The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, January 29, 2015.

New York Times: "... Greece backed away from strong statements denouncing sanctions [against Russia] and joined other countries in the 28-member [European] bloc in a unanimous vote in favor of expanding a list of sanctioned individuals, mostly Russians, and of work to prepare 'any further action' to pressure combatants to respect a stillborn truce agreement from last year."

CNN: "The U.S. military and intelligence community now suspect that one of the five Taliban detainees released from Guantanamo Bay in return for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in May of last year has attempted to return to militant activity from his current location in Qatar by making contact with suspected Taliban associates in Afghanistan, multiple officials tell CNN."

Washington Post: Three American contractors and an Afghan national were killed in a shooting at a military base at Kabul’s airport Thursday, said a U.S. defense official."

Los Angeles Times: "Rod McKuen, a prolific songwriter and poet whose compositions include the Academy Award-nominated song 'Jean' for the 1969 film 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,' has died. He was 81."

New York Times: "Colleen McCullough, a former neurophysiological researcher at Yale who, deciding to write novels in her spare time, produced 'The Thorn Birds,' a multigenerational Australian romance that became an international best seller and inspired a hugely popular television mini-series, died on Thursday on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, where she had made her home for more than 30 years. She was 77."

Public Service Announcement

Get Off Your Ass! Los Angeles Times (Jan. 19): "New research that distills the findings of 47 studies concludes that those of us who sit for long hours raise our average risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and early death."

Surprise! December 19: Dr. Oz is a quack.

White House Live Video
January 29

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

This is a real bill. Consumer advocate Christopher Elliott verified it. Check out the customer name on the account:

Is "Asshole" the customer's real given name? Well, no. Comcast got mad at the family for wishing to cancel the cable part of their Comcast service. Comcast not only refused to cut the cable, as it were, they changed the primary customer's name from "Ricardo" (his parents' idea) to "Asshole." When Ricardo's wife tried to get Comcast to change the account back to her husband's real name, both Comcast's local & regional "customer service" (Comcast's idea) offices refused. After Elliott took up the Browns' case, Comcast relented on both. ...

... Video via Karoli of Crooks & Liars. CW: I assure you, former Arkansas Gov. Fuckabee will be very upset by the vid.

Oh, lawdy, what will they think up next?

... www.cicret.com

In the New York Times, Barry Bearak remembers Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks.

Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, New Hampshire): "After going through the drive-through at Burger King [in Rochester, N.H.] Friday, a local woman discovered that instead of the sweet tea and junior spicy chicken sandwich that she ordered, she got a bag full of money. Rather than keeping the cash — totaling $2,631 — she came back to the restaurant with her husband and returned it."

Gawker: "Bill Clinton took repeated trips on the 'Lolita Express'—the private passenger jet owned by billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein — with an actress in softcore porn movies whose name appears in Epstein's address book under an entry for 'massages,' according to flight logbooks obtained by Gawker and published today for the first time. The logs also show that Clinton shared more than a dozen flights with a woman who federal prosecutors believe procured underage girls to sexually service Epstein and his friends and acted as a 'potential co-conspirator' in his crimes."

New York Times: Director Martin "Scorsese’s partly finished documentary about [former president Bill] Clinton — which once seemed likely to be released as Hillary Rodham Clinton was navigating a presidential run — has stalled over disagreements about control, people briefed on the project said. Though parts of the film were shot over the last two years as Mr. Clinton made a philanthropic visit to Africa and elsewhere, the project is now indefinitely shelved, partly because Mr. Clinton insisted on more control over the interview questions and final version than Mr. Scorsese was willing to give, those people said."

Jessica Roy of New York: "Now that he's been released from jail after his kidnapping-conspiracy conviction was overturned, Gilberto Valle — the former NYPD officer dubbed 'Cannibal Cop' for allegedly planning to kidnap, kill, and eat women — is hungry for love on Match.com. Unfortunately for him, the online dating service told us that they've deleted Valle's alleged profile, even though frankly he can't be any worse than the other dudes you might find on there.... Also, he listed cooking as a favorite hobby!"

CW: Not sure why this is news. As a disconsolate Windows 8 user, I heard this -- in re: Windows 8 -- two months ago. New York Times: "Microsoft said people using the two earlier versions of its operating system, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, would be able to update their computers to Windows 10 free for the first year after the new software is introduced."

Ellen's Gay Agenda. Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link:

The French discover Ken & Barbie News Fox "News." For some reason the journalistes at "Le Petit Journal" don't find it credible. With English subtitles. Thanks to Creegr for the link:

New York Times: "A person close to the Barack Obama Foundation, which is overseeing plans for the [presidential] library, anonymously told local reporters last month that foundation officials had 'major concerns' with proposals from the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Foundation officials were said to be alarmed that the University of Chicago does not yet control the land where the university wants to build the library. To the shock and horror of residents here, that left Columbia University in New York, where Mr. Obama received his undergraduate degree, as the apparent front-runner. And suddenly a fait accompli has become an open question."

Washington Post: Two treasure hunters may have found the Griffin, a ship that disappeared in the Great Lakes in mid-1679.

And the Winner Is ... A White Person! Tatiana Siegel of the Hollywood Reporter: "For only the second time in nearly two decades, the 20 Academy Awards acting nominations went to a group made up entirely of white actors and actresses. Among the notable snubs was David Oyelowo, who received praise for his turn as the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma." ...

... Scott Mendelson of Forbes: "... the most egregious omission is the sadly not-entirely-surprising absence of Selma’s Ava DuVernay from the five contenders nominated for Best Director.... She deserved a nomination." ...

... Steve M.: Given the sorry state of most of Hollywood's output -- the CGI roman-numeral blockbusters and comedies about farting boy-men, greenlighted mostly by white males -- and given the near-total freeze-out of women in directorial roles (or in most acting roles beyond male stars' arm candy), I guess I know the answer. And it's pathetic."

... Todd VanDerWerff of Vox: "Selma was snubbed because the average Oscar voter is a 63-year-old white man. VanDerWerff also lists other factors he thinks worked against Selma.

... CW: I don't think I linked to this essay by Chris Rock, published in the Hollywood Reporter last month. Subject: The movie biz is "a white industry." I guess so.

Dick Poop. USA Today: "Dick Pope..., the cinematographer for Mr. Turner, made international news after Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science President Cheryl Boone Isaacs mispronounced his name during the nominations, calling him 'Dick Poop.'"

Here's the L.A. Times story covering the Oscar nominations.

New York Times: "Amazon announced on Tuesday that it had signed [Woody] Allen to write and direct his first television series. The company said it had ordered a full season of half-hour shows, as yet untitled, which will make their debut on the service next year. It provided few other details."

Jareen Imam of CNN: "Jeweler Tiffany & Co., for the first time, is featuring a gay couple in an ad campaign. The new 'Will You?' campaign, shot by fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh, features seven scenes of couples. One in particular is drawing widespread praise for showing a same-sex couple. The pair, shown sitting on a stoop in New York City, are a couple in real life, Tiffany spokeswoman Linda Buckley said."

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Thursday
Jan222015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 23, 2015

Tim Egan: "... if you look beyond capital gasbags, and consider the big ideas in Obama's [SOTU] speech, you can see the inevitability of his philosophy.... Eventually, if Obama's finish matches the flourish of the last two months, the United States will resemble the country he envisioned on Tuesday night. Long odds make for better endings." ...

... Greg Sargent: "To hear Republicans and conservatives tell it, the only two elections that mattered in the last decade were those that took place in 2010 and 2014. Thus, when President Obama, in his State of the Union address, took the extraordinarily brazen step of using the high-profile occasion to outline a series of proposals he and his party support, Republicans widely treated it as proof that Obama is ignoring What America Really Wants, which was supposedly laid out for all to see in the last election. Fortunately, this morning Gallup posted a piece recapping what its polling shows about what the American people actually think of the proposals Obama outlined. The key economic proposals, it turns out, have broad support."

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The Senate on Thursday again voted to reject two measures related to the Keystone XL pipeline that declared that humans are a cause of climate change -- the second set of votes on the issue in two days. Senators are using the Keystone debate to argue over climate issues. The Democrats want to force their Republican colleagues to come out one way or another on whether they believe humans have a role in changes to the climate and the rise of global temperatures. Republicans telegraphed their intent to attack President Obama's climate policy agenda. Mr. Obama is expected to veto the underlying bill that would force federal approval of the Keystone pipeline and allow construction to begin. Still, the debate has led to the first Senate floor votes in eight years on climate change measures."

Week one, we had a Speaker election that didn't go as well as a lot of us would have liked. Week two, we spent a lot of time talking about deporting children, a conversation a lot of us didn't want to have. Week three, we're debating reportable rape and incest -- again, not an issue a lot of us wanted to have a conversation about. I just can't wait for week four. -- Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.)

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "Tens of thousands of Americans descended on Washington for the annual March For Life on Thursday only to see House Republicans melt down over their signature issue: abortion." ...

... Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "House Republicans struggled on Thursday to mend another unwelcome rift that threatens to tarnish their party's image with women and younger voters, shelving a contentious bill that would outlaw most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Party leaders, facing a revolt from Republican women members who objected that the legislation did not do enough to accommodate victims of rape, instead called a vote on a separate but more limited measure to forbid the use of taxpayer money for abortions. It passed 239 to 179, with only one Republican voting no. But the vote tally masked a divide so deep that some conservatives left the Capitol saying they did not know when Congress could take up the issue again, despite pledges from leaders in both chambers to do so now that Republicans controlled the House and the Senate." ...

... Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post: "Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) said the [modified] legislation is 'nonsense' for many reasons, including its tax hike on small businesses. The bill 'penalizes small businesses that offer comprehensive health coverage to female employees,' Pingree said. 'It's just outrageous.'" CW: Who says Republicans won't raises taxes? ...

... Steve King Had the Perfect Solution! Ed Kilgore: "Remember when you hear that this fiasco was produced by a 'revolt of moderate Republicans' that Marsha Blackburn -- not a 'moderate' by any measurement -- was in the middle of it. Maybe she can have a discussion of the mess with Iowa's Steve King, whose Iowa Freedom Summit she is attending this weekend along with half the 2016 presidential field. King offered a way out of the 'reported rape' problem yesterday: 'I would not make exceptions for rape and incest, and then the reporting requirement would not be necessary.'" ...

... Gene Robinson: "There they go again. Given control of Congress and the chance to frame an economic agenda for the middle class, the first thing Republicans do is tie themselves in knots over ... abortion and rape.... It's important to understand that the 'Pain-Capable' bill was never anything more than an act of political fantasy. The only purpose of the planned vote was to create an 'event' that the annual antiabortion March for Life, held Thursday in Washington, could celebrate.... There is no generally accepted scientific basis for the premise of the 'Pain-Capable' bill. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there is no legitimate research supporting the idea that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks."

... John Cole of Balloon Juice: "... much press has been given to the notion that the women in the GOP caucus were afraid of the optics of this kind of bill being passed so early in congress, but I think the real reason they are balking is because it is a very extreme bill that is completely unnecessary, and folks who actually have and use their ladyparts might have a different idea how awful this bill is than some southern male godbothering jackass." ...

... Erin Ryan of Jezebel: "Today, on the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling on Roe v. Wade, let's take a moment to pause, reflect, and thank our lucky fucking stars that we have men like Lindsey Graham in Washington to bloviate about what's best for women's bodies." ...

... Scott Lemieux, in LGM, explains Roe v. Wade to the risible right. ...

... The White Man's Party, Ctd. James Downie of the Washington Post: During this week's SOTU address, & "Not for the first time, President Obama called for legislation 'that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.' Last year, when the president made the same call, both parties applauded. This year, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and many Republicans stayed firmly in their seats.... It's tough to avoid the conclusion that many Republicans, including Boehner, simply care about female voters so little that they won't even go through the motions anymore of expressing 'support' for women. Already, though, the GOP is seeing the damage of ignoring women in its own caucus.... What should have been a smooth coordination with Thursday's big pro-life march in Washington collapsed into shambles.... If the party doesn't change its attitude, it will see the same disaster play out on a grander scale with female voters." ...

... Quit complaining, all you whiney-babies. The ladies are the problem. Ali Weinberg of ABC News: "Republican women candidates must fight the perception that they are more moderate than male primary opponents simply because they are female, a group of pollsters and Republican leaders said Wednesday morning. One of the most effective ways women can do this is to downplay attributes typically associated with females, including a penchant for compromise, they said."

Fernando Espuelas of Univision in a Hill opinion piece: "It's difficult to imagine how Republicans can be competitive in 2016 with a 'defend the wealthy and push down the middle class' message. As one prominent conservative thinker recently wrote, 'Republicans are likely to lose the 2016 presidential election" if the GOP is once again positioned as the water carrier for its wealthy donors and doesn't embrace a pro-middle class set of policies that addresses the serious drop in middle-class spending power that has occurred since President Reagan first experimented with trickle-down policies in the 1980s.'" ...

... CW: Wait, wait, Fernando. They get it. At least some in the GOP now know they have to pay lip service to the evils of growing inequality:

... Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "Someone up the GOP food chain seems to have decided that inequality and poor people now belong in everyone's talking points, class warfare be damned.... For the 'compassionate conservatism' reboot to be convincing and guilt-alleviating this time around, though, Republicans need to offer strong anti-poverty proposals of their own. So far -- with the exception of Paul Ryan's plan last year -- we've mostly heard more of the same tax-cutting, deregulating shtick, whose relevance to inequality and poverty is tenuous at best." ...

... CW: Actually, Catherine, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) has a plan to help some poor people, especially minorities: lower the minimum wage. (I think maybe McClintock stole this excellent idea from advocate-for-the-poor Michele Bachmann):

... David Edwards of the Raw Story: "California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock said on Thursday that the minimum wage should not be raised because low pay was necessary for minorities and other unskilled workers who were not worth more than $7 an hour." CW: Edwards somewhat twists McClintock's words, but I don't see how you can read the sense of McClintock's remarks in any other way. He admits that $7/hour is not a living wage. But, hey, it's okay for minorities &, say, divorced women with children who have never worked outside the home before. Let 'em starve. ...

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: "Seriously, [McClintock] just swept 'minorities' into the hopper with teenagers and people who've never had a job as people who cannot possibly expect to be paid enough to raise a family and would be rendered 'permanently unemployable' if for some insane reason the government were to require companies to pay them family-supporting money." ...

... CW: Don't know why Clawson is so outraged. Why, at some lousy minimum wages jobs -- like the ones at a Virginia McDonald's franchise -- minorities allegedly can't get jobs at all. Because they don't "fit the profile" of these fine eateries:

... McRacist? Bruce Horovitz of USA Today: "Ten former McDonald's workers on Thursday filed a civil rights lawsuit against the fast-food giant -- alleging racism and sexual harassment -- in a case almost certain to test just how responsible McDonald's is for the actions of its franchisees. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, alleges that the company last May simultaneously fired more than a dozen black workers who 'didn't fit the profile' desired at its restaurants. In the lawsuit, nine African-American workers and one Hispanic worker claim they were subjected to 'rampant racial and sexual harassment' by supervisors at three restaurants run by McDonald's franchisee Michael Simon, who operates Soweva Co. The workers also are claiming wrongful termination."

Rick Rojas of the New York Times: "A federal judge has decided to make permanent an injunction overturning Arizona's ban on issuing driver's licenses to young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children and spared from deportation by President Obama in 2012. Judge David G. Campbell of Federal District Court issued the permanent injunction on Thursday, citing the 'irreparable harm' caused to the young immigrants by not being able to have a license under an executive order issued by former Gov. Jan Brewer. Ms. Brewer, a Republican who left office this month, argued that President Obama did not have the authority to act unilaterally in deferring deportations." ...

... CW: Looks like a mean-spirited governor "did not have the authority" to decide the Constitutional limits of presidential power. Funny that. The decision is very good news. Campbell is a Bush II appointee. As ACLU lawyer Dan Pochoda said (cited in Rojas' story), "I think it's effectively the end." It should never have begun. Let's hope Campbell's ruling discourages other governors & legislatures from punishing DREAMers.

** Roberts' Dilemma. Greg Sargent interviews Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe on King v. Burwell, the case before the Supreme Court in which the plaintiffs pretend that the ACA dictates that health insurance subsidies are available only to residents of states which have established their own insurance exchanges. Tribe: "There is a fundamental legal principle about not tricking and pulling the rug out from under states. The fact that there might be chaos in the insurance markets, as well as a serious disappointment of justified expectations on the part of states, all fit into a legal construct the Chief Justice believes in." ...

... Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times: "The people who could lose their health insurance as a result of a Supreme Court decision this year are predominantly white, Southern, employed and middle-aged, according to an Urban Institute analysis." CW: Um, in other words, the Republican base. Yet the GOP leadership is cheering the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, on the theory that if King wins, the Congress can repeal & replace the ACA with a big nothingburger. If the Supremes rule for King, I think the GOP has a problem, not an "opportunity," as Senate Leader McConnell claims.

John Bresnahan & Jake Sherman of Politico: "A liberal watchdog group has filed an ethics complaint against Texas GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert alleging that he improperly used campaign funds to cover his expenses from a recent trip to London. In a filing with the Office of Congressional Ethics, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) claims that Gohmert may have violated House rules by charging nearly $6,300 to his campaign account for the late November trip. Members are barred from using campaign funds to cover personal expenses.... Anne Weismann, CREW's interim executive director, [said,] 'I would note that [Federal Election Commission] rules might have permitted it, but House rules do not. The real issue here is who paid for it. Campaign funds were used for a trip that under no stretch of the imagination can you say is campaign related.'"

Paul Krugman: "... Europe's economy was wrecked in the name of responsibility. True, there have been times when being tough meant reducing deficits and resisting the temptation to print money. In a depressed economy, however, a balanced-budget fetish and a hard-money obsession are deeply irresponsible. Not only do they hurt the economy in the short run, they can -- and in Europe, have -- inflict long-run harm, damaging the economy's potential and driving it into a deflationary trap that's very hard to escape." Somebody e-mail this to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, please (see yesterday's Commentariat).

Dear U.S. Congressional Ignoramuses: Please, please, please, please give diplomacy with Iran a chance. Yours truly, Laurent Fabius, Philip Hammond, Frank-Walter Steinmeier & Federica Mogherini , the foreign ministers of France, Great Britain, Germany & the E.U., respectively, in a Washington Post op-ed ...

... Byron Tau of the Wall Street Journal: "Citing the need to remain neutral in the upcoming Israeli elections, the White House said President Barack Obama won't meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits in March. 'As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country,' said ... a spokeswoman for the National Security Council." See also today's comments. ...

... Calev Ben-David of Bloomberg: "Israeli opposition lawmakers criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress on March 3, calling it a blatant political move at the height of Israel's general election campaign.... The opposition Meretz Party said it would file a complaint with the Central Elections Committee demanding that it prohibit Israeli television and radio stations from broadcasting Netanyahu's congressional address. 'This is a blatant violation of campaign laws,' Meretz spokeswoman Aya Mizrachi said by phone." ...

... Charles Pierce: "This whole thing is a mess, a ludicrous misuse of the institutions of American government to throw sand in the gears of a policy initiative of which Netanyahu disapproves being formulated by a president of whom Boehner disapproves, and one that is placing a very large thumb on the scales of an Israeli election.... What Boehner's doing is an embarrassment to diplomacy and to the political processes both here and in Israel. Allies don't do this stuff."

... Paul Waldman gets real about the "unwavering" partnership of the U.S. & Israel: "For years we've had one party (the Republicans) that is fervently committed to the right-wing Likud's vision for Israel, and another party (the Democrats) that is much more committed to the Israeli Labor party's vision. When each holds the White House, they put those beliefs into policy. But both will say only that we all have a bipartisan commitment to 'support' the Jewish state, as though what 'support' means is always simple and clear."

Shahan Mufti, in the New Republic, doesn't say so, but he does show that Mohandas Gandhi & Pope Francis were on the same page. A thoughtful essay.

Presidential Race

Gary Langer of ABC News: "Hillary Clinton's potential place in history and her husband's tenure in the White House boost her presidential prospects, while Jeb Bush's political legacy and Mitt Romney's 2012 run for the office are negatives, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds. Clinton leads both in hypothetical head-to-head matchups at this early stage -- as well as Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee alike." ...

... Amie Parnes of the Hill: "Major donors are ready to announce huge financial commitments to Hillary Clinton as soon as she announces a second run for the White House, according to Clinton allies and Democratic fundraisers. The Clinton team wants to build excitement about her campaign launch, which is expected in March or April. The money blitz would be a show of Clinton's strength meant to scare away potential primary rivals."

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney did not emerge from a Salt Lake City meeting on Thursday with a proposal about how to reconcile their competing plans to run for the White House next year, advisers to both men indicated after the talk.... The meeting was cordial...." ...

... Guess I'll Have to Get out the Old Flip-Flops. Michelle Price of the AP: "Mitt Romney says one of the biggest challenges facing the country is climate change and that global solutions are needed to combat it." ...

... Tim Murphy of Mother Jones: "For Romney, this is his second about-face on climate change." ...

... Steve M.: "Mitt Romney's 2016 presidential campaign is now pretty much over.... He's a Republican with presidential ambitions, so I don't know what the hell's gotten into him.... Romney simply can't get the 2016 Republican nomination if he's saying that climate change is a problem that needs to be dealt with.... Maybe he'll flip-flop again on the climate. (Would you put that past him?) He'll have to, because this is going to be a litmus test in the 2016 primaries. And he's failing it." ...

... Rebecca Leber of the New Republic: "took one day for the party of climate change denial to rediscover science -- a few of them, anyway. Mitt Romney ... told a Utah audience, 'I'm one of those Republicans who thinks we are getting warmer and that we contribute to that.'.... Then, 15 Republican senators voted in favor of a conservative climate amendment that said 'human activity contributes to climate change.' One of those senators was Rand Paul.... The 2016 GOP primary won't feature the climate-change debate that the country needs, but it step in the right direction -- away from ignorance, toward reason."

Jonathan Karl of ABC News: "Sen. Marco Rubio [R-Fla.] has begun taking concrete steps toward launching a presidential bid, asking his top advisors to prepare for a campaign, signing on a leading Republican fundraiser, and planning extensive travel to early-voting states in the coming weeks, ABC News has learned."

Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "The team that is building Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's political organization for a possible presidential campaign has brought on a GOP strategist with Iowa ties: David Polyansky..... Walker will be in Iowa Saturday as one of a couple dozen Republicans who will speak at U.S. Rep. Steve King's all-day Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines. [Mike] Huckabee and several other presidential-maybes are among the featured speakers." Via Greg Sargent. ...

... Ed Kilgore is really looking forward to "the Steve King/Citizens United Iowa Freedom Summit this weekend in Des Moines." He borrows an analysis from the Iowa Republican on what each candidate needs to do at the summit to "ignite the passions" of attendees.

Senate Race

Christopher Cadelago of the Sacramento Bee: "Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer said Thursday he will not be a candidate to succeed U.S. Senate Barbara Boxer and instead will continue his focus on helping fellow Democrats and working to reverse the effects of global climate change.... Steyer came to his decision after watching President Barack Obama and California Gov. Jerry Brown give recent speeches in which they made protecting the environment a top priority. Steyer's exit from the field shifts attention to a possible run for governor in 2018, and more immediately to other potential Boxer successors such as former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has indicated he is looking closely at the Senate seat."

Beyond the Beltway

Shaila Dewan & Richard Oppel of the New York Times: "... interviews and recently released video and police records show how a series of miscommunications, tactical errors and institutional failures by the Cleveland police cascaded into one irreversible mistake": the shooting death of Tamir Rice by a young policeman.

Charles Pierce: Lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev "released the answers from 1373 potential jurors who'd filled out questionnaires at the request of federal judge George O'Toole, who apparently is determined to hang onto this case with his teeth, if necessary. They found that nearly 70 percent of the respondents already believed Tsarnaev to be guilty of the offenses with which he is charged, offenses that could send him to the federal death house.... What this case needs is justice, reached in as cool and rational a manner as possible, and that is plainly impossible in Boston. What this case needs is a jury, which it is evidently impossible to seat in Boston."

** New York Times Editors: "As astonishing as it was to see Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York Assembly, surrender to the F.B.I. on corruption charges Thursday morning, it is even more incredible that he can choose to go on serving in his job while he defends himself against bribery and kickback charges involving millions of dollars."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The Obama administration has been forced to suspend counterterrorism operations with Yemen in the aftermath of the collapse of its government, according to U.S. officials, a move that abruptly eases pressure on al-Qaeda's most dangerous franchise.... U.S. officials said that the Yemeni security services that provided much of the intelligence that sustained [the] U.S. air campaign are now controlled by Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, who have seized control of much of the capital."

AP: "Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine rejected a previously signed peace deal Friday and launched a new multipronged offensive against Ukrainian government troops, upending recent European attempts to mediate an end to the fighting." ...

... New York Times: "Unexpectedly, at the height of the Ukrainian winter, war has exploded anew on a half-dozen battered fronts across eastern Ukraine, accompanied by increasing evidence that Russian troops and Russian equipment have been pouring into the region again."

Washington Post: "Saudi Arabia's new king joined in prayers Friday before the simple burial of the country's late ruler, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, even as attention shifted to the new map of royal succession that puts a younger generation closer to the throne. King Salman acted quickly to clarify the top tier of the Saudi hierarchy, seeking to project stability and resolve at a time when the country faces challenges on multiple fronts, including threats from Islamist militants and a political breakdown in neighboring Yemen."

Washington Post: "In separate news conferences after [U.S. & Cuban officials met], at the end of their first round of talks Thursday, both sides pronounced it 'productive,' respectful and positive. But both acknowledged that 'profound differences' remain."

Wired: "Barrett Brown, who became a cause célèbre after he was charged with crimes related to the 2011 Stratfor hack, will not go free as his supporters hoped. He was sentenced [Thursday] in Texas to five years and three months in prison. Brown was facing a possible eight-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty earlier this year to two charges related to aiding-and-abetting and obstruction of justice and a separate charge involving threats he made to an FBI agent."

Wednesday
Jan212015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 22, 2015

Matt Apuzzo & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "The Justice Department has begun work on a legal memo recommending no civil rights charges against a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., who killed an unarmed black teenager in August, law enforcement officials said. That would close the politically charged case in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The investigation by the F.B.I., which is complete, found no evidence to support civil rights charges against the officer, Darren Wilson, the officials said."

Jake Sherman of Politico: "House Speaker John Boehner is setting up his most dramatic foreign policy confrontation with President Barack Obama to date, inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak about Iran in front of a joint session of Congress on Feb. 11. Netanyahu is a fierce opponent of the emerging U.S. nuclear agreement with the Islamic republic, and has served as Obama's foil, of sorts.... Netanyahu's speech could present a spectacle rarely seen in Washington -- the leader of another nation, standing just blocks from the White House at the invitation of Congress to rebut the United States' foreign policy. In fact, Boehner did not consult with the White House or the State Department about inviting Netanyahu -- a snub that White House spokesman Josh Earnest called 'a departure' from protocol." ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "... experts on American-Israeli relations expressed shock that Boehner had invited Netanyahu to address Congress on Iran next month. One described it as an effort to 'humiliate' and 'embarrass' Obama as the two sides dig in over Iran.... Netanyahu's visit would also come about a month before Israeli's March 17 elections, and he has received substantial contributions from Americans.... But as TPM's Josh Marshall noted, there is some evidence that his perch as prime minister might be precarious as voters head to the polls." ...

The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran. -- Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)

So we're having a reasonable, calm discussion about this subject. -- Paul Waldman

... Josh Rogin & Eli Lake of Bloomberg View: "The Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has broken ranks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling U.S. officials and lawmakers that a new Iran sanctions bill in the U.S. Congress would tank the Iran nuclear negotiations. Already, the Barack Obama administration and some leading Republican senators are using the Israeli internal disagreement to undermine support for the bill, authored by Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Robert Menendez, which would enact new sanctions if current negotiations falter." Cole also explains how disastrous a war with Iran likely would be: "more like the US war in Vietnam than Iraq." ...

... Juan Cole: "If [the right wing psychopaths in Washington DC and Tel Aviv] can over-ride Obama's veto and scuttle the negotiations, they set us up for a war down the line, as Obama warned in the SOTU. In contrast, professional Israeli intelligence analysts are warning against new sanctions and any torpedoing of the Iran talks. Because they deal in the coin of pragmatism and the real world. Readers should please let their congressional representatives know they would prefer not to be subjected to this disaster. That Netanyahu is an unreliable narrator should be obvious by now."

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "The Republican-controlled Senate voted on Wednesday to reject a symbolic provision that said human activity contributes to climate change. The vote was 50-49 for a Democratic amendment that did nothing other than declare that 'climate change is real' and that 'human activity significantly contributes to climate change.' The amendment by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) fell short of the 60 votes required to pass. The vote came shortly after Republicans surprised Democrats at the last minute by supporting an earlier amendment by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to express a 'sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax.' That amendment passed 98-1 after Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) ... signed on.... The Whitehouse amendment did not take a position on whether humans play a role."

E. J. Dionne: Obama uttered "one of the more polemical passages ever offered in a State of the Union address. 'At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious,' he declared, 'that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we've seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health-care inflation at its lowest rate in 50 years.' Good news, indeed, and in telling the Republicans that all their predictions turned out to be wrong, he was also reminding his fellow citizens which side, which policies and which president had brought the country back." CW: Except as contributor Forrest M. pointed out yesterday, he used the passive voice & resisted fingering Republicans.

Jonathan Chait argues that President Obama's SOTU speech was a long-delayed correction to "his stammering first presidential debate against Mitt Romney." Chait also draws parallels between Moderate Mitt & George W. Bush's 2008 campaign promise "of a tax cut that would give the biggest share to the poor [which] was based on lies."

CW: I'm not quite sure if Heather of Crooks & Liars accused David Brooks of making a racist remark on the Nice Polite Republican public television network, but in case she didn't, I will. The notion that President Obama has to "earn" Republican comity is the way Nice Polite Republicans say, "He's black." White folks are "entitled" to deference. Black people have to continually "earn" & re-earn their positions with a lot of steppin' & fetchin'. Winning the presidency twice, in the Mind of Brooks, is not payment enough to expect Republicans to do their jobs & meet a black president halfway. One of the "broken" parts of the GOP (see Jonathan Bernstein post linked below) is its inherent, pervasive racism. To them, Barack Obama is the president only by virtue of his having given things to blah people, & he will never escape being the black president. To me, he's the president. No adjective required.

NEW. Jon Stewart reviews the SOTU responses. The response by the "winner" of Stewart's Implody award is a classic:

Emily Atkin of Think Progress: "The official website for House Republicans has posted on YouTube a version of President Obama's State of the Union address which cuts out comments where the President was critical of Republican rhetoric on climate change.... In the website's 'enhanced webcast' of the State of the Union speech, President Obama's comments criticizing Republicans for saying they are 'not scientists' when it comes to climate change are erased.... Update: [Speaker John] "Boehner's Press Secretary Michael Steel told ThinkProgress Wednesday afternoon that the video edits were not intentionally made. 'It was inadvertent.' Steel said via e-mail. 'We are working with YouTube to figure out what happened.'" Translation: "Never thought we'd get caught."

From the GOP Book of Etiquette. Sahil Kapur: "Republicans were irked by President Barack Obama's caustic reminder in his State of the Union speech that he defeated them twice. 'I've run my last campaign,' Obama said toward the end of the nationally televised address. Republicans in the chamber applauded derisively, which prompted the president to ad-lib a zinger which wasn't in his prepared remarks: 'I know because I won both of them.'... In the Capitol after the speech, Republicans expressed displeasure at being jabbed by the president in the same speech where he asked for their cooperation." Kapur goes on to cite some responses from "irked" Republicans. Here's the clip, via Akhilleus:. When you listen to the clip, you'll hear Republicans laughing at their clever applause. Ergo, it's hilarious when Republicans heckle the President; when he jabs back, it's "rudeness."

Manolo Merita. Doktor Zoom of Wonkette: "Sen. Joni Ernst did her best in her robotic SOTU response to let us know that she empathizes with folks facing hard times:

You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry. But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet.

... "And thus was born the #breadbags hashtag." Pretty funny. Also see yesterday's SOTU comments. ...

... Ernst's actual shoes, courtesy of contributor MAG:

... Meghan Keneally of ABC News: "A photo shared by Ernst's team shows the camouflage-themed high heels." Keneally says the shoes are "a military shoutout." (See JJG's comment in yesterday's SOTU post.)

... "The Bread Bags of Empathy." Paul Waldman: "... what, precisely, is the point of the bread bag story supposed to be?... The point is affinity.... There's a second part of this message..., which is that because I'm just like you, when it comes time to make decisions about the policies that will affect you, I will have your interests at heart. But there's a problem with that, because ... Joni Ernst's beliefs about economics are no different from Mitt Romney's, Jeb Bush's, or those of any other Republican whose childhood feet were shod in loafers hand crafted from the finest Siberian tiger leather. There's almost perfect unanimity within the GOP on economic issues....

And it's inspiring that someone like Joni Ernst can start life in the most modest of circumstances, fitted as a baby with tiny booties made from Hostess Twinkie wrappers, then graduate to bread bags as she learned to castrate hogs (they do help keep the blood off your one good pair of shoes), and eventually grow up to do the bidding of the nation's noblest plutocrats. It shows what's possible in this great country of ours.

... CW: It's worth noting, as others have but I have not, that back when poverty forced little Joni to wear bread bags to save her one & only pair of Sears & Roebuck saddle shoes, Ronaldus Maximus was ruling this nation of shoeless serfs.... What makes Joni as pathetic as she is wicked is that she has no idea she is being had by the masters who helped her compose her Bread Bag of Nothing speech.

Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg Politics: "The real problem preventing compromise isn't inherent in the political system. It's something particularly wrong with the Republican Party, which has become increasingly hostile to the very notion of compromise.... A broken Republican Party is dangerous as an opposition party in a Madisonian system, which requires compromise. But it might be more dangerous in a parliamentary system, which lets winners enact their agenda with little resistance. So unless something about the U.S. system is to blame for that Republican dysfunction -- and I don't think there is -- then institutional reform ... won't help and might be harmful."

GOP "Bait-and-Switch." Dana Milbank: "Just two weeks into the new Congress, they voted Tuesday afternoon to bring to the House floor their current priority: a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.... Abortion got barely a mention in last year's campaign, which led to unified Republican control of Congress.... A Gallup poll after the election found that fewer than 0.5 percent of Americans think abortion should be the top issue, placing it behind at least 33 other issues. But instead of doing what voters wanted, House Republicans are making one of their first orders of business a revival of the culture wars." ...

... Jake Sherman: "Republican leadership late Wednesday evening had to completely drop its plans to pass a bill that bans abortions after 20 weeks, and is reverting to old legislation that prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions. The evening switch comes after a revolt from a large swath of female members of Congress, who were concerned about language that said rape victims would not be able to get abortions unless they reported the incident to authorities. The new legislation doesn't stand a chance to become law, but House Republican leadership wants to have some sort of pro-life bill on the floor Thursday when the anti-abortion March for Life comes to Washington."

** "Environmental Racism." Charles Blow: There is "inequality in the air we breathe."

Gail Collins: "Let's raise the gas tax." Even some Republicans -- but not Paul Ryan -- have conceded a gas tax hike might be doable.

Elizabeth Warren, in the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court appears poised to continue its systematic assault on our core civil rights laws. After gutting the Voting Rights Act just two years ago, the court set its sights on our country's fair housing laws when it heard oral arguments [Wednesday] in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project. As with the voting rights decision, a decision limiting the scope of the housing laws would ignore the will of Congress and undermine basic principles of racial equality. But there is even more at stake in the fair housing case, because the wrong decision would reduce economic opportunities for working families and raise the risk of another financial crisis.... Undercutting our fair housing laws also would increase the risk of another financial crisis."

Linda Greenhouse: "However the justices proceed to resolve the increasingly audacious claims of religious conscience in a post-Hobby Lobby, post-marriage equality world, it's safe to predict that politicians will be confronting these issues under the glare of a public spotlight. Republicans who expect the Supreme Court to give them a pass from having to take a stand are in for a rude surprise."

Justices Meet the Hoi Polloi. Adam Lerner of Politico: "A group of activists interrupted oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Wednesday to protest the fifth anniversary of a landmark campaign finance ruling. 'Overturn Citizens United,' shouted one woman, according to reports from inside the courtroom. 'One person, one vote,' said another person. 'We are the 99 percent,' said a third. Chief Justice John Roberts was heard muttering, 'Oh, please,' SCOTUSblog reported." ...

... Mark Walsh of ScotusBlog, in an update: "Kathleen L. Arberg, the Court's public information officer, said eight individuals were arrested in Wednesday's disturbance. Seven have been charged with violating a federal law against making 'a harangue or oration, or utter[ing] loud, threatening, or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building,' as well as with violating two Court regulations. Arberg said those seven, along with the eighth individual, were also charged with 'conspiracy-related offenses' under District of Columbia law." CW was heard muttering, "Conspiracy?? Oh, please."

We Wear the White Hats. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone: "'American Sniper' is almost too dumb to criticize." CW: You might think this review should go in Infotainment because the story is supposed to be a "human" one, not a "political" one. But no: "The only thing that forces us to take it seriously is the extraordinary fact that an almost exactly similar worldview consumed the walnut-sized mind of the president who got us into the war in question." It is not exactly breaking news that war movies romanticize war, but Taibbi does a good job of expanding this specific example to how the genre absolves us from the burdens of critical thinking: "The movies used the struggles of soldiers as a kind of human shield protecting us from thinking too much about what we'd done in places like Vietnam and Cambodia and Laos."

Presidential Race

The Making of a Presidential Nominee 2016. Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are scheduled to meet privately this week in Utah, raising the possibility that the two former governors will find a way to avoid competing presidential campaigns that would split the Republican establishment next year, two prominent party members said Wednesday night." ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "Will they agree to let primary voters choose between them, or will Mitt challenge the Bush clan to a high-stakes version of the annual 'Romney Olympics'? Whatever happens, we look forward to seeing the moment acted out in an HBO movie." ...

... Michael Bender of Bloomberg Politics: "... Jeb Bush tore through Washington this week, impressing the lobbyists and potential donors he met for the first time and leaning on old family friends to help raise huge sums of money as he considers a run for the White House. According to multiple Republicans in attendance at events Tuesday and Wednesday, Bush simultaneously bemoaned the cost of modern presidential campaigns -- more than $2.35 billion in 2012 -- and pledged to not be left behind in the fundraising race." CW: A pretty good read; I liked this church-lady part: "Bush also criticized a White House video on Tuesday that promoted the president's State of the Union speech as a 'BFD,' saying that kind of language doesn't bespeak a seriousness that the U.S. should be signaling."

This GOP Candidate Is a Constitutional Scholar Igor Bobic of the Huffington Post: "Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee disputed what he called the 'notion of judicial supremacy' on Tuesday, arguing states would have the final say on gay marriage regardless of whether the Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. Huckabee, a conservative evangelical and potential 2016 presidential candidate, said a Supreme Court ruling, expected this year, would ultimately be moot because 'one branch of government does not overrule the other two.'" Somebody should tell Huck about Marbury v. Madison.

This GOP Candidate Is a Theologian. Ivey DeJesus of PennLive: "Devout Catholic and former presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said he sometimes finds it 'very difficult' to listen to the comments Pope Francis makes on social issues.... Santorum said that when Francis speaks in interviews, 'he's giving his own opinions, which I certainly will listen to, but from my perspective, that doesn't reflect the idea that people shouldn't be fruitful and multiply....'" The Vatican walked back Francis's off-the-cuff remark, to which Santorum was referring, that couples need not "breed like rabbits." ...

... Charles Pierce: "Hey, Papa Francesco! Have I mentioned recently what a colossal dick Rick Santorum is?... Now Rick, a devout Catholic (just ask him) and a friend to all zygotes, has a very big sad when he listens to you."

This GOP Candidate Is an Economist. John Adams of the Great Falls (Montana) Tribune: "Ohio Gov. John Kasich [R] told a small group of Montana legislative Republicans they should not oppose expansion of Medicaid on the basis of 'strict ideology.' 'I gotta tell you, turning down your money back to Montana on an ideological basis, when people can lose their lives because they get no help, doesn't make a lot of sense to me,' Kasich told Republican lawmakers." CW: Hey, he's right there, but he's still blindingly stupid: "Kasich, a possible 2016 Republican presidential contender, is touring state legislatures across the West to drum up support for a constitutional convention to modify the U.S. Constitution to include a balanced budget amendment." Ask Paul Krugman about this (here or any number of other places). Kasich has no excuse: he was chair of the House Budget Committee & should be familiar with fiat money, but he doesn't. Also, um, he was a managing director of Lehman Brothers, right up till it notoriously collapsed. Via Greg Sargent.

Beyond the Beltway

Jesse McKinley of the New York Times: "Basking in an economic rebound but faced with an array of social concerns, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo presented his annual State of the State address on Wednesday, calling on New York lawmakers to control taxes and spending while addressing criminal justice, educational reforms and upstate fiscal difficulties." ...

... Chris Smith of New York: "In the past seven days, Governor Andrew Cuomo has run the campaign he didn't run last fall. He's dashed from Uniondale to Rochester to Mount Vernon to midtown, unveiling a barrage of proposals: to cut property taxes for middle-class homeowners by $1.7 billion, to steer juvenile offenders away from the adult criminal justice system, to create a billion-dollar broadband access program upstate, to build an AirTrain to La Guardia Airport, to raise the minimum wage, among many, many other things.... The capper came this afternoon, in Albany, in the bunkerlike auditorium across from the state capitol building, where the governor delivered both his State of the State address and 2015 budget presentation, and added such headline items as an independent monitor to review grand jury decisions when police officers are not indicted in brutality cases. Whew."

William Rashbaum, et al., of the New York Times: "Federal authorities are expected to arrest Sheldon Silver, the powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly, on corruption charges on Thursday.... The investigation that led to the expected charges against Mr. Silver, a Democrat from the Lower East Side of Manhattan who has served as speaker for more than two decades, began after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in March abruptly shut down an anticorruption commission he had created in 2013." ...

     ... UPDATE: "The speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, was arrested on federal corruption charges on Thursday and accused of using the power of his office for more than a decade to secure millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks and then covering up his schemes, according to court documents."

Travis Getty of the Raw Story: "An upstate New York sheriff is encouraging residents of his county to ignore the state's handgun licensing law. Sheriff Thomas Lorey told a gathering of Oath Keepers" to throw their permit renewal letters in the garbage. "Oath Keepers are made up mostly of retired or active-duty law enforcement or military personnel who have pledged not to enforce or obey gun restrictions or other laws they deem unconstitutional."

Headline of the Day: "Bigamy Trial for Florida Congressman's Wife Delayed by Leaky Breast Implants." ...

... Mike Schneider of the AP: "A trial to determine whether U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson's wife committed bigamy when she wed the congressman has been delayed because she required emergency surgery to remove breast implants. The trial had been scheduled for Thursday in Orlando but is now set for March."

Katie Mettler of the Tampa Bay Times: White vigilante tackles older black man carrying a permitted gun into a WalMart. Sheriffs arrest vigilante for battery. "'Unfortunately he tackled a guy that was a law-abiding citizen,' [sheriff's spokesman Larry] McKinnon said. 'We understand it's alarming for people to see other people with guns, but Florida has a large population of concealed weapons permit holders.' The Sheriff's Office recommends that vigilante-inclined citizens refrain from taking matters into their own hands, especially when an incident is gun-related." ...

... Tom Levenson of Balloon Juice: "What could possibly go wrong?" Good post.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Abby Ohlheiser of the Washington Post: "Lutz Bachmann [no relation to Michele (that we know of)], the German leader of 'Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West,' (PEGIDA) has resigned after a picture emerged apparently showing him dressed up and posing like Adolf Hitler. The photo, published on the front page of the German tabloid Bild, reportedly came from Bachmann's Facebook account. The BBC quotes a PEGIDA movement spokesman as saying the photo was intended as a 'joke.'... Bachmann, a convicted burglar who helped found the anti-Islamization movement in October, has served as the public face of the group since then.... The [German magazine Dresdener] Morgenpost also published an image that shows Bachmann sharing a photo of a Ku Klux Klan member, captioned in English to read, 'Three k's a day keeps the minorities away.'" ...

... Reuters: "The leader of the fast-growing German anti-Muslim movement PEGIDA resigned on Wednesday after a photo of him posing as Hitler, and reports that he called refugees 'scumbags', prompted prosecutors to investigate him for inciting hatred."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Confronted with a deepening scandal, the president of Argentina abruptly reversed herself on Thursday, saying that the death of the lead prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center was not a suicide as she and other government officials had suggested. Instead, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner suggested that the prosecutor's death was part of what she hinted was a sinister plot to defame and destroy her."

New York Times: "Wendell H. Ford, a political moderate from Kentucky who served one term as governor and four as a senator, rising to become the Democratic whip, or assistant leader, in the early 1990s, died on Thursday at his home in Owensboro, Ky. He was 90." Thanks to James S. for the link. Also, see James' comment in today's thread.

New York Times: "King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who came to the throne in old age and earned a reputation as a cautious reformer even as the Arab Spring revolts toppled heads of state and Islamic State militants threatened the Muslim establishment that he represented, died on Friday, Saudi officials said. He was 90.... Abdullah's brother and crown prince, Salman, in a statement attributed to him on Saudi state television, announced the king's death and that he had assumed the throne." ...

... Washington Post: "That put the region's most important Sunni power and America's closest Arab ally in the hands of a 79-year old who is reportedly in poor health and suffering from dementia."

Washington Post: "Yemen's Western-backed president and his cabinet resigned Thursday amid deepening turmoil that left Shiite rebels in effective control and threw into question this nation's continued participation in the U.S. fight against terrorism. As President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi succumbed to an apparent coup attempt by the rebels, a government official confirmed that he had lost control over the military and intelligence agencies that coordinate with the United States in operations against al-Qaeda's most dangerous affiliate."

Tuesday
Jan202015

SOTU 2015

Here's the full State of the Union address:

Jerry Markon & David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "In a wide-ranging address, the president called for tax reform that eliminates corporate-friendly loopholes, highlighted his earlier proposal for free community college and delivered a forceful zinger aimed at conservatives and other critics of his plans to tackle global warming." Story has been updated.

I've heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they're not scientists; that we don't have enough information to act. Well, I'm not a scientist, either. But you know what -- I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we'll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.

The transcript of President Obama's speech, as prepared for delivery, is here.

Charles Pierce's liveblog of the SOTU speech.

Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "Tuesday's State of the Union was ... a single component of a project that's much more meaningful than budget brinksmanship or the 2016 campaign -- to establish the parameters of the economic debate for years and years, the way Ronald Reagan's presidency lent supply-side tax policy and deregulation a presumption of efficacy that shaped not just Republican, but Democratic policy for two decades."

Jeremy Peters & Emmarie Huetteman of the New York Times: "Republicans immediately rejected most of the proposals that were central to Mr. Obama's address, saying he was obviously not serious about working with them to pass consequential bipartisan legislation.... The Republicans may have the greater burden after promising to prove that they can govern productively after years of being mocked by the president as the Party of No.' The president's address signaled not only that he will make that transformation difficult, but also that he and fellow Democrats may adopt a form of the 'No' strategy as their own. The parallels may not be exact, of course. Mr. Obama points out that many of the Republicans' priorities seem designed to provoke him into issuing veto threats because they would dismantle popular pieces of his legacy." ...

... CW: In my view, President Obama begged Republicans to get off their white asses & do something for the American people. Yes, they're attacking the President's policies, but they're also defiantly refusing to do their jobs.

Ezra Klein: " Imagine if Mitt Romney was giving the State of the Union address amidst [today's encouraging] economic numbers. The cheering wouldn't stop long enough to let him speak.

Ann Telnaes of the Washington Post livesketched the SOTU.

Winner -- Most Tasteless Comment by a Congressman:


Gabriela Baczynska of Reuters: "Russia hit back on Wednesday at U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, saying it showed the United States believes it is 'number one' and seeks world domination. Obama said his country was upholding 'the principle that bigger nations can't bully the small' by opposing what he called Russian aggression and supporting democracy in Ukraine, and that Russia was isolated."

The White House page for viewing the State of the Union address is here.

The New York Times has live updates here. 8:13 pm ET: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has been named the "Designated Survivor," so will not attend the SOTU speech.

If you don't have access to teevee, you can have the pleasure of watching Sen. Joni Ernst (RTP-Iowa) deliver the GOP response to the SOTU address here. ...

... Heeeere's Joni!

... Here's the transcript of Ernst's non-response, as prepared for delivery. Akhilleus has provided the transcript of the non-response as delivered in today's commentary. ...

... the constant praise and self congratulations on her volunteer years in the military makes me sick. Great, you were part of the largest and most successful socialist organization in the world. Guess what? The rest of us wrote the check. -- JJG, in today's comments

... Andy Rosenthal of the New York Times: "This year, the Republicans chose the freshman senator from Iowa, Joni Ernst, who seems a lot like Sarah Palin except that her aw-shucks life story is genuine.... The sincere part of Ms. Ernst's speech came when she talked about how pretty much everything Mr. Obama has done so far was a failure and acted as though Republicans had nothing to do with stagnating wages and mortgages that long ago went under water. But the best measure of how Republicans feel came during the president's speech, when he noted that he has no more campaigns to run, and there was a smattering of derisive applause on the G.O.P. side of the aisle. Mr. Obama's response was excellent. 'I know, because I won both of them,' he said."

... And, yes, Carlos Curbelo must feel totally foolish delivering Ernst's response in Spanish. (See Paul Waldman's comment below.) ...

      UPDATE:

Bi-lin-gual.ˌ/bīˈliNGɡwəl/ def. When you say one thing in English & the opposite in Spanish. -- GOP American Freedom Dictionary

... Ben Schreckinger & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Republicans sent mixed signals on immigration in their two official rebuttals to President Obama Tuesday night: Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst's rebuttal made no mention of the topic, but the Spanish-language version of the rebuttal, delivered by Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, said Republicans wanted to work with Obama to fix the immigration system. 'We should also work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system, to secure our borders, modernize legal immigration, and strengthen our economy,' said Curbelo in Spanish. 'In the past, the president has expressed support for ideas like these. Now we ask him to cooperate with us to get it done.' Earlier on Tuesday, House Republicans had described Curbelo's response as 'the Spanish-Language translated address of Sen. Joni Ernst response.' That language was later removed from the release, according to Mother Jones. Curbelo has bucked many in the Republican Party to support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, while Ernst opposes that."

... Rep. Curt Clawson's (D-Fla.) Tea party response is here. (The link is not specific; content may change.) CW: I couldn't get past the first 15 seconds where he thanked his dad & especially his mom, his hero. Outreach to women! Representing a district that includes many undocumented Hispanics, Rep. Clawson paid special attention to bashing undocumented Hispanics for stealing jobs from nice American white people.

President Obama discusses giving the SOTU addess:

Things the White House thinks you don't know about the State of the Union address, accompanied by annoying music:

Julie Davis & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama plans to use Tuesday night's State of the Union address to call on Congress to pivot from an era of terror, war and recession to one of expanding economic opportunity, outlining a wide-ranging agenda intended to address income inequality and help working Americans. 'Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well, or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?' Mr. Obama will say, according to excerpts from the speech distributed in advance." ...

     ... New Lede: "President Obama claimed credit on Tuesday for an improving economy and defiantly told his Republican adversaries in Congress to 'turn the page' by supporting an expensive* domestic agenda aimed at improving the fortunes of the middle class."

     * CW: Make that "modest." See Jordan Weismann's post below. I suggest Shear & Davis provide disclaimer: "We are not economists." Or better yet, they could write a lede that is accurate.

A Modest Proposal. Jordan Weismann of Slate: "Combined, Obama's [tax] hikes [on the rich] would raise $320 billion over a decade, or $32 billion per year. That's just a smidge more than 1 percent of last year's federal tax revenue — more than a rounding error, but not much more. Obama isn't looking to soak the rich at this point so much as lightly spritz them." CW: Hmm, maybe if Obama did go Swiftian & propose the poor sell their children as food for the rich, Republicans would finally come around to making a bipartisan deal that would please Ron Fournier (see Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. below)

Latino Outreach, GOP Style. Tim Murphy & Patrick Caldwell of Mother Jones: "The GOP has also announced it will be offering a Spanish-language rebuttal, which will be delivered tonight by freshman Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a young conservative from a diverse Miami congressional district. But there's a wrinkle. According to a press release from the House Republicans, Curbelo will not be sharing his own thoughts and words with the public. Instead, he will only be reading a Spanish translation of Ernst's speech.... By the way, Ernst has endorsed English as a national language and once sued Iowa's secretary of state for offering voting forms in languages other than English." ...

... Paul Waldman: "I look forward to the part where Curbelo relates how as a young farm girl he learned how to castrate hogs." CW: ¿Cómo se dice en español "Make 'em squeal"?

Tuesday
Jan202015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 21, 2015

Thomas Edsall: "Key Democrats have reached agreement on a set of policies known as 'inclusive capitalism': a forceful market-oriented economic agenda intended to counter inequality, restrain the accrual of vast wealth at the top and provide the working and middle classes with improved economic opportunities.... Taken together, the Obama, Van Hollen, and Summers interpretations of 'inclusive capitalism' are a victory for the left of the Democratic Party.... While none of the proposals, or their advocates, acknowledge this explicitly, one of the objectives of the evolving Democratic economic agenda is to get back support among whites without college degrees...." ...

... CW: "Inclusive capitalism"? I'd call it New Deal Lite. And let's not forget to thank Larry Summers for his self-serving spasm of noblesse oblige. (See Monday's & Tuesday's Commentariats.)

Bernie Becker of the Hill: "Congressional Democrats said Tuesday they would seek any and all avenues to curb offshore tax deals, kicking off a new effort to punish what they call 'corporate deserters.' Senior Democrats on both sides of the Capitol brought back legislation to make it more difficult for corporations to merge with a foreign competitor and shift their legal address abroad."

Lauren Barron-Lopez of the Hill: "Senate Democrats are pressing amendments to legislation that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline, arguing their proposals would 'actually make it an American jobs bill.'...[Chuck] Schumer [D-N.Y.] along with Democratic Sens. Ed Markey (Mass.) and Al Franken (Minn.) urged Republicans to vote for the amendments that will be considered on Tuesday afternoon. Markey's measure would ban the export of all oil shipped through the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, while Franken's would require that American steel be used to build the pipeline.... 'This is just the beginning of the amendment process; we have many more that deserve a vote,' Schumer said.... Schumer said the amendments being proposed by Democrats Tuesday would 'improve' the Keystone bill, 'but not enough to vote for it.'" ...

     ... Update: Republicans voted down both Markey's & Franken's amendments. Apparently they don't want too many jobs in what Joni Ernst called "the Keystone jobs bill" in her SOTU non-response.

Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "Two GOP congresswomen have officially withdrawn their support for a proposed 20-week abortion ban that has recently sparked controversy within the Republican Party, asking to be removed as co-sponsors from the legislation. On Tuesday afternoon, during the House's session, Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) requested to remove their names from HR 36, the 'Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.'... Hours before President Obama is set to give his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, he indicated that he is prepared to veto HR 36 if Congress sends it to his desk. In an analysis published on Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that enacting a national 20-week abortion ban would increase federal spending on Medicaid by an estimated $235 million between 2015 and 2025...."

Jorge Ramos of Fusion: "When [Republicans] ask for our support in 2016, we will remind them of all the times they voted against immigrants. There are many: from their opposition to the Dream Act, to the blocking action that the House leader John Boehner has taken against the immigration reform bill for a year and a half, up to last week's vote in Congress. It's hard to forget when someone says no to you in your face. Republicans now have a Latino problem and less than two years to solve it." Via Paul Waldman.

Jamison Foser: "The United States Senate, controlled at the time by President Obama's fellow Democrats, held one vote on raising the minimum wage in 2014. After that vote failed in April, Democrats were supposedly going to make 'raising the minimum wage the main weapon in their 2014 electoral arsenal' by 'bringing the bill up for a vote again and again throughout the summer and fall.' It was a good idea -- one I've been urging for years -- but I never thought they'd act on it. And they didn't.... Instead of repeatedly forcing votes on incredibly popular policies that Republicans oppose, they hold one vote, then snicker as Republicans hold dozens of votes on repealing Obamacare. And, as a result, the national political debate for the past several years has been much more about repealing Obamacare than about raising the minimum wage." Via Waldman.

... Greg Sargent: Why can't the Democratic party attract poor & older white Americans? Because Democrats really aren't doing much for these voters, who are rightly pessimistic about getting their share of the pie. CW Note to Congressional Democrats: promising every two years to "save Social Security" is not a convincing comprehensive program to help these left-behinds.

Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "More than five years after the single-payer system was scrapped from ObamaCare policy debates, just over 50 percent of people say they still support the idea, including one-quarter of Republicans, according to a new poll. The single-payer option -- also known as Medicare for all -- would create a new, government-run insurance program to replace private coverage. The system, once backed by President Obama, became one of the biggest casualties of the divisive healthcare debates of 2009."

Right now, the top 1 percent in this country, the millionaires and billionaires the president demagogues so much, earn a higher share of our national income than any time since 1928. -- Sen. Ted Cruz (RTP-Texas), a year ago ...

... Steve Benen notices that Republicans accuse President Obama of engaging in "class warfare" when he proposes ideas to reduce income inequality, but when Republicans decry income inequality, as they are wont to do of late, it's apparently A-Okay.

Andy Borowitz: "A new Oxfam report indicating that the wealthiest one per cent possesses about half of the world's wealth has left the richest people in the world 'reeling with disappointment,' a leading billionaire said on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum, the hedge-fund owner Harland Dorrinson said, 'I think I speak for a lot of my fellow billionaires when I say I thought we were doing a good deal better than that.'"

Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "Years before the release in December of a Senate Intelligence Committee report detailing the C.I.A.'s use of torture and deceit in its detention program, an internal review[, known as the Panetta Review,] by the agency found that the C.I.A. had repeatedly overstated the value of intelligence gained during the brutal interrogations of some of its detainees.... New details of the Panetta Review ... came as Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the new chairman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote to President Obama with an odd request: He wants the committee's report back. Mr. Burr sent a letter last week to the White House saying that his Democratic predecessor, Senator Dianne Feinstein, should never have transmitted the entire 6,700-page report to numerous departments and agencies within the executive branch...."

Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "Surveillance cameras at Vice President Biden's private Delaware residence failed to capture images of the gunman who fired shots near the house on Saturday night, leaving authorities with no leads or suspects.... The security system at the house has had a long track record of problems and false alarms, said several people familiar with the problem. It was so unreliable at times last year, occasionally giving incorrect data, that the Secret Service turned it off for several months -- warning agents at the time that cameras and alarms would be shut down indefinitely. The system was quickly repaired in November, after The Post first inquired about the problems."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Greg Wallace & Brian Stelter of CNN: "Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo told CNN Tuesday she intends to sue Fox News in the wake of the channel's coverage of supposed 'no-go zones' for non-Muslims. Hidalgo said the channel had 'insulted' her city." ...

... Doreen Carvajal of the New York Times on "Le Petit Journal"'s mockery of Fox "News." ...

... See also today's Presidential Race below.

Doktor Zoom of Wonkette: "Bland centrist Ron Fornier, who seems to aspire to be David Broder without all the edginess, has graced us with some standards for judging Barack Obama's State of the Union address tonight. Needless to say, he thinks the Republican takeover of the Senate presents America with a beautiful opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to 'begin governing together' like good boys and girls -- if only Obama doesn't poison everything by trying to enact his agenda." Read on, especially the exchange between Fournier & Jamelle Bouie where Fournier (who is white) accuses Bouie (who is black) of being a racist. ...

... Charles Pierce: "Fournier ... writes about this president like a man with an odd kind of Tourette's, a medical condition that causes him to uncontrollably blurt out banalities like 'Leadership!,' or 'Bipartisan!'... The idea that 'progress' and 'partisan gains' are mutually exclusive is the most obvious tell of the Beltway hack. Throughout history, 'partisan gains' have been both good and bad for the country. Every party has had 'gains' that led to 'progress.' This mindless word-like utterance is true only if you long for the days in which Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans 'worked together' to deregulate the derivatives market, and to whack around some poor people. I don't." ...

... Steve M.: "It's not clear exactly what Fournier wants, but it's obvious that he thinks we're not supposed to look at inequities in wealth and taxation over the last several decades as we raise taxes to the level that will satisfy Fournier -- now the new burden is supposed to fall on everyone equally, even though the old burden didn't and still doesn't." ...

... If you're interested in reading Fournier in the original -- though I don't know why you would be -- here he is. It is, as Hamilton Nolan of Gawker describes it, "An Idiot's Guide to the State of the Union. This is not one of those general explainers to an upcoming event cheekily labeled 'Idiot's Guide.' This is, rather, a guide to Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, written by an idiot."

Scott Bomboy of the National Constitution Center: "A unanimous Supreme Court said on Tuesday that Arkansas can't dictate the length of a beard maintained by a Muslim prisoner, after he made his own case initially to the Court using a handwritten form."

Life Lessons for Geriatric, Reality-Deprived Supremes. Public Defender Seth Morris in Salon: "In December, in the midst of nationwide protests drawing attention to the broken relationship between the police and communities of color, the Supreme Court demonstrated an impressive disconnect with reality. It issued a decision in Heien v. North Carolina that tears at the fragile police-minority relationship, and will further erode confidence in government and law enforcement.... In Heien, a police officer pulled over a man for not having more than one functioning brake light when it turns out the law only requires one. The man then consented to a search and was found to be in possession of cocaine. The Supreme Court said the detention, which requires reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, did not violate the Fourth Amendment because the officer's mistake was a reasonable mistake of law.... This decision shows how poorly the Court understands the daily interactions of citizens and the police. The Supreme Court seems to still think that the police use the vehicle code solely to keep the roads safe. They don't. They also use the vehicle code to prey on poor people." (Emphasis added.)

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to making up shit. -- George Santayahoo ...

,,, Brendan James of TPM: "Speaker 'Wild Bill' Finley received big applause at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition convention on Sunday as he preached that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been a tea party member if he were alive today. Finley told the crowd the left has 'hijacked' King's dream and that racism would have died out long ago if it wasn't 'manufactured' by liberals.... He said that MLK, who worked closely with socialist and anti-capitalist civil rights activists throughout his career, would not abide the left's 'political agenda.' Finley said that if King were alive today the left would 'spit in his face.'" ...

... CW: Yes, it seems like only yesterday when Bernie Sanders said he didn't want to make blah people's lives better by giving them white people's money. I well remember when Al Franken said the White Citzen's Councils were a force for good. And how how about that Elizabeth Warren explaining "too big to jail" to David Duke's white supremacist buddies? Yeah, racism is a totally left-wing phenomenon.

Evan DeFilippis & Devin Hughes, in a Politico Magazine opinion piece: Homesowners' shooting innocent people "are the byproduct of a tragic myth: that millions of gun owners successfully use their firearms to defend themselves and their families from criminals. Despite having nearly no academic support in public health literature, this myth is the single largest motivation behind gun ownership. It traces its origin to a two-decade-old series of surveys that, despite being thoroughly repudiated at the time, persists in influencing personal safety decisions and public policy throughout the United States."

Presidential Race

Michael Falcone of ABC News: "'Yes, there is a chance,' he would challenge Clinton, Biden told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in an interview on 'Good Morning America' today. 'But I haven't made my mind up about that. We've got a lot of work to do between now and then. There's plenty of time.'"

Bobby Knows Best. Julia O'Donoghue of the Times-Picayune: "Gov. Bobby Jindal continued to claim Muslim 'no-go zones' exist in Europe Monday, even as British political leaders and American media outlets issued statements repudiating such statements. 'I think your viewers know absolutely there are places where the police are less likely to go. They absolutely know there are neighborhoods where they wouldn't feel comfortable,' Jindal told CNN in London Monday." Hey, he read it in the Right Wing News. It must be truthy. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "There are a couple of things that make this incident an abomination, even by Jindal's standards. For one thing, his staff put out an advance copy of his speech last week.... Bobby had plenty of time to amend his remarks to steer clear of the controversy, but instead decided to surf it for attention.... Then there's the fact that the context of this Yahoo Abroad ploy was that great and abiding scam, the Gubernatorial Trade Mission, whereby state chief executives, especially those thinking about a presidential run, pretend they can rustle up business for the home folks by jetting across the seas to hobnob with foreign 'job creators.'..." CW: On the taxpayers' nickel, I would add. ...

... CW: Maybe PM David Cameron should sue Muslim "expert" Bobby Jindal. ...

... digby: "I don't know if he's misinformed or lying but this is the kind of lunacy that we are going to be seeing more of. It's obvious that terrorism fear-mongering is back on the menu.... There are no 'no-go' zones where officials have just given up sovereignty and where the laws and rules of the state don't apply. But you have to love the chutzpah of this moron prefacing all his lies and misstatements by saying he 'dealing with reality and facts'. These are 'reality and facts' that even Fox News has disowned and apologized for.... @AndyWitney noted the fact that we have some Americans who believe in 'no-go zones' right here at home. Cliven Bundy comes to mind ... he and his friends fought off federal agents with firearms. But that's completely different, of course. Because Muslims." ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. "MSNBC is distancing itself from a guest who asserted on Monday that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal 'might be trying to scrub some of the brown off his skin.' Arsalan Iftikhar, a human rights attorney and commentator, made the racially-tinged remark on MSNBC's 'Now with Alex Wagner.' It immediately prompted criticism. An MSNBC spokeswoman told CNN on Tuesday morning that Iftikhar won't be appearing on the channel again.... On Monday night, [Iftikhar] told CNN, 'I will apologize to Bobby Jindal when he apologizes to seven million American Muslims for advancing the debunked 'Muslim no-go zones' myth.'"

Paul Waldman: Mike "Huckabee is going to be the candidate of cultural resentment. He wants to be the spokesperson for those who feel that they're looked down upon by the elites.... There is without question a sizeable market within the Republican Party for this kind of appeal. The problem is that it isn't large enough to get you the presidential nomination." Waldman also discusses & embeds Jon Stewart's interview of Hucklebee. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "I thought Sarah Palin was the unequaled and all-time champion of conservative self-pity. But Huck's really giving her a run for her money. And he's almost certainly running for president. I do hope MSM types who still think Huck's this nice funny bass-playing 'populist' are exposed to this amazingly malicious book, which pretty much (unless the parts I've read are not representative) tells conservative Christians they'd better seize power or get ready for crucifixion."

God News, Wednesday Edition

Philip Pullella of Reuters: Catholics should not feel they have to breed 'like rabbits' because of the Church's ban on contraception, Pope Francis said on Monday, suggesting approved natural family planning methods. Francis used the unusually frank language during an hour-long news conference on the plane from Manila to Rome at the end of his week-long Asia trip." ...

... CW: I don't see these comments as exactly groundbreaking; I think Francis is saying, "Use the rhythm method. Don't use the pill." I would question how "natural" the rhythm method is: isn't it "natural" for a woman & her partner to want to have sex when she is fertile? I think so, & if I'm not mistaken, there are quite a few studies that have found women feel sexier when they are ovulating -- something that comes, you know, naturally. ...

... Never Mind. AFP: "Pope Francis on Wednesday described large families as a 'gift from God', just days after he said Catholics did not need to 'breed like rabbits'. In an apparent attempt to put the controversial comments he made on his way back from a visit to the Philippines into context, the Argentinian argued that the global economic system is the primary cause of poverty, rather than overpopulation."

Beyond the Beltway

Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York on Tuesday proposed the construction of an elevated AirTrain to La Guardia. It would be the first rail link to an airfield long lamented for its transit-starved location in Queens.... It is an ambitious, Robert Moses-style proposal from a governor determined to leave an imprint in his second term, although major elements remained to be worked out. When the train would start operating, for one, is far from certain.... Mr. Cuomo was also vague about how to pay for the train.... Proposals for a train to La Guardia have circulated in transportation circles for decades."

Al Baker & David Goodman of the New York Times: "Patrick J. Lynch, the president of New York City’s largest police union, who has openly clashed with the mayor in recent weeks, is facing a rare challenge to his leadership from a group within the union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. A slate of candidates, led by veteran union trustees, announced on Tuesday that they will run against Mr. Lynch in elections later this year, with Brian Fusco, a 27-year-veteran officer from Brooklyn, their pick for union president."

Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York on Tuesday proposed the construction of an elevated AirTrain to La Guardia. It would be the first rail link to an airfield long lamented for its transit-starved location in Queens."

Today in Responsible Gun Ownership. Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "A 9-month-old boy was shot and killed by his 5-year-old brother in a Missouri home on Monday, police said. The boy found his grandfather's .22-caliber magnum revolver that was being kept on a shelf built into the headboard in the master bedroom, Nodaway County Sheriff Darren White told The Washington Post. The baby was in a crib in the same room when the gun went off, and a bullet struck him in the head."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Intercepted conversations between representatives of the Iranian and Argentine governments point to a long pattern of secret negotiations to reach a deal in which Argentina would receive oil in exchange for shielding Iranian officials from charges that they orchestrated the bombing of a Jewish community center in 1994. The transcripts were made public by an Argentine judge on Tuesday night, as part of a 289-page criminal complaint written by Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor investigating the attack.

Politico: "The Navy fired the commanding officer of Naval Base Guantanamo Bay on Wednesday amid reports he's under investigation for being involved in an alleged extramarital affair -- and following the death of the husband of the woman the base commander was reportedly involved with."

AP: "French anti-terror prosecutors sought Tuesday to charge four men in connection with the attacks in Paris that left 20 people dead, which would be the first suspects charged in the country's bloodiest terrorist attacks in decades."