The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

Vanity Fair: "... Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times chief book reviewer and Pulitzer Prize winner, who has been, by a wide margin, the most powerful book critic in the English-speaking world, is stepping down.... Kakutani said that she could neither confirm nor comment. But sources familiar with her decision, which comes a year after the Times restructured its books coverage, told me that last year’s election had triggered a desire to branch out and write more essays about culture and politics in Trump’s America." -- CW 

... Washington Post: "... investigators believe they have discovered the 'smoking gun' that would support a decades-old theory that [Amelia] Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.... Gary Tarpinian,  executive producer of the History documentary, told the Today show that they believe the Koshu, the Japanese merchant ship in the photo, took Earhart to Saipan, where she died in Japanese custody." -- CW 

Summer Beach Reading. James Hohmann of the Washington Post suggests Al Franken's Giant of the Senate. Hohmann's column hits some of the highlights. CW: Let us be thankful that Donald Trump is incapable of learning the lessons Franken learned from his team. If Trump were half as bright as Franken, he would be a succesful president & very effective dictator.

Politico: "MSNBC has parted ways with anchor Greta Van Susteren after just six months on air, as her show failed to live up to the network's ratings expectations. An MSNBC executive said the decision to remove the former Fox News host was purely for business reasons, based on ratings." -- CW 

Click on the picture to see larger image.... Low Society News. AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress" CW: which, if you follow Reality Chex, you will know was enhanced by some really costly baubles that remind the bride of Grace Kelly or happy times or something.

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco." -- CW ...

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers." -- CW 

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends." -- CW

Washington Post: "Two months before Monday’s [May 8] announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations.In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that 'some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.' He accuses the national media of publishing 'fake news stories' — a direct echo of President Trump’s frequent complaint — and then asks viewers to visit the station’s website to share 'content concerns.' The piece was a 'must-run,' meaning news directors and station managers from Baltimore to Seattle had to find room for it.... While partisan coverage is a familiar staple of cable networks — Fox News on the right, MSNBC on the left — it remains mostly unheard of in broadcast TV, where it has generally been accepted that public airwaves should be used in the difficult-to-define public interest.” -- CW 

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Friday
Feb132015

The Commentariat -- Feb. 14, 2015

Nicole Perlroth & David Sanger of the New York Times: "Declaring that the Internet has become the 'Wild Wild West' with consumers and industries as top targets, President Obama on Friday called for a new era of cooperation between the government and the private sector to defeat a range of fast-evolving online threats."

Paul Lewis of the Guardian: "Senate Republicans are seizing on the global tax scandal engulfing HSBC to delay the confirmation of Loretta Lynch, Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general, the Guardian can reveal. The Republican chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, Chuck Grassley, was on Friday preparing a fresh tranche of questions for Lynch about the huge cache of leaked data showing how HSBC's subsidiary helped conceal billions of dollars from domestic tax authorities. Grassley and another Republican senator are planning to investigate whether Lynch could have done more to stand up to the world's second largest bank."

The Wasteland Cometh. Darryl Fears of the Washington Post: "The long and severe drought in the U.S. Southwest pales in comparison with what's coming: a 'megadrought' that will grip that region and the central Plains later this century and probably stay there for decades, a new study says. Thirty-five years from now, if the current pace of climate change continues unabated, those areas of the country will experience a weather shift that will linger for as long as three decades, according to the study, released Thursday [by NASA & Columbia & Cornell universities]."

CW: This week, wingers were very, very upset with Justice Ruth Ginsburg for remarking in an interview that the country's attitudes about gay marriage were changing. Some insisted she recuse herself. Ginsburg said nothing about cases coming before the Court or the legal implications of society's changing views. ...

... Lou Chibbaro of the Washington Blade: "'The issue of gay rights, on abortion, on many of the issues in which Ruth's opinions and mine differ does not pertain to the substance,' [Justice Antonin Scalia] said [at a Smithsonian forum event with Ginsburg]. 'It doesn't pertain to whether gay people ought to have those rights or whether there ought to be a constitutional right or a right to an abortion,' he said. 'That isn't the issue. The issue is who decides,' Scalia told the gathering. 'That's all. I don't have any public views on any of those things. The point is who decides? Should these decisions be made by the Supreme Court without any text in the Constitution or any history in the Constitution to support imposing on the whole country or is it a matter left to the people?' he asked. 'But don't paint me as anti-gay or anti-abortion or anything else," he added. 'All I'm doing on the Supreme Court is opining about who should decide.'" ...

... CW: Obviously, Scalia is speaking directly to what he believes is a Constitutional question -- one that the Court will address at least once this term. How many wingers do you suppose will demand Scalia recuse himself. Funny, I can't find a one.

White House: "In this week’s address, the President laid out his plan to ensure more children graduate from school fully prepared for college and a career":

Oh, Yeah? Not so fast, Mr. President:

Socrates trained Plato in on a rock and then Plato trained in Aristotle roughly speaking on a rock. So, huge funding is not necessary to achieve the greatest minds and the greatest intellects in history. -- Rep. Dave Brat (RTP-Va.), advocating for cutting funding to schools in high-poverty areas. Brat has a Ph.D., but he's no Plato. The rocks in his education are all in his head.

Dana Milbank: "Now that no further harm can come to Kayla [Mueller], it can be told what an exceptional person she was." CW: Milbank's column provides a lovely response to a tiny gaggle of American confederate writers who cheered Mueller's death.

Adam Lerner of Politico: "President Barack Obama called the slayings earlier this week of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina 'brutal and outrageous' in a statement released Friday, but he declined to say whether or not he believes the killings constitute a hate crime. The statement came ... the day after the FBI announced it would begin investigating whether any federal laws -- including those relating to hate crimes -- had been violated. The U.S. Attorney's office in North Carolina's Middle District and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department also opened preliminary inquiries to determine if any federal laws were broken." President Obama's statement is here.

CW: For most of the day yesterday, i had a bad link to a BuzzFeed video of President Obama's finding an unusual way to promote Healthcare.gov. If you missed the video because I led you astray, here's a proper link. Enjoy!

John Bresnahan & Jake Sherman of Politico: "Texas GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold has denied most of the salacious accusations lodged against him by a former press aide who is suing him over her firing. But Farenthold did admit that he was propositioned by a woman to be part of a 'threesome.' And House lawyers acting on Farenthold's behalf acknowledged in a Thursday court filing that some of his aides 'occasionally joked that Rep. Farenthold finds redheads attractive....'... House lawyers raised the prospect that Farenthold may use the 'Speech or Debate Clause' as a defense to fend off some accusations. Under that constitutional clause, lawmakers and aides cannot face legal action for legitimate legislative activities...."

Miranda Blue of Right Wing Watch: This week "... Phyllis Schlafly attacked President Obama for weakening American by bringing in 'foreign ideas and diseases and people who don't believe in self-government.' Schlafly said that while she believes that the United States 'should be the biggest and the best and the strongest,' the president believes 'just the opposite,' which is why he is letting into the country 'all these people with Ebola' and immigrants who 'are not familiar with the whole concept of limited government.' 'He wants us to be one of the boys,' she said. 'He wants us to be just like everybody else. That's why he's letting all these people with Ebola in. There's no reason why we should take on the African diseases.'..." ...

     ... CW Translation: "Barack Obama is black so he doesn't share our values." You have to give Schlafly credit for manageing to make references to the President's race in three or four different ways without saying, "he's black." Impressive.

Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "American Family Association governmental affairs director Sandy Rios is upset that media commentators like George Will are mocking Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for refusing to say this week whether he believes in evolution.... 'There is no scientific evidence' to substantiate evolution, she said, at least according to 'the real experts.... Evolution has become the religion of the elite,' Rios said. '... The truth of the matter is that the evolutionists like George Will, waving their evolutionary theory, have become as rabid and unreasoned as what they accuse the Scopes monkey religionists of doing to Darwin during that time.... Science has disproven so much of evolution.... These guys are wrong, Scott Walker is right.'" CW: Thanks, Prof. Rios. ...

... Jamelle Bouie of Slate argues that in most instances, its' silly to ask a politician his views on evolution. "Views on evolution don't actually tell you anything about how a politician will act or how he'll approach science-based issues. Neither do they give any insight into public attitudes toward science.... A view on evolution doesn't say much about public policy, but it can mark you as a certain kind of religious believer or give you a chance to affirm your membership in one tribe or another."

Beyond the Beltway

No Happy Valentine's Day Here. Rob Davis of the Oregonian: "Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned Friday amid the growing influence-peddling scandal involving him and his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, becoming the state's first governor to resign in disgrace.... Kitzhaber's historic fourth term lasted just one month and one day, starting under a cloud of allegations that he and Hayes had abused his office, possibly committing crimes and ethics violations. The scandal only grew with revelations that Hayes was taking money as a private consultant and pushing the same policies in her public role as first lady. Secretary of State Kate Brown, a fellow Democrat, will succeed Kitzhaber." ...

... Kitzhaber's full statement, via the Washington Post, is here. ...

... The Oregonian has live updates here. The one at 4:20 pm PT is intriguing: "Kitzhaber could commute sentences of all 34 death row inmates before leaving office." ...

... Hunter Schwartz of the Washington Post: "Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) will become the first openly bisexual governor in U.S. history when Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) resigns Wednesday.... Brown isn't without her own controversy. Even as Kitzhaber's personal troubles were mounting late last month, she was facing questions about having written to the FCC endorsing Comcast's merger with Time Warner Cable after having received campaign contributions from Comcast -- a letter that was reportedly written in large part by a Comcast lobbyist. Comcast has given Brown $9,500 since 2009, according the National Institute of Money in State Politics."

Mark Schleifstein of the Times-Picayune: "A federal judge in New Orleans on Friday (Feb. 13) dismissed a controversial wetlands damage lawsuit filed by the east bank levee authority against more than 80 oil, gas and pipeline companies, ruling that the authority failed to make a valid claim against the energy firms.... U.S. District Court Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown found that the levee authority's standing as a third party to federal and state permits granted to the energy companies was not strong enough to justify a financial claim against the companies.... The ruling also was praised by the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who opposed the suit." Brown is an Obama appointee. CW: Note that Brown threw out the case largely because she found the plaintiffs did not have sufficient standing, something we've discussed over the last couple of days re: the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell.

Ha! Mary Wisniewski of Reuters: "Illinois' comptroller will not implement an anti-union executive order issued by the state's new Republican governor earlier this week.... Leslie Munger, a fellow Republican who was appointed by Governor Bruce Rauner, is following current law in not enforcing Rauner's order to eliminate 'fair share' fees for about 6,500 state employees, said a spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The fees are paid by workers who are represented by a union but have chosen not to join. A spokesman for Munger said that the comptroller will defer to Madigan's guidance as it relates to actions 'within the scope of her legal authority.' In addition to his order on Monday, Rauner also filed a lawsuit seeking to have the fees declared unconstitutional and wanted them placed in an escrow account during the legal process."

Joseph Slobodzian & Angela Couloumbis of the Philadelphia Inquirer: Pennsylvania's death penalty - used just three times since 1978 but as controversial as ever - was shelved by Gov. [Tom] Wolf [D] on Friday until after he gets the report of a task force studying the future of capital punishment. Acting on concerns he first expressed during last year's campaign, the new governor cited a wave of exonerationsf nationwide and questions about the effectiveness of executions."

Today in Responsible Gun Ownership. Veronica Rocha of the Los Angeles Times: "A 10-year-old girl accidentally shot her 8-year-old sister with her father's service weapon Friday morning after he left it on the bed while getting ready for work, police said. The girl's injury does not appear to be life threatening, Fresno Police Lt. Joe Gomez said. The girls' father is a deputy with the Madera County Sheriff's Department.... There was one bullet in the handgun's chamber. The magazine had been removed, [Gomez] said."

Capitalism is Awesome, Ctd. Kim Holland of KQRE News Albuquerque: When 79-year-old Francis Wilson accidentally mailed her rent check with her Comcast bill, Comcast cashed it, although the check was not made out to the giant media company. "Comcast said it wouldn't give Wilson a reimbursement check. They would only credit her Comcast account even though Wilson needed the money to pay her rent.... Within an hour of KRQE News 13 calling Comcast, a fix was in the works. The company gave her a $235 reimbursement check, $235 cash and a $235 credit on her cable bill." CW: Hey, at least when Wilson complained, Comcast didn't change her name to Asshole Wilson.

Presidential Race

Matea Gold of the Washington Post: "Jeb Bush's money juggernaut is far eclipsing the efforts of his would-be rivals for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, putting his two political committees on pace to amass an unprecedented sum of tens of millions of dollars by early spring."

Gail Collins discusses Scott Walker's views on education. "His view of teaching is apparently that anybody can do it. Just the way anybody can be president. As long as they don't make you talk about evolution." ...

... Scott Bauer of the AP: "Walker has frequently told the story of how 'outstanding teacher of the year' Megan Sampson lost her job in 2010.... Sampson actually won the Nancy Hoefs Memorial Award, given by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English for first-year language arts teachers. And while she was laid off in June 2010 from a job in Milwaukee, she was hired by another nearby district for a job that following fall." CW: Ergo, she was never out of work.

Voodoo Economics I. Alan Pyke of Think Progress: "Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) wants to mimic a tax cut experiment that has already brought fiscal calamity and public service cuts to a state 600 miles west of his. Kasich describes his $696 million tax cut as a helping hand to small businesses. But the design of the cut would put the bulk of that benefit into the hands of just a few high-income business entities with a handful of employees while providing just a few hundred dollars each to the vast majority of the people who would benefit, according to an analysis by the Cleveland Plain Dealer." ...

     ... CW: Kasich, a former chair of the House Budget Committee, doesn't have just the Worst Idea in American Politics; he also has the Second World Idea in American Politics.

Voodoo Economics II. Rand Paul.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Andrew Kramer & Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "As fighting erupted throughout eastern Ukraine on Friday before a cease-fire at midnight on Saturday, the United States accused Russia of joining separatist rebels in an all-out attack on Ukrainian forces around the contested town of Debaltseve. When the pact was signed with a two-day window before the truce, some last-minute jockeying for position was expected. But the intensity and scope of the violence raised concerns that the agreement signed this week, rife with ill-defined and ambiguous provisions, might prove as ineffective as the first cease-fire pact, signed in September."

News Ledes

AFP: "A gunman killed at least one person and wounded three police officers after opening fire Saturday on a cultural centre in Copenhagen as it was hosting a debate on Islam and free speech. Swedish artist Lars Vilks -- the author of controversial Prophet Mohammed cartoons that sparked worldwide protests in 2007 -- was among those at the debate targeted by the gunman, who fled the scene after a shootout with police."

New York Times: "The United States released satellite images on Saturday meant to bolster its case that Russia has joined separatists in an all-out assault on the Ukrainian Army during the window before a midnight cease-fire is to take effect. When the pact was announced Thursday, some last-minute jockeying for position was expected before the cease-fire went into effect. Instead, a bloody free-for-all, alarming in its scope and intensity, ensued on the snowy steppe south of here, near the contested town of Debaltseve."

Thursday
Feb122015

The Commentariat -- Feb. 13, 2015

In the Shadow of Ed Snowden. David Sanger & Nicole Perlroth of the New York Times: "President Obama will meet [in Palo Alto, California,] on Friday with the nation’s top technologists on a host of cybersecurity issues and the threats posed by increasingly sophisticated hackers. But nowhere on the agenda is the real issue for the chief executives and tech company officials who will gather on the Stanford campus: the deepening estrangement between Silicon Valley and the government."

Peter Baker of the New York Times on President Obama's request of Congress for an Authorization to Use Military Force: "Republicans on Thursday said limits now were irresponsible. 'His approach is one of the stupidest approaches I’ve ever seen,' said Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah. 'Any president worth his salt would want the A.U.M.F. to be as broad as it can be.' Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a possible Republican presidential candidate, said Congress would not pass Mr. Obama’s proposal. 'We’re going to write our own legislation,' he said, 'and I hope it’s a very simple one that’s going to say that we authorize the president to take whatever steps are necessary to defeat ISIS. Period.' Democrats wanted more limits, not fewer, and the party leadership was cautious.”

Emmarie Huetteman of the New York Times: "The Senate on Thursday confirmed Ashton B. Carter to be the next defense secretary, installing a new Pentagon chief as the United States increases military action against the Islamic State.Mr. Carter, a former deputy defense secretary who is President Obama’s choice to replace Chuck Hagel, was approved by a vote of 93 to 5, a striking scene of accord as tensions mount over the wait to confirm Loretta E. Lynch as the next attorney general." ...

... Seung Min Kim of Politico: Republicans are slow-walking Lynch's confirmation, & Democrats are irritated.

Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, on Thursday delivered an unusually frank speech about the relationship between the police and black people, saying that officers who work in neighborhoods where blacks commit crimes at higher rates develop a cynicism that shades their attitudes about race.... While officers should be closely scrutinized, he said, they are 'not the root cause of problems in our hardest-hit neighborhoods,' where blacks grow up 'in environments lacking role models, adequate education and decent employment.' 'They lack all sorts of opportunities that most of us take for granted,' Mr. Comey said. Mr. Comey’s speech was unprecedented for an F.B.I. director."

The Definition of Insanity. Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "The Senate is going to vote again on a procedural motion to consider a bill reversing President Obama’s executive actions on immigration and fund the Department of Homeland Security.... With Democrats opposed to the measure, it appears [Mitch] McConnell’s latest effort is doomed for failure." ...

... OR, Maybe Not. Christina Marcos of the Hill: "A growing number of House GOP conservatives are pressuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday to invoke the 'nuclear option' and change the chamber's rules to pass a bill defunding President Obama's executive actions on immigration. Reps. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said McConnell should change Senate rules, so the House-passed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill, which includes language to revoke Obama's immigration-related actions, can bypass a Democratic filibuster in the upper chamber." CW: If Mitch ditches the filibuster & 50 Republicans went along with him, he could get the amended DHS bill thru the Senate. President Obama, of course, would veto it. ...

... THEN Again. Rebecca Shabad of the Hill: "Two GOP senators [-- Ted Cruz (Texas) & Dan Sullivan (Alaska) --] on Thursday shot down an idea floated by several House Republicans to change Senate rules in order to pass a bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and reverse President Obama’s immigration actions." ...

... ALSO, too, Bullying Could Work. of Lauren French & Jake Sherman of Politico: "At least three committee chairmen have issued formal warnings to subcommittee chairmen that lawmakers planning to vote against procedural motions on the House floor should give up their posts — the third time in just six weeks that Republican leaders have made it known they will not tolerate members stepping out of line."

... Danny Vinik of the New Republic: "The practical effects of a DHS shutdown are relatively minor, since most of DHS’s employees are classified as essential and thus would continue to work in the case of a shutdown. But the political implications of it are much worse. Obama can criticize the GOP for putting the U.S.’s national security at risk.... [Whatever Republicans do, it won't be] "good for the GOP. But this is what happens when one ideological group has outsized control over a party and wants to pick funding fights that they are certain to lose." ...

... Erica Werner of the AP: "A month into their control of both chambers of Congress, [Republicans] are confronting the very real possibility of a shutdown of the Homeland Security Department later this month. Instead of advancing a conservative agenda and showing voters they can govern, the GOP has been unable to overcome Senate Democrats' stalling tactics in a dispute over immigration.... They're all bad options from the GOP perspective. A short-term extension just pushes the problem to a later date. Removing the immigration language would amount to a bitter admission of defeat after Republicans have spent months accusing Obama of an unconstitutional power grab for limiting deportations for millions in the U.S. illegally. That's left Republicans staring down the third possibility: a shutdown of the Homeland Security Department." ...

... Russell Berman of the Atlantic: "What is most fascinating about the GOP's current quandary is that this is a scenario Boehner and McConnell orchestrated themselves...."

Joe Mandak of the AP: "A federal appeals court has reversed lower-court victories by two western Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses and a private Christian college that challenged birth control coverage mandates as part of federal health care reforms. The 3-0 ruling Wednesday by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel found that the reforms place 'no substantial burden' on the religious groups and therefore don't violate their First Amendment right to religious expression. All three groups — the college and the Pittsburgh and Erie dioceses — are mulling whether to appeal to the entire 3rd Circuit Court or the U.S. Supreme Court."

Jeff Toobin has a good primer in the New Yorker on the principle of "legal standing," in general, & in King v. Burwell specifically. John Roberts thinks it's very, very important that litigants have standing.

Justice Ruth Ginsburg says she was "not 100 percent sober" at the President's State of the Union address. Not a fun drunk, she fell asleep, "as I often do" during the President's speech.

Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: If Scott Walker & other Fourth-Amendment scofflaws want to make the poor pee in a cup, why not expand that to the middle-class & wealthy recipients of government largesse, who, on average, abuse illegal drugs more than applicants for welfare assistance programs? "... drug-testing people who want to claim tax breaks could produce a huge windfall.... If we start pulling all of the nation’s elderly into our drug-testing dragnet, enough aging hippies will test positive for doobie use to disqualify them from benefits and save the country some major dough.... Want to take that deduction for home mortgage interest? I’m sorry, sir, you’ll have to submit a urine sample.... Same with charitable deductions, health insurance deductions and everything else on your thick, itemized 1040.

Richard Marosi of the Los Angeles Times: "The Mexican government and Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, have announced steps to improve the lives of the nation's farmworkers, two months after a Los Angeles Times investigation detailed labor abuses at Mexican agribusinesses that supply major U.S. supermarket chains and restaurants.

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Tim Egan: Jon "Stewart didn’t degrade politics and the press. He walked through a degraded landscape, the tour guide who’s also a smartass."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. He's No Forest Gump. CNN Money: "As NBC’s fact-checking continues, two accounts from [Brian] Williams’ younger days could invite scrutiny": claiming he was in Berlin "the night the wall came down" & claiming to have met Pope John Paul II in 1979. CW: It appears all or most of the events Williams describes as "a highlight of my life" are fictional.

Watch the Nutball Machine on High Speed. J. K. Trottler of Gawker hears that besides President Obama & his family, the guests at the wedding of MSNBC anchor Alex Wagner and former White House chef Sam Kass included a couple of other 2008 celebrities: former Weather Underground radicals Bill Ayers & Bernardine Dohrn. "While the fact that Obama was literally partying with former advocates of violent struggle against the U.S. government will no doubt be taken by his critics as further evidence that he hates America, the most interesting thing about the wedding is the shocking proof it offers that — at long last! — Obama truly no longer gives a fuck about keeping up political appearances." ...

... That's right, he truly no longer gives a fuck:

... ** Don't miss the BuzzFeed video. (LINK FIXED.)...

... AND the Nutball Machine Is in Gear. Daily Caller: "Greta Van Susteran slammed President Barack Obama for his recent Buzzfeed video on her show 'On The Record,' noting the zany 'YOLO'-filled video was filmed the same day the White House was dealing with the death of ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller." ...

... Yo, Greta. He truly doesn't give a fuck. Besides, those crusty Brits loved it.

Presidential Race

James Downie of the Washington Post: "Some might say the costs of [Hillary Clinton's] delaying [an annoucement that she will run for president] are overblown. But they are eerily similar to the strife and indecision that sank Clinton last time." ...

... Clinton & Bill Frist the Long-Distance Doctor have an op-ed in the New York Times advocating for Congress to pass an extension of the Children's Health Iinsurance Program (CHIP).

Anybody feel that the Fed is out to get us? -- Rand Paul, the Most Interesting Paranoid in Politics, in Iowa last weekend

Paul Krugman: "... monetary crazy is pervasive in today’s G.O.P. But why? Class interests no doubt play a role — the wealthy tend to be lenders rather than borrowers, and they benefit at least in relative terms from deflationary policies. But I also suspect that conservatives have a deep psychological problem with modern monetary systems.... Monetary policy should be an issue in 2016. Because there’s a pretty good chance that someone who either gets his monetary economics from Ayn Rand, or at any rate feels the need to defer to such views, will get to appoint the next head of the Federal Reserve." ...

     ... CW: Come the real campaign, I'll have to start yelling "Remember the Fed!" along with "Remember the Supremes!" The Most Interesting Man in Politics & his entire party are dimwits & loons. This is very scary. ...

... Matt O'Brien of the Washington Post elaborates on Paul's misunderstanding of how the Federal Reserve works. As I said, very scary. ...

Also, when I stepped outside this morning, it was cold, so I put on a coat — but it didn’t work, because it was still cold. -- Paul Krugman, explaining the GOP's understanding of Federal Reserve actions which weakened the depression ...

... Never Mind Krugman. Freeeedom's Just Another Word for Wal-coin. In Silicon Valley, Dr.-Sen.-Macroeconomist-Etc. Randy Paul-Krugman said it might be a good idea of WalMart & other major corporations got together & established their own currency, which would allow them to cut out the credit card companies. Maybe somebody should tell Paul-Krugman WalMart has its own credit card (& some other rip-off financial products) & doesn't need to become a country unto itself to cut out Visa.

... Sam Youngman of the Lexington, Kentucky, Herald-Leader: "... U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is asking members of the Republican Party of Kentucky to create a presidential caucus in 2016 that would happen well ahead of the May primary election.... Kentucky law prevents a candidate from appearing on the same ballot twice, and Paul and his allies have endeavored for more than a year to either change the law or find a loophole that would allow him to run for the White House and re-election to his U.S. Senate seat at the same time.... Paul's supporters also maintain that the law is unconstitutional, suggesting that it could be challenged in federal court. However, if Kentucky Republicans decided their choice for the 2016 Republican nomination in an earlier caucus, his name still could appear on a May primary ballot for re-election to the Senate." ...


Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/02/12/3691040_rand-paul-asks-kentucky-gop-leaders.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/02/12/3691040_rand-paul-asks-kentucky-gop-leaders.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

... In a Senate hearing, Elizabeth Warren not so obliquely took on Dr.-Sen.-presidential-candidate Rand Paul's assertions about vaccinations. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos notes that Warren asked the director of the CDC's Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases if there was "any scientific evidence that vaccines cause ‘profound mental disorders,’ an assertion that Paul made & then disingenuously walked back (by pretending he didn't mean what he clearly did. Clawson fails to note it, but Warren dinged Paul a second when she asked if there was any "scientific evidence that giving kids their vaccines further apart or spacing them differently is healthier for kids." Dr. Randy said he & his wife purposely spaced their children's vaccines to avoid harmful effects of haviing them administered all at once (or twice). The answers to Warren's questions, of course, were "no." ...

By Walt Handelsman. Thanks to MAG for sending it along.

... Noah Bierman of the Los Angeles Times: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) appeared peeved Thursday when an interviewer at a technology conference asked him to weigh in – again – on the national debate he helped fuel over vaccines last month." "Appeared" peeved, Bierman? The little tyke was livid.

Ben Terris & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: Marco Rubio distances himself from his former mentor & supporter, Jeb Bush. Ungrateful twit.

Charles Pierce welcomes Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) to the Presidential Sweepstakes Clown Car. You should especially read it to find out what is the Worst Idea in American Politics. You'll have to click on Pierce's link. And, yeah, Pierce is absolutely right about this. ...

... CW: Any politician -- Republican or Democrat -- who cannot get an A- in Macro 101 at the Krugman-Stiglitz School of Economics disqualifies him/herself from a presidential run. As it stands, I'm not sure there's a single candidate who could pass the course, tho I suppose Hillary -- an overachiever if there ever was one -- could muster a C+.

Texas has been criticized for having a large number of uninsured, but that’s what Texans wanted. -- Former Gov. Rick Perry, in New Hampshire

Write your own joke. -- Constant Weader

Beyond the Beltway

Campbell Robertson of the New York Times: "A federal judge [in Mobile, Alabama,] on Thursday ordered that a county probate judge must comply with her earlier ruling and cannot refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.The federal judge, Callie V. S. Granade of Federal District Court here, wrote that the county judge, Don Davis, of Probate Court in Mobile County, cannot deny a marriage license 'on the ground that plaintiffs constitute same-sex couples or because it is prohibited by the sanctity of marriage.'... While the ruling Thursday was focused only on Judge Davis, it was intended to send a signal to judges statewide who are caught between the federal ruling and the order from [State Supreme Court] Chief Justice [Roy] Moore.” ...

... MEANWHILE, Justice Moore likens a U.S. Supreme Court decision making same-sex marriage a Constitutional right to, um, Dred Scott, the infamous 19th-century case that upheld slavery. He he just might ignore the Supremes' decision if he doesn't like it: "“You can dissent to the United States Supreme Court.”

Laura Gunderson of the Oregonian: "Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek met with Gov. John Kitzhaber on Thursday morning and told him it was time to resign." All are Democrats. ...

     ... Update: "In one of the most surreal days in Oregon political history, the state's top Democratic leaders called for Gov. John Kitzhaber to resign, and the governor vanished from public view. With support of even allies evaporating, the ability of Kitzhaber to remain in office appeared less viable by the hour." ...

... Laura Gunderson: Secretary of State Kate Brown, who would become governor if Kitzhaber resigns or is removed from office, describes a "bizarre" meeting she had with Kitzhaber. ...

... Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week: "Gov. John Kitzhaber’s office last week requested state officials destroy thousands of records in the governor’s personal email accounts, according to records obtained by WW and 101.9 KINK/FM News 101 KXL. The request came as investigations into allegations of influence-peddling involving Kitzhaber and first lady Cylvia Hayes were intensifying.... The records indicate that state employees refused to carry out the request from Kitzhaber's assistant to destroy emails. Oregon law makes it a crime to improperly destroy or tamper with public records or evidence."

Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: "Gov. Steven L. Beshear of Kentucky released a study Thursday predicting that his expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would generate a positive fiscal impact of nearly $1 billion for the state over the next seven years. The findings from Mr. Beshear, a Democrat, countered a drumbeat of Republican warnings that extending the program to nearly 400,000 additional Kentuckians to date — far more than state officials had predicted — would eventually impose a heavy burden on state taxpayers." Also, too, fewer Kentuckians will get sick & die. ...

... Okay, now let's hear the confederate response to the good news: "But Jim Waters, the president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy, a libertarian think tank in Bowling Green, Ky., said that the numbers in the report could not be trusted and that it was too soon to know the long-term financial effect. 'We hear this sort of thing from government all the time. Blah, blah, blah.'" (A portion of Waters' remark has been paraphrased.)

Growing up in America has been such a blessing. It doesn’t matter where you come from. There are so many different people from so many different places and of different backgrounds and religions, but here we’re all one. We’re one culture. -- Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, last year, in a StoryCorps oral history session. An alleged Second Amendment enthusiast murdered Abu-Salha, her husband & sister earlier this week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. You can listen to portions of Abu-Salha's StoryCorps session here.

CW: This is off-topic, but it was on the front page of the New York Times, & it caught by attention. Jon Ronson writes that Justine Sacco, a PR exec, sent this tweet -- “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” -- and "tens of thousands" of Twitter users sent outraged tweets accusing her of racism. She lost her job. I don't know Sacco, but I would have assumed immediately that the tweet was ironic & not racist, that she was making a joke about privileged American whites who thought that were immune to all sorts of difficulties that others face. Or something of that nature. What do you think? Do "tens of thousands" of people -- including her employers -- just not get irony? Or what? ...

     ... Update: For those of you who don't get satire, Catherine Rampell, in the post linked above, does not want to make you send in a urine sample with your 1040.

Wednesday
Feb112015

The Commentariat -- Feb. 12, 2015

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama formally asked Congress on Wednesday to authorize a three-year military campaign against the Islamic State that would avoid a large-scale invasion and occupation. The offensive could include limited ground operations to hunt down enemy leaders or rescue American personnel from the Sunni militants. A proposal sent by the White House to Capitol Hill on Wednesday would formally give the president the power to continue the airstrikes he has been conducting since last fall against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, as well as 'associated persons or forces.' The measure would set limits that were never imposed during the wars of the last decade in Afghanistan and Iraq by expiring in three years and withholding permission for 'enduring offensive ground combat operations'":

... Justin Sink & Kristina Wong of the Hill: "President Obama's request that Congress authorize military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) met with skepticism from both parties on Wednesday, raising questions about Capitol Hill's ability to pass a war measure. The divide is largely centered on language prohibiting the use of 'enduring offensive ground combat operations' against ISIS. Democrat say this does too little to limit the White House from committing ground troops to the fight, while Republicans say the restrictions could handcuff the military." ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "For months now, it has been clear that the United States and its allies are gearing up for an all-out military assault on the jihadi fighters who have occupied large swaths of Syria and Iraq, including Mosul.... On the basis of the Constitution and the subsequent laws governing the declaration of war, it's clear that, before the executive branch can launch any large-scale military action, Congress must grant its approval.... Despite the Administration's use of the word 'limited,' the resolution [Obama proposed the Congress] is a broad one.... If this resolution doesn't amount to granting the President a free hand, it comes close." ...

... Bruce Ackerman, in a New York Times op-ed: "On the surface, this looks like a welcome recognition of Congress's ultimate authority in matters of war and peace. But unless the resolution put forward by the White House is amended, it will have the opposite effect. Congressional support will amount to the ringing endorsement of unlimited presidential war making.... For political cover, Mr. Obama now wants Congress to grant him new authority, and yet he opposes repeal of the 2001 authorization in exchange for that new authority.... [Congress] ... should insist on the repeal of the 2001 resolution and an explicit repudiation of the 'associated forces' doctrine." ...

... ISIS Is Hillary's Fault. Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Wednesday accused former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of helping to spur unrest in the Middle East that led to the current battle against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. 'One of the people I blame for a lot of this, frankly, is Hillary Clinton,' he said on Fox News...." CW: Really? Explain that, Randy. Okay, here goes: "'The disaster that is Libya is now a breeding ground for terrorists and also a breeding ground for armament. I really do blame Hillary Clinton's war in Libya for creating a lot of the chaos that is now spreading throughout the Middle East." CW: "All roads lead to Benghaaazi."

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The House on Wednesday passed a bill approving construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, setting up a clash with President Obama, who has vowed to veto the measure. The bill, which passed the Senate last month, headed to Mr. Obama's desk Wednesday night.... The Keystone bill passed the House on a vote of 270-152. Twenty-nine Democrats voted with Republicans in favor of the bill. While the measure drew bipartisan support, it is not expected to draw the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto." ...

... As Victoria D. noted in yesterday's Comments, Speaker Boehner has a sad on: "Instead of listening to the people, the president is standing with a bunch of left-fringe extremists and anarchists. The president needs to listen to the American people and say 'yes, let's build the Keystone pipeline.'"

... CW: Actually. No, Orange Man. Ben Geman of the National Journal, Jan. 20, 2015: "An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released Tuesday shows that 41 percent favor construction of the pipeline to bring crude oil from Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, while 20 percent oppose it and 37 percent did not know enough to weigh in. An ABC News/Washington Post poll unveiled Monday, meanwhile, asked whether Congress should pass legislation approving the project or wait until the Obama administration completes its review. Sixty-one percent favored completing the review before deciding, while 34 percent backed authorizing construction now. The question was not a gauge of support for the project itself. Instead, it was about process, asking whether Keystone should be approved right now or whether the administration's review to determine if it's in the 'national interest' should proceed."

Scott Wong of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) offered a blunt message for Senate Democrats in the standoff over Homeland Security funding, urging them to 'get off their ass' and pass a bill. The Speaker's rare flash of anger came Wednesday, as he blamed Democrats for repeatedly blocking a House-passed bill that would both stave off a Department of Homeland Security shutdown at the end of the month and gut President Obama's executive actions on immigration. Democrats are unified in their efforts to preserve Obama's immigration actions, which shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation":

... Sean Sullivan & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "The Republican honeymoon is over on Capitol Hill. Just a month into their taking full control of Congress, Republican leaders in the House and Senate are at odds over how to avoid shutting down the Department of Homeland Security as part of an immigration fight with the Obama administration.... Senate Republican leaders argue that, after three failed attempts, they cannot win approval of a House-passed DHS funding bill that challenges President Obama's executive actions on immigration, because of Democratic resistance. The House Republican position is that the Senate GOP should keep trying.... Boehner's ['get off their ass'] comments seemed to be a direct response to McConnell's statement Tuesday that it was 'clear we can't go forward in the Senate' with the current DHS bill." ...

... Sahil Kapur of TPM: "Republican Sen. Mark Kirk said Wednesday that his party made a mistake by picking a fight over President Barack Obama's immigration actions, and said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) should bring up a 'clean' bill to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded. 'I generally agree with the Democratic position here. I think we should have never fought this battle on DHS funding,' the Illinois senator said in the Capitol. 'I think it's the wrong battle for us at the wrong time.'" ...

... Rebecca Shabad of the Hill: Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) "said Wednesday that a 'clean' bill funding the Department of Homeland Security [-- that is, one that doesn't contain amendments, like the one to defund immigration reform --] would be better politically than passing a short-term continuing resolution (CR) funding the agency.... Both chambers are slated to leave Washington on Friday for a five-day recess next week. When they return the following week, they'll only have five days to resolve the issue before the Feb. 27 deadline." Shabad describes Dent as "a centrist" who is "close to GOP leadership." What had Boehner so exercised Wednesday was probably his recognition -- thanks to Dent & others -- that McConnell is going to win this round & the House will have to pass a DHS funding bill with Democratic support. Wouldn't that be awful?

Zeke Miller of Time: "President Barack Obama maintained in a new interview that he 'evolved' on gay marriage, despite a top aide's assertion in a new book that he was 'bullshitting' in 2008 when he opposed the unions. Obama told BuzzFeed that longtime political guru David Axelrod didn't accurately characterize his position when Axelrod wrote in his new book that Obama shifted on the issue for political gains. But the President proved unable to explain why he moved away from supporting the unions despite supporting them as a state Senate candidate in 1996." ...

... Ben Smith of BuzzFeed covers various remarks President Obama made during the interview in this story, which includes video clips. The transcript of the full interview is here. ...

... Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "Staples is firing back at President Obama after he accused the company of trying to shirk certain responsibilities of his signature healthcare law. Obama blasted the office supply giant in an interview with BuzzFeed after the news outlet reported that Staples had threatened to fire workers who clocked more than 25 hours a week. The restrictions on hours, according to BuzzFeed, were an attempt to avoid fees under the Affordable Care Act." But a Staples spokesperson said BuzzFeed & Obama got it wrong; in fact, Staples has been short-shifting employees for a decade. CW: "We've been shafting ou employees for a decade" is not all that great a defense AND, as BuzzFeed reported, "Staples CEO Ronald Sargent brought home $10.8 million in total compensation in the year that ended last Feb. 1. The company reported $707 million in profits."

Greg Stohr of Bloomberg Business: "Americans are prepared to accept a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, pointing to what she described as a sweeping change in attitudes toward gays. In an interview Wednesday in the court's oak-paneled east conference room, Ginsburg also said President Barack Obama's health-care law, which is under attack in a case before the Supreme Court next month, will be a central part of his legacy."

Sarah Ferris: "Signups for ObamaCare are surging in southern states, with increases of nearly 100 percent in some states compared to last year, federal health officials said Wednesday. Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina and Mississippi have each seen 80 percent more signups compared to last year, Deputy Administrator Andy Slavitt said." CW: The new enrollees get no benefits from the Medicaid expansion because none of these states has accepted it.

Brian Beutler writes an entertaining piece on various cranks & Hacks associated with King v. Burwell: "The Supreme Court case ... is nested in a fictional history of Congressional intent.... But its credibility sustained a further hit this week, when reports in the Wall Street Journal and Mother Jones revealed damaging information about at least three, and possibly all four, of the King vs. Burwell petitioners. First, that they joined the case out of ideological resentment, antipathy to Obama, or basic misinformation, rather than legitimate injury; and second, more troublingly, that they aren't actually eligible for supposedly unlawful subsidies, and thus lack standing to challenge them in court. These aren't people conservatives can present as sympathetic heroes.... They're zealots and eccentrics who signed on despite the fact that the law hasn't harmed them in any tangible way." The lawyers who cooked up the case are worse. ...

... ** Even more entertaining: Gail Collins writes a short introduction to the lovely plaintiffs & otherwise gets us up-to-date on the Big Case in one short column. She concludes, "Obamacare is terrific. You can tell by looking at the people who are against it."

Keith Laing of the Hill: "The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for a nationwide audit of public transit systems that operate trains in tunnels after a recent fatal smoke incident on the Washington, D.C. Metrorail system. NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said the D.C. Metro incident, which involved passengers being trapped on a smoke-filled train, shows problems may exist with similar transit systems across the country."

Megan Wilson of the Hill: "A rare open Federal Election Commission meeting on Wednesday attempted to placate the competing concerns of campaign finance activists. But at the end of the day-long hearing and comments from 30 witnesses, the commission was likely as deadlocked as ever on how to increase disclosure rules around so-called 'dark money' and whether funding behind Internet advertisements should be reported." ...

... Nice reporting, Megan. But Dana Milbank lets us know how the hearing really went.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Frank Rich & his interlocutor devote this week's entire Q&A to the Brian Williams/NBC News fiasco. ...

... Emily Steel of the New York Times has the tick-tock of Brian's Bad Week. ...

... Manuel Roig-Franzia, et al., of the Washington Post: "Senior NBC officials seriously considered firing anchor Brian Williams because he lied to his viewers about riding in a military helicopter hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during the Iraq war, according to a top network official. The ultimate decision to suspend Williams for six months was made after an internal investigation unearthed other 'instances of exaggeration.'... During those talks, Williams failed to secure a promise that he can return to the anchor chair...." The reporters do a good job of reconstructing how & why Williams was suspended. ...

     ... CW: One thing you can figure out from reading the WashPo piece is that NBC News didn't outright fire Williams because if they had, they would have lost control over him. With the suspension, "Williams is not allowed to make appearances without the approval of people at the network." For Williams, then, the suspension is kinda worse than being fired. ...

... Ken Auletta of the New Yorker blames it on Brokaw. ...

... David Carr of the New York Times: "[Jon] Stewart will leave his desk as arguably the most trusted man in news. And Mr. Williams will find his way back to his desk only if he figures out a way to regain the trust he has squandered. Mr. Williams is now all but locked in his own home -- he might as well have an ankle monitor on."

Presidential Race

Chris Hepp, et al., of the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Philadelphia has been selected to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention, DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced this morning.The city beat out Columbus, Ohio, and Brooklyn, for the event, which will take place the week of July 25, 2016."

Steve Peoples of the AP: "A potential candidate no more, Mitt Romney is charting an aggressive course to help shape the Republican presidential field in 2016.... Aides suggest he is in a unique position to shape the 2016 debate, maintaining a regular presence on the speaking circuit and in national media, speaking on issues such as foreign policy, immigration and the minimum wage."

Ignorance Abroad. David Ferguson of the Raw Story: "In an appearance at Chatham House, the British international affairs think tank in London, Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker (R) declined to answer whether or not he believes in the scientific theory of evolution. According to Talking Points Memo, the Tea Party favorite and Koch Brothers beneficiary replied, 'I'm going to punt on that one.'" CW: Maybe a prominent think tank is not the best place to admit you can't think. ...

... Jason Stein & Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "In a speech short on policy and long on restraint, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addressed Great Britain's most prominent think tank Wednesday, avoiding questions on foreign affairs and evolution.... The Republican governor sought to bolster his foreign policy credentials ahead of his likely presidential run even as he evaded question after question on international affairs. In his last response, Walker ducked a question and follow-up from his interviewer about whether he believed in evolution.... The event's moderator, Justin Webb of BBC Radio 4, responded by saying he believed any British politician would answer by readily accepting evolution." CW: ALSO too, maybe an international affairs think tank is not the best place to demonstrate you knowing nothing about international affairs. Such a performance might not "bolster his foreign policy credentials." ...

... David Knowles of Bloomberg Politics: "While 99.85% of American earth and life scientists believe the theory of evolution to be bedrock fact, 42% of the general public surveyed in a 2014 Gallup poll said they believed that human beings arrived on the earth in their present form.... A 2014 Pew Research Center poll found that the number of Republicans who believe in evolution has gone down over the past five years, with 43 percent now saying that human beings have evolved, down from 54 percent when the same poll was given in 2009." Knowles runs down the views expressed by some other GOP candidates.

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times: "Baton Rouge, La., is about to lose one of its crucial hospital emergency rooms, and the reason is clear: The administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal has refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and won't put up any other money to keep the facility open. Because of the scheduled closure of the ER of Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Mid City, patients needing emergency treatment will have to travel as much as 30 minutes longer to reach the nearest ERs."

Beyond the Beltway

Sarah Kaplan of the Washington Post: "Craig Stephen Hicks was feared by his neighbors. He obsessed over parking spaces and always appeared angry. He used to watch a movie ["Falling Down"] about a man who goes on a shooting rampage over and over again. His ex-wife said he found the film hilarious. And just after 5 p.m. Tuesday, Hicks went to his neighbors' apartment and shot the three people inside, authorities say." ...

... Kevin Sullivan, et al., of the Washington Post: "A sudden, shocking spasm of violence near campus of the University of North Carolina here was followed quickly by alarm and debate about why three Muslims were allegedly gunned down by a neighbor and what role, if any, religion may have played. Police on Wednesday said that initial indications suggested the shooting stemmed from 'an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking,' an assertion that was echoed by the suspected shooter's wife. But relatives of the victims insisted that the incident should be viewed as a hate crime, while the fact that three Muslims were killed in a single shooting drew international attention to a relatively quiet college town." ...

... Steve M.: "Right-wingers are cherry-picking [American terrorist Craig] Hicks's now-blocked Facebook page in order to depict him as a lefty.... But the Daily Dot paints a somewhat different picture of Hicks: 'Under "political views," Hicks expressed libertarian leanings, writing, "I don't care about parties, just each individual and the rights of such in the Constitution! Some call me a gun toting Liberal, others call me an open-minded Conservative."'... Whether or not this was a hate crime, it almost certainly a crime that arose out of an American man's sense that he has the absolute right to resolve any and all disputes by pointing a gun at people."

Laura Gunderson of the Oregonian: "Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber [D] decided to resign Tuesday but then changed his mind, insisting Wednesday afternoon that he's staying.... The governor decided to pull back from resigning - set for Thursday or Friday -- after meeting with his attorney, Portland lawyer Jim McDermott, and his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes. Hayes' role in his administration has been the source of much of his troubles."

Bothered by Bodies. AP: "A Montana lawmaker is seeking to strengthen the state's indecent exposure law, stopping just short of his wish to outlaw yoga pants. Rep. David Moore on Tuesday introduced House Bill 365 in the House Judiciary Committee in response to a group of naked bicyclists who rolled through Missoula in August. The proposal would expand indecent exposure law to include any nipple exposure, including men's, and any garment that 'gives the appearance or simulates' a person's buttocks, genitals, pelvic area or female nipple. The Republican from Missoula said tight-fitting beige clothing could be considered indecent exposure under his proposal. ;Yoga pants should be illegal in public anyway,' Moore said after the hearing."

News Ledes

New York Times: "David Carr, who wrote about media as it intersects with business, culture and government in his Media Equation column for The New York Times, died at the office on Thursday. He was 58." ...

... Politico publishes Times executive editor Dean Baquet's memo to staff on Carr's death.

Los Angeles Times: "Two former models on Thursday became the latest to accuse comedian Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct. Flanked by their attorney Gloria Allred, Lise-Lotte Lublin and Linda Brown told reporters that they were young models at the time Cosby is accused of drugging them in hotel rooms. Brown said Cosby sexually assaulted her."

New York Times: "An Egyptian court on Thursday ordered the release of two journalists jailed here for more than a year on charges of broadcasting false news in a conspiracy with the Muslim Brotherhood, evidently moving to try to end international criticism over the case.... Both journalists, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, were working for the English-language channel of the Qatar-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera when they were arrested at the end of 2013.... The courtroom was packed with journalists and erupted in applause. A third journalist arrested with them, Peter Greste, an Australian, was released about two weeks ago under a presidential decree allowing the deportation of foreigners convicted of crimes here."

AP: "The Islamic State group published what it described as an interview with the widow of the French gunman who attacked a kosher supermarket and a police officer in Paris last month, claiming for the first time that she was among extremist fighters. The text interviews in French and English, published Wednesday and Thursday, did not directly name Hayat Boumeddiene or show images of her, instead identifying her only as the wife of Amedy Coulibaly, or Umm Basur al-Muhajirah. She is considered key to the investigation into the attacks in Paris, which left 20 people dead including the gunmen, although she left France just beforehand."

New York Times: A new cease-fire and an overall compact to end the war in eastern Ukraine was announced [in Minsk] on Thursday by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine after marathon overnight bargaining that threatened to derail the attempt. Even as the agreement was announced, it appeared fragile, with officials on all sides saying that there was more work to be done."

WABC has more on the crash that killed CBS newsman Bob Simon. See also yesterday's Ledes.

Tuesday
Feb102015

The Commentariat -- Feb. 11, 2015

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "The Obama administration has informed lawmakers that the president will seek a formal authorization to fight the Islamic State that would prohibit the use of 'enduring offensive ground forces' and limit engagement to three years. The approach offers what the White House hopes is a middle way on Capitol Hill for those on the right and left who remain deeply skeptical of its plans to thwart extremist groups. The request, which could come in writing as early as Wednesday morning, would open what is expected to be a monthslong debate over presidential war powers and the wisdom of committing to another unpredictable mission in the Middle East while the nation is still struggling to cope with the consequences of two prolonged wars."

Missy Ryan of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration is considering slowing its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan for the second time, according to U.S. officials, a sign of the significant security challenges that remain despite an end to the U.S. and NATO combat mission there. Under the still-evolving plans, Army Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, could be given greater latitude to determine the pace of the drawdown in 2015 as foreign forces scramble to ensure Afghan troops are capable of battling Taliban insurgents on their own, the officials said."

David Herszenhorn of the New York Times: "Negotiators meeting in Minsk, Belarus, reached a tentative deal for a cease-fire in Ukraine on Tuesday night, setting the stage for a meeting of the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France to sign the agreement on Wednesday, according to media reports. The initial reports came from Tass, a Russian government-connected news service, and BelTa, a Belorussian news agency. However, in a report on its website, a Ukrainian weekly newspaper, Zerkalo Nedeli, disputed the report of a deal."

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama will announce Wednesday that he is withdrawing almost all the American troops who were sent to West Africa to help contain the spread of the Ebola virus, administration officials said Tuesday. He will also outline new steps aimed at eradicating the disease now that the crisis has eased, said the officials...."

Ben Smith of BuzzFeed: "President Barack Obama said Tuesday he is heartbroken by the death of American hostage Kayla Jane Mueller, who had been held by ISIS for more than a year. Obama, who said telling hostages' families that the U.S. won't pay ransom is 'as tough as anything I do,' also said that Mueller was one of the hostages the United States sought -- and failed -- to rescue in a raid in Syria last summer." Includes video of the interview. ...

... Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post on the failed efforts to rescue Mueller. ...

... In a statement purported to be for the purposes of extending "condolences to President Obama, the American people and the family of Kayla Mueller," Israel PM Bejamin Netanyahu writes,

Disagreements over Israel's security have occurred between prime ministers in Israel from the left and from the right and American presidents from both parties.... We do have today a profound disagreement with the United States administration and the rest of the P5+1 over the offer that has been made to Iran.... This is not a personal disagreement between President Obama and me. I deeply appreciate all that he has done for Israel in many fields. Equally, I know that the President appreciates my responsibility, my foremost responsibility, to protect and defend the security of Israel. I am going to the United States not because I seek a confrontation with the President, but because I must fulfil my obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of my country. I intend to speak about this issue before the March 24th deadline and I intend to speak in the US Congress because Congress might have an important role on a nuclear deal with Iran.

... CW: IMHO, Bibi just can't stop doing the wrong thing. He's a diplomatic catastrophe. Using the death of Kayla Mueller is a mighty cheap way to lead into a long-winded excuse for a foolish political ploy & unprecedented antics. I hope more Democrats will find other things to do while Republicans are feting him. ...

... Kendall Breitman of Politico: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking his plight from the House floor to social media. On Tuesday, Netanyahu tweeted, 'I'm determined to speak before Congress to stop Iran. RETWEET if I have your support.' Unlike many of the prime minister's tweets, which are written in Hebrew, the tweets were timed for the East Coast's morning news cycle and written in English." Later, he sent more tweets in English. ...

... Burgess Everett of Politico: "The partisan divide over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's March address to Congress deepened further on Tuesday, with the Senate's most-senior lawmaker announcing that he will not attend the speech. In a highly critical statement on Tuesday morning, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont called the speech arranged by House Speaker John Boehner 'a tawdry and highhanded stunt that has embarrassed not only Israel but the Congress itself.' Leahy joins Vermont's other senator, independent Bernie Sanders, in skipping the speech, as well as a number of House Democrats...." ...

... Edward-Isaac Dovere & Lauren French of Politico: "The audience for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress on March 3 is shaping up to be largely Republican -- and almost completely white. Many members of the Congressional Black Caucus say they're planning to skip the speech, calling it a slight to President Barack Obama that they can't and won't support."

Over to You, Orange Man. Rebecca Shabbad of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that the House has to make the next move on funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).... 'It's clearly stuck in the Senate,'" McConnell said. ...

... Ya Shoulda Listened to Ted, Mitch. Sahil Kapur of TPM: "Sen. Ted Cruz blamed Republican leaders Tuesday for his party's failing strategy to overturn President Barack Obama's immigration actions, arguing that if they had listened to him and more forcefully confronted Obama they would be succeeding." CW: Never mind that under the Cruz Plan, Congress would have had to shut down the government again.

Jeremy Herb of Politico: "Ash Carter's nomination to be the next defense secretary was approved unanimously Tuesday by the Senate Armed Services Committee and sent to the full Senate for final consideration. Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the Senate was still on track to confirm Carter this week to succeed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, with a final vote as early as Wednesday."

Dylan Scott of TPM: "Rising income inequality has damaged Social Security's fiscal health, and progressives believe that addressing it could go a long way toward improving the program's long-term outlook. That's the primary finding in a new report from the liberal Center for American Progress [Hillary Clinton's friends!], which was provided exclusively to TPM on Tuesday. The report lands as a renewed fight over Social Security is bubbling up in the new Congress. Last month, House Republicans passed a rule that blocks a revenue transfer between the retirement and disability funds, the latter of which is projected to be unable to pay full benefits starting late 2016, unless the program's overall solvency is improved." ...

... Bernie Sanders, Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, lays out in detail (pdf) what Republicans are up to here. Via Paul Waldman. CW: We've mentioned this here in the past; it will come up again.

Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg View: "Obamacare and its precursors (Kennedycare, Hillarycare, Romneycare) were rooted in a liberal moral vision -- that no one in so wealthy a nation should be denied health care because they lack the means to buy it. Many Americans accept that premise. Republicans have all but ceded the argument; they just don't like the redistributive consequences of it. Rather than combat the morality of Obamacare head-on, conservative opponents typically divert their attacks to adjacent playing fields: Obamacare is government overreach. It's bureaucratic. It threatens American exceptionalism. It will destroy jobs and the economy. Such arguments, ranging from practical to philosophical to foolish, have helped to raise public doubts about the efficacy of Obamacare.... Five years of sustained Republican outrage over Obamacare has yielded no replacement because it would require conservatives to either publicly capitulate to the moral logic of Obamacare, or renounce it."

Paul Lewis of the Guardian: "Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general, Loretta Lynch, has warned that HSBC could be prosecuted over tax evasion connected to its Swiss subsidiary, despite the controversial agreement she negotiated with the bank two years ago. In her first remarks since the Guardian and other media obtained a huge cache of leaked data from HSBC Switzerland, Lynch said the Department of Justice would not be constrained from bringing tax evasion charges against the bank if there were sufficient evidence."

Julian Hattem of the Hill: "A district court in California has issued a ruling in favor of the National Security Agency in a long-running case over the spy agency's collection of Internet records. The challenge against the controversial Upstream program was tossed out because additional defense from the government would have required 'impermissible disclosure of state secret information,' Judge Jeffrey White wrote in his decision."

Ben Smith: "President Obama Tuesday welcomed the Supreme Court's signals that marriage equality is on the verge of becoming the law of the land, adding that he expected local Alabama officials resisting the shift to be swept aside by federal courts." With video. ...

... Obama "Evolved" Long Ago. Zeke Miller of Time: "Barack Obama misled Americans for his own political benefit when he claimed in the 2008 election to oppose same sex marriage for religious reasons, his former political strategist David Axelrod writes in a new book, Believer: My Forty Years in Politics. 'I'm just not very good at bullshitting,' Obama told Axelrod, after an event where he stated his opposition to same-sex marriage, according to the book. Axelrod writes that he knew Obama was in favor of same-sex marriages during the first presidential campaign, even as Obama publicly said he only supported civil unions, not full marriages. Axelrod also admits to counseling Obama to conceal that position for political reasons." ...

... David Graham of the Atlantic: "By cloaking his own views, the president didn't polarize the issue ... until the die was cast. Once he did announce his stand, it seems to have helped bring new supporters with him, particularly black Americans. By fall of 2012, what might have been a fatal liability in the 2008 campaign was one of Obama's top talking points during the 2012 campaign -- which successfully won him another four years. It's unthinkable that any future Democratic nominee would oppose gay marriage, and even Republicans are said to be 'evolving' on it, realizing the utility of that slick term." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "... this process of industrialized spin is a bad thing. When a candidate contributes to public misinformation, regardless of his good intentions, he has done something morally questionable." ...

... Paul Waldman: "... it isn't that he was secretly plotting all along to create marriage equality for every American (the Supreme Court is the one that will do that). The policy steps his administration has taken on gay rights issues -- ending 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' opposing DOMA -- were things he said in 2008 he was going to do, and he ultimately did them. All of which could reasonably lead us to the conclusion that although it was certainly wrong for Obama to hide his true feelings on this issue, it may not be among the worst sins presidential candidates have committed." ...

... CW: Because the rights of Americans were at issue, in a just world, Obama should have done more to lead on gay marriage. On the other hand, a candidate can personally favor a policy that s/he realizes would cause acute societal stress. When one is talking about a right that has been almost universally denied since the beginning of civilization, I'm not sure four more years is so awful, particularly if those years are used -- as they were -- to incrementally advance rights for gay Americans. Sometimes a lie in service of a higher purpose is justified, & this appears to be one of those times: had McCain been elected because voters were appalled by Obama's support for gay marriage, we would have had a president who would have left DODT intact (as he said during Senate hearings), his Justice Department most likely would have continued to defend DOMA, & perhaps he would not have extended benefits to the families of gay federal employees. Given the alternative, then, Obama's lie can be morally justified.

ALSO TOO, the President doesn't like Maureen Dowd, for some reason. And he doesn't invite her to the White House, as he does Brooks & Friedman.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Finally someone is being held to account for misleading America about the Iraq War. -- Jon Stewart, Monday

Dylan Byers of Politico: "NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams has been suspended for six months without pay following his false claims about an experience he had during the Iraq war, NBC News president Deborah Turness announced Tuesday night.... Turness wrote in a memo to staff, 'We let Brian know of our decision earlier today. Lester Holt will continue to substitute Anchor the NBC Nightly News.' In addition to Williams' false claims about Iraq, Turness said she the Comcast/NBCUniversal brass had 'concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field.'" Byers reproduces Turness's full memo.

Tom Brokaw must be pleased. Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast: Brokaw really dislikes Brian Williams because on election night 2012, "Williams made no secret of his wish to exclude Brokaw from the live coverage. [Said an NBC News veteran,] 'Brian did not want to be in the same studio as Tom. He thought Tom talked too much and was hard of hearing. He showed Tom tremendous disrespect and Tom knew this and knows this... When Tom wants to get something on Nightly, Brian fights that every step of the way.'" CW: Okay, that ups my respect for Williams. ...

     ... CW: What's more dangerous for the health of the country? (a) multimillionaire egotist Brian Williams' making himself the center of stories he was supposed to be reporting; or (b) multimillionaire egotist Tom Brokaw' repeatedly telling viewers the federal government must cut entitlements & rein in spending? Both presented their stories as facts, & employed graphics masquerading as supporting data. Viewers were likely to believe both of them. AND with Brokaw still exerting influence over the news division, according to multiple reports, you can bet that screw-the-needy meme is baked into NBC News's DNA. You think Chuck Todd is going to cross Brokaw? Look what happened to Brian Williams when he displeased Brokaw.

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Earlier this morning, Williams and his agent met with NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke, and were presented with a dossier of Williams' apparent lies, according to sources.... This likely won't be the end of Williams's troubles. The network announced today that Richard Esposito, the senior producer conducting the fact-checking investigation of Williams's statements, will continue his inquiry. The fact that NBC lawyers are said to be reviewing the list of Williams's fictions is an ominous sign. Another source told me today that NBC has widened their probe to include Williams's expense accounts."

Rachel Maddow is irritated that NBC News will not make anyone available to discuss the Williams story with her:

CW: I'm guessing Williams will take over Jon Stewart's spot. He always wanted to do late-nite comedy. A fake news show is perfect for him. ...

     ... Update. Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post makes the case that Williams & Stewart should switch jobs.

Steve M: "What Fox has done to America is the great untold news story of our generation. Jon Stewart got that, and mainstream-media figures admired him, but the mainstream press never followed up on his stories. The MSM figured he had it covered (or, more likely, figured that he never had to worry about suddenly needing a job in an industry where only Murdoch seemed to be expanding). So Stewart, along with the comics he'd mentored, were alone on the media equivalent of Tora Bora. And Murdoch and Ailes got away. We got Saddam Williams, but the liars who really committed terrorist assaults on the truth escaped."

2016 Races

Jindal Promises Not to Evolve. Jeremy Diamond of CNN: "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal won't join the ranks of politicians who have 'so called evolved' on same-sex marriage, he said Tuesday. Jindal, a Republican who is considering a presidential run, suggested that politicians like President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton changed their views on gay marriage because of polling indicating more Americans in support of gay marriage. 'I'm not one of those politicians,' Jindal said on CNN's 'New Day.' 'My faith teaches me that marriage is between a man and a woman. I don't believe in discrimination against anybody. I'm not for changing the definition of marriage.' A CNN/ORC poll in December found that 57% of Americans support gay couples' right to marry, including 36% of Republicans."

Transparent to a Fault. T. C. Sottek of the Verge: "Jeb Bush ... just decided to publish hundreds of thousands of emails sent to him during his time as governor of Florida.... Neither Bush nor those who facilitated the publication of the records ... decided to redact potentially sensitive personal information from them.... Some ... contain the email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, and social security numbers of Florida residents. The emails are available in Outlook format, and can be searched on the web at Bush's website.... Florida's freedom of information laws are very broad.... However..., as Florida private attorney Richard A. Harrison tells The Verge, social security numbers are 'both confidential and exempt' from public disclosure under state law.... Jeb Bush's camp was quick to shift blame to the state.... While a Florida bureaucrat may ultimately be to blame, it's not a good look for Jeb Bush -- someone who called himself the first 'eGovernor.'..." ...

... Caroline Bankoff of New York: "And here we thought the nascent campaign's biggest technology problem was its CTO's old tweets about gays and 'sluts.'" ...

... That Didn't Last Long. Adam Lerner of Politico: "The newly hired chief technology officer of Jeb Bush's Right to Rise PAC resigned Tuesday amid controversy over inflammatory comments he had written on Twitter and a blog for a college radio show. 'The Right to Rise PAC accepted Ethan Czahor's resignation today,' a Bush spokesperson said in a statement. 'While Ethan has apologized for regrettable and insensitive comments, they do not reflect the views of Governor Bush or his organization and it is appropriate for him to step aside.'" ...

... P.S. Czahor is a racist, too. ...

... So Much for the Small Stuff. Ben White of Politico: "Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will raise money on Wall Street on Wednesday at an eye-popping $100,000 per-ticket Park Avenue event hosted by private equity mogul Henry Kravis and his wife. The price of admission to the event, which will raise funds for Bush's 'Right to Rise' super PAC, surprised even Wall Street veterans used to high-dollar fundraisers.... Bush is moving quickly to consolidate financial support in the wealthy enclaves of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, in many cases squeezing out New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie." ...

... MEANWHILE.... Ken Vogel of Politico: "The main super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton is struggling in its early efforts to line up cash toward a fundraising goal of as much as $500 million, according to sources with knowledge of its fundraising. The group, Priorities USA Action, is trying to secure 30 or more pledges of at least $1 million apiece to be unveiled publicly when the former secretary of state officially enters the race, sources say. But, so far, it has received only about 10 firm commitments...." ...

... BECAUSE Déjà vu All Over Again. Nick Confessore & Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "Lingering tensions between Hillary Rodham Clinton's loyalists and the strategists who helped President Obama defeat her in 2008 have erupted into an intense public struggle over who will wield money and clout in her emerging 2016 presidential campaign. At issue is controlling access to the deep-pocketed donors whose support is critical to sustain the outside organizations that are paving the way for Mrs. Clinton's campaign. It is a competition that has been exacerbated, many Clinton supporters said, by Mrs. Clinton's reluctance to formally enter the race and establish a campaign organization with clear lines of authority."

Ninety-two million Americans aren't working. -- Sen. Ted Cruz [RTP-Texas], Sunday, on CNN's "State of the Union"

Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact: "Once you strip out senior citizens and school-age Americans, the number is less than half that.... Another point worth noting: Just because someone in the prime working-age range (25 to 64) isn't working doesn't mean that they are unemployed. They may be disabled, taking care of children full-time or have gone back to school. The actual number of officially unemployed Americans in January was a little under 9 million -- just one-tenth of the figure Cruz cited as 'not working.'" CW: Get to work, you lazy kids & old slackers!

If Rand Paul were the Republican nominee & Sherrod Brown the Democratic nominee, it would be a swell contest. And every day would be Bad Hair Day:

Manu Raju of Politico: "Sen. Harry Reid summoned dozens of staffers to the Senate's Mansfield Room Tuesday and delivered a clear message: He's running for reelection next year. The comments are in part aimed at putting to rest growing speculation inside the Senate that the 75-year-old Nevada Democrat -- badly hurt from a painful injury to his right eye -- would call it quits after nearly three decades in the chamber."

Beyond the Beltway

Kalyn Wolfe, et al., of the New York Times: "A federal judge will hear arguments Thursday on whether to order local officials here to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as some Alabama counties granted the licenses for a second day, but most continued to refuse. Late Monday, gay rights advocates asked Judge Callie V.S. Granade of Federal District Court in Mobile to direct the probate judge here, Don Davis, to issue the licenses. The state's second-most populous county, Mobile was by far the largest where officials refused to issue licenses to anyone on Monday. The state attorney general, Luther Strange, filed a response Tuesday morning, opposing the request."

Tammy Grubb of the Raleigh, North Carolina, News & Observer: "Police charged a Chapel Hill man Wednesday with first-degree murder in the deaths of three Muslim students.... Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, is being held in the Durham County Jail on three counts of first-degree murder. Hicks is accused of shooting his Finley Forest neighbors, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, and his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Abu-Salha’s sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh. Barakat was a doctoral student in UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Dentistry. The sisters were N.C. State University students. Chapel Hill police found all three victims dead at the scene, after responding to a report of gunshots ... at 5:11 p.m. Tuesday."

Al Baker & David Goodman of the New York Times: "A New York City police officer was indicted Tuesday in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in a Brooklyn public housing complex stairwell in November, several people familiar with the grand jury's decision said."

Ya Can't Trust Anybody. Chicago Sun-Times: "The Jackie Robinson West Little League All-Stars [of Chicago] are no longer the 2014 Little League National Champions. Little League International confirmed Wednesday it has vacated their title due to residency violations. Jackie Robinson West manager Darold Butler has been suspended from Little League activity. Illinois District 4 Administrator Michael Kelly has been removed from his position."

News Ledes

CBS News: "Bob Simon, the longtime 60 Minutes correspondent and legendary CBS News foreign reporter died suddenly tonight in a car accident in New York City. The award-winning newsman was 73."

New York Times: "Rose E. Frisch, a scientist whose work showed that women without enough body fat would have trouble becoming pregnant but also had a lower risk of breast cancer, died on Jan. 30 at an assisted-living facility in Cambridge, Mass. She was 96."

Guardian: "The US, Britain and France have closed their embassies in Yemen over security concerns in the Arab world's poorest country, where Shia rebels finalised their power-grab last week."

Washington Post: The Navy announced Tuesday that it has censured three admirals for ethics violations as part of a historic corruption scandal that has already tarred several other high-ranking officers and is threatening to spread further through the ranks. Navy officials said the three admirals improperly accepted 'extravagant dinners' and other gifts from Leonard Glenn Francis, a Malaysian defense contractor who made a fortune by supplying Navy vessels at Asian ports until his arrest in 2013." ...

... Stars & Stripes: "The commander of naval forces in Japan and two other admirals are retiring following letters of censure issued by the secretary of the Navy in connection with a wide-ranging bribery scandal in the Asia-Pacific region. Naval Forces Japan commander Rear Adm. Terry Kraft, along with rear admirals Michael Miller and David Pimpo, were censured by Secretary Ray Mabus to 'document their failure of leadership' related to dealings with Glenn Defense Marine Asia between 2006 and 2007, according to a Navy statement."