The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, May 23, 2016.

Washington Post: "A wave of bombings in Syria killed at least 65 people Monday in a coastal area where Russian troops are based, Syrian state media reported. The attacks struck at one of the key strongholds for President Bashar al-Assad outside Damascus and the hub for Russian military operations backing his government." -- CW

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (May 22): "An outbreak of a life-threatening illness that has been linked to foods packaged by a processing plant in Washington State has prompted a large-scale voluntary recall of frozen fruits and vegetables marketed under 42 brand names. The scale of the recall reflects the severity of the outbreak of the illness, listeria, and of concerns about how the contaminated food might have “trickled down” into other products, said Brittany Behm, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." -- CW

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

... Washington Post: The White House goes Scandinavian for a state dinner for the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

New York Times: "Morley Safer, the longest-serving correspondent on '60 Minutes' who was known as much for his hard-hitting reporting as the quirky stories he covered, will formally retire this week after a career in broadcast news that lasted more than 50 years, CBS said on Wednesday. Mr. Safer, 84, served on '60 Minutes' for all but two of its 48 seasons. He started scaling back his appearances on the show after he turned 80; his last segment, a profile of the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, aired in March.... An hourlong program on Sunday, “Morley Safer: A Reporter’s Life,” will, among other highlights, recall an investigation by Mr. Safer that resulted in the freedom of Lenell Geter, a black man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Texas. In an appearance on the special, Mr. Geter credited Mr. Safer with saving his life."

U.K. Telegraph: "A Canadian schoolboy appears to have discovered a lost Mayan city hidden deep in the jungles of Mexico using a new method of matching stars to the location of temples on earth....In hundreds of years of scholarship, no other scientist had ever found such a correlation.... Studying 22 different constellations, [William Gadoury] found that they matched the location of 117 Mayan cities scattered throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. When he applied his theory to a 23rd constellation, he found that two of the stars already had cities linked to them but that the third star was unmatched. William took to Google Maps and projected that there must be another city hidden deep in the thick jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The Canadian Space Agency agreed to train its satellite telescopes on the spot and returned with striking pictures: what appears to be an ancient Mayan pyramid and dozens of smaller structures around it."

Politico: "Fox News chief White House correspondent Ed Henry will not be appearing on the channel for the time being, following a report in In Touch Weekly that he cheated on his wife with a Las Vegas hostess. 'We recently became aware of Ed’s personal issues and he’s taking some time off to work things out,' a Fox News spokesperson told Politico in a statement."

New York Times: “'Hamilton,' the groundbreaking hip-hop musical about the nation’s founding fathers, has been nominated for 16 Tony Awards, the most in Broadway history." ...

... Here's the full list of Tony Award nominees.

MIT News: "For the first time, an international team of astronomers from MIT, the University of Liège in Belgium, and elsewhere have detected three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star, just 40 light years from Earth. The sizes and temperatures of these worlds are comparable to those of Earth and Venus, and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system. The results are published [Monday, May 2] in the journal Nature.... The scientists discovered the planets using TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope), a 60-centimeter telescope operated by the University of Liège, based in Chile."

Washington Post's Reliable Source: At an "afterparty hosted by MSNBC following the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner [Saturday, May 1]..., a scuffle broke out between Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters and Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief.... The two flailed around a bit, upending a table and bumping into several people. 'Punches were definitely thrown,' said one witness. Before any damage was done, several bystanders, including Sean Spicer, communications director at the Republican National Committee, separated the two."

New York Times: "... a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series [by Walt Whitman] called 'Manly Health and Training,' were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.Now, Whitman’s self-help-guide-meets-democratic-manifesto is being published online in its entirety by a scholarly journal, in what some experts are calling the biggest new Whitman discovery in decades."

This is for safari:

... Via the New Yorker.

Washington Post: "Late last week, Comcast announced a new program that allows makers of smart TVs and other Internet-based video services to have full access to your cable programming without the need for a set-top box.  Instead, the content will flow directly to the third-party device as an app, including all the channels and program guide. The Xfinity TV Partner Program will initially be offered on new smart TVs from Samsung, as well as Roku streaming boxes.  But the program, built on open Internet-based standards including HTML5, is now open to other device manufacturers to adopt. As video services move from hardware to software, the future of the traditional set-top box looks increasingly grim. With this announcement, Comcast customers may soon eliminate the need for an extra device, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in fees."

BBC: "Dame Judi Dench and David Tennant have joined other stars at a gala marking 400 years since Shakespeare's death. Saturday's Shakespeare Live show in the playwright's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon included play scene performances, dance and music." Then this:

New York Times: "The Pulitzers are in their centennial year, and the winners announced by Columbia University reflected in part the changes sweeping the media landscape." Here's the full list of the prize winners, via the New York Times.

CW: The AP produced this video in January 2015, but I just came across it:

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Friday
May132016

The Commentariat -- May 14, 2016

Afternoon Update (Some things I didn't get to the morning!):

Los Angeles Times Editors: "... Clinton, for all her faults -- and they range from a penchant for secrecy to a willingness to modify her positions to suit the popular mood to a less-restrained view of the use of military force than we are entirely comfortable with -- is vastly better prepared than Sanders for the presidency. She has The Times' endorsement in the June 7 California Democratic primary." -- CW

Dana Milbank eats his words. Literally, as they say.

Nick Gass of Politico: Donald Trump "said he has spoken with Rudy Giuliani about heading a commission looking at immigration problems in the U.S." CW: Excellent. I feel reassured now.

*****

Kathleen Hennessey & Bradley Klapper of the AP: "Democrats may argue over whether places like Denmark and Norway are model societies. President Barack Obama is sure. Apparently well beyond concerns about being branded a socialist, Obama on Friday celebrated the five Nordic nations as examples of reliability, equality, generosity, responsibility, even personal happiness. As he welcomed the Nordic leaders to the White House, he owned up to thinking perhaps the small havens of social liberalism should take the reins every now and then":

This is on the official White House Website, a far cry from the days when President Obama was unwilling to ascribe Republican obstructionism to, um, Republicans:

Matters of Life and Death:

... Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration finalized a new rule Friday mandating that health insurers provide transgender patients with coverage for services and access to facilities even if those services were not traditionally covered or required by their expressed gender, as well as separate guidance calling on public schools to let transgender students access the bathrooms and facilities of their choice. The two moves, both of which have been in the works for more than a year, reflect the Obama administration's push to affirm transgender rights as a central civil-rights question for the current era. And they sparked an immediate backlash from conservatives on the state and federal level, who described the new measures as government overreach." CW ...

... Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced on Friday that it has imposed sweeping controls on the distribution of its products to ensure that none are used in lethal injections, a step that closes off the last remaining open-market source of drugs used in executions. More than 20 American and European drug companies have already adopted such restrictions, citing either moral or business reasons. Nonetheless, the decision from one of the world's leading pharmaceutical manufacturers is seen as a milestone." -- CW

... And Taxes. Rachel Bade of Politico: "House Republicans will start considering whether to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen over accusations that he failed to comply with a subpoena and lied to Congress.... The House Judiciary Committee on Friday announced plans for two hearings over the next several weeks to examine the 'misconduct' of Koskinen. Republicans on the House Oversight Committee say the commissioner misled Congress about the status of sensitive emails regarding the IRS tea party scandal. Those documents were deleted during their probe of the scandal." CW: I don't think this has anything whatsoever to do with campaign season. Because Republicans are always sensible & everybody loves the IRS.

Presidential Race

Not Helpful. Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "Bill Clinton on Friday was forced -- once again -- to defend the 1994 crime bill he signed into law that has stoked the ire of protesters and dogged him and Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. The former president, out stumping for his wife in Paterson, New Jersey, launched into a combative back-and-forth with an audience member, who pointedly asked Clinton, "Why did you put more people in prison?'" -- CW

Michael Barbaro & Megan Twohey of the New York Times: "The New York Times interviewed dozens of women who had worked with or for Mr. Trump over the past four decades.... Their accounts -- many relayed here in their own words -- reveal unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct, according to the interviews, as well as court records and written recollections." -- CW

Drumpf's Excellent Oppo Research Team. Olivia Nuzzi of the Daily Beast: "Roger Stone and his co-author Robert Morrow, along with Edward Klein, have produced books that amount to a treasure trove of opposition research for Trump. In hundreds and hundreds of pages they have revealed dark, personal secrets and transcripts of private conversations [Hillary] Clinton has had in the intimacy of her own home -- with family and friends and even with Steven Spielberg. Is anything they've written factual? Doesn't matter, really, when you've already accused Ted Cruz's dad of playing hacky sack with Lee Harvey Oswald and imagined a parade of Muslims celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001." CW: Read on.

Callum Borchers of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump on Friday denied that the voice of 'John Miller' on a 25-year-old recording obtained by The Washington Post is, in fact, his own. Appearing on NBC's 'Today' show, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee disputed a Post report that he posed as his own spokesman under a fake name during a 1991 telephone interview with a reporter -- something he did habitually for years, often going as 'John Barron' as well.... During testimony in a [1990] lawsuit..., the real estate mogul was asked if he had ever used the name 'John Barron.' 'I believe on occasion I used that name,' Trump replied.... The liberal super PAC American Bridge posted a partial transcript of Trump's testimony Friday afternoon." A copy of the partial transcript is included in the story. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

When was this, 25 years ago? Wow, you mean you're going so low as to talk about something that took place 25 years ago about whether or not I made a phone call I guess you'd say under a presumed name ... let's get on to more current subjects. -- Donald Trump, on the "Today" show, Friday

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: "Why are you asking me about stuff from 25 years ago, says the man who's made clear that one of his major lines of attack against Hillary Clinton will be over stuff her husband did in the 1990s. Her husband was the one who cheated, but hey, she was, says Trump, a 'nasty, mean enabler.' But while Clinton's response to her husband's actions is fair game as a campaign centerpiece, reporters asking Trump about his tawdry habit of pretending to be his own publicist is 'so low.'" -- CW ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM: "Muslim-smashin', Mexican-bashin' tough guy Donald Trump seems to have been caught red-handed denying that he impersonated a non-existent spokesman to tell reporters how awesome he is.... Trump denied this notwithstanding the fact that he admitted to doing this in a legal deposition years ago. The story was bubbling all day. But when The Washington Post (attack organ run by Trump Arch-Nemesis Jeff Bezos) confronted him with the deception on the phone, he first went silent on the reporters and then hung up. When the reporters called back they were told Trump wasn't available." -- CW

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump said Friday that he doesn't believe voters have a right to see his tax returns, and insisted it's 'none of your business' when pressed on what tax rate he himself pays -- a question that tripped up Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Mr. Trump made the comments in an interview on ABC's 'Good Morning America,' as he continued to try to answer questions about his change in explanations over the last year about why he won't release the taxes." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Gail Collins: "There's a great way for Donald Trump to grab the high road in this presidential race. All he has to do is announce he's going to pay for the campaign himself.... If Donald Trump announced he was going to keep special interests out of his campaign by paying for the whole damn thing himself, we would be so impressed that the tax return issue would completely disappear." -- CW ...

... Not Going to Happen. Julie Bykowicz of the AP: "The billionaire presidential candidate who prides himself on paying his own way and bashed his competition for relying on political donors now wants their money -- and lots of it. Donald Trump ... recently hired a national finance chairman, scheduled his first fundraiser and is on the cusp of signing a deal with the Republican Party that would enable him to solicit donations of more than $300,000 apiece from supporters. His money-raising begins right away." -- CW ...

... Ari Melber of NBC News: "... the new money Trump raises ... can also go directly into Trump's pocket, reimbursing him for his personal spending in the primaries.... That is because Trump almost never directly donates funds to his campaign. He has only spent about $317,000 of his own money outright. The rest of his personal spending is structured as a loan to the campaign, which now owes Trump $35.9 million.... After this article was published Friday, Trump said... 'I have absolutely no intention of paying myself back for the nearly $50 million dollars I have loaned to the campaign.'" CW: If you believe that, I've got a bridge to Queens I'll sell you for less than $50 million dollars.

CW: Steve M. agrees with me: Trump's flip-flops, or whatever they are, represent a strategy, not a flaw. And they work. "[Thurs]day we had this headline from CNN: 'Trump: Muslim Ban "Just a Suggestion."' At the same time, Trump was telling Fox's Greta Van Susteren that the Muslim ban isn't a suggestion -- he intends to impose it, if only temporarily. But lots of people heard what they wanted to hear -- fans still expect the ban, while centrist journalists and GOP Establishment figures got to say that that was all a lot of overheated rhetoric we shouldn't think about anymore." -- CW

Marie's Guide to Making Billions (out in paperback soon) -- Buy Trump for what he's worth & sell him for what he says he's worth.

There's that guy who'll walk into the bar and say anything to get laid. That's Donald Trump right now to a T. But it's all of us who are going to get fucked. Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks owner, Thursday ...

... Steve M.: "Judging from his latest column at CNN.com, [David] Gergen's almost ready for some hot Trump action.... He's definitely going to go to bed with Trump, as will much of the rest of the mainstream punditocracy." -- CW ...

... Gene Robinson: We are witnessing "a shameful parade of quislings. The most galling surrender may have been that of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who says he will support the nominee even though Trump cruelly ridiculed him for being shot down and captured during the Vietnam War. McCain's military service was a profile in courage; what he's doing now is not." -- CW

CW: Sheldon Adelson has an op-ed in the WashPo endorsing Donald Trump. I accidentally forgot to link it, & I'm sure I won't remember.

Beyond the Beltway

Megan Cassidy of the Arizona Republic: "A federal judge ruled& that ... Maricopa County[, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio] and three of his top aides violated a federal court order meant to curtail racial profiling in his agency, according to a ruling issued Friday. The civil contempt-of-court ruling from U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ... held Arpaio in contempt on three counts.... Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan was found in contempt on two counts, and retired Chief Brian Sands and Lt. Joe Sousa each were found in contempt of one." -- CW

Wesley Lowery, et al., of the Washington Post: "George Zimmerman wanted to sell the gun he says he used to kill Trayvon Martin. He finally found a website where he could do it, and the gun has gotten a lot of bids. Two were for $65 million.​ It seems likely that the bidding on UnitedGunGroup.com has been taken over by bogus buyers. ​The first $65 million bid was made by 'Racist McShootFace,' according to the Associated Press. It has since been taken down. Zimmerman ... listed the Kel-Tec PF-9 on UnitedGunGroup.com on Thursday after another website, GunBroker.com, pulled out, saying it wanted 'no part' in the sale of a firearm whose use in the fatal 2012 shooting sparked a nationwide debate over race relations and 'stand your ground' laws.... Todd Underwood, owner of UnitedGunGroup.com, confirmed that the gun was listed on his site, which Underwood called a 'pro-Second Amendment community' that was created this year after Facebook banned private gun sales." -- CW

Way Beyond

Jonathan Gilbert of the New York Times: "A judge in Argentina on Friday indicted former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and other officials on charges of manipulating the nation's Central Bank during the final months of her administration. Mrs. Kirchner and the officials are accused of entering into contracts to sell the Central Bank's dollars at below-market rates during her presidency in order to shore up the Argentine peso." -- CW

Thursday
May122016

The Commentariat -- May 13, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Callum Borchers of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump on Friday denied that the voice of 'John Miller' on a 25-year-old recording obtained by The Washington Post is, in fact, his own. Appearing on NBC's 'Today' show, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee disputed a Post report that he posed as his own spokesman under a fake name during a 1991 telephone interview with a reporter -- something he did habitually for years, often going as 'John Barron' as well.... During testimony in a [1990] lawsuit..., the real estate mogul was asked if he had ever used the name 'John Barron.' 'I believe on occasion I used that name,' Trump replied.... The liberal super PAC American Bridge posted a partial transcript of Trump's testimony Friday afternoon." A copy of the partial transcript is included in the story. -- CW

Marie's Guide to Making Billions (out in paperback soon) -- Buy Trump for what he's worth & sell him for what he says he's worth.

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump said Friday that he doesn't believe voters have a right to see his tax returns, and insisted it's 'none of your business' when pressed on what tax rate he himself pays -- a question that tripped up Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Mr. Trump made the comments in an interview on ABC's 'Good Morning America,' as he continued to try to answer questions about his change in explanations over the last year about why he won't release the taxes." -- CW

*****

Getty image, via MAG.... Julie Davis & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "The Obama administration is planning to issue a sweeping directive telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity. A letter to school districts will go out Friday, fueling a highly charged debate over transgender rights in the middle of the administration's legal fight with North Carolina over the issue. The declaration -- signed by Justice and Education Department officials -- will describe what schools should do to ensure that none of their students are discriminated against." -- CW

** David Corn of Mother Jones: "Anthony Senecal, who worked as Donald Trump's butler for 17 years before being named the in-house historian at the tycoon's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, has repeatedly published posts on his Facebook page that express profound hatred for President Barack Obama and declare he should be killed.... Senecal regularly posts screeds on his Facebook page from a far-right perspective in which he decries Obama and his wife -- along with Hillary Clinton, other Democrats, and Republican leaders.... Several times he has called for the president's execution. He confirms that he has written all the posts on the page that have appeared under his name. 'It's all me,' he says." -- CW ...

... Elahe Izadi of the Washington Post: "The longtime former butler to ... Donald Trump called for President Obama to be killed, and now the Secret Service said it will conduct an investigation.... 'The U.S. Secret Service is aware of this matter and will conduct the appropriate investigation,' agency spokesman Robert Hoback said in an email Thursday. The Trump campaign denounced Senecal's messages and distanced itself from the former butler at ... Mar-a-Lago...." -- CW ...

... Asewin Suebsaeng of the Daily Beast: "Donald Trump's longtime butler wants President Obama killed -- thinks Hillary Clinton is a 'LYING DECEIVING C**T !!!!!!!' and that Ferguson, Missouri, should be 'carpet bombed.'" Also, too, he hates "negroes." "In March, Senecal was profiled by The New York Times, which noted that 'few people here can anticipate Mr. Trump's demands and desires better than Mr. Senecal,' and that he 'seems to reflect his boss's worldview [in that he] worries about attacks by Islamic terrorists and is critical of Mr. Trump's ex-wives.' As Mother Jones notes, the lengthy profile does not mention his social-media rants." CW: Nice work, Jason Horowitz of the NYT! P.S. It isn't a "profile" if you wrap the guy in sugar & omit little facts like, "wants to kill the president" & and all the "negroes." It's a hagiography. Or a cover-up. ...

... Steve M.: A "doctored photo of Michelle Obama in a teal dress [with a penis bump] also shows up on the Facebook page of Robert Morrow, the half-insane Obama- and Clinton-hater (and current chair of the Republican Party in Travis County, Texas) who co-authored a book with Trump pal Roger Stone called The Clintons' War on Women." CW: This is Trump's "brain trust," but you're not going to read that in the New York Times, either.

Matthew Daly of the AP: "The Obama administration issued a final rule Thursday to sharply cut methane emissions from U.S. oil and gas production, a key part of a push by President Barack Obama to reduce methane emissions by nearly half over the next decade. The rule by the Environmental Protection Agency is the major element of an administration goal to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas drilling by up to 45 percent by 2025, compared to 2012 levels." -- CW

Sarah Kliff of Vox: "Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) filed a lawsuit last July contending that the White House had broken the law by giving insurance companies money that Congress hadn't authorized. DC District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled Thursday that the House Republicans were right: The Obama administration does not have legal authority to provide low-income Obamacare enrollees with subsidies to help pay their deductibles and co-payments. The ruling is not final; the Obama administration will near certainly appeal this ruling to an appellate court. But if other courts were to find in the Republicans' favor, and the decision to hold, it would have sweeping implications, significantly reshaping the relationship between the executive and legislative branches and striking a significant blow against the people Obamacare was designed to help." CW: Collyer is a Bush II appointee & is the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Spencer Hsu, et al., of the Washington Post: "The judge's logic drew a quick rebuke from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who called the lawsuit a new low in the battle over the controversial health care law and predicted the ruling would be overturned by the courts because it charted new ground in the separation of powers between presidents and Congress. 'This suit represents the first time in our nation's history that Congress has been permitted to sue the executive branch over a disagreement about how to interpret a statute,' Earnest said." -- CW

Mike Isaac of the New York Times: "Facebook ... published internal editorial guidelines on Thursday, the company's latest attempt to rebut accusations that it is politically biased in the news content it shows on the pages of its 1.6 billion users. The 28-page document details how both editors and computer algorithms play roles in the process of picking what should appear in the 'Trending Topics' section of users' Facebook pages." CW ...

... Sam Thielman of the Guardian: "Leaked documents show how Facebook ... relies on old-fashioned news values on top of its algorithms to determine what the hottest stories will be for the 1 billion people who visit the social network every day.... This week the company was accused of an editorial bias against conservative news organizations, prompting calls for a congressional inquiry from the US Senate commerce committee chair, John Thune [R-S.D]. -- CW ...

... Hanna Trudo of Politico: "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to meet with influential conservatives to discuss concerns about the alleged suppression of right-leaning stories on the social media website." -- CW

Missy Ryan of the Washington Post: "American Special Operations troops have been stationed at two outposts in eastern and western Libya since late 2015, tasked with lining up local partners in advance of a possible offensive against the Islamic State, U.S. officials said. Two teams totaling fewer than 25 troops are operating from around the cities of Misurata and Benghazi to identify potential allies among local armed factions and gather intelligence on threats, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive mission overseas." -- CW

Philip Shenon of the Guardian: "A former Republican member of the 9/11 commission ... said Wednesday he believes there was clear evidence that Saudi government employees were part of a support network for the 9/11 hijackers and that the Obama administration should move quickly to declassify a long-secret congressional report on Saudi ties to the 2001 terrorist attack. The comments by John F Lehman, an investment banker in New York who was Navy secretary in the Reagan administration, signal the first serious public split among the 10 commissioners since they issued a 2004 final report that was largely read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia, which was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11." -- CW

The Incremental Pope. Elisabetta Povoledo & Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "Pope Francis suggested on Thursday that he was open to studying whether women can serve as deacons in the Roman Catholic Church, revealing an openness -- if nothing else -- to re-examining the church's long-held insistence on an all-male clergy. The pope's comments were made during an assembly of leaders of female Catholic religious congregations, and were consistent with his off-the-cuff style: a seemingly impromptu remark that opened a broad horizon of possibilities...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Presidential Race

This Week in Liberal Hillary, Part 1. Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said she would support changes to the top ranks of the Federal Reserve, an issue recently championed by progressive groups amid debate over how long the central bank should keep supporting the American economy.... In a statement to The Washington Post, Clinton's campaign said she supports removing bankers from the boards of directors and increasing diversity within the Fed." -- CW

This Week in Liberal Hillary, Part 2. Danielle Paquette of the Washington Post: "Hillary Clinton this week unveiled her vision for more quality child care in the United States, a lofty plan that includes raising pay for the industry's workers. But the boldest idea targets parents, who now face day-care costs that rival college tuition. Clinton wants to cap that expense at 10 percent of a household's income." -- CW

Jose DelReal & Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan struck a conciliatory tone after meeting in Washington Thursday, seeking to ease tensions that flared last week when Ryan said he is not ready to endorse [Trump].... 'While we were honest about our few differences, we recognize that there are also many important areas of common ground,' Trump and Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a joint statement...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Jennifer Steinhauer & Alexander Burns of the New York Times: "Significant fissures remain between Mr. Trump and Republican congressional leaders: Mr. Ryan reminded him privately that many voters opposed him in the primaries, and in a separate meeting with senators, several lawmakers urged Mr. Trump to moderate his tone on immigration.... Mr. Ryan gave no public signal that he was poised to back Mr. Trump, and two people briefed on their private meeting said they did not discuss a possible endorsement." -- CW ...

... Rachel Bade of Politico: "One of Donald Trump's top allies in Congress slammed the presumptive GOP nominee after he failed to meet with rank-and-file lawmakers backing his campaign during his ballyhooed trip to Capitol Hill on Thursday. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) told Politico that Trump refused multiple requests to meet with members of Congress working to round up support for him in Washington. 'There is no reason not to have as many people on your side as you can ... and he missed a real opportunity here.'" -- CW ...

     ... digby: "Poor Duncan. The first endorser always does the heavy lifting in the beginning and then gets dumped for a sexier leader once his candidate makes it to the top.... But come on, Dunc had to know Trump was that kind of guy. Just ask Ivana." -- CW ...

... "Weasel Words." Ed Kilgore: "As political theater, the 'summit' between Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan was first-rate.... The 'joint statement' the two men issued after a meeting in the presence of RNC chairman Reince Priebus was a quick espresso shot of nothingness topped with pious hopes for 'unity.' It left everyone free to interpret it as they wish. Like a truce between Roman generals and a barbarian chieftain in late antiquity, the 'summit' will probably be regarded by each side as representing the first stage in the other's surrender." -- CW

Paul Krugman on "Trump & Taxes" -- Trump's own & his "plan." CW: Krugman is an opinion writer, of course, but the things he reveals about Trump are the sorts of things that should appear in straight news pieces. All the time. Everywhere. But, as Krugman points out, the media will hide Trump's ignorance & lies. ...

... Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "After days of confusion over Donald J. Trump's hints that he would change his tax plan to reduce its budget-busting cost and make it less generous to the rich, his spokeswoman on Thursday sought to clear things up: He plans no changes, Hope Hicks said, and advisers who say otherwise do not speak for him. One of those advisers, Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation, had his own response: 'I'm a little bummed out if his spokeswoman says they're not going to make any changes to the plan.'" ...

... CW: I'll admit that many of the Trump campaign's flipflops are a function of his & his staff's remarkable ignorance, but it's also fair to say that "confusion" isn't a flaw in Trump's candidacy; it's a strategy. Unlike Paul Ryan, for instance, Trump isn't very good at doublespeak, so his feints are comparatively crude, but his purpose is always to pretend he's on your side, whatever side that may be. ...

... Jonah Shepp of New York agrees: "Like everything else in Trump's world, tax policy is whatever you want it to be, baby. Just as long as he doesn't have to show anyone the taxes he himself has been paying." CW: Or not paying.

Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "As headlines popped up this week declaring that Donald Trump had softened his position on banning most foreign Muslims from entering the United States, some Republicans celebrated the news. Except that Trump has not actually walked anything back.... [He] still wants to ban nearly all ...[Muslims] from entering the United States in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks." ... CW

Marc Fisher & Will Hobson of the Washington Post: "A recording obtained by The Washington Post captures what New York reporters and editors who covered Trump's early career experienced in the 1970s, '80s and '90s: calls from Trump's Manhattan office that resulted in conversations with 'John Miller' or 'John Barron' -- public-relations men who sound precisely like Trump himself -- who indeed are Trump, masquerading as an unusually helpful and boastful advocate for himself, according to the journalists and several of Trump's top aides." -- CW

A Man, a Plan, Panama, and Oops...Telesur, the Latin American television network" "... Donald Trump has been linked to anonymous companies created by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, according to documents released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists known as the ICIJ.... The leaked documents show that the Trump empire is linked to 32 offshore companies, including the real estate project Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama. His name appears 3,540 times in the database, but according to media reports that doesn't mean he is directly involved since Trump has sold his name to other investors in different countries." -- Akhilleus (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly: "Back in 2013, Steve Benen came up with the perfect way to describe the current iteration of Republicanism: post-policy nihilism. After the disastrous Bush administration, it was demonstrated that Republican policies - both foreign and domestic - were complete and utter failures. In response, rather than re-think those policies, conservative leaders drafted a plan of total obstruction to anything President Obama and the Democrats attempted to do. In order to get their base on board with that plan, they fanned the flames of fear and racism ... that is what took the place of actual policies. It should therefore come as no surprise to anyone that ... [Donald Trump] is running a post-policy campaign based on fear and racism. It is why none of the other contenders for the Republican nomination could ever lay a hand on him. Their choice was to either defend the failed policies of the Bush administration or challenge the fear and racism that animated his supporters - either option was doomed to fail." -- CW

Tim Egan: "The ascendancy of Trump is part of a great debate on the best route to achievement, pitting talented know-nothings against less-flashy long-sloggers. Malcolm Gladwell refined much of this conversation with his book 'Outliers,' popularizing the idea that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are needed before you can become really good at some things. Achievement 'is talent plus preparation,' Gladwell wrote." CW: Trump has neither talent for governing nor preparation.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Todd Gittlin in the Washington Post: Donald Trump has "cracked campaign reporters' code. And if they don't want to get rolled again in the general election, journalists have to change tactics.... Trump regularly runs circles around interviewers because they pare their follow-up questions down to a minimum, or none at all. After 30-plus years in the media spotlight, he knows how to wait out an interviewer, offering noncommittal soundbites and incoherent rejoinders until he hears the phrase, 'let's move on.' He takes advantage of the slipshod, shallow techniques journalism has made routine, particularly on TV...." CW: Meant to link this yesterday.

Beyond the Beltway

Freida Frisaro of the AP: "An online auction was halted without explanation Thursday for the pistol that former Florida neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman used to kill unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. The weapon was removed from the GunBroker.com website, minutes after the auction was to begin. It was not immediately clear why the website took down the listing." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Benjamin Weiser & Vivian Yee of the New York Times: "Dean G. Skelos, the once powerful Republican majority leader of the New York State Senate who was convicted with his son in December on federal corruption charges, was sentenced to five years in prison on Thursday." -- CW

Wednesday
May112016

The Commentariat -- May 12, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Sarah Kliff of Vox: "Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) filed a lawsuit last July contending that the White House had broken the law by giving insurance companies money that Congress hadn't authorized. DC District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled Thursday that the House Republicans were right: The Obama administration does not have legal authority to provide low-income Obamacare enrollees with subsidies to help pay their deductibles and co-payments. The ruling is not final; the Obama administration will near certainly appeal this ruling to an appellate court. But if other courts were to find in the Republicans' favor, and the decision to hold, it would have sweeping implications, significantly reshaping the relationship between the executive and legislative branches and striking a significant blow against the people Obamacare was designed to help." CW: Collyer is a Bush II appointee & is the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Jose DelReal & Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan struck a conciliatory tone after meeting in Washington Thursday, seeking to ease tensions that flared last week when Ryan said he is not ready to endorse the business mogul in his bid for the White House. 'While we were honest about our few differences, we recognize that there are also many important areas of common ground,' Trump and Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a joint statement...." -- CW

Benjamin Weiser & Vivian Yee of the New York Times: "Dean G. Skelos, the once powerful Republican majority leader of the New York State Senate who was convicted with his son in December on federal corruption charges, was sentenced to five years in prison on Thursday." -- CW

The Incremental Pope. Elisabetta Povoledo & Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "Pope Francis suggested on Thursday that he was open to studying whether women can serve as deacons in the Roman Catholic Church, revealing an openness -- if nothing else -- to re-examining the church's long-held insistence on an all-male clergy. The pope's comments were made during an assembly of leaders of female Catholic religious congregations, and were consistent with his off-the-cuff style: a seemingly impromptu remark that opened a broad horizon of possibilities...." -- CW

Freida Frisaro of the AP: "An online auction was halted without explanation Thursday for the pistol that former Florida neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman used to kill unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. The weapon was removed from the GunBroker.com website, minutes after the auction was to begin. It was not immediately clear why the website took down the listing." -- CW

A Man, a Plan, Panama, and Oops...Telesur, the Latin American television network: "Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been linked to anonymous companies created by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, according to documents released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists known as the ICIJ...The leaked documents show that the Trump empire is linked to 32 offshore companies, including the real estate project Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama. His name appears 3,540 times in the database, but according to media reports that doesn't mean he is directly involved since Trump has sold his name to other investors in different countries." -- Akhilleus

*****

Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "The director of the F.B.I. reignited the factious debate over a so-called 'Ferguson effect' on Wednesday, saying that he believed less aggressive policing was driving an alarming spike in murders in many cities. James Comey, the director, said that while he could offer no statistical proof, he believed after speaking with a number of police officials that a 'viral video effect' -- with officers wary of confronting suspects for fear of ending up on a video -- 'could well be at the heart' of a spike in violent crime in some cities." CW: Yes, please don't record officers wantonly shooting citizens because that would be hampering "police work."

Andrea Peterson & Jonelle Marte of the Washington Post: "Google announced Wednesday that it will ban all payday loan ads from its site, bowing to concerns by advocates who say the lending practice exploits the poor and vulnerable by offering them immediate cash that must be paid back under sky-high interest rates." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... CW: So now we have Google, a for-profit corporation which stands to lose millions by its decision, showing more concern for suckering poor people that does the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee. Fire Debbie Wassterman Schultz! Turns out corporations have souls, my friend; Wasserman Schultz sold hers to the devil with the deep pockets.

Shane Harris of The Daily Beast: "The Obama administration may soon release 28 classified pages from a congressional investigation that allegedly links Saudis in the United States to the 9/11 attackers. But in Florida, a federal judge is weighing whether to declassify portions of some 80,000 classified pages that could reveal far more about the hijackers' Saudis connections and their activities in the weeks preceding the worst attack on U.S. soil." --safari

Capitalism Is Disgusting. Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post: "A Chevy Chase company that reaped millions of dollars from deals with poor, disabled victims of lead-paint poisoning in Baltimore has been accused of committing fraud and deceiving court officials, according to a lawsuit filed this week by the Maryland attorney general's office. The civil suit alleges that Access Funding violated state law when it aggressively pursued scores of mentally impaired lead-poisoning victims, persuaded them to sell the settlements they received in personal injury lawsuits for a fraction of their worth and then withheld vital information from the courts that approved the deals." CW BTW: Brian Frosh, Maryland's AG, is a Democrat.

It's here folks. Simon Albert et al via Juan Cole: "Sea-level rise, erosion and coastal flooding are some of the greatest challenges facing humanity from climate change. Recently at least five reef islands in the remote Solomon Islands have been lost completely to sea-level rise and coastal erosion, and a further six islands have been severely eroded." --safari

Presidential Race

Gail Collins thinks Democrats may go all kumbaya when the primaries are over. CW BTW: If your memory has faded & you think Hillary was a gracious loser in 2008, you may want to read my comment on Collins' column. Part of her rationale for staying in the race: Hey, maybe Obama will be assassinated! (Click on "Readers' Picks.")

Gabriel Debenetti of Politico: "Bernie Sanders' campaign parted ways with its California state director Michael Ceraso on Wednesday morning, 27 days before the primary in the state that Sanders has repeatedly said is crucial to his effort to capture the Democratic nomination. The surprise move came after a period when Ceraso advocated for a California strategy that involved more investment on field and digital organizing than on television advertising -- a staple of Sanders' campaign elsewhere so far -- he told Politico." -- CW

Gabriel Debenetti: "A group of Bernie Sanders staffers and volunteers is circulating a draft proposal calling on the senator to get out of the presidential race after the final burst of Democratic primaries on June 7, and concentrate on building a national progressive organization to stop Donald Trump." --safari

Janell Ross of the Washington Post interviews professors Nadia Brown & Sarah Elise Wiliarty on Hillary Clinton as a female presidential candidate and how she should deal with Donald Trump's misogynistic attacks. CW recommended.

Sarah Burris of RawStory: "Proud card-carrying NRA board member and habitual racist, anti-Semite Ted Nugent had another ragespasm Wednesday on his Facebook page. The aging rocker posted a fake video of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) taking out a gun and shooting Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, according to Media Matters.... Nugent is scheduled to speak at the NRA's annual meeting where he will deliver a speech titled '2016 Election: Do or Die for America and Freedom.'" --safari

Patrick Healy & Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Hillary Clinton on Wednesday mocked Donald J. Trump as evasive and secretive after he suggested that he would not release his tax returns before the November election, which would be a break with 40 years of political precedent. But Mr. Trump quickly hit back, saying that he still intended to release his tax returns as soon as a federal audit was completed -- and that Mrs. Clinton was hitting him out of desperation." -- CW ...

... Scott Bixby of the Guardian: "Donald Trump's refusal to release his tax returns is 'disqualifying' for a presidential candidate, his predecessor as Republican nominee Mitt Romney has said. 'There is only one logical explanation for Mr Trump's refusal to release his returns: there is a bombshell in them,' Romney wrote." --safari ...

... Timothy O'Brien of Bloomberg: "... on Tuesday night..., [Donald Trump] seemed to close the door for good on [releasing his returns]. He told the Associated Press that he wouldn't release his returns prior to the November elections unless what he described as Internal Revenue Service audit of his finances was complete.... Trump then ... reversed course again last night, telling Fox News that he would, indeed, release his taxes before the elections. 'I'll release. Hopefully before the election I'll release,' he said.' O'Brien has seen Trump's returns. CW: I absolutely, totally believe him based on his long record of honest, forthright telling-it-like-it-is truthiness. Hopefully before the election. ...

... Patrick Caldwell of Mother Jones: "Mitt Romney ripped into Donald Trump on Wednesday afternoon, claiming that Trump is unfit for the presidency if he doesn't release his tax returns. Romney took to Facebook to share his message, saying 'it is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters, especially one who has not been subject to public scrutiny in either military or public service.... There is only one logical explanation for Mr. Trump's refusal to release his returns: there is a bombshell in them. Given Mr. Trump's equanimity with other flaws in his history, we can only assume it's a bombshell of unusual size.'" -- CW

There's nothing to learn from them. -- Donald Trump, explaining why he won’t release his tax returns, in an interview with the Associated Press, May 11

... voters would learn a lot of information that Trump has long tried to hide from the public. Tax returns would help lift a veil of secrecy about Trump's finances -- and let voters know whether his claims about his wealth and charitable giving are true, or if he's just a bombastic man behind the curtain akin to the Wizard of Oz. -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post ...

... Many Happy Returns? David Graham of The Atlantic on why Donald Trump's tax returns are important: He's far wealthier than any other candidate to run for president, and he has a long history of questionable finances, and faces other allegations. His companies have declared bankruptcy four times. He's been fined by the Federal Trade Commission for improper behavior. He incorrectly received a tax break for people making less than $500,000 per year. All of this means that people might have legitimate questions about what Trump is doing with his supposed vast sums ... and further whether the techniques he likely uses to reduce his tax obligations (like many wealthy people) are appropriate, even when they are legal. -- Akhilleus (Also linked yesterday.)

Kevin Cirilli & Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg: "Donald Trump has discussed in recent days the possibility of selecting former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich as his running mate, according to people familiar with the talks." CW: Excellent choice! What America needs is not one but two philandering aged racist white guys to set examples for the rest of us schmucks. Maybe they could swap third wives in the Lincoln bedroom.

Hanna Trudo of Politico: "Donald Trump has demoted his proposed Muslim immigration ban to a mere 'suggestion.' In a radio interview with Fox News' Brian Kilmeade on Wednesday..., [Trump] softened his call to temporarily prohibit Muslims from entering the United States. 'We have a serious problem. It's a temporary ban. It hasn't been called for yet. Nobody's done it. This is just a suggestion until we find out what's going on,' Trump said." CW: I still absolutely, totally believe Trump.

Steven Erlanger & Stephen Castle of the New York Times: "The new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said on Wednesday that his election in the face of a divisive campaign highlighting his religion is a lesson to Donald J. Trump that Islam is perfectly compatible with Western values. Mr. Trump is 'playing into the hands of extremists' and is 'ignorant about Islam,' Mr. Khan said. 'Daesh, ISIS, all those guys, hate the fact that I am mayor of London. Why? Because it contradicts what they say, which is that Western liberal values are incompatible with Islam.'" CW: In fairness to Trump, he's ignorant about everything.

Eric Levitz of New York:"...Evidence continues to mount that no one has done more to further the cause of Hispanic-American enfranchisement than Donald J. Trump...In Iowa, the Washington Post reports that labor leaders believe five times more Hispanics voted in this year's caucuses than did in 2008. And in the potential swing states of North Carolina and Georgia, voter registration among Hispanics is increasing faster than it is among blacks or whites.... Still, Trump probably can't claim full credit for the registration surge. As Philip Bump notes, part of the phenomenon could be due to the relative youth of the Hispanic population." --safari

The Flip-Flop Flim-Flam. Steve Benen: "I've lost count of how many reports I've seen the past few days insisting that Donald Trump 'flip-flopped' on tax breaks for the wealthy.... I sympathize with journalists who fell for Trump's trick; the candidate has deliberately used misleading language that has muddled the conversation....But when it comes to taxes and the wealthy, Trump has already released a written plan that proposes massive tax breaks for the wealthy. When he recently talked about rates going 'up,' Trump clarified soon after that he wasn't talking about increases relative to current policy. And now he's brought in high-profile, supply-side economists to touch up Trump's tax plan, while protecting tax breaks for the rich.... For Trump, the debate is about the size of the tax break for the wealthy: he believes it should be a massive tax cut, but he's open to accepting a slightly less massive tax cut." -- CW

David Graham of The Atlantic: "For years, the two parties have been in an arms race over how to deal with the new capabilities opened up by technology and data -- things like finding potential voters, advertising to them, and getting them to vote, though the whole suite of things is often shorthanded as 'microtargeting,' which is just part of it...Now comes Trump, saying he won't bother with data. (To be fair, Trump aides have suggested in the past that they really are building an info effort.)" --safari

It's the stupid voters, stupid. Jonathan Chait of New York: "Why did almost everybody fail to predict Donald Trump's victory in the Republican primaries?...Here's the factor I think everybody missed: The Republican Party turns out to be filled with idiots. Far more of them than anybody expected." --safari ...

... Jeet Heer of the New Republic: "Far from being idiots, [Trump supporters] are people who would normally be considered functioning and successful. Trump's supporters are better educated and wealthier than the American average.... Rather than characterizing them as losers who are easily fooled, Trump's supporters -- who amount to at least a plurality of the Republican primary electorate -- deserve to be looked at in their own terms. Trump's essential appeal is based on racism.... His racist pitch succeeded because the Republican Party is overwhelmingly white and has relied heavily on dog-whistle appeals to racism since the early 1960s.... Racism is evil, but it is not idiotic from the point of view of racists. White racists see themselves as benefitting from Trump's proposal to shore up the old racial status quo. Their value system deserves to be challenged, but they aren't being fooled by Trump." -- CW ...

... Kevin Drum: "Compared to what?" Whatever you think of the Republican electorate, they made it through 2008 without nominating Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson. Then they made it through 2012 without nominating Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann. Instead they nominated two very normal party warhorses, John McCain and Mitt Romney.... Did the GOP electorate suddenly lose a couple dozen collective IQ points over the past four years?... Something other than the idiocy of the Republican base was at work here. But what? Sometimes I feel like I'm the last person in America who still isn't quite sure how Trump managed to win. Seriously, America, WTF?" Drum offers a few possibilities but concludes, "Admittedly, this is just a fancy way of saying: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯" -- CW ...

... Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker: "There is a simple formula for descriptions of Donald Trump: add together a qualification, a hyphen, and the word 'fascist.' The sum may be crypto-fascist, neo-fascist, latent fascist, proto-fascist, or American-variety fascist one of that kind, all the same ... Trump is not Hitler. (Though replace 'Muslim' with 'Jew' in many of Trump's diktats and you will feel a little less complacent.) But the worst sometimes happens. If people of good will fail to act, and soon, it can happen here." --safari

Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Ted Cruz isn't giving up. While Donald Trump dispatches three advisers to Texas's convention in Dallas this week and makes a pitch for party unity, his team will be running up against a Cruz operation that is still maneuvering to stuff the state's delegation with allies the senator could call on to snub the presumptive nominee." --safari

Senate Races

Burgess Everett & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Rep. Alan Grayson angrily confronted Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday, disrupting a meeting of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in front of dozens of staffers and members of Congress. Grayson (D-Fla.), whose bid for the open Florida Senate seat Reid vehemently opposes, arrived at the meeting with Reid's February statement in hand, according to two sources in the room. In that statement, Reid said Grayson has 'no moral compass' and 'used his status as a congressman to unethically promote his Cayman Islands hedge funds.'... 'Why'd you say that?' Grayson said, insisting Reid's statement was false. Reid calmly faced his inquisitor: 'I want you to lose. It's true.'" -- CW

Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune: "U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is officially running for re-election in 2018. Cruz filed paperwork Wednesday afternoon to seek a second term, adding some clarity to his political future just over a week after he ended his presidential campaign." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

David Edwards of RawStory: "North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) asserted on Wednesday that the U.S. Congress should review the entire 1964 Civil Rights Act because he did not like the way the Department of Justice was using it to protect transgender bathroom rights.... McCrory argued that the solution was to 'make special circumstances' by allowing the transgender girl to use a segregated bathroom. 'But now the Civil Right Division of the U.S. Justice Department has deemed those types of arrangements to be discriminatory,' McCrory remarked. --safari

Jordan Steffen of the Denver Post: "Fourth Judicial District Chief Judge Gilbert Martinez found that [Colorado Spring Planned Parenthood (alleged) multiple murderer Robert Lewis] Dear is not mentally capable of participating in and understanding the case against him." The judge sent him to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo. -- CW

Clean California. Rob Nikolewski of the Los Angeles Times: California's "use of coal to generate electricity has dropped ... dramatically -- essentially going from small to almost microscopic.... Coal's decline is largely a result of two factors: utilities switching from coal-fired to natural gas-fired power plants because of low prices for the latter fuel, and government rules aimed at making the air cleaner and hastening the adoption of renewable energy sources.... But the mining industry is quick to point out that electricity rates in California are among the highest in the country.... But coal's critics say the public-health costs linked to pollution have to be taken into account." -- CW

Claire Landsbaum of New York: "George Zimmerman, who's best known for shooting and killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012, is back in the news ... for attempting to auction off the firearm he used in the shooting. On Wednesday, Zimmerman posted a listing putting the infamous gun up for auction, calling it 'a piece of American history' and opening the bidding at $5,000. 'I thought it's time to move past the firearm,' Zimmerman said in an interview with Fox. 'And if I sell it, and it sells, I move past it. Otherwise it's going in a safe for my grandkids.'" CW: Kinda like if Lee Harvey Oswald had lived, he could have auctioned off his rifle. ...

     ... Update: See Akhilleus's commentary in today's thread.

AND South Carolina Is Still South Carolina. AP: "Authorities in South Carolina say a barber with a history of aggressive behavior toward potential customers faces charges for pulling a gun on a man and telling him he 'does not cut black hair.' A York County Sheriff's Office report says when the man asked 65-year-old Larry Thomas what he meant, the man said Thomas grabbed a pistol and held it at his side." -- CW

Way Beyond

Andrew Jacobs & Simon Romero of the New York Times: "Brazil's Senate voted Thursday morning to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and begin an impeachment trial against her, ousting a deeply unpopular leader whose sagging political fortunes have come to embody widespread public anger over systemic corruption and a battered economy." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Watts of the Guardian: "Less than halfway through her elected mandate, Dilma Rousseff appears set to be stripped of her presidential duties for at least six months after a majority of senators said they would vote on Thursday to impeach her and put her on trial.... A formal vote is expected in the next hour." --safari

Xi Are Not Amused, Either. China Censors Queen Elizabeth's Remarks. Peter Hunt of BBC News: "Coverage of the comments has been censored in China where a report on BBC World News was blanked out. Instead, state media outlets have dedicated their coverage to the Queen's dress sense and notable party attendees. Social media users have been keen to comment, but many appear to have had their posts removed by online censors." -- CW (See related story linked yesterday, & video.) (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Tuesday
May102016

The Commentariat -- May 11, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Andrea Peterson & Jonelle Marte of the Washington Post: "Google announced Wednesday that it will ban all payday loan ads from its site, bowing to concerns by advocates who say the lending practice exploits the poor and vulnerable by offering them immediate cash that must be paid back under sky-high interest rates." ...

... CW: So now we have Google, a for-profit corporation which stands to lose millions by its decision, showing more concern for suckering poor people that does the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee. Fire Debbie Wassterman Schultz! Turns out corporations have souls, my friend; Wasserman Schultz sold hers to the devil with the deep pockets.

Xi Are Not Amused, Either. China Censors Queen Elizabeth's Remarks. Peter Hunt of BBC News: "Coverage of the comments has been censored in China where a report on BBC World News was blanked out. Instead, state media outlets have dedicated their coverage to the Queen's dress sense and notable party attendees. Social media users have been keen to comment, but many appear to have had their posts removed by online censors." -- CW (See related story linked below & video.)

Many Happy Returns? David Graham at The Atlantic on why Donald Trump's tax returns are important: He's far wealthier than any other candidate to run for president, and he has a long history of questionable finances, and faces other allegations. His companies have declared bankruptcy four times. He's been fined by the Federal Trade Commission for improper behavior. He incorrectly received a tax break for people making less than $500,000 per year. All of this means that people might have legitimate questions about what Trump is doing with his supposed vast sums...and further whether the techniques he likely uses to reduce his tax obligations (like many wealthy people) are appropriate, even when they are legal. -- Akhilleus

*****

Presidential Race

Harper Neidig of the Hill: "Bernie Sanders warned the Democratic Party against 'moving toward the middle' when it comes to picking a vice presidential candidate for the general election. During an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board on Tuesday..., [Sanders said,] 'I've always believed, very honestly, that good public policy is good politics.'... 'And I think the Democrats should have a ticket of a presidential candidate and a vice presidential candidate who will speak to the needs of the vast majority of our people and not just the wealthy campaign contributors.'" -- CW

The Jackass Mandate. Patrick Healy & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump's behavior in recent days -- the political threats to the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan; the name-calling on Twitter; the attacks on Hillary Clinton's marriage -- has deeply puzzled Republicans who expected him to move to unite the party, start acting presidential and begin courting the female voters he will need in the general election. But Mr. Trump ... said he had a 'mandate' from his supporters to run as a fiery populist outsider and to rely on his raucous rallies to build support through 'word of mouth,' rather than to embrace a traditional, mellower and more inclusive approach that congressional Republicans will advocate in meetings with him on Thursday." -- CW

The Miss Universe Version of a Political Convention. Lisa Hagen of the Hill: "Donald Trump's campaign convention manager promised an exciting GOP gathering this summer in Cleveland, calling the Republican National Convention the 'ultimate reality show.' During an MSNBC interview on Tuesday night, Paul Manafort said he's traveling to Cleveland on Thursday and Friday and will convene with the leadership running the event to start discussing ideas." CW: The swimsuit competition may be a bit of a letdown: only white Republicans will be allowed to participate.

Shane Goldmacher of Politico: "Donald Trump's campaign has enlisted influential conservative economists to revise his tax package and make it more politically palatable by slashing the $10 trillion sticker price. Their main targets: Lifting the top tax rate from Trump's original plan and expanding the number of people who would have to pay taxes under it.... the campaign last month contacted at least two prominent conservative economists -- Larry Kudlow, the CNBC television host, and Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation and a longtime Wall Street Journal writer -- to spearhead an effort to update the package." ...

... CW: I'm pretty sure those two doofuses will make Trump's tax plan great again. Here's Jonathan Chait on Kudlow (February 2015): "The interesting thing about Kudlow's continuing influence over conservative thought is that he has elevated flamboyant wrongness to a kind of performance art." And here's Krugman on Moore (February 2015): "... this is a guy who has a troubled relationship with facts. I don't mean that he's a slick dissembler; I mean that he seems more or less unable to publish an article without filling it with howlers...."


Abby Phillip
, et al., of the Washington Post: "Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was projected to win the Democratic primary in West Virginia Tuesday, the first of a string of potentially strong showings this month that are nonetheless not expected to cut significantly into front-runner Hillary Clinton's march toward the Democratic nomination. Additionally, Republican Donald Trump won Republican primaries in West Virginia and Nebraska -- virtually foregone conclusions given that he was the only Republican remaining in the race." -- CW

Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont captured the West Virginia primary on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, forcing Hillary Clinton to continue a costly and distracting two-front battle: to lock down the Democratic nomination and to take on Donald J. Trump in the general election." -- CW

Primary Results:

Democrats:

West Virginia. With less than one percent counted, the New York Times reports that the state is leaning Clinton, who has 50.6 percent of the votes to Sanders' 41.3 percent. I have no idea who the other 9 percent of voters might have picked. Update: Here's the answer to who the other candidates are, one of whom is Paul Farrell, a West Virginia attorney, who with 3 percent of the vote counted, has 6 percent. With six percent counted, the vote is leaning Sanders, 47.7 to 43.3 percent for Clinton. According to a USA Today banner at 8:54 pm ET, Bernie Sanders has won the primary. The NYT & WashPo have yet to designate Sanders the winner. With 27 percent counted, the AP has declared Sanders the winner; current percentages: Sanders 49.8, Clinton 39.6.

Nick Gass of Politico: "Hillary Clinton won the Nebraska Democratic primary on Tuesday, but she's not getting any delegates out of it. The Associated Press called the race in favor of Clinton, whose victory amounts to mere expression of preference.... The candidates' delegates to the Democratic National Convention were awarded in the state's March 5 caucus. Bernie Sanders won the caucuses by 15 percentage points, receiving 15 delegates to Clinton's 10." -- CW

Republicans:

West Virginia. With zero percent of the votes counted, the Washington Post projects that Donald Trump has won the primary. Which is not exactly unexpected, since he doesn't have any actual opponents.

Nebraska. Nick Gass: "Donald Trump has won the Nebraska Republican primary, according to three separate news networks."


Alex Seitz-Wald of MSNBC: "Bernie Sanders' decision to stay in the Democratic presidential race until the end has complicated what is typically one of the first orders of business for any new presidential nominee: taking over the party apparatus ahead of the national convention." CW: And there's this: "Party chairs usually stay on -- and there's no sign Clinton wants to replace Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz...." Nice to know.

Steven Myers of the New York Times: "A review of the 30,322 emails from Mrs. Clinton's private server that the State Department has made public under the Freedom of Information Act provides an extensive record of how such sensitive information often looped throughout President Obama's foreign policy apparatus on unclassified systems, from embassies to the United Nations to the White House." CW: Okay, then, there's just enough time to impeach President Obama. Get on it, House Republicans.

Julie Pace & Jill Colvin of the AP: "As part of his general election planning, Trump is moving aggressively to identify potential running mates and says he now has 'a very good list of five or six people,' all with deep political experience. While he would not provide a full list of names, he did not rule out New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the former rival whom he's already tapped to head his transition planning." -- CW ...

... Robert Costa of the Washington Post: Corey "Lewandowski, Trump's traveling confidant and campaign manager, will be in charge of the team that will survey and vet potential vice-presidential candidates for the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, two top Republicans said." -- CW ...

... Gideon Resnick of the Daily Beast: So Ben Carson is off Trump's veep-vetting team. "... Carson has stepped away to focus on other things, according to his business manager, Armstrong Williams." CW: Yes, Ole Doc will be overseeing Trump's U.S.-Egypt trade deal -- something about storing Kansas wheat in the pyramids.

For many, many years, when I would say these things, other white people would call me names: 'Oh, you're a hatemonger, you're a Nazi, you're like Hitler. Now they come in and say, 'Oh, you're like Donald Trump.' -- William Johnson, prominent white supremacist & Donald Trump convention delegate ...

... Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones: "On Monday evening, California's secretary of state published a list of delegates chosen by the Trump campaign for the upcoming Republican presidential primary in the state. Trump's slate includes William Johnson, one of the country's most prominent white nationalists. [Update: Responding to this story late Tuesday, the Trump campaign blamed Johnson's selection on a 'database error,' and Johnson told Mother Jones he would resign. Here are documents showing the Trump campaign's personal correspondence with Johnson yesterday.]... Whether or not Johnson was vetted by the Trump campaign, the GOP front-runner would have a hard time claiming ignorance of Johnson's extreme views: Johnson has gained notice during the presidential primary for funding pro-Trump robocalls that convey a white nationalist message. ...

     ... CW: Yes, accidents will happen. Those darned "databases"! OR, as Popehat tweeted, "A database error in the sense of 'we prefer to ignore the data about who our base is'." At the link, Steve M. has more on William Johnson. ...

     ... Update. Philip Bump of the Washington Post: The Trump campaign did not remove Johnson from its delegate list before the statutory deadline, according to California's secretary of state, so the white supremacist who would not allow non-whites to be permanent residents of the U.S., is Trump's guy in California. ...

     ... Update 2. Josh Harkinson: "Although the Trump campaign blamed a 'database error' for including Johnson as a delegate, the campaign corresponded with him personally just over 24 hours ago." -- CW

Mark Hensch of the Hill: "Donald Trump on Tuesday slammed Republicans who have ruled out being his running mate in an apparent swipe at Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). 'It is only the people that were never asked to be VP that tell the press that they will not take the position,' he tweeted." -- CW

The Race Goes to the Liar. Greg Sargent: "While ... swing voters [attending focus groups] are willing to see Trump as a risky, divisive figure, they are not yet prepared to believe the Dem argument that Trump's policy proposals would benefit the rich, a senior Democratic strategist who has been directly involved in extensive focus groups tells me." CW: These people probably aren't low-info voters; after all, they care enough about the election to take the time to sit through a focus group session. But they just can't belieeeve what we well know: that Trump's off-the-shelf GOP economic "plan" would be a boon to the rich.

Senate Race

Phil Willon of the Los Angeles Times: California's top five U.S. Senate candidates debate Tuesday night. "The 7 p.m. [PT] event is sponsored by KPBS Public Broadcasting and will be aired by public radio and public television stations around the state, including KCET-TV Channel 28 and KPCC-FM (89.3) radio in Los Angeles. The debate will be live-streamed at KPBS.org and the Los Angeles Times will cover it live on the Essential Politics news feed. -- CW

Other News & Views

Julie Davis & Jonathan Soble of the New York Times: "President Obama will become the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima, Japan, the White House announced on Tuesday, making a fraught stop this month at the site where the United States dropped an atomic bomb at the end of World War II." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jim Tankersley of the Washington Post: "In a new report out Tuesday..., [U.C.-Berkeley researchers] find that one-third of the families of 'frontline manufacturing production workers' are enrolled in a government safety-net program. The families' benefits cost state and local governments about $10 billion a year on average from 2009 to 2013, the analysis found. Those production workers, roughly 6 million, represent about half of all manufacturing workers.... The findings show ... that 'with manufacturing jobs, production jobs, that's really no longer true. The new production jobs are less likely to be union and more likely to be low wages.'... Eight of the 10 states that top the list of percentage of production workers whose families draw assistance live in the South...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.)

Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it will not seek the death penalty against Ahmed Abu Khattala, 54, a U.S.-designated terrorist whom prosecutors accuse of leading the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans. The announcement, contained in a notice to the federal trial court in Washington, clears the way for a major terrorism trial in the nation's capital, the first in the United States since 2015, barring a plea agreement by Abu Khattala. The decision ended a lengthy review after President Obama aired concerns in October that while he supported capital punishment in theory, he found it 'deeply troubling' in practice." -- CW

He's Baaack!! Burgess Everett of Politico: "Ted Cruz can't even get a protest vote in the Senate anymore. On Monday night, Cruz's colleagues ignored his attempt to disrupt Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's efforts to fund the government without attacking Planned Parenthood. In an unusual rebuke, even fellow Republicans denied him a 'sufficient second' that would have allowed him a roll call vote. Then, his Republican colleagues loudly bellowed 'no' when Cruz sought a voice vote, a second repudiation that showed how little support Cruz has: Just one other GOP senator -- Utah's Mike Lee -- joined with Cruz as he was overruled by McConnell and his deputies." -- CW

     ... OR, as Paul Waldman summarizes it, "Ted Cruz returned to the Senate and was all like, 'Hey, how about if I do some pointless grandstanding?' and his Republican colleagues were all like, 'Put a sock in it, jerk.'" ...

... Because GOP Senators Would Never Waste Time on Frivolous Matters. Michael Nunez of Gizmodo: "The US Senate Commerce Committee ... has sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg requesting answers to questions it has on its trending topics section. The letter comes after Gizmodo on Monday reported on allegations by one former news curator, who worked for Facebook as a contractor, that the curation team routinely suppressed or blacklisted topics of interest to conservatives. That report also included allegations from several former curators that they used a 'injection tool' to add or bump stories onto the trending module." -- CW ...

... What Is Facebook Anyway? Brian Feldman of New York on Sen. John Thune's (R-S.D.) letter to Zuckerberg: "... the letter ... gets to the heart of Facebook's dilemma here: Is it an (implicitly neutral) platform for the exchange of all ideas? Or a publisher with editorial imperatives and ideas? Taken as the latter, the letter is ridiculous.... Taken as the former, though..., if Facebook is a truly neutral platform (whatever that would mean), at several hundred million American users it's more akin to a utility, or a common carrier, than a private company.... Facebook, of course, would like to have it both ways, and maintain the reach, power, and broad public appeal of a utility, and at the same time the independence of a media company." -- CW

Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly: "It is truly amazing to watch this Party that constantly extols the virtue of 'freedom' and their love of the Constitution (First Amendment anyone?) feign outrage that social media isn't under their control." -- CW

... MarKos Moulitsas: "Coming from the folks that eliminated the Equal Time Doctrine, this is hilarious." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Bridgegate Co-Conspirators to Be Revealed. Ted Sherman of NJ.com: "A federal judge has ordered the release of the names of individuals who allegedly had knowledge of the scheme to shut down lanes at the George Washington Bridge before the Bridgegate scandal broke. In a ruling sought by a consortium of news organizations, including NJ Advance Media, U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton said the public had a right to know who else may have been involved in the high profile case or subsequent coverup...." -- CW

Letter from a Nevada Jail. Sam Levin of the Guardian: "Jailed Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy filed a lawsuit against Barack Obama, challenging his placement in solitary confinement and seeking to dismiss the federal government's felony charges that could condemn him to die behind bars. The suit from the rancher, who led a high-profile standoff against the government in 2014, also names US judge Gloria Navarro and Nevada senator Harry Reid.... The complaint, filed Tuesday..., slams Obama for 'despicable disrespectful mocking' of Bundy at the 2014 White House Correspondents' Dinner." The amusing complaint is here. -- CW

American "Justice," Ctd. Claudia Lauer of the AP: "An Arkansas judge resigned Monday after new allegations surfaced that he used his authority for the last 30 years to sexually prey on young men charged with crimes who needed financial help or who were afraid of losing their children or jobs. Part-time Cross County District Judge Joe Boeckmann resigned after a state judicial commission presented him with new allegations, including one case when a man said he was taken to a courtroom, told to strip naked and photographed in handcuffs. Allegations were made public last year that Boeckmann had engaged in inappropriate sexual relationships including photographing and paddling defendants in exchange for lighter sentences." -- CW

Alex Zielinski of Think Progress: "A new Utah law that goes into effect on Tuesday will force doctors to shirk their promise to 'do no harm' by dangerously over-anesthetizing women who seek a later abortion. Informed by anti-abortion state lawmakers rather than by medical experts, the 'Protecting Unborn Children Amendment' requires physicians to administer an anesthetic to any women seeking an abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later, to 'eliminate or alleviate organic pain to the unborn child.' Like many anti-abortion laws on the state level, Utah's law rests on the unscientific belief that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks of gestation." -- CW

Way Beyond

We Were Not Amused. Tom Phillips of the Guardian: "The 'golden era' of UK-China relations appears to have lost some of its glitter after the Queen [Elizabeth of Britain] accused Chinese officials of being 'very rude' to the British ambassador during president Xi Jinping's first state visit to Britain last year." -- CW ...

Simon Romero of the New York Times: " In a stunning twist in the effort to impeach President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, the new speaker of the lower house of Congress has changed his mind -- less than 24 hours after announcing that he would try to annul his chamber's decision to impeach her.... Waldir Maranhão ... said on Monday that he would to try to annul the April 17 impeachment vote against the president, citing concerns about procedural irregularities. But in a decision made around midnight here, and widely circulated in the early morning on Tuesday, Mr. Maranhão told Renan Calheiros, the head of the Senate, that he was revoking his earlier decision." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Simon Denyer & Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post: "A U.S. warship sailed within 12 miles of one China's largest artificial islands Tuesday, part of a continuing effort by the Pentagon to demonstrate that the United States remains undeterred by the rapid Chinese military buildup in the South China Sea. The presence of the USS William P. Lawrence, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, prompted the Chinese military to scramble three fighter jets that monitored the destroyer, along with three Chinese ships, until the American vessel left the area." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Way, Way Beyond

Amina Khan of the Los Angeles Times: "Sifting through data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, scientists said Tuesday they've confirmed the existence of 1,284 planets orbiting other stars. The announcement more than doubles the number of validated planets discovered by the planet-hunting spacecraft, bringing the total number to about 2,325.... Perhaps most striking, the new census includes nine worlds that could be rocky and Earth-like and orbit their host stars in the so-called habitable zone, where temperatures would allow water to be stable in liquid form." -- CW

News Lede

New York Times: "In a burst of attacks recalling Iraq's sectarian civil war, three bombings in three different neighborhoods of Baghdad killed more than 90 people on Wednesday and wounded scores more, the Iraqi authorities said. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the biggest attack, in a crowded food market in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City in northern Baghdad. Explosives hidden in a parked pickup truck loaded with fruit and vegetables detonated around 10 a.m., killing at least 66 people and wounding 87 others." -- CW

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