Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President continued his call for our nation to rally around an economic patriotism that says rather than protecting wasteful tax loopholes for a few at the top, we should be investing in things like education and job training that grow the economy for everybody":

The Ledes

Saturday, July 26, 2014.

AP: "The United States shut down its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort amid a significant deterioration in security in Tripoli as fighting intensified between rival militias, the State Department said."

Washington Post: "Large Palestinian protests against Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip spread across the West Bank on Friday, as U.S.-led talks to secure a lasting truce sputtered. But a brief 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire did begin as promised Saturday and ambulances rushed into no-go zones to look for dead and wounded." ...

... AP: "Israeli aircraft struck 30 houses in the Gaza Strip early Friday, killing a leader of the militant Islamic Jihad group and two of his sons, as Israel's Security Cabinet was to decide whether to expand its operation or consider ideas for a cease-fire."

AP: "The European Union on Friday extended its Ukraine-related sanctions to target top Russian intelligence officials and leaders of the pro-Russia revolt in eastern Ukraine, official documents showed."

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, July 25, 2014.

** New York Times: "Russia has increased its direct involvement in fighting between the Ukrainian military and separatist insurgents, moving more of its own troops to the border and preparing to arm the rebels with ever more potent weapons, including high-powered Tornado rocket launchers, American and Ukrainian officials said on Friday."

New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed a two-stage plan to halt the fighting in the Gaza Strip that would first impose a weeklong truce starting Sunday, an official involved in the negotiations said on Friday. As soon as the truce took effect, Palestinian and Israeli officials would begin negotiations on the principal economic, political and security concerns about Gaza, with other nations attending." ...

     ... Update: "Israel agreed to halt its military offensive in Gaza for 12 hours starting Saturday morning amid intense international efforts to seal a broader cease-fire deal and a new explosion of violence in the West Bank.... The announcement by the military came early Saturday, hours after Israel’s security cabinet rejected Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposal for a seven-day cease-fire in Gaza and further talks...."

... AFP: "Israeli fire Friday pushed the Palestinian death toll in Gaza to above 800, as Washington pressed Israel and Hamas to agree a week-long humanitarian ceasefire and thrash out a durable truce."

AFP: "The United States on Thursday said it had evidence Russian forces were firing artillery from inside Russia on Ukrainian troops, in what officials called a 'clear escalation' of the conflict. Moscow is also planning to 'deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers' to the pro-Russian separatist forces in Ukraine, US deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said." ...

... AFP: "Ukraine's prime minister resigned after his governing coalition collapsed, plunging the former Soviet state into political limbo as it struggles to quell a deadly rebellion in the east.... Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he was stepping down over the "dissolution of the parliamentary coalition and the blocking of government initiatives" after several parties walked out on the ruling group. The collapse of the ruling coalition paves the way for early elections to be called by President Petro Poroshenko within 30 days."

New York Times: "As a detachment of French soldiers reached the crash site in Mali of an Air Algérie jetliner, officials in Paris said Friday that the accident was most likely weather-related and that the distribution of the wreckage over a limited area suggested that the plane probably hit the ground intact."

 

Guardian: "The Washington Post's correspondent in Tehran has been arrested along with his Iranian wife and two American photojournalists. Iranian judicial offficials confirmed on Friday that Jason Rezaian, who holds dual American and Iranian citizenship, had been detained and is under investigation."

Public Service Announcement

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

White House Live Video
July 25

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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

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

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

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

 

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday
Jul132014

The Commentariat -- July 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

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

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

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

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

Presidential Election

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

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

News Ledes

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

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

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

Saturday
Jul122014

The Commentariat -- July 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Ledes

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

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

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

Saturday
Jul122014

The Commentariat -- July 12, 2014

White House: "Expanding opportunity -- it's time for Republicans to do their part":

... Worth noting: the gloves are off.

"Taxpayer-Funded Bigotry." New York Times Editors: "President Obama should resist a pressure campaign by some religious groups to weaken a promised executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against gay men, lesbians and transgender people in their hiring practices.... The Civil Rights Act gives religious groups some leeway to favor members of their own faith in hiring. In 2002, President George W. Bush extended that leeway to faith-based service organizations receiving federal money, and Mr. Obama has failed to keep a campaign promise to rescind Mr. Bush's order." The Cheneys' Weekly Standard piece is here. It is titled, ironically, "The Truth about Iraq."

Warren Bass of the Wall Street Journal & a former 9/11 Commission staff member: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz, a former U.S. Senate candidate, have written a piece on Iraq in the Weekly Standard that resuscitates an old argument about Saddam Hussein's links to al Qaeda.... The Cheneys write: 'It is undisputed, and has been confirmed repeatedly in Iraqi government documents captured after the invasion, that Saddam had deep, longstanding, far-reaching relationships with terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda and its affiliates.' In fact, the 9/11 Commission disputed it 10 years ago." ...

     ... CW: Isn't it rich that Cheney tries to rehabilitate himself with an essay in which he claims to be imparting the "truth" & which is based on at lease one obvious lie. Even if you think Saddam & bin Ladin were BFFs, to claim that the supposed Saddam-al Qaeda relationship is "undisputed" is an undisputed lie:

     ... Paige Lavender of the Huffington Post documents a few others: "In 2002, the New York Times claimed the Bush administration was 'sowing a dangerous confusion' by saying al Qaeda had a relationship with Hussein's regime.... And a 2008 military report released by the Pentagon also showed no connection between the two." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "The Cheneys have seen nothing, heard nothing, and learned nothing since 2002. And they don't even seem to understand they are undermining the credibility of Obama's legion of Republican critics. The word 'incorrigible' comes to mind. Gaze in awe."

Gail Collins has some advice for political candidates, based on the stupid tricks & remarks by politicians around the country. For instance, take your own photos for your campaign ads instead of using various European people (or pigs) to illustrate how great the locals are.

Annals of "Journalism," Megyn Kelly Edition

Megyn Kelly of Fox "News" booked Breitbart's radical winger columnist Ben Shapiro to talk about the Obama administration's response to the violence between Israel & Palestine & specifically the murder of three Jewish teens -- after Shapiro had written a post titled "The Jew-Hating Obama Administration" in which he opined on Obama's response to the murder of the teens, one of whom, Naftali Frenkel, was an American. Here's an excerpt from Shapiro's post:

Presumably Frenkel did not look enough like Barack Obama's imaginary son [a reference to Trevon Martin] for him to give a damn.... Jewish blood is cheap to this administration.... Jew hatred is as old as the Jewish people. It's just found a new home in the White House.

     ... During the Kelly segment, Shapiro said, "It's borderline a Jew-hating administration," to which Kelly responded, "Wow! That's strong," as if she had no idea Shapiro might say something like that. Then her staff tweeted out Shapiro's remark on Kelly's Twitter feed. Oddly enough, some criticized the tweet, & Kelly responded, via Twitter, "Critics have point-@benshapiro quote tweeted by staff during show; not a cmt I wish 2 recirc which is why I challenged on air& deleted tweet." Tom Kludt of TPM has the story. Here's the thing, Megyn. When you book a guy like that who's written crap like that, you invite him to go there on the air, then publicize his remarks, IT'S ALL YOU FUCKING FAULT. You can't "distance yourself" (Kludt's characterization) from sentiments you did everything to encourage & air.

Kendall Breitman of Politico: "Fox News host Megyn Kelly is charging House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with being 'guilty' of sexism after her comments on the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling. 'The latest installment of misleading hysteria comes from the House minority leader,' Kelly said Thursday.... Kelly's comments came after Pelosi called the ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby 'a frightening one.... We should be afraid of this court, that five guys are determining which contraceptions are legal or not,' Pelosi said Thursday." ...

     ... CW: Yo, Megyn, to claim a woman suffers from "hysteria" is way sexist, too. You could look it up.

Beyond the Beltway

Fernanda Santos of the New York Times: Arizona Attorney Gen. Tom Horne (R), who has a Koch-backed primary challenger in his bid for re-election, "has been caught by F.B.I. agents leaving the scene of a parking-garage fender-bender after a lunchtime tryst, a mishap that exposed not only the affair, but also a federal investigation into alleged campaign finance violations, which ended unceremoniously and without any charges.... The Arizona secretary of state's office said this week that there was enough evidence to support a full investigation of accusations that Mr. Horne used his staff in his re-election campaign." But he can play the piano (begins about 4 min. into the video)!

Senate Race

McDaniel Wins Mississippi Primary! Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) said Friday that his campaign and his supporters have found 'over 8,300 questionable ballots cast' in the runoff election for U.S. Senate, which Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) won.... Cochran won the runoff by 7,667 votes.... McDaniel, in the Friday statement, also called on the Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (R) to allow McDaniel's campaign access to voting records which McDaniel said they have not had access to yet." CW: Uh, how do you know the ballots are "questionable" if you haven't seen the voting records? ...

Presidential Election 2016

Nicole Lafond of TPM: "The Republican Party of Virginia denied on Friday that it was behind a bumper sticker that appeared to take a shot at Hillary Clinton by describing her as 'Monica Lewinsky's X-Boyfriend's Wife.' The bumper sticker was discovered by Reuters political correspondent Gabriel Debenedetti, who tweeted a photo of it on Friday morning and said he found it in Fairfax County, Va. In fine print beneath the Lewinsky line were the words 'Authorized By Republican Party Of Virginia.'" ...

... Update. Nicole Lafond: "A Virginia woman told TPM on Friday that she recently discovered a stack of anti-Hillary Clinton bumper stickers at a local GOP office, despite denials from the state party that it had anything to do with the stickers. Carole Donoghue, a retired journalist, said she found the bumper stickers at Fairfax County Republican Committee headquarters in Fairfax, Va. The bumper stickers read 'Monica Lewinsky's X-Boyfriend's Wife for President.'" Donoghue said that last Sunday she came upon a GOP campaign worker who was ill, so she drove him to the campaign office, where she saw the stack of bumper stickers. "Donoghue said she wanted to speak out about her discovery after the state party denied being involved. 'They are just cheap and stupid, and if you are going to be cheap and stupid at least be honest about it,' Donoghue told TPM. 'The denial was dishonest.'"

Marie's Sports Report

Chris Fedor in the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "LeBron James stunned the NBA on Friday around noon when he announced his long-awaited free agency decision, choosing to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers and leaving the Miami Heat. According to reports, he will sign a four-year, $88 million max contract." ...

... James explains why he's "coming home" in a Sports Illustrated "as told to" sports writer Lee Jenkins. ...

... Michael Powell of the New York Times: "... even taking into account that he was working with the skilled and guiding hand of the Sports Illustrated writer Lee Jenkins, James offered a rather stunning display of soul-baring from a man who should, by reasonable expectation, possess a dirigible-size ego."

News Ledes

AP: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says both of Afghanistan's presidential candidates are committed to abiding by the results of the 'largest, most comprehensive audit' of the election runoff ballots possible."

Los Angeles Times: "Israel and Palestinians continued to trade airstrikes and rocket fire Saturday with the death toll in the Gaza Strip climbing to 121 on the fifth day of Israel's military offensive targeting Palestinian militants." (CW: As far as I can tell, & I may be wrong, all of those killed were Palestinians.) ...

... New York Times: "As Israel's air war against Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters in Gaza entered its sixth day on Saturday, a pair of bombings threw the difficulties of the campaign into painful relief: Israel bombed a mosque, which its aerial photos indicated was harboring a weapons cache, and a center for the handicapped, killing two handicapped patients and wounding three, as well as a caretaker."

New York Times: "After potentially serious back-to-back laboratory accidents, federal health officials announced Friday that they had temporarily closed the flu and anthrax laboratories at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and halted shipments of all infectious agents from the agency's highest-security labs."

Guardian: "US authorities have charged a Chinese businessman with hacking into the computer systems of companies with large defence contracts, including Boeing, to steal data on military projects including some of the latest fighter jets, according to officials. Su Bin worked with two unnamed Chinese hackers to get the data between 2009 and 2013, then attempted to sell some of the information to state-owned Chinese companies, prosecutors said."

AP: "Tracy Morgan has sued Wal-Mart over last month's highway crash that seriously injured him and killed a fellow comedian. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, claims Wal-Mart was negligent when a driver of one of its tractor-trailers rammed into Morgan's limousine van."

Guardian: "Germany is determined to extract a public commitment from the US over future spying activity during talks with John Kerry this weekend, despite a White House preference to try to mend their battered diplomatic relationship behind closed doors."

Thursday
Jul102014

The Commentariat -- July 11, 2014

In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it. That's not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own. -- Speaker John Boehner, Wednesday ...

Think about that. You're going to use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job while you don't do your job. -- President Barack Obama, Wednesday, to a crowd in Austin, Texas

... Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Speaker John A. Boehner's lawsuit against President Obama will focus on changes to the health care law that Mr. Boehner says should have been left to Congress, according to a statement issued Thursday by the speaker's office. By narrowly focusing the legal action on the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Boehner will sidestep the more politically problematic issue involving Mr. Obama's executive action offering work permits for some illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children." ...

... CW: This is hilarious. They're suing Obama for temporarily waiving the part of a law they hated most -- the employer mandate -- in a law they despised so much they attempted to repeal it 50 times. Kinda like suing the neighbor for trespass because he ran into your yard to save you from a rabid dog who was attacking you. ...

... digby: "So, the Republicans are going to court to enforce a mandate which they voted against and to which they are completely opposed? ... Also too, the great black whale of Obamacare is just irresistible. They're going to go after it even if it makes no sense at all." ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "Yep, it's back to Obamacare, and it's ironically for doing something that Republicans claim they wanted. Which means that if they're successful in their lawsuit, their victory will have achieved ... a faster implementation of Obamacare. Bunch of geniuses, they are." ...

... Tony Pugh of McClatchy News: "Some 9.5 million Americans gained health coverage during the recent marketplace enrollment period as the uninsured rate for working-age adults fell from 20 percent to 15 percent, according to a new national survey by the Commonwealth Fund." ...

... Jenna Levy of Gallup: "The uninsured rate has decreased sharply since the Affordable Care Act's requirement for most Americans to have health insurance went into effect at the beginning of 2014." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Since most opponents of Obamacare cannot admit even partial success, you won't read those number in the conservative media unless it's part of an effort to deny them." ...

... Jonathan Chait documents how the libertarian Peter Suderman of Reason has accidentally shown "how ObamaCare is succeeding." ...

... Scott Lemieux posts a funny "Shorter Peter Suderman." ...

... Paul Waldman in the American Prospect: "One of the arguments conservatives have made is that people who ended up changing plans will hate the new ones they had to get because of Obamacare. Well, it turns out that among people who previously had insurance but are on a new plan they got through the exchanges or Medicaid, 77 percent say they're satisfied with their new plan, compared to only 16 percent who aren't satisfied, and the results are almost exactly the same for those who were previously uninsured. Not only that, 74 percent of Republicans with new plans say they're satisfied.... [But] no matter how much data we get demonstrating that the law is working well, those voters [in red states] will still get angry every time the word is spoken. So it's in the candidates' interest to keep on talking about it, in the same apocalyptic terms." ...

... Timothy Jost, in the Washington Post, says the federal courts will not rule for litigants attempting to destroy the ACA with the argument that individuals who live in the 2/34ds of the states which do not have their own exchanges cannot receive the tax credits which are critical to enrollment. "Judge Harry T. Edwards of the D.C. Circuit panel ... called the plaintiff's argument 'preposterous.'" (Edwards is a Carter appointee.) ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos isn't so sure, given that the Supreme majority has "already proven that it's perfectly willing to make bullshit decisions about the law." ...

... MEANWHILE, winger Jonathan Keim of the National Review thinks Jost might be right, but only because "President Obama has packed the D.C. Circuit." CW: "Packed the D.C. Circuit" is winger-speak for "filled normally-occurring vacancies on the Court of Appeals." These people really cannot stop themselves even long after the phony "outrages" have died their natural deaths. ...

... AND Many Thanks to Chuck & Dave, the Amazing Koch Brothers, for Spending Millions to Sell ObamaCare to the Yahoos. Niam Yaraghi, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, runs the numbers & discovers that "after controlling for other state characteristics such as low per capita income population and average insurance premiums," ObamaCare enrollment was higher in states that ran more anti-ObamaCare ads. Yaraghi notes that people in these states also were "more likely to believe that Congress will repeal the ACA in the near future..., [so] could have a greater willingness to take advantage of [what they believed was] this one time opportunity."

Colleen Nelson of the Wall Street Journal: "Insisting that he's not really a partisan guy, President Barack Obama on Thursday again criticized Republican lawmakers for inaction as he challenged them to 'do something.' The president mocked Republican suggestions that he should be sued or impeached for taking executive actions and said he would not let partisan gridlock in Washington deter him for pressing ahead with his own agenda.... On the last leg of a two-day swing through Texas, the president summed up what he had accomplished during the first six months of the year, saying that he had taken more than 40 executive actions that didn't require Congressional approval. Still, he said that GOP complaints about overreach were unfounded":

Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "Congressional Republicans pushed back Thursday at President Obama's request for nearly $4 billion to help stem the surge of young migrants from Central America to Texas and to deal with the humanitarian crisis there, signaling that they expected concessions for their legislative approval. The Republicans said that at the very least they planned to amend a 2008 law that affords migrant children from Central American countries extra legal protections when they cross the border. That measure, signed by President George W. Bush, has inadvertently made it more difficult to quickly return these children home." ...

... The Boner Theater Presents Another Dramatic One-Man Performance by Matinee Idol John Boehner. Sarah Mimms of the National Journal: "House Speaker John Boehner had some harsh words for President Obama on the border crisis, raising his voice and slamming the podium during a press conference Thursday. When asked if Congress needed to approve a $3.7 billion request from the president to help ease a recent surge of unaccompanied minors, Boehner repeatedly said that the House would not grant Obama a 'blank check.' The speaker added that the children should be taken care of and then sent back. Pressed on the issue, Boehner appeared to get heated. 'This is problem of the president's own making. He's been president for five years! When is he going to take responsibility for something?' he shouted."

... Greg Sargent: "GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, a key player in the House on immigration, just met with the House GOP leadership to make one final plea that Republicans act on immigration reform in the face of the current crisis. He was told that it is dead for the year. In an interview with me just now, Diaz-Balart confirmed the meeting, and said he is 'very disappointed' in his party's decision not to move forward. Crucially, he cast the GOP leadership's refusal to move forward as the key obstacle to reform. He said he had legislation ready to go, and that his conversations convinced him that a solid number of Republicans and Democrats would have supported it." ...

"Words Do Matter." Kate Bolduan of CNN confronts Gov. Rick Perry on his conspiracy theory that President Obama had purposely created the border crisis:

Tom Kludt of TPM: Mainstream pundits & the usual suspects go nuts over a "quotation" that Obama didn't say. ...

... Jed Lewison is just not taking seriously enough the reactions to the fake Obama quote -- "I don't do photo-ops."

Ramsey Cox of the Hill: "The Senate voted 75-22 Thursday to confirm Shaun Donovan as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Donovan was secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but was tapped to replace Sylvia Mathews Burwell at the OMB after she took the helm at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).... Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said he opposed Donovan's nomination because he didn't think he had the credibility to stand up to the administration and rein in spending.... Sessions said, 'He was chosen because he has a good personality, people skills, and is politically loyal and would defend administration goals and priorities even when the result would be unfavorable to the country's fiscal health.' CW: Also, Sen. Sessions said he couldn't abide anyone with a good personality & people skills, & might have voted to confirm a perpetually-peeved little jerk like himself.

Alison Smale & Melissa Eddy of the New York Times: "Germany's relations with the United States plunged to a low point Thursday, with the government demanding the expulsion of the chief American intelligence official stationed here because, it said, Washington has refused to cooperate with German inquiries into United States intelligence activities."

Benghaaazi! Conspiracy Theory Fizzle Redux. AP: "The testimony of nine military officers undermines contentions by Republican lawmakers that a 'stand-down order' held back military assets that could have saved the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed at a diplomatic outpost and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya.... Transcripts of hours of closed-door interviews with the military leaders by the House Armed Services and Oversight and Government Reform committees were made public for the first time on Wednesday.... Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the Oversight panel, has suggested Hillary Rodham Clinton gave the order, though as secretary of state at the time, she was not in the military chain of command." ...

These transcripts definitively show that Republican attacks against our nation's military servicemembers and former Secretary of State Clinton are completely unfounded and utterly offensive. -- Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight Committee ...

... Steve Benen: "In reality, there was no real need to debunk the right's 'stand-down' Benghazi conspiracy theory again. The argument was thoroughly discredited a while ago, and though some congressional Republicans occasionally still throw it around, in all likelihood, even they probably don't believe it. But just in case someone -- perhaps, say, a Fox News host, for example -- might still be unsure about whether the theory has merit, let's note the new evidence that confirms the old evidence."

Jesse Holland of the AP: "A powerful government workers' union will end its support for the United Negro College Fund after the group accepted $25 million from the conservative powerhouse Koch brothers and the college fund's president appeared at a Koch event.... AFSCME President Lee Saunders said the actions of the college fund's president 'are not only deeply hostile to the rights and dignity of public employees, but also a profound betrayal of the ideals of the civil rights movement.'" ...

... Lisa Graves of the Progressive: "... billionaire oil industrialist Charles Koch was an active member of the controversial right-wing John Birch Society during its active campaigns against the civil rights movement.... The echoes of his past role reverberate along with the millions he and his brother David Koch have spent fueling a John Birch Society-like 'Tea Party' peopled with right-wingers like Birchers of decades past.... In many ways, the playbook deployed by the Kochs today through myriad organizations resembles a more sophisticated (and expensive) playbook of the John Birch Society back then. Even the recent announcement of the Kochs to give a $25 million gift to the United Negro College Fund (with strings attached requiring the recruitment of free market African American college students) echoes that past. In 1964, in the face of criticism for its assault on the civil rights movement, the John Birch Society also funded a scholarship program to give college funds to African Americans who were not active in the civil rights movement...." Via Charles Pierce.

Paul Krugman: "... why should right-wing sentiments go hand in hand with inflation paranoia? One answer is that using monetary policy to fight slumps is a form of government activism. And conservatives don't want to legitimize the notion that government action can ever have positive effects.... But there's also a much more direct reason for those defending the interests of the wealthy to complain about easy money: The wealthy derive an important part of their income from interest on bonds, and low-rate policies have greatly reduced this income." Krugman has several recent blogposts backing up this column.

Paul Krugman: Oh, those prominent "reformacons" who are going to turn the Republican party away from Stupid? The big guns, Ramesh Ponnuru & Yuval Levin, "both did indeed strongly defend [Paul Ryan']s smoke-and-mirrors budgets." Then Levin lied about what his & Ryan's positions on austerity were: "It's one thing to get a major issue wrong, and rely on the wrong research. It's something else, and much worse, to pretend after the fact that you did no such thing."

James Ball of the Guardian: "General Keith Alexander, the then director of the NSA, was briefed that the Guardian was prepared to make a largely symbolic act of destroying documents from Edward Snowden last July, new documents reveal. The revelation that Alexander and Obama's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, were advised on the Guardian's destruction of several hard disks and laptops contrasts markedly with public White House statements that distanced the US from the decision."

Congressional Races

Republican political consultants or operatives did in fact conspire to manipulate and influence the redistricting process. They made a mockery of the Legislature's proclaimed transparency and open process of redistricting by doing all of this in the shadow of that process, utilizing the access it gave them to the decision makers, but going to great lengths to conceal from the public their plan and their participation in it. -- Judge Terry Lewis, in an opinion invalidating Florida's congressional redistricting map ...

... Mary Klas of the Miami Herald: "A judge threw out Florida's congressional redistricting map Thursday, ruling that the Legislature allowed for a 'secret, organized campaign' by partisan operatives to subvert the redistricting process in violation of the state Constitution. Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled that two of the state's 27 districts are invalid and must be redrawn, along with any other districts affected by them, to bring the map into compliance with the state's new Fair District amendments."

Senate Race

Every time I get an opponent -- uh, I mean, every time I get a chance -- I'm home. -- Veteran Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), speaking on a Kansas City radio show. Roberts "owns a Washington-area home while his official residence in Dodge City is rented space in a home owned by two supporters. Not so long ago, Roberts joked about having full access to a recliner there." Roberts has a Tea party primary challenger.

News Ledes

Guardian: "The death toll in Gaza has risen as international pressure builds on Israel to end its four-day conflict with Hamas and Palestinian militant groups in the enclave. A Gaza health ministry spokesman said two Palestinians were killed and three injured in an Israeli strike on Friday that brought the death toll to 100. Rocket fire continued at Israeli cities, which have so far avoided fatalities.... The White House said Barack Obama had phoned the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to offer to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas." CW: So it's 100-0.

Washington Post: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the Afghan capital Friday to push for a resolution to a weeks-long political crisis centered on the country's fraud-hit presidential election. The dispute over last month's run-off has U.S. officials worried Afghanistan, already roiled by a Taliban-led insurgency, could collapse before its first democratic transfer of power."