The Ledes

Thursday, July 24, 2014.

Bloomberg News: "Jobless claims fell by 19,000 to 284,000 in the week ended July 19, the fewest since February 2006 and lower than any economist surveyed by Bloomberg forecast...."

Guardian: "A flight operated by Air Algérie carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early on Thursday, the plane's owner said."

The Guardian is liveblogging developments in the Gaza crisis. More than 700 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, many of them children.

Reuters: "A powerful Ukrainian rebel leader has confirmed that pro-Russian separatists had an anti-aircraft missile of the type Washington says was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and it could have originated in Russia. In an interview with Reuters, Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, acknowledged for the first time since the airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday that the rebels did possess the BUK missile system and said it could have been sent back subsequently to remove proof of its presence."

Los Angeles Times: "The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday night lifted its ban on U.S. flights to and from Tel Aviv."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, July 23, 2014.

New York Times: "The United Nations Human Rights Council voted to establish an inquiry into human rights violations in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories at a special session on Wednesday in which the top human rights official, Navi Pillay, said Israel and Hamas had likely committed war crimes with indiscriminate attacks on civilians." ...

... New York Times: "As the death toll mounts and passions spike, the Foreign Press Association in Israel condemned on Wednesday what it called 'deliberate official and unofficial incitement against journalists' who are reporting on the fighting in Gaza. That includes 'forcible attempts to prevent journalists and TV crews from carrying out their news assignments,' the association said."

... New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to Israel on Wednesday, as he pressed his effort to forge a cease-fire to bring a halt to the bitter fighting in the Gaza Strip. Mr. Kerry’s plane touched down at Ben-Gurion International Airport just a day after the United States Federal Aviation Administration suspended American civilian flights to Israel." ...

... Guardian: "International airlines halted flights to and from Israel indefinitely on Tuesday citing security concerns in an unexpected twist to the two-week-old conflict in Gaza." ...

     ... CW: Guess that puts something of a damper on the Summer Vacation Insurance Theory of War. ...

... Washington Post: "As Israel pummels Hamas’s infrastructure inside Gaza, it is also trying to prevent attacks originating from the West Bank and Israel — by obliterating the houses of the relatives of Palestinians who allegedly have harmed Israelis. In doing so, Israel’s military has returned to a controversial policy of punitive demolitions that has displaced thousands of Palestinians over the years."

Washington Post: "Two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down Wednesday over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in the same vicinity as a Malaysian airliner that was downed last week, Ukrainian officials said." ...

... Time: "U.S. intelligence resources tracked the 'specific missile' that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a senior Administration official said Tuesday, saying intelligence adds up to a picture that 'implicates Russia' in helping to bring down the plane." ...

... Washington Post: "The Obama administration, detailing what it called evidence of Russian complicity in the downing of a Malaysian airliner, on Tuesday released satellite images and other sensitive intelligence that officials say show Moscow had trained and equipped rebels in Ukraine responsible for the attack."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, May 29:"The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was  eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday."

White House Live Video
July 23

2:00 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the NAACP national convention in Las Vegas, Nevada (audio only)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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

 

Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

Heller McAlpin reviews Marja Mills' book The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir of the writer's friendship with Harper Lee & her sister Alice Finch Lee, for the Washington Post.

According to this Daily Beast headline, the "World Awaits LeBron James' Decision." CW: Even though I so often do the sports report, it turns out I am not of this world.

Smart Girls Don't Swear. Vanity Fair "cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed" some of the Nixon tapes, "many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable." The post excerpts a few: Nixon on gays, Jews, swearing.

New York Times: Hillary Clinton's "memoir, 'Hard Choices,' has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein. It is a powerful statement about today’s publishing realities that Mr. Klein’s book, a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages, including one about a physical altercation between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama, has landed atop the New York Times best-seller list, knocking 'Hard Choices' to No. 2." ...

... If by chance you believe the major media are the exclusive haunts of "elite leftists," here's evidence it ain't so. Klein, the Times story notes, is "a former editor at Newsweek  and The New York Times Magazine."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast interviews Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times. Abramson still doesn't know what "management skills" means. Kinda makes you think maybe she doesn't have any.

Tim Egan: American children are too sheltered. The world isn't as scary as we think it is.

... Thanks to Bonita for the link. CW: I except you actually could purchase the materials at Hobby Lobby you'd need to make an IUD. However, Dr. Weader strongly advises against this do-it-yourself project.

New York Times: "The New Yorker is overhauling its website, making all articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers."

The New York Times Magazine publishes excerpts from a few of Warren Harding's love letters to Carrie Phillips. Also, he was a worse poet than he was a president. And Phillips was unfaithful to Harding; then she blackmailed him. Maybe it was because she was so turned off by all those letters where he personified his penis as "Jerry."

Guardian: A Princeton archaeologist has found what may be the world's oldest extant erotic graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia in the Aegean sea. Also, it is so gay.

Wherever in the U.S. you may live, if you missed your local news last night, we have it here. In fact, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, here's what will be on your local news tonight. Thanks to Bonita for the link:

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Tuesday
Jul152014

The Commentariat -- July 16, 2014

Jonathan Stempel & Jon Herskovitz of Reuters: "A federal appeals court upheld the use of race by University of Texas at Austin in undergraduate admissions, a victory for affirmative action proponents, one year after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered closer scrutiny of the school's practices. By a 2-1 vote, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday said the state's flagship university had justified its limited use of race to achieve diversity, given a lack of workable alternatives.... Opponents pledged to appeal, which could give the Supreme Court a chance to again review the case in its next term. In June 2013, the Supreme Court did not directly rule on the program's constitutionality but ordered the 5th Circuit ... to scrutinize it more closely."

Do-Nothing House Does as Little as Possible. Fawn Johnson & Billy House of the National Journal: "Nearly as many House Republicans as Democrats voted on Tuesday to pass a bill to keep federal highway projects temporarily running into the next Congress, despite pressure from two influential outside conservative groups to oppose the measure. Approved in an overwhelming 367 to 55 vote, the bill would provide $10.8 billion more for the federal Highway Trust Fund. The bill is likely to become law only because the Senate and the White House are out of other options. No one is particularly happy about it. It doesn't solve any long-term problems, and in less than a year it will put lawmakers right back where they have been."

Burgess Everett of Politico: Harry Reid "will oppose a proposal from [Sen. John] Cornyn (R-Texas) and [Rep. Henry] Cuellar (D-Texas) to treat unaccompanied minors from Central America the same as those from Mexico and expedite immigration hearings for children with asylum claims or children who may have been victims of human trafficking.... Reid clearly believes that President Barack Obama's supplemental request of $3.7 billion for border funding is superior to Cuellar and Cornyn's border plan -- and he said the White House has sufficient authority to make policy changes to adjust the flow of migrants through the border through the executive office."

Jason Buch of the Houston Chronicle: Jose Antonio Vargas, "the Pulitzer-winner turned activist detained at the McAllen airport this morning, has been released.... After about eight hours in custody, agents released Vargas, according to a spokesperson for his Define American advocacy group.... Vargas made public he did not have permission to be in the country in 2011 and has since advocated for immigration reform. Last week, he reported in Politico Magazine that he had traveled to McAllen to write about the plight of the tens of thousands of families and unaccompanied children crossing the border into South Texas."

Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level. Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they've got some pie chart or graph behind them and they're talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that.... We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman's level and what everything that she is balancing in her life -- that's the way to go. -- Rep. Rene Ellmers (RTP-N.C.) at a meeting of women in the conservative House Republican Study Committee to discuss ways to "message" to "female" voters ...

... Dave Weigel: "Reading that, I thought of this week's Republican message, read by Senate candidate Joni Ernst..., and how she focused on the promise of the Balanced Budget Amendment (a dead idea that polls well) because government should run its affairs like 'you' run the household. No pesky charts there!" ...

... CW: C'mon, Dave, Ellmers is onto something. I now realize the reason I can't understand Louie Gohmert is that he speaks on a higher level that is way above what my weak, female mind can grasp. Hell, I'd probably have voted for Marco I-Am-Not-a-Scientist Rubio if I'd only been smart enough to comprehend his higher-level message. Republican men really need to learn to talk down to us nitwits when they explain why they must make decisions for us. ...

... Ha Ha Ha. Steve Benen has an update. Ellmers issued a statement claiming "... the quote in question was taken completely out of context.... Some writers are cherry-picking words and using predetermined agendas to attack Republicans...." In the statement, she calls the reporter who wrote the story "a liberal woman reporter." Benen writes, "I'm not sure how a multi-paragraph, multi-sentence quote can be taken 'completely' out of context. It's also unclear how this can be fairly labeled 'cherry-picking words.'" CW: I'd add that the "liberal woman reporter" with her "predetermined agenda to attack Republicans" is Ashe Schow, who writes for the right-wing Washington Examiner. Schow, according to Jackie Kucinich of the Washington Post, is "a former editor and writer for the Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action for America (not exactly bastions of liberalism)." Just remember, being a Republican means never having to take responsibility for your own words. ...

... Update: Schow has published (& provided audio of) Ellmers' full remarks. The "context" was this: women are too dumb to understand big concepts like "trillions of dollars" or complicated pie charts because -- unlike men who talk "on a higher level" -- women can only understand things in simplistic terms that relate to their own family's day-to-day experiences.

Laura Bassett of the Huffington Post: "The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday on a rare bill in support of abortion rights that would block states from passing laws that chip away at women's access to abortion services. Sen. Richard Blumenthal's (D-Conn.) bill, the Women's Health Protection Act, prohibits restrictions on abortion 'that are more burdensome than those imposed on medically comparable procedures.'" The legislation would nullify mandatory waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds and counseling before abortion;... and other state laws that abortion-rights supporters believe are designed to make it impossible for women to access a safe and legal medical procedure." ...

... Carrie Beusman of Jezebel: "... there's basically no chance that the bill will pass the GOP-controlled House -- however..., it serves the valuable purpose of asking Republicans to explain the disingenuous, unsupported reasoning behind the scores of excessive regulations they've imposed in the past few years. As Blumenthal notes, this may effectively remove the 'patina of respectability' from the whole ridiculous charade." ...

... The folks a Fox "News" are please to note that this bill will doom Democrats as mass murderers. Charles Pierce has a go at one Fox "News" essay on the subject.

The monopolist gets to use its monopoly power to insist on a contract effectively depriving its victims of all legal recourse. And here is the nutshell version of today's opinion, admirably flaunted rather than camouflaged: Too darn bad. -- Justice Elena Kagan, dissent in American Express v. Italian Colors, 2013 ...

... Lina Khan, in the Washington Monthly, provides a history lesson on how the Supreme Court has taken away Americans' fundamental right to seek legal redress against corporations. The only way to reverse the Supremes' radical decisions is for Congress to act to restore the rights, which won't happen "given the level of opposition from the Chamber of Commerce and other business interests." Via Charles Pierce. ...

     ... CW: This series of cases shows that for the winger Supremes, ideology trumps even their own personal interests. AT&T is just as happy to cheat Sam Alito as it was to defraud the Concepcions (AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion). But Alito the other four ConservoSupremes still ruled that companies could ban class action suits in the fine print of their "contracts" with consumers. Maybe Mrs. Sam could explain to Justice Sam from down there at the woman's level that their monthly bills are so high because the phone company, et al., ignore her complaints.

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Maureen Dowd thinks President Obama should quit traveling the country & send a hologram of himself instead. Or something.

Dick Cheney Keeps Boosting Democratics. Hayes Brown of Think Progress: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on CNN on Tuesday, once more claiming that the Iraq his administration left behind was a 'very stable' one. In actuality, on the waning days of the Bush administration, Iraq was still a highly violent place, with car bombs exploding and government officials targeted."

Todd Akin Tag-teams the Big Dick. Aviva Shen of Think Progress: "Failed Senate candidate Todd Akin (R-MO) has recently re-emerged in the public sphere to defend his claim in 2012 that women who were victims of 'legitimate rape' could not get pregnant. In a phone interview with St. Louis Dispatch, the former congressman compared himself sympathetically to Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI), who spearheaded an infamous Communist witch hunt in the 1950s. Akin argued that McCarthy was another victim 'assassinated by the media.'"

Jennifer Epstein & Lauren French of Politico: "David Simas, the director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, will not comply with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's subpoena for him to testify, counsel Neil Eggleston said in a letter Tuesday to panel Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).... Issa rejected the White House's assertion of immunity, citing a 2008 federal court case that found that senior advisors to presidents are 'not absolutely immune from congressional process.'"

Rebecca Ruiz & Danielle Ivor of the New York Times find via FOIA requests, that GM hid internal evidence & opinions that ignition switch defects had caused fatal accidents.

You might find yourself more tolerant of the TSA after you read this piece by Nina Strochlic of the Daily Beast: "About a year ago, the [TSA]'s social media team ... launched an Instagram feed. Over its run so far, the filtered, captioned, and heavily hashtagged feed has morphed into an incredible trove of photos documenting the most absurd things people try to bring on planes.... TSA airport inspectors have found cannonballs and eels and rocket launchers." Strochlic includes a few photos.

Senate Races

Ed Kilgore on recent Senate polls: "Stu Rothenberg of Roll Call, who has been known to put the occasional thumb on the scales for the GOP, has a new assessment that concludes party control of the Senate remains 'up in the air.' The Cook Political Report still rates eight races as toss-ups. FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten, while calling Democrats' position 'perilous,' still notes that current polling would suggest Democrats holding onto 51 seats. There's new Marist polling out of Michigan and Colorado providing Democrats good news in those states, and the close and nasty GOP runoff in Georgia is doing nothing to lower Michelle Nunn's prospects.... It's entirely possible the current GOP triumphalism over the Senate is fundamentally no different from the effort by conservative media to spin Mitt Romney right into the White House in 2012."

Governor's Race

Manu Raju of Politico: "In a rare and surprising act of political defiance on Tuesday, more than 100 [Kansas] Republicans, including current and former officeholders, endorsed [Gov. Sam] Brownback's opponent, statehouse Democratic leader Paul Davis. Polls show the challenger with a surprisingly strong shot at taking out Brownback in November.

Presidential Election

Noah Bierman of the Boston Globe: "A group trying to draft Senator Elizabeth Warren to run for president in 2016 launched a website Tuesday, with plans to use a national gathering of influential liberal activists later this week to gain more publicity and recruit additional members.... Warren's spokeswoman, Lacey Rose, said that the Massachusetts Democrat is not working with the group, ready4warren.com, nor endorsing its plans."

Beyond the Beltway

Pat Reavy & Dennis Romboy of the Deseret News: "Former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow [R] and Mark Shurtleff [R] were arrested and charged Tuesday on allegations ranging from accepting bribes to destroying evidence.... The state's former top law enforcement officials were charged in 3rd District Court with pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony; and three counts of receiving or soliciting bribes by a public official, a second-degree felony. In addition, Shurtleff was charged with two counts of illegally accepting gifts or loans, a second-degree felony; accepting employment that would impair judgment, a second-degree felony; witness tampering, a third-degree felony; tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; and obstruction of justice, a third-degree felony."

Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper will submit signatures Tuesday to put what could be one of the most dramatic startups ever on the ballot - a plan to divide California into six states.... A Field Poll in February showed 59 percent of Californians surveyed opposed the idea. Even if Draper can turn that around, there would be another major hurdle: The U.S. Constitution requires the approval of both Congress and the state Legislature, which is now firmly controlled by Democrats."

News Ledes

CNN: "The Texas actress who admitted sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was sentenced to 18 years in prison Wednesday, the U.S. attorney's office said. Shannon Guess Richardson, 36, also was ordered to pay $367,000 in restitution."

Washington Post: "On a day rattled by a fury of air attacks, Israel and Hamas found themselves Wednesday searching for a way forward, with a senior Israeli military official declaring that a ground invasion of Gaza was a 'very high possibility.'" ...

... New York: "Israel Says It Might Invade the Gaza Strip to Save Its Summer Vacation."

New York Times: "The media giant 21st Century Fox, the empire run by Rupert Murdoch, made an $80 billion takeover bid in recent weeks for Time Warner Inc. but was rebuffed."

Monday
Jul142014

The Commentariat -- July 15, 2014

Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "President Barack Obama is facing a clash with Democrats in Congress over proposals to water down a law intended to combat human trafficking in order to speed up the repatriation of unaccompanied children crossing the US southern border from Central America." ...

... Just What You'd Expect. Cristina Marcos & Peter Schroeder of the Hill: "Fresh off a trip to Guatemala and Honduras, a House GOP working group on immigration will recommend Tuesday that the conference change a 2008 trafficking law to stop the thousands of immigrant children flooding across the border. Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the working group's leader, will argue that child immigrants from Central America should be subject to the same rules as those from Mexico. A source close to Granger said the group will also advise that National Guard troops be sent to the border, a longstanding demand from Republicans." ...

     ... Danny Vinik: The "crisis is real and requires immediate action from Congress, but it has nothing to do with border security." ...

... Justin Sink of the Hill: "The White House said Monday it was 'likely' that immigrant children facing mortal danger in their home countries would be allowed to stay in the United States."...

     ... CW: Huh. Apparently those "facing mortal danger" didn't include those deported to the "gang-ridden Honduran city" of San Pedro Susa. (See Monday's Ledes.) As Gonzalez & Ortega report in the Arizona Republic story linked below,

Over three days in May, gang members in another Honduran city, San Pedro Sula, murdered five children ages 5 to 13. 'They cut their bodies into quarters as a warning to others because the children didn't want to distribute drugs in their neighborhood. -- Father German Calix, director of a Catholic relief agency

... Sam Stein of the Huffington Post has more on the White House's position re: deportation of children in danger. ...

... Saul Elbein has a piece in the New Republic on what life is like in Guatemala, which he likens to the feudal system depicted in the HBO fictional series Game of Thrones. (CW: I found Elbein's piece sort of confusing, but then so is Guatemala.) ...

... Daniel Gonzalez & Bob Ortega of the Arizona Republic have an excellent, in-depth piece on the children who are migrating from Central American countries ("Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala ...rank among the top five countries with the highest murder rates in the world") to the U.S. ...

... AND Then There's This. Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones: Immigration "courts have been overwhelmed by the influx of kids coming to the United States without parents or other relatives. But they were overwhelmed even before the children started showing up, in large part because of Republicans' unwillingness to fund and staff them like other federal courts." Read the whole story; former/disgraced AG Alberto Gonzales rates more than a cameo appearance. ...

... Brian Beutler exposes Republicans' hypocrisy on President Obama's nearly $4BB request to alleviate the border crisis.

Ana Marie Cox of the Guardian: "Late last week, the Reason Foundation released the results of a poll about ... the millennials; its signature finding was the confirmation of a mass abandonment of social conservatism and the GOP. This comes at a time when the conservative movement is increasingly synonymous with mean-spirited, prank-like and combative activism and self-important grand gestures.... The conservative strategy of outrage upon outrage upon outrage bumps up against the policy preferences and the attitudes of millennials in perfect discord.... This next generation is not just inclusive, but conflict-adverse." ...

... ** BUT What the Kids Want May Not Matter. Digby has an excellent piece in Salon on the "real reason" for John Boehner's lawsuit against the President. Read it all. ...

     ... CW: I'd add this. George Will, whose demise I have prematurely reported, is at the center of the scheme. Will is well-connected to the conservative Supremes, & it was Will who suggested the challenge to the President's actions re: the ACA. Will may be just the mouthpiece for Scalia, et al., but Boehner surely picked up Will's signals. Retooling the balance of power in the way digby suggests may be these old boys' last hurrah, but it's a helluva hurrah.

Gene Robinson: "Apparently there's a contest among Republicans to see who can be more shameless and irresponsible in criticizing President Obama's foreign policy. So far, Chris Christie is winning.... If you disregard the rantings of unserious provocateurs such as Sarah Palin, Christie's attack represents a new low. He accuses the president of the United States of actually being responsible 'in some measure' for violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Sunnis and Shiites, dictators and rebels -- conflicts and antagonisms that began, I seem to recall, well before Obama took office in January 2009. One might assume that Christie offered specific ideas about what Obama should be doing differently. Nope.... Asked whether Obama should take some kind of military action in the region, Christie answered, 'I'm not going to give opinions on that. I'm not the president.'"

David Nather & Jeremy Herb of Politico: "If you had any doubts about how seriously some Republicans are taking the notion of a Rand Paul presidency, look at how far they’re going to shut down his views on foreign policy. In the past three days alone, Texas Gov. Rick Perry used a Washington Post op-ed to warn about the dangers of 'isolationism' .... Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) accused the Kentucky senator on CNN of wanting a 'withdrawal to fortress America.' And former Vice President Dick Cheney declared at a Politico Playbook luncheon on Monday that 'isolationism is crazy,' while his daughter, Liz Cheney, said Paul 'leaves something to be desired, in terms of national security policy.'"

Dick Cheney Still Helping Democrats. Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday defended the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq, calling it 'absolutely the right thing to do. I believed in it then, I look back on it now, it was absolutely the right thing to do,' the Wyoming Republican said with regard to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Cheney made his comments at a Politico Playbook lunch conversation with his wife, Lynne and daughter Liz at Washington's Mayflower Renaissance Hotel, a lively event that featured jokes, a standing-room-only crowd and a few interruptions -- protesters delayed the event twice, screaming at the former vice president for being a 'war criminal.'" ...

... Charles Pierce on the Cheney Family Reunion (minus "the Gay One") at the Mayflower Hotel: "... this was one of Mike Allen's little grift-o-rama special events -- a 'Playbook lunch,' sponsored by that noted mortgage fraud concern Bank Of America.... I know what Mike Allen is, but I am so goddamn tired of haggling about the price." Thanks to MAG for the link. See more on great journalism below.

Steve Holland of Reuters: "The White House asked the Republican chairman of a congressional committee [Darrell Issa] on Monday to lift a subpoena against President Barack Obama's political adviser [David Simas], who has been called to testify on Wednesday about his office's operations.... Simas is director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach. Recent presidents, both Democratic and Republican, have all had at least one top political adviser in a position similar to that of Simas."

Martin Crutsinger of the AP: "Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen will have some good news to tell Congress this week about the health of the labor market.... Yellen is scheduled to deliver the Fed's twice-a-year report to Congress on interest-rate policy and the economy. She testifies before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday and will follow that with testimony Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee." ...

... BUT Good News Is Bad News for Rick Santelli. Myles Udland of Business Insider: Tea party inspiration "Rick Santelli had a meltdown on CNBC today.... This debate is sparked by the New Yorker profile of Janet Yellen, as well as recent inflation data that indicate things in the economy could be heating up." Udland has an extended clip. The shorter version is below. ...

It's impossible for you to have been more wrong, Rick. Your call for inflation, the destruction of the dollar, the failure of the U.S. economy to rebound. Rick, it's impossible for you to have been more wrong. Every single bit of advice you gave would have lost people money, Rick.... There is no piece of advice that you've given that's worked, Rick. Not a single one.... The higher interest rates never came. The inability of the U.S. to sell bonds never happened. The dollar never crashed, Rick. There isn't a single one that's worked for you. -- CNBC Steve Liesman to Rick Santelli

The video is something to see:

... Ed Kilgore: It not just that [Santelli's] infamous 2009 'rant' is often credited with creating (or at least spurring) the Tea Party Movement; it's that he so vividly captured the attitude of contempt that 'winners' had for 'losers' in the midst of an economic catastrophe almost no one had any reason to anticipate.... Rick Santelli. What a loser."


Andrew Sorkin
of the New York Times: Sen. Joe Manchin's daughter Heather Bresch, the CEO of a "giant" generic drugs manufacturer, is moving her operations to the Netherlands to evade higher U.S. taxes. But she's very, very sorry she has to go, etc., etc.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, in the Washington Post, explains journalism to the unbalanced. ...

... CW: Here's a good example of non-reporting: Zeke Miller of Time interviews Bobby Jindal. Every damned thing Jindal said is somewhere between untrue & stupid, though usually it's both. Out-&-out garbage. Miller writes it down & Time publishes it.

Lauren Collins of the New Yorker: The scandal-sheet Daily Mail may have met its match in George Clooney.

Senate Races

M. J. Lee of Politico: West Virginia Rep. Shelly Moore Capito (R) -- Wall Street's BFF -- is poised to win the Senate seat Democrat Jay Rockefeller is vacating. Monday Elizabeth Warren went to West Virginia to campaign for underdog Democratic candidate Natalie Tennant, West Virginia's current secretary of state. ...

... Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) got a rock-star reception during a standing-room-only campaign rally [in Shepherdstown, West Virginia] Monday, as hundreds of liberal activists cheered her broadsides against corporate interests and voiced hopes that her presence might shift the political winds in an increasingly Republican state." ...

... Emily Schultheis of the National Journal: Elizabeth Warren is "proving that she can be a good Democratic soldier by helping the party where and when it needs her most, and she's proving that her appeal and the appeal of her populist message extends far beyond deep-blue Massachusetts.... Monday's West Virginia event was Warren's fourth stop for a 2014 Senate candidate; she'll campaign with her fifth 2014 candidate, Rep. Gary Peters, in Michigan on Friday.... Warren's ability to move easily from blue states to red states is proof she has 'become a serious player' on the national stage, said longtime Democratic consultant Bob Shrum."

News Ledes

New York Times: "A sport utility vehicle packed with explosives detonated in a market in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, bringing down shops and leaving the bloodied remains of men, women and children in the rubble. By late afternoon, at least 89 people were known to have been killed, the Defense Ministry said."

New York Times: "Israel accepted Egypt's proposal for a cessation of hostilities with Hamas and other militant Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning, but a fresh barrage of rockets from Gaza into southern Israel has left the fate of the cease-fire unclear. The Israeli announcement came via text message and without comment after Israel's top ministers, known as its security cabinet, met early Tuesday." ...

... AND THEN. AP: "Hamas rejected an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Israel on Tuesday, moments after the Israeli Cabinet accepted the plan, throwing into disarray international efforts to end a week of fighting that has killed 192 Palestinians and exposed millions of Israelis to Hamas rocket fire." ...

... AND THEN. Washington Post: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday threatened to escalate Israel's operations in Gaza after Hamas balked at an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire, saying it had not been consulted on its terms." ...

... AND THEN. New York Times: "The Israeli authorities said a Palestinian attack caused the first Israeli fatality in the eight-day-old military confrontation, in which Israeli bombings have killed nearly 200 Palestinians."

New York Times: "Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, faced with an imminent deadline for an agreement with the West on the future of the country's nuclear program, said in an interview on Monday that Iran could accept a deal that essentially freezes its capacity to produce nuclear fuel at current levels for several years, provided it is then treated like any other nation with a peaceful nuclear program."

BBC News: "A Ukrainian military transport aircraft has been shot down in the east, amid fighting with pro-Russian separatist rebels, Ukrainian officials say. They say the An-26 plane was hit at an altitude of 6,500m (21,325ft). The plane was targeted with 'a more powerful missile' than a shoulder-carried missile, 'probably fired' from Russia. The crew survived, reports say."

Sunday
Jul132014

The Commentariat -- July 14, 2014

Billy House of the National Journal: "The House and Senate this week will take up several long-awaited legislative items, though they will do so amid the circus atmosphere surrounding the House GOP's buildup to a vote later this month on suing President Obama over his executive actions." ...

... Justin Sink of the Hill: "President Obama and other top administration officials will pressure Congress to strike a deal on the Highway Trust Fund in a series of events this week, looking to coerce a deal before the financing for road, bridge, and mass-transit projects is exhausted next month. The president will speak twice on the importance of funding infrastructure...."

Michael Corkery of the New York Times: "Citigroup and the Justice Department have agreed to a $7 billion deal that will settle a federal investigation into the mortgage securities the bank sold in the run-up to the financial crisis. The settlement, announced on Monday morning, includes a $4 billion cash penalty to the Justice Department -- the largest payment of its kind -- as well as $2.5 billion in so-called soft dollars earmarked for aiding struggling consumers and $500 million to state attorneys general and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation."

Massimo Calabresi of Time: "... the Internal Revenue Service has decided it will no longer screen approximately 80% of the organizations seeking tax-exempt charitable status each year, a change that will ease the creation of small charities while doing away with a review intended to counter fraud and prevent political and other noncharitable groups from misusing the tax code.... IRS commissioner John Koskinen said the change would result in 'efficiencies [that] will translate into a faster and better review' of bigger nonprofits, while clearing a 66,000-application backlog that has resulted in yearlong waits for groups seeking to start a charity.

Pierre Thomas of ABC News interviews AG Eric Holder on a number of topics:

     ... Jaime Fuller of the Washington Post has a summary.

Caitlan MacNeal of TPM: On "Fox 'News' Sunday" Britt Hume grills Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) on Perry's proposal to line the border with National Guardsmen:

But the question I'm trying to get at with you is this: if these children, who have undergone these harrowing journeys to escape from the most desperate conditions in their home countries, have gotten this far, are they really going to be deterred by the presence of troops along the border who won't shoot them and can't arrest them? -- Hume to Perry

It's the visual of it.... -- Perry's best answer

... CW: Cruelly, digby likens Perry to (Commander) Neidermeyer there. Personally, I'm pretty sure Perry has already been whacked on the head by a golf ball & dragged across a field by a horse. Come to think of it, I suspect Perry is sporting those new specs because he had "a traumatic brain injury" which caused brain damage. (Where is Karl Rove when we need him to raise the issue?):

I find Governor Perry interesting in that Republicans keep saying, 'Well, we can't fix the immigration issue because we don't trust the President to enforce the law,' And then, when the president actually follows the law in 2002 and 2008, the very law that was signed by President Bush, they said, 'Well, he should do something different.' -- Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) on "Face the Nation" Sunday

... apparently his new glasses haven't altered his perception of the world, or allowed him to see it any more clearly. -- Rand Paul, in a Politico Magazine opinion piece ...

... Here Gov. Rick Send-in-the-Troops Perry & here Sen. Rand Paul knock each other's views on foreign policy. Paul has the better argument in his piece titled "Rick Perry Is Dead Wrong."

Danny Vinik of the New Republic has "definitive proof that Republicans don't care about the long-term unemployed": Speaker John Boehner rejected the Senate's unemployment extensions bill because it used a gimmick called "pension smoothing" to fake-pay for it (since Republicans demanded the funds not add to the deficit); now Boehner is praising the House-crafted bill to extend the Highway Trust Fund -- a bill that uses that same gimmick to fake-pay for it. ...

... And here's proof -- also in the New Republic -- that Republicans especially don't care about working women. Bryce Covert: "A simple solution [to gender pay inequality] may still be unfeasible, at least politically: the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has been introduced a handful of times, starting in 2009, but has always been blocked by Republicans. [Emphasis added.] It would, most importantly, prohibit employers from telling their workers they can't discuss pay with peers, tighten the rules for what counts as a legitimate reason for gender pay disparities, and increase the penalties for unfair pay." Women can't sue for equal pay if they don't know what their male peers are making. Covert suggests numerous other policies that also would help reduce the pay gap.

Allie Grasgreen of Politico: "The American Federation of Teachers approved a resolution [Sunday] afternoon calling for Education Secretary Arne Duncan to resign if he does not improve under a plan to be implemented by President Barack Obama. The 'improvement plan' would include the requirement that Duncan enact the funding and equity recommendations of the Equity Commission's 'Each and Every Child' report; change the No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top 'test-and-punish' accountability system to a 'support-and-improve' model; and 'promote rather than question' teachers and school staff.... The resolution comes on the heels of one earlier this month by members of the National Education Association calling for Duncan to step down."

George Packer of the New Yorker: The U.S. is leaving behind Iraqis who helped Americans during & after the Iraq War despite a Congressional mandate to grant them special visas. "... surely America has the capacity to save its Iraqi friends whose war never ended, before ISIS or the militias kill them first."

Laurel Calkins of Bloomberg News: The trial of Perez v. Perry, a fight over Texas redistricting, will begin in federal court in San Antonio today. "It will be the first voting rights trial since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year [in Shelby County v. Holder] that states with a history of racial discrimination no longer need federal approval to change their election rules.... If [the plaintiffs] succeed, Texas might be forced back under federal electoral oversight for as long as 10 years under a largely untested part of the Voting Rights Act left in place by the Supreme Court." ...

... Miriam Rozen of Salon on what she calls "the smoking gun emails" that make the plaintiffs' case.

Kathryn Pogin has an excellent op-ed in the New York Times on the hypocrisy of "Christian" organizations like Hobby Lobby & the University of Notre Dame that are using economic coercion to discriminate against women, a practice that she writes are at odds with Christian principles. "Hobby Lobby offered coverage for some of the contraceptives it now claims its religious faith forbids it to have any association with, until shortly after the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom asked it if it would be interested in filing suit. The company continues to profit from investments in the manufacturers of the 'objectionable' contraceptives through the 401(k) plan it offers its employees. Recently, Hobby Lobby has faced legal trouble for false advertising. It has built a fortune, in large part, by selling goods manufactured in China, infamous for its poor labor conditions and related human rights violations. These are the practices of a corporation that will emphasize the Christian faith of its owners when convenient and profitable, but set that faith aside when it would be costly to do otherwise."

If you are trying to run a whorehouse in the sky, get a license. -- Former Rep. Martha Griffiths (D-Mich.), ca. 1966, on the airlines' practice of limiting jobs for flight attendants to young, single women ...

Rep. Martha Griffiths (D-Mich.)... ** Louis Menand of the New Yorker on "the sex amendment": how "sex" got added to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

Paul Krugman: "The usual suspects will keep crying failure, but the truth is that health reform is -- gasp! -- working." ...

     ... CW: Krugman focuses on the fact that "an immense policy success is improving the lives of millions of Americans, but it's largely slipping under the radar." Here I'm in limited agreement with Chuck Todd, who said it was not the media's job to correct the GOP's lies about ObamaCare. Todd is wrong on that, of course, but it isn't up to the media to cheerlead the success of ObamaCare. The Obama administration needs to do that. And they're not. Their failure to tout the program's success hurts all Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, Republicans are still pushing repeal.

Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "Six weeks after being released from five years in Taliban captivity, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is expected to return to life as a regular Army soldier as early as Monday, Defense Department officials said late Sunday." ...

     ... CW: Excellent call. A guy who never should have been enlisted in the Army in the first place is being rushed back into active duty after years as a POW. SNAFU.

Artwork via New York magazine.Jonathan Chait wrote an excellent piece last week in which he documented "7 Ways Paul Ryan Revealed His Love for Ayn Rand." In it, he also demonstrates how "Ryan defenders on the center-right like Ross Douthat, who other public figures say or imply things they don't really mean. The New York Times' official Vatican emissary should revisit Matthew 7:16: "By their fruit you will recognize them."

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Elon James of Salon writes that New York Times opinion columnists really need editors. Exhibit A: David Brooks.

CW: The New Republic's top story today is headed with a screaming invitation to ignore it -- "Did We Just Watch the Last Great World Cup? by Franklin Foer. (1) Foer is TNR's editor. He decides what ledes, so his story is not necessarily the most important in today's online magazine. (2) Any headline framed in the form of a question promises you won't get much of an answer. I usually don't read 'em (& I certainly won't read this one). (3) Any story that relies on predicting the future -- especially the distant future (four years!) -- is most likely pure folly.

Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast: Some mysterious [semi-literate] person leaked the entire text of a new book/hit job on the Clintons by the Weekly Standard's online editor Daniel Harper. The book, Grove writes, "is juicy and gossipy, yet scrupulously researched, drawing on numerous on-the-record conversations (as well as many not-for-attribution interviews) with prominent Democrats and Clinton insiders, past and present."

The man is a shark. -- Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, on President Obama's pool game. Obama beat Hickenlooper -- twice -- at his own game in his own bar last week.

Presidential Election

Brent Johnson of the New Jersey Star-Ledger: "The WMUR Granite State Poll of residents in New Hampshire -- which hosts the nation's first presidential primary -- showed [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie leading all possible candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination for president. Christie drew 19 percent of the vote, followed by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky (14 percent) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (11).... But if [Mitt Romney] were to declare his candidacy, Romney would lead Christie 39 to 7 percent, according to today's poll." CW: In other words, those polled aren't too sold on Christie.

Mark Barabak of the Los Angeles Times: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is in Iowa "warming up" for the 2016 presidential campaign: "... he is running one of the most vigorous noncampaign campaigns of any 2016 possibility in either party -- raising money, stumping in early-voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, traveling abroad to boost his foreign policy credentials and honing a message that might be characterized, for brevity's sake, as compassionate competence."

Beyond the Beltway

WFTV Orlando: "Two Fruitland Park[, Florida] police officers are off the job following FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports that they were members of a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Deputy Police Chief David Borst resigned Thursday, and Cpl. George Hunnewell was fired Friday."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Both the Israeli government and leaders of Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, said late Monday that they would consider a plan for a cease-fire put forward by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry."

New York Times: "Nadine Gordimer, the South African writer whose literary ambitions led her into the heart of apartheid to create a body of fiction that brought her a Nobel Prize in 1991, died on Sunday in Johannesburg. She was 90."

Los Angeles Times: "A planeload of single mothers and children arrived in [the] gang-ridden Honduran city [of San Pedro Sula] on Monday, ferried back on a U.S.-chartered flight as an unprecedented surge of Central American migrants has overwhelmed U.S. border enforcement officials in recent months.... Their return to Honduras came at President Obama's direction, according to an official at the Department of Homeland Security, who requested anonymity...."

Saturday
Jul122014

The Commentariat -- July 13, 2014

Supermoon rises over Olvera, Spain, July 12, 2014. Reuters photo.

Everything Is Obama's Fault. Steve Peoples of the AP: "Partly blaming unrest in the Middle East on President Barack Obama, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Saturday that Obama has not spoken firmly and forcefully on Israel's behalf and that the country no longer trusts it has the full support of the United States because of him." CW: He added that Obama is also responsible for the Peloponnesian Wars, MSG in Chinese food & Bridgegate. ...

... Christie also said ObamaCare is "a failure on a whole number of levels" and should be repealed.

Maureen Dowd is still pissed off that Chelsea Clinton makes so much money: "With her 1 percenter mother under fire for disingenuously calling herself 'dead broke' when she left the White House, why would Chelsea want to open herself up to criticism that she is gobbling whopping paychecks not commensurate with her skills, experience or role in life?" ...

     ... CW: According to the report Dowd cites, by Amy Chozick of the Times, "... unlike her parents' talks, Ms. Clinton's speeches 'are on behalf of the Clinton Foundation, and 100 percent of the fees are remitted directly to the foundation,' said her spokesman, Kamyl Bazbaz, adding that 'the majority of Chelsea's speeches are unpaid.'" So I'm not sure why Dowd accuses Clinton of "wanton acquisitiveness."

Miranda Blue of Right Wing Watch: "In response to the influx of Central American children fleeing to the southern border of the U.S., the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer is repeating his belief that all national borders were determined by God and therefore anybody who crosses them without permission is directly offending the Creator." Via Steve Benen. CW: Apparently God wrote the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo & negotiated the Gadsden Purchase. It was a long, sloppy piece of work, I might add.

Here's the New York Times article, by Jason Horowitz, on Jewish Congressional Republicans, to which Citizen 625 refers in today's Comments.

Beyond the Beltway

I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. -- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), May 2014

Marco Rubio is an idiot. -- Mayor Philip Stoddard of South Miami, who is also a biology profressor ...

... ** Robin McKie of the Guardian: "Low-lying south Florida, at the front line of climate change in the US, will be swallowed as sea levels rise. Astonishingly, the population is growing, house prices are rising and building goes on. The problem is the city is run by climate change deniers." ...

... Let's See if Marco is a Good Catholic Boy. Tara Burton of the Atlantic: "In a talk at the Italian university of Molise, [Pope] Francis characterized concerns about the environment as 'one of the greatest challenges of our time' -- a challenge that is theological, as well as political, in nature. 'When I look at ... so many forests, all cut, that have become land ... that can [no] longer give life,' he reflected, citing South American forests in particular. 'This is our sin, exploiting the Earth.... This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation.' And the pontiff isn't stopping there; he's reportedly planning to issue an encyclical, or papal letter, about man's relationship with the environment." Via Steve Benen. CW: This is your sin, Marco. Get right with Jesus. You, too, John I-Am-Not-a-Scientist Boehner. Et al.

Michael Wines of the New York Times: "... Alabamians who vote in Tuesday's runoff election will be able to pack heat openly and with confidence in many of the state's polling places."

Hunter Schwartz of the Washington Post: "Eight state constitutions include restrictions on people who don't believe in a supreme being. However, the Supreme Court ruled in a 1961 case that a Maryland man appointed as a notary public didn't have to declare his belief in a supreme being to hold office, arguing it violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Since then, these restrictions haven't been enforced, said Dave Muscato, a spokesman for American Atheists."

News Ledes

Washington Post: In a 1-0 match, Germany bested Argentina at the end of a 23-minute extra time to win the World Cup.

Reuters: "Thousands fled their homes in a Gaza town on Sunday after Israel warned them to leave ahead of threatened attacks on rocket-launching sites, on the sixth day of an offensive that Palestinian officials said has killed at least 160 people."

Reuters: "Heavy fighting broke out between rival militias near the airport of the Libyan capital Tripoli on Sunday, residents and officials said, reporting explosions and gunfire that forced the suspension of all flights."