The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, February 11, 2016.

AP: "Sirhan Sirhan was denied parole Wednesday for fatally shooting Robert F. Kennedy after a confidante of the slain senator who was shot in the head forgave him and repeatedly apologized for not doing more to win his release. Paul Schrade's voice cracked with emotion during an hour of testimony on his efforts to untangle mysteries about the events of June 5, 1968. The 91-year-old former labor leader said he believed Sirhan shot him but that a second unidentified shooter felled Kennedy."

White House Live Video
February 11

1:00 pm ET: NOBEL Women presents Girls, Gigabytes & Gadgets

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

Washington Post: "Scientists announced Thursday that, after decades of effort, they have succeeded in detecting gravitational waves from the violent merging of two black holes in deep space. The detection was hailed as a triumph for a controversial, exquisitely crafted, billion-dollar physics experiment and as confirmation of a key prediction of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity."

New York Times: "... 21-year-old [Arthur Ashe] toppled the tournament’s top-seeded tennis player in a stunning upset on July 30, 1964. We published two photographs of Dennis Ralston, ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time, who walked off the court in defeat. But we didn’t run a single photograph of the winner.... On that day in 1964, he was ranked sixth in the nation and had yet to win a national title. ...

... The 1964 Times story is here. The page has blown up the above photo, worth viewing just to feast your eyes on that gorgeous young man. ...

... The Times is publishing previously unpublished photos of black historical figures & events every day this month. You can see those published to date here.

CW: Not sure if the movie is any good, but Ron Howard's intro is primo. Here's the trailer:

... The New York Times story, by Brooks Barnes, is here. "Kept a secret for months — no small task in Hollywood — 'Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie' was released to coincide with Mr. Trump’s victory on Tuesday in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary."

New York Times: The leader of a group of "aging thieves" who last year pulled off "the largest burglary in England’s history" may have been an ex-policeman. The others have been captured, but "Basil" is still at large & his identity is unknown to investigators. Surely there will be a movie.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Times: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

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Thursday
Feb042016

The Commentariat -- February 5, 2016

Whiteout. We're having quite a little winter wonderland moment today. If history provides any lesson, I may lose power. For a while. -- Constant Weader

Presidential Race

Michael Memoli of the Los Angeles Times: "A long-simmering battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders burst into public view Thursday, as the former secretary of State denounced her rival for what she said was a campaign of 'innuendo' and 'insinuation' amid a continuing fight over each other's progressive credentials. The first one-on-one debate between the Democratic presidential hopefuls delivered fireworks immediately, as Clinton delivered a spirited rebuke to the charge Sanders has been making on the campaign trail that she is not a genuine progressive." ...

... Here's the first half-hour of the debate, which might be titled "Democrats Yelling at Each Other":

... Eric Levitz of New York thought it was boffo: "One of the Best 10-Minute Exchanges in The History of American Political Debates." CW: That part of the debate, at the end of the clip above (beginning about 26 min. in), was fewer than ten minutes. ...

... Within his column Levitz notes what Jordan Weissman of Slate (and others) have pointed out: "Hillary Just Successfully Attacked Bernie Sanders for Supporting a Bill Her Husband Signed." Bill Clinton has later said his support of the bill -- "the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, a bill that essentially banned the government from regulating derivatives, such as the credit default swaps that helped bring down the global economy during the financial crisis" -- was a mistake.

... MSNBC has a highlights page here. Full debate video, of the pirated sort, is here, for now. ...

... The Washington Post has an interactive annotated transcript, which includes some snark & fact-checking. ...

... David Graham of the Atlantic has a good -- and I think fair -- overview of the debate. The "Who Won?" headline sucks, but Graham isn't very interested in pursuing it. He concludes, "Sanders entered with momentum and did nothing to lose it, meaning he probably gains more from the debate -- but it's hard to make a case that Clinton lost the debate. The big winner from the night might be the American people: After months of overcrowded debates, the chance to see just two serious presidential candidates engage each other was a valuable and refreshing change of pace." Graham's analysis is followed by a fairly useful liveblog of the debate by other Atlantic writers." ...

... Jonathan Chait thinks he has a handle on the essential difference between Clinton's & Sanders' views. CW: I think he's close, but he may be painting Sanders as too much of a one-note candidate while giving Clinton a bit too much credit for a sort of enlightened pluralism, and that may be Sanders' fault as much as Chait's. ...

... Greg Sargent expands on Chait's argument. ...

... Jamelle Bouie: "The big takeaway from the MSNBC debate is that the DNC should have held more debates.... "On the main, anyone who watched the debate had a chance to see two politicians and public servants argue for their vision of the country and its future. This was a real contrast to the Republican debates, which tend to focus less on policy and more on dominance displays (Trump versus Bush, for example) and outright aggression (Cruz on carpet bombing)." ...

... CW: Josh Voorhees of Slate comments on Hillary's claim that she couldn't possibly be an establishment candidate because she's "a woman running to be the first woman president." Voohees misses the point: Clinton did this in 2008, not in 2015 or '16. And her husband helped, a lot. During my lifetime, ante-Clinton, every American president except FDR (who as undersecretary of the Navy attempted to enlist) was a veteran (yeah, even Reagan, sort of). Bill Clinton broke that mold, & not without controversy. But his successful run provided a huge opening to women, few of whom served in the military until recently. Today, even most Republicans & other traditionalists at least pretend that women are as qualified as men to serve as president. Hillary was the trailblazer who establish women's credibility in her first run for president. She deserves full credit for it. But it doesn't make her any less a member of the "establishment" today because -- thanks to her -- there is no longer much of a crusty old counter-revolutionary movement to insist she stay home & bake cookies. (Anyone who wants to cite Bob Woodward's complaint that Clinton has an "unrelaxed" delivery [see Amy Chozick's report on shouting, linked below] as evidence to the contrary would be justified. Woodward is indeed a vestige of the good ole days when women knew their place.) ...

... Elizabeth Bruenig of the New Republic: "Like her 9/11 answer in November, her new strategy on Thursday night to downplay her relationship with Goldman Sachs and to win trust for her plans for Wall Street regulation will likely fail, if not backfire. And despite her insistence that she stridently agrees with Sanders on how to address Wall Street, the two differ in both tone and tactics, something voters aren't likely to miss. Lastly, this particular effort at wrapping up the Wall Street question on Clinton's behalf has the potential to call her opposition to Citizens United into question, given her claim that money in politics shouldn't necessarily be read as a corruption threat." ...

... CW: To me, the Clintons' Wall Street connections are only part of the point. The objections to Bill & Hillary's profiteering should extend to all the corporate entities (here & abroad) who have paid the Clintons. Here's the list of paid speeches Hillary Clinton reported from 2013 to 2015. Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge: "... the disclosure omits an unknown number of speeches that the Clintons delivered while directing the payment or honoraria to the Clinton Foundation, despite instructions on the and guidance from the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, saying that honoraria directed to a charity should be reported. Still, as readers will note, even the 'modest' data that Hillary chose to share is quite stunning." Durden also appended a list of Bill Clinton's speeches during the period. ...

... Amy Chozik of the New York Times seems to do a fair job of reprising Hillary Clinton's relationship with Wall Street. She puts 2008 Clinton to the left of 2008 Obama. (And I would say to later Obama.)

... Steven Cohen of the New Republic: "Bernie Sanders can do better on foreign policy than bringing up Hillary Clinton's Iraq War vote." Cohen points to a moment in the debate which he says contrasts the candidates' basic differences on U.S. foreign policy: "Sanders, in other words, is primarily concerned with proliferation and the possibility of war, while Clinton is preoccupied with a more traditional understanding of American hegemony, and the great power rivalries it implies.... It would be nice if [Sanders] could find a more compelling way of conveying that." ...

... MSNBC is airing a debate at 9:00 pm ET Thursday night, in Durham, New Hamshire, between Bernie Sanders & Hillary Clinton. The New York Times is liveblogging the debate. The Washington Post liveblog is entertaining.

Nia-Malika Henderson of CNN: "Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP, will endorse Bernie Sanders, a source familiar with the campaign told CNN." ...

... Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post on why the kids feel the Bern: "... millennials actually seem to prefer socialism to capitalism.... It's not just Sanders's socialist label that sells; it's his socialist ideas, too. To a generation that's broke, in debt, underemployed and stuck in its parents' basements, promises of a political revolution, more equitable distribution of (other people's) wealth, a more robust social safety net and free college can sound pretty appealing.... It is precisely Sanders's au-naturel-ness that endears him to his young fans: his unkempt hair, his ill-fitting suits, his unpolished Brooklyn accent, his propensity to yell and wave his hands maniacally.... These qualities are what make him seem 'authentic,' 'sincere' even -- especially when contrasted with Clinton's hyper-scriptedness." Rampell says female candidates can't get away with unkempt authenticity. ...

... Or Shouting. Amy Chozick: Critics are criticizing critics of Hillary Clinton's "shouting" voice. CW: I've got news for women & men: shouting is offputting. It bugs me when Bernie shouts; it bugs me when Hillary shouts. It doesn't bug me when Trump or Cruz shouts because I never listen to them anyway. What with the new invention of microphones, it is possible to speak with force & passion without raising one's voice. Neither Angry Hillary nor Angry Bernie is an attractive general election candidate. "Undecided" voters are weighing whether they want a candidate in their living rooms for four years. They don't want a shouter. ...

     ... Update: I've been listening to some of the debate. Both candidates have shouted every word. Why? They're responding to questions posed by people who are not yelling at them. Are they called "moderators" because they don't holler?

Burgess Everett of Politico: "The number of Democratic senators willing to insert themselves in the increasingly divisive contest for the Democratic contest remains slim despite the fact that 39 of the caucus's 46 members have endorsed Clinton. But it is growing."

Outrageous Fortune. Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News: Hillary "Clinton has been fueled by millions from a network of well-connected Washington lobbyists, Wall Street bundlers and billionaire donors. Here is a Yahoo News guide to some of the key players in Clinton's $157 million campaign."

... Karen DeYoung & Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "Hillary Clinton gained an apparent ally Thursday in her fight to limit the political damage from her growing email controversy, as former Republican secretary of state Colin L. Powell said he disagreed with a State Department decision to retroactively classify two emails from his personal account while in office.... Powell has said in the past that he found the State Department computer system, including Internet and email, to be woefully inadequate when he took office there in 2001. He devoted substantial resources to improving it but also made liberal use of his personal AOL account." ...

... Hillary Clinton has another ally who hasn't formally endorsed her (and won't): Paul Krugman. Today's column is Krugman's third in fewer weeks unloading on Bernie Sanders. Krugman starts by slamming Ted Cruz, but he quickly switches to Sanders.

... James Hohmann of the Washington Post on Hillary Clinton's "flip" answer to Anderson Cooper's question about her well-paid Wall Street speeches. "The most problematic part of her answer came when she insisted something that is demonstrably untrue: 'They're not giving me very much money now, I can tell you that much. Fine with me.'... The latest FEC reports reveal that Hillary reached a major milestone during the fourth quarter of 2015: Donors in the financial sector have now given more to support her campaigns than Bill's." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)


Nick Corasaniti of the New York Times: "ABC News made the Republican primary in New Hampshire a single-debate show in a news release on Thursday, and [Carly] Fiorina, who did not meet ABC's polling requirements, was not added. Donald J. Trump will again find himself at the center of the podium on Saturday, making his return to the debate stage after skipping the last debate in Iowa because of a feud with Fox News. On either side of him will be Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida. Rounding out the stage will be Jeb Bush, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Ben Carson. Republican candidates past and present had been arguing for Mrs. Fiorina to make the stage." CW: Because they're feminists.

Arturo Garcia of Raw Story: "Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) campaign called precinct chairs in Iowa to encourage them to misrepresent Ben Carson's campaign status, Breitbart News reported. A precinct captain supporting the senator, who identified herself as Nancy Bliesman, produced two voicemails she received from the campaign telling her to tell Carson supporters he was leaving the race. 'It has just been announced that Ben Carson is taking a leave of absence from the campaign trail,' one voicemail stated. 'So it is very important that you tell any Ben Carson voters that for tonight, uh, that they not waste a vote on Ben Carson, and vote for Ted Cruz. He is taking a leave of absence from his campaign.' The two voicemails were left at 7:07 p.m. and 7:29 p.m. local time, after CNN reported that Carson would be traveling to his home in Florida after the caucuses, but not ending his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination." ...

... Ruthless People. Steve M. has the goods on Cruz's campaign guru Jeff Roe: "Kevin McDermott of the St. Louis Post Dispatch notes that this and other eyebrow-raising Cruz tactics are being ascribed to Jeff Roe, a Kansas City political consultant who's managing Cruz's campaign, and who has a reputation for ruthlessness." Read on. Roe has pulled this very same trick in the past. CW: No wonder Cruz hired him; they're vultures of a feather. ...

... Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) on Thursday slammed Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) presidential campaign for disseminating reports that Ben Carson was planning to drop out of the race during the Iowa caucuses. 'Cruz did some questionable things,' Branstad told Radio Iowa. 'This thing that they distributed on caucus night saying that Dr. Carson was likely to drop out and his supporters should support Cruz, that is, I think, unethical and unfair and I think there'll be repercussions to that. We have a strong sense of fairness in Iowa,' Branstad added. 'Distributing information that was not true about a candidate right at the time people are voting in the caucuses is an inappropriate thing.'"

Michael Kranish of the Washington Post: "In a GOP presidential campaign dominated by anger over illegal immigration, distrust of establishment leaders, and aggressive courtship of evangelicals..., Ohio governor [John Kasich] is trying to turn Tuesday's New Hampshire primary into a test of whether his party has room for a throwback brand of Republicanism.... He opted not to compete in the Iowa caucuses, which were heavily influenced by religious conservatives, and tells New Hampshire voters that he will drop out if he does poorly here."

Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Ben Carson ... will cut more than 50 staff positions Thursday as part of an overhaul and downsizing of his campaign. Salaries are being significantly reduced. Carson's traveling entourage will shrink to only a handful of advisers. And instead of flying on private jets, Carson may soon return to commercial flights." CW: I'm thinking this means he flew a private jet from Iowa to Florida to pick up "a change of clothes." Your donations were well-spent, Carsonites.

Other News

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "President Obama's budget request to Congress will include a new fee on oil companies, requiring them to pay $10 to the federal government for every barrel of oil they produce, the White House said on Thursday. The money, which could bring in up to $32 billion in new federal revenue annually, would be spent on a variety of transportation and infrastructure projects, including bridges and highways, high-speed rail and research on advanced vehicles such as electric and self-driving cars. The proposal to further increase costs for fossil fuel production is part of a broader effort by Mr. Obama to fight climate change.... [CW: Speaking for oil barons everywhere,] The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, attacked the proposal."

Laura Koran of CNN: "President Barack Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, speaking about the need to overcome fear through faith, just one day after making a historic visit to a Baltimore mosque where he delivered a message of religious inclusivity.... Ben Carson ... attended the event but did not address the crowd." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) CW: I expect most of the GOP candidates to express "disappointment" in CNN for allowing a reporter named Koran to report on the Christian nation' prayer breakfast. I listened to the end of President Obama's speech. It was very moving:

 

Ken Dilanian of NBC News: "State Department officials have determined that classified information was sent to the personal email accounts of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the senior staff of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, NBC News has learned. In an interview with NBC News, Powell challenged the conclusion, saying nothing that went to his personal account was secret. A Rice spokeswoman said the emails were about diplomatic communications."

CW: This, if true, is surprising. Jake Sherman & Rachel Bade of Politico: "House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz has been quietly planning a probe into the federal government's record keeping -- an investigation he acknowledges could put Hillary Clinton in the cross hairs. In an interview with Politico published Tuesday, Chaffetz said the probe wouldn't focus on Clinton, but "when she creates her own private email system, she's ensnarled herself.' But on Wednesday evening, Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy summoned Chaffetz (R-Utah) to the Capitol to let him know that he is not permitted to launch an investigation that involves Clinton in any way.... Ryan and McCarthy ... believe the FBI and Justice Department should handle the investigation into Clinton's use of personal email..., and that congressional involvement could disrupt the criminal probe and give the appearance of a GOP witch hunt. Ryan, however, had given Chaffetz a green light to proceed -- with caution -- investigating systematic problems within his committee's broad jurisdiction, while making clear his preference that Chaffetz steer clear of Clinton personally. Now, following the Politico story, GOP leadership says he may not even investigate systematic issues if they involve Clinton."

Andrew Pollack of the New York Times: "In a testy exchange with lawmakers, Martin Shkreli declined to testify before a House committee on Thursday about his actions in increasing the price of a decades-old drug fiftyfold overnight. Mr. Shkreli, who left Turing Pharmaceuticals, the drug company he started, after being indicted on federal securities fraud charges in December, repeatedly exercised his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination, angering various members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. 'I don't think I've ever seen the committee treated with such contempt,' Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican, said after Mr. Shkreli was excused and left the room.... The theatrics surrounding Mr. Shkreli's appearance, which included his smirking at some remarks by committee members and calling them 'imbeciles' on Twitter after he left the hearing, overshadowed some of the more substantial discussion about huge overnight price increases in the prices of old drugs by Turing and another company, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times: "Members of the House Oversight Committee were probably giving each other high-fives Thursday for making Martin Shkreli look like a smug jerk under their questioning about the high drug prices at his former company, Turing Pharmaceuticals.... Some of [the Congressmen] were smug jerks about it themselves. (I'm looking at you, Reps. Jason Chaffetz [R-Utah] and Trey Gowdy [R-Va.]).... Not only is it no big challenge to make Shkreli look like a jerk, but the responsibility for sky-high prices charged even for old generic formulations is entirely their own.... The reason that the U.S. leads the world in stratospheric drug prices is that government policy allows it. For example, the largest single pharmaceutical customer in the U.S., Medicare, isn't permitted by law to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers. U.S. customers are forbidden to acquire their drugs in Canada or overseas, where they're often cheaper.... Why won't Congress act? As always, it comes down to money. Pharmaceutical companies are consistently among the biggest contributors to Washington campaign chests."

CW: By my count, that's two lowlifes who got something right during yesterday's news cycle. (1) Cruz: "Trumpertantrum"; (2) Shkreli: "imbeciles." Maybe we should add Kerry Eleveld's "Crump." And kudos to Gloria, via Akhilleus, for coming up with "the Crumps & the Rubes." Sounds like a couple of street gangs, which is appropriate.

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said late Wednesday that partisan extremism is damaging the public's perception of the role of the Supreme Court, recasting the justices as players in the political process rather than its referees.... Roberts said he thought the public skepticism concerning the court starts with the Senate confirmation process." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

CW: David Brooks gets 800 words a column (I think), and in today's it's worth reading two: "concrete leap." I suspect Brooks missed many of his high-school English classes. Or else his copy editors gave up before she got to the last graf & has departed to some forsaken land in search of saving the needy for her own fulfilment.

Beyond the Beltway

Progress Michigan: "An email obtained by Progress Michigan shows that Harvey Hollins, a principal adviser to Governor Rick Snyder, was aware of an uptick in Legionnaires disease in Genesee County and that a county health official was attributing the cases directly to the Flint River as the source of drinking water in Flint. The email, sent to Hollins by former DEQ Communications Director Brad Wurfel, was sent on March 13, 2015 ten months prior to Governor Snyder informing the public. Governor Snyder claimed he had only recently been informed of the outbreak at his press conference in January."

Way Beyond

Liz Sly & Zakaria Zakaria of the Washington Post: "Syrian rebels battled for their survival in and around Syria's northern city of Aleppo on Thursday after a blitz of Russian airstrikes helped government loyalists sever a vital supply route and sent a new surge of refugees fleeing toward the border with Turkey. The Russian-backed onslaught against rebel positions in Aleppo coincided with the failure of peace talks in Geneva, and helped reinforce opposition suspicions that Russia and its Syrian government allies are more interested in securing a military victory over the rebels than negotiating a settlement."

Andrew Roth of the Washington Post: "Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba for the first time next Friday as part of an effort to heal a schism that has divided Christianity between East and West for nearly 1,000 years. The meeting, the first ever between a sitting pope and Russian patriarch, will take place at José Martí International Airport, where the two will sign a joint declaration."

Wednesday
Feb032016

The Commentariat -- February 4, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Laura Koran of CNN: "President Barack Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, speaking about the need to overcome fear through faith, just one day after making a historic visit to a Baltimore mosque where he delivered a message of religious inclusivity.... Ben Carson ... attended the event but did not address the crowd." CW: I listened to the end of President Obama's speech. It was very moving:

Andrew Pollack of the New York Times: "In a testy exchange with lawmakers, Martin Shkreli declined to testify before a House committee on Thursday about his actions in increasing the price of a decades-old drug fiftyfold overnight. Mr. Shkreli, who left Turing Pharmaceuticals, the drug company he started, after being indicted on federal securities fraud charges in December, repeatedly exercised his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination, angering various members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. 'I don't think I've ever seen the committee treated with such contempt,' Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican, said after Mr. Shkreli was excused and left the room.... The theatrics surrounding Mr. Shkreli's appearance, which included his smirking at some remarks by committee members and calling them 'imbeciles' on Twitter after he left the hearing, overshadowed some of the more substantial discussion about huge overnight price increases in the prices of old drugs by Turing and another company, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International."

CW: By my count, that's two lowlifes who got something right today. (1) Cruz: "Trumpertantrum"; (2) Shkreli: "imbeciles."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said late Wednesday that partisan extremism is damaging the public's perception of the role of the Supreme Court, recasting the justices as players in the political process rather than its referees.... Roberts said he thought the public skepticism concerning the court starts with the Senate confirmation process."

James Hohmann of the Washington Post on Hillary Clinton's "flip" answer to Anderson Cooper's question about her well-paid Wall Street speeches. "The most problematic part of her answer came when she insisted something that is demonstrably untrue: 'They're not giving me very much money now, I can tell you that much. Fine with me.'... The latest FEC reports reveal that Hillary reached a major milestone during the fourth quarter of 2015: Donors in the financial sector have now given more to support her campaigns than Bill's."

*****

Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "President Obama is being pressed by some of his top national security aides to approve the use of American military power in Libya to open up another front against the Islamic State. But Mr. Obama, wary of embarking on an intervention in another strife-torn country, has told his aides to redouble their efforts to help form a unity government in Libya at the same time the Pentagon refines its options.... The use of large numbers of American ground troops is not being considered." CW: Hmm, these aides aren't helping Hillary's campaign.

Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "President Obama reached out to Muslims in the United States on Wednesday in an impassioned speech, embracing them as part of 'one American family,' implicitly criticizing the Republican presidential candidates and warning citizens not to be 'bystanders to bigotry'":

Joe Davidson of the Washington Post: "President Obama will include an average 1.6 percent pay raise for federal employees in his fiscal 2017 budget proposal. This year, the average raise is 1.3 percent. The 2017 pay increase was announced in a conference call with administration and union officials."

Andrew Pollack of the New York Times: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing this morning on soaring drug prices. "While the focus of the hearing is the price of drugs, it is expected to zero in on the actions of two companies -- Valeant [Pharmaceuticals] and Turing Pharmaceuticals -- in acquiring the rights to decades-old drugs and increasing their prices by huge amounts overnight."

Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "A key congressional committee on Wednesday launched its investigation into the Flint, Mich., water crisis with its Republican chairman issuing subpoenas to force depositions from two officials, while Democrats complained the state's governor has not been called to testify for political reasons. House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) accused the two officials of not being cooperative and was particularly critical of Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley, whose lawyer declined to accept an earlier subpoena seeking his testimony before the panel. 'We're calling on the U.S. marshals to hunt him down and give him that subpoena,' [Chaffetz] said at a hearing, sparking a round of applause." ...

     ... CW: Earley is a Democrat -- and he's black. Just thought you'd want to know. Hunt him down, Jason. Maybe you'll want to call out a pack of bloodhounds. But of course you're not a racist. ...

     ... Todd Spangler of the Detroit Free Press: "A lawyer for former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley says if his client is again subpoenaed by a congressional committee looking that the Flint water crisis, he'll accept it.... [Attorney Scott] Bolden had told the Free Press on Tuesday night that he refused the subpoena because neither he nor Earley had time to prepare but said he would accept another subpoena as long as it isn't issued on such short notice." ...

... Oliver Milman & Ryan Felton of the Guardian: "The Environmental Protection Agency warned of an unfolding toxic water crisis in Flint but was 'met with resistance' by Michigan authorities, a fiery congressional hearing into the city's public health disaster has heard.... Congress was also told that flawed water testing practices, now eliminated in Flint, are happening unchecked across the US, risking a much wider public health crisis in other cities." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Todd Spangler & Maureen Groppe of the Detroit Free Press & USA Today: "Calling the situation in Flint 'a failing at every level' of government, U.S. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, directed most of his criticism at the Environmental Protection Agency, saying there have been 'festering' problems there for years and disputing Deputy Assistant Administrator Joel Beauvais' contention that responding to the Flint water crisis was the agency's highest priority."

Newt Gingrich & Tom Daschle write a Washington Post op-ed in which they propose "a step toward bipartisan health-care reform." It involves pretty much allowing the states to set up their own programs via a provision of the ACA. CW: I'll bet the Southern states, in particular, would do a great job.

Take Care. Linda Greenhouse: "... the court's action two weeks ago in accepting the Obama administration's appeal in a major immigration case was startling. The surprise was not that the court agreed to hear the case, United States v. Texas, an appeal from a ruling that the president lacked authority under the immigration laws to defer deporting undocumented immigrants whose children are American citizens or lawful permanent residents. It was rather the blockbuster constitutional question that the justices added to the case, a question the court had not been asked, and one that neither of the lower federal courts had even addressed when they ruled on purely statutory grounds against the administration. This is what the court said in its Jan. 19 order: 'In addition to the questions presented by the petition, the parties are directed to brief and argue the following question: "Whether the Guidance violates the Take Care Clause of the Constitution, Art. II, §3.' Wow." Read on.

Presidential Race

This is the headline: "Clinton blasts Wall Street, but still draws millions in contributions." Matea Gold, et al., of the Washington Post: "Even as Hillary Clinton has stepped up her rhetorical assault on Wall Street, her campaign and allied super PACs have continued to rake in millions from the financial sector, a sign of her deep and lasting relationships with banking and investment titans. Through the end of December, donors at hedge funds, banks, insurance companies and other financial-services firms had given at least $21.4 million to support Clinton's 2016 presidential run -- more than one of every 10 dollars of the $157.8 million contributed to back her bid, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission filings by The Washington Post."

They're not giving me that much money now. -- Hillary Clinton, at the town hall last night, in response to Anderson Cooper's question about Wall Street contributions to her campaign

I guess it depends on the meaning of "that much." -- Constant Weader

This is the headline: "Something smells in the Democratic party." Des Moines Register Editors: "What happened Monday night at the Democratic caucuses was a debacle, period. Democracy, particularly at the local party level, can be slow, messy and obscure. But the refusal to undergo scrutiny or allow for an appeal reeks of autocracy. The Iowa Democratic Party must act quickly to assure the accuracy of the caucus results, beyond a shadow of a doubt. First of all, the results were too close not to do a complete audit of results. Two-tenths of 1 percent separated Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.... Second, too many questions have been raised.... Too many of us, including members of the Register editorial board who were observing caucuses, saw opportunities for error amid Monday night's chaos.... Dr. Andy McGuire, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, dug in her heels and said no [to the Sanders campaign's request for a comparison with its own tabulations]. We need answers to what happened Monday night. The future of the first-in-the-nation caucuses demands it." ...

... CW: The Register, if you recall, endorsed Clinton.

M.J. Lee of CNN: "Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders traded barbs Wednesday night over who best embodies progressive values. At a CNN town hall in Derry, New Hampshire, ahead of next Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary, Sanders slammed Clinton, arguing that she's out of step with the party's base on issues ranging from campaign finance to climate change, trade and the Iraq War.... The race, however, isn't nearly as negative as the Republican primary contest, which was dominated on Wednesday by personal attacks between Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson." ...

... Video of the full town-hall event is here.

Greg Sargent: "The campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have agreed on a rough schedule for four new debates over the next few months, according to various sources, a move that shows the Democratic primary is now set to shift into a higher gear and signals we may be headed for a long, drawn-out battle. The four debates will be sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee, a spokesman for the DNC, Luis Miranda, confirms to me." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The National Archives is fighting a lawsuit trying to force disclosure of several draft indictments of Hillary Clinton prepared by a Whitewater prosecutor in the 1990s. In a brief filed late Tuesday, Justice Department lawyers and the Archives argue that disclosure of the draft indictments would lead to an unwarranted invasion of Clinton's privacy and violate a court rule protecting grand jury secrecy."

You know, I get accused of being kind of moderate and center. I plead guilty. -- Hillary Clinton, ca. September 10, 2015, at an Ohio event ...

... Amber Jamieson of the Guardian: "At a town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire on Wednesday, [Hillary] Clinton accused [Bernie] Sanders of a 'low blow' for saying that the former secretary of state was only a progressive on 'some days'. 'I hope we keep it on the issues,' Clinton said, 'because if it's about our records, hey, I'm going to win by a landslide.' A reporter had questioned the Vermont senator on Tuesday about whether his Democratic opponent was a truly progressive liberal. 'Some days, yes. Except when she announces that she is a proud moderate, and then I guess she is not a progressive,' replied Sanders." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** Brent Budowsky of the Hill: "The message that Clinton needs to hear -- and needs to understand -- is that despite her overpowering and overwhelming advantages of money and power and the virtually unanimous support from the Democratic establishment, it was Sanders who won the most important battle of the Iowa caucuses by fighting her to a draw. Instead of attacking Sanders for having dreams too great, the former first lady should share with the nation the dreams she has, without fear or favor about which interest group might be offended. She should speak of her dreams with passion, principle, courage and authenticity with her voice, as Sanders does with his." Read the whole column. ...

... CW: Sorry, Brent, but as David Axelrod suggested as late caucus result were dribbling in (see Tuesday's Commentariat), Hillary's "dreams" are all about Hillary. Hillary & Bill were the stars of the "Me generation," & their personalities & goals haven't changed much. It's difficult to speak with "passion & authenticity" about matters that are only ancillary to your objective.

Hanna Trudo of Politico: "Elizabeth Warren defended Bernie Sanders on Wednesday after Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said the Vermont senator's anti-Wall Street rhetoric could be 'dangerous.'... 'When Blankfein says that criticizing those who break the rules is dangerous to the economy, then he's just repeating another variation of "too big to fail," "too big to jail," "too big even to prosecute,"' she said."


Stephanie Condon
of CBS News: "Former President Jimmy Carter told the British Parliament on Wednesday that if he had to choose between Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, he'd prefer to see Trump win the White House.... '... the reason is Trump has proven already that he's completely malleable. I don't think he has any fixed opinions that he would really go to the White House and fight for.' By contrast, Mr. Carter said, 'Ted Cruz is not malleable. He has far right-wing policies, in my opinion, that would be pursued aggressively if and when he would become president'":

Charles Pierce: "For all the Scripture he spouts, and for all of his devotion to our God-kissed Constitution, Cruz has the soul of a true ratfcker.... At least Nixon's ratfcking stemmed from his human weaknesses and his inbred paranoia. Cruz believes he is commanded to his by the Lord. This scares me much more.... Anyway, this is a guy with an awful lot of money, almost no conscience, and a demonstrated proclivity for using both in a way destructive to a national election. I don't particularly want him to get his hands on the FBI." ...

... Nick Gass of Politico: Ted "Cruz reacted to [Donald] Trump's accusations [that Cruz had stolen the Iowa caucuses] with amusement, and ridiculed the real estate mogul as an unstable person throwing a 'Tempertrantrum.' [sic.; s/b 'Trumpertantrum'] 'I wake up every day and laugh at the latest thing Donald has tweeted because he's losing it,' Cruz told reporters in Goffstown, New Hampshire. 'We need a commander-in-chief, not a Twitterer-in-chief. We need someone with judgment and the temperament to keep this country safe. I don't know anyone who would be comfortable with someone who behaves this way having his finger on the button,' Cruz continued. 'I mean, we're liable to wake up one morning and Donald, if he were president, would have nuked Denmark.'" ...

... Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "... Donald Trump on Wednesday chided President Obama for visiting a mosque, a move the president made in part as a counter to Trump's controversial comments on Muslims. '... I don't know, maybe he feels comfortable there,' Trump said Wednesday on Fox News' 'On the Record with Greta Van Susteren' 'There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.'" ...

... Ben Schreckinger of Politico: "In the lead-up to Donald Trump's loss in Iowa, staffers sought additional funding for campaign infrastructure and were denied. Now, six days from the New Hampshire primary and looking for his first win, Trump is still refusing to shake up his ground game. He has added just one paid organizer in the state, a move that came a month ago. Instead, he is pushing ahead with plans to campaign outside of the state in the final week of voting and will count on the glamour of famous surrogates, including his sons, who plan to tour New Hampshire beginning this weekend." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... it's time to lay to rest the idea that Trump is a brilliant campaign strategist. Save for the fact that this guy has managed to co-opt more free media than the Pope, Trump's run a campaign that would embarrass a candidate for seventh grade class treasurer." ...

... CW: It's not about politics, Charles. Politics is boring. It's about fawning fans.

Jonathan Chait: President Obama's visit to a Baltimore mosque Wednesday "offended Marco Rubio, who called it yet another example of Obama's 'constant pitting people against each other. I can't stand that.'... Obama and Rubio follow very different theories of the proper treatment of social minorities. One of those men is president of the United States, and the other has no business holding that position." CW: Chait does a great job of explaining why Marco is offended, but I just want to box Marco's Dr. Spock ears. Why isn't it offensive when Obama attends a Christian religious service (as opposed to addressing people of faith)? Why isn't that pitting Christians against everybody else? ...

... "'The Boy in the Bubble,' Running Scared." Dana Milbank: Marco Rubio "is stumping through New Hampshire as if he's campaigning to win the Cautious Caucus. He gives the same speech everywhere. The most tightly managed candidate in the race, he shuns risk and appears to live in mortal terror of mentioning the man who dominates the race.... Rubio's strong Iowa finish has brought new attention -- and over-capacity crowds -- in New Hampshire. But the would-be supporters are greeted by a robot." ...

... That's funny, because Gail Collins notes that even if Marco has been giving the same speech since 2010, he's still "growing" on some issues, especially where "growth" = "flipflop."

Daniel Strauss of Politico: "Sen. Marco Rubio locked up a handful of congressional endorsements on Wednesday.... The endorsements are the latest in a rapidly increasing list of congressional backers who have thrown their support behind Rubio, who has now vaulted ahead of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the so-called 'endorsement primary.'" ...

... Michael Barbaro & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "... Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is embarking on a scalding effort over the next week to discredit Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the man he blames for undermining his campaign and whose ascendancy he deeply resents. And Mr. Christie has a secret ally: Jeb Bush.... The shared concern has even prompted the opening of a back channel: Members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt Mr. Rubio's rise in the polls...." ...

... Jonathan Martin & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: Jeb! "is facing growing pressure to either demonstrate his appeal to voters or leave the race. Specifically, many Republicans -- including some of his supporters and donors -- said Tuesday that Mr. Bush must finish ahead of Mr. Rubio in the primary [in New Hampshire] on Tuesday to justify continuing his campaign into South Carolina.... Yet there are signs Mr. Bush may still have some work to do to finish in the top tier here. Speaking to a crowd at the Hanover Inn near the Vermont border during his final stop of the day, Mr. Bush finished a fiery riff about protecting the country as commander in chief -- 'I won't be out here blowharding, talking a big game without backing it up,' he said -- and was met with total silence. 'Please clap,' he said, sounding defeated. The crowd laughed -- and then, finally, clapped." Thanks to Akhilleus for the link. Akhilleus comments, near the end of yesterday's thread, on poor ole Jeb! ...

... Scott Lemieux: "I'm almost tempted to feel bad for the guy, but then I remember the 2000 African-American voter purge and Terri Schiavo." ...

... Kerry Eleveld of Daily Kos: "... the last thing establishment Republicans want is for Jeb! Bush and Marco Rubio to continue tearing each other to shreds with a little Kasich and Christie on the side. They need to coalesce against the enemy -- Crump!... There's one problem, the establishment built a hideous financial beast that they might not be able to control: FrankenBush."

Ashley Parker & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania plans two major announcements on Wednesday night about his candidacy amid speculation that he is pulling out of the race." CW: Darn! I was sure Santorum was going to win. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Update. Daniel Strauss: "Rick Santorum on Wednesday dropped out of the Republican primary race, and immediately threw his support behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio." CW: Yes, because they both would ban abortion and limit contraception for every woman excepting their wives & any occasional lovers they might have. ...

... Update: With repeated prodding, Rick Santorum can't name a single accomplishment Marco Rubio achieved in the Senate:

Post Mortem for the Most Interesting Man in Politics. Jamelle Bouie: Rand Paul's attempts to embrace minorities was no match for Donald Trump's racism. "As a vehicle for [his] message [of inclusion], the Kentucky senator wasn't perfect.... Still, unique among the GOP's presidential aspirants, Paul tried.... Whereas Paul wanted to appeal to minority voters, Trump aimed to antagonize them, sharing racist and anti-black memes on Twitter and warning voters of a dangerous, brown-skinned menace.... Republican voters have flocked to this, and in response, mainstream Republican candidates have aped the approach.... After almost eight years of Obama, what Republican voters want is strength and aggression. And in Trump and his imitators, that's what they have."

Beyond the Beltway

Graham Bowley, et al., of the New York Times: "The sexual assault case against Bill Cosby can proceed, a judge ruled Wednesday, saying that prosecutors are not bound by a predecessor's decision 11 years ago to not prosecute Mr. Cosby in the case of a young Temple University staff member who said the entertainer had drugged and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia home."

Way Beyond

Nick Cumming-Bruce & Somini Sengupta of the New York Times: "The United Nations on Wednesday temporarily suspended the fledgling talks aimed at ending the war in Syria and called on the countries fueling the conflict to do more to yield results, as Syrian government forces sharply escalated an offensive on a strategic rebel-held city."

Simon Romero of the New York Times: "The surging medical reports of babies being born with unusually small heads during the Zika epidemic in Brazil are igniting a fierce debate over the country's abortion laws, which make the procedure illegal under most circumstances. Prominent legal scholars in Brasília, the capital, are preparing a case to go before Brazil's highest court, arguing that pregnant women should be permitted to have abortions when their fetuses are found to have abnormally small heads, a condition known as microcephaly that Brazilian researchers say is linked to the virus. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Liam Stack of the New York Times: "Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said on Thursday that he would turn himself in to the British police if a United Nations panel ruled that the years he has spent in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, trying to avoid extradition to Sweden, did not constitute a de facto form of illegal imprisonment." ...

     ... Update. Matt Siegel and Guy Faulconbridge of Reuters: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's three-and-a-half-year stay in the Ecuadorian embassy in London amounts to 'unlawful detention', a United Nations panel examining his appeal will rule on Friday, the BBC reported.... The British police said Assange would face arrest if he leaves the embassy."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

New York Times: "Maurice White, the founder and leader of Earth, Wind & Fire, whose genre-defying music made it one of the most successful bands of the 1970s, has died at his home in Los Angeles. He was 74."

Tuesday
Feb022016

The Commentariat -- February 3, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "President Obama reached out to Muslims in the United States on Wednesday in an impassioned speech, embracing them as part of 'one American family,' implicitly criticizing the Republican presidential candidates and warning citizens not to be 'bystanders to bigotry":

Oliver Milman & Ryan Felton of the Guardian: "The Environmental Protection Agency warned of an unfolding toxic water crisis in Flint but was 'met with resistance' by Michigan authorities, a fiery congressional hearing into the city's public health disaster has heard.... Congress was also told that flawed water testing practices, now eliminated in Flint, are happening unchecked across the US, risking a much wider public health crisis in other cities."

Greg Sargent: "The campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have agreed on a rough schedule for four new debates over the next few months, according to various sources, a move that shows the Democratic primary is now set to shift into a higher gear and signals we may be headed for a long, drawn-out battle. The four debates will be sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee, a spokesman for the DNC, Luis Miranda, confirms to me."

You know, I get accused of being kind of moderate and center. I plead guilty. -- Hillary Clinton, ca. September 10, 2015 ...

... Amber Jamieson of the Guardian: "At a town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire on Wednesday, [Hillary] Clinton accused [Bernie] Sanders of a 'low blow' for saying that the former secretary of state was only a progressive on 'some days'. 'I hope we keep it on the issues,' Clinton said, 'because if it's about our records, hey, I'm going to win by a landslide.' A reporter had questioned the Vermont senator on Tuesday about whether his Democratic opponent was a truly progressive liberal. 'Some days, yes. Except when she announces that she is a proud moderate, and then I guess she is not a progressive,' replied Sanders."

Ashley Parker & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania plans two major announcements on Wednesday night about his candidacy amid speculation that he is pulling out of the race." CW: Darn! I was sure Santorum was going to win.

Simon Romero of the New York Times: "The surging medical reports of babies being born with unusually small heads during the Zika epidemic in Brazil are igniting a fierce debate over the country's abortion laws, which make the procedure illegal under most circumstances. Prominent legal scholars in Brasília, the capital, are preparing a case to go before Brazil's highest court, arguing that pregnant women should be permitted to have abortions when their fetuses are found to have abnormally small heads, a condition known as microcephaly that Brazilian researchers say is linked to the virus.

*****

Presidential Race

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Presidential candidates flew through the night to hit the New Hampshire campaign trail running on Tuesday morning, eager to capitalize on a race that has been reordered by surprising finishes in the Iowa caucuses." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Frank Rich reflects on the Iowa results & what may happen going forward. As we noted here a few days ago, Rich's predictions haven't been too great. (Have you heard anybody outside of the Paul household saying "President Paul.") Nonetheless, Rich always offers an interesting perspective. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... AND Charles Pierce reflects on the Iowa results. Something, something, inequality, Epistle of James. (Also linked yesterday.) ...


Annals of Journalsim," Ctd. Break.

... ** Part 1. Paul Waldman in the Week: "Since it is obviously impossible for you to understand what happened in Iowa on Monday night by simply looking at the numbers, you must find an analysis to make sense of it all. So I'm here to offer you not one but two hot takes for each party's race, to help you make sense of it all...." ...

... Part 2. Steve M. finds a lovely example of Jeb!-spin, masquerading as ABC News reporting or analysis or something. ...

... Part 3. Paul Krugman has a theory on why Iowa "matters." ...

... Part 4. AND then there's MSNBC's Chris Matthews, whose ostensible interview of Hillary Clinton included a running diatribe that required Charles Pierce to write, "Bernie Sanders is running a campaign completely within what can reasonably be called the mainstream of his party and of our politics. Discreet red-baiting and disingenuous scaremongering helps nobody." CW: What makes Matthews' rant particularly weird is that Matthews is (or was) supposedly working on a book about fawning biography of Bobby Kennedy, whose politics then were not so much different in content & tone from what Sanders says today. Not much news on the bio-in-progress, so maybe Bobby (or "Bob," as Matthews is won't to call him) & his radical views put off the author. Anyway, there's a reason "journalist" & "joke" begin with the same letters, & I think that has less to do with etymology than with Matthews School of Bull.


Jason Horowitz & Yamiche Alcindor
of the New York Times: "Senator Bernie Sanders, who came within half a percentage point of defeating Hillary Clinton in Iowa, will spend the next week trying to maintain a significant advantage in New Hampshire, where he has been leading in polls for months. His campaign will stage rallies in the more populous southern parts of the state, where he also will air more than $1 million worth of television ads."

Amy Chozick, et al., of the New York Times: "Hillary Clinton is digging in for a tough fight against Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in next week's primary in New Hampshire, her advisers said Tuesday, trying to spark political momentum and fund-raising energy after only a razor-thin victory in the Iowa caucuses."

Patrick Healy of the New York Times: "Hillary Clinton was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday after final vote counts showed her narrowly beating Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, according to The Associated Press and other news organizations." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Here are the official vote tally percentages, according to the Iowa Democratic party's Website: Clinton 49.8, Sanders 49.6, O'Malley 0.5. ...

... Kevin Hardy of the Des Moines Register: "Sen. Bernie Sanders Iowa campaign is questioning the results of Monday's caucuses. After all precincts were reported Tuesday morning, the Iowa Democratic Party reported Hillary Clinton won 49.8 percent of state delegate equivalents in the Democratic Iowa caucuses. Bernie Sanders took 49.6 percent of delegate equivalents. Sanders' campaign staff believes there may be discrepancies between the paper vote tallies at the precinct level and numbers that were reported to the state party." ...

... Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post has a longish piece on how Clinton nearly got Berned in Iowa. Here's my favorite bit: Sanders "was headed to a May 31 rally at the American Indian Center in Minneapolis, his first big campaign event outside his New England home turf. But Sanders was still blocks away -- and the car he was in was not moving. 'Is there a wreck ahead?' Sanders anxiously asked his field director, Phil Fiermonte. 'No,' Fiermonte replied, 'they're here to see you.' More than 3,000 of them, many standing outside because the hall was full. 'It never occurred to me in a million years that line was for us,' Sanders recalled in a telephone interview Sunday.... 'I said, "Whoa." That was the first inkling that I had that this campaign was catching on.'" (Also linked yesterday.)

... CW: This post, in which Michael Stern briefly discusses recent legal news coverage of Ted Cruz's citizenship & Hillary Clinton's e-mails, made me wonder when we're going to hear the following theory emerge from the bowels of Right Wing World: Hillary Clinton is running for president to postpone her otherwise inevitable conviction for treason on accounta carelessly (or purposely!) sharing top-secret U.S. documents with Vladimir Putin & Kim Jong-Un via her Facebook page personal e-mail account.


Ashley Parker
of the New York Times: "Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky ended his presidential campaign Wednesday, after a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses this week." ...

... Ed Kilgore assesses what went wrong for Li'l Randy.

Killer Sharks! "Smelling Blood, Rivals Circle Trump." Alexander Burns of the New York Times: "Emboldened by Donald J. Trump’s defeat in the Iowa caucuses, his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination are preparing to challenge him aggressively in the New Hampshire primary — and perhaps even to aim a fatal blow at his campaign by seeking to deny him victory in a second consecutive state.... The sense of urgency about taking on Mr. Trump transcends the different political camps on the Republican side in New Hampshire." ...

Maybe he'll do more than 40 minutes on a little stage telling everybody his canned speech that he's memorized. This isn't a student council election, everybody. This is an election for president of the United States. Let's get the boy in the bubble out of the bubble. -- Chris Christie, on Marco Rubio, to reporters Tuesday

... Killer Sharks 2.0. Philip Rucker & Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "Marco Rubio's surprisingly strong showing in the Iowa caucuses reshuffled the already intense competition here in New Hampshire among the Republican establishment candidates, leading some to sharpen their attacks on the freshman senator from Florida ahead of next week's primary."

If we are attacked, somebody attacks us, wouldn't you rather have Trump as president if we're attacked? We'll beat the shit out of them. -- Donald Trump, at a New Hampshire rally Tuesday

CW Translation: If some Muslim guy attacks an American, I'll order the Pentagon to start World War III at the same time I'm yelling at the decorators for not painting vermeil on every baroque detail in the Trump White House ballroom

... Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump acknowledged on Tuesday night that his voter turnout operation in Iowa was weak, despite boasts from his team for weeks of a secret plan to get his supporters to the polls." ...

... Robert Costa & Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump returned to New Hampshire on Tuesday night with the stakes as high as ever for his presidential campaign, determined to showcase his political resilience after his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses and rouse his supporters with a rally that was a raucous return to form. There was swagger, curses and confidence, and thousands of people packed into an athletic center, all bundled up in winter coats and many toting signs." ...

... Also, former handsome short-term Sen. Scott Brown endorsed Trump at the rally. Relatedly, Scott Brown is still handsome. ...

... MEANWHILE, Trump wishes to remind us ungrateful voters that we aren't worthy of the generosity he has bestowed upon us by (partially) self-funding his vanity vaudeville act.

Betsy Klein, et al., of CNN: "One day after winning the Iowa caucuses, [Ted] Cruz issued an apology to [Ben] Carson after his staff falsely told Iowa caucusgoers that Carson planned to quit the race, calling it a 'mistake.' Cruz said in a statement Tuesday that his campaign staff saw a CNN report that Carson was dropping out, although CNN had not characterized Carson's actions that way.... Carson said Tuesday he accepted the apology, but questioned whether there was a deeper 'cultural issue' with Cruz's campaign. 'As a Christian I will accept the apology but it doesn't correct the problem,' Carson told CNN. 'This is a cultural issue when people in your campaign feel that it's ok to distort the issues to their political advantage and to tell absolute lies. And the question really is will there be any consequences for that.'" ...

... CW: Carson is right. Cruz's staff didn't idly spread a false story. They did so during the caucus process, to lure Carson's evangelical base voters over to Ted's camp. Cruz won the Iowa caucus vote by several points, so the lie, shot out to "grassroots leaders" as voters were participating in the caucuses, probably didn't materially change the final rankings, but hearing that their preferred candidate was leaving the race certainly could have made some voters switch from Carson to Cruz. Cruz is a snake. ...

Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified. -- Donald Trump tweet, Wednesday ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: Donald Trump used Cruz's phony e-mail claim that Carson was quitting the race, along with the phony voter mailers to accuse Cruz of stealing the caucus vote. ...

... Marvin S. highlights this New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial titled "President Cruz: Still America's Worst Nightmare." If you want to daydream about this nightmare, the editors reprise some of what Ted Cruz has already done & said to help you along. Also, too, Cruz has already condemned our winger Chief Justice as a liberal; I doubt even Alito, Scalia & Thomas are extreme enough for him.

Marco Has a New Black Friend. Andrew Shane of the (South Carolina) State: "U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who came close to winning second in the Iowa caucus, won a coveted endorsement Tuesday in South Carolina from U.S Sen. Tim Scott.... After the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9, Scott could help Rubio in South Carolina. The only African-American Republican in the U.S. Senate is one of the Palmetto State's most popular politicians in polls." ...

... CW: Six other sitting U.S. Senators have endorsed Rubio. Expect more to follow.

Other News

Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "President Obama will make his first visit to a mosque in the United States on Wednesday, traveling to a suburb of Baltimore to meet with Muslim leaders and to speak out against hostility and discrimination against Islam."

Alan Fram of the AP: "Republicans failed in their latest futile attempt Tuesday to kill President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, a Groundhog Day vote by the House that was solely an exercise in election-year political messaging. Tuesday's near party-line vote to override Obama's January veto of legislation gutting much of the law was 241-186, but that fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to reverse a veto. House Speaker Paul Ryan said the effort to force enactment of the bill, which would have also ended federal payments to Planned Parenthood, would send an important signal." CW: Important signal received.

Donald McNeil & Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times: "A case of Zika virus infection transmitted by sex, rather than mosquito bite, was discovered in Texas on Tuesday, a development sure to complicate plans to contain a global epidemic.... The Dallas County Health and Human Services Department reported that a patient with the Zika virus was infected after having sex with someone who had returned from Venezuela, where Zika is circulating. After the report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its advice to Americans visiting regions in which the Zika virus is spreading. Men having sex after traveling to these areas should consider wearing condoms, officials said.... Pregnant women should avoid contact with semen from men recently exposed to the virus, federal officials also said."

Todd Spangler of the Detroit Free Press: "While acknowledging mistakes made by the state in the handling of Flint's water crisis, Gov. Rick Snyder's hand-picked appointee to run the state Department of Environmental Quality faults the federal EPA for contributing to the public health catastrophe, saying it 'did not display the sense of urgency that the situation demanded.' In testimony to be delivered Wednesday before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, new DEQ Director Keith Creagh takes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to task, insisting that the federal agency dragged its feet for months before providing a legal opinion making it clear that DEQ should have required Flint to have corrosion-control treatments before it switched to using water from the Flint River in 2014."

Voter Suppression Laws Are Working! Scott Keyes of Think Progress: "... the first study has been released showing that the proliferation of voter ID laws in recent years has indeed driven down minority voter turnout, and by a significant amount.... The researchers found that in primary elections, 'a strict ID law could be expected to depress Latino turnout by 9.3 points, Black turnout by 8.6 points, and Asian American turnout by 12.5 points.' The impact of strict voter ID was also evident in general elections, where minority turnout plummeted in relation to the white vote. 'For Latinos in the general election, the predicted gap more than doubles from 4.9 points in states without strict ID laws to 13.5 points in states with strict photo ID laws,' the study found. That gap increased by 2.2 points for African Americans and by 5 points for Asian Americans. The effect was even more pronounced in primary elections." CW: Now, please, can't we bring back the poll tax? Oh, wait, in most states these laws do constitute at least a partial poll tax, as they often require voters to pay for forms of identification they don't have on hand. In some cases, they require voters to come up with documents that don't exist, like birth certificates for older voters born at home and/or in other countries.

David Streitfeld of the New York Times: "Whether it is sold or survives, Yahoo is getting smaller. It said on Tuesday it would lay off about 15 percent of its 11,000 employees. By the end of the cuts, the company said its work force would be about 42 percent smaller than it was in 2012. In addition to being smaller, [Yahoo CEO Marissa] Mayer said, the company would be simpler. Yahoo will shed assets, cut expenses and focus on the areas of the company that are growing."

Brian Feldman of New York: "Amazon is apparently opening hundreds of bookstores in malls around the country. According to Sandeep Mathrani, the CEO of mall operator General Growth Properties, Amazon is planning on opening '300 to 400' bookstores this year." CW: Support your local bookstore.

Beyond the Beltway

Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "Georgia executed its oldest death row inmate early Wednesday morning, moving ahead with the scheduled lethal injection after courts and a state pardon board rejected his requests for stays. Brandon Astor Jones, 72, was first sentenced to death in 1979 for the death of Roger Tackett, who managed a convenience store."

Jeremy Roebuck & Laura McCrystal of the Philadelphia Inquirer: Bill "Cosby's lawyers contend that the aggravated indecent assault charge filed in December against the 78-year-old entertainer violates a 'non-prosecution' agreement [tnen Montgomery County D.A. Bruce] Castor made with their client a decade ago. Prosecutors, led by current District Attorney Kevin Steele, say no such deal existed."

Anh Do & Christopher Goffard of the Los Angeles Times: An Orange County cab driver says three fugitives who escaped from the Orange County jail, held him captive for a week, forcing him to drive them around in his cab, using his driver's license to get a hotel room & arguing about whether or not to kill him. ...

... Keystone Kops, Ctd. Joseph Serna, et al., of the Los Angeles Times: And in other Southern California manhunt news, L.A. County Sheriffs accidentally released a murder suspect awaiting sentencing on an attempted murder conviction. CW: Shit happens, you know. Lock your doors, people.

Monday
Feb012016

The Commentariat -- February 2, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Presidential candidates flew through the night to hit the New Hampshire campaign trail running on Tuesday morning, eager to capitalize on a race that has been reordered by surprising finishes in the Iowa caucuses."

Patrick Healy of the New York Times: "Hillary Clinton was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday after final vote counts showed her narrowly beating Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, according to The Associated Press and other news organizations." ...

... Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post has a longish piece on how Clinton nearly got Berned in Iowa. Here's my favorite bit: Sanders "was headed to a May 31 rally at the American Indian Center in Minneapolis, his first big campaign event outside his New England home turf. But Sanders was still blocks away -- and the car he was in was not moving. 'Is there a wreck ahead?' Sanders anxiously asked his field director, Phil Fiermonte. 'No,' Fiermonte replied, 'they're here to see you.' More than 3,000 of them, many standing outside because the hall was full. 'It never occurred to me in a million years that line was for us,' Sanders recalled in a telephone interview Sunday.... 'I said, "Whoa." That was the first inkling that I had that this campaign was catching on.'" ...

... Frank Rich reflects on the Iowa results & what may happen going forward. As we noted here a few days ago, Rich's predictions haven't been too great. (Have you heard anybody outside of the Paul household saying "President Paul.") Nonetheless, Rich always offers an interesting perspective. ...

... AND Charles Pierce reflects on the Iowa results. Something, something, inequality, Epistle of James.

*****

Presidential Race

Josh Cassidy of the New Yorker sums up the state of the race: "After a remarkable night in Iowa, one that served as a rebuke to Donald Trump and to the opinion pollsters, the Democratic Party was faced with the prospect of confronting a youthful and articulate Republican candidate come November: Senator Marco Rubio, who finished a strong third in the G.O.P. caucus, behind Ted Cruz and Trump. Before then, though, Democrats have some messy internal business to deal with: Bernie Sanders, promoting an American version of 'people power,' has confirmed his capture of the Party's under-forty wing, which means trouble for Hillary Clinton." ...

Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "Monday night's results confirmed that despite the widening cultural and political fissures that have divided right and left, voters are united in an impatience, even a revulsion, at what they see as a rigged system that no longer works for them. For Republicans, the enemy is an overreaching government, strangling their freedoms and pocketbooks. For Democrats, it is an unfair economy, shrinking their paychecks and aspirations.... And it sent a forceful message to Democratic leaders that it was unwilling to put aside its resentment of Wall Street and corporate America to crown a lifelong party insider who has amassed millions in speaking fees from the big banks."

Patrick Healy of the New York Times: "Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont were locked in an intensely tight race in the Iowa caucuses on Monday as Mrs. Clinton's strong support among women and older voters was matched by the passionate liberal foot soldiers whom Mr. Sanders has been calling to political revolution. The close results were deeply unnerving to Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, as well as her advisers, some of whom had expressed growing confidence in recent days that they had recaptured political momentum after weeks when Mr. Sanders was drawing huge crowds and rising in the polls. The Clintons had appeared optimistic at rallies over the weekend, thanking Iowans for their support as much as urging them to turn out to vote. The close vote means that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders are likely to split Iowa's share of delegates to the Democratic convention, and Mr. Sanders will be able to argue that the Iowa result was a virtual tie."

Dan Roberts, et al., of the Guardian: "Both [Democratic] candidates will now move on to New Hampshire buoyed up, Clinton with a 'sigh of relief' that her bid to be the first female president of the United States is alive, and Sanders believing that his revolution against the 'billionaire classes' truly began in the snowy cornfields of Iowa. With half of the results in across the rural midwest state, Clinton appeared to be easing to victory, three points up on the Vermont senator, whose relatively ramshackle campaign seemed to be no match for her mighty political machine. But as the night wore on, Clinton's lead shrank to two and then one point, until she was locked in a virtual tie with the 74-year-old whose passion has ignited a fervour among young Americans. Appearing onstage in Des Moines before the final tally arrived, Clinton hailed 'a contest of ideas' and appeared battle-ready for the fight of her political life."

Jamil Smith of the New Republic: "The Clinton campaign released a statement that read, in part, 'After thorough reporting -- and analysis -- of results, there is no uncertainty and Secretary Clinton has clearly won the most national and state delegates. Statistically, there is no outstanding information that could change the results and and no way that Senator Sanders could overcome Secretary Clinton's advantage.'"

Tony Leyes of the Des Moines Register: "Hillary Clinton's campaign claimed a slim victory early Tuesday over populist firebrand Bernie Sanders in the Iowa caucuses, though his spokeswoman said the results were not settled. Iowa Democratic Party officials worked into the early morning hours, trying to chase down results from a handful of precincts. About 2:30 a.m., the party's website showed that Clinton had 49.9 percent of the delegates to Sanders' 49.6 percent, with 1,682 of 1,683 precincts reporting":

Jason Noble of the Des Moines Register: "In a handful of Democratic caucus precincts Monday, a delegate was awarded with a coin toss. It happened in precinct 2-4 in Ames, where supporters of candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton disputed the results after 60 caucus participants apparently disappeared from the proceedings. As a result of the coin toss, Clinton was awarded an additional delegate, meaning she took five of the precinct's eight, while Sanders received three....Similar situations were reported elsewhere, including at a precinct in Des Moines, at another precinct in Des Moines, in Newton, in West Branch and in Davenport. In all five situations, Clinton won the toss." CW: What are the odds? Seems like a conspiracy to me! (Yeah, I know how probability works. Each toss is independent. Also, apparently not socialist.)

Scott Bixby, et al., of the Guardian: "Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley announced that he was suspending his campaign for the White House on Monday night after a devastating loss in the Iowa caucuses that gave the candidate a fraction of a percentage point."

Eric Levitz of New York: "Bernie Sanders owns the future of the Democratic Party. In 2008, voters under 30 propelled Barack Obama to victory, choosing the Illinois senator over Hillary Clinton by a 43-point margin. In 2016, those younger voters single-handedly lifted America's favorite democratic socialist to a virtual tie: Sanders outperformed Clinton among voters 18 to 29 by 70 points, according to CNN's entrance poll.... Considering the structural disadvantages Sanders faced -- the concentration of his support among college students in a few select counties -- it's entirely possible the Vermont senator actually turned out more supporters than Clinton did."

Jeet Heer of the New Republic: "... if the night was muddy and unclear in term of its electoral meaning, it did show the ideological direction of the party in very forthright terms: Sanders is winning the battle of ideas and tugging Clinton to the left."

Jamelle Bouie of Slate: "if you are a Democrat who wants to win the White House for a third term -- or a progressive who just wants to minimize the damage to your priorities -- you should relish the upcoming combat. Why? Because a competitive primary will energize the Democratic Party and prime it for a tough and grueling general election. In Iowa, for example, returns suggest turnout that either meets or exceeds the record from 2008." ...

... John Cassidy (linked above): "Speaking on CNN as it got late, David Axelrod, President Obama's former campaign manager, made an acute point. One of Hillary's problems is that her campaign is largely about herself — her experience, her electability, and her toughness. 'I will keep doing what I have done my entire life,' she said in her non-victory speech. 'I will keep standing up for you. I will keep fighting for you.' Sanders, on the other hand, rarely mentions himself in his speeches. His campaign is all about his message of taking American back from the billionaires. And as Axelrod pointed out, it is often easier to inspire people, particularly young people, with an uplifting theme than with a résumé."

Greg Sargent on the Clinton who can't feel your pain.


Jonathan Martin
of the New York Times: "Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, powered by a surge of support from evangelical Christians, dealt a humbling loss to Donald J. Trump in the Iowa caucuses on Monday, throwing into question the depth of support for Mr. Trump's unconventional candidacy.... Senator Marco Rubio of Florida finished a strong third, bolstering his case to consolidate the support of Republicans uneasy about the two top finishers. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Cruz had nearly 28 percent of the vote, Mr. Trump 24 percent and Mr. Rubio 23 percent."

Allegra Kirkland of TPM: "After decisively winning the Iowa GOP caucuses late Monday night, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked Democrats to join him in the race to the White House in an emotional, teleprompter-free speech that ran more than 30 minutes.... Joined on stage by his wife Heidi Cruz, his father Rafael Cruz, and his senior Iowa campaign staffers, the Texas senator gave a lengthy speech that leaned heavily on his spiritual beliefs and his political battles against the 'Washington cartel.' The lengthy run-time prompted all four major cable networks -- CNN, Fox News, C-SPAN and MSNBC -- to cut away to the Democratic candidates before the Iowa victor was finished speaking."

Andy Borowitz: "Senator Ted Cruz's stunning victory in the Iowa caucuses is serving as a beacon of hope to despised people across the nation, a number of disliked Americans confirmed on Monday."

Sasha Issenberg of Bloomberg reports on how Ted won -- and, yes, those fraudulent shame-the-voters mailers were part of the plan.

Fox Gets the Last Laugh. Brian Stelter of CNN: "When Donald Trump lost to Ted Cruz in the Iowa caucuses Monday night, Fox News commentators were quick to suggest that Trump's decision to skip Fox's debate had something to do with it. Entrance poll surveys of Iowa voters supported the theory. Marco Rubio won 30% and Ted Cruz won 25% of the GOP voters who made up their minds in the days between the debate and the caucuses. Trump won only 14% of those late-deciding voters.... Kelly was the anchor who announced Cruz's defeat of Trump during the 10 p.m. hour on Monday." ...

... Nate Silver: "... there's good reason to think that the ground game wasn't the only reason for Trump's defeat. Republican turnout in Iowa was extremely high by historical standards and beat most projections. Furthermore, Trump won the plurality of first-time caucus-goers. There may have been a more basic reason for Trump's loss: The dude just ain't all that popular. Even among Republicans." ...

... Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "At around 2:30 on Monday afternoon, at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Donald Trump was loudly, confidently and repeatedly proclaiming his impending victory in Iowa. Just before 10 p.m., he was acting like he had never expected to win, and like coming in second was a YUGE accomplishment.... It's impossible to know whether Mr. Trump understands that his slack campaign organization in Iowa may have cost him dearly here. Kenneth P. Vogel of Politico said Mr. Trump spent almost as much on hats as he did on payroll." ...

Steve M.: "Am I sorry the ignorant bigot lost? Yes, I am. Even though Trump has created a particularly toxic strain of Republicanism, he poses a threat to the Republican Establishment -- he tarnishes the GOP brand by saying out loud what other Republicans say in code, and while his agenda may overlap with that of the GOP's power brokers on many issues, he wouldn't just take an ALEC or Grover Norquist agenda off the shelf and run on it, much less govern by it. I think a Trump presidency would be a nightmare, but it would be a singularly Trumpian nightmare -- it wouldn't be a tactical advance in the long war being fought by the Koch brothers and their allies. And we might never get to that point, because Trump would be a weak general election candidate, at a time when the Democrats are going to have a weak candidate of their own. (If Marco Rubio is the nominee, he will win. Take that to the bank.)... I hope someone -- Trump, Kasich ... hell, even Jeb -- humiliates Rubio in New Hampshire next week. If not, I hope Trump and Cruz cleans his clock in South Carolina. He's dangerous."

Adam Gabbatt of the Guardian: "Republican candidate Mike Huckabee has suspended his campaign for president after winning less than 2% of the vote in the Iowa caucus. The former Arkansas governor announced that he was dropping out of the race on Twitter." CW: Now he can devote full-time to scamming the gullible.

Andrea Gonzales & Katherine Faulders of CNN: "Ben Carson's presidential campaign on Monday night insisted the Republican presidential candidate would not be suspending his campaign in the wake of the Iowa caucuses. Instead, the candidate, himself, told reporters that he would be 'going home' to Florida 'to get some fresh clothes.' Carson, who appeared to be running in a distant fourth in Iowa behind leading contenders Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, said he would be home for just 'ten or twelve hours.'"

Sam Shepard of Politico explains why the polls did not predict the caucus outcomes.

Gail Collins & Arthur Brooks have a conversation about the Iowa results. Collins: "Cruz's victory notwithstanding, my current nightmare scenario is that Sanders does somehow win the nomination, with Trump on the other side. Causing Michael Bloomberg to enter as an independent. Which draws away the votes of moderate Democrats and puts Trump in the White House...." Collins on also-rans: "It reminds me of a state legislator I knew years ago who ran against a totally entrenched, incumbent senior U.S. senator. I asked him why and he said: 'Well, he could die. Or get drunk and run into a school bus full of nuns.'"

The New York Times is liveblogging the Iowa caucuses. Their results page is here. (At 9:00 pm ET, the Times had caucus results on its front page.) The Washington Post will have the Iowa caucus results here.

Jose DelReal, et al., of the Washington Post: "Voters gathered at caucus sites around the state and the events officially began at 7 p.m. Central time. Political operatives predicted a high turnout -- and there were reports that some sites were so packed that officials had trouble closing the doors -- despite a significant snowstorm that was bearing down on the state. Forecasters said the storm would likely hit after the caucuses were closed."

Six- to eight-year-olds from the Washington, D.C., area assess the candidates:

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: The Iowa caucus system is so undemocratic that even Iowa's senator, Joni Ernst (RTP) can't vote -- she has to be at work in Washington. "... Thousands of Iowans will ... be unable to vote because they work for a living."

Jamelle Bouie: "Win or lose, [Bernie] Sanders will stand as a historic presence in the Democratic Party.... Democrats have always kept their left flank at arms length.... Whatever the Democratic Party is in the next 20 or 30 years, it will owe a great deal to Sanders and all the people -- young or otherwise -- who felt the Bern." Also, he has "real clean teeth."

Sara Jerde of TPM: "Donald Trump told the crowd gathered at his campaign rally on Monday to 'knock the crap' out of anybody who threw a tomato at him. Trump said the event's security staff told him there was a risk people would throw the juicy fruit.... 'I will pay for the legal fees. I promise,' he added. 'They won't be so much because the courts agree with us too.'" ...

... digby: "I'm not in favor of tomato throwing by the way. But Trump telling citizens to 'knock the crap' out of them and he'll pay the legal fees is ... unpresidential to say the least. If anyone takes him up on it, it might even be called accessory to an assault. What the hell is happening here? is this becoming normalized? Gangster in Chief?" ...

... Trump drops cash in the place his little wine & little cracker go. This makes me laugh even as someone who has surely goofed during ceremony or rite with which I was unfamiliar. Anyway, it's the thought that counts. ...

... Kareem Abdul-Jabar, in a Washington Post op-ed, tells Trump voters their guy isn't who he says he is & won't be able to give them what they want. It's a pretty devastating analysis. ...

... Jonathan Swan of the Hill: "Donald Trump is so fiercely opposed by the Koch brothers network that some donors believe the powerful group will intervene to stop the billionaire if it looks like he could win the Republican presidential nomination.... On the eve of the Iowa causes, Koch network officials revealed in a private meeting with donors that they had commissioned focus group research to identify Trump's vulnerabilities." CW: Which is something of an argument contra Abdul-Jabar. Trump voters don't want these fat cats picking the president. They'll pick their own, thank you, even if in their foolishness they opt for a megalomanical fat cat. ...

... OR, as Paul Waldman remarks, "Nothing says 'democracy' like a couple of billionaires spending millions of dollars to keep another billionaire from winning the presidency." ...

All In. Brian Beutler: "How did the party that has recently been led by country-club candidates like Mitt Romney and Bob Dole come to be overtaken by a performance artist whom these former nominees detest?... The maximalism of the GOP's obstruction [of President Obama's initiatives] reflected not just the party's ideological median, but its political determination that Obama's presidency should be a failure.... Trump..., more than any Republican candidate..., has shaped his entire campaign around defining himself as an anti-Obama.... As the first votes of 2016 are cast, Republicans are preparing themselves to nominate the antithesis of an outgoing president that about half the country still likes.... It's an incredibly risky political gamble. And to the regret of the faltering establishment candidates who will be exiting the race in the coming days, the party went all-in seven years ago."

Ed Kilgore of New York: "The vibe at Jeb Bush's downtown Des Moines caucus 'briefing' Monday afternoon is upbeat and upscale -- but it's taking place under the shadow of reports circulating in the right-wing media that the campaign is paying an army of 'seat fillers' $25 an hour to make this rally look full.... A Congressional Medal of Honor winner who begins the proceedings refers to him as 'George — er, Jeb -- Bush.'... [At the end of Iowa Gov. Terry Bradstad's introduction,] two young men stand up and yell out, 'We've been here for two hours and haven't gotten paid.'... The interruption is yet another recapitulation of the general sense of failure that has haunted Jeb's campaign from around the time Trump entered the race."

Other News

If it's Groundhog Day, it must be time for the House to vote to repeal ObamaCare. Sure enough.

Richard Alba in the American Prospect: "The disappearance of a white majority in the United States by the middle of this century is now widely accepted as if it were an established fact." But it ain't necessarily so. Alba explains why "longstanding processes of assimilation could produce a white-dominated mainstream at the national level and in many regions for the foreseeable future."

Ariana Cha, et al., of the Washington Post: "The World Health Organization designated the Zika virus and its suspected complications in newborns as a public health emergency of international concern Monday. The action, which the international body has taken only three times before, paves the way for the mobilization of more funding and manpower to fight the mosquito-born pathogen spreading 'explosively' through the Americas." CW: Somehow, this real crisis is going to become "all Obama's fault" & Chris Christie will quarantine a pregnant Guatemalan woman.

Stephanie Clifford & Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times: "Though much of the focus on bank fraud has been on sophisticated hackers, it is the more prosaic figure of the teller behind the window who should worry depositors, according to prosecutors, government officials and security experts.... Rich and elderly bank customers are particularly at risk, prosecutors say, when tellers and other retail-branch employees tap into accounts to wire funds without authorization, make fake debit cards to withdraw money from A.T.M.s and sell off personal information to other criminals. Accounts with high balances and those with direct deposits of government funds, like Social Security payments, are especially coveted." ...

... CW: Yikes! Except for the rich part, that would be me. I am the mark.

Julian Aguilar of the Texas Tribune: Texas "Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Laredo Democrat, pressed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Monday to explain why the agency plans to reduce its aerial surveillance on the Texas-Mexico border. In a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, the lawmakers said the cut to a requested 3,850 hours of aerial detection and monitoring in 2016 amounts to 50 percent less coverage than recent years."

Capitalism Is AWESOME! Michael Liedtke of the AP: "Alphabet now comes before Apple atop the list of the world's most valuable companies. The shift occurred in Monday's extended trading after Alphabet, Google's new parent company, released a fourth-quarter earnings report that highlighted the robust growth of the digital ad market. Apple Inc.'s iPhone, meanwhile, is suffering its first downturn since it debuted eight years ago." ...

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Clint Rainey of New York: "Last fall, Nestlé took the unusual step of admitting slave labor exists in its seafood supply chains. These accusations had been around for a while, but Nestlé's report owning up to them was seen as groundbreaking for the industry. The thing is..., Nestlé doesn't really buy that much fish, and human-rights advocates have shifted to a much bigger raw material for the conglomerate -- cocoa from the Ivory Coast -- that they also say is tainted by ties to slavery, only Nestlé won't acknowledge it. Their anger is mostly centered on Nestlé's tactics to kill a big lawsuit filed by former victims of child slavery who worked on these farms. And this fury's officially kicked into high gear now that the Supreme Court looked at the case and refused to throw it out, taking Nestlé from good guy back to bad guy in slave-labor news."

Beyond the Beltway

Judd Legum of Think Progress: "On Saturday, 300 plumbers from unions across the country descended on Flint to install new faucets and water filters for free.... The effort was coordinated by the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry, known as the United Association. The fixtures were donated by the Plumbing Manufacturers International." CW: Take a look at the photos of the plumbers. They are mostly white guys. The residents of Flint mostly are not. Think progress.

Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post: "Republican lawmakers in Illinois last month pitched a bold plan for the state to seize control of the Chicago Public Schools, one of a growing number of states that are moving to sideline local officials -- even dissolve locally elected school boards -- and take over struggling urban schools. Governors in Michigan, Arkansas, Nevada, Wisconsin, Georgia, Ohio and elsewhere -- mostly Republican leaders who otherwise champion local control in their fights with the federal government -- say they are intervening in cases of chronic academic or financial failure." ...

... CW: The evidence that Republicans fundamentally oppose democracy is now overwhelming.

Molly Young of the Oregonian: "The dividing line over a monthlong armed standoff in [Burns, Oregon] ... deepened Monday. Hundreds of people converged on the county courthouse lawn to send a singular message to the remaining occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and their supporters: Go home. But backers of the anti-government standoff also turned out by the hundreds and made clear they would not back down.... A self-styled patriot group from Idaho organized the protest backing the occupation." The protests lasted for about four hours. ...

... Maxine Bernstein of the Oregonian: "Lawyers for Ammon Bundy this week will challenge U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman's order to keep Bundy in custody pending trial." ...

... Maxine Bernstein: "Peter T. Santilli, one of the 11 defendants charged with federal conspiracy stemming from the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, will challenge a magistrate judge's detention order before another federal judge on Tuesday. On Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman had characterized Santilli's case as a 'close call,' but on Monday, she ordered him to remain in custody, pending trial. She found he remains a serious risk of flight and danger to the community." ...

... The Hypocrites' Defense. Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post (Jan. 29, updated yesterday): "As of Friday, six of the militants have been assigned a federal public defender or court-appointed lawyer, meaning the federal government they were protesting will be footing their legal bills. Ammon Bundy -- the son of rancher Cliven Bundy, who engaged in a prior battle with the federal government over unpaid grazing fees -- is crowdsourcing online to pay for his private legal defense. All of the people arrested -- Ammon Bundy and his brother Ryan Bundy, Jon Ritzheimer, Joseph O'Shaughnessy, Ryan Payne, Brian Cavalier, Shawna Cox and Peter Santilli -- have a court appearance scheduled for Feb. 3 and an arraignment set for Feb. 24."