The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, February 9, 2016.

New York Times: "Artur Fischer, a German inventor who registered more than 1,100 patents, including the first synchronized camera flash and an anchor that millions of do-it-yourselfers use to secure screws into walls, died on Jan. 27 at his home in Waldachtal, in southwestern Germany. He was 96."

White House Live Video
February 10

2:10 pm ET: President Obama addresses the Illinois General Assembly

2:30 pm ET: Vice President Biden participates in a discussion of the "cancer moonshot" (audio only)

4:25 pm ET: President Obama speaks at the Hoogland Center for Arts in Springfield, Illinois

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

CW: Not sure if the movie is any good, but Ron Howard's intro is primo. Here's the trailer:

... The New York Times story, by Brooks Barnes, is here. "Kept a secret for months — no small task in Hollywood — 'Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie' was released to coincide with Mr. Trump’s victory on Tuesday in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary."

New York Times: The leader of a group of "aging thieves" who last year pulled off "the largest burglary in England’s history" may have been an ex-policeman. The others have been captured, but "Basil" is still at large & his identity is unknown to investigators. Surely there will be a movie.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Times: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

New York Times: "Twitter is experimenting with introducing a longer form of tweet, according to two people familiar with the company’s plans, in what would be another gradual move away from the simplistic design sensibility that the service was originally founded upon. The project, which internally has been referred to as 'beyond 140,' is still in its testing phase and is not set to be introduced until at least March...."

Washington Post: "Four newly discovered elements managed to squeak their way in[to the periodic table] just before the end of 2015, filling up the table's seventh row and marking the first additions since 2011." CW: Since I know squat about chemistry, let me say here -- in the fullness of my ignorance -- that the periodic table should stick with elements that occur in nature. If chemists want a "sub-periodic table" to show off their lab-created, unstable elements, let 'em have it. I don't see how an "element" can be artificial. Anyone who knows what s/he's talking about is free to set me straight.

TPM: "Twitter announced Thursday it's bringing back Politwoops, the popular gaffe-tracking transparency tool that tracked politicians' deleted tweets, after unceremoniously killing off the service earlier this year.... Twitter revoked developer API access for the project, a venture of The Sunlight Foundation and The Open State Foundation, in August 2015."

If you are interested in what George Lucas thinks about the "Star Wars" series & other stuff, you can find out here, presuming Charlie Rose doesn't monopolize the conversation (okay, silly presumption). ...

... Later Lucas said he was sorry he said some of those nasty things.

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Thursday
Jan282016

The Commentariat -- January 29, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: "Of all the concerns raised by the contamination of Flint's water supply, and the failure of the state and federal governments to promptly address the crisis after it began nearly two years ago, none is more chilling than the possibility that children in this tattered city may have suffered irreversible damage to their developing brains and nervous systems from exposure to lead."

Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "Senator John Cornyn, a former Texas judge and attorney general, is a devoted believer in the criminal justice overhaul awaiting its moment in the Senate. Now, he just has to convert doubting Republican colleagues.... 'John has some work to do, big-time work,' to secure enough support to persuade [Mitch] McConnell to go forward, said one Republican senator...."

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: Possibly the only genuine moment in Thursday's GOP debate came when Rand Paul & Marco Rubio demonstrated how much they loathed Ted Cruz. Both accused him of lying; Rubio said Cruz's campaign is built on a lie.

Feeling the Bern:

... Greg Sargent: "The Sanders phenomenon raises possible warning signs for Clinton's chances in a general election. His ability to engage, excite and involve younger voters -- his ability to make them feel invested in politics -- throws into sharp relief Clinton';s relative failure, at least for now, to do the same." ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: Bernie Sanders, long-distance runner. Sanders was a high-school track star at Brooklyn's Madison High when distance running was a big deal.

*****

Presidential Race

Nasty Boys. Patrick Healy & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "The Republican presidential candidates competed vigorously to fill the vacuum created by Donald J. Trump's boycott of Thursday night's debate, with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida trading ferocious attacks on immigration and taking fire from rivals seeking advantage in the Iowa caucuses on Monday." ...

... The New York Times' liveblog of the debate is pretty good; it's more of a live chat: the reporters talk to each other rather than just repeating the candidates' bull. ...

... Driftglass's liveblog/translation gets to the gestalt of it all. ...

... Glenn Kessler & Michelle Lee of the Washington Post fact-checks some of the whoppers. ...

Gosh, if you guys ask one more mean question I may have to leave the stage. -- Ted Cruz, to Fox "News" debate moderators ...

... Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery. Hunter Walker of Yahoo News: "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) ... threat[ened] to leave the stage ... after he accused Fox News' questioners of encouraging his rivals to attack him. 'I would note that the last four questions have been, "Rand, please attack Ted. Marco, please attack Ted. Chris, please attack Ted. Jeb, please attack Ted."' Cruz's comment provoked loud boos from the audience." With video. ...

... Brian Beutler: Ted "Cruz is the most seasoned debater of all the Republican candidates, and Trump's absence created a vacuum that Cruz could have filled with his typical brio. Instead, at a moment that presented Cruz as much opportunity and peril as any in his political career, he offered up his worst performance of the cycle." ...

... Elizabeth Bruenig of the New Republic: "Donald Trump won the debate he didn't attend." ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York has a good rundown of reviews by pundits from left & right. ...

... Michael Barbaro & Nick Corasaniti of the New York Times: "It was supposed to be about the veterans. It was not really about the veterans. Donald J. Trump was putting on a show -- and it was entirely about him: his hurt, his feelings, his vanity and his revenge. Separated from the Republican debate here by three miles and enough chutzpah to fill his own auditorium, Mr. Trump taunted, derided and laughed off the candidates who showed up to the Fox News forum that he so theatrically snubbed Thursday evening." ...

... Ben Jacobs of the Guardian: "In an old theater with red velvet curtains and folding wooden seats, Donald Trump trotted out his own unique variety show for a crowd of roughly 700 in the theater and millions more watching on cable news. It was an attempt to resurrect the long-dead genre of vaudeville only replacing acrobats with Rick Santorum and tenors with veterans." CW: It didn't take Trump long to go full-vaudeville after I suggested it a few days ago. ...

... Jonathan Chait: "Last night's split-screen image, of front-runner Donald Trump in his own venue and the non-Trump Republicans clustered together elsewhere, is the starkest representation yet of a party that is cleft in two. But there is something puzzling and ethereal about this schism. The opposing factions are not divided over a policy question.... At the same time, Trump is offering something genuinely transformational. His candidacy would reshape the Republican Party as more of a European-style white-identity party, rather than a party rooted in opposition to big government.... What makes the distinction difficult to identify is that Republicans have been using versions of this nationalist appeal for decades." What worries the GOP establishment is a justifiable fear that Trump isn't sufficiently dedicated to their top priorities of "reducing the top tax rate and deregulating business."

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times lists the venues for watching or listening to Thursday's GOP debate. ...

... Tom McCarthy & Scott Bixby of the Guardian are liveblogging the GOP debate AND Trump's concurrent event. @17:29 GMT: "The Donald has scheduled a simultaneous event in Des Moines, billed as a benefit for military veterans -- which means it's Republican fight night on the plains of Iowa and in the streets of Des Moines. His fellow candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have promised to join him -- but only after they have competed in the consolation-prize undercard debate for Fox." CW: Wow! I could watch Huckleberry & Santorum twice if only I'd turn on the teevee, which I won't. Not sure who will cover Trump's hoo-hah, but CNN is a likely suspect. ...

     ... Update. Tom Kludt of CNN: "MSNBC declined to comment on its prime time plans. CNN said it will cover Trump as a live news event. C-Span will carry it live in full."

** Dana Milbank: "This year's Holocaust remembrance comes at a time when Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, retweets to his nearly 6 million followers a message from @WhiteGenocideTM based in 'Jewmerica,' and a time when his nearest challenger, Ted Cruz, brandishes the endorsement of a minister who says Hitler was a 'hunter' sent after the Jews by God. There has never been a more important time for Americans to heed the moral authority of the Holocaust survivors still among us." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "Donald Trump's attempt at a hostile takeover of the G.O.P. is astonishing in its breadth. He is not just competing against a large field of candidates for votes in the primaries; he is at war with nearly every power center in the Republican Party -- and he is winning." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** Josh Marshall: "Pundits and political obsessives tend to get distracted by process and policy literalism. But politics generally and especially intra-Republican political battles are really about demonstrating dominance - not policy mastery or polling leads but a series of symbols and actions that mark the dominating from the dominated.... This driving force of Republican politics has only become more salient and central as the GOP has become increasingly dominated by core constituencies animated by anger and resentment that things to which they believe they are entitled are being taken away from them.... It's Trump's native language. I still believe it's rooted in the mix of the hyper-aggressive New York real estate world, his decades of immersion in the city's febrile tabloid culture and just being, at the most basic level, a bully." ...

... Eliza Collins of Politico: "Donald Trump continued his onslaught on Fox News host Megyn Kelly on Thursday, retweeting a follower who criticized a photo shoot she did for GQ Magazine. 'And this is the bimbo that's asking presidential questions?', the tweet said. It included two photos of Kelly posing provocatively and the following text: 'Criticizes Trump for objectifying women ... Poses like this in GQ Magazine.'" CW: The photos of Kelly are embarrassing. Most adult women would strike these poses only for their lovers. ...

... Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly isn't afraid to call Donald Trump a sociopath, and she demonstrates with one example why the diagnosis applies. "Donald Trump calling Megyn Kelly a 'bimbo' for a sexually suggestive photo shoot she did for GQ Magazine.... I's actually hard to come up with a link to demonstrate what that means because most of them range from tabloids to soft-porn. But here's a headline for you: Melania Trump would be the only First Lady to pose in the NUDE and talk about her 'incredible' sex life." ...

... AP: "... Donald Trump has launched a new website for collecting donations to veterans ahead of his event on Thursday evening. The link, which Trump posted on Twitter, includes the seal of the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and a form for contributions. It says that 100 percent of donations will go directly to veterans' needs." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Bethania Markus of the Raw Story: "Conservative CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson slammed ... Donald Trump, accusing him of cynically taking advantage of veterans because it is 'politically advantageous' to do so as the controversial primary debate loomed Thursday.... Trump wrote in a 1991 letter to the then-chairman of the state Assembly's Committee on Cities, obtained by the Daily News[:] 'Do we allow Fifth Ave., one of the world's finest and most luxurious shopping districts, to be turned into an outdoor flea market, clogging and seriously downgrading the area?'":

... Christopher Massie of BuzzFeed: "Donald Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said on Thursday that his candidate would be 'happy' to debate Ted Cruz once the Texas senator gets a federal judge to rule him eligible to run for president." ...

... "Trumped." Paul Campos in LG&$: "... the real significance of all this is that the Trump campaign merely needs to keep raising doubts in voters' minds over the next few weeks regarding the -- again, legitimate, incredibly enough -- question of whether Cruz is legally eligible for the presidency, in order to accomplish Trump's practical goal of undermining Cruz's campaign at the margin." ...

... Patricia Murphy of the Daily Beast: Ted Cruz was for legalization of undocumented immigrants before he was against it.

Steve M. points to this remarkable poll result:

... As the WashPo/ABC analysts note, "Of the candidates tested, only Sanders comes out ahead in terms of comfort vs. anxiety." ...

... Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "Bernie Sanders is 'in overall very good health,' the attending Senate physician said in a letter released Thursday summarizing the Vermont senator's medical evaluation. 'You are in overall very good health and active in your professional work, and recreational lifestyle without limitation,' Senate attending physician Dr. Brian P. Monahan wrote in a letter dated Jan. 20. The Senate office has treated Sanders for more than two decades." ...

     ... CW: This last bit does not seem likely; Sanders has been in the Senate for only ten years. He served in the House for 16 years prior to that. Oh, and the final graf of the story is complete bullshit: "Republican poll leader Donald Trump released his records last month. Trump would 'be the healthiest individual elected to the presidency,' his doctor asserted." Why can't Politico get better reporters? ...

     ... CW: Maybe McCaskill was having a sad day because he'd just learned that Jim VandeHei, one of the founders of Politico, will be leaving the building. Oh, & Mike Allen is leaving, too. ...

... Yo, Fred Hiatt, Bernie Is Not Taking Any of Your Crap. Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "Bernie Sanders unloads on the Washington Post" after its editors wrote a scathing editorial (CW: which I chose not to link) "headlined: 'A campaign full of fiction.' The print edition sub-headline contended, 'Sen. Sanders is not a brave truth-teller. He's just telling progressives what they want to hear.'" ...

... Charles Pierce unloads on the Washington Post: "Because of the way our politics is conducted these days, and because of the unprecedented use of the institutional choke-points in Washington, every presidential campaign is necessarily aspirational. The idea that this is a phenomenon unique to the Sanders campaign is an indication of a very large thumb on the scale." ...

... CW: Here's another thing the Washington Post, Hillary Clinton & most of the leftish punditocracy doesn't get: its' not good enough to be able to get your objectives passed into law if your objectives suck. You have to start with righteous aspirations. It isn't Clinton's competence I question; it's her goals. Some people move left as they grow older & become less self-obsessed. Clinton, as she became part of & benefited from the elite-determined system, moved right. As a result, her platitudes & shout-outs to a 20th-century liberal agenda seem contrived, as if she was dipping into her rich memory bank & paying out a bit of the interest earned early-on, without touching any of the huge principal she accumulated later.

... The Post strikes back. ...

... Impersonating a Sous Chef. Jon Ralston: "Operatives from Bernie Sanders' campaign have donned Culinary union pins and secured access to employee areas inside [Las Vegas, Nevada,] Strip hotels to try to secure garner voes for the Feb. 20 caucus, sources confirm." They've since agreed to cut that out. ...

     ... Hunter of Daily Kos: "The Sanders campaign says it's a misunderstanding and nobody was attempting to mislead workers." ...

... CW: When I watched Sanders' ad, it was followed by a paid ad by Marco Rubio that made me want to punch him in the face. Here it is. He's more obnoxious than Trump. Do not punch your computer:

Michael Cohen of the Boston Globe: "What happens in Iowa ... doesn't matter.... It's not that what happens in Iowa won't affect the trajectory of the race; it very well might. But more likely than not, Iowa's caucus results will only hasten -- or delay -- outcomes that appear already baked into the race."

Actual News, etc.

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "The Obama administration will move on Friday to require companies to report to the federal government what they pay employees by race, gender and ethnicity, part of a push by President Obama to crack down on firms that pay women less for doing the same work as men. The new rules, Mr. Obama's latest bid to use his executive power to address a priority of his that Congress has resisted acting on, would mandate that companies with 100 employees or more include salary information on a form they already submit annually that reports employees' sex, age and job groups."

Lauren French of Politico: "President Barack Obama took a victory lap Thursday evening. During a short speech to House Democrats at their policy retreat here, Obama counted off his biggest policy achievements as president while predicting that Democrats would win the White House next November. The partisan speech was designed to excite Democrats already squarely behind Obama." ...

... CSPAN has the speech here. President strong> Obama's appearance begins at 8 min. in.

Michael Schmidt & Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "Pentagon officials have concluded that hundreds more trainers, advisers and commandos from the United States and its allies will need to be sent to Iraq and Syria in the coming months as the campaign to isolate the Islamic State intensifies."

Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday threw cold water on the idea President Obama would accept an appointment to the Supreme Court after he leaves office."

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama signed a presidential memorandum on Thursday creating a White House task force on cancer, the first step in what Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has called a 'moonshot' to cure the disease, administration officials said. The president appointed Mr. Biden to lead the panel, which will include representatives from at least 13 government agencies. The group's first meeting will be on Monday, officials said." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, in a New York Times op-ed: "The Obama administration has a substantial track record on agency rules and executive actions. It has used these tools to protect retirement savings, expand overtime pay, prohibit discrimination against L.G.B.T. employees who work for the government and federal contractors, and rein in carbon pollution. These accomplishments matter. Whether the next president will build on them, or reverse them, is a central issue in the 2016 election. But the administration's record on enforcement falls short -- and federal enforcement of laws that already exist has received far too little attention on the campaign trail."

Jack Ewing of the New York Times: "Volkswagen may buy back some diesel cars in the United States if it can't make them compliant with air quality rules fast enough, a lawyer for the company says."

CW: Well, I'm just going to link to Paul Krugman's column so you can read it. Not one of his better days, IMO. I'm skipping Tim Egan today; there's just so much Bernie-bashing I can manage in a day. But you know where to find him.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Peter Sterne of Politico: "The Huffington Post has started appending an editor's note to the bottom of posts about ... Donald Trump.... 'Note to our readers: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.,' reads the note, which was added to an article about Trump's feud with Fox News published last night. The note also includes links to prior coverage of Trump's comments. A Huffington Post spokesperson told Politico that the note will be added to all future stories about Trump." ...

... CW: The HuffPost, ever proving it is just as dignified & serious-minded as Donald Trump. ...

... Josh Israel of Think Progress: "Trump is in good company in the GOP primary field when it comes to xenophobia." Israel points to xenophobic statements made by Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul & Marco Rubio. But these guys don't rate an editor's note.

Navel-Gazing. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: "In what can be described only as a cataclysm in Beltway media, CEO Jim VandeHei is leaving Politico, the eight-year-old politics website that shook up Washington journalism...." CW: Somehow, we'll survive the "cataclysm."

Senate Race, 2014

Ken Vogel of Politico: "A pair of left-leaning watchdog groups on Thursday asked for federal investigations into whether a Koch brothers-backed nonprofit outfit broke the law by spending more than $250,000 in untraceable money boosting Joni Ernst's 2014 Senate campaign. The watchdog groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Center for Media and Democracy, allege that a nonprofit called Trees of Liberty violated the tax code and possibly criminal law by spending most of its cash on political purposes, while claiming otherwise in its tax filings."

Beyond the Beltway

Kirk Johnson, et al., of the New York Times: "The F.B.I. took the extraordinary step of releasing surveillance video on Thursday showing the shooting death of LaVoy Finicum.... Mr. Finicum, 54, was killed Tuesday by Oregon State Police troopers, said Greg Bretzing, the special agent in charge for the F.B.I in Oregon, after he tried to run through a police barricade on a wooded road, then climbed from his truck and, Mr. Bretzing said, reached for a weapon in his jacket pocket.... He said the total number of shots fired was 'in the single digits.'... In the video, Mr. Finicum is shown with his hands raised at one point, but Mr. Bretzing said it also showed him reaching for a weapon. 'On at least two occasions, Finicum reaches his right hand toward a pocket on the left inside portion of his jacket. He did have a loaded 9 mm semiautomatic handgun in that pocket,' Mr. Bretzing said." Includes video, which has no sound. ...

... Les Zaitz of the Oregonian reports that there appear to be only four occupiers left at the Malheur Refuge. They claim they are negotiating with the FBI to leave, but want to be assured that the Feds will drop felony charges against one of them. No word on whether or not they're still drunk. Zaitz has updated his story several times. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** Yanan Wang of the Washington Post: "Employees at the state office in Flint, Mich., have been drinking from coolers of purified water since last January -- the same month that representatives from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality assured residents the water was safe to drink. Emails released by liberal group Progress Michigan Thursday include a facility announcement responding to a notice that the city's water contained levels of trihalomethanes, a chlorine byproduct linked to cancer and other diseases, that violated federal standards for safe drinking water.... During this time, both city and state officials were denying that Flint's water was dangerous." ...

... Charles Pierce: "Okay, somebody should go to jail over the Flint water crisis.... Rick Snyder and several other somebodies in his administration belong in the pokey, if not hauled off to The Hague for crimes against humanity." ...

... CW: Say, Huff Post, how about an editor's note for all articles about Rick Snyder? You could crib some of it from your repeating Trump note: "liar" and "racist" will work.

Oliver Milman & Jessica Glenza of the Guardian: "The Philadelphia[, Pennsylvania,] city council will investigate how it tests its water, after an expert told the Guardian the city's procedures are 'worse than Flint' and risk putting residents' health in jeopardy.... Dr Yanna Lambrinidou, a medical ethnographer, said that water sampling methods used by the Philadelphia water department don't properly illustrate the level of lead in drinking water and could mask the sort of problems suffered in Flint, Michigan, where a state of emergency has been declared over the toxic, discolored water that made many residents ill."

News Ledes

AP: "Iran flew a surveillance drone over a U.S. aircraft carrier and published video of the encounter Friday, the latest in a series of edgy naval incidents between the two countries in the Persian Gulf after the recent nuclear deal. While the U.S. Navy stressed it knew the drone was unarmed and the flyover didn't interrupt U.S. operations in the war against the Islamic State group, the incident underlined the continued tension over control of waterways crucial to global oil supplies."

Bloomberg: "The U.S. economy expanded at a slower pace in the fourth quarter as households tempered spending and businesses cut back on capital investment and made further adjustments to inventories. Gross domestic product rose at a 0.7 percent annualized rate in the three months ended in December after a 2 percent gain in the third quarter, Commerce Department figures showed Friday. The advance was in line with the Bloomberg survey median forecast of 0.8 percent."

Los Angeles Times: "A 44-year-old woman who worked as an English teacher at a Santa Ana jail was arrested Thursday on suspicion of helping three inmates mount a daring escape last week, officials said."

Thursday
Jan282016

The Commentariat -- January 28, 2016

Afternoon Update:

** Dana Milbank: "This year's Holocaust remembrance comes at a time when Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, retweets to his nearly 6 million followers a message from @WhiteGenocideTM based in 'Jewmerica,' and a time when his nearest challenger, Ted Cruz, brandishes the endorsement of a minister who says Hitler was a 'hunter' sent after the Jews by God. There has never been a more important time for Americans to heed the moral authority of the Holocaust survivors still among us."

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "Donald Trump’s attempt at a hostile takeover of the G.O.P. is astonishing in its breadth. He is not just competing against a large field of candidates for votes in the primaries; he is at war with nearly every power center in the Republican Party -- and he is winning."

AP: "... Donald Trump has launched a new website for collecting donations to veterans ahead of his event on Thursday evening. The link, which Trump posted on Twitter, includes the seal of the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and a form for contributions. It says that 100 percent of donations will go directly to veterans' needs."

Meant to link this morning: Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama signed a presidential memorandum on Thursday creating a White House task force on cancer, the first step in what Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has called a 'moonshot' to cure the disease, administration officials said. The president appointed Mr. Biden to lead the panel, which will include representatives from at least 13 government agencies. The group's first meeting will be on Monday, officials said."

Les Zaitz of the Oregonian reports that there appear to be only four occupiers left at the Malheur Refuge. They claim they are negotiating with the FBI to leave, but want to be assured that the Feds will drop felony charges against one of them. No word on whether or not they're still drunk. Zaitz has updated his story several times.

*****

Ishaan Tharoor of the Washington Post: "Human Rights Watch unveiled its annual World Report, a 659-page project documenting human rights practices and abuses in more than 90 countries. The report is a handy compendium of some of the darker corners of world politics. It spotlights the many shortcomings of even the more-advanced Western democracies, as well as the poor human rights records of the usual suspects -- closed or authoritarian regimes that suppress freedoms and squeeze civil society through crackdowns and interference.... WorldViews has charted the growing xenophobic backlash in the West to an influx of Syrian refugees and other migrants over the past year. Anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric has seeped into the political conversation in the United States and is shadowing the election cycle. Republican presidential candidates such as Donald Trump have pandered to populist fears and suspicions of outsiders to an extent not seen in a long time."

Dave Philipps of the New York Times: "... in its swift rise, [the Wounded Warrior Project] has ... embraced aggressive styles of fund-raising, marketing and personnel management that have caused many current and former employees to question whether it has drifted from its original mission. It has spent millions a year on travel, dinners, hotels and conferences that often seemed more lavish than appropriate, more than four dozen current and former employees said in interviews. Former workers recounted buying business-class seats and regularly jetting around the country for minor meetings, or staying in $500-per-night hotel rooms." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... CW: This is the charity for which Donald Trump said he would hold a fundraiser in lieu of attending Fox "News"'s GOP debate. Sounds more like a Ben Carson thing.

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The Senate on Wednesday started debating its first comprehensive energy legislation since the George W. Bush administration, a bipartisan measure meant to update the nation's power grid and oil and gas transportation systems to address major changes in the ways that power is now produced in the United States.... [] has the support of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and the minority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada...." CW: Wonder how this bill, even with its drawbacks, fares in the House of Crazies if it passes the Senate.

Elias Isquith of Salon: The Senate will pass no criminal justice reform legislation this year because Mitch McConnell doesn't see it as a political winner. And Ted Cruz is campaigning against it.

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that domestic economic growth slowed in the final months of 2015 and pointed to increased concern about the weakness of the global economy. In a statement published after a two-day meeting of its policy-making committee, the Fed, as expected, left its benchmark interest rate unchanged and said it still expected to increase that rate 'gradually' in the coming months as economic conditions improve." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Cecilia Kang of the New York Times: "The cable set-top box, long a scourge of consumers and a moneymaker for cable companies, appears set for a makeover. The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday announced a proposal that would make it much easier for subscribers of cable and satellite television to pick the boxes they use to watch programming. Nearly all customers now must get their boxes from their cable companies, and they pay an average of $231 a year to lease the devices. The move could have broad implications for the industry, allowing Google, Amazon and Apple, for instance, to expand their footprints in the media industry with devices that would blend Internet and cable programming in a way the television industry has resisted." (Also linked yesterday.)

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "For more than two years, the Navy's intelligence chief has been stuck with a major handicap: He's not allowed to know any secrets. Vice Adm. Ted 'Twig' Branch has been barred from reading, seeing or hearing classified information since November 2013, when the Navy learned from the Justice Department that his name had surfaced in a giant corruption investigation involving a foreign defense contractor and scores of Navy personnel." CW: This is a mighty odd way to "keep America safe."

Amy Nutt of the Washington Post: "For the first time, scientists have pinned down a molecular process in the brain that helps to trigger schizophrenia. The researchers involved in the landmark study, which was published Wednesday in the journal Nature, say the discovery of this new genetic pathway probably reveals what goes wrong neurologically in a young person diagnosed with the devastating disorder." ...

... The New York Times story, by Benedict Carey, is here. The original Nature article is here (pdf).

There Must Be a Pony. CW: I know Nicholas Kristof is a well-meaning man, but if you can't punch a fistful of holes into his column today -- on how conservatives really want to help the needy -- then you haven't been reading any of the opinion pieces I link here.

Jonathan Swan of the Hill: "The Republican National Committee (RNC) says it raised $105.6 million in 2015 -- a fundraising record for the party in a non-election year. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus announced the total in a tweet Wednesday morning, adding that the party has $18.7 million on hand."

Steve Benen says President Hillary would not appoint President Barack to the Supreme Court, even though she said the other day, in response to a question, that it's "a great idea,” that she “would certainly take ... under advisement": "For a former president," Benen argues, "Obama will be quite young. For a prospective high court justice, Obama will be over the hill." CW: I'm not so sure. Elena Kagan was 50 when President Obama nominated her & Sonia Sotomayor was 55. It's true that men have a shorter life expectancy than women &, as Benen points out, Obama is a former smoker. But still. Even in Partisan World, I don't think presidents have to nominate the immediate past president of the Harvard Law Review.

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Jim Dwyer of the New York Times: After Jane Mayer of the New Yorker wrote a long piece for the magazine about the Koch brothers' secret financial backing of right-wing groups, she learned that someone was investigating her & falsely accusing her of plagiarism. After three years, she trace the investigators "to a 'boiler room' operation involving several people who have worked closely with Koch business concerns. 'The firm, it appears, was Vigilant Resources International, whose founder and chairman, Howard Safir, had been New York City's police commissioner under the former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani,' she writes in 'Dark Money.' Mr. Safir served as both the fire commissioner and the police commissioner during the Giuliani mayoralty." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Presidential Race

Gail Collins conducts a Q&A with imaginary us on the Democratic presidential primary. It begins, "Let's get focused. Time to discuss how Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton differ on the issues. You forgot to mention Martin O'Malley. No, I didn't."

CW: Frances Sellers & John Wagner of the Washington Post delve into Bernie Sanders' religious beliefs, because that's what American journalists do. Unless you think participating in religious rites is a prerequisite for holding high public office, you'll like Bernie better after reading this story. BTW, if Jerry Falwell, Jr., were actually religious, instead of pretending to be, he would have endorsed Bernie Sanders instead of Donald Trump. ...

... Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico: "Bernie Sanders threw one of his most direct rhetorical punches yet at Hillary Clinton over her financial-industry ties on Wednesday night, telling a packed crowd, 'My opponent is not in Iowa tonight. She is raising money from a Philadelphia investment firm.'... [Clinton] left the state on Wednesday for a campaign cash event hosted by Franklin Square Capital Partners and featuring a concert by Jon Bon Jovi."...

... Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico: "President Barack Obama was so determined to prove he hadn't endorsed Hillary Clinton that he put in a full 45 minutes with Bernie Sanders in the Oval Office on Wednesday. There were no photos, and no lunch like the one Obama hosted Clinton for when she came through the White House in early December." ...

... Kevin Liptak of CNN: "With the West Wing as his backdrop, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday declared President Barack Obama 'even-handed' in his assessments of the presidential race, days after Obama piled praise upon the Vermont senator's 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton." ...

Gabriel Debenedetti: " Hours after Hillary Clinton ratcheted up her pressure on him to accept an invitation to an unsanctioned debate on Feb. 4, Bernie Sanders escalated the debate by calling for three new debates. 'From the beginning of this campaign Sen. Sanders has called for more debates. Secretary Clinton has not. Now she is asking to change the rules to schedule a debate next week that is not sanctioned by the DNC. Why is that? The answer is obvious. The dynamics of the race have changed and Sen. Sanders has significant momentum,' said Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver in a statement on Wednesday night, while Sanders was speaking to a packed audience [in Mason City, Iowa]." ...

... Anne Gearan & Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "... in the final, five-day sprint of an uncomfortably close Democratic contest in Iowa, [Hillary] Clinton has largely abandoned a strategy that appears to have done little to improve her standing with voters...: trying to directly discredit ... [Bernie Sanders] and his unstintingly liberal proposals.... She has debuted a sunnier, more optimistic version of herself here this week while lacing her campaign appearances with some of the populist anger that animates Sanders."

Paul Waldman explains the Iowa caucus process & why it likely favors Hillary & the Tailgunner. And also is extremely undemocratic. House-bound? Kid-bound? Work-bound? You never get to vote.

Jonathan Easley of the Hill: "Speaking on 'The O'Reilly Factor' [last night, Donald] Trump continued his long-running feud with [Fox 'News' host Megyn] Kelly, who[m] he has been criticizing ever since she challenged him on his past derogatory remarks about women at the first GOP debate in August." ...

... Mark Carlson of KCRG-TV (Cedar Rapids, Iowa): "A 28-year-old man has been arrested after authorities say he threw two tomatoes at Donald Trump during a campaign stop Tuesday night." CW: I believe that's a vaudeville tradition, so perfectly appropriate under the circumstances. ...

... Jim Rutenberg, et al., of the New York Times: "With [Donald] Trump declaring he will skip the debate, the most potentially consequential fight on the campaign trail is not between Mr. Trump and his fellow candidates, but between Mr. Trump and the top-rated cable television news network, which is also one of the most important forces in Republican politics.... Fox News said it would never accede to Mr. Trump's demand that it remove [Megn] Kelly from its panel of moderators, which also includes the network anchors Bret Baier and Chris Wallace. Though the move could cost Fox News debate-night ratings, officials there said Rupert Murdoch, the executive co-chairman of the network's parent company, 21st Century Fox, lent [Fox 'News" chair Roger] Ailes his support.... (Mr. Murdoch made his own political news on Wednesday, posting on Twitter his support for an independent presidential run by former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York.) ...

     ... CW: Speaking of debates, I had one with myself about linking any more stories about this ridiculous faux feud. Rand Paul must be vewy, vewy upset that his decision to boycott the last debate -- because the Fox Business network put him at the kiddie table -- received only cursory media attention. I don't recall that anybody missed him, either. ...

... Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump is obsessed with being in control.... The latest episode of Trump vs. Fox News reads like a movie script." ...

... AND Trump is in control. Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "By withdrawing from the debate, he demonstrated who's in command and who is not.... Trump has pocketed most or all of what he'd hoped to get out of Thursday night's originally planned festivities -- limelight, distinction, narrative control -- while everyone else has not. His departure will cost Fox News millions of eyeballs, and as many dollars in lost revenue. New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman -- better sourced within Fox than anyone else on the media beat -- depicts the network in chaos, badly divided between pro-Trump and pro-Kelly factions. He reports that CEO Roger Ailes 'is fighting off criticism from his senior executives over his handling of the crisis,' and has become 'frantic' to re-enlist Trump." ...

... Digby, in Salon: "The most likely reason for this is exactly what it seems: Trump doesn't like debating. He[s complained about the length of them and threatened to boycott before so his beef with Megyn Kelly gave him a good excuse to get out of this one and dominate the news cycle in the process. And there's nothing Ailes can do about it." ...

... Bradford Richardson of the Hill: "Super PACs supporting ... Ted Cruz say they will donate $1.5 million to charities committed to helping veterans if rival Donald Trump agrees to a one-on-one debate with Cruz." CW: Otherwise, veterans get nada. ...

... Jessica Hopper of ABC News: "Trump's campaign responded to the debate offer, telling ABC News, 'If he's the last man standing and it comes down to a two-person race Donald Trump will be happy to debate him.'" ...

... Harper Neidig of the Hill: "'Even though I beat him in the first six debates, especially the last one, Ted Cruz wants to debate me again,' Trump tweeted on Wednesday. 'Can we do it in Canada?'"

I Called My Friend a Liar Because the Press Calls Me Black. Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Hours after appearing to question the honesty of longtime friend and adviser Armstrong Williams, Ben Carson on Wednesday made an unannounced appearance on Williams' radio show to reinforce their friendship and slam the media for what he argued was a misrepresentation of his words. He also accused reporters of holding black conservatives to a double standard. Carson, earlier in the day at a Bloomberg Politics breakfast, described Williams as 'not necessarily the epitome of truth. He doesn't speak all things that are correct,' Carson said at the event."

Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "ABC News will not include an undercard contest during its Republican presidential debate in February, according to new criteria released from the network. The decision threatens to cut the debate stage to as few as six candidates just three days before New Hampshire primary." CW: Rats! I wanted to see Santorum & Huckleberry one more time.

Beyond the Beltway

Joe Heim of the Washington Post: "Malheur is the first real siege brought about by a group of occupiers on the offensive. Armed with AR-15 assault rifles, shotguns, pistols and knives, dozens of men and women occupied a federal facility for more than three weeks, rallied others to their cause and, citing the Constitution, advocated severely curtailing federal authority across the country.... Supporters and critics agree that the Malheur occupation marks a dramatic turn in a long-simmering relationship between the federal government and radicals who view it as overreaching and corrupt." ...

... David Seminara, et al., of the New York Times: "The armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon, which flashed into violent confrontation with law enforcement on Tuesday when eight members of the group were arrested and one was killed, appeared to be unraveling on Wednesday night when the jailed leader of the siege advised his followers to go home.... Speaking on the telephone from inside the refuge on Wednesday night, an occupier, David Fry, 27, said there were seven people remaining. He said the group had been drinking..., adding that they would stay 'until someone starts listening or until they slaughter us.' Group members, passing around a phone, said they believed Mr. Finicum was murdered and that holding Ammon Bundy in jail was an outrage to them.... News media crews at the refuge headquarters -- more or less camped out there since the occupation began -- drove away, out of concern for their own safety." ...

... Maxine Bernstein of the Oregonian: "A federal court judge Wednesday ordered Ammon Bundy and six others accused in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to remain in jail, calling them flight risks and a danger to public safety. Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow argued that they would return to the refuge and 'bunker in' with their followers and stage a last violent stand if released. The government is also concerned about the 'dynamic situation involving an ongoing armed occupation,' said fellow federal prosecutor, Ethan Knight." The federal complaint is here. ...

... Carli Brosseau of the Oregonian: "The man who emerged Wednesday as the leader of the remaining occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has been taken into custody. The FBI arrested Jason Patrick, 43, of Bonaire, Georgia, at a checkpoint outside the refuge near Burns about 8:40 p.m., authorities said. Duane Leo Ehmer, 45, of Irrigon, Oregon, and Dylan Wade Anderson, 34, of Provo, Utah, were taken into custody by the FBI about 3:30 p.m., an FBI news release said. Each man faces the same charge as the occupation's top leaders -- one federal felony count of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats."

Rebecca Woolington of the Oregonian: "Oregon FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing told reporters during a press conference Wednesday morning in Burns that the occupiers at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge had 'ample' time to leave peacefully. Bretzing was joined by U.S. Attorney Bill Williams and Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward during the press conference, held on the 26th day of the standoff with occupiers. They expressed disappointment that a traffic stop on protesters had turned deadly Tuesday." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)m...

... The Oregonian is running a liveblog of the developments related to the hostile takeover of the Malheur Refuge. And there are developments. I must say there are slightly differing accounts of how Finicum was killed. According to the Bundy story, he was lying face down with his hands up when an officer shot him three times. According to a person who claimed to be driving nearby, Finicum charged the officers. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Travis Gettys of Raw Story addresses the discrepancies in the accounts of Finicum's death. Two of the militants who claim to have been at or near the scene deny the martyrdom story the group's supporters have spread. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Nigel Duara of the Los Angeles Times: "... the FBI was running surveillance on the occupation and recording the activists' public statements, mostly drawn from media reports and the activists' use of social media, while FBI agents encouraged locals to report their experiences with the new strangers in town. According to the allegations in an indictment and supporting affidavit, the FBI was collecting information that confirmed the occupiers were armed, angry and willing to die."

Mayhem at Mizzou. Michael Miller of the Washington Post: The University of Missouri's "Board of Curators voted Wednesday to suspend Melissa Click, the assistant professor caught on camera pushing a student journalist and calling for 'some muscle' to remove him from a protest camp. [The board will continue to investigate the case to] 'determine whether additional discipline is appropriate.' The suspension came a day after the city prosecutor's decision to file a misdemeanor assault charge against Click over the incident, but it fell short of state legislators' demands that Click be fired. The suspension also came on the same day the school's ousted president, Tim Wolfe, issued a scathing letter slamming his successor as president, the Board of Curators, other university leaders and even the school's football team, which backed the protests."

Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post: "Court clerks with religious objections to issuing marriage licenses to gay couples could send them to the Department of Motor Vehicles instead under a bill advanced by a Virginia Senate panel on Wednesday. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) immediately vowed to veto the 'divisive and distracting' measure if it gets to his desk." ...

... CW: Besides the obvious discrimination this law would impose on gay couples, there is an underlying stupidity to laws of this sort. Ninety-nine percent of employees object to some aspect of their jobs, often on moral or religious grounds. But they hold their noses & do their jobs anyway. If what they are required to do eats them up too much, they quit. Businesses & other institutions couldn't function if employees got to decide which parts of their jobs they would do. Being permitted to take a few days off for religious observances is not equivalent to being permitted to do only parts of your job every day of the week. Besides, most of us try not to take jobs in the first place if we think the jobs would test our ethical standards. If Greg Abbott invites me to oversee Texas executions for a Texas-sized salary & very little work, I'll tell him no. (On the other hand, if he invites me to oversee the prosecution of Planned Parenthood, I might tell him yes, so I could pull a Harris County grand jury move. You can reach me here, Greg.)

Today's Feel-Good Story. "Stand & Deliver" Redux. Hailey Brandson-Potts of the Los Angeles Times: "Cedrick [Argueta], the son of a Salvadoran maintenance worker and a Filipina nurse [who live in the Los Angeles area]..., scored perfectly on his Advanced Placement Calculus exam. Of the 302,531 students to take the notoriously mind-crushing test, he was one of only 12 to earn every single point.... Cedrick is the son of Lilian and Marcos Argueta, both of whom came to the United States as young adults -- she from the Philippines, he from El Salvador. Lilian, a licensed vocational nurse, works two jobs at nursing homes. Marcos is a maintenance worker at one of those nursing homes. He never went to high school." Cedrick's math teacher is Anthony Yom, who "treats his students like a sports team."

News Ledes

New York Times: "With about 500,000 people expected to visit Brazil for the Olympics here this year, researchers are scrambling to figure how much of a risk the Games might pose in spreading the Zika virus around the world."

AP: "The Texas teenager who used an 'affluenza' defense in a fatal drunken-driving wreck arrived at a Texas airport following his deportation from Mexico on Thursday, more than a month after he and his mother fled the U.S. as prosecutors investigated whether he had violated his probation. Ethan Couch, 18, arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport late Thursday morning and could be seen walking through the airport escorted by law enforcement."

Washington Post: "The World Health Organization announced Thursday that it would convene an emergency meeting to try to find ways to stop the transmission of the Zika virus -- which officials said is 'spreading explosively' across the Americas."

Tuesday
Jan262016

The Commentariat -- January 27, 2016

Afternoon Update:

Dave Philipps of the New York Times: "... in its swift rise, [the Wounded Warrior Project] has ... embraced aggressive styles of fund-raising, marketing and personnel management that have caused many current and former employees to question whether it has drifted from its original mission. It has spent millions a year on travel, dinners, hotels and conferences that often seemed more lavish than appropriate, more than four dozen current and former employees said in interviews. Former workers recounted buying business-class seats and regularly jetting around the country for minor meetings, or staying in $500-per-night hotel rooms." ...

... CW: This is the charity for which Donald Trump said earlier today he would hold a fundraiser in lieu of attending Fox "News"'s GOP debate. Sounds more like a Ben Carson thing.

Cecilia Kang of the New York Times: "The cable set-top box, long a scourge of consumers and a moneymaker for cable companies, appears set for a makeover. The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday announced a proposal that would make it much easier for subscribers of cable and satellite television to pick the boxes they use to watch programming. Nearly all customers now must get their boxes from their cable companies, and they pay an average of $231 a year to lease the devices. The move could have broad implications for the industry, allowing Google, Amazon and Apple, for instance, to expand their footprints in the media industry with devices that would blend Internet and cable programming in a way the television industry has resisted."

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that domestic economic growth slowed in the final months of 2015 and pointed to increased concern about the weakness of the global economy. In a statement published after a two-day meeting of its policy-making committee, the Fed, as expected, left its benchmark interest rate unchanged and said it still expected to increase that rate 'gradually' in the coming months as economic conditions improve."

Jim Dwyer of the New York Times: After Jane Mayer of the New Yorker wrote a long piece for the magazine about the Koch brothers' secret financial backing of right-wing groups, she learned that someone was investigating her & falsely accusing her of plagiarism. After three years, she trace the investigators "to a 'boiler room' operation involving several people who have worked closely with Koch business concerns. 'The firm, it appears, was Vigilant Resources International, whose founder and chairman, Howard Safir, had been New York City’s police commissioner under the former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani,' she writes in 'Dark Money.' Mr. Safir served as both the fire commissioner and the police commissioner during the Giuliani mayoralty."

Rebecca Woolington of the Oregonian: "Oregon FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing told reporters during a press conference Wednesday morning in Burns that the occupiers at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge had 'ample' time to leave peacefully. Bretzing was joined by U.S. Attorney Bill Williams and Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward during the press conference, held on the 26th day of the standoff with occupiers. They expressed disappointment that a traffic stop on protesters had turned deadly Tuesday." ...

... The Oregonian is running a liveblog of the developments related to the hostile takeover of the Malheur Refuge. And there are developments. I must say there are slightly differing accounts of how Finicum was killed. According to the Bundy story, he was lying face down with his hands up when an officer shot him three times. According to a person who claimed to be driving nearby, Finicum charged the officers. At 3:00 pm ET, the liveblog had not been updated for several hours. ...

... Travis Gettys of Raw Story addresses the discrepancies in the accounts of Finicum's death. Two of the militants who claim to have been at or near the scene deny the martyrdom story the group's supporters have spread.

*****

Julie Turkewitz & Kirk Johnson of the New York Times: "Ammon Bundy, the leader of an armed seizure of a federal wildlife refuge in rural eastern Oregon, was arrested and one was person was killed Tuesday afternoon in a traffic stop in rural Oregon, the F.B.I. and the Oregon State Police said. Seven other people, including Mr. Bundy’s brother Ryan Bundy, were arrested, the authorities said. Another person was hospitalized with nonlife-threatening injuries.... Authorities said only that shots were fired during the course of the arrest. Three other people ... were arrested later, authorities said. All of the defendants face a federal felony charge of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats." ...

... Les Zaitz of the Oregonian: "Oregon standoff spokesman Robert 'LaVoy' Finicum was killed and other leaders of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation were arrested Tuesday after the FBI and state police stopped vehicles about 20 miles north of Burns. Authorities did not release the name of the person who died at the highway stop, but Finicum's daughter confirmed it was Finicum, 55, of Cane Beds, Arizona.... Ryan Bundy, 43, of Bunkerville, Nev., suffered a minor gunshot wound in the confrontation about 4:30 p.m. along U.S. 395. He was treated and released from a local hospital and was in FBI custody, authorities said.... Also arrested during the stop were his brother, Ammon Bundy, 40, of Emmett, Idaho, Ryan W. Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Mont., Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada, and Shawna J. Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah.... In Burns, Oregon State Police also arrested Joseph D. O'Shaughnessy, 45, Cottonwood, Arizona..., and Pete Santilli, 50, of Cincinnati, an independent broadcaster known for his aggressive manner and live streaming refuge events.... Jon Ritzheimer, 32, a key militant leader, surrendered to police in Arizona on the conspiracy charge....

     ... "At the refuge Tuesday evening, occupier Jason Patrick reported no unusual activity. 'It's pretty quiet here,' Patrick said. He said no one was leaving as of 6 p.m. Hours later, Patrick said the refuge remained quiet but 'we're all standing here ready to defend our peaceful resolution.'... In the meantime, Operation Mutual Defense, a network of militias and patriot sympathizers, issued a call on its website for help at the refuge. The post was written by Gary Hunt, a board member from California who has expressed support for Timothy McVeigh, who bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City and had ties to the patriot movement.... The highway was blocked for a 40-mile stretch between Burns and John Day. Police were stationed near Seneca, a small city of 200 south of John Day, with long guns." ...

... Les Zaitz: "Law enforcement officers set up roadblocks Tuesday night around the headquarters of the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge hours after one of the takeover's top spokesmen was killed and other leaders were arrested on a highway out of town. FBI officials told those still at the compound, about 30 miles southeast of Burns, that they were free to leave and should do so. By midnight, few people appeared to have taken up the offer and the lights were still on."

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "A grand jury’s indictment on Monday of two abortion opponents who covertly recorded Planned Parenthood officials is the latest, most startling sign that a Republican campaign against the group has run into trouble. In a dozen states including Texas..., various investigations have concluded without finding any wrongdoing by affiliates of the group. Eight states have declined to investigate since videos began surfacing in June alleging that Planned Parenthood illegally sells tissue from aborted fetuses. In the Republican-led Congress, Speaker John A. Boehner resigned last fall rather than lead a government shutdown to force an end to federal funds for Planned Parenthood." ...

... CW: Once in a great while, there is a price to be paid for running a perpetual campaign against women & their health needs. ...

Alex Zielinski of Think Progress: "After a Texas-based grand jury declined to indict Planned Parenthood on Monday, clearing an Austin-based clinic of any wrongdoing, GOP presidential candidates are simply doubling down on their opposition to the national women’s health organization":

Here’s what I know: Planned Parenthood has been trafficking in body parts. Planned Parenthood has been altering late-term abortion techniques to this specific purpose of harvesting body parts. In President Fiorina budget, there will not be a single dime for Planned Parenthood. -- Carly Fiorina

I’m disturbed. We’ll need to learn more, but I’m disturbed that while Planned Parenthood, who are the ones that were actually selling off these (body) parts were found having done nothing wrong, the people who tried to expose them are the ones that are now facing criminal charges. -- Marco Rubio

... Here's Rubio indicting the prosecutor, via the Guardian: “'I think it’s pretty outrageous that Planned Parenthood was investigated by some lawyer or district attorney who apparently, according to some news reports, has actually been a board member of Planned Parenthood and donated to them,' Rubio said, responding to a voter question about abortion at an Iowa town hall." ...

     ... Oh, and here are the facts, from the same Guardian story, by Molly Redden & Sabrina Siddiqui: "Rubio’s attack was likely referring to a Harris County prosecutor in the criminal family law division, Lauren Reeder. Reeder was a member of the Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast board of directors at the time of the county’s investigation.... But Reeder was not, as Rubio stated, the district attorney who handed down Monday’s indictments, nor was she involved in the broader investigation. According to news reports from the time, Reeder disclosed that she was a Planned Parenthood board member shortly after Harris County began its investigation in August. The district attorney, Devon Anderson, made Reeder’s affiliation public and stated that Reeder would not have any involvement in the investigation." CW: But what are facts when it's so easy to make your case by lying to Iowa voters. ...

... New York Times Editors: "... despite all the evidence [that Planned Parenthood is not guilty of any wrongdoing], Texas’ Republican governor, Greg Abbott, said on Monday that the state attorney general’s office and the State Health and Human Services Commission would continue investigating Planned Parenthood. This is a purely political campaign of intimidation and persecution meant to destroy an organization whose mission to serve women’s health care needs the governor abhors." ...

... Washington Post Editors: "By adhering to the facts, prosecutors and grand jurors set a model of behavior that puts them at odds with the politicians — in Congress, in statehouses and on the Republican presidential campaign trail — who have tried to advance their agendas by falsely demonizing an organization that provides critical health care to women. In their evidence-free crusade, they have put vital health services at risk and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars." ...

... Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "... it’s hard to avoid observing that all of the new CMP drama is unfolding in Texas, just as the Supreme Court prepares to hear the biggest abortion case in years, from Texas. It’s never clear how much current events of this kind impact the justices’ thinking, but it’s difficult even for justices to avoid the fact that after myriad exacting investigations, hearings, and searches, the only criminal conduct allegedly connected to Planned Parenthood is now affixed to the people who attempted to smear them."

The Women's Hour. Emily Heil of the Washington Post: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) "was one of only a few lawmakers in the Capitol building following the weekend blizzard, and it was her job to handle the formalities of delaying Senate business until her colleagues could get back to work.... 'As we convene this morning, you look around the chamber, the presiding officer is female. All of our parliamentarians are female. Our floor managers are female. All of our pages are female.'... 'Something is genuinely different — and something is genuinely fabulous,' Murkowski said.... 'Perhaps it speaks to the hardiness of women,” she added, “that put on your boots and put your hat on and get out and slog through the mess that’s out there.'”

Republicans Do Something Useful, for a Change. Abbie VanSickle of the Washington Post:Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) has demanded a response from the Obama administration to whistleblower claims that thousands of [immigrant] children have been released to sponsors with criminal records that include homicide, child molestation and human trafficking. Legal advocates for the children say many have wound up in abusive situations, where they have been forced to work to repay debts or living expenses.... Alarmed by the case [of a teenager released to human traffickers who imprisoned the Guatemalan youth, with others, at an Ohio egg farm], Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, opened an inquiry into the government’s system for processing unaccompanied minors. The results are scheduled to be made public Thursday, when Portman plans to chair a hearing on the matter."

Lenny Bernstein of the Washington Post: It appears Flint could have saved money [CW: and lives] by not switching to Flint River water "as part of a long-term move to a new pipeline intended to save a destitute government millions of dollars each year.... The Detroit water system, which had supplied Flint for a half-century, fought fiercely until 2013 to keep the city as a customer. It ultimately offered rates that it claimed would cost 20 percent less than Flint’s share of the $600 million plan to build the pipeline from Lake Huron, according to documents, interviews and media coverage of those events." As Bernstein writes, however, Flint's choices were complicated. CW: What isn't even a little bit complicated, however, is that -- whatever the source -- Flint residents are entitled to safe water. ...

... American Hero. Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor who found & exposed high lead levels in Flint, Michigan's water, has been this route before. "It was Edwards, 51, who more than a decade earlier discovered corrosion in the nation’s capital’s pipes that caused lead to seep into the water supply and pass through kitchen faucets and shower heads. After exposing that water crisis in 2004, he spent six years challenging the Centers for Disease Control to admit they weren’t being honest about the extent of the damage the lead had on children." Edwards has largely self-funded both efforts. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Bill Pennington of the New York Times: "When the former Giants safety Tyler Sash was found dead at age 27 of an accidental overdose of pain medications at his Iowa home on Sept. 8, his grieving family remained consumed by a host of unanswered questions about the final, perplexing years of Sash’s life. Cut by the Giants in 2013 after what was at least his fifth concussion, Sash had returned to Iowa and increasingly displayed surprising and irregular behavior, family members said this week.... Last week, representatives from Boston University and the Concussion Legacy Foundation notified the Sash family that C.T.E. had been diagnosed in Tyler’s brain and that the disease, which can be confirmed only posthumously, had advanced to a stage rarely seen in someone his age."

Presidential Race

Gail Collins has a new conservative Brooks partner for "The Conversation": Arthur Brooks, president of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute. Arthur is as annoying & smug as David (No Relation) Brooks. In their inaugural conversation, Collins & A. Brooks discuss the presidential race. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Hadas Gold & Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico: "The Democratic debate schedule appeared to be upended on Tuesday by the addition of an unsanctioned MSNBC and New Hampshire Union Leader debate scheduled for February, but the Democratic National Committee responded hours later by saying it had no plans to sanction it — throwing into question whether Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would attend. The debate, moderated by ... Chuck Todd and ... Rachel Maddow is set to take place Feb. 4 and would be the only debate between the Iowa caucus and before primary voting in New Hampshire on Feb. 9, the newspaper announced." CW: Thanks, Debbie. Because what Democrats need right now is a debate about a debate, & the closer they can get to mimicking a Donald Trump-prima donna performance, the better.

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "... Bernie Sanders drew more than 20,000 people to a pair of a campaign stops in Minnesota on Tuesday, offering a timely reminder of his drawing power among progressive voters across the country.... A crowd of more than 14,539 people packed an exhibit hall and overflow room in [St. Paul], according to the venue, gathering just hours after an estimated 6,000 people turned out to hear the Vermont senator about two hours away in Duluth." ...

... Juliet Eilperin & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "... in [Sen. Bernie] Sanders’s more than 40 visits to the White House since Obama was sworn in as president, visitor logs show that they have had a private meeting in the Oval Office only once: on Dec. 15, 2014. Now, the White House has confirmed that two will meet Wednesday, a tacit acknowledgment that the senator’s popularity ... has unleashed a potent political movement that could influence not only the race to succeed Obama but also the president’s legacy.... The meeting, which White House press secretary Josh Earnest said would have 'no formal agenda,' could draw attention to a slightly awkward reality about the Obama-Sanders relationship: There really isn’t one." ...

... Dana Milbank: "I adore Bernie Sanders. I agree with his message of fairness and I share his outrage over inequality and corporate abuses. I think his righteous populism has captured the moment perfectly. I respect the uplifting campaign he has run. I admire his authenticity. And I am convinced Democrats would be insane to nominate him. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is a dreary candidate. She has, again, failed to connect with voters. Her policy positions are cautious and uninspiring. Her reflexive secrecy causes a whiff of scandal to follow her everywhere. She seems calculating and phony. And yet if Democrats hope to hold the presidency in November, they’ll need to hold their noses and nominate Clinton." ...

... Ruby Cramer of BuzzFeed: "In the early days of her husband’s administration, Hillary Clinton tried to start a national conversation about basic human decency, only to be mocked. In the midst of the most mean-spirited presidential campaign in memory, she talks with BuzzFeed News about the unchanged way she sees herself — and if she’ll ever be able to communicate it." ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker on President Obama's non-endorsement endorsement of Hillary Clinton: "... the President was sending a supportive message to an embattled candidate whom he sees as the best option to replace him, in order to safeguard the electoral position of the Democratic Party and preserve his legacy as a center-left reformer. For all the differences they had in 2008, some of which lingered, Obama and Clinton both represent the centrist, pragmatic approach to politics that has dominated the Democratic Party since the nineteen-eighties.... Obama ... was trying to persuade Democrats to back his preferred candidate. And he was also acknowledging an uncomfortable reality: Sanders doesn’t merely represent a threat to billionaires and multi-millionaires. The Vermont senator is challenging the entire Democratic Party establishment, of which Obama, the President, is a part."

David Smith of the Guardian: "Robert Gates, a Republican stalwart and former US defence secretary who served under eight presidents, has derided the party’s election candidates for a grasp of national security issues that 'would embarrass a middle schooler'.... Gates joked that if frontrunner Donald Trump wins the presidency, he would emigrate to Canada. He condemned the media for failing to challenge candidates from both parties on promises he believes are unaffordable, illegal or unconstitutional."

Will He or Won't He? Maggie Haberman & Nick Corasaniti of the New York Times: Donald J. Trump and Fox News ... stared each other down on Tuesday over his demand that the news anchor Megyn Kelly be dumped from moderating Thursday’s debate, the last before Monday’s caucuses. Mr. Trump’s announcement [in Marshalltown, Iowa,] that he would 'probably,' or would 'most likely,' or was 'pretty close to' irrevocably planning to skip the [upcoming GOP] debate — an aide put it more directly — created a gaping uncertainty at the center of the Republican nominating contest.... In his news conference..., Mr. Trump left open the possibility that he might still attend, and allowed that it could fairly be called a flip-flop by critics.... Instead of attending the debate, [Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski] said, Mr. Trump would hold a fund-raiser in Iowa for wounded war veterans." ...

... Philip Rucker, et al., of the Washington Post: "Trump’s assertion, which his campaign manager insisted was irreversible, came less than one week before the kickoff Iowa caucuses. He once again defied the conventional rules of politics, and used his power and prominence to shape the campaign agenda and conversation.... Trump also said that a 'wise-guy press release' that the network issued earlier on Tuesday belittling him was inappropriately antagonistic and childish.... After reading it, Trump said: 'I said, "Bye-bye." Fox is playing games.... They can’t toy with me like they toy with everybody else. Let them have the debate. Let’s see how they do with the ratings.'” ...

... CW: I find this hilarious. Trump is like some 1950s high-school football star who threatens not to go to the sockhop because the head cheerleader said he had cooties. Of course one can't help but suspect this "feud" is a made-for-teevee script, & both Trump & Ailes are just reading their lines. ...

... Luckily, MSNBC still has the antediluvian Chris Matthews to weigh in on the consequences of a Trump-free debate: “Who is going to watch a debate between the two Cuban guys? Who is going to watch a debate between Rubio, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Who cares?” There is evidence Matthews said this right on the teevee. CW: At least he didn't try a Desi Arnaz imitation. ...

... Katie Zezima of the Washington Post: "Sen. Ted Cruz challenged Donald Trump to a one-on-one debate after the real estate mogul said he doesn't plan to attend Thursday's Fox News debate in Des Moines. 'I’m happy to go an hour and a half mano a mano, me and Donald with no moderators any time before the Iowa caucuses,' Cruz said on The Mark Levin Show Tuesday. Cruz said Trump can name his own moderator and Levin offered up his airwaves." ...

... Matthew Patane & Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "Donald Trump took to Twitter Tuesday to attack one of rival Ted Cruz’s more influential Iowa endorsers, Christian conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats.... Trump ... unleashed multiple tweets critical of Vander Plaats, calling the CEO of the Family Leader 'phony' and a 'bad guy.'” CW: Looks as if Trump's claim in one tweet was a lie (big surprise, I know); he says Vander Plaats wanted $100K for an Iowa appearance last January, but it was Trump, according to the Register, who took the $100K fee, not Vander Plaats. When you're as wealthy as Trump, even if you have the world's greatest memory, it's easy to forget who demanded that $100K speaking fee. ...

... CW: Also, I don't like to accuse Trump of understatement, but Vander Plaats is worse than a "bad guy," even if he & Trump used to be buddies on account of their shared interest in the birther thing. Vander Plaats is a disgraceful loon. The whole GOP presidential campaign is a vaudeville show where all the actors are villains; to wit, ...

... Maeve Reston of CNN: "Arizona's tough-talking 'Sheriff Joe' Arpaio endorsed Donald Trump for president on Tuesday, lending his support as an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration to the GOP front-runner six days before Iowa's caucuses." You may want to listen to the accompanying video, where Jake Tapper interviews Sheriff Joe, who is still a birther. ...

... ** Steve M.: "... Trumpism didn't come out of nowhere. It's been around for a long time -- and it's been tolerated for a long time within the Republican Party. Actually, tolerated isn't the right word -- in the GOP, a neo-fascist like Joe Arpaio can become a power broker who's regularly courted by 'respectable' Republicans.... Trump isn't new. Joe Arpaio has been talking like Trump for years, but he's also acted on the beliefs that Trump, so far, has only talked about. If you have a party in which Joe Arpaio has been a star and power broker for years, and you've done nothing to challenge him, then you have no reason to be surprised when Donald Trump is your all-but-official presidential nominee." Read the whole post. ...

... AND speaking of xenophobes, Greg Sargent culls CNN interviews of Trump supporters. Not pretty. ...

... Bad News for the Tailgunner. Eliza Collins of Politico: "Jerry Falwell Jr., the evangelical leader of Liberty University, has endorsed Donald Trump for president." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... New Lede: "Jerry Falwell Jr.’s endorsement of Donald Trump on Tuesday was swiftly met with a backlash from other Christian conservatives sounding the alarm about what they see as a dangerous candidate with questionable morals." ...

... Sorry, confederate Christians. Paul Krugman: "What’s really going on, I’d argue, is (justified) fear over the erosion of white patriarchy. (That’s what the attack on Planned Parenthood is really about too.) That is, it’s about authority, not virtue. And so Trump’s lifestyle, his personal New York values, don’t matter, as long as he’s seen as someone who will keep Others in their place. What used to happen was that the conservative movement could basically serve the plutocracy, while mobilizing voters with racial/gender anxiety, all the while maintaining a facade of serious-minded libertarian philosophy. But now it’s broken down, and the real motives are out in the open." ...

... Digby, in Salon: Conservative movement ideologues "thought their years of carefully growing and indoctrinating the right wing of the Republican Party had resulted in a common belief in a certain conservative ideology, strategic vision and commitment to a specific agenda.  It turns out that a good number of the people they thought had signed on to their program just wanted someone to stick it to ethnic and racial minorities and make sure America is the biggest bad ass on the planet — authoritarian, white nationalism. If you’ve got a man who will deliver that you don’t need ideology. And he doesn’t need democracy." ...

... Sarah Posner in Rolling Stone: "... there's a simple explanation for the evangelical embrace of Trump: Having not succeeded in making America Christian, evangelicals coalescing around Trump have decided to settle for making it great (or 'great,' as the case may be)." ...

... CW: This is similar, then, to the original evangelicals, who embraced the Roman Emperor Constantine to advance their goals (and ensure their safety from real persecutions, not the fake ones we hear about today). Like Trump's, Constantine's devotion to Christianity was questionable. Although he supposedly converted, he always maintained his connection to the Roman god Sol Invictus. Today's evangelicals should be careful what they wish for: Constantine changed Christianity much more than Christianity changed Constantine. So as Donald Invictus would say, Merry Christmas.

... Ted's Consolation Prize. Hanna Trudo of Politico: "Tony Perkins, the evangelical president of the Family Research Council, has endorsed Ted Cruz for president." CW: As I noted, a cast of scoundrels.

For those of you who have been missing Li'l Randy, Politico reports, "Sen. Rand Paul is poised to make his return to the main-stage Republican presidential debate on Thursday." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Update: Steve Shepard & Daniel Strauss of Politico: "The field of candidates invited to Thursday’s debate in Des Moines, Iowa, is comprised of the same seven candidates who participated in the previous debate – Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich – plus [Rand] Paul, who qualified because of his standing in the most recent polls in Iowa." CW: what with the Donald's snit-fit, looks like we're back to Snow White, in the person of Megyn Kelly, & the Seven Dwarfs, in the persons aforementioned.

Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "The husband of Terri Schiavo is slamming a pro-Jeb Bush super PAC for invoking her in an ad touting the former Florida governor's record as a social conservative.... A dozen seconds into the 30-second spot, as the narrator touts Bush’s faith, the video shows an image of [Terri] Schiavo.... 'Using his disgraceful intervention in our family’s private trauma to advance his political career shows that he has learned nothing,' Mike Schiavo ...[said]. 'He’s proud of the fact that he used the machinery of government to keep a person alive through extraordinary artificial means — contrary to the orders of the court.... What the campaign video shows is that if he ever got his hands on the power of government again, he would do the same thing again, maybe next time to your family.'” ...

... Margaret Hartmann: "A year ago both Scott Walker and Rick Santorum got in trouble for questioning President Obama's religious beliefs, and now Jeb Bush is reviving the tacky trend. On Tuesday, reporters asked Bush to weigh in on the strength of Trump's Christian beliefs in light of Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsing the front-runner rather than Bush. 'I don’t know what he is,' Bush answered. 'I don’t think he has the kind of relationship he says he has if he can’t explain it any way that shows he is serious about it.'... We just don't think he has the kind of relationship he says he has with his dad if he can't stop stooping to sleazy political attacks."

Senate Race

Adam Beam of the AP: "Lexington Mayor Jim Gray filed to run for Rand Paul's U.S. Senate seat on Tuesday, giving Paul a viable challenger and complicating his bid for re-election as he lags in the polls in his presidential campaign.... Five other Democrats also filed for the seat: Rory Houlihan, Jeff Kender, Ron Leach, Tom Recktenwald and Grant T. Short. Kentucky Democrats have been in disarray since losing four of the state's six statewide constitutional offices in November. The state party chairman resigned, and party leaders still not chosen a replacement." Akhilleus mentioned this in yesterday's thread.

Beyond the Beltway

John Diedrich of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A terrorist-style plot intended to kill dozens of people with automatic weapons at a Masonic center in Milwaukee was foiled this week by FBI agents, federal prosecutors said Tuesday. Samy Mohamed Hamzeh discussed his plan to attack the center with two others, detailing how they would quickly and quietly kill the first people they saw and then methodically move through the building, 'eliminating everyone' they encountered, according to a federal criminal complaint.... Acting U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad called it a 'detailed plan to commit a mass shooting intended to kill dozens of people.'"

Evan MacDonald of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Six Cleveland officers have been fired and six others suspended for their roles in a police chase and shooting that ended with the deaths of two unarmed people, city officials announced Tuesday. The announcement came more than three years after the officers were involved in a 22-mile chase that began near the downtown Justice Center and ended in a middle school parking lot in East Cleveland on Nov. 29, 2012. Thirteen officers then fired a total of 137 shots at a Chevrolet Malibu, killing Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams."

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "The state of Kentucky must give millions of dollars in tax subsidies to a Noah’s Ark theme park owned by a creationist ministry, even though that ministry refuses to comply with the state’s request not to engage in hiring discrimination, according to an opinion by a George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench. Under Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove’s opinion, the creationist group Answers in Genesis (AiG) stands to gain up to $18 million.... AiG is probably best known for its Creation Museum, a Kentucky attraction.... Judge Van Tatenhove’s opinion ... rests on the extraordinary proposition that the state of Kentucky is required to subsidize discrimination. That is not what the [U.S.] Constitution provides." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jessica Lee & Steve Miletich of the Seattle Times: "Three women and two men were shot — two fatally — at a Sodo homeless encampment Tuesday night in what a police source said appeared to be a dispute among people who knew each other. Police searched for two men in connection with the shooting..., but were unsuccessful...."

Jeff Manning of the Oregonian: "The former CEO of a major healthcare provider in Roseburg[, Oregon,] filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit Tuesday claiming he was fired and blacklisted after reporting $10 million in fraudulent Medicare payments to Douglas County doctors. Dr. Robert Dannenhoffer, a long-time Roseburg pediatrician, claims the board of Architrave Health LLC terminated him last February after he insisted the company self-report improper Medicare payments to the Umpqua Medical Group. Umpqua is a subsidiary of Architrave."

Paul LePage Is Still the Governor of Maine. AP: "In a radio interview expressing his support for the death penalty, Maine Gov. Paul LePage said with a laugh that he wants to use the guillotine to execute drug traffickers.... During the interview, LePage laughed when he talked about using the guillotine to chop off the heads of drug dealers at public executions.... LePage in the past has voiced his support for the death penalty for drug dealers. The Legislature, however, has a long history of rejecting capital punishment, which was abolished in 1887 in response to a botched hanging." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Eliza Collins of Politico: LePage "said he was 'appalled' at critics, such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, who are angry over his comments, saying they are protecting drug traffickers. 'What we ought to do is bring the guillotine back,' he said, interrupting the hosts. 'We could have public executions and we could even have which hole it falls in.'” CW: Anyway, nice to see him show some real appreciation for his French heritage. (Also linked yesterday.)

Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times: "In a state where fights over public beach access are not uncommon, Daytona Beach, a place with a long history of beachfront driving, is mired again in a particularly polarizing battle over whether to restrict cars on more stretches of sand. Since the 1980s, beach driving has been curtailed piecemeal by local laws: Where once beachgoers could drive along any strand of Volusia County’s 47 miles of hard-packed sand, they are now down to 17 miles.... Once billed as the world’s most famous beach, Daytona earned that label in large part through its beach driving, a tradition that began with the horse-and-buggy era, progressed to car racing on the sand and later settled into simple cruising and parking. Nascar stock car racing, which takes place at Daytona International Speedway a few miles away, has its roots in beach racing here." ...

... CW: When I was a preschooler, my grandparents lived in Daytona Beach. Bathers set up near the water, where the sand was good for digging. But the better part of the wide beach was for driving. My parents had maybe a 1946 Chevy (it looked like a good deal like this, anyway), & we drove in it along the beach. There was a sense of freedom to it. And a feeling of wonderment. You could see as far as the horizon in three directions. Now it's a parking lot. People will have to find their wonder & freedom elsewhere -- like in the national parks the Kochs & the Bundys, et al., would steal from us.

Monday
Jan252016

The Commentariat -- January 26, 2016

Afternoon Update:

American Hero. Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor who found & exposed high lead levels in Flint, Michigan's water, has been this route before. "It was Edwards, 51, who more than a decade earlier discovered corrosion in the nation's capital's pipes that caused lead to seep into the water supply and pass through kitchen faucets and shower heads. After exposing that water crisis in 2004, he spent six years challenging the Centers for Disease Control to admit they weren't being honest about the extent of the damage the lead had on children." Edwards has largely self-funded both efforts.

Bad News for the Tailgunner. Eliza Collins of Politico: "Jerry Falwell Jr., the evangelical leader of Liberty University, has endorsed Donald Trump for president."

For those of you who have been missing Li'l Randy, Politico reports, "Sen. Rand Paul is poised to make his return to the main-stage Republican presidential debate on Thursday."

Gail Collins has a new conservative Brooks partner for "The Conversation": Arthur Brooks, president of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute. Arthur is as annoying & smug as David (No Relation) Brooks.

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "The state of Kentucky must give millions of dollars in tax subsidies to a Noah's Ark theme park owned by a creationist ministry, even though that ministry refuses to comply with the state's request not to engage in hiring discrimination, according to an opinion by a George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench. Under Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove's opinion, the creationist group Answers in Genesis (AiG) stands to gain up to $18 million.... AiG is probably best known for its Creation Museum, a Kentucky attraction.... Judge Van Tatenhove's opinion ... rests on the extraordinary proposition that the state of Kentucky is required to subsidize discrimination. That is not what the [U.S.] Constitution provides."

Paul LePage Is Still the Governor of Maine. AP: "In a radio interview expressing his support for the death penalty, Maine Gov. Paul LePage said with a laugh that he wants to use the guillotine to execute drug traffickers.... During the interview, LePage laughed when he talked about using the guillotine to chop off the heads of drug dealers at public executions.... LePage in the past has voiced his support for the death penalty for drug dealers. The Legislature, however, has a long history of rejecting capital punishment, which was abolished in 1887 in response to a botched hanging." ...

... Eliza Collins of Politico: LePage "said he was 'appalled' at critics, such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, who are angry over his comments, saying they are protecting drug traffickers. 'What we ought to do is bring the guillotine back,' he said, interrupting the hosts. 'We could have public executions and we could even have which hole it falls in.'" CW: Anyway, nice to see him show some real appreciation for his French heritage.

*****

** Thank You, Houston! Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "A county grand jury [in Houston, Harris County, Texas,] that was investigating allegations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood has instead indicted two anti-abortion activists who made videos of the organization. In a statement, the Harris County district attorney, Devon Anderson, said Monday that the director of the Center for Medical Progress, David Daleiden, had been indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs. Another center employee, Sandra Merritt, was indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record.... Ms. Anderson said in the statement that grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.... The case started in August, when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican and an outspoken opponent of abortion and Planned Parenthood, asked the Harris County district attorney to open a criminal investigation into the organization." ...

... The Houston Chronicle story, by Brian Rosenthal & Brian Rogers, is here. ...

... CW: The angels of irony have been working overtime. They have both a sense of justice AND a sense of humor. Moreover, they work in Texas, on a grand jury led by a Republican D.A. who was appointed by Rick Perry & whose successors charged her with investigating Planned Parenthood on the basis of "evidence" contained in videos which the grand jury used instead as evidence against the videographers. These charges don't condemn only the named perps; they condemn every activist & official who excoriated Planned Parenthood because of them. I'm talking to you, GOP Congressmembers & presidential candidates. Did I mention that Carly Fiorina was born in nearby Austin? ...

     ... That Houston D.A. is a Republican, but it seems she might be a woman first. I would love to know the dynamics of how this grand jury investigation unfolded. If Planned Parenthood is a ham sandwich, how did this switcheroo happen? Did Anderson lead the jurors or did the jurors revolt?

Peter Schroeder of the Hill: "President Obama wants to make it easier for Americans to save for retirement, and plans to push a host of ideas on that front in his upcoming budget. Citing rapid technological growth and fundamental changes in how the workforce operates, administration officials argued policymakers need to take steps to ensure as many Americans as possible are able to save for their retirement.... The initiatives will be detailed further in Obama's fiscal 2017 budget, due out on Feb. 9."

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama on Monday announced a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system, saying the practice is overused and has the potential for devastating psychological consequences. In an op-ed that appears in Tuesday editions of The Washington Post, the president outlines a series of executive actions that also prohibit federal corrections officials from punishing prisoners who commit 'low-level infractions' with solitary confinement. The new rules also call for expanding treatment for mentally ill prisoners. While the president's reforms apply broadly to the roughly 10,000 federal inmates serving time in solitary confinement, there are only a handful of juvenile offenders placed in restrictive housing each year."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court ruled Monday that those sentenced as teenagers to mandatory life imprisonment for murder must have a chance to argue that they should be released from prison. The ruling expanded the court's 2012 decision that struck down mandatory life terms without parole for juveniles and said it must be applied retroactively to what juvenile advocates estimate are 1,200 to 1,500 cases. More than 1,100 inmates are concentrated in three states -- Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Michigan -- where officials had decided the 2012 ruling was not retroactive. They should have a chance to be resentenced or argue for parole, said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who wrote the new 6-to-3 decision."

Timothy Cama of the Hill: "A federal appeals court upheld the government's new coal dust exposure rule for coal miners Monday, rejecting industry challenges to it. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [Alabama, Florida & Georgia] said the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) followed the relevant laws in writing the 2014 rule to limit coal dust exposure, which causes black lung disease."

Sarah Ferris of the Hill: "ObamaCare will enroll significantly fewer people than expected in 2016, ending the year with about 13 million customers, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Monday. The figure, which was included in an expansive budget report, is a decline of about 40 percent from last year's enrollment prediction of about 20 million people. The latest projections confirm the Obama administration's previous assessment that fewer people are signing up as the marketplace closes in on its third enrollment season -- the final one under President Obama."

** Dana Milbank: "... the Flint disaster, three years in the making, is not a failure of government generally. It's the failure of a specific governing philosophy: [Gov. Rick] Snyder's belief that government works better if run more like a business.... 'You cannot separate what happened in Flint from the state's extreme emergency-management law,' said Curt Guyette, who, working for the ACLU of Michigan, uncovered much of the scandal in Flint. 'The bottom line is making sure the banks and bond holders get paid at all costs, even if the kids are poisoned with foul river water.'... Snyder undertook an arrogant public-policy experiment, underpinned by the ideological assumption that the 'experience set' of corporate-style managers was superior to the checks and balances of democracy." Also, Jeb! is a scoundrel.

Adam Goldman of the Washington Post: How David Petraeus beat a felony rap. CW: Not mentioned: excellent lawyer, friends in the highest places.

Presidential Race

The Rube Goldberg Version of "Democracy." Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "The Iowa caucuses make voting needlessly difficult, effectively disenfranchising large segments of the electorate. They also take place in a state that enjoys special first-in-the-nation status, despite the fact that it contains no major cities and hardly any people of color.... Unlike a primary election, where the polls typically stay open for most of a day to allow people to vote at their leisure, caucus participants typically must present themselves at 7pm if they wish to be able to vote.... The caucus itself is actually only the first order of business in a long process that includes several layers of delegates and conventions.... Giving Iowa and New Hampshire most-favored-state status, in other words, encourages candidates to pay less attention to issues that are especially relevant to voters of color."

** Jonathan Chait points out that in 2008, candidate Obama did not propose the soaring changes Bernie Sanders proposes. "Obama in 2008 benefited from the lowered ideological expectations that come with two terms out of power under a disastrous opposition president.... Here is the future president speaking in the aftermath of his shockingly large victory in Iowa: 'When we've made the changes we believe in, when more families can afford to see a doctor, when our children -- when Malia and Sasha and your children inherit a planet that's a little cleaner and safer, when the world sees America differently, and America sees itself as a nation less divided and more united, you'll be able to look back with pride and say that this was the moment when it all began.' Even in this moment of giddiness, Obama was promising gradations of progress: More families can afford to see a doctor; a little cleaner and safer planet; a nation less divided." ...

... Charles Pierce highly recommends you listen to Glenn Thrush's interview of President Obama. See yesterday's Commentariat for audio. CW: I recommend it, too. ...

John Wagner & Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "The two leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination on Monday offered contrasting views of what matters most in the Oval Office -- with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton citing her experience, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders saying that his judgment has proven superior to hers." ...

... The New York Times story, by Alan Rappeport, is here. ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "... on Monday night, Iowans got to compare the three Democratic candidates one last time. CNN only announced that it would televise the town hall at Drake University in Des Moines a week ago.... There were no moments that will drastically change the political landscape heading into Iowa; Bernie Sanders mainly discussed income inequality, Hillary Clinton emphasized her experience, and Martin O'Malley turned in a solid performance that will be completely overlooked." ...

... Steve M.: "I agree with James Poniewozick [of the New York Times] that overuse by the right has blunted the impact of the word 'socialist' [by constantly calling President Obama a socialist], except among people who'd never vote for a Democrat anyway.... The most striking thing about the answer Sanders gave last night was its sense of decency. I think that blunts the line of attack quite a bit.... Republicans who try to attack Sanders as a socialist may find that the word has lost its impact. 'Taxes'? That's an evergreen. That's a line of attack that never goes out of fashion."

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: In response to a question during a town-hall-style meeting in Iowa, Hillary Clinton talked about her religious faith.

Yamiche Alcindor of the New York Times: "The lawyer for the family of Walter L. Scott, who was fatally shot by a police officer in South Carolina, is withdrawing his support from Hillary Clinton and endorsing Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Monday afternoon. The lawyer, State Representative Justin T. Bamberg of South Carolina, said he is switching sides because he believes Mrs. Clinton embodies establishment politics, while Mr. Sanders offers a bolder platform that will improve the lives of people in the South and across the country. The endorsement could help Mr. Sanders as he tries to win more support from black voters -- especially in South Carolina -- in the series of southern states that hold contests after Iowa and New Hampshire, where he is well positioned." ...

... MEANWHILE. Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "Bernie Sanders is launching television ads in South Carolina, looking ahead to a state that many believe is Hillary Clinton's firewall. Chris Covert, Sanders's South Carolina director, told reporters Monday that the ad campaign will cover all major media markets in the state. He said the campaign has already knocked on over 200,000 doors and made over 750,000 voter contacts to build momentum in the state." ...

... Mark Hensch of the Hill: "Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen announced Monday he has created a new flavor celebrating Bernie Sanders's White House run.... The new flavor isn't an official Ben and Jerry's ice cream. 'Jerry and I have been constituents of Bernie Sanders for the last 30 years,' Cohen said of the longtime Vermont senator.... 'We've seen him and we believe him,' he continued.... Cohen's website describes 'Bernie's Yearning' as plain mint ice cream beneath a solid layer of chocolate on top. 'The chocolate disc represents the huge majority of economic gains that gone to the top 1 percent since the end of the recession,' the flavor's packaging states. ;Beneath it, the rest of us.' Eating instructions include taking a spoon and whacking the chocolate disc 'into lots of pieces'; mixing the chocolate pieces around; and sharing the result with 'your fellow Americans.'"

Nick Gass of Politico: "The only person who attended a late December campaign event for Martin O'Malley hampered by Iowa's harsh winter weather has decided to caucus for him. But Hillary Clinton is his second choice and likely the candidate he will eventually end up supporting in the caucus, he admitted."

Dear Purists, Your Hero Has Forsaken You. Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "Noam Chomsky would 'absolutely' choose Hillary Clinton over the Republican nominee if he lived in a swing state, but her primary challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 'doesn't have much of a chance,' the MIT professor and intellectual said in a recent interview. Chomsky, who lives in the blue state of Massachusetts, said he would vote for Clinton if he lived in a swing state such as Ohio.... Chomsky cited 'enormous differences' between the two major political parties.... 'I frankly think that in our system of mainly bought elections [Sanders] doesn't have much of a chance, but if he were elected I think he would -- of the current candidates -- I think he'd be the one who would have, from my point of view, the best policies.'"

"Circular Firing Squad." Jonathan Martin & Alexander Burns of the New York Times: "Republican leaders are growing alarmed by the ferocious ways the party's mainstream candidates for president are attacking one another, and they fear that time is running out for any of them to emerge as a credible alternative to Donald J. Trump or Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.... The establishment candidates and their allies have spent approximately $35 million attacking one another, and there is no sign that they plan to relent anytime soon.... Many in the party say they believe the assault by Mr. Bush against Mr. Rubio has been particularly damaging." CW: Hilarious.

Boston Globe Editors: "New Hampshire Republicans can do their party a critical service on Feb. 9 by voting for an experienced political figure with a record of results, and thus dealing a blow to the divisive, demagogic candidates running on nativism and other political simplicities. The Globe urges them to support John Kasich, whose record as governor of Ohio shows him to be a pragmatic, fiscally responsible executive, but one who is also concerned with helping the poor." ...

... Daniel Strauss of Politico: "... the Globe's smaller, more conservative rival, the Boston Herald, endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie." ...

... Concord Monitor Editors: "For months, each Republican candidate for president has told New Hampshire voters why he or she belongs in the White House. The one with the best record to support his case is John Kasich."

Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times: "With the next Republican presidential debate three days away, Donald Trump threatened Monday to boycott, saying moderator Megyn Kelly of Fox News was biased against him." ...

     ... Nick Gass: "Hours after indicating that he could boycott Thursday's Republican debate on Fox News based on his objections over Megyn Kelly co-moderating the event, Donald Trump signaled Tuesday that it's 'probably' safe to assume he will be in attendance." ...

... The Voices of "Real" America. Nicolle Wallace, who was Sarah Palin's "handler" in the 2008 presidential campaign, in a New York Times op-ed: "With his call to deport illegal immigrants, especially because Mexico sends us its 'bad ones,' his proposal to bar Muslims from entering the country, his emphasis on the threats to lawful gun ownership and his promise to protect American goods and workers from China, Mr. Trump is riding the wave of anxiety that Ms. Palin first gave voice to as Senator John McCain's running mate. Mr. Trump has now usurped and vastly expanded upon Ms. Palin's constituency, but the connection between the two movements is undeniable." ...

He's a liar," Trump said of Cruz, adding, "that's why nobody likes him, that's why his Senate people won't endorse him, that's why he stands in the middle of the Senate floor and can't make a deal with anybody."

He looks like a jerk, he's standing all by himself. And you know, there's something to say about having a little bit of ability to get other people to do things. You can't be a lone wolf and stand there. That's sort of what we have right now as a president.... I think actually, Ted is more strident than Obama, if you want to know the truth. Nobody gets along with Ted. At least some people like Obama. Nobody likes Ted. I don't find anybody that likes him. You talk to senators, I talk to senators who frankly want to come out and endorse me. -- Donald Trump, on Ted Cruz, speaking on "Morning Joe" today

Philip Rucker & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Ted Cruz, who established himself as Iowa's prohibitive favorite in early January with an intimidating show of force, is suddenly under siege one week before the caucuses as rival Republicans pummel him and as opposition to his presidential candidacy from the state’s political and business elite hardens." ...

... In Iowa, Ted Cruz's closing argument against Drumpfkovitch:

And as you know, Hugh, after Australia did that [gun buyback program], the rate of sexual assaults, the rate of rapes, went up significantly, because women were unable to defend themselves. -- Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show, January 12

The rate of sexual assaults in Australia has increased slightly between 1996 and 2014, but there was no significant spike or drop after the 1996 legislative changes or buyback program.... There's no evidence that changes to gun laws in Australia affected sexual assault rates or jeopardized the ability of women to protect themselves. -- Michelle Lee of the Washington Post

... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: Radio caller asked Heidi Cruz if she was sleeping with an immigrant.

Kyle Cheney & Daniel Strauss of Politico: "Chris Christie is touting his handling of this weekend's historic blizzard as another show of his prowess as a crisis manager and reason to make him the Republican nominee. But the New Jersey governor's political rivals are telling a different story, one of Christie's hasty return to the stump in New Hampshire while his administration is still determining the extent of storm damage back home.... The griping was aided by residents and business owners in southern New Jersey, where flooding damaged homes and businesses, who contended that Christie had downplayed the storm's impact when he said New Jersey had 'dodged a bullet' and saw little lingering flood damage." ...

... Tom Moran of the [New Jersey] Star-Ledger: "Gov. Chris Christie decreed on national TV [Monday] morning that the flood damage in South Jersey is a mirage.... As the governor spoke, the mayor of North Wildwood, Patrick Rosenello, was rushing around town Monday morning trying to clean up the mess that doesn't exist.... The governor seems to be losing his mind. He acts as if reality doesn't matter any more. In the last few weeks alone, he claimed that he abolished Common Core in New Jersey, that he never supported the nomination of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that he never suggesting taking in any Syrian refugees. All of that is provably untrue. He also denied giving money to Planned Parenthood, and that's probably another lie. But we can't be sure because the claim comes from an unreliable source -- Christie himself, in a 1994 interview with the Star-Ledger."

Congressional Race

Brendan O'Connor of Gawker: "On Monday, Zephyr Teachout, the anti-corruption activist who threatened Andrew Cuomo from the left in the 2014 gubernatorial Democratic primary, announced her candidacy for New York's 19th Congressional District." CW: A Republican, Chris Gibson, currently represents the district.

Beyond the Beltway

Alan Blinder & Ken Otterbourg of the New York Times: "The bitter dispute about North Carolina's elections laws returned to a federal courtroom [in Winston-Salem, N.C.,] on Monday as the state's voter identification requirement went on trial. The week's proceedings will affect election practices in North Carolina, a state that has been closely contested in recent years and where voting rules could play a part in deciding tight elections, from local races to the 15 electoral votes for president. Court rulings here could also provide an early glimpse at how the federal courts might examine balloting laws in the wake of the United States Supreme Court decision that, in 2013, upended a significant component of the Voting Rights Act."

Luke Hammill of the Oregonian: "The Burns Paiute Tribe has added its name to the chorus of voices growing impatient with the federal government's low-profile response to the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. In a letter dated Friday to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the tribe demanded that law enforcement officials stop allowing Arizona businessman Ammon Bundy and his supporters free passage to and from the federal bird sanctuary." The tribe is concerned about, among other things, the possibility of theft of tribal artifacts housed at the refuge." ...

... Jamie Williams of the Wilderness Society, in a Washington Post op-ed: "The extremists occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge may have thought they were 'taking back' seized land on behalf of local ranchers. In reality, these gun-toting intruders are attempting to seize land that belongs to all of us. Their actions are nothing less than an attack on the property and the rights of the American people.... A well-funded campaign to seize and sell or lease our national public lands is alive and well in many western state legislatures, where studies are being funded with taxpayer money to try to legitimize this idea. Extremists in legislatures in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, a href="http://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/13%20regular/bills/house/HB0292.PDF">New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming, for example, have pushed bills that would severely restrict or deny public access and recreation in our national lands. The effort to privatize our public lands is being driven in part by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization that relies heavily on financing by the Koch brothers and revenue from the extractive industries. Now the idea has attracted new supporters in Congress...."

Richard Winton & James Queally of the Los Angeles Times: "The escape from Orange County's largest jail probably took only a few minutes. But it took 16 hours for jailers to realize that three dangerous inmates had broken out of the Santa Ana lockup. This gap gave the men a huge head start on their pursuers, who on Monday continued a sweeping but unsuccessful dragnet."

Monica Davey & Mitch Smith of the New York Times: "A man who was fatally shot by the police in December as he emerged from a home with a baseball bat had called 911 seeking help from the police three times in the minutes before the shooting, but was met with curt dispatchers, according to audio of the calls made public on Monday. One of the dispatchers hung up on him when he was unwilling to elaborate on what was wrong.... [Quintonio] LeGrier ... was shot six times after the police pulled up outside his father's home a few minutes after the calls. Bettie Jones, a neighbor who had gone to answer a shared front door of the home, was also shot and killed. Ms. Jones was shot once in the chest, and the police have apologized for her death and said it was an accident."

One More Sarah Palin Thing. Jackie Kucinich of the Daily Beast: "According to Federal Election Commission reports, in the first six months of last year, Sarah PAC -- Palin's organization that purports to be dedicated 'to help[ing] elect principled, conservative leaders' spent $16,062 on a private charter in Jackson, Wyoming, $3,855 on a 'car and driver' in Long Island City, New York, and a total of $4,364 at La Playa Hotel in Naples, Florida. So as much as Palin rages against the Washington political machine, the consultant class and all the 'elites,' the spending by Sarah PAC shows that it remains the same lifestyle-fundin', consultant-payin' organization it has been since she launched it in 2009."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Abe Vigoda, the sad-faced actor who emerged from a workmanlike stage career to find belated fame in the 1970s as the earnest mobster Tessio in 'The Godfather' and the dyspeptic Detective Phil Fish on the hit sitcom 'Barney Miller,' died on Tuesday morning in Woodland Park, N.J. He was 94, having outlived by about 34 years an erroneous report of his death that made him a cult figure."

Washington Post: "Concepcion Picciotto, the protester who maintained a peace vigil outside the White House for more than three decades, a demonstration widely considered to be the longest-running act of political protest in U.S. history, died Jan. 25 at a housing facility operated by N Street Village, a nonprofit that supports homeless women in Washington. She was believed to be 80."

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