The Ledes

Friday, July 31, 2015.

AP: "Beijing was selected Friday to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, defeating the bid from Almaty[,Kazakhstan,] in a surprisingly close vote to become the first city awarded both the winter and summer games."

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, July 30, 2015.

New York Times: "The commander of a group of Syrian fighters trained by the United States has been kidnapped by Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, his group said in a statement Thursday. The commander, Nadeem Hassan, and seven of his fighters were taken by the Nusra Front, a rival of the Islamic State in Syria, as they were returning from a meeting in Turkey."

AP: "Afghanistan's Taliban on Thursday confirmed the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar, who led the group's self-styled Islamic emirate in the 1990s, sheltered al-Qaida through the 9/11 attacks and led a 14-year insurgency against U.S. and NATO troops. The Taliban Shura, or Supreme Council, chose Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, who had served as Mullah Omar's deputy for the past three years, as its new leader, two Taliban figures told the Associated Press...."

Washington Post: "The U.S. economy rebounded between April and June, new government data showed Thursday, expanding at an annualized rate of 2.3 percent. Growth in the second quarter remained modest, particularly compared with the breakneck pace seen in much of 2014, but it also signaled a bounce-back from a surprisingly sluggish winter when the economy was at a crawl."

New York Times: "Government officials and families of passengers lost on a Malaysian jet that vanished last year with 239 people aboard responded warily on Thursday to the discovery of possible wreckage from the aircraft, reluctant to fan hopes after more than a year of fruitless searching and false rumors. Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss of Australia, whose country has led the search for the jet, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, said that the discovery of an airplane part thousands of miles from the search area was 'a very significant development' but cautioned against concluding that it was from the missing aircraft."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

Washington Post (June 4): "The first-ever 'female Viagra' came one step closer to coming to market, as a key advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday afternoon to recommend that the FDA approve the drug with conditions. The committee voted 18-6 to recommend that the FDA approve flibanserin, a drug designed to boost the low sexual desire of otherwise healthy women."

White House Live Video
July 30

2:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

2:00 pm ET: Open government public meeting

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Jane Hamshire of Firedoglake: "... I have decided to pass the torch on to Kevin Gosztola and Brian Sonenstein, who will launch their own media organization called Shadowproof that will build on the success of FDL."

Dylan Byers: "MSNBC has formally decided to cancel three programs -- 'The Cycle,' 'Now with Alex Wagner' and 'The Ed Show' -- as part of a larger effort to shift its daytime lineup away from opinion programming.... Alex Wagner and Ari Melber, a 'Cycle' co-host and MSNBC's chief legal correspondent, will remain with the network. Ed Schultz, the host of 'The Ed Show,' will leave the network, as will 'Cycle' co-hosts Abby Huntsman, Krystal Ball and Toure.... In September, MSNBC will add a 5 p.m. program hosted by 'Meet The Press' moderator Chuck Todd, while Brian Williams, the former 'Nightly News' anchor, will serve as the network's breaking news and special reports anchor."

If you can memorize & learn to use the University of New Hampshire's long list of "bias-free language," you can be the most politically-correct person in your neighborhood. Via Jonathan Chait. ...

... CW Etiquette Tip: calling out your friends for using outmoded terms like "overweight" & "rich" is not politically-correct. Simply try to steer the conversation in a more "inclusive" direction. So if your friend says to you, "My rich neighbor got so overweight he has to use a wheelchair now," you say, "Oh, that person of material wealth has become a person of size who is wheelchair mobile? Wow! He's your neighbor? I remember him when he was a person experiencing homelessness who lacked advantages that others have." It sounds so natural, your friend will never realize you've corrected his biased, dated stereotypes.

Will Oremus of Slate likes Windows 10. CW: I haven't had the courage to try switching over yet. I'll lose EVERYTHING!

Fuck off! I’m done with you. -- Jon Stewart, to Wyatt Cenac

... Alex Jung of New York: Jon Stewart repeatedly yelled at Wyatt Cenac when Cenac questioned a "Daily Show" segment meant to be a defense against Fox "News" allegations that Stewart's Herman Cain imitation was racist. ...

... Maron's WTF podcast of his interview with Cenac is here. ...

... CW: Here's the thing, black people. When you confront white liberals with accusations of racial bias, WE WILL NEVER ADMIT IT. We will remind you that we have been fighting for black civil rights for 50 years (Bernie Sanders). We will tell you all lives matter (Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley). We will tell you that white people are responsible for expanding your rights (Hillary Clinton). We will deny your accusations (Every one of us). And all the while, we will be highly insulted, even if we don't tell you to fuck off. Because white people's feelings matter. And, after all we've done for you, we can't believe you would accuse us of racism.

Even when they're only lip-syncing, some entertainers are pretty damned talented. I'm not much of a fan of Tom Cruise's, but ...

Tech Crunch: "It’s no secret that Google+ didn’t quite work out the way Google envisioned and now, after already moving Google Photos out of the service, it’s starting to decouple Google+ profiles from its regular Google accounts."

Stupid Pet Tricks, Reptile Edition:

Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast: NBC News Chairman Andy Lack is replacing MSNBC's Ed Schultz with -- Chuck Todd. [CW: Excellent decision! Let's change "MSNBC" to "VPN" -- "Village People's Network."] "The only programs that appeared safe from disruption were Morning Joe..., hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski; Hardball ... with Chris Matthews; and The Rachel Maddow Show at 9 p.m. Those programs have performed respectably...." ...

We live in a time when much of the corporate media regards politics as a baseball game or a soap opera. Ed Schultz has treated the American people with respect by focusing on the most important issues impacting their lives.... I am very disappointed that Comcast [the parent company of NBC & MSNBC] chose to remove Ed Schultz from its lineup. We need more people who talk about the real issues facing our country, not fewer.... At a time when a handful of large, multi-national corporations own our major media outlets, I hope they will allow voices to be heard from those who dissent from the corporate agenda. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders

Washington Post: "The latest update from NASA's Kepler space telescope — designed to spot distant exoplanets — adds more than 500 new possible planets to the fray. That's in addition to the 4,175 planets already found by Kepler. And of those 500 new potential planets, scientists say, a dozen could be remarkably Earth-like. That means they're less than twice as large as Earth, are potentially rocky and are at the right distance from their host stars to harbor liquid water." ...

... Guardian: "Scientists on the hunt for extraterrestrial life have discovered 'the closest twin to Earth' outside the solar system, Nasa announced on Thursday."

Worst Person Ratings in the World. Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: Rumors are a'flyin' that MSNBC is headed for another line-up shake-up, which could include the Return of Dr. Olbermann, who is departing ESPN -- again. Because their third place in cable ratings wasn't as bad as their third place is now (sometimes 4th, behind Al Jazeera). And because the New Olbermann is now a suits-licking pussycat, unlike the Old Olbermann from way last week.

Some Would Be Heroes. Washington Post: Coast Guardsman Darren Harrity swims a mile in choppy, fuel-slicked sea to save four men in a leaky lifeboat.

New York Times: "What Pet Should I Get?" -- an aide to Dr. Suess's widow found the manuscript in a box. Dr. Suess -- Theodore Geisel -- died in 1991.

     ... Via BuzzFeed, for the fun of it.

Washington Post: "On Monday, famed physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian tycoon Yuri Milner held a news conference in London to announce their new project: injecting $100 million and a whole lot of brain power into the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, an endeavor they're calling Breakthrough Listen." ...

... CW: What a waste. You know all they'll find is angels hovering around a pantheon of some sort & maybe, if they're lucky, their long-dead pooches floating around Pet Heaven, which is real & wonderful.

New York Times: "In a pair of legal filings on Friday, two nuns who object to [singer Katy] Perry’s proposed purchase of their order’s convent on eight acres [in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles] disclosed an email describing any sale to the saucy pop singer as a breach of their sacred vows.... The court papers include claims by several of five surviving nuns in the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the archdiocese is betraying them and bullying them into supporting a sale other than their preferred transaction with [another buyer]."

NASA: "In the latest data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, a new close-up image of Pluto reveals a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes. This frozen region is north of Pluto’s icy mountains, in the center-left of the heart feature, informally named 'Tombaugh Regio' (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930."

Hill: "President Obama is making a final 'Daily Show' appearance before host Jon Stewart leaves the political comedy program after 17 years. Obama will sit down for his final chat with Stewart on Tuesday, the White House confirmed Friday."

For an actual feel-good moment, Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post tells the story of 16-year-old small-plane crash survivor Autumn Veatch. Veatch, who was injured in the crash that killed her grandparents, walked untold mild through rough terrain until she came to a public road & parking area.

Washington Post: "Nearly two months after a molestation scandal prompted TLC to pull reruns of the popular reality program '19 Kids and Counting' from the air and online, the network announced that it has officially canceled the program."

Washington Post: "Filmmaker George Lucas, singer-songwriter Carole King and dancer-actress Rita Moreno are among an unprecedented six honorees to be saluted at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors. Seventies rockers the Eagles, actress Cicely Tyson and conductor Seiji Ozawa will also be honored at the Dec. 6 event, Kennedy Center officials said Wednesday. A major fundraiser for the arts center, the gala celebration will be televised on CBS on Dec. 29."

Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker reviews Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman. ...

... Laura Marsh of the New Republic: "Scolars have been pointing out Atticus Finch's racism for years."

New York Times (July 15): "It was the last day of business at F. A. O. Schwarz on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan."

New York Times: "A day after its successful flyby, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back the first close-up photographs of Pluto, revealing a young surface dotted with ice mountains. The piano-size spacecraft traveled nine years and three billion miles to study the dwarf planet and its five moons." Includes one close-up photo from 25 miles out. More on NASA's site.

New York (July 14): "We're halfway through July, but until this morning, there was still snow on the ground in Boston. The last of the city's historic snowfall, a disgusting frozen mass of dirt, snow, and trash, was officially pronounced melted this morning"."

Here are time-lapse photos of the long melt:

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-- Constant Weader

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Saturday
Jul182015

The Commentariat -- July 19, 2015

Eric Tucker of the AP: "The deadly shootings at military sites in Tennessee illustrate the threat that FBI officials have warned about: violence directed against a vulnerable government target by a lone gunman with apparent terrorist aspirations.... Law enforcement officials describe an ongoing challenge in distinguishing those who merely consume and share messages and those actually motivated to commit violence.... It can be easy for those who read messages, but do not post their own thoughts, to avoid law enforcement scrutiny." ...

... Timothy Williams, et al., of the New York Times: The FBI is still looking for clues to determine Abdulazeez's motivations. Richard Fausset & Manny Fernandez of the Times look into Abdulazeez's family's life. ...

... Greg Jaffe, et al., of the Washington Post gather info about Abdulazeez's "lifestyle." ...

... William Saletan of Slate compares Abdulazeez's attack on a U.S. Marine recruiting center with U.S. drone attacks on similar facilities in Iraq, Syria & Afghanistan. Satetan dubs Abdulazeez's attack"an act of war" by an "enemy combatant" rather than an act of terrorism, which the U.S. code describes "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets."

Thomas Sugrue, in a Washington Post op-ed: "... many of the racial injustices we associate with the South are actually worse in the North. Housing segregation between black and white residents, for instance, is most pervasive above the Mason-Dixon line.... The division between black and white neighborhoods in the North is a result of a poisonous mix of racist public policies and real estate practices that reigned unchecked for decades.... Education remains separate and unequal nearly everywhere in the United States." New York state has the most segregated schools.

Maureen Dowd: "Time to dismiss the Anger Translator. The president is far more energized than a couple years ago.... He clearly enjoys settling into his favorite role -- the man alone in the arena, disdaining the flattering rituals and back-scratching of politics, the dread drinks with Senator McConnell and stupid golf with Speaker Boehner."

Accidents Waiting to Happen. Jeff Donn of the AP: "Five years after the Obama administration promised to move swiftly to permanently plug unused oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico, even more shafts are lingering for longer periods with only temporary sealing, an investigation by The Associated Press shows. It is not clear how many incompletely sealed wells may have leaked -- they generally are not monitored as carefully as active wells -- but they contain fewer barriers to pent-up petroleum and rupture more easily. The threat to the environment increases with time."

Graham Bowley & Sydney Ember of the New York Times: In a four-day deposition taken a decade ago, "Even as [entertainer Bill] Cosby denied he was a sexual predator who assaulted many women, he presented himself in the deposition as an unapologetic, cavalier playboy, someone who used a combination of fame, apparent concern and powerful sedatives in a calculated pursuit of young women -- a profile at odds with the popular image he so long enjoyed, that of father figure and public moralist.... Through it all, his manner was largely one of casual indifference."

Presidential Race

Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "The first gathering of the Democratic presidential candidates played almost according to script here Friday night. Hillary Rodham Clinton stood above the field but did not dominate. Bernie Sanders displayed the passion that has made him such a favorite of the left. And Martin O'Malley's speech got a reception that belied his anemic poll numbers":

S. V. Date of the National Journal: "Black Lives Matter" protesters shut down Bernie Sanders & Martin O'Malley events at the Netroots Nation convention in Phoenix, Arizona. "Netroots declined to criticize the protest." CW: Another lovely example of liberals being as stupid & rude as conservatives.

Jeb! Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Politically, Jeb Bush wants voters to focus on his first name and his own political record. But when it comes to fundraising, he's still banking on the success of his last name. He hosted wealthy donors, many of whom backed his father and brother's presidential bids, at his parents' coastal estate in Maine this month. And on Friday night, he headlined a raucous dinner hosted by a PAC led in part by his two sons."

Let's honor Marco Rubio as Liar of the Day: He blames President Obama & Harry Reid for failing to pass immigration reform legislation. For some reason, Marco forgot to mention GOP senators' opposition -- the last Senate did eventually pass a bill, with only 14 GOP votes -- & House Republicans, who steadfastly refused even to bring the Senate bill to the floor for a vote (which Democrats would have passed with minimal GOP support).

Alan Rappeport & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump upended a Republican presidential forum [in Ames, Iowa,] Saturday with incendiary comments about Senator John McCain's war record, drawing widespread condemnation.... Asked about Mr. McCain during an event on Saturday sponsored by an Iowa Christian conservative group, Mr. Trump said of Mr. McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam: 'He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured.'" ...

... Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "Donald Trump opened his mouth and let slip forth a word salad in trying to clarify why he attacked John McCain's war hero status." ...

... Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Trump managed to avoid serving in the Vietnam war because of a series of draft deferments. Asked why he didn't serve, Trump said, 'I had student deferments and ultimately had a medical deferment because of my feet. I had a bone spur.' But Trump said he did not recall which foot was injured and instructed reporters to look up his records. Trump added, 'I was not a big fan of the Vietnam War. I wasn't a protester, but the Vietnam War was a disaster for our country. What did we get out of the Vietnam War other than death? We got nothing.' After meeting with the news media, Trump took to Twitter, where he did not back down from his criticism of McCain." ...

... Adios, Donaldo. Nate Cohn of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump's candidacy probably reached an inflection point on Saturday after he essentially criticized John McCain for being captured during the Vietnam War. Republican campaigns and elites quickly moved to condemn his comments -- a shift that will probably mark the moment when Trump's candidacy went from boom to bust.... His comments were nothing less than an invitation for the rest of the Republican Party to begin their long-awaited offensive. So far, the Republican National Committee, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker have already criticized him for his comments." ...

... Steve M.: Trump has given "all his pants-wetting Republican opponents a golden opportunity. Now they can sanctimoniously attack Trump for besmirching the honor of a great American who suffered torture at the hands of brutal communists -- and they don't have to say a word about every other obnoxious thing Trump has said recently." ...

... Colbert King of the Washington Post: "That a decorated Vietnam War veteran would be sarcastically put down by a loudmouth celebrity presidential wannabe who never wore the uniform, but escaped military service with a series of draft deferments, is one of the most disgusting turns of events in national politics."

CW: Mike Huckabee, the Christian Family Values candidate, seems to have had some trouble directing his own sons' values, as Ophelia M. pointed out yesterday. Here's Huck's boy John Mark in an unreleased film. Johnny-Boy posted the clip on YouTube, but took it down for some odd reason, maybe around the time his daddy criticized President & Michelle Obama for allowing their daughters to listen to Beyoncé recordings:

... Worse. Travis Gettys of the Raw Story: Huck's younger son David "was fired as a Boy Scout counselor at age 17 for allegedly hanging a stray dog from a tree after it wandered into the camp where he worked." The full story (linked second here) by the Huffington Post is screw-loose depraved. CW: Repubicans -- George W. Bush (blowing up frogs), Paul Ryan (catfish noodling). Mitt Romney (dog on the roof of the car) -- seem to find animal cruelty amusing, "exhilarating," or at least acceptable. David Huckabee seems to have the right stuff to run for POTUS or VPOTUS on the GOP ticket.

Beyond the Beltway

Jeremy Borden of the Washington Post: "The Loyal White Knights of the KKK, which calls itself the largest chapter in the United States, held a rally in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday afternoon to protest the removal of the [Confederate] flag.... The New Black Panther Party showed up earlier in the day to protest, on the north side of the statehouse. Members encouraged the hundreds who came to keep things peaceful, while also encouraging African Americans to take ownership of their problems and fight back when necessary. When Klansmen arrived later, the groups clashed intermittently."

News Ledes

AP: "A Kuwait-born man who shot and killed five service members in Tennessee suffered from depression since his early teen years and also fought drug and alcohol abuse, spending time in Jordan last year to help him clean himself up, a family spokesman said Sunday. The representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid unwanted publicity, said relatives of 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez believe those personal struggles are at the heart of last week's killings at a pair of military sites in Chattanooga."

Washington Post: "Former president George H.W. Bush has been discharged from a Maine hospital following a recent fall."

Friday
Jul172015

The Commentariat -- July 18, 2015

** Reliving the Past, Southern-Style. Harold Meyerson in the American Prospect: "... The South's current drive to impose on the rest of the nation its opposition to worker and minority rights -- through the vehicle of a Southernized Republican Party -- resembles nothing so much as the efforts of antebellum Southern political leaders to blunt the North's opposition to the slave labor system. Correspondingly, in the recent actions of West Coast and Northeastern cities and states to raise labor standards and protect minority rights, there are echoes of the pre-Civil War frustrations that many Northerners felt at the failure of the federal government to defend and promote a free labor system.... The South's aversion to both minimum-wage standards and unions is rooted deep within the DNA of white Southern elites, whose primary impulse has always been to keep African Americans down.... Never before have Northern-state governments (all of them Republican) sought so successfully to emulate policies of racial suppression and anti-working-class economics that the South originated."

If we keep taking steps toward a more perfect union, and close the gaps between who we are and who we want to be, America will move forward. -- Barack Obama, this week

** It's the perfect response to the Confederate flag wavers. -- Dana Milbank

White House: The President explains the comprehensive, long-term deal announced earlier this week that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon":

Arlette Saenz of ABC News: "President Obama welcomed the nation's oldest known veteran to the White House -- hosting the barrier-breaking 110-year Emma Didlake in the Oval Office Friday afternoon. The president lauded Didlake, an African American World War II veteran, for her service...."

NSA Summer Camp. Nicholas Fandos the New York Times: "Like the C.I.A. and other elite intelligence agencies, the N.S.A. has for decades recruited on college campuses and run collegiate programs, but this summer the agency is making sure that middle- and high-school-age students -- and some teachers, too -- are learning how to hack, crack and defend in cyberspace."

Richard Fausset, et al., of the New York Times: "The 24-year-old gunman who killed four Marines in an attack on two military sites here traveled to Jordan last year for about seven months, a senior intelligence official said Friday, one of several trips to the country in recent years. The official said that investigators were combing through the computer, cellphone and social media contacts of the gunman, identified as Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, to determine whether he was in touch with any extremist groups in Jordan before or during this trip." (Also linked yesterday afternoon) ...

... This is slightly disturbing. WKYC (Knoxville): "FirstEnergy confirmed ... that [Abdulazeez] also worked at Perry Nuclear Power Plant from May 20 to May 30 of 2013. FirstEnergy[,which owns the plant,] said he left because he didn't meet the minimum requirements to remain employed. He worked as a electrical engineer right outside the nuclear reactor, which they say he did not have access."

Republican Men Find New Way to Punish Young Women Who Won't Have Sex with Them. Rachel Bade & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Republicans on Capitol Hill are betting the secretly filmed Planned Parenthood video -- depicting an executive allegedly discussing the sale of fetal organs from terminated pregnancies -- will give them cover to more aggressively push abortion issues without the political ramifications that have haunted the party in the past." ...

... Amanda Marcotte in Rolling Stone: "... the ... allegation in the video -- that Planned Parenthood was caught selling fetal body parts -- was utter nonsense, plain and simple. Still, that didn't stop the right from acting like this was the greatest scandal since Monica Lewinsky's blue dress." Marcotte highlights some winger reactions. Via Paul Waldman. ...

... CW Note to Republicans: For many people who are not medical professionals, surgery of any kind -- from pimple removal to quadruple bypass -- seems "gross." You boys probably pass out when a technician takes a blood sample. Get over it. ...

... Heather Caygle of Politico: "Sen. Rand Paul is the latest lawmaker to throw a wrench into delicate transportation bill negotiations, suggesting he might hold up the legislation over the controversial Planned Parenthood video that surfaced this week.... [Paul] released multiple statements Friday promising to use 'all legislative vehicles' to 'defeat and defund Planned Parenthood' next week. The statements on his Senate and campaign websites don't directly mention the pending highway and transit legislation, but it is the next big-ticket item on the Senate's to-do list...." CW: True to his usual MO, Li'l Randy is pleased as punch to spew another lie: "The recent revelation that this taxpayer-funded organization is selling body parts of the unborn [blah-blah]...."

CW: I give up. I don't know what Steve King means here. As far as I can tell, Julian Castro's heritage is somewhere around 100 percent Hispanic/Latino. According to his Wiki-bio, King "has Irish, German, Welsh, and English ancestry." (The Wiki-link to this factoid is dead.) If the info is correct, none of King's recent ancestors is Hispanic or Latino. Usually even loons make some kind of sense, even if it's twisted. Steve King is the exception, as far as I can tell.

Philip Klein of the right-wing Washington Examiner may employ some over-the-top rhetoric, but his underlying premise is right: "On Wednesday, America's Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry's largest lobbying group, announced that it had elected Marilyn Tavenner as its chief executive officer. Before joining AHIP, Tavenner led the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under [President] Obama, where she was tasked with overseeing the implementation of Obamacare -- writing the rules regulating the same insurance companies that she'll now be representing as a lobbyist. Tavenner could be a poster child for the corrupting influences of the revolving door between industry and government that Obama once decried. A former hospital executive and lobbyist, she was appointed in 2006 by then Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to serve as the state's health secretary before entering the Obama administration.

There's a reason why Tavenner is so valuable to AHIP -- and it's not for her role in the disastrous rollout of Obamacare's healthcare.gov website. She has a web of connections within the Obama administration and an intimate knowledge of how it works. But her being at AHIP is also valuable for the administration, because it means that the insurance industry's main lobbying group will now be headed by a cheerleader for Obamacare.

     ... Also via Waldman.

Timothy Cama of the Hill: "A federal judge on Friday dismissed Oklahoma's second lawsuit against the Obama administration's climate rule for power plants. Judge Claire Eagan of the District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma ruled that the state's attorney general cannot challenge the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) regulation until it is made final. It is the second case in as many months in which a federal court has dropped lawsuits against the Obama administration's signature climate change initiative, which is due to be made final next month."

Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times: "Michael G. Grimm, a former New York congressman who resigned from office after pleading guilty to tax fraud, was given an eight-month sentence on Friday. A federal investigation that initially focused on Mr. Grimm's campaign fund-raising turned into a 20-count indictment related to his running of a restaurant in Manhattan, Healthalicious. Prosecutors said he underreported wages and revenue to the government and filed false tax documents as a result.... [Now for a hilarious side-note:] He is now working as a consultant to start-up businesses." (Also linked yesterday afternoon) ...

... CW: What's your advice to start-ups, Mikey? To cut costs, pay employees under the table. AND If the building inspector gives you grief, tell him you want to show him something on the roof, then threaten to toss him off -- especially if you're way bigger than the inspector.

Former Fed chair Ben Bernanke, in a Brookings Institute post, explains how Europe -- i.e., Germany -- is fundamentally failing the Eurozone by not "delivering the broad-based economic recovery that is needed to give stressed countries like Greece a reasonable chance to meet their growth, employment, and fiscal objectives." [Bernanke asks this as a question, but his answer is "nope."] Germany's large trade surplus puts all the burden of adjustment on countries with trade deficits, who must undergo painful deflation of wages and other costs to become more competitive. Germany could help restore balance within the euro zone and raise the currency area's overall pace of growth by increasing spending at home...."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Danny Shea, Editorial Director of the Huffington Post: "After watching and listening to Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy for president, we have decided we won't report on Trump's campaign as part of The Huffington Post's political coverage. Instead, we will cover his campaign as part of our Entertainment section. Our reason is simple: Trump's campaign is a sideshow." ...

... CW: That's a lovely, principled idea, & I tried it myself for awhile. Until it quit working. As long as the GOP accepts Trump as a "legitimate" candidate, as long as other presidential candidates are responding to him & as long as pollsters are including him in their surveys, I think the media have to cover the Trump sideshow, too. Once these factors subside, then the rest of us can faggedaboud him.

Michael Calderone of the Huffington Post: "Gawker on Friday removed a controversial story about a media executive soliciting a male escort who later attempted to extort him, after the decision to post the piece received widespread condemnation on social media." ...

     ... The Gawker staff is upset about this. ...

... Mark Stern of Slate explains why removing the story was a good move legally, altho it might be too late to undo the damage. CW: I'm with Gawker CEO Nick Denton. The story was not newsworthy unless part of a piece on Excesses of the Rich & Unfamous.

Presidential Race

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "The full field of candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination assembled for the first time [in Cedar Rapids, Iowa,] Friday night, with a trio of them giving fiery speeches sounding populist economic themes. Much of the focus was on Hillary Rodham Clinton, the dominant front-runner for the Democratic nomination, and two underdog candidates challenging her from the left, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley.... In a tough, partisan speech, Clinton looked past her primary opponents to go after the leading Republican candidates and brought Democrats to their feet.... Former Virginia senator Jim Webb and former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee also spoke at the dinner." ...

... Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont edged closer on Friday to directly attacking Hillary Rodham Clinton, pointedly asking whether the Democratic presidential front-runner would support measures to break up the country's largest financial institutions and reinstate a firewall between commercial and investment banking.... He boasted that he had not received financial contributions from Goldman Sachs, which he said sought 'undue influence' in American politics, but stopped short of calling on Mrs. Clinton to reject the nearly $50,000 in donations she has received from employees of the Wall Street firm. 'That's her decision,' Mr. Sanders said, after pausing for a moment to consider the question." ...

     ... CW: Sorry, Jonathan, that's no attack; not even "edging close." We know you're itching for a knock-down/drag-out, NYT, but this is not your both-sides-do-it moment. Pretending "Ask her" is an attack is both untrue & defamatory. See Trump: "McCain is a dummy" below. That would be an attack. ...

     ... Martin, Ctd.: Clinton "added [a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, rally] to her schedule.... These gatherings ... represent an effort to show that Mrs. Clinton is herself capable of luring big audiences. But the rally served to highlight her inability for now to attract crowds on the same scale as Mr. Sanders, whose Iowa events have drawn more people than any other presidential candidate has in either party. Mrs. Clinton drew a few hundred people to her event here -- her campaign pegged it at 500 -- while Mr. Sanders was met by about 2,500 at an event in Council Bluffs this month."

Daniel Strauss of Politico: Speaking at the Netroots Nation convention Friday in Phoenix, Arizona, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sets out Warren's Rules for Presidential Candidates. "Clinton's decision to skip the convention did not go unnoticed.... Both Bernie Sanders & Martin O'Malley will address the group.

digby: In his column (linked here yesterday) Paul Krugman "hit upon something important in political coverage: when a politician takes a different position on policy from earlier positions (or, in [Hillary Clinton's] case, from her husband's positions) the press assumes that she's flip-flopped for political reasons. But it's always possible that she has changed her mind based upon new evidence. If reporters spent some time probing these differences instead of doing Trey Gowdy's wet work for him, they might learn something.... It's perfectly legitimate to ask what changed someone's mind --- and letting them explain it." ...

... CW: As both digby & Krugman point out, Republicans should try occasionally looking at evidence. The reason they don't, of course, is that facts usually prove inconvenient to the GOP. See, for instance, Li'l Randy's Lie o'the Day, linked above. How can a needy candidate fundraise off Planned Parenthood atrocities if the atrocities don't exist? Necessity is the mother of invention.

Tony Romm of Poltico: "Despite Republican candidates' high-profile outreach to the Bay Area, most tech industry bigwigs are throwing cash at Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Ken Vogel & Tarini Parti of Politico: "Republicans could barely contain their glee when the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision cleared the way for unlimited spending in political campaigns. But now -- headed into a crowded presidential primary that promises to be longer, nastier and more expensive as a result of the ruling -- some are having buyers' remorse. Concerns are mounting among top donors and party elites that an influx of huge checks into the GOP primary will hurt the party's chances of retaking the White House. Long-shot candidates propped up by super PACs and other big-money groups will be able to linger for months throwing damaging barbs at establishment favorites who offer a better chance of victory."

Wherein Jeb! casts himself as the only presidential candidate wearing big-boy pants. Eli Stokols of Politico reports.

Mark Hensch of the Hill: "Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said on Friday that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R-) is 'vile' for using a speech earlier this week to talk about the violent death of one of Himes's former interns. Himes argued in a statement that Christie was politicizing the death of Kevin Sutherland to fit talking points on criminal justice reform, and that it was unethical of him to do so.... Sutherland was stabbed to death on D.C.'s Metro system in what police have described as a botched robbery.Christie referenced Sutherland's death during a campaign speech on Thursday in Camden, N.J. On Friday afternoon, Sutherland's parents, Douglas and Terry Sutherland, issued a statement protesting Christie's remarks."

Katie Glueck of Politico: "Donald Trump's turn in the national spotlight is mainly taking a toll on Ted Cruz.... That's the assessment of this week's Politico Caucus, our weekly survey of the leading strategists, activists and political operatives in Iowa and New Hampshire.... In New Hampshire, where Chris Christie's hopes are riding on a strong finish, roughly a quarter of Republicans believe the brash and straight-talking New Jersey governor is also put at risk by Trump's emergence in the field." CW: See, HuffPost, Trump isn't all bad. ...

... CW: Also, too, how could you call Trump a "sideshow," HuffPost? Why, just yesterday Trump called John McCain a "dummy," said Rick Perry "should be forced to take an IQ test before being allowed to enter the GOP debate," & backed off a feud with MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell. All very important to the future of the nation.

Beyond the Beltway

Alice Barr of KHOU-TV, in USA Today: "A trooper who pulled over and later arrested a woman found dead in her jail cell was put on desk duty Friday for violating procedures, the Texas Department of Public Safety said. Sandra Bland, 28, was arrested July 10, and after spending the weekend in the Waller County jail, she was found hanged in her cell Monday. Harris County's medical examiner said the death was a suicide, but Bland's family disputes the finding. The FBI has joined the Texas Rangers in investigating the circumstances surrounding her death. The state Public Safety Department and Waller County district attorney have requested that the FBI conduct a forensic analysis on video footage from the incident." ...

... St. John Barned-Smith of the Houston Chronicle has more on the Bland story.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, voiced support on Saturday for his country's nuclear deal with world powers while emphasizing that the agreement did not signal an end to Iran's hostility toward the United States and its allies, especially Israel."

New York Times: "A petty officer wounded in Thursday's attacks at two military facilities [in Chattanooga] succumbed to his injuries on Saturday, according to members of his family and the Navy. Petty Officer Second Class Randall Smith of the Navy, 26, became the fifth service member to die as a result of the shootings at a military reserve center and a nearby recruiting center."

Washington Post: "Three U.S. admirals were censured for dining at 'extravagant' banquets in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore and accepting other gifts from an Asian defense contractor at the center of a bribery scandal that continues to rattle the highest ranks of the Navy, according to documents released late Friday.... The incidents occurred nearly a decade ago, while all three officers -- Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller, Rear Adm. Terry B. Kraft and Rear Adm. David R. Pimpo -- were assigned to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier strike group. Each was forced to retire this summer."

Thursday
Jul162015

The Commentariat -- July 17, 2015

Afternoon Update:

Richard Fausset, et al., of the New York Times: "The 24-year-old gunman who killed four Marines in an attack on two military sites here traveled to Jordan last year for about seven months, a senior intelligence official said Friday, one of several trips to the country in recent years. The official said that investigators were combing through the computer, cellphone and social media contacts of the gunman, identified as Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, to determine whether he was in touch with any extremist groups in Jordan before or during this trip."

Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times: "Michael G. Grimm, a former New York congressman who resigned from office after pleading guilty to tax fraud, was given an eight-month sentence on Friday. A federal investigation that initially focused on Mr. Grimm's campaign fund-raising turned into a 20-count indictment related to his running of a restaurant in Manhattan, Healthalicious. Prosecutors said he underreported wages and revenue to the government and filed false tax documents as a result.... [Now for a hilarious side-note:] He is now working as a consultant to start-up businesses." ...

... CW: What's your advice to start-ups, Mikey? To cut costs, pay employees under the table. AND If the building inspector gives you grief, tell him you want to show him something on the roof, then threaten to toss him off.

If we keep taking steps toward a more perfect union, and close the gaps between who we are and who we want to be, America will move forward. -- Barack Obama, this week

** It's the perfect response to the Confederate flag wavers. -- Dana Milbank

*****

Peter Baker of the New York Times: President Obama "came to the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution [in Oklahoma] on Thursday to get a firsthand look at what he is focused on. Accompanied by aides, correctional officials and a phalanx of Secret Service agents, he crossed through multiple layers of metal gates and fences topped by concertina wire to tour the prison and talk with some of the nonviolent drug offenders he says should not be serving such long sentences.... Where other presidents worked to make life harder for criminals, Mr. Obama wants to make their conditions better":

CW: Matt Bai is kind of a jerk, but I think he's right to suggest that President Obama has -- since the last election -- transitioned from the 20th century to the 21st. This of course is what his opponents can't stand about him, caught as they are in a mist of nostalgia for a mythological past when everything was wonderful (and everybody knew her place).

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "More than 100 former American ambassadors wrote to President Obama on Thursday praising the nuclear deal reached with Iran this week as a 'landmark agreement' that could be effective in halting Tehran's development of a nuclear weapon, and urging Congress to support it. 'If properly implemented, this comprehensive and rigorously negotiated agreement can be an effective instrument in arresting Iran's nuclear program and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons in the volatile and vitally important region of the Middle East,' said the letter, whose signers include diplomats named by presidents of both political parties." Includes copy of the letter.

Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "... Al Gore has made a rare criticism of Barack Obama as Royal Dutch Shell prepares to drill an exploratory well in the Arctic Ocean, denouncing the venture as 'insane' and calling for a ban on all oil and gas activity in the polar region."

** Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed: "The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that existing civil rights law bars sexual orientation-based employment discrimination a groundbreaking decision to advance legal protections for gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers.... The ruling -- approved by a 3-2 vote of the five-person commission -- applies to federal employees' claims directly, but it also applies to the entire EEOC, which includes its offices across the nation that take and investigate claims of discrimination in private employment."

     ... CW: The ruling seems so obvious to me that I wondered how anyone could think otherwise. ...

     ... Well, here's how. Dale Carpenter of the Washington Post: "The EEOC’s view on sexual orientation, however, runs counter to the rulings of several circuit courts. These courts have reasoned that 'sexual orientation' is not among the list of prohibited bases for employment action, that Congress did not intend to eliminate anti-gay discrimination when it enacted Title VII, and that Congress has repeatedly refused to add 'sexual orientation' to employment protections. The EEOC calls these earlier circuit court decisions 'dated,' and some of them have been undermined by subsequent precedents in the same circuits recognizing that gender stereotyping, including gender stereotypes evidenced by anti-gay comments, is sex discrimination.... The EEOC's views on the scope of Title VII are considered persuasive, but not binding, authority on the courts."

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "For this first time in 14 years, the Senate on Thursday approved a revised version of No Child Left Behind, the signature Bush-era education law that ushered in an era of broadly reviled high-stakes standardized testing. But the passage of the bill on an 81-17 vote, coming just a week after the House narrowly passed its own version, sets up a showdown between the two chambers, both controlled by Republicans, and leaves the fate of a final measure in doubt." ...

... Strange Bedfellows. Libby Nelson of Vox: "Hidden behind Thursday's overwhelmingly bipartisan Senate vote to get rid of No Child Left Behind is one of the strangest alliances in politics: Teachers unions have joined hands with Republicans. That's because they share two goals. They both want to get rid of the testing and accountability regimen of No Child Left Behind, and they want to cut back on Education Secretary Arne Duncan's influence."

Samar Khurshid of Roll Call: "Rep. Tim Murphy [R-Pa.], a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee looking into the video [of a Planned Parenthood doctor talking to sting operators about fetal tissue & organ transfers to research organizations], said at a Wednesday news conference he'd seen the clip weeks before. Asked afterward why he and others waited until this week to take action, Murphy struggled for an answer before abruptly ending the interview with CQ Roll Call, saying he should not be quoted and remarking, 'This interview didn't happen.'... Another Pro-Life Caucus and Judiciary committee member, GOP Rep. Trent Franks [R] of Arizona, said Wednesday he had also seen the video about a month ago." Via Paul Waldman.

Jeffrey Young of the Huffington Post: "Alaska would become the latest state to sign on to a major expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act through a plan announced by Gov. Bill Walker on Thursday. Walker, a Republican-turned-independent elected in 2014 on a platform that included Medicaid expansion, had been courting the Republican-led state legislature on the issue. But after lawmakers failed to advance his proposal in their latest session, he decided to carry out the policy on his own authority, he said during a press conference at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium headquarters in Anchorage. Absent legislative action to halt or alter the plan, the expansion will take effect Sept. 1, the governor said."

Adam Goldman, et al., of the Washington Post: "Four Marines were killed Thursday in shootings at a pair of military facilities in Tennessee by a gunman who is being investigated for possible ties to Islamist terrorist groups, U.S. law enforcement officials said." ...

... Craig Whitlock & Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "The gunman who targeted U.S. military service members in a late-morning shooting Thursday in Tennessee was a 24-year-old electrical engineer who had grown up in Chattanooga as part of a conservative Muslim family. Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez was born in Kuwait but moved with his family to the United States as an infant after the start of the Persian Gulf War and became a U.S. citizen, according to accounts given by friends and one of his sisters."

Paul Waldman: "... the Little Sisters [of the Poor] (and other religious organizations that have their own cases) are suing on the grounds that having to sign a letter declaring that they do not want to provide contraception coverage is itself an intolerable burden on their religious freedom.... Having to sign a letter opting out of contraception coverage is just too much to bear.... This week, the Little Sisters ... lost before a federal appeals court.... Not surprisingly, since this case is an attack on a provision of the ACA, every Republican everywhere has sided with the organizations demanding relief from their letter-signing burden. Yet at the same time that they see government's crushing hand there, they want government to put as many obstacles as possible in the way of women who need abortions." (Emphasis added.) ...

     ... CW: Aw, c'mon Paul. Signing a letter is a burden. Ow, my hand is cramped. Holy Mother, I can't find my glasses. We're poor, for God's sakes; forever stamps are expensive.

Annals of "Justice," Ctd. Another It-Could-Happen-to-You Edition. Dahlia Lithwick: In Charlottesville, Virginia, a "fanatical" prosecutor won the conviction of an innocent man despite overwhelming (& suppressed) evidence he committed no crime. The "man was finally freed, but that doesn't mean the system worked."

Alison Smale of the New York Times: "German lawmakers on Friday approved entering into detailed negotiations for a Greek bailout amid a simmering international debate over providing more debt relief to Athens and intensifying questions about whether Greece would be better off leaving the European common currency." ...

... Melissa Eddy of the New York Times: "... in negotiating a new deal this week to bail out Greece, Germany displayed what many Europeans saw as a harder, more selfish edge, demanding painful measures from Athens and resisting any firm commitment to granting Greece relief from its crippling debt. And that perception was fueled on Thursday when the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, suggested that Greece would get its best shot at a substantial cut in its debt only if it was willing to give up membership in the European common currency." ...

... Anthony Faiola & Stephanie Kirchner of the Washington Post: "... just like that, the image of the 'cruel German' is back. Germany -- more specifically, its chancellor, Angela Merkel -- has faced years of derision for driving a hard bargain with financially broken Greece, which has received billions in bailouts since 2010. But for both Germany and Merkel, the concessions extracted this week to open fresh rescue talks with Athens appear to have struck a global nerve. By insisting on years more of tough cuts and making other demands that critics have billed as humiliating, Berlin is wiping out decades of hard-won goodwill.... In its online edition, even Germany's own Der Spiegel magazine decried the Berlin-led demands as 'the catalogue of cruelties.'" ...

... Whaddaya mean, cruel? "Politics is hard sometimes." ...

     ... Update. Also, Angela Lied to Crying Child. Dylan Matthew of Vox: "Merkel, to be clear, is a liar. Germany can in fact manage more than the 400,000 people a year it let in as of 2012. It currently lets in fewer permanent migrants, as a share of its population, than do many other developed nations."

NOAA: "2014 was earth's warmest year on record. In 2014, the most essential indicators of Earth's changing climate continued to reflect trends of a warming planet, with several markers such as rising land and ocean temperature, sea levels and greenhouse gases ─ setting new records. These key findings and others can be found in the State of the Climate in 2014 report released online today by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). ...

Presidential Race

Niall Stanage of the Hill: "Bernie Sanders is making a push for support from black and Hispanic voters as he seeks to intensify his challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination." Sanders has spoken recently on a black-oriented radio program & at a La Raza meeting. "Sanders' embrace of minority concerns and sensibilities can hardly be called opportunistic. His involvement with civil rights stretches back to his youth, when he attended the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King gave his most famous speech, organized financial support for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and was arrested for protesting segregation."

Paul Krugman: Hillary "Clinton's [economic] speech reflected major changes, deeply grounded in evidence, in our understanding of what determines wages. And a key implication of that new understanding is that public policy can do a lot to help workers without bringing down the wrath of the invisible hand.... There's just no evidence that raising the minimum wage costs jobs, at least when the starting point is as low as it is in modern America." ...

... Kyle Blaine of BuzzFeed: "Hillary Clinton on Thursday wouldn't commit to supporting a $15 national minimum wage but said she is working with Democrats in Congress who are determining how high it can be set. 'I support the local efforts that are going on that are making it possible for people working in certain localities to actually earn 15,' Clinton said in a response to a question from BuzzFeed News during a press availability in New Hampshire on Thursday."

** digby in Salon: "The GOP's deranged foreign-policy dream: Build a wall around America -- and then prepare for World War III." But here's a big problem: "... we still don't know if the Democrats and Hillary Clinton will have the fortitude to resist their provocations and wage their 2016 campaign based on reason instead of paranoia. This is an old fault line in postwar American politics and Democrats have traditionally had a difficult time traversing it."

Meaner than a Junkyard Dog. Paul Waldman: "... Scott Walker ... is hell-bent on making sure that anyone who gets food stamps in Wisconsin has to endure the humiliation of submitting to a drug test. First the Wisconsin legislature sent him a bill providing that the state could test food stamp recipients if it had a reasonable suspicion they were on drugs; he used his line-item veto to strike the words 'reasonable suspicion,' so the state could test any (or all) recipients it wanted. And now, because federal law doesn't actually allow drug testing for food stamp recipients, Walker is suing the federal government on the grounds that food stamps are 'welfare,' and welfare recipients can be tested. This is why Scott Walker is never going to be president of the United States.... Walker isn't trying to solve a practical problem here. He wants to test food stamp recipients as a way of expressing moral condemnation.... there is no inherent connection between drug use and food stamps.... Walker ... practically oozes malice...." ...

... Charles Pierce on Walker's state supreme court victory (see yesterday's Commentariat): "If you're keeping score at home, the same organizations that were the subject of the criminal probe gave hundreds of thousands of neatly laundered dollars to the judges who ruled that those same organizations did nothing wrong on behalf of Scott Walker because fk you, that's why. If this happened in Myanmar or Kazakhstan, we'd all be laughing at it. Instead, let's once again congratulate Justice Anthony Kennedy for his immortal observation that: "...independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption." ...

... Scottie's Big Day, Ctd. Kevin Draper of Deadspin: "Wisconsin Senate votes to give $250 million to billionaires.... The Wisconsin Senate voted 21-10 to approve $250 million in public financing for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. The bill will now be sent to the state Assembly for approval.... Just a few days ago, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a state budget that includes cuts of $250 million to the University of Wisconsin system, among other cuts to public education funding." CW: Scottie is the prime mover behind the big bucks for Bucks billionaires scheme. ...

... CW: I realize I'm not telling you anything you don't know, but I just want to remind readers how utterly ignorant was this shift of taxpayer dollars from higher education to a sports arena. Walker "sold" the Bucks deal as an "economic development" scheme that will require No New Taxes (because, um, bonds). Never mind that new sports facilities provide only a short-term economic boost (during the construction period) & merely shift entertainment dollars from other venues to the sports arenas. Meanwhile, an equal investment in higher education pays off for this generation of young people & for generations to come.

I have a message for my fellow Republicans and the independents who will be voting in the primary process. What Mr. Trump is offering is not conservatism, it is Trump-ism -- a toxic mix of demagoguery and nonsense. -- Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) "was particularly rankled by [Donald] Trump’s rally [in Phoenix]. 'This performance with our friend out in Phoenix is very hurtful to me,' McCain said. 'Because what he did was he fired up the crazies.' McCain, who has long supported comprehensive immigration reform and was a member of the so-called Gang of Eight that successfully pushed immigration legislation through the Senate in 2013, has been at war with the far right in Arizona for years.... McCain, who had a testy relationship with Senator Marco Rubio, another member of the Gang of Eight who is running for President, couldn't resist adding, 'Rubio backed away from it.'" ...

... "McCain Mocks Rubio for Pulling a McCain." Jonathan Chait: "Of course McCain also backed away from Rubio's immigration bill. And that's not all! In 2006, he sponsored a comprehensive immigration bill, and then when it interfered with his chance to win the Republican nomination, declared he would no longer support his own bill." ...

... digby: "The people who are angry about the border situation are ill-informed xenophobes who blame every perceived problem on someone else, usually people of color.... They are right wingers who, by the way, McCain also courted when he was running for the nomination and trying to hold on to his Senate seat. Mr Integrity isn't above a little demagoguery when it's necessary. Where does he think Trump got his ideas?

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Islamic State appears to have manufactured rudimentary chemical warfare shells and attacked Kurdish positions in Iraq and Syria with them as many as three times in recent weeks, according to field investigators, Kurdish officials and a Western ordnance disposal technician who examined the incidents and recovered one of the shells. The development, which the investigators said involved toxic industrial or agricultural chemicals repurposed as weapons, signaled a potential escalation of the group's capabilities, though it was not entirely without precedent."

Guardian: "Former Fifa vice-president Jeffrey Webb has been extradited to the United States following his arrest in Switzerland on racketeering and bribery charges filed by American prosecutors."

Wednesday
Jul152015

The Commentariat -- July 16, 2015

Michael Shear & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Obama on Wednesday urged lawmakers to support the nuclear deal reached with Iran, saying that failure to put it in to effect would increase the likelihood of war in the Middle East and accelerate a nuclear arms race in the region that would threaten the safety of the United States. 'That's the choice that we face,' Mr. Obama said in opening comments at a news conference in the East Room of the White House. 'If we don't choose wisely, I believe future generations will judge us harshly, for letting this moment slip away.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon; story has been updated.) ...

... Squeaky Wheel Refuses Grease. Julie Davis & Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times: "When President Obama called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday to discuss the nuclear deal with Iran, the American president offered the Israeli leader, who had just deemed the agreement a 'historic mistake,' a consolation prize: a fattening of the already generous military aid package the United States gives Israel.... Mr. Obama said he was prepared to hold 'intensive discussions' with Mr. Netanyahu on what more could be done to bolster Israel's defenses, administration officials said. But, as in previous talks with Mr. Obama, Mr. Netanyahu refused to engage in such talk 'at this juncture,' the officials said...." ...

... David Sanger & Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "... as the negotiations [on the Iran nuclear deal] went into their third week..., a major dispute lingered: whether a ban on Iran's ability to purchase conventional weapons and missile technology would remain in place. The American delegation, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, insisted on extending the ban. But Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister and his country's chief negotiator, was opposed. Backing him were the Russians and Chinese, equal parties in the talks, who saw a lucrative market in selling arms to Tehran. A compromise was struck that fully satisfied neither side: a five-year ban on the sale of conventional weapons and an eight-year ban on ballistic missiles." ...

     The Washington Post story, by Karen DeYoung & Carol Morello, is here. ...

... "Blame George W. Bush." Noah Feldman of Bloomberg: "Iran's rise wouldn't have been possible -- and the deal wouldn't have been necessary -- had the U.S. not unleashed Iran from the regional power that did the most to contain it: Saddam Hussein's Iraq.... Had the U.S. never invaded Iraq, Hussein's Iraq would probably have continued to play its traditional role of containing Iran.... A democratic Iraq was always going to be Shiite-led, and a democratically elected Shiite government in Baghdad was always going to be relatively positive toward Iran." ...

... Paul Waldman: Now that we have a nuclear deal with Iran, Republicans are jostling each other to determine who can make the most angry and apocalyptic statements about it..... If President Walker/Bush/Rubio/Trump walked away from the deal, it wouldn't actually hurt Iran that much. But it would mean saying that America is no longer interested in keeping tabs on Iran's nuclear program.... That's a plan so stupid that it's hard to imagine even the current GOP presidential candidates carrying it out.... At the moment Republicans can't articulate their own alternative, because it sure seems like that alternative is another war. But if they're fortunate enough to win the White House next year, they're likely to find that walking away from this deal is a lot less attractive than it seemed when they were trying to win over Republican primary voters." ...

... E. J. Dionne compares President Obama's dealings with Iran to those of President Reagan's with the Soviet Union. Oh, and the critics aren't much different: "the conservative activist Howard Phillips accused Reagan of being 'a very weak man with a very strong wife and a strong staff' who had become 'a useful idiot for Kremlin propaganda.'" ...

... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois, says the nuclear agreement with Iran 'condemns the next generation to cleaning up a nuclear war in the Persian Gulf.' Kirk, who has consistently spoken out against the deal with Iran, told WRKO's Financial Exchange radio program on Tuesday that he believes 'tens of thousands of people in the Middle East are gonna lose their lives because of this decision by Barack Hussein Obama.'... Kirk said he believed the only reason the president supported legislation from Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, that allowed Congress to review the deal was because he 'wants...to get nukes to Iran.'"

Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Obama Heroically Prevents Reporter [Jonathan Karl] From Diverting News Conference About Iran To Donald Trump."

Michael Shear: "President Obama on Wednesday [in response to a question asked near the end of his press conference] said bluntly that the actions described in accusations that the comedian Bill Cosby drugged women for sex would constitute nothing less than rape, and he said the country should have 'no tolerance' for such actions. In his first comments on the decades-old accusations against Mr. Cosby, the president sought to carefully avoid a direct comment on civil legal actions that have been lodged against the longtime comedian and television star by several women in recent years. And he dismissed the idea that he might revoke the Presidential Medal of Freedom conferred on Mr. Cosby by President George W. Bush in 2002." ...

... Hunter Schwartz of the Washington Post: "Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) don't think [Cosby] deserves the highest civilian honor in America anymore. In a statement to Politico, a spokeswoman for Gillibrand said Cosby's medal must be revoked 'because we need to set a clear example that sexual assault will not be tolerated in this country.' But revoking the award isn't a simple matter of presidential decree or congressional vote. In fact, we don't actually know how the medal would be revoked because it's never happened before."

Jackie Calmes & Nicholas St. Fleur of the New York Times: "House Republican leaders on Wednesday announced a congressional investigation of Planned Parenthood, a day after anti-abortion activists released a video of an unsuspecting official from the organization explaining how it provides fetal tissue to researchers." CW: This would be Benghaaazi! for girls, except Benghaaazi! is already for one particular lady (see story linked under Presidential Race). ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox: "The video itself raises two issues. The first is whether Planned Parenthood's actions are legal; selling fetal remains for profit is against the law. But Planned Parenthood says it only charges enough to cover its own costs for preserving and transporting the fetal tissues, and that's allowed under federal law. The larger issue raised by the video is harder to resolve, and it's about the medical ethics of using fetal tissue in research.... Fetal tissue has historically played an important role in scientific research because of fetal cells' ability to rapidly divide and adapt to new environments."

Ziva Branstetter & Dylan Goforth of the Tulsa Frontier: "When President Barack Obama arrives in Durant[, Oklahoma,] today and travels to the town's high school to give a speech, he will apparently be greeted by residents waving Confederate flags." CW: Nothing racist about this demonstration of "heritage," of course. Funny, the Chocktaw Nation kicked these fine patriots off Chocktaw land. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Update. Bill Schammert of OKCFox: "The group was moved several times throughout the day.... The rally disbanded by early afternoon, prior to the president's arrival." ...

     ... Update 2. Katie Zezima of the Washington Post: "President Obama was greeted by protesters waving the Confederate flag during his visit to Oklahoma. About nine or 10 protesters waved the Confederate battle flag, as well as an American flag, across the street from the hotel where Obama is staying here, standing among a larger group that included Obama supporters.... Obama was also greeted by protesters waving the Confederate flag when he visited Tennessee earlier this month."

You know, there are three branches of our government. You have the Supreme Court, the legislative branch and the people, the people and their ability to vote. -- Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, explaining the Oklahoma constitution to people she had better hope are even more ignorant than she, in the context of her refusal to follow a state supreme court's order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the statehouse grounds

One has to wonder where Fallin sees her job fitting into this scheme. -- Constant Weader

Thanks to Akhilleus for the news from Oklahoma.

Eric Tucker & Michael Kunzelman of the AP: "Capitol Hill lawmakers from Louisiana have intervened on behalf of a New Orleans company that has failed to stop a decade-old oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico but lobbied for a refund of money reserved for spill containment work, according to letters obtained by The Associated Press through public records requests.... Sen. Bill Cassidy (R), former Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Reps. Cedric Richmond (D) and Steve Scalise (R) have sent letters on Taylor Energy's behalf since December 2014.... Sen. David Vitter also made a telephone call to request a meeting between company and government officials...."

Erwin Chemerinsky in a Los Angeles Times op-ed: "Justice Antonin Scalia is setting a terrible example for young lawyers. Ignore, for now, his jurisprudence, his famously strict originalism; it's his tone that's the problem.... Scalia has long relied on ridicule.... Scalia's opinions this term, however, were especially nasty, sarcastic and personal.... Such mockery does not amount to a legal argument...."

Joshua Partlow of the Washington Post: "Mexican authorities released the surveillance footage of [Joaquin] Guzman's dramatic prison escape on Tuesday night. From a hole in the shower floor, one of the small blind spots for the surveillance camera, Guzman's allies had built a hatch over a shaft dropping 30 feet underground and leading to a tunnel that ran to a small cinder-block house in the corn fields south of the prison." Includes video. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Sam Roberts of the New York Times: "More than six decades later, the prosecution of Ethel Rosenberg remains one of America's most controversial criminal cases: Her conviction -- and eventual execution -- for joining in her husband Julius's espionage conspiracy rested largely on trial testimony from her younger brother. But in private testimony to a grand jury seven months before the 1951 trial, Mrs. Rosenberg's brother, David Greenglass, never mentioned involvement by his sister in Mr. Rosenberg's delivery of atomic secrets to Soviet operatives, according to a grand jury transcript released Wednesday."

Presidential Race

Eric Lichtblau & Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "Presidential contenders provided a glimpse inside their campaign war chests on Wednesday, releasing financial statements.... The reports showed, for instance, that Jeb Bush has relied largely on wealthy donors giving the maximum contribution -- attracting far less financial support from more modest donors -- and that Rick Perry, Ben Carson and Rick Santorum are burning through the money they have raised much more quickly than most of their opponents. Hillary Rodham Clinton raised the most money for the primary of any candidate, $46.7 million, while Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, running against Mrs. Clinton for the Democratic nomination, brought in $15 million, the vast majority of it from donors giving $200 or less.... The reports, filed with the Federal Election Commission..., did not include money being raised by the 'super PACs' and other outside groups that are supporting many of the candidates." ...

... Matea Gold & Anu Narayanswamy of the Washington Post: "A small cadre of super-wealthy Americans is dominating the fundraising for the 2016 Republican presidential nominating contest, doling out huge sums to independent groups that overwhelm total contributions to the candidates. Nearly $4 out of every $5 raised so far on behalf of GOP White House contenders has gone to independent groups rather than the official campaigns." ...

... Shane Goldmacher of the National Journal: "Only 3 Percent of Jeb Bush's Campaign Cash Came From Small Donors."

Jamelle Bouie: The "dueling speeches" of Hillary Clinton & Scott Walker on Monday "are clear: There is no middle ground or overlap between Walker's America and Clinton's coalition of blacks, Latinos, women, and young people. Which means that there's no amount of 'leadership' -- of rhetorical restraint, of triangulation, of closed-door maneuvering -- that would yield a 'governing majority' that's capable of serious progress. Indeed, there's no national -- or at least, no bipartisan -- agreement on what 'progress' means."

Martin Matishak of the Hill: "Democrats serving on the House Select Committee on Benghazi say the panel's GOP chairman has 'abandoned' plans for hearings to shift the focus of the investigation to Hillary Clinton. 'At the beginning of this year, Select Committee Republicans provided Democrats with detailed information about their plans to hold 11 hearings between January and October on a wide range of topics relating to the Benghazi attacks,' the panel's five Democrats wrote Wednesday in a letter to chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). Since then, however, Republicans have completely abandoned this plan -- holding no hearings at all since January and instead focusing on former Secretary Hillary Clinton.'..." CW: No kidding.

Jonathan Easley of the Hill: "C-SPAN is partnering with a handful of regional newspapers in early-voting states for a nationally televised forum with the Republican presidential candidates just days before Fox News Channel's first scheduled debate. The network has invited all 17 of the GOP presidential hopefuls to the Aug. 3 Voters First Forum in New Hampshire. Publishers at the New Hampshire Union Leader, The Post and Courier of South Carolina, and Iowa's The Gazette say the forum was prompted in part by Fox's controversial decision to cap the number of candidates in its Aug. 6 debate at 10." ...

     ... Ed Kilgore: "The 64k question about this 'forum' is whether it's in danger of being deemed an 'unsanctioned debate' by the RNC, which would mean participants would be barred from sanctioned debates right on through to the end of the primary process."

Rosalind Helderman & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "In the year before Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign, booming real estate markets increased the celebrity mogul's wealth by more than $1 billion, Trump said Wednesday. Trump's 2014 gains were announced by his campaign with typical Trump flair -- spelled out in all capital letters in a press statement proclaiming that his net worth as of now 'is in excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS.'... But Trump did not release the document.... The FEC confirmed receiving Trump's form and has up to 30 days to review it before releasing it publicly.... The eventual release of the FEC form, which carries stiff penalties for false information, would provide a rare look into Trump's finances." ...

... Julie Bykowicz of the AP: "Federal documents Trump filed Wednesday show that he has lent his high-profile campaign $1.8 million." CW: Not sure why the AP has access to the filing but the WashPo doesn't.

Molly Beck of the Wisconsin State Journal: "Clearing a potentially serious obstacle from Gov. Scott Walker's intended path to the White House, the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday blocked a secret investigation into millions of dollars spent on financing of recall election victories by Walker and other Republicans." ...

... Mary Bottari & Brendan Fischer, in a Cap Times op-ed, explain how Scottie's good fortune came about. Thanks to Nadd2 for this depressing news. ...

... While the Koch-sponsored team cheers, let us note that its designated hitter's foot-in-mouth slump continues ...

... Allegra Kirkland of TPM: "On Tuesday, a day after entering the 2016 race, [Scott] Walker, an Eagle Scout, was asked about the recent decision by the Boy Scouts of America to lift its longstanding ban on gay troop leaders. Walker told the Independent Journal Review he supported the ban because it 'protected children and advanced Scout values.'... The comments were met with outrage by LGBT rights groups.... But during a Wednesday press conference in South Carolina, according to the New York Times, Walker said his comments had been misunderstood. 'The protection was not a physical protection,' he said, according to the Times. Instead, it was about 'protecting them from being involved in ... the political and media discussion about it, instead of just focusing on what Scouts is about, which is about camping and citizenship and things of that nature.'" CW: Very believable walkback, Scottie.

Beyond the Beltway

Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "Witnesses have told Mississippi state investigators that an unarmed black man died after being kept in a chokehold by a police officer for more than 20 minutes and denied CPR, according to his family's attorneys, who said an autopsy confirmed he was fatally strangled. State medical examiners provisionally found Jonathan Sanders died through homicide by manual asphyxiation, according to attorneys Chokwe Lumumba and CJ Lawrence."

All Quiet on the Western Front. Tom Dart of the Guardian: "A small town near Austin[, Texas,] with a quaint Victorian downtown, Bastrop is supposed to be a hub of the vast US military training exercise that spans seven states and runs until 15 September. But Wednesday seemed to be a day like any other in Bastrop -- which is to say not much was happening. It was certainly not the imposition of martial law, ice cream trucks being used as portable morgues and empty Walmarts being turned into concentration camps, as some of the more extreme conspiracy theorists had predicted...."

News Ledes

New York Times: "A Colorado jury has reached a verdict in the murder case against James E. Holmes, a former neuroscience student whose shooting rampage three years ago killed 12 and wounded 70 inside a suburban Denver movie theater. The verdict will be announced shortly, court officials said Thursday." ...

     ... Denver Post UPDATE: "A jury on Thursday found James Holmes guilty of murder for the Aurora movie theater attack, one of the worst mass shootings in American history. The jury of nine women and three men delivered the verdict at 4:15 p.m., after deliberating for about 12 hours over two days. In doing so, they rejected Holmes' plea of insanity."

New York Times: "A gunman opened fire on a Navy and Marine reserve center in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Thursday, leaving four Marines dead, and wounding several others, including a Marine recruiter and a police officer, officials said. The gunman was also killed." ...

     ... Washington Post UPDATE: "The gunman who opened fire at a Naval facility in Tennessee on Thursday morning, killing four Marines, has been identified as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez [of Hixson, Tenn.], according to the FBI."

Guardian: "Eurozone finance ministers are to begin discussions on delivering Greece's bailout after MPs in Athens adopted the contentious package, amid angry scenes in parliament and violent clashes on the streets. The Eurogroup of finance ministers is due to hold a conference call to discuss the situation at 8.00 GMT (9.00 BST) on Thursday, as they scramble to assemble a short-term financing package -- expected to be worth about €7bn -- to keep Greece afloat until the new bailout can be finalised." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "The European Central Bank on Thursday expanded the emergency line of credit for Greek banks, raising it by an amount -- 900 million euros, or almost $990 million -- meant to meet the banks' needs for an additional week. That decision, announced at a news conference by Mario Draghi, the central bank's president, does not give the banks much extra breathing room. But it is likely to be welcomed by Greek banks and their depositors as a sign that the central bank intends to continue providing support while the country's bailout negotiations continue."

Reuters: "The Liberal Democrats, the former junior coalition partners of Prime Minister David Cameron, on Thursday named left-leaning Tim Farron as their new leader, two months after the party was virtually wiped out in May's British election. Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who in 2010 led the Liberal Democrats to their first ever spell in government alongside Cameron's Conservatives, stood down as leader after all but seven of his 56 colleagues lost their seats in the election."

New York Times: "Former President George H. W. Bush broke a bone in his neck in a fall at his home in Kennebunkport on Wednesday, his official spokesman said. Mr. Bush, the 41st president, was in stable condition, but he will have to wear a neck brace, the spokesman, Jim McGrath, said on Twitter. The former commander-in-chief has Parkinson's disease and uses a wheelchair."

Los Angeles Times: "Uber -- plagued by problems with regulators, drivers and taxi unions around the world -- took a big blow in its home state Wednesday when an administrative judge recommended that the ride-sharing giant be fined $7.3 million and be suspended from operating in California. In her decision, chief administrative law judge Karen V. Clopton of the California Public Utilities Commission contended that Uber has not complied with state laws designed to ensure that drivers are doling out rides fairly to all passengers.... She said Uber's months-long refusal to provide such data is in violation of the 2013 law that legalized ride-hailing firms. Uber said it would appeal." Also, they're mean to MoDo.

AP: "One of the seven FIFA officials arrested in Zurich as part of a corruption probe has been extradited to the United States, the Swiss Justice Ministry said Thursday. The Federal Office of Justice said the man, whom it did not identify, was extradited on Wednesday."

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