CW: I won't be posting till late in the day today, so I'll probably miss a lot of good stuff. If you see anything of interest, share, as so many of you do. Thanks.
Michael Paulson of the New York Times: "Around the country, traditional Martin Luther King celebrations took place -- interfaith prayer breakfasts, speeches, volunteer service. But in several large cities, protests were organized by a new generation of activists who said they wanted to use the day to denounce injustice and to point out social inequality. Many were hoping to use the day to rekindle a new movement for social change." ...
... Damn! I Missed Robert E. Lee Day. Jamelle Bouie: "... in three states -- Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi -- MLK Day is also Robert E. Lee Day.... This is the Gen. Robert E. Lee who led Confederate armies in war against the United States, who defended a nation built on the 'great truth' that the 'negro is not equal to the white man,' and whose armies kidnapped and sold free black Americans whenever they had the opportunity.... It should be said that the 'Lee' part of 'Lee-King Day' is mostly downplayed in states that have the holiday." CW: Don't know how I missed it. I live in Lee County, which is not named for Spike Lee.
Scott Clement & Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday enjoying rising approval ratings that have been strengthened by rapidly improving perceptions of the economy and increased optimism about the overall direction of the country, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.... Obama's overall approval rating now stands at 50 percent, the highest in a Post-ABC poll since the spring of 2013." ...
... James Oliphant of the National Journal: "As President Obama details his latest policy proposals and trumpets his accomplishments Tuesday night in the State of the Union address, he'll also be doing something else: building a bridge to a possible Democratic successor.... In teasing out new proposals over the last several weeks, Obama and his aides have stood in sharp contrast to the new GOP Congress that, for the moment, seems to be stuck on holdover issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline, Obama's executive actions on immigration, and the Affordable Care Act.... This is the White House still locked in campaign mode, seeking to set up a conflict with the GOP on basic values."
Tim Devaney of the Hill: "GOP lawmakers plan to employ the seldom-used Congressional Review Act (CRA), which gives lawmakers the power to formally disapprove of major agency rules, as they seek to ratchet up their attacks on federal red tape.... While Obama can and likely will veto any efforts to undo regulations through the CRA, the threats carry more weight now that Republicans control both chambers of Congress. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (Okla.) and other Republicans are zeroing in on the EPA, believing they can use the Review Act against rules for new and existing power plants, water, ozone and coal ash." CW: Sounds like a nothing-burger to me -- just another venue for the Grand Old Party Whine. As if they needed another. ...
... Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "Conservative climate-change denialism is indeed dangerous, and not just because it threatens coral reefs and polar bears tomorrow. It's also dangerous because it's a symptom of a much greater anti-intellectual, anti-science epidemic, one that prioritizes populist punch lines over smart policy and threatens our ability to compete in the global economy today." ...
... But Sometimes Nobama Is Problematic. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Last November, when President Obama proposed strict rules to prevent broadband companies from blocking or intentionally slowing down the web, Republicans pounced on what they called yet another heavy-handed liberal proposal.... But ... [this] put Republicans in the awkward position of aligning themselves with the cable giants, among the most maligned industries in the country, against the sad Netflix viewer waiting for 'House of Cards' to break through its 'buffering' vortex. In the intervening weeks, politics on the so-called net neutrality issue have shifted so much that House and Senate Republicans are circulating legislation that would ostensibly do exactly what the president wants.... Once again, an Internet regulatory showdown might be guided as much by grass-roots guerrilla tactics as the lobbying of Comcast and Verizon."
** Bill Curry, writing in Salon, eviscerates the Democratic party & its leadership. Excellent!
What's in It for Larry? CW: Yesterday Akhilleus & I were wondering why Larry Summers had recently sounded so populisty. I believe I've found the answer in a post by Matt Yglesias: Summers is the American co-chair of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity, a Center for American Progress-sponsored group that last week released a white paper that Yglesias describes as "the best guide to what Hillarynomics is likely to look like.... Many thinkers on the left will find a great deal missing. What Hillarynomics does not include is anything like an Elizabeth Warren-style effort to dethrone giant banks from the commanding heights of the American economic system.... Nor is there much of an anti-poverty agenda here...." Summers' op-eds, then, are designed to promote Hillary's campaign agenda & her presidential aspirations. Larry himself, no doubt, sees himself once again napping in the Cabinet Room.
Donald Kettl, in the Washington Monthly, has some advice for the next president on how to run the government s/he really doesn't run.
Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "A new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News ... suggests that support for Keystone is softer -- and less urgent -- than previously thought. Just 34 percent of Americans say, 'Build it now.' An additional 61 percent are happy to allow the review process to play out.... That overall 61-34 split is the reverse of most Keystone polls.... But if and when [the Obama administration] ultimately nix[es] the project altogether -- as most think [it] will -- [it] will still be running afoul of the vast majority of Americans." ...
... Ryan Koronowski of Think Progress: "On Saturday morning, a pipeline in Montana spilled up to 50,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River, the pipeline' operator confirmed Sunday night. Some residents are reportedly smelling and tasting oil in their drinking water, causing the EPA to test water samples and the city water plant to cease drawing water from the river.... The proposed -- and controversial -- northern leg://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/tag/keystone-xl-pipeline/">pump more than 34 million gallons of oil per day through the Dakotas down into Nebraska and into the southern leg in Oklahoma and Texas." CW: Yeah? So? What about those 70 permanent American jobs (or so) t jobs that would be created by Keystone spills. Thanks, Keystone supporters.
Michael Birnbaum of the Washington Post: "In the wake of this month's terrorist attacks in Paris, European leaders are calling for significant changes to what has long been a paradox of their borderless continent: Their citizens can move freely, but information about them does not."
James Glanz of the New York Times: "In November 2008, British spies captured email messages addressed to reporters and photographers with at least a dozen international news organizations, many United Nations officials, workers at far-flung oil companies and tens of thousands of other people, according to a newly disclosed classified document. The document, a spreadsheet of some 70,000 lines -- each with a brief summary of the information gleaned from a single intercept -- is contained in a cache of British documents that are among the classified trove leaked by Edward J. Snowden.... It is unlikely that the collection of these emails -- as irrelevant as most of them seem to be -- broke any laws because British and United States laws place few restrictions on the collection of overseas communications."
Adam Liptak of the New York Times: Political scientist Richard Hasen has developed a sarcasm index for the Supreme Court justices. The hands-down winner -- no surprise here -- is Antonin Scalia. "Justice Scalia registered 2.78 on Professor Hasen's index, dwarfing the showings of every justice he has served with. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. came in a very distant second, at 0.43. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not even register.... There were 134 opinions described as sarcastic or caustic, and Justice Scalia wrote 75 of them, more than all the other justices combined."
God News, Tuesday Edition. Rachel Zoll of the AP: "Conservative distrust of Pope Francis, which has been building in the U.S. throughout his pontificate, is reaching a boiling point over his plan to urge action on climate change -- and to do so through ... an encyclical on the environment and global warming.... In a news conference as he traveled last week to the Philippines, Francis gave his strongest signal yet of the direction he'll take. He said global warming was 'mostly' man-made. And he said he wanted his encyclical out in plenty of time to be absorbed before the next round of U.N. climate change talks in Paris in November after the last round in Lima, Peru, failed to reach an agreement.... 'What [conservatives are' worried about is the solution,' said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. 'Climate change is the ultimate collective-action problem. It's going to require local, state and national policy change, and it's going to require international cooperation, which means the United Nations.'"
Charles Pierce gives "Selma" a qualified rave review but notes, "DuVernay's portrayal of Lyndon Johnson is even worse than I heard it was. She turns him into such a melodramatic villain that you half-expect Johnson to tie Amelia Boynton to the railroad tracks. And the clear implication that LBJ was behind sending the salacious videotape to the Kings has to dial one just to get to 'inexcusable.' (God, will American liberals ever stop covering for the Kennedy brothers?) But I was expecting those. What I didn't expect was that DuVernay would turn two of Johnson's shining moments into equally cheap cartoons."
A Bush by Any Other Name.... Several commentators have remarked on a "conversation" the Coy Lady of the Absinthe had with a governor she dared not name. Said governor, whoever he may be (and it is a "he") explained to her why a lack of foreign policy experience is unimportant: "Because foreign policy still comes down, always, to your gut, your instincts." ...
... Steve Benen calls this "'The Colbert-ification of foreign policy thinking.' What the unnamed governor argued, in effect, is that knowledge is overrated. In a complex world, filled with constantly changing challenges and unpredictable outcomes, the Republican sees himself qualified to handle foreign affairs because of his finely tuned 'gut' and 'instincts.' Funny, I seem to recall another recent presidential candidate saying his intuition had far more value than awareness of world events. His name was George W. Bush.... But for Noonan's source to argue that it's better to trust a governor's gut than a senator's (or former Secretary of State's) actual expertise is hard to take seriously." ...
... Steve M. looked for clues & had no trouble IDing the perp as Chris Christie. ...
... Daniel Drezner of the Washington Post blew a gasket: This is "a legitimately dangerous belief system in world politics.... There are actually quite a few important concepts in world politics that are not, at first glance, terribly intuitive.... There are a lot of intuitive concepts in foreign affairs that turn out to be of dubious value in conducting statecraft.... Foreign affairs is lousy with situations in which the counterintuitive idea is superior to the intuitive idea -- a fact that the governor chatting with Noonan clearly does not know. And the hubris on display in the governor's answer makes me very frightened about what would happen should this person become president in January 2017."
Katie Glueck of Politico: "A confident Rick Santorum took the stage at a tea party convention [in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina,] on Monday, taking swings at 2012 presidential rival Mitt Romney and offering a glimpse of what a second Santorum bid would look like.... During his wide-ranging speech, Santorum made several nods to a future presidential bid. He also spoke more broadly about the need to improve the lives of American workers, roll back Common Core educational requirements and embrace a muscular foreign policy."
Matea Gold of the Washington Post writes a longish, somewhat disjointed story of Jeb Bush's employment as a board member & consultant of a shady investment firm called InnoVida whose CEO was convicted of swindling clients & investors for activities he carried out while Bush was a "key manager." CW: As I recall, when Wesley Clark ran for president in 2004, there were assertions that he wasn't smart enough to be president. Well, he's smarter than Jeb Bush: while Bush was on the board, Clark declined to join the firm because he found evidence the CEO was a crook.
Emily Cahn of Roll Call: "Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a two-term Democrat, told CQ Roll Call Monday that she is seriously considering challenging vulnerable Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., in 2016. Duckworth, currently finishing maternity leave following the birth of her daughter, said in a phone interview she is beginning the process of exploring a Senate bid as she gears up to return to Capitol Hill."
Beyond the Beltway
Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "About 9,000 people have been summonsed to Arapahoe County district court for consideration as jurors [in the James Holmes Aurora theater shooting case]. The whittling down of this vast pool, thought to be the biggest in US judicial history, is expected to take up to four months.... District attorney George Brauchler is seeking the death penalty. Brauchler, who reportedly declined an offer of a guilty plea in return for a life sentence, has declared that for Holmes, 'justice is death'."
New York Times: "Houthi rebel militiamen seized control of the palace of Yemen's president and clashed with guards outside his residence on Tuesday, in an escalation of the violent crisis that has gripped the capital for days and raised fears of a coup in one of the Arab world's most impoverished and insecure states. The president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, viewed by the United States as a crucial counterterrorism ally, was believed to be in the capital, but his exact whereabouts was unknown. He made no public statements as the fighting escalated, though Houthi leaders insisted that he was safe and in his home."
Putin Rears His Head & Comes into the Waters of ... Cuba. AFP: "A Russian intelligence warship docked in Havana on Tuesday, a day before the start of historic US-Cuba talks aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations. There was nothing stealthy about the arrival of the Viktor Leonov CCB-175, which was moored to a pier in Old Havana where cruise ships often dock. But the visit was not officially announced by Cuban authorities. US officials in Washington played down the presence of the Russian vessel, saying it was perfectly legal and not at all out of the ordinary."
New York Times: "A video posted online on Tuesday, purportedly by the Islamic State extremist group, depicted a black-clad militant with a knife threatening to kill two Japanese hostages within 72 hours unless the government in Tokyo paid a ransom of $200 million."