The Ledes

Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

Reuters: "Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in neighboring Egypt, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Israel later in the day. Both have voiced alarm at mounting civilian casualties."

New York Times: "A train carrying the bodies of victims from the Malaysia Airlines jet downed by a missile last week arrived Tuesday morning in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv after a 17-hour journey out of lawless territory controlled by pro-Russian rebels." ...

... New York Times: "A piece of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 that was shot down in eastern Ukraine last week bears telltale marks of small pieces of high-velocity shrapnel that apparently crippled the jet in flight. Riddled with these perforations and buffeted by a blast wave as it flew high above the conflict zone, the plane then most likely sheared apart."

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, July 21, 2014.

Governor Grandstand. New York Times: "Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was expected to announce on Monday the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico to bolster security as the Border Patrol faces an influx of Central American immigrants."

Guardian: "As Dutch forensic experts arrived at the scene of the Malaysia Airlines crash on Monday and promised that the train being loaded with the victims' bodies would be moved before the end of the day, heavy fighting broke out between the Ukrainian army and rebels on the outskirts of Donetsk, the main regional city and the hub of the insurgency." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "After days of obstruction, Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine permitted Dutch forensics experts on Monday to search the wreckage of the downed Malaysia Airlines jetliner destroyed by a surface-to-air missile, allowed bodies of the victims to be evacuated by train and agreed to give the plane’s flight recorder boxes to the Malaysian government."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin issued a brief statement early on Monday saying that Russia would work to ensure that the conflict in eastern Ukraine moves from the battlefield to the negotiating table, and he again said that a robust international investigating team must have secure access to the Malaysia Airlines crash site. He also accused unspecified nations of exploiting the disaster in pursuit of 'mercenary political goals.' The statement posted on the Kremlin website came a day after mounting international criticism and anger against Russia and specifically Mr. Putin for the chaotic, unsecured condition of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site and what some nations said was the desecration of the victims’ bodies."

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 22

11:00 am ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

12:10 pm ET: President Obama & Vice President Biden deliver remarks & sign H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

3:30 pm ET: Drink Up! with First Lady Michelle Obama

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

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

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:

Whole Food Business Model: We Cheat You, But Not so Much You'll Notice. Shan Li of the Los Angeles Times: "Whole Foods Market is paying $800,000 in penalties after an investigation found the supermarket chain overcharged customers throughout California. During a yearlong investigation, state and local inspectors found the Austin, Texas, grocer charged more than advertised for a wide range of food products, according to a statement from the Santa Monica city attorney's office. Problems included failing to deduct the weight of containers when ringing up fresh food, putting smaller amounts into packages than the weight stated on the label, and selling items by the piece instead of by the pound, as required by law, the statement said.... 'Based on a review of our own records and a sampling of inspection reports .... our pricing on weighed and measured items was accurate 98% of the time,' the company said in a Tuesday statement." ...

... CW: Besides, if you shop at Whole Foods -- at no charge to you -- you can learn that unions are like herpes, ObamaCare is a form of fascism & climate change is "perfectly natural."

Teenaged curiosity about sex is quite natural, but it can be a bummer.The Vagina Dialog. Turned out to Require a Large Cast of Supporting Characters. Jen Kirby of New York: "An American student studying abroad in Germany captured the world's attention yesterday by achieving the remarkable feat of getting himself stuck in a giant vagina sculpture and needing 22 firefighters to rescue him. But Fernando de la Jara, the artist behind the now-infamous work, took it all in stride.... 'It's participatory art,' de la Jara said. 'It should be entered.'"

 

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Wednesday
Jul092014

The Commentariat -- July 10, 2014

Jackie Calmes & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama vowed Wednesday after meeting with Texas officials to secure the state's border with Mexico while treating the surge of Central American children with compassion." AND, yes, Gov. Rick Perry met him at the airport....

... Katie Zezima & David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Obama on Wednesday forcefully defended his decision not to visit the Texas border with Mexico to view a burgeoning humanitarian crisis, saying he's 'not interested in photo ops' and challenging Congress to give him new authority to respond to the situation":

... Dana Milbank: Ted Cruz, following Sarah Palin, accuses President Obama of lawlessness for enforcing a law passed by unanimous consent before he came into office. CW: Ted Cruz has finally quit twisting the truth; he prefers outright lies. ...

... Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "The crisis along the border is tailor made for Republicans. It makes their base hopping mad, it juices their campaign fundraising, and anytime the government is unable to address a problem it makes Obama look bad. Why on earth would Republicans want to do anything to change any of this? As long as Obama is president, chaos is good for Republicans. After all, most voters don't really know who's at fault when things go wrong, they just know there's a crisis and Obama doesn't seem to be doing anything about it." ...

... BUT. Mike Lillis & Bernie Becker of the Hill: "Republicans will take the political fall if they don't provide emergency funds to address the immigrant crisis at the southern border, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned Wednesday."

Joey Bunch & Kurtis Lee of the Denver Post: "President Obama, speaking to a crowd of hand-picked guests in Denver Wednesday at Cheesman Park, touted gains made in the economy following the recession that challenged the start of his presidency":

... Joey Bunch: "President Obama heaped criticism on Republicans at a private fundraiser in Denver Wednesday for U.S. Sen. Mark Udall. Obama claimed success in improving the economy but blamed Republicans for a lack of further progress." CW: He also criticized Republicans during his public speech. ...

...Mark Matthews & Kurtis Lee of the Denver Post: "President Barack Obama opened his Denver trip Tuesday evening by dining with five Colorado residents who wrote the White House and shared their stories of trying to make it in today's economy. Then he strolled Lower Downtown, shaking hands and eventually playing pool with Gov. John Hickenlooper." ...

... "Want a hit of this?":

... In his speech, President Obama wouldn't say who won the pool game, but the answer is here:

You don't bring a lawsuit to a gunfight. There's no place for lawyers on the front lines. -- Sarah Palin, on "Hannity," criticizing Speaker Boehner's impending lawsuit against President Obama & once again invoking gun violence & combat as means to end the Obama presidency ...

I disagree. -- John Boehner, responding to a query about Palin's call for Obama's impeachment

Reactions ...

... to the Glenn Greenwald/Murtaza Hussain story on Muslim-American leaders apparently targeted by the NSA & FBI (also linked here yesterday):

Joint Statement by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice on Court-ordered Legal Surveillance of U.S. Persons: "It is entirely false that U.S. intelligence agencies conduct electronic surveillance of political, religious or activist figures solely because they disagree with public policies or criticize the government or for exercising constitutional rights." ...

     ... CW: (1) They don't deny they were targeting Muslim-Americans. (2) But they imply there was some good reason to target these men; ergo, they smear these guys. In fact, they explicitly suggest that each of these men "is an agent of a foreign power, a terrorist, a spy, or someone who takes orders from a foreign power." This statement is quite a piece of work.

Nihad Awad, director & co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in Time, on his reactions to learning he was a target for NSA surveilliance.

ACLU: "In response to a report in The Intercept about NSA spying on five prominent American Muslims, a coalition of 45 civil rights, human rights, privacy rights, and faith-based organizations sent a letter to President Obama asking for 'a full public accounting of these practices.' The coalition, organized by the American Civil Liberties Union, also repeated its call for the Justice Department to strengthen its official Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies." The post includes the full letter & list of signators.

Katherine Fung of the Huffington Post: "Speaking on HuffPost Live, [Glenn] Greenwald said that it was necessary to identify the five men in order to 'put a human face on what this surveillance is about and the way in which people are targeted and affected.' The government insisted that the reporters not publish the names, he said, but they chose to do so because 'it's so clearly in the public interest.' Greenwald added that the five individuals -- two of whom also spoke to HuffPost Live -- had no 'conceivable relationship' to terrorism." With video.

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The article raised questions about the basis for the domestic spying, even as it was condemned by the government as irresponsible and damaging to national security.... The government refused to confirm whether any of the five had indeed been subjected to surveillance or, if so, what the basis for it was. A group of several dozen civil liberties and rights organizations sent a letter to President Obama on Tuesday expressing concerns about the potential for 'discriminatory and abusive surveillance,' but also acknowledged that 'we don't know all the facts,' and asked for an explanation."

digby: "Back in the 1960s they listened in on African Americans. Some, like Martin Luther King, they tried to blackmail. Now it's Muslim Americans. From what I'm seeing around the internet today, the NSA apologists are unmoved by their plight. If Americans don't want to be surveilled by the government they should probably not have a heritage associated with Muslim nations."

Elias Isquith of Salon: "The FBI -- which is listed as the 'responsible agency' for surveillance on the five men -- has a controversial record when it comes to the ethnic profiling of Muslim-Americans. According to FBI training materials uncovered by Wired in 2011, the bureau taught agents to treat 'mainstream' Muslims as supporters of terrorism, to view charitable donations by Muslims as 'a funding mechanism for combat,' and to view Islam itself as a 'Death Star' that must be destroyed if terrorism is to be contained."

Margaret Hartmann of New York: "In addition to igniting more debate about alleged discrimination and privacy abuses by U.S. intelligence agencies, the revelations could mark a significant turn in the legal challenge to government surveillance programs. In the past, such cases have been dismissed because the plaintiffs could not prove that they were personally targeted by the government, but now there are at least five specific examples." ...

... Marcy Wheeler says the same in her usual long-winded, convoluted, detail-dense way.


Mark Mazzetti & Mark Landler
of the New York Times: "When President Obama placed a call to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany last Thursday, he ... did not know was that a day earlier, a young German intelligence operative had been arrested and had admitted that he had been passing secrets to the Central Intelligence Agency. While Ms. Merkel chose not to raise the issue during the call, the fact that the president was kept in the dark about the blown spying operation at a particularly delicate moment in American relations with Germany has led frustrated White House officials to question who in the C.I.A.'s chain of command was aware of the case -- and why that information did not make it to the Oval Office before the call.... According to German news media reports, the agency may have been aware three weeks before the arrest that the German authorities were monitoring the man."


** Ezra Klein on the myth of the moderate voter: "What happens, explains David Broockman, a political scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, is that surveys mistake people with diverse political opinions for people with moderate political opinions.... The idea of the moderate middle is bullshit: it's a rhetorical device meant to marginalize some policy positions at the expense of others.... 'When we say moderate what we really mean is what corporations want,' Broockman says.... 'Moderate' [has] become little more than a tool the establishment uses to set limits on the range of acceptable debate."

Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico: "With an eye on the November elections, congressional Democrats on Wednesday introduced a bill that would overturn the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby contraception decision. Democrats and women's health groups believe they have a powerful campaign weapon in pushing back on the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling that Hobby Lobby and other closely held for-profit companies don't have to comply with the health law's contraceptive coverage requirement if it violates the owners' religious beliefs." ...

Dahlia Lithwick: "What is missing from the Hobby Lobby decision altogether -- beyond the economic disparity and public health arguments I mention above -- is the very notion of the woman herself ... as an agent of her own ethical choices and preferences, whose decision to obtain an IUD, or a condom, or a morning-after pill is a fully autonomous moral choice that supplants the spiritual choices of her employer. Again, it's almost impossible to escape the conclusion that Hobby Lobby, McCullen, and Harris all rest on the idea that women are in effect children with (partial) paychecks, and that their choices are to be second-guessed and gently redirected." ...

... Mark Stern of Slate here, and Jay Michaelson of the Daily Beast here on why LGBT are winning civil rights as women lose theirs. They're both right. CW: In 2012, when Rick Santorum said contraception was "not okay," I thought he was a crazy outlier. I had no idea the anti-abortion absolutists were also against, well, sex. But two short years later, the anti-contraception gang has come so far into the light that it has captured a clique of five of the most powerful men in the U.S. The anti-abortion movement was never about fetal rights; it was always about curbing women's rights. Now the Supremes have used other people's First Amendment rights -- both freedom of speech & of religion -- to batter women right back into the 1950s where "Father Knows Best." ...

... Frank Rich on Hobby Lobby, immigration reform & Warren Harding's letters to his mistress. Overall theme: Republicans are reprobates. " The 'religious freedom' argument of those who want to restrict access to contraception is a fig leaf -- an all too literal fig leaf, in this case -- coming from an American constituency that has had a long history of fighting women's rights whether they involve the womb or the workplace (or in this case, both). Now Hobby Lobby has opened the door for [religious freedom' to be the pretext for turning back gay civil rights." Thanks to MAG for the link. ...

... Gail Collins rants about various Republican tricks. Overall theme: Republicans are reprobates. "... if the impeachment idea caught on it would be the best possible thing for the White House. Modern history suggests there is nothing the American public hates more than Congress trying to impeach the president. Except maybe a Congress trying to sue the president. And then leaves for vacation."

Hey, Todd Akin is back, and he's sorry he said he was sorry about claiming women's bodies naturally "shut down pregnancy" in the case of rape. CW: Let's just hope his book tour lasts all campaign season to remind voters everywhere that the Republican party thinks all you pregnant ladies were "asking for it."

Beyond the Beltway

Allen Johnson & Campbell Robertson of the New York Times: "C. Ray Nagin, the former mayor of New Orleans, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesday on federal corruption charges, ending a case that began with the rebuilding of the city after Hurricane Katrina. The sentence was less than the recommended 15 years, but Judge Ginger Berrigan of United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana told the court that the evidence failed to show that Mr. Nagin had organized or had been a leader of a corruption scheme.... Prosecutors objected to the sentence, a move that could set up an appeal. Mr. Nagin, who will remain out on bond, hugged family and friends after the sentencing, and was quickly driven away from the courtroom." ...

... The Times-Picayune story, by Jenny LaRoe, is here. Andy Grimm of the Times-Picayune has more on the sentencing. The front page of the Times-Picayune is covered with related stories (as of Tuesday evening).

Jordan Steffen of the Denver Post: "An Adams County District Court judge on Wednesday declared Colorado's ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional, but he immediately stayed his ruling. Judge C. Scott Crabtree pulled no punches in his 49-page ruling, saying the state's voter-approved ban 'bears no rational relationship to any conceivable government interest.'"

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The Mississippi girl born with HIV who was believed to be cured after aggressive early treatment has tested positive for the virus, a disappointing setback for HIV/AIDS research."

HazMat. Hill: "The House side of the U.S. Capitol is closed due to an industrial spill, according to U.S. Capitol Police." CW: Aw, shucks. Now they won't be able to do anything. ...

     ... Politico Update: "Most of the House side of the U.S. Capitol has been re-opened, after an asbestos scare. The East Grand Staircase, a major staircase in the Capitol, remains closed." CW: Whew! Just in time to sue the President.

New York Times: "Chinese hackers in March broke into the computer networks of the United States government agency that houses the personal information of all federal employees, according to senior American officials. They appeared to be targeting the files on tens of thousands of employees who have applied for top-secret security clearances."

Houston Chronicle: "Six members of a Spring family, including four children and two adults, were shot to death Wednesday after an apparent domestic dispute at their Spring home and a relative was arrested hours later after a police chase and a tense standoff in the cul-de-sac of a nearby neighborhood. Authorities held a news conference about 5:30 a.m. Thursday to announce that Ron Haskell, 33, had been captured and charged after a slow-speed chase and standoff."

Tuesday
Jul082014

The Commentariat -- July 9, 2014

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama is requesting almost $4 billion in emergency funding from Congress to confront an immigration crisis from a wave of unaccompanied children surging across the southern border of the United States, White House officials said Tuesday. The financial request, which is almost twice as much as initial reports had suggested might be necessary, would boost spending on border patrol agents, immigration judges, aerial surveillance, and new detention facilities. Nearly half of the money would be used to improve care for the children while they are moved through the deportation process." ...

... David Nakamura & Wesley Lowrey of the Washington Post: "the proposal was quickly met with broad skepticism among Republican lawmakers, who were doubtful that the package would be approved quickly — if at all.... GOP leaders --; who have called on Obama to take stronger action — said they were reluctant to give the administration a 'blank check' without more detailed plans to ensure that the money would help stem the crisis at the border." ...

Children Are Kinda Like Trout. [President Obama] invented [the $4BB number]. But we do need the money so we can incarcerate people so it's not 'catch and release.' Yes. -- Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

... Papers, Please. Fawn Johnson & Rachel Reubein of the National Journal: "Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida wants to require employers to verify electronically that new hires are in the country legally and the government to put in place an electronic entry-exit system at points of entry at the border." ...

     ... CW: Get your birth certificates ready, job-seekers. For Marco's proposal to pass the minimal racism threshold, every potential employee would have to be required to present evidence of U.S. citizenship or a legal right to work here. ...

... Because Issa & Cruz Will Accept Statistical Analyses. Tom Wong in Center for American Progress: "... according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, asylum applications from children are up by 712 percent in the neighboring countries of Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Belize.... A close statistical evaluation of the available data suggests ... it is not U.S. policy but rather violence and the desire to find safety that is the impetus for these children's journeys....Some in Congress [Darrell Issa, Ted Cruz] have attempted to score political points by arguing that the increased numbers are the result of the administration's own immigration enforcement policies...." ...

... Another Little Factoid for Darrell & Ted to Ignore. Carl Hulse of the New York Times: A bill "signed into law by President George W. Bush, a measure that passed without controversy..., enacted quietly during the transition to the Obama administration, is at the root of the potentially calamitous flow of unaccompanied minors to the nation's southern border. Originally pushed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers as well as by evangelical groups to combat sex trafficking, the bill gave substantial new protections to children entering the country alone who were not from Mexico or Canada by prohibiting them from being quickly sent back to their country of origin." Republicans say pointing out that they all voted for the bill (it passed unanimously in both Houses) & a Republican president signed it is a "distraction," &, you know, it's way unfair to hold them accountable for their own actions when they couldn't foresee the consequences. (Paraphrase, but accurate, IMHO.) ...

     ... CW: Why did Republicans in 2008 vote for a bill that would bring more Central Americans into the U.S.? Were they less racist then? Probably. But the real reasons: Sex and God. ...

... Alberto Arce & Michael Weissenstein of the AP: "United Nations officials are pushing for many of the Central Americans fleeing to the U.S. to be treated as refugees displaced by armed conflict, a designation meant to increase pressure on the United States and Mexico to accept tens of thousands of people currently ineligible for asylum.

Bernie Becker & Keith Laing of the Hill: "A sense of urgency took hold in the Capitol on Tuesday, as lawmakers ramped up work on legislation to prevent states from suffering a 28 percent cut in transportation funding next month. But even with the burst of activity, top tax writers in both the House and the Senate stopped short of saying they had a deal that would avert sidelining thousands of construction workers in the heat of an election year."

Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "The Senate intelligence committee voted Tuesday to adopt a major cybersecurity bill that critics fear will give the National Security Agency even wider access to American data than it already has. Observers said the bill, approved by a 12 to 3 vote in a meeting closed to the public, would face a difficult time passing the full Senate, considering both the shortened legislative calendar in an election year and the controversy surrounding surveillance. But the bill is a priority of current and former NSA directors, who warn that private companies' vulnerability to digital sabotage and economic data exfiltration will get worse without it." ...

... ** Glenn Greenwald & Murtaza Hussain of the Incercept: "The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans -- including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers -- under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies, [a]ccording to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.... It is unclear whether the government obtained any legal permission to monitor the Americans on the list.... During the course of multiple conversations with The Intercept, the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence urged against publication of any surveillance targets....

In one 2005 document, intelligence community personnel are instructed how to properly format internal memos to justify FISA surveillance. In the place where the target's real name would go, the memo offers a fake name as a placeholder: 'Mohammed Raghead.'

     ... Faisal Gill, longtime GOP operative & a surveillance target:

Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Texas Gov. Rick Perry and President Barack Obama will meet in Texas on Wednesday to discuss the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border, a governor's spokeswoman said Tuesday."

Lauren French of Politico: "House lawmakers charged Tuesday that a culture of corruption at the Department of Veterans Affairs allowed the agency to freely retaliate against whistleblowers. At a hearing of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, lawmakers peppered four federal whistleblowers on ways to fix the VA's reputation of acting against employees who raise concerns about health care quality or fraud and said the VA needed a broad cultural change."

Jonathan Chait: "Last week, the National Education Association held a convention where it ... officially called for the resignation of Obama's secretary of education, Arne Duncan. The delicate balancing act within the Democratic coalition is beginning to fray.... Hard-liners have increasingly agitated for more direct confrontation. The leadership of this movement has fallen to Diane Ravitch, formerly a right-of-center education activist who has converted to the cause of teachers-union absolutism with an evangelical fervor...." CW: I don't know much about education, but I pegged Arne Duncan as a fraud from Day One. He just a taller Jeb Bush.

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Several major gay rights groups withdrew support Tuesday for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would bolster gay and transgender rights in the workplace, saying they fear that broad religious exemptions included in the current bill might compel private companies to begin citing objections similar to those that prevailed in" the Hobby Lobby case. "The Senate approved ENDA with bipartisan support last November.... But House Republicans have said they will not take up the bill, in part because they believe the bill's current religious exemptions aren't clear or broad enough." CW: Oh, really, people, aren't you overreacting? ...

... Ah, No. Julie David & Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "After a setback in the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case, President Obama is facing mounting pressure from religious groups demanding to be excluded from his long-promised executive order that would bar discrimination against gay men and lesbians by companies that do government work. The president has yet to sign the executive order...." ...

... Elise Viebeck of the Hill: "Senate Democrats will offer legislation Wednesday morning to reverse last week's Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling on contraception coverage, though the measure has no chance of passing the House. The measure from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) seeks to stop corporations from refusing federal healthcare coverage mandates on religious grounds.... The Democrats, aware that the House would never defy the court's ruling but confident the public sides with them, want to draw the GOP into a political fight over birth control in order to energize women voters." ...

... Christian Nation. Paul Rosenberg, in Salon, does a neat job of tying the Hobby Lobby decision to crazy theocrats. Thanks to Lisa for the link. CW: You do have to wonder if the Supremes have any idea what they have wrought. I really don't think John Roberts & Anthony Kennedy are insane, yet they are perfectly happy to aid & abet the most delusional, dangerous hyper-Christians. I'm not much of a doom-&-gloom person, but it's difficult not to think the country has really lost its bearings, & the Court more than the Congress is the prime mover. ...

... CW: I can tell you the day we became a "Christian nation." It was 60 years ago: June 14, 1954, when President Eisenhower signed a bill adding "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. He said at the time, "From this day forward, the millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty." And that's what happened. The pledge has indoctrinated every generation of schoolchildren since. It is, ironically, a coercive, anti-American piece of work embedded in a ritual that is intended to praise our system of "liberty & justice for all."

Tom Edsall: Some recent academic studies suggest that "traditional values" -- "authoritarianism, conservatism and religiousness," are gentically-imprinted.

     ... Nature vs. Nurture. CW: I've read a couple of earlier studies that produced similar findings. I don't disregard the findings, but I do think sociological factors ultimately have a greater influence than genetic predispositions. If not, then black voters don't have genes. In fact, those "traditionalist" black voters who consistently vote for Democrats are following their own traditions. However, the findings do suggest that one reason for the vitriol spewed at Barack Obama is not racist; rather, it's because his political platform promised -- & did not deliver -- on fundamental change. The trick for progressives is to convince the yahoos that liberal values are traditional. That should not be too hard to do. Because they are.

Cameron Joseph of the Hill: "GOP hopes of corralling Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during the 2014 primary season are officially dead. The defiant Republican's brutal criticism of Sen. Thad Cochran's (R-Miss.) reelection campaign on Tuesday -- and the involvement of a group he is technically a vice chairman of, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) -- is just the latest example of the Tea Party hero refusing to play nice. That brazen approach has exacerbated already fragile relations with establishment Republicans, who believe the freshman senator is intentionally undercutting them for no reason other than furthering his own political career." (See also Senate Races below.)

CW: I'm posting this only because the "news" here is an Internet Sensation, & I don't want to keep you people in the dark. Tom Kludt: "... Sarah Palin on Tuesday officially joined the fringe contingent of conservatives who want President Obama impeached.... After detailing Obama's 'years of abuse,' Palin not only called for impeachment, but said that politicians who oppose such action should pay a price." ...

... Steve M. "The intellectual center of the GOP is a body of conspiratorial superstition; it's a rancid stew of email forwards, right-wing media talking points, and elected officials' demagogic pronouncements Sarah Palin is reading from canonical texts when she writes that Obama is destroying the country deliberately." ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post argues that Palin's impeachment advocacy puts GOP candidates in a spot & will make the party seem extremist. (Um, because it is.) ...

Senate Races

... Meredith Shiner of Yahoo! News: "Sarah Palin might have called for the impeachment of President Barack Obama Tuesday, but Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst actually beat her to the punch by six months. At a Montgomery County, Iowa, candidate forum in January, Ernst told a crowd that she believed Obama had 'become a dictator' and that he needed to face the consequences for his executive actions, 'whether that's removal from office, whether that's impeachment.'"

Dana Milbank: "... the struggle between the Republican establishment and the tea party is no longer about ideology -- establishment figures have mostly co-opted tea party views -- but about temperament. It has become the amiable vs. the angry, the civil vs. the uncivil, a conservatism of the head vs. a conservatism of the spleen. The division now is between those who would govern and those who would sooner burn the whole place to the ground -- and, in this struggle, [Mississippi Senate primary loser Chris] McDaniel [RTP] carries a torch." ...

... Chris Moody of Yahoo! News: "The Senate Conservatives Fund on Tuesday wired $70,000 to Chris McDaniel's legal fund to investigate alleged voter fraud in last month's election between McDaniel and Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, Yahoo News has learned.... McDaniel has refused to concede the race, alleging that Cochran 'stole the election' by relying on voters who already participated in the Mississippi Democratic primary, held on June 3. His campaign opened an Election Challenge Fund to pay for a possible legal challenge and has offered a $1,000 reward to anyone with knowledge of voter fraud." CW: The president of the SFC is Ken Cuccinelli. ...

... Jonathan Topaz: "Sen. Ted Cruz is calling for an official investigation into the Republican Senate primary runoff in Mississippi between Sen. Thad Cochran and the challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel. The Texas Republican on Monday evening called the runoff contest 'appalling' and said that allegations of voter fraud need to be investigated." CW: Yes, Ted, it's appalling when those people exercise the franchise. ...

... Out to Lunch & Over the Hill. Cameron Joseph: "Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) ... had a bit of trouble finding Senate Republicans' weekly luncheon on Tuesday. Cochran, while talking with The Hill, made a few wrong turns before accidentally ending up at Senate Democrats' luncheon.... Cochran didn't seem to realize he was in the wrong place until someone in the room asked him if he was planning to join the Democrats for lunch.... 'OK, so I've got to find out where ...' Cochran said before The Hill asked if he was looking for the GOP luncheon, which has been held every Tuesday in the same room for years."

Presidential Election 2016

Jonathan Chait: "In what is either a desperate bid to hold onto the core of its shrinking base, or else cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face punishment of the national media, the Republican party announced it will hold its 2016 convention in Ohio. (Cleveland, to be precise.)"

John Quincy Clinton. Mario Trujillo of the Hill: "Hillary Clinton on Tuesday said the U.S. political system is not descending into a monarchy with the potential for another Clinton or Bush in the White House. In an interview published in the German news outlet Der Spiegel, Clinton said there have been earlier presidents with the same last name, and speculated that some families have a predisposition for elected office. 'We had two Roosevelts. We had two Adams,' she said. 'It may be that certain families just have a sense of commitment or even a predisposition to want to be in politics.'"

News Ledes

RT: "NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has filed an official petition to extend his asylum in Russia for another year.... Snowden's current term of stay in Russia expires on July 31." Via Time.

Washington Post: "A government scientist cleaning out a storage room last week at a lab on the National Institutes of Health's Bethesda campus found decades-old vials of smallpox, the second incident involving the mishandling of a highly dangerous pathogen by a federal health agency in a month. The vials, which appear to date from the 1950s, were flown Monday by government plane to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, officials said Tuesday."

Guardian: "The Islamic State extremist group (Isis) has taken control of a vast former chemical weapons facility north-west of Baghdad, where 2,500 degraded chemical rockets filled decades ago with deadly nerve agent sarin or their remnants were stored along with other chemical warfare agents, Iraq has said in a letter circulated at the United Nations. The US played down the threat from the takeover, saying there were no intact chemical weapons and it would be very difficult to use the material for military purposes."

Guardian: "Disturbing images have emerged showing the shrouded bodies of some the children killed by Israeli air strikes. They are said to show the bodies of the Kaware children whose deaths were confirmed by DCI-Palestine, in an air strike against suspected militant Odeh Ahmad Mohammad Kaware...."

Monday
Jul072014

The Commentariat -- July 8, 2014

As fighting ramps up in the Gaza strip, President Obama writes an op-ed piece for Haaretz, saying peace as the only real security for Israel & the Palestinians.

Dan Roberts, et al., of the Guardian: "The White House was forced to defend its increasingly fraught relationship with Berlin on Monday as the Central Intelligence Agency maintained a conspicuous silence about new allegations linking it to a spying scandal involving a German intelligence official."

Erica Werner & Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP: "President Barack Obama is preparing to ask Congress for emergency spending of more than $2 billion to deal with the crisis of unaccompanied kids at the Southern border, but for now he won't seek legal changes to send the children back home more quickly. That decision comes after immigration advocates objected strongly to administration proposals to speed thousands of unaccompanied minors back home to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, where many face gang violence. The White House insists the kids must be returned. Administration officials say they are still working on ways to do it faster, but say that the request for specific legislative changes will move on a separate track than the emergency spending request Obama is sending to Congress on Tuesday."

Steve Benen: "... as they once again position themselves as America's anti-immigrant, anti-contraception party, Republicans appear to have reached an important conclusion: the only changes they're comfortable making involve moving even further to the right, away from the mainstream.... There literally isn't a major issue on which the GOP has shifted towards the mainstream, despite its 2012 losses. Not one." ...

... No, Wait, Steve. There's Hope. They Go to Lunch with Intellectuals! People with Actual Policy Ideas. Sam Tanenhaus in the New York Times Magazine on conservative intellectuals who have been dubbed "reformacons." CW: I didn't read it. ...

... BUT Jonathan Chait did: "Their plans are filled with unreconciled contradictions, gaping policy holes, airy generalities, and, in the few places where they are specific, they are exceedingly small-bore in their focus. Yet ... the movement's true contribution lies in its challenge to Republican apocalypticism.... And the most telling thing about the story is the near-total absence of Paul Ryan.... Ryan's absence is all the more notable since the central protagonist in Tanenhaus's account is Yuval Levin, a Republican house intellectual who gained his current prominence by advising Ryan.... Whether or not the reformicons ever compose a workable domestic agenda, they have come to recognize that they cannot run a presidential campaign promising to rescue America from fire and rubble visible only to themselves." ...

... Charles Pierce quotes extensively from a piece by Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker on the official crazy Texas Republican party platform (linked here July 4). Pierce writes,

This is the Republican Party. Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru are not. In fact, I think all those bold conservative thinkers of whom the New York Times thinks so much should bring their Big Ideas down to the next Texas state Republican convention and see how far they get. John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell, and especially obvious anagram Reince Priebus, who nominally presides over Bedlam, need to be asked every day which parts of the Texas Republican platform they support and which parts they don't. They don't get to use the crazies to get elected and then hide behind fake Washington politesse when the howls from the hinterlands get too loud. We allow ourselves only two major political parties. One of them is completely out of its fcking mind. This is a national problem.

Ed Kilgore: "Insofar as it's CW that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is suing the President of the United States to placate a furious conservative 'base' that doesn't think its heroes in Washington are sufficiently standing up to the godless Kenyan socialist, there's evidence it's not working." Kilgore cites "Erick Erickson's contemptuous reaction to the Boehner lawsuit." ...

... Brian Beutler: "John Boehner['s] ... pending lawsuit against President Obama will be the final word on whether the GOP is the party of maximum deportations, including of immigrants eligible for the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals directive.... Boehner will either include the DACA program among his list of the president's supposedly illegal executive actions, and thus cement his party's standing as one that represents the reactionary anti-immigrant minority in the country; or he'll leave DACA out, giving tacit consent to the program and infuriating the anti-immigrant faction of his own conference. And he may have just tipped his hand toward the anti-immigrant bunch."

Carol Leonnig & Manual Roig-Franzia of the Washington Post: "Sen. Robert Menendez [D-N.J.] is asking the Justice Department to pursue evidence obtained by U.S. investigators that the Cuban government concocted an elaborate plot to smear him with allegations that he cavorted with underage prostitutes, according to people familiar with the discussions.... According to a former U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of government intelligence, the CIA had obtained credible evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, linking Cuban agents to ... prostitution claims and to efforts to plant the story in U.S. and Latin American media."

Lauren French of Politico: "House lawmakers will hear testimony on Tuesday from whistleblowers who accuse the Department of Veterans Affairs of retaliating against them for exposing shoddy medical care."

Katie Zezema of the Washington Post: "White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that 'most' unaccompanied minors attempting to enter the United States on the southern border will likely not qualify for humanitarian relief and will be deported." ...

... Dave Weigel of Slate: President Obama, who will not visit the border on his fundraising trip to Texas, is inviting another "Katrina moment." Just like all the previous Katrina moments that derailed his presidency. In other words, this too shall pass.

Dana Milbank: "... the Obama presidency these days is falling a good bit short of imperial on the Alexander-the-Great scale."

Emma Roller of the National Journal punctures Ed Klein's big "scoop" (linked here yesterday) that President Obama is backing Elizabeth Warren for president. "The reports of an impending Warren-Clinton catfight are also overblown.... It's a good rule that when there is a news vacuum, pundits will happily fill the void with 'truthy' theories about 2016. But until you see photos of Warren and Clinton brawling outside a Georgetown bar, you'd do well to take these reports with a big block of Himalayan salt."

Philip Bump of the Washington Post: Not only are sales relatively slow on Hillary Clinton's book Hard Choices, the people who bought it aren't reading it, according to an analysis based on methodology devised by a mathematician.

A Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy. Ken Vogel of Politico describes Harry Reid's concerted "War on the Kochs" in terms only a Republican could appreciate. Vogel uses terms like "the professional left" & "Koch-bashing politics" & describes the Kochs as "a couple of relatively unknown private citizens." Analysis Politico-style.

Tim Molloy of the Wrap: "Piers Morgan is gone from CNN, but new host John Walsh plans to continue his campaign for gun control. Besides hosting 'America's Most Wanted' and advocating for victims' rights, Walsh has been a longtime advocate of background checks and other safety measures. He said he would continue that fight now that he is joining CNN as the host of 'The Hunt,' a new show about catching fugitives.... He also said Vice President Joe Biden recently agreed with him that politicians are 'scared s--less' of the NRA. 'I said to Joe Biden, "90 percent of Americans are for a responsible background check for a gun, and you know what this Congress has done? Not voted on it, not brought it to the floor, not introduced a bill,'" Walsh said. 'I said, "They're all scared shitless of the NRA, aren't they?"' Walsh said the vice president replied, 'John, every one of them. Because the NRA will run a tea bagger against you.... They'll put 5 million bucks against you.'" CW: So sometimes it's "s--less" & sometimes it's "shitless."

Christopher Dickey of the Daily Beast: ISIS is destroying, or selling off, the antiquities of the ancient city of Ninevah. CW: This really is a tragedy.

Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "Teen births in Colorado have dropped by 40 percent over the past five years, thanks largely in part to a state program that provides affordable contraception to low-income women, the state's governor announced late last week. The long-lasting birth control that's being partially credited for the dramatic decline is the same contraceptive method at the center of Hobby Lobby's recent Supreme Court case." (Emphasis added.)

When Ignorance Is the Best Excuse. Richard Fausset of the New York Times on North Carolina voting rights. CW: I find it impossible to believe that Alan Langley -- the white Republican guy on the local board of elections -- is as ignorant as he claims to be. Even if he were clueless, when voters' reps came to him & said, "the changes you're making are discriminatory," he would -- if he were as wide-eyed innocent as he says he is -- revisit the decision & get input from the community (which he should have done in the first place). Fausset presents the story as two views of the same action, but I'd say one of those views is completely phony.

Jake Sherman & John Bresnahan of Politico: Eric Cantor's campaign is deep in the red, & Cantor's aides are soliciting House members for donations. CW: Cantor raised millions for them (perhaps a reason for his loss); now let's see if those selfcentered House members will reciprocate.

News Ledes

AP: "The Israeli military launched what could be a long-term offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday striking at least 50 sites in Gaza and mobilizing troops for a possible ground invasion aimed at stopping a barrage of rocket attacks against Israel."

New York Times: "Separatist rebels retreated Monday from positions in eastern Ukraine, apparently blowing up bridges, and began building barricades in the two largest cities, Donetsk and Luhansk, in anticipation of a final stand against advancing government troops. While separatist leaders have complained bitterly about being sold out by their allies in Moscow, Ukrainian officials said Monday that they had succeeded in sealing the previously porous border with Russia, stopping the influx of new weapons and fighters."

Sunday
Jul062014

The Commentariat -- July 7, 2014

** Eli Saslow of the Washington Post on what happens to "immigration orphans": minors who are natural U.S. citizens whose parents have been deported or are in danger of deportation because they are in the country illegally. "The federal government doesn't track what happens to the children of deported parents, and no state or federal officials monitor how many children" are protected by guardians like Nora Sandigo, the (heroic) woman Saslow profiles. CW: These kids aren't "lost in the system"; there is no system.

In a CNN opinion piece, House Speaker John Boehner "explains" why he is bringing to the House floor legislation authorizing the Congress to sue President [link corrected; see comment below by Steve V.] Obama: "Constitution something something..., accountability something something..., Constitution something something." ...

... CW: As safari remarked in yesterday's Comments, "Boner, in due form, lacks any substance whatsoever besides fishing for right wing talking points about jobs, the economy and of course the Sacred Constitution." There's a lot more substance is safari's comment than in Boehner's piece. ...

... Mike Lillis of the Hill: "House Republicans plan to bring legislation to the floor authorizing a lawsuit against Obama's use of executive action, a move they believe will underline the importance to their base voters of coming to the polls in November to elect a GOP House and Senate." CW: What? What? This isn't about protecting Constitutional government? It's a political ploy? Hard to believe. ...

... ** Speaking of the Constitution. E. J. Dionne: "For too long, progressives have allowed conservatives to monopolize claims of fealty to our unifying national document. In fact, those who would battle rising economic inequalities to create a robust middle class should insist that it's they who are most loyal to the Constitution's core purpose. Broadly shared well-being is essential to the framers' promise that 'We the people' will be the stewards of our government." You can download a pdf of the article by Joseph Fishkin & William Forbath, which Dionne cites, here.

Sue John Boehner. Larry Summers, in a Washington Post op-ed, blames Congress for the U.S.'s diminished influence in the world: "A failure to engage effectively with global economic issues is a failure to mount a strong forward defense of U.S. interests. That we cannot do everything must not become a reason not to do anything. While elections may turn on domestic preoccupations, history's judgment will turn on what the United States does internationally." ...

     ... CW: Except that Larry loves him some international trade agreements, it's quite a good piece -- & unusually readable for jargon showoff Prof. Summers. BTW, it's worth contrasting Summers' ideas on how to foster international influence & Robert Kagan's ideas, referenced in the NYT piece by Josh Heilbrunn & linked below as a presidential election stories.

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "The gun-control group founded by former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) will begin surveying all federal candidates in the 2014 midterm elections on gun issues Monday as it tries to become a political counterweight to the National Rifle Association.... Bloomberg's group, Everytown for Gun Safety, is asking all Senate and House incumbents and candidates to complete a 10-part questionnaire stating publicly where they stand on issues such as expanding background checks for gun buyers, limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines and toughening gun-trafficking statutes."

Sam Frizell of Time: "The upstart Mayday PAC that seeks to reduce the influence of money in politics has crossed its fundraising goal of $5 million, according to a Friday email from founder and academic Lawrence Lessig.... Mayday PAC, which seeks to fund politicians that will pass restrictions on campaign funding, had raised just $75,000 by the beginning of May, but has been expanding rapidly. Here's one place to contribute. CW: I suspect Mayday PAC spent its $75K wisely -- by purchasing mailing lists.

Greg Clary of CNN: "Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said Sunday the Obama administration will take steps to fix the nation's broken immigration system, even without the help of Congress."

Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: Harry Reid was literally sitting on a gold mine in his home in Searchlight, Nevada. But now he has sold out to "a small South Dakota company that bought an abandoned mine next door in 2010 and has high hopes for a new era of gold production. The $1.75 million deal was a handsome payout for Reid (D), who is paid a Senate salary of $193,400 per year. Nearly all of the land had been in Reid's family for decades, much of it originally deeded to his father and some bought by Reid from family members. His brother will continue to live in Searchlight, where Reid will also retain some holdings." Reid & his wife Landra will move to Las Vegas.

Paul Krugman: "Confronted with a conflict between evidence and what they want to believe for political and/or religious reasons, many people reject the evidence.... Hardly any of the people who predicted runaway inflation have acknowledged that they were wrong, and that the error suggests something amiss with their approach.... You might wonder why monetary theory gets treated like evolution or climate change.... Well, it turns out that money is indeed a kind of theological issue.... When faith -- including faith-based economics -- meets evidence, evidence doesn't stand a chance."

David Sanger & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "The Obama administration on Sunday sought to play down new disclosures that the National Security Agency has swept up innocent and often personal emails from ordinary Internet users as it targets suspected terrorists in its global surveillance for potential threats. Administration officials said the agency routinely filters out the communications of Americans and information that is clearly of no intelligence value. The statements came in response to a report by The Washington Post [linked here yesterday], based on a large trove of conversations intercepted by the N.S.A."

Weekend Reading -- A Day Late. CW: Based on the title, I read this book review by Gene Healy in the libertarian mag Reason on our "elective monarchy" with a view toward panning it. Instead, I found the thesis of the book under review -- The Once & Future King by conservative F. H. Buckley -- pretty interesting. As always, of course, read critically. Healy points out a major flaw in Buckley's thesis. And Healy himself is not all that into accuracy. For instance, he writes that "Last September, Secretary of State John Kerry kept insisting that 'the president has the power' to wage war 'no matter what Congress does.'" There's a reason Healy left the phrase "to wage war" out of the citation: um, that's not what Kerry said. Moreover, Healy never mentions that Kerry & the administration actually went to Congress to get approval on the air strikes at issue, & that -- in large part due to Congressional misgivings, the air strikes never happened. So -- lump of salt.

Beyond the Beltway

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "North Carolina's voter identification law, which has been described as the most sweeping attack on African American electoral rights since the Jim Crow era, is being challenged in a legal hearing that opens on Monday. Civil rights lawyers and activists are gathering in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for the start of the legal challenge that is expected to last all week. They will be seeking to persuade a federal district judge to impose a preliminary injunction against key aspects of HB 589, the voting law enacted by state Republicans last August."

Mark Lifsher of the Los Angeles Times: California's "minimum wage rose one dollar Tuesday to $9 an hour.... California's new minimum wage is the fourth highest in the country, behind the District of Columbia at $9.50 an hour, Washington state at $9.32 and Oregon at $9.10."

Mollie Reilly of the Huffington Post: "An Independence Day parade in Norfolk, Nebraska included a float depicting President Obama's presidential library as an outhouse, sparking outcry from residents as well as the state's Democratic Party. The float, which did not identify its sponsor, featured an overall-clad dummy standing in front of an outhouse. Nailed to the structure were wooden signs reading 'Obama Presidential Library.... The presidential library outhouse comparison has become somewhat of a conservative meme in recent years.... Rick Konopasek, a member of the Norfolk parade committee, defended the float, comparing it to a political cartoon and noting that multiple parade judges awarded it an 'honorable mention.' 'It's obvious the majority of the community liked it,' he said. 'So should we deny the 95 percent of those that liked it their rights, just for the 5 percent of people who are upset?'" ...

     ... CW: Really, Rick? Ninety-five percent? How did you come to that calculation? And why would you boast that almost all of the people who watched your parade were no better than the contents of an outhouse?

Oh, Yippie. Cliven Bundy is back in the news, so I don't have to rely on months-old Stephen Colbert skits (see Saturday's Commentariat) to remember that old SOB. Unfortunately, the news he's in is the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which promises to sue my ass if I cite a single line of their untouchable text. (Yes, they'd lose the suit, but I'd have a heap of bills to pay to defend myself.) ...

     ... Update. Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story has the particulars: "In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said that BLM-defying rancher Cliven Bundy must be 'held accountable' for his actions. Gillespie said he had spoken with Bundy multiple times in the months before the BLM rounded up his cattle which were grazing on government land despite Bundy's refusal to pay grazing fees. Gillespie said that he he made it clear to Bundy that, if there was going to be a protest, it must be peaceful. However, the sheriff said, Bundy crossed the line when he allowed supporters, including armed militia members, onto his property to brandish weapons at police."

Presidential Election 2016

Edward Klein of the New York Post: "President Obama has quietly promised Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren complete support if she runs for president -- a stinging rebuke to his nemesis Hillary Clinton, sources tell me.... Obama has authorized his chief political adviser, Valerie Jarrett, to conduct a full-court press to convince Warren to throw her hat into the ring. In the past several weeks, Jarrett has held a series of secret meetings with Warren. During these meetings, Jarrett has explained to Warren that Obama is worried that if Hillary succeeds him in the White House, she will undo many of his policies." CW: Do not get your hopes up, people. It's the New York Post. Also, Actual President Jarrett (according to our best winger sources) met with Rupert Murdoch a few weeks ago. It's just as likely she's urging him to run for president. Yeah, I know, Murdoch is not a natural-born citizen, so he's not eligible. But, hey, neither is Obama, & look where he's sitting now. ...

... Steve M. is also a little bit skeptical: "... the same Ed Klein told us back in 2005, when he was promoting a book called The Truth About Hillary, that Hillary is (as the book puts it) 'notoriously left-wing.' ... Is Ed Klein 2014 saying that Ed Klein 2005 was lying to us? After all, if Hillary is so secretly radical, why doesn't that radical Marxist Barack Obama consider her the one who will continue his life's work of 'transform[ing] America into a European-style democratic-socialist state'?" ...

... This New York Times piece, by Jacob Heilbrunn, is more serious: Heilbrunn posits that some prominent neocons may be aligning with Hillary Clinton. As evidence, Heilbrunn notes that "Strobe Talbott, who was deputy secretary of state under President Bill Clinton and is considered a strong candidate to become secretary of state in a new Democratic administration..., called [an article by neocon Robert] Kagan [urging the U.S. to exert its power to maintain a global liberal world order] 'magisterial,' in what amounts to a public baptism into the liberal establishment." (CW: By contrast, see also Larry Summer's WashPo column linked above.) ...

... Also, this Wall Street Journal article, by Peter Nicholas, is in line with Heilbrunn's speculation (& of course with Klein's!): "Hillary Clinton has begun distancing herself from President Barack Obama, suggesting that she would do more to woo Republicans and take a more assertive stance toward global crises, while sounding more downbeat than her former boss about the U.S. economic recovery." CW: Firewalled; if the link doesn't work, copy & paste a part of the lede sentence into Google search.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Israel and the militant group Hamas seemed set on a collision course on Monday, with an escalation of cross-border clashes around the Gaza Strip, Hamas vowing to avenge the deaths of six of its fighters, and preparations underway for a possible large-scale Israeli operation in the Palestinian coastal territory. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said that the army was completing the deployment of two infantry brigades along the border with Gaza and that the government had approved the call-up of 1,500 reservists, mainly Home Front Command and aerial defense units." ...

... AP: "Three Israeli suspects in the killing of a Palestinian teenager who was abducted and burned to death last week confessed to the crime on Monday and were re-enacting the incident for authorities, an official said, as the country's leaders raced to contain a public uproar over the slaying."

New York Times: "Pope Francis on Monday held his first meeting with victims of clerical sex abuse, leading them at a private Mass at a small Vatican chapel where he asked for forgiveness and described the abuse as a 'grave sin,' even as some critics called the meeting a publicity stunt."

New York Times: "Eduard A. Shevardnadze, who as Mikhail S. Gorbachev's foreign minister helped hone the 'new thinking,' foreign and domestic, that transformed and ultimately rent the Soviet Union, then led his native Georgia through its turbulent start as an independent state, died Monday. He was 86."