell whether today’s decision foreshadows things to come.... Americans are growing increasingly comfortable, if not always happy, with the idea of nine men and women in Washington handing down rulings that remove decisions from the legislative process or even rewrite legislation altogether. While Chief Justice Roberts wrote an opinion that was apolitical and deserves much praise for its statesmanship, he did so within a legal context that is becoming less and less democratic.... It makes imperative a serious conversation about judicial restraint." CW: Katyal goes into detail -- but clearly explained -- about the implications of the ruling on future legislation. Read the whole piece.

Prof. Laurence Tribe gets into the weeds -- a bit more difficult to comprehend than Katyal, but worth it.

Tom Scocca of Slate: "By ruling that the individual mandate was permissible as a tax, [Chief Justice Roberts] joined the Democratic appointees to uphold the law -- while joining the Republican wing to gut the Commerce Clause (and push back against the necessary-and-proper clause as well).... This is a substantial rollback of Congress' regulatory powers, and the chief justice knows it. It is what Roberts has been pursuing ever since he signed up with the Federalist Society. In 2005, Sen. Barack Obama spoke in opposition to Roberts' nomination, saying he did not trust his political philosophy on tough questions such as "whether the Commerce Clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce." Today, Roberts did what Obama predicted he would do." Thanks to Haley S. for the link. ...

Judge Richard Posner, a Reagan appointee to the Appellate Court, on why the Commerce Clause was sufficient grounds to uphold the ACA. Posner ends, "I am surprised, finally, by the lifelessness of the joint dissenting opinion."

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "I think Chief Justice Roberts ... threw himself on his sword for the court in a way that would have made William Rehnquist proud." ...

... Lithwick reminds us of this prescient April 4, 2012, post by Linda Greenhouse. ...

... In her post today, Greenhouse speculates that Roberts had a late-breaking change of heart & switched his decision from nay to yea. But she also notes that, however & whenever he came to his decision, he is playing a long game.

E. J. Dionne: "The court's mixed verdict could create problems, notably in its weakening of the law&'s Medicaid provisions in the name of states' rights. While the impact of this part of the ruling is not fully clear yet, the court may have effectively denied health-care coverage to a large number of poorer Americans." ...

... Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post: "That ruling, experts say, could leave some of the poorest Americans in a 'no-man's land:' Not covered by the federal entitlement program but not eligible for the subsidized health insurance."

Let me recommend the best medicine in the world: a long journey, at a mild Season, thro' a pleasant Country, in easy stages. -- James Madison, 1794

Health insurance itself is unconstitutional. James Madison, who wrote the damned Constitution, opposed doctoring altogether. But Congress could pass a mandate requiring leisurely sojourns in the Dordogne. -- Constant Weader Originalist

Smashing Broccoli. Charles Pierce: ... and why Sen. Jim DeMint (RTP-S.C.) is "the greatest walking argument there is that the Civil War was a complete waste of blood and treasure."

Paul Krugman: "... the winners from that Supreme Court decision are your friends, your relatives, the people you work with -- and, very likely, you.... The law that the Supreme Court upheld is an act of human decency that is also fiscally responsible.... At one level, the most striking thing about the campaign against reform was its dishonesty.... But what was and is really striking about the anti-reformers is their cruelty.... The cruelty and ruthlessness that made this court decision such a nail-biter aren't going away."

CW: my favorite videographer Jed Lewison of Daily Kos compares & contrasts Obama's & Romney's statements to the press. As Lewison writes, "Once again, it turns out that President Obama's best surrogate in making the case against Mitt Romney ... is Mitt Romney. Obama's campaign team couldn't in a million years have done a better job of making Mitt look small":

Alec MacGillis of The New Republic: "The fight over the Affordable Care Act now shifts fully into the political realm, with Mitt Romney (the law's pioneer!) as its last line of attack. Which means that it will be up to Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates to finally be making the forthright, full-throated defense they have until now shied from."

Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner & Affordable Care Act. (Actually, the photo was taken Wednesday, but it still works for me.) Photo via Steve Benen of the Maddow Blog.Steve Benen: "... it's worth singling out Nancy Pelosi, who fought harder and worked longer to get the nation to this point."

Helen Philpot comments on the ruling, which naturally leads her to remarks like this: "The only interest the Tea Party has in making government smaller is that a smaller government will more easily fit in a woman's vagina." Thanks to reader Bonnie for the link.

AND the Award for the Best Headline of the Day Goes to -- Dana Milbank: "The Umpire Strikes Back."

Right Wing World --
Taxes, Treason & Terrorism

Taxes! General Rushbo Gives the Foot Soldiers Their Marching Orders. Brett LoGiurato of Business Insider: Rush Limbaugh "railed against the Supreme Court on his radio show Thursday, blasting John Roberts and saying that America had 'been betrayed and deceived by the Supreme Court.' He said it was the 'largest tax increase in the history of the world. What has been upheld here is fraud, and the Internal Revenue Service has just become Barack Obama's domestic army.... That is what we face now. We were deceived. Obamacare was a lie. It was a stealth tax on all Americans, and nobody knew it until today. Not officially. Obama told George Stephanopoulos it wasn't a tax.'" With audio. CW: this is the same language I heard coming from all over Right Wing World yesterday, including from Members of Congress. The militaristic language is as absurd as it is scary. What is entirely deceptive about the claim of course is that for ordinary citizens it makes absolutely no difference what you call the penalty for not carrying health insurance. This is not, as Rushbo & the troops are pretending, a "new tax"; rather, it's a different name for a fine that was already in place. It is true that -- as Tom Scocca outlines above -- Roberts' ruling makes a huge difference because the effect is to limit Congress's ability to regulate interstate commerce. But in the instant law, that makes no difference to Joe Schmo. If he can afford to buy health insurance & doesn't, he's going to pay a fine/tax/penalty/premium/offset/whatchamacallit.

Treason! Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller: "Conservative leader and chairman of ForAmerica, Brent Bozell had harsh words for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. 'His reputation is forever stained in the eyes of conservatives, and there will be no rehabilitating of it,' Bozell said. 'He will be seen as a traitor to his philosophy. If the swing vote had been Kennedy, conservatives would have been disappointed, but not surprised.... But the fact that it was Roberts, I think, was shocking.... People are already talking about the idea that he could be replaced as Chief Justice.'"

Terrorism! Jake Sherman of Politico: "In a closed door House GOP meeting Thursday, Indiana congressman and gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence likened the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the Democratic health care law to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.... He immediately apologized."

Presidential Race

Tim Egan: Mitt Romney is still a weasel. CW: I think Egan is wrong when he writes that Romney would not "deny care to those with pre-existing conditions"; Romney has said more than once that people who don't have health insurance & can't get it are out of luck. But I might be wrong: maybe Romney has changed his position; it's been known to happen occasionally.

New York Times Editors: "Because the Supreme Court did not repeal the law, Mr. Romney vowed to do so himself on his first day as president, a vow that will be impossible to fulfill, not just on his first day, but ever if he cannot round up 60 votes in the Senate. Otherwise the heath care law will stay on the books, and ... he will have taken an oath to uphold it.... Much of what he said was flatly wrong. The law does not add 'trillions to our deficits and to our national debt.' It lowers the deficit...." ...

... David Firestone of the New York Times lays into a few more Romney lies. ...

... Jamelle Bouie in the Washington Post: "The fact that Romney has decided to fabricate knocks against the Affordable Care Act is a sure sign that this ruling was bad for his campaign."

Other Stuff That Matters ...

Eric Holder Is Black. Charles Pierce: "Out in front of the capitol, assistant Democratic leader Jim Clyburn had just finished saying, "This is not about oversight. This is about overkill.... This is Dan Burton, who was going after Ron Brown because of stuff he made up. Now it's Chairman Issa, going after Attorney General Holder over stuff he made up.' You will note that Clyburn didn't cite Bill Clinton, Burton's major target back in the day, but the late Ron Brown, another African-American cabinet member. Clyburn's meaning could not have been clearer. Then, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who is so good with the whip that 17 members spit in the administration's eye..., took the microphone, and the first thing he said was, 'This is not about race.'" CW: And the guy Eric Holder works for is black. And Eric Holder is fighting GOP efforts to disenfranchise black voters. No, this just could not be about race, could it, Steny? ...

... Dave Weigel of Slate on why Republicans can't celebrate their contempt citation of AG Eric Holder -- because, the citation wasn't about politics, see; it was about getting to the truth for the Terry family -- relatives of Brian Terry, the border patrol agent killed with a U.S.-purchased gun by members of a Mexican drug cartel. CW: I don't know why nobody says this: Terry was killed with an American gun because Republicans have made gun laws -- especially in Texas -- so lax that U.S. law enforcement could not prosecute the purchasers even though they knew what the gunrunners were up to. The GOP is blaming Eric Holder for laws they & their colleagues in state legislatures put in place. This is a classic case of passing the buck.

... And Stuff That Doesn't

Every day that I've been a United States Senator, I've been either discussing issues [or] ... in Secret Meetings with Kings and Queens and Prime Ministers.-- Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)

CW: I keep forgetting to run this. M. J. Lee of Politico, June 21: "Sen. Scott Brown raised eyebrows by saying in a radio interview Thursday that he has 'secret meetings with kings and queens' and other leaders every day." ...

... Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe: "Remember Scott Brown’s gaffe ... about meeting with kings and queens? His staff was quick to say the comment was a flub, acknowledging that the senator has not actually met with royalty. But the Massachusetts Democratic Party today released a video showing four prior examples when Brown used the same phrasing about meeting with 'kings and queens' while speaking to audiences as part of his reelection bid." CW: the video is truly hilarious:

News Ledes

The Hill: "Congress on Friday approved legislation that will extend federal highway programs through 2014, a low interest rate on student loans for one year, and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years. Leaders in the House and Senate negotiated the giant package, leaving no doubt that it would have enough support to pass. The bill will likely be the last major piece of legislation approved by Congress until after the November elections."

Swift Justice. Washington Post: "The Justice Department declared Friday that Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to withhold information about a bungled gun-tracking operation from Congress does not constitute a crime and he won't be prosecuted for contempt of Congress." The House voted Thursday afternoon to hold Holder in contempt. The DOJ wrote to Speaker Boehner announcing its decision in a letter dated Thursday but not released till today.

AP: "U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts joked that he'll spend some time on an 'impregnable island fortress' now that the court has ended a session that featured him casting the decisive vote to uphold President Barack Obama's health care law."

Denver Post: "The roaring Waldo Canyon fire that exploded into west-side neighborhoods of Colorado Springs destroyed 346 homes -- making it the most destructive wildfire in state history. It also has claimed at least one life. Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey announced late Thursday that human remains had been found in a burned home in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood." Includes map, links to related stories.

Guardian: "European leaders have pulled back from the brink of disastrous failure in their attempts to rescue the euro, throwing a lifeline to the weakest links in the eurozone by agreeing to shore up struggling banks directly, remove disadvantages for private creditors and move quickly towards a new supervisory regime for banks.... Italy and Spain stunned Germany by blocking progress until they obtained softer bailout rules in 14 hours of bad-tempered talks." New York Times story here.

New York Times: "As global powers prepared for an 11th hour effort to revive the stalled peace effort in Syria, Kofi Annan, the special envoy and mediator who called the meeting, said on Friday he was optimistic that that talks in Geneva would yield an acceptable result despite Russian calls for changes in his settlement ideas." ...

... BUT. AP: "Government troops rained tank and artillery shells down on a rebellious suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus Friday, killing at least 43 people over two days, opposition groups and activists said."

Washington Post: "The Air Force is investigating a growing sexual-misconduct scandal in its basic-training operations, with a dozen male boot-camp instructors under suspicion of assaulting, harassing or having sex with female recruits. The case originated with a single complaint filed a year ago by a woman at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. It has snowballed into potentially the worst sex scandal in the U.S. military since 1996."

Washington Post: "United Technologies, a major defense contractor, and two of its subsidiaries on Thursday acknowledged covering up the illicit sale of sensitive military software to China -- technology that the country later used to develop its first attack helicopter. Federal prosecutors announced criminal charges against the firms and a fine of more than $75 million for what they called a violation of U.S. export laws. Justice officials said the software sold to China posed a risk to American troops overseas and U.S. allies." CW: and you know the Pentagon will keep letting contracts to UT. So, big punishment.

New York Times: "Rupert Murdoch played offense on Thursday, embarking on a rare publicity campaign to extol the economic prospects of News Corporation's newspapers after announcing earlier that they would be spun off into a separate company." Guardian story here.

New York Times: "An anonymous survey of nearly 2,000 retired officers found that the manipulation of crime reports -- downgrading crimes to lesser offenses and discouraging victims from filing complaints to make crime statistics look better -- has long been part of the culture of the New York Police Department."

AP: "Japan and South Korea put on hold an intelligence sharing pact less than an hour before it was to be formally signed Friday, in a major embarrassment for both countries forced by a political outcry in Seoul."

AP: "China's first female astronaut and two other crew members emerged smiling from a capsule that returned safely to Earth on Friday from a 13-day mission to an orbiting module that is a prototype for a future space station."

ABC News: "A U.S. Army battalion commander was killed by a fellow soldier on Thursday in a shooting incident at Fort Bragg, N.C. The alleged gunman then shot himself and is in custody; a third soldier was slightly injured in the shooting."

AP: "Struggling BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. said Thursday it will delay the launch of new phones deemed critical to the company's survival and revealed its business is crumbling faster than thought. The Canadian company posted results for its latest quarter that were worse than analysts had expected. It's cutting 5,000 jobs and unexpectedly delaying the launch of its new phone operating system, BlackBerry 10, until after the holiday shopping season."



President Obama comments on the Court's ruling:

Lyle Denniston from the SCOTUSblog liveblog: "Essentially, a majority of the Court has accepted the Administration's backup argument that, as Roberts put it, 'the mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition -- not owning health insurance -- that triggers a tax -- the required payment to IRS.' Actually, this was the Administration's second backup argument: first argument was Commerce Clause, second was Necessary and Proper Clause, and third was as a tax. The third argument won.... The rejection of the Commerce Clause and Nec. and Proper Clause should be understood as a major blow to Congress's authority to pass social welfare laws. Using the tax code -- especially in the current political environment -- to promote social welfare is going to be a very chancy proposition.... For all of those who second-guessed the Solicitor General's defense of ACA, it might be worth noting that the tax defense of the mandate was, indeed, an argument that the government lawyer did advance."

Prof. Adam Winkler on SCOTUSblog: "With this deft ruling, Roberts avoided what was certain to be a cascade of criticism of the high court. No Supreme Court has struck down a president's signature piece of legislation in over 75 years. Had Obamacare been voided, it would have inevitably led to charges of aggressive judicial activism. Roberts peered over the abyss and decided he didn't want to go there."

Bryce Covert of Forbes: "Women in particular should pop the champagne and celebrate.... They can rest assured that the Supreme Court won't get in the way of their insurance coverage, which should mean more accessible and affordable care."

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Now that the health-care law has been largely upheld by the Supreme Court, the GOP-controlled House plans to vote to repeal it -- again."

CNN & Fox "News" Scoop Everybody. However ...

Screenshot via Washington Post.Screenshot via Washington Post.

A Few Words from Right Wing World

Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be 'constitutional' does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional. While the court may have erroneously come to the conclusion that the law is allowable, it certainly does nothing to make this mandate or government takeover of our health care right. -- Sen. Rand Paul (RTP-Ky.) via SCOTUSblog

Obama lied to the American people. Again. He said it wasn't a tax. Obama lies; freedom dies. -- Former Half-Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska)


Linda Greenhouse restates her prediction the Court will uphold the act. One bit of evidence she gleaned from the decisions released Monday was from Chief Justice Roberts' dissent in Miller v. Alabama:, where the majority "barred mandatory sentences of life without parole for those convicted of committing murder before the age of 18."

Noting that the federal government and most states have such sentencing laws on their books, the chief justice criticized the court's majority for having failed to 'display our usual respect for elected officials.' Courts 'must presume an Act of Congress is constitutional' barring some obvious reason it isn't, he said, citing a 19th-century precedent for that proposition. And quoting the 1976 Supreme Court decision that reauthorized capital punishment, he said there was a 'heavy burden' on 'those who would attack the judgment of the representatives of the people.' The court heard argument in the life-without-parole case during the same March sitting in which it heard the Affordable Care Act case -- which at its core comes down to the authority of judges to substitute their views on matters of economic policy for those of the people's elected representatives.

      ... CW Update: Linda Greenhouse is a rock star! See today's News Ledes.

Wall Street Journal: "The Supreme Court will decide the fate of President Barack Obama's health-care law Thursday morning."

News Ledes

These are the ledes related to the Court's decision. For other news ledes, see the June 28 Commentariat:

New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Thursday largely let stand President Obama's health care overhaul, in a mixed ruling that Court observers were rushing to analyze. he decision was a striking victory for the president and Congressional Democrats, with a majority of the court, including the conservative chief justice, John G. Roberts Jr., affirming the central legislative pillar of Mr. Obama's term. Many observers called the case the most significant before the court since at least the 2000 Bush v. Gore ruling, which decided a presidential election."

SCOTUSblog will liveblog the Supreme Court proceedings beginning at 8:45 am ET. The Court will issue opinions beginning at 10 am ET. The liveblog will be on their home page, which is here. In the event that crashes or you can't get on because it is overloaded, there is a backup page at this address that will also carry the liveblog. All updates below via SCOTUSblog:

... "In Alvarez, the Ninth Circuit is affirmed. Per Kennedy. His opinion is for a plurality. The statute violates the First Amendment. Breyer and Kagan concur and conclude that the Act as presently drafted fails First Amendment scrutiny. Alito, Scalia, and Thomas dissent. So the upshot is that this version of the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional, but Congress may be able to do a new law." The opinion is here (pdf).

... ** The individual mandate survives as a tax. Chief Justice Roberts joins the left of the Court. The bottom line: the entire ACA is upheld, with the exception that the federal government's power to terminate states' Medicaid funds is narrowly read. Chief Justice Roberts' vote saved the ACA." (CW: and saves the reputation of the Court.)

... "The money quote from the section on the mandate: 'Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it.'"

... "The key comment on salvaging the Medicaid expansion is this (from Roberts): 'Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use. What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding.'" (p. 55)

... "To readers of the Roberts opinion, a caution: It is the opinion of the Court through the top of p. 44; the balance is labeled as, and is, Roberts speaking for himself."

... "The Court holds that the mandate violates the Commerce Clause, but that doesn't matter b/c there are five votes for the mandate to be constitutional under the taxing power. Justice Ginsburg makes clear that the vote is 5-4 on sustaining the mandate as a form of tax. Her opinion, for herself and Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan, joins the key section of Roberts opinion on that point. She would go further and uphold the mandate under the Commerce Clause, which Roberts wouldn't. Her opinion on Commerce does not control.... Justice Ginsburg would uphold Medicaid just as Congress wrote it. That, too, is not controlling.

... Kennedy is reading from the dissent. Kennedy: 'In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.'" CW: Huh, not "the decider."

... "In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn't comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding."

... The opinion is here.


The Commentariat -- June 28, 2012

Here's my column in the New York Times eXaminer. Take the Op-Quiz! The NYTX front page is here.

Ethan Bronner of the New York Times: "Commentators from across the political spectrum have been saying that Justice Scalia, who is the most senior as well as, hands down, the funniest, most acerbic and most politically incorrect of the justices, went too far." ...

... E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post: "Justice Antonin Scalia needs to resign from the Supreme Court.... He really seems to aspire to being a politician -- and that's the problem. So often, Scalia has chosen to ignore the obligation of a Supreme Court justice to be, and appear to be, impartial." ...

... ** Joan Walsh of Salon: Scalia's "brazen partisanship might wake Americans up to the court's increasingly radical political agenda." ...

... Walter Dellinger in Slate: Psst. Nino. This country's states are not sovereign.

... AND the Old Goat Just Made up Stuff. Judge Richard Posner: "... the suggestion that illegal immigrants in Arizona are invading Americans' property, straining their social services, and even placing their lives in jeopardy is sufficiently inflammatory to call for a citation to some reputable source of such hyperbole. Justice Scalia cites nothing to support it." Posner cites some statistics that & assumptions that belie Scalia's argument.

Walter Dellinger on why the Court ruled against the Montana campaign finance case without hearing it: "the court's majority did not want to hear argument on whether in Montana, or anywhere else, independent expenditures can give rise to an appearance of corruption, because the court's conclusion in Citizens United on this point is almost surely wrong. For the majority's point of view, the less said about that, the better.... There is ... no external check on buying offices or other favors from government when money flows through independent committees."

Connor Simpson of the Atlantic: "Attorney General Eric Holder spent the night before his contempt vote mingling with the rest of Congress, including the GOP, at a barbecue for their families on the White House grounds." ...

... President Obama speaks at the barbecue. He seems so relaxed!

... Al Sharpton discusses the upcoming vote on contempt of Congress charges against AG Eric Holder with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), columnist Dana Milbank & writer Katherine Eban, whose 6-month investigation for Fortune revealed that Congressional charges about the "Fast & Furious" incident are fictional (Eban's story, also linked yesterday is here):

... Ryan Reilly of TPM: "A day ahead of a vote to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said his committee is no longer even strongly suspicious that highest ranking law enforcement officer in the country knew that guns 'walked' during the botched ATF operation known as Fast and Furious."

... Jonathan Allen of Politico: "The Congressional Black Caucus plans to walk off the House floor during [today]'s votes to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress, according to a letter being circulated among members of Congress." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

Illustration for Rolling Stone by Victor Juhasz."The Scam Wall Street Learned from the Mafia." Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone: "... three Wall Street wiseguys spent the past decade taking part in a breathtakingly broad scheme to skim billions of dollars from the coffers of cities and small towns across America. The [big] banks achieved this gigantic rip-off by secretly colluding to rig the public bids on municipal bonds, a business worth $3.7 trillion. By conspiring to lower the interest rates that towns earn on these investments, the banks systematically stole from schools, hospitals, libraries and nursing homes -- from 'virtually every state, district and territory in the United States,' according to one settlement. And they did it so cleverly that the victims never even knew they were being ­cheated." When they were caught, the banks accepted fines, but government entities go "right on handing [them] billions of dollars in public contracts."

Making The Da Vinci Code a Reality. Adele Stan of AlterNet: "The pope's new PR strategist not only hails from Fox News; he belongs to the secretive Opus Dei society and lives in an all-male house cleaned by women members." Stan looks at the little distractions Greg Burke is supposed to cover up put in a favorable light.

Julian Borger of the Guardian: "A landmark case brought by a former United Nations employee against the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has cast light on what activists describe as a pervasive culture of impunity in an organisation where whistleblowers are given minimal protection from reprisals. James Wasserstrom, a veteran American diplomat, was sacked and then detained by UN police, who ransacked his flat, searched his car and put his picture on a wanted poster after he raised suspicions in 2007 about corruption in the senior ranks of the UN mission in Kosovo (Unmik)."

Local News

"War on Voting." Julian Brookes in Rolling Stone: "[Wednesday] This afternoon, the New Hampshire Legislature successfully overrode Gov. John Lynch's [D] veto of a voter ID law requiring voters to present driver's licenses, state-issued non-driver's identification cards, passports or military IDs before casting a ballot, though it doesn't come fully into force until after the November election. In Michigan, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder looks likely any day now to sign a bill requiring volunteers to attend state-approved training sessions before they can register voters.... The bill makes no provision for training sessions! Not only that, but volunteers have to have to sign an affidavit making them liable for registration offenses -- offenses that aren't specified! The bill is basically a copy a Florida law, parts of which a federal judge shot down in May, saying they had 'no purpose other than to discourage' voting."

As Marvin Schwalb said in commentary here some while back, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) numbers don't add up. But as Kate Zernike of the New York Times reports, Christie is doubling down on his fantasy numbers. He "derided the director of the nonpartisan office who downgraded the revenue estimates as a partisan hack, a 'Dr. Kevorkian of the numbers.' ... He promises to flog Democrats 'all long, hot summer' in town-hall-style meetings.... At a town-hall event on Tuesday..., Mr. Christie referred to [Paul Sarlo, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee,] with a profanity.” CW: Christie called Sarlo "an arrogant S.O.B." Video here.

News Ledes

Guardian: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been served with a police letter saying he has to present himself to a London police station on Friday. Assange has been seeking political asylum inside Ecuador's embassy in London since last week as he tries to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about alleged sex offences."

Contemptible Contempt. Washington Post: "The House of Representatives voted Thursday to make Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. the first sitting attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress for withholding documents requested as part of a congressional investigation into a botched gun-running operation. On a vote of 255 to 67, the Republican-led House successfully sanctioned Holder for failing to cooperate with an ongoing probe into Operation 'Fast and Furious' ... On a separate vote, lawmakers voted 258 to 95 to approve a civil contempt charge against Holder." ...

... Washington Post: "The House plans to vote Thursday on whether Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. should become the first sitting attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress for withholding documents requested as part of a congressional investigation into Operation 'Fast and Furious.'"

For News Ledes related to the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act, see the next entry forward -- "ObamaCare."

Murdoch Steps Aside. From the Guardian liveblog: "The surprise in News Corp's announcement is that Rupert Murdoch will, for the first time in 60 years, not directly run the company's global stable of newspapers. He will be chairman of the new publishing business, but that is likely to be seen as a ceremonial role compared with his close involvement with his newspapers in the past."

Savvy Businessmen, My Ass. New York Times: "Losses on JPMorgan Chase's bungled trade could total as much as $9 billion, far exceeding earlier public estimates, according to people who have been briefed on the situation."

New York Times: "Some 26,000 people were forced to evacuate late Tuesday when the Waldo Canyon [Colorado Springs, Colorado] fire, as the blaze is known, exploded without warning -- just a day after officials reported making progress on it.... President Obama planned to survey the damage on Friday." The Denver Post front page currently links to numerous stories on the fires.

New York Times: "Overcoming lingering historical animosities with its former colonial master, South Korea said on Thursday that it would sign a treaty with Japan that would encourage the sharing of sensitive military data on their common concerns: North Korea's nuclear and missile threats and China's growing military expansion in the region."

Reuters: "Apple Inc's suppliers in China have violated local labor laws when they imposed excessive overtime and skimped on insurance, a New York-based labor rights group, [China Labor Watch,] said."

New York Times: "On Friday, Peter Madoff -- more than three years after his brother, Bernard, confessed to running a vast Ponzi scheme that swindled investors out of billions of dollars -- is expected to appear in Federal District Court in Manhattan and plead guilty to criminal charges, according to prosecutors."


The Commentariat -- June 27, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is a review of today's New York Times op-ed page. It's short. The NYTX front page is here.

"Five Signs the U.S. Is Undergoing a Coup." Jim Fallows of the Atlantic elaborates on a post he wrote (& I linked) last week. Thanks to Dave S. for this link. (Fallows changed the title of his post; I like the more imprudent one.)

Bernie Sanders & Ed Schultz on more-or-less the same subject:

... ** Continuing That Theme. Paul Krugman & Robin Wells review three books & mention a fourth in the New York Review of Books. Bottom line: "President Obama bears some of the blame...; he chose to listen to the wrong people, and arguably missed his best chance to turn the economy around. (Just to be clear, this isn't a suggestion that Mitt Romney would do better.... If he wins, he will make a bad situation much, much worse.) But ultimately the deep problem isn't about personalities or individual leadership, it's about the nation as a whole. Something has gone very wrong with America, not just its economy, but its ability to function as a democratic nation. And it's hard to see when or how that wrongness will get fixed."

Get off the Dime, Ben! New York Times Editors: with politicians refusing to act, the U.S. Federal Reserve & the European Central Bank must step in to rescue the economy.

** NEW. Katherine Eban in Fortune: "AFortune investigation reveals that the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. How the world came to believe just the opposite is a tale of rivalry, murder, and political bloodlust." ...

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The National Rifle Association has joined a Republican push to make Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. the first sitting cabinet member to be held in contempt of Congress, turning a once obscure fight over a gun-smuggling investigation into a proxy war over gun control.... The N.R.A. is pressing to win Democratic votes...." CW: Gail Collins has wondered out loud what the NRA would do now that it has everything it wants. Well, here's her answer -- meddling in stuff only peripherally related to gun laws. Next up, they'll be scoring defense budget votes. And so forth.

The GOP Alternative to ObamaCare = Nothing. Jake Sherman of Politico: "Republicans still have only one thing in mind when it comes to President Barack Obama's health care law: full repeal. If the Supreme Court wholly or partially strikes down the law on Thursday, House Republicans won't rush to pass a bill that allows young adults under 26 to stay on their parents' insurance. They won't pass legislation forcing insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions. And the gap in drug coverage that requires seniors to pay more out of pocket -- the so-called donut hole -- won't immediately be closed." ...

... NEW. The Democratic Alternative. Brian Beutler of TPM: "The progressive activists who put the public option at the heart of the health care reform debate in 2009 and 2010 will return in 2012 to press Democrats to back a single-payer ["Medicare for All"] system if the Supreme Court throws out the Affordable Care Act on Thursday."

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: Justice "Alito's ruling [in Knox v. SEIU] struck at the heart of American unionism. By laying the groundwork for creating a right for nonmembers to avoid dues payments, he came close to nationalizing the right-to-work laws that 23 states have adopted.... As [Justice] Sotomayor noted in a somewhat astonished dissent [Justice] Ginsburg and Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan dissented on this point as well), this wasn't the question before the court. Neither side had argued that issue in their briefs or oral presentations.... Knox creates a legal disparity between [corporations & workers]: a worker's free-speech right entitles him to withhold funds from union campaign and lobbying activities, but not the value of his work from the company's similar endeavors." Meanwhile, "In the world according to Nino, Arizona has the rights of a nation-state, but Montana must submit to the Gang of Five. You're sovereign when Scalia agrees with you; you're nothing when he doesn't."

... CW: P. D. Pepe made me read that Janet Malcolm article on confirmation hearings, which featured the loathsome Sam Alito. Service on the Court has not mellowed him; I think you have to read both this and this to understand what's behind Alito's hissy-fit Monday, in which he read his dissent from the bench, on the Court's decision invalidating general and mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile murderers. The law that so agitated Alito is one that is not even controversial. And Alito more than likely applied the very reasoning that so riled him yesterday to his rationale for striking down the ACA (which we'll know for sure Thursday).

CW: While I'm on my soapbox, there an important aspect of the dissenting opinion that I don't think any commentators have developed. That is Chief Justice Roberts' argument that mandatory sentencing of juveniles can't be "cruel & unusual" because so many states do it. (Here's conservative tut-tutter George Will agreeing with that thinking.) As far as I know (and I well may be wrong), this is the first time a member of the Court has separated out "unusual" as a standard for application of the Eighth Amendment. For instance, FindLaw notes that "No universal definition [of "cruel and unusual punishment"] exists, but any punishment that is clearly inhumane or that violates basic human dignity may be deemed 'cruel and unusual.'" By this standard, the death penalty could never be declared unconstitutional because it is legal under federal and many state laws. What Roberts is doing and Will is popularizing, as I see it, is creating a new definition of "cruel and unusual" which would severely restrict application of the Eighth Amendment. In fact, the best way for states to get away with treating people inhumanely would be to do it a lot. So. Pepper-spraying protesters? Can't be "cruel and unusual" because cops are doing it everywhere! See Fallows above, re: coup.

Juliet Lapidos of the New York Times: "A new study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows what liberals have always suspected: States that don't impose an income tax are not more competitive. No income tax? No boost. Drawing from the study, Bloomberg News reports that 'the nine states with the highest personal income taxes on residents outperformed or kept pace on average with the nine that don't tax their residents' incomes.'"

Presidential Race

Finally, a Public Opinion Poll That Matters. M. J. Lee of Politico: "The majority of Americans, nearly 65 percent, say Obama is better suited than Romney to handle an alien invasion, according to a new National Geographic Channel poll."

Charles Pierce thinks President Obama's stump speech -- and its message -- are not nearly enough.

Jared Favole of the Wall Street Journal: "Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday continued the Obama campaign's attacks on Mitt Romney's business career, saying to a group of union workers that the presidential hopeful is good at creating jobs -- but only overseas, not in the U.S."

Justin Sink of The Hill: "Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney argued Tuesday that if the president's signature healthcare legislation was overturned Thursday by the Supreme Court, it would mean that President Obama's first term was a waste." With video.

Right Wing World

NEW. Orrin Hatch -- RTP, Utah. Dave Weigel of Slate argues, correctly I think, that the Tea Party really won in Utah. Yes, Orrin Hatch won the primary (and will win re-election), but a Freedom Works spokesman boasted of "the 180-degree change in Senator Hatch's votes and rhetoric over the past two years."

Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post: "This week in crazy? We have Darrell Issa endorsing a completely nutso theory that Fast and Furious was all a plot to rally people around gun control.... And then Jon Kyl today raised impeachment as a remedy to Barack Obama's new plans for enforcing immigration policy.... This kind of thing did not happen on a regular basis when George W. Bush was president."

Left Wing World

Admittedly, this is a Politico production, but there's definitely some truth to it:

Local News

Iowa, Where Voting Is a "Privilege," Not a Right. Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly: Iowa "is exhibiting one of the boldest exercises in tilting the ballot box, via Gov. Terry Branstad's [R] determination to reduce the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons to a number closely approximating zero.... There's not a question in my mind that these people would reinstitute poll taxes if the courts and Grover Norquist would let them."

News Ledes

Bloomberg News: "Republican and Democratic congressional leaders are weighing whether to delay automatic federal spending cuts until March 2013, according to a House aide and industry officials who were briefed on the discussions."

New York Times: "Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York has begun investigating contributions to tax-exempt groups that are heavily involved in political campaigns, focusing on a case involving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been one of the largest outside groups seeking to influence recent elections but is not required to disclose its donors."

Los Angeles Times: Stockton, California "will become the nation's largest city to seek protection under the U.S. bankruptcy code after its City Council on Tuesday stopped bond payments, slashed employee health and retirement benefits and adopted a day-to-day survival budget. City Manager Bob Deis ... is expected to file bankruptcy papers immediately."

AP: "A stubborn and towering wildfire jumped firefighters' perimeter lines in the hills overlooking Colorado Springs, forcing frantic mandatory evacuation notices for more than 9,000 residents, destroying an unknown number of homes and partially closing the grounds of the sprawling U.S. Air Force Academy." The front page of the Denver Post currently has links to numerous stories about the fire.

Washington Post: "More than 7 million college students could be spared higher loan rates under a deal reached Tuesday by Senate leaders. The agreement would freeze the interest rate for a year, preventing it from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1.... The proposal's passage will be contingent upon an embrace from the GOP-held House...."

New York Times: Two lawsuits are challenging the lack of air-conditioning in most Texas state prisons, claiming a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel & unusual punishment.

AP: "Gunmen raided the headquarters of a pro-government Syrian TV station early Wednesday, killing seven employees, kidnapping others and demolishing buildings, officials said. The government blamed terrorists and described the killings as a 'massacre.'"

Guardian: "Anglo-Irish relations took a momentous step forward on Wednesday when the Queen [Elizabeth II] shook hands with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness. The historic encounter between the former IRA commander - now Northern Ireland's deputy first minister - and the Queen was unthinkable a little over 10 years ago. But the success of the peace process and the Queen's acclaimed visit to the Republic of Ireland last year ... paved the way for their meeting."

AP: "Assailants attacked the offices of Microsoft in Athens, [Greece,] early Wednesday, driving a van through the front doors and setting off an incendiary device that burned the building entrance, police said."