Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President commemorated Memorial Day by paying tribute to the men and women in uniform who have given their lives in service to our country":

The Ledes

Saturday, May 23, 2015.

New York Times: "The United States and China on Friday escalated their dispute over contested territory in the South China Sea, after the Chinese repeatedly ordered an American military surveillance plane to abandon flights over areas where China has been building artificial islands.The continued American surveillance flights in areas where China is creating new islands in the South China Sea are intended to challenge the Chinese government’s claims of expanded territorial sovereignty. Further raising the challenge, Pentagon officials said they were discussing sending warships into waters that the United States asserts are international and open to passage, but that China says are within its zone of control."

Washington Post: "The man convicted in the 2001 killing of federal intern Chandra Levy is likely to get a new trial after prosecutors on Friday dropped their long-standing opposition to defense efforts to have a new jury hear the case. Since 2013, attorneys for Ingmar Guandique, 34, have argued that a key witness in the 2010 trial had lied when he testified that Guandique, his onetime cellmate, confessed to him that he killed Levy."

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 22

10:00 am ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the U.S. Naval Academy commencement ceremony (audio only)

11:00 am ET: President Obama speaks at the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the Realtor.com page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

Guardian: "Allegations that a 17-year-old was forced to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew, which prompted a crisis at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, have been removed from a federal court case by a judge in the US. Judge Kenneth Marra ordered Virginia Roberts’s accusations about Andrew, the Duke of York, to be struck from the record and denied her attempt to join a lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the prince and a convicted sex offender. 'At this juncture in the proceedings, these lurid details are unnecessary,' Marra wrote in his order, issued at the US district court in southern Florida on Tuesday morning.... Andrew and Buckingham Palace vehemently deny Roberts’s allegations."

Washington Monthly: "Today [April 7] marks the centennial of Billie Holliday’s birth."

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-- Constant Weader

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Tuesday
May052015

The Commentariat -- May 6, 2015

Afternoon News

Dana Hedgpeth of the Washington Post: "Baltimore's Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday that she plans to put in place police body cameras by the end of the year and to have the Justice Department review whether the city's police department has a pattern of excessive force..... Also Wednesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan lifted Baltimore's state of emergency, which was imposed April 27 after violence erupted...." The New York Times story, by Stephen Babcock & Richard Perez-Pena, is here.

Fenit Nirappil of the AP: "California water regulators adopted sweeping, unprecedented restrictions Tuesday on how people, governments and businesses can use water amid the state's ongoing drought, hoping to push reluctant residents to deeper conservation."

Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times: "Facing a midnight deadline to form a government or step aside, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was under intense pressure on Wednesday from the conservative Jewish Home party over powerful ministerial posts and contentious policy positions. Mr. Netanyahu, who exulted in what looked like a strong mandate for a fourth term after the March 17 elections, instead was scrambling to form a coalition with the slimmest possible majority in Parliament. Many analysts said such a coalition would be able to do little and would be unlikely to last long."

*****

Dear Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, David Brooks & Other Ignorant Charlatans. Arloc Sherman & Danilo Trisi of the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities: "Previous analysis of Census data showed that safety net programs cut the poverty rate nearly in half. Recently released data from the Urban Institute, which correct for underreporting of key government benefits in the Census survey, reveal an even stronger impact: the safety net reduced the poverty rate from 29.1 percent to 13.8 percent in 2012 and lifted 48 million people above the poverty line, including 12 million children.... Correcting for underreporting reveals that the safety net also did more to reduce deep poverty than previously shown, although 11.2 million Americans remained below half the poverty line." Via Greg Sargent. ...

After a 50-year war on poverty and trillions of dollars spent, we still have the same poverty rates -- 45 million people in poverty. -- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), on "Face the Nation," May 3

... it seems odd to rely on a measure that does not include some of the most effective anti-poverty programs around, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. (In fact, Ryan has called for expanding the EITC.)... It's a bit slick for Ryan to suggest the war on poverty has been a failure while touting an improvement in an anti-poverty program that is not captured in the statistic he cites. -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post

Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker: Republicans carry their "I am not a scientist" meme into the budget, gutting NASA's earth science bill (which includes climate change research), the National Science Foundation's geoscience budget & the Department of Energy's energy research program. "The 'I'm not a scientist' line is basically a declaration of willed ignorance. You might think people entrusted by voters to craft public policy would be embarrassed to acknowledge ... that they have no idea what they're talking about, and don't want to."...

... Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times (May 1): "Living down to our worst expectations, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology voted Thursday to cut deeply into NASA's budget for Earth science, in a clear swipe at the study of climate change."

Sari Horwitz & Adam Goldman of the Washington Post: "The heavily armed gunmen who attacked a cartoon contest near Dallas over the weekend were probably inspired by the Islamic State, according to U.S. officials, who cautioned that they have so far seen no indication that the assailants were directed by the group."

Brendan James of TPM: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is not a linguist. 'Everything that starts with "Al" in the Middle East is bad news,' Graham said at a dinner in Boston on Monday with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, according to investigative journalist Uri Blau. Graham was referencing the Arabic word for 'the.'" ...

... The It-Was-a-Joke Excuse. Elahe Izadi of the Washington Post: "Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop ... said the al-being-bad-news line is a joke that's part of Graham's regular stump speech -- and one that he's told for many years."

Your Louie Gohmert News. Catherine Thompson of TPM: "Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Tuesday demanded that the U.S. military alter a planned training exercise that some conspiracy theorists believe is cover for a possible takeover of the Lone Star state. Gohmert said in a statement that he understands Texans' concerns that the exercise, dubbed 'Jade Helm 15,' may be a precursor for martial law. He directed his criticism specifically at what has been reported to be a map of the training exercise, which labels Texas, among other states, as 'hostile' territory." See today's Beyond the Beltway section for more crazy.

Presidential Race

Ed Kilgore: Palin-style victimization, self-pity & resentment have become widespread GOP tactics. "For a while there, she could do no wrong, since every misstep turned into an opportunity for a fresh grievance against the mockery of snooty elitists.... To a dangerous extent the whole party has absorbed some of the poison." Palin's best student: Mike Huckabee. ...

... Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "Mike Huckabee, who excited evangelical voters in his first presidential race in 2008 and retains much of their good will, announced on Tuesday that he will again seek the Republican nomination, despite a crowded field of rivals for his natural base in the party." ...

... Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: Huckabee's "biggest challenge will be trying to break through in a GOP field that is likely to include a dozen or more credible, well-financed contenders. Among them are some young, fresh faces, including Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Rand Paul (Ky.)." ...

... For that reason, Dana Milbank says that Huckabee doesn't have a chance. CW: Nobody except Huck thinks he does, but if he is allowed to debate, his relatively populist message should skewer other GOP candidates. ...

... As Maggie Haberman writes in today's New York Times, "... [Huckabee's] stark language [supporting Social Security & Medicare] signals that the issue could become a politically delicate flash point at coming Republican debates, putting his opponents on the defensive on a bread-and-butter issue." ...

... Roger Simon of Politico says Mike Huckabee has gone from Mr. Nice Guy (2008) to a guy "who will eat nails and spit out tacks." Also, too, Simon notes that Huckabee's poor-mouthing is a tad hypocritical: "He did not mention, however, a New York Times story from last month that revealed that a well-known Iowa political operative had formed a Huckabee super PAC 'with the ability to raise unlimited donations to support the former Arkansas governor.'” So maybe we don't have to worry, a la Milbank & Tumulty, that Poor Huck will come up short. ...

... Which candidates will be invited to the debate is up in the air, as the Republican National Committee, Fox "News" & CNN are all trying to figure out a seating arrangement & the length of the first debates, according to Zeke Miller of Time. ...

... Elena Schneider of Politico: "The Democratic National Committee announced Tuesday that they will sanction six presidential debates beginning this fall, giving Hillary Clinton's challengers a limited number of chances to confront the former secretary of state on the debate stage." ...

... Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "At a campaign event [in Las Vegas, Nevada], Mrs. Clinton, surrounded by children whose parents faced deportation, called for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.... She also sharply criticized Republican presidential candidates who favor granting legal status for some undocumented immigrants, but oppose citizenship. 'When they talk about "legal status," that is code for "second-class status,"' Mrs. Clinton said." ...

... Slick Willie. Amy Davidson of the New Yorker: "How much money does Bill Clinton need?" Davidson has some suggestions on how Bill should reduce his ethical lapses. CW: My guess is that he won't follow Davidson's prescription.

Congressional Election

Alexander Burns of the New York Times: "The Staten Island district attorney, Daniel M. Donovan Jr., whose office investigated the chokehold death of Eric Garner in a struggle with the police last year, easily won a special election for the House of Representatives on Tuesday, according to unofficial results."

Beyond the Beltway

Jon Swaine & Oliver Laughland of the Guardian: "The Baltimore police lieutenant charged with the manslaughter of Freddie Gray allegedly threatened to kill himself and the husband of his former partner, during incidents that led to him being disciplined and twice having his guns confiscated. Brian Rice, who pursued and arrested Gray after the 25-year-old 'caught his eye' on 12 April, was reportedly given an administrative suspension after being hospitalised for a mental health evaluation when he warned he was preparing to shoot himself in April 2012." ...

... Juliet Linderman of the AP: "One of the Baltimore police officers who arrested Freddie Gray wants the police department and prosecutor to produce a knife that was the reason for the arrest, saying in court papers that it is an illegal weapon. The city's top prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, said Friday in charging the officer and five others that the knife was legal under Maryland law, meaning they had arrested Gray illegally. The motion was filed Monday by attorneys for Officer Edward Nero in Baltimore District Court."

Catherine Thompson of TPM runs down the set of conspiracy theories swirling around what is a routine military exercise. CW: Liberals really must stop arguing that confederates are stuck in the mud because they lack imagination. ...

By Jan Sorensen for Daily Kos.... Jan Sorensen: "Fears are so widespread that Wal-Mart literally just issued a statement denying involvement in a U.S. military invasion of Texas."

Kate Irby of the Bradenton (Florida) Herald: "After only 15 minutes of deliberation, a jury Monday found a couple guilty of having sex on Bradenton Beach. The convictions carry maximum prison sentences of 15 years." Prosecutors are seeking the maximum penalty against Jose Caballero because he "spent almost eight years in prison for a cocaine-trafficking conviction.... Caballero and [Elissa] Alvarez will now have to register as sex offenders." The defense attorney "said the judge would have no discretion" to reduce the sentence. ...

... CW: Okay, it's in bad taste to have sex in a public place, but 15 years? That's not only a stupid waste of taxpayer money, it's far more morally reprehensible than the crime itself. In addition, I'll bet most people have been "guilty" of this particular crime. Why, here's a list of 15 celebrities who reportedly had sex in various public places. Somehow, they managed to avoid jail time.

Way Beyond

A Tar Sands Eruption. Ian Austen of the New York Times: "With an economy dominated by the oil industry and a conservative, free-market political tradition, Alberta has long been cast as the Texas of Canada. But on Tuesday night, not only did the province's voters put the Progressive Conservative Party out of power after 43 years, they elected a government from the far left of Canada's mainstream political spectrum.... The defeat of the Conservatives followed a budget crisis brought on by declining oil prices. Six months ago, the party brought in Jim Prentice, a former member of [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper's federal cabinet, to replace a leader who had been accused of profligate personal spending."

Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "... in the final days of an unexpectedly tight contest with Labor Party leader Ed Miliband, [Britain's Prime Minister David] Cameron has been letting it rip.... Polls suggest the Tories are likely to win more seats than Labor but may not have the support needed from smaller parties to form a government in a year when the British electorate has fractured as never before." ...

... Alex Massie & Rebecca Hendin in Politico Magazine: "On Thursday, British voters will go to the polls to elect a new prime minister. Most Americans don't have a clue that a British election is underway, much less who the candidates are or what they represent. Thankfully, illustrator Rebecca Hendin, an American living in Britain, and Alex Massie, a British writer, have created a handy guide to the current crop of British candidates, translating the British election into convenient American terms." CW: Yes indeedy, cartoons are the appropriate means to explain things to us ignorant Americans. Thanks, Politico!

News Ledes

New York Times: "Jim Wright, a driven Texas Democrat who rose to the pinnacle of congressional power before ethics charges forced his resignation as speaker of the House in 1989, died on Wednesday in Fort Worth. He was 92." Wright's Washington Post obituary is here.

Reuters: "The return of passenger ferry services between the United States and Cuba took a major step forward on Tuesday when the Treasury Department issued licenses to at least two U.S. companies."

Guardian: "The Germanwings co-pilot who deliberately crashed a plane in the French Alps in March, killing all 150 people on board, put the aircraft into a descent on the previous flight, according to the German newspaper Bild."

Monday
May042015

The Commentariat -- May 5, 2015

If you're reading Reality Chex only for news & commentary published elsewhere, you're missing the best part: Reality Chex commentary. Yesterday's thread provides a typical example, from the profound, to the informational, to the silly -- "Akhilleus: Freeedom has 3 eee's" -- it's all great stuff (not Great Stuff, although, like the product, Reality Chex commenters do fill in the gaps, albeit not with synthetics & empty airspace). -- Constant Weader

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "In the aftermath of racially charged unrest in places like Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., and New York, Mr. Obama came to the Bronx on Monday for the announcement of a new nonprofit organization that is being spun off from his White House initiative called My Brother's Keeper. Staked by more than $80 million in commitments from corporations and other donors, the new group, My Brother's Keeper Alliance, will in effect provide the nucleus for Mr. Obama's post-presidency, which will begin in January 2017":

... AP: "President Barack Obama is envisioning a future of playing dominoes with retiree David Letterman. Obama joked about their quieter futures during his eighth Late Show appearance Monday, saying Americans have grown up with the veteran comedian":

Peter Baker & Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "President Obama plans on Tuesday to name Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., a former top commander in Afghanistan who now serves as commandant of the Marine Corps, to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to officials briefed on the selection." The Senate must confirm his nomination. ...

... The Washington Post story, by Missy Ryan & Dan Lamothe, is here.

Seth Borenstein of the AP: "The Obama Administration's hotly debated plan to reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the nation's power plants will save about 3,500 lives a year by cutting back on other types of pollution as well, a new independent study concludes. A study from Harvard and Syracuse University calculates the decline in heart attacks and lung disease when soot and smog are reduced -- an anticipated byproduct of the president's proposed power plant rule, which aims to fight global warming by limiting carbon dioxide emissions." CW: Who cares if the EPA plan is saving thousands of people's lives? It's a jobs killer! Also, too, university studies are just liberal elite bunk trumped up to defeat the sacred Republican policy bible.

Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "A pilot program created under ObamaCare to change Medicare's payment system saved almost $400 million and will be expanded, the administration announced Monday. The pilot program, called Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations, is part of an effort to shift Medicare to paying for quality instead of quantity of care." See also Steve Benen on Chuck Todd's interview of John Boehner under Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. below. ...

... Looks like Boehner was at least partially right about one thing. American College of Emergency Physicians: "Three-quarters of emergency physicians report that emergency visits are going up, according to a new poll. This represents a significant increase from just one year ago when less than half reported increases."

** Alexandra Stevenson of the New York Times: "The top 25 hedge fund managers reaped $11.62 billion in compensation in 2014.... That collective payday came even as hedge funds, once high-octane money makers, returned on average low-single digits. In comparison, the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500-stock index posted a gain of 13.68 percent last year when reinvested dividends were included.... For investors, 2014 was the sixth consecutive year that hedge funds have fallen short of stock market performance, returning only 3 percent on average...." ...

... CW: AND, as NYT commenter R. Law writes, "It's pitiful that these people are also taxed at the low low low carried interest rate, and that GOP'ers are clamoring to make sure they never have to pay any estate taxes either."

Manny Fernandez, et al., of the New York Times make an effort to profile Elton Simpson, 30, and Nadir Hamid Soofi, 34, who were shot dead by an off-duty traffic officer who was working security for "a gathering that showcased artwork and cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad." ...

... AP: "The Islamic State group claimed responsibility on Tuesday for a weekend attack at a centre near Dallas, Texas, exhibiting cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.... The statement did not provide details and it was unclear whether the group was opportunistically claiming the attack as its own. It is the first time that Isis, which frequently calls for attacks against the west, has claimed responsibility for one in the United States." ...

... Dean Obeidallah of the Daily Beast: "Anti-Muslim advocate Pam Geller has the absolute right to draw any cartoon she wants of the Prophet Muhammad. That was not just the response from Muslim-American leaders I spoke to after news broke Sunday night of a shooting outside a Garland, Texas, event that Geller had organized -- offering $10,000 for people to draw images of Muhammad -- but before that event as well.... American Muslims deeply value freedom of expression.... We [Muslims] are used to Geller, a person who has been denounced by both the Anti-Defamation league and the Southern Poverty Law Center for her anti-Muslim hate.... Geller is so over-the-top in her rabid hatred of Muslims that she has become a punchline in our community." ...

... Cops Need More Weapons of War! Ben Kamisar of the Hill: "Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) criticized Hillary Clinton for her recent comments on criminal justice reform in light of the Sunday night shooting at a Texas event holding a contest to draw the Prophet Mohammed. 'When people like Hillary Clinton say that police should not have weapons of war, the fact is, we are at war; we are at war with Islamist terrorism, and we have to have all weapons and all resources available,' he said Monday morning on Fox News's 'Fox and Friends.'" CW: Spoken like a true IRA gunrunner, which he was.

You know, I understand the concern that's been raised by a lot of citizens about Jade Helm. It's a question I'm getting a lot. And I think part of the reason is, we have seen for six years a federal government disrespecting the liberty of the citizens, and that produces fear. When you see a federal government that is attacking our free speech rights, our religious liberty rights, our Second Amendment rights, that produces distrust as to government. -- Neophyte Sen. & Professional Fearmonger Ted Cruz, who thinks he should be the POTUS

Paul Krugman: "... in certain circles, the big thing has been the right-wing belief that operation Jade Helm 15, a military training exercise in Texas, is a cover for Obama to seize control of the state and force its citizens to accept universal health care at gunpoint. No, really -- and this is being taken seriously both by Ted Cruz and by the governor, who has ordered the National Guard to keep a watch on the feds and their possibly nefarious activities.... You should think of the panic over the attack of the Obamacare black helicopters as being part of a continuum that runs through inflation truthers like Niall Ferguson and Amity Shlaes, who insist that the government is cooking the economic books, to QE conspiracy theorists like (sadly) John Taylor and Paul Ryan declaring that Bernanke only did it to bail out Obama, to the more general prevalence of inflation derp, the insistence that Weimar is just around the corner despite six or more years of failed predictions. There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear (although I have some ideas I'll flesh out soon.) But it's quite remarkable, and pretty scary." ...

... James Rosen of McClatchy News: "The Pentagon has a message for Texas: chill. Defense officials Monday dismissed as 'wild speculation' an Internet-fueled claim that a massive summertime exercise called Jade Helm 15 for special operations commandos is a covert operation by President Barack Obama to take over Texas. That claim was given legitimacy by Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott's order last week for the Texas State Guard to monitor the exercises.... The Texas State Guard said Monday it would follow Abbot's order." ...

... Freeedom! Ahiza Garcia of TPM: "Actor Chuck Norris, who has become a prominent conservative activist, published a column on the conspiracy theory website WND that told readers not to trust what the federal government has been saying about a military training exercise known as Jade Helm 15." ...

... Steve M.: Norris's nutty conspiracy theories -- he has a lot of them -- do not make "Norris so fringy that high-level right-wing politicians would no longer consort with him. Hardly anything is too fringy on the right." ...

... CW: To me the most revelatory part of Norris's crazy is learning that a tinfoil hat fits neatly under the brim of a Texas Ranger's Stetson Diamond Jim.

** Lincoln Caplan has a terrific essay in the American Prospect on the "Junior Justice," Elena Kagan. Caplan focuses on Kagan's written opinions, which exhibit both excellent prose & reasoning. The American public is her intended audience.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "Fox News erroneously reported that Baltimore police shot a man Monday in the same neighborhood where unrest broke out last week -- a mistake quickly corrected by the news network. The midafternoon report by correspondent Mike Tobin, which also found its way onto Foxnews.com, was potentially dangerous, given the elevated tensions in Baltimore's Sandtown section.... Tobin's report caused about 30 minutes of unease in Baltimore before Fox anchor Shepard Smith went on-air to correct the story and apologize for the incorrect information. His apology followed a statement from Baltimore police that there had been no shooting."

CW: Steve Benen faults John Boehner for not getting his facts right on ObamaCare. Because Benen works for NBC, he doesn't fault Chuck Todd for letting Boehner get away with making up stuff. You can watch the interview here. The Q&A Benen discusses begins at about 5 min. in. Chuck is supposed to be a policy wonk, but it's clear he does nothing but ask prepared questions & is unable or unwilling to make Boehner -- or any Republican -- back up his claims.

Presidential Race

David Lerman of Bloomberg: "'We are not aware of any evidence that actions taken by Secretary Clinton were influenced by donations to the Clinton Foundation or speech or honoraria of former President Clinton,' [State Department] spokesman, Jeff Rathke, told reporters on Monday in Washington. 'Over the course of Secretary Clinton's tenure, the State Department received requests to review dozens of entities each year, primarily for proposed speeches' by former President Bill Clinton, and 'we are aware of no evidence that there was undue influence.'" ...

... Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "Undocumented immigrants must have a chance for full citizenship under overhaul of the immigration system, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton will demand Tuesday." ...

... Erica Werner of the AP: "Hillary Rodham Clinton is willing to testify once on Capitol Hill later this month about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and her email practices during her tenure as secretary of state, her attorney told lawmakers in a letter Monday. Lawyer David Kendall said the Democratic presidential candidate would appear for only one session the week of May 18 or later, not twice as requested by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C...." Worth remembering, the former acting CIA chief David Morrell argues that "Republicans, in their eagerness to politicize the killing of the American ambassador to Libya, repeatedly distorted the agency's analysis of events" (also linked yesterday).

Bill Press in the Hill: "Win or lose, [Bernie Sanders] will have a profound, positive impact on the Democratic race for president in 2016." ...

... Bill Curry in Salon: "Of Bernie Sanders’ first 20 races, many were just as hard as this one. Some were truly impossible; in his first four he finished in single digits. Yet each campaign helped build a movement that would eventually transform Vermont into the enlightened place it is today. You can't get more serious than that. Wouldn't it be great to put America on a path like the one Vermont took?" Thanks to Janice for the link. See also her commentary in today's thread.

The Freeedom to Be Stuck in a Low-Paying Job. Alice Ollstein of Think Progress: "In a recent interview with Radio Iowa, [Scott] Walker said he would champion a federal version of the controversial 'right-to-work' law he signed earlier this year. 'As much as I think the federal government should get out of most of what it's in right now, I think establishing fundamental freedoms for the American people is a legitimate thing and that would be something that would provide that opportunity in the other half of America to people who don't have those opportunities today,' he said.... Several studies have also found that 'right-to-work' laws result in lower wages and a lower likelihood of health care and pensions for all workers, both union and non-union." ...

... Warning: Not to be read after a meal. Patrick Healy & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "For Republicans who are disappointed that [Paul] Ryan has decided not to run for president in 2016, [Scott] Walker is offering himself as the next big thing (if not the next best thing) to come out of southern Wisconsin: a kindred spirit who talks politics and trades prayers with Mr. Ryan in phone calls and frequent text messages."

Dana Milbank: "Ben Carson, who formally announced his run for the presidency Monday, is a brilliant surgeon, gifted storyteller and charismatic speaker. But modesty is not among his talents. The retired Johns Hopkins professor's launch video, nearly five minutes long, positions the aspiring Republican presidential nominee right alongside Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.... Carson's version of the truth and his irrepressible ego are going to make 2016 a whole lot more entertaining."

Beyond the Beltway

Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post: "The City of Cleveland has asked the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot and killed while he played with a toy gun in a Westside park in November, to halt their civil lawsuit until the official investigation has concluded.... In a court filing dated Monday, Rice's family said they cannot agree to hold off on their lawsuit until the investigation is complete in part because they are worried that crucial evidence could be lost.... Rice's mother, the motion goes on to state, has moved into a homeless shelter."

News Lede

AP: "John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has made an unannounced and unprecedented trip to Somalia in a show of solidarity with a government trying to defeat al-Qaida-allied militants and end decades of war."

Monday
May042015

The Commentariat -- May 4, 2015

Lousy artwork via New York mag.Paul Krugman: "... much though by no means all of the horror one sees in Baltimore and many other places is really about class, about the devastating effects of extreme and rising inequality." Here I'll pause to mention that my fatuous colleague David Brooks is a liar and/or an ignoramus: "And it's also disheartening to see commentators still purveying another debunked myth, that we've spent vast sums fighting poverty to no avail (because of values, you see.) In reality, federal spending on means-tested programs other than Medicaid has fluctuated between 1 and 2 percent of G.D.P. for decades, going up in recessions and down in recoveries.... The poor don't need lectures on morality, they need more resources -- which we can afford to provide -- and better economic opportunities.... Baltimore, and America, don't have to be as unjust as they are." ...

     ... Why, Jonathan Chait sees a Brooks connection, too! "Tune in next week to see if the world's longest argument nobody will admit is taking place continues."

... David Leonhardt, et al., of the New York Times: "Based on the earnings records of millions of families that moved with children, it finds that poor children who grow up in some cities and towns have sharply better odds of escaping poverty than similar poor children elsewhere. The feelings heard across Baltimore's recent protests -- of being trapped in poverty -- seem to be backed up by the new data [from a large study]. Among the nation's 100 largest counties, the one where children face the worst odds of escaping poverty is the city of Baltimore, the study found. ...

... ** Nicholas Kristof: "Just the annual bonuses for just the sliver of Americans who work just in finance just in New York City dwarfed the combined year-round earnings of all Americans earning the federal minimum wage.... The roots of inequality are complex and, to some extent, reflect global forces, but they also reflect our policy choices.... We as a nation have chosen to prioritize tax shelters over minimum wages, subsidies for private jets over robust services for children to break the cycle of poverty."

Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker: "With the exception of the riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., every major riot by the black community of an American city since the Second World War has been ignited by a single issue: police tactics.

"The Milwaukee Experiment." Jeff Toobin writes an excellent piece for the New Yorker on our racist "justice" system & presents evidence that prosecutors, who wield tremendous power, are just as responsible for racially disparate prosecutions as are the police. Also, too, judges & legislators -- including our little friend Scott Walker. Just one more reason Scottie would be a horrible POTUS. But as the reform prosecutor John Chisholm of Milwaukee acknowledges: "poverty, hopelessness, lack of education, drug addiction, and the easy availability of guns" are beyond the control of prosecutors. See Krugman. "Where we're at" can be laid at the feet of knee-jerk "law & order" advocates like Walker.

Alan Blinder, et al., of the New York Times: "In a pair of gestures on Sunday that suggested that [Baltimore] ... was staggering toward normalcy, the National Guard began to pull its troops from Baltimore, and the mayor lifted a curfew that, after several days of relative calm, had come under mounting criticism."

Yastreblyansky whacks both David Brooks & "Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street. Brooks addressing the fattened ex-liberal looking for reasons to hate teachers, Douthat addressing the movement conservative looking for ways to sound less like an illiterate yahoo.... The right's pseudo-intellectual critique of public sector unions is illustrated only by the police (and to a lesser extent the staffs of correctional institutions), because they're the only ones eagerly supported by conservative politicians and placated by terrorized liberal ones afraid of being stigmatized as pro-criminal. Teachers, health inspectors, tax assessors, even firefighters don't get this kind of backing from anybody.... It's the conservatism that makes the police forces abusive, and nothing less." ...

...Boyz Will Be Boyz. Steve M.: "Let's look at a few other institutions where we utterly lack the national will to regulated or deter misconduct. Think of Wall Street.... Look at rape in the military, or among college athletes.... All the institutions I've just named have something in common with the police: They're overwhelmingly male cultures that represent what conservatives consider the best of traditional masculinity. (And you could add that they're cultures believed to be antithetical to liberalism, which makes them even more admirable to conservatives.) We're reluctant to hold the bad actors in these cultures responsible for their crimes because we think they're real men, and only wussy metrosexual liberals are unmoved by their real maleness."

Heather of Crooks & Liars: Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel blames teachers' unions for Baltimore's problems. (Also, thanks, Chuck Todd, for your excellent "both sides equality.") CW: Yeah, teachers, unions. I knew police brutality & raging poverty was their fault.

David Sanger of the New York Times: Michael Morrell, "the former deputy director of the C.I.A., asserts in a forthcoming book that Republicans, in their eagerness to politicize the killing of the American ambassador to Libya, repeatedly distorted the agency's analysis of events. But he also argues that the C.I.A. should get out of the business of providing 'talking points' for administration officials in national security events that quickly become partisan, as happened after the Benghazi attack in 2012.

Joanna Rothkopf of Salon rounds up some of the worst confederate reactions to the attack on the anti-Muslim group meeting in Garland, Texas. See today's News Ledes.

Presidential Race

Adrian Carrasquillo of BuzzFeed: Hillary "Clinton's first 2016 foray into proving her immigration bonafides to activists will begin on Tuesday at a roundtable event at Rancho High School in Las Vegas, [Nevada,] where she is expected to affirm her support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, say she supports the president's executive actions, and call out the Republican field for their shortcomings on the issue, sources familiar with the event told BuzzFeed News." ...

... Tom Hamburger, et al., of the Washington Post: Frank "Giustra, 57, a Vancouver, B.C.-based mogul whose eclectic business interests include founding Lionsgate Entertainment and investing in gold mines and an olive oil company, has come to symbolize a relatively new butsubstantial category of Clinton backers: foreign donors who are not legally eligible to contribute to U.S. political candidates but grew close to the Clintons through the charity.... Giustra's donations [to the Clinton Foundation], and others from his friends in the international mining business, are becoming a factor in Hillary Clinton's campaign." ...

... Jaime Fuller of New York: "Bill Clinton, who is currently traveling in Africa, did an interview with NBC News to defend the Clinton Foundation, saying his organization had never done anything 'knowingly inappropriate.' He said Hillary told him, 'No one has ever tried to influence me by helping you.' The former president also defended his hefty speaking fees, saying, 'People like to hear me speak,' and 'I gotta pay our bills.'" CW: Because we buy millions & millions of dollars of pretty things. Okay then. ...

... The interview, with Cynthia McFadden, is here.

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley said Sunday that he will announce his presidential campaign in riot-scarred Baltimore if he moves forward with a White House bid.... The tenure of O'Malley, who served as Baltimore's mayor between 1999 and 2007, has come under intense scrutiny since rioting broke out after the funeral of Freddie Gray...."

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Carly Fiorina [will be] announcing her long-shot bid for the Republican nomination Monday morning and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas set to announce his own on Tuesday. Ben Carson announced his bid on Sunday night." ...

... CW: Well, Carson accidentally announced his candidacy last night. ...

... Robert Samuels of the Washington Post: "For many young African Americans who grew up seeing Carson as the embodiment of black achievement -- a poor inner-city boy who became one of the world's most accomplished neurosurgeons -- his emergence as a conservative hero and unabashed critic of the United States' first black president has been jarring. Carson has been a black icon since 1987, when he became the first person to successfully separate twins conjoined at the backs of their heads. He was a rare and much-desired role model...."

News Ledes

CBS New York: "An NYPD officer died Monday, two days after being shot in the head while sitting in an unmarked squad car in Queens. Officer Brian Moore, 25, was in a medically induced coma after undergoing surgery shortly after the incident in Queens Village.... He was removed from life support at 11:15 a.m. Monday, sources said."

New York Times: "Dave Goldberg, the chief executive of SurveyMonkey and husband of Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, died of head trauma Friday night after he collapsed at the gym at a private resort in Mexico, according to a Mexican government official."

New York Times: "Two gunmen were killed after they opened fire Sunday evening outside an event hosted by an anti-Islam group in Garland, Tex., featuring cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, local officials said. According to the authorities, the two assailants shot a security guard and were, in turn, shot and killed by police officers. Officials did not name the gunmen or assign a motive for the attack. A spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Dallas said the agency was providing investigative and bomb technician assistance to the Garland police." ...

     ... CW: Expect Fox "News" to handle this in their usual professional manner. ...

     ... ABC News: "One of the suspects in the shooting in Garland, Texas, late Sunday has been identified as Elton Simpson, an Arizona man who was previously the subject of a terror investigation, according to a senior FBI official." Simpson's roommate is believed to be the other shooter. Simpson was on the no-fly list.

Friday
May012015

The Commentariat -- May 2 & 3

Lynh Bui & Dana Hedgpeth of the Washington Post: "Six Baltimore police officers have been charged with several counts, including one who was charged with second-degree murder, in the high-profile death of Freddie Gray, who died from injuries suffered in police custody, State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said Friday. Mosby said warrants have been issued for the arrest of the officers, including a lieutenant and a sergeant. Gray suffered a spinal injury after he was arrested April 12 and died after riding in a police transport van that made several stops. The charges against some of the officers include involuntary manslaughter, assault, failure to render aid and other counts." The Post is liveblogging events following the charges. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Paul Waldman: "Perhaps this prosecution -- and whatever reforms might happen in the near future -- would have occurred if the protests had stayed peaceful. There's no way to know for sure. But you don't have to approve of rioting to acknowledge that in this case it may well have led to results." ...

... Gene Robinson: "Police had no legitimate reason to arrest [Freddie Gray] in the first place. The ostensible charge against Gray -- that he had an illegal switchblade -- was false, according to Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby. The folding knife found in his pocket was of a design that is perfectly legal under Maryland law, Mosby said.... Now does everyone understand the anger in Baltimore?" ...

... Christopher Hooton of the Independent: "Kevin Moore, the man who filmed Freddie Gray's brutal arrest, has now himself been arrested following 'harassment and intimidation' from Baltimore police. Moore was arrested at gunpoint last night along with two other members of Cop Watch, a group dedicated to filming and documenting police work.... Moore claims that despite having co-operated with two detectives in the Baltimore Police Department's Office of Internal Oversight and given them the video, police posted his photo and told the public that he was 'wanted for questioning', asking people to identify him." ...

     ... Carimah Townes of Think Progress: "Moore says he was protesting with Ferguson cop watchers on North Avenue, shouting obscenities and wearing an Anonymous mask. Once the group left, officers arrested them without issuing a citation or explaining what the charges were." ...

... Nikita Stewart & Richard Fausset of the New York Times: "All over Baltimore in the early hours after Ms. Mosby's speech, residents found themselves gripped by unexpected emotion. Crowds of young men who had spent the past few days and nights protesting in anger were instead smiling, bounding up and down, shouting 'Freddie, Freddie, Freddie!' Drivers honked their horns; teenagers pumped their fists. Some residents even found a way to play a recording of Ms. Mosby's speech, outside to passing crowds."

... Margaret Hartmann: "The other prisoner [who rode in the van for a short time with Freddie Gray], 22-year-old Donta Allen, came forward on Thursday and confirmed that he heard banging when he got in the van.... But in an interview with WJZ, Allen said police are misconstruing his words, and he's angry that the report was leaked. 'They trying to make it seem like I told them that, I made it like Freddie Gray did that to hisself [sic],' he said. 'Why the [expletive] would he do that to hisself?'... Allen claims that when they got to the station, he heard police say, 'We got him, we gave him a run for his money.'" ...

... MEANWHILE. Steve M.: "The right has a new Eric Holder." Congratulations, Marilyn Mosby. CW: Whew! Just when you thought wingers wouldn't know what to do when Eric Holder left the building way last week.

Joe Davidson of the Washington Post: "The House and Senate Republican budget plan announced this week would continue hits on government workers, as expected, with cuts that could lighten their wallets by up to $194 billion..... Given the [House Oversight C]ommittee's oversight, however, federal pension benefits and the Federal Employees Health Benefits program are likely targets." CW: A budget President Walker would love.

Department of Transportation: "U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced a final rule for the safe transportation of flammable liquids by rail. The final rule, developed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), in coordination with Canada, focuses on safety improvements that are designed to prevent accidents, mitigate consequences in the event of an accident, and support emergency response."

Tina Nguyen of Mediaite: "In the past few months, the Capitol Hill Police has recorded at least three instances where their officers accidentally left their loaded Glocks in bathrooms.... Roll Call, which broke this mindblowing tale of stupidity, reports that two of the guns were found in the Capitol office complexes itself: one in the bathroom of the Capitol Visitors Center, casually wedged into a toilet seat cover dispenser. One was reportedly picked up by an 8-year-old boy touring Speaker John Boehner's office with his parents. (Let's repeat that: An 8-year-old tourist found a Glock in Boehner's office.) The third Glock was discovered casually chilling in the open at the Capitol Police headquarters building." ...

... Hannah Hess of Roll Call: "Unlike a gun with a traditional safety, a Glock will fire if the trigger is pulled -- making the young boy's alleged discovery of a gun in Boehner's office particularly concerning."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Jonathan Chait: "Now that he is no longer the chairman of the Federal Reserve and is now a blogger, Ben Bernanke is free to point out certain obvious truths he couldn't say previously, such as the fact that The Wall Street Journal editorial page is run by crazy people. Bernanke is not quite putting it in those terms, alas, but his blogging career is young. In response to a Journal editorial calling for higher interest rates to tame inflation, Bernanke notes that the Journal has been wrongly forecasting higher inflation for nine years now." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Annie Lowrey of New York: "David Brooks is not buying your excuses, poor people.... I am going to leave the reductive argument about social norms and social mobility aside. Nobody should take it seriously, particularly not when it is based on a bizarre misreading of federal data on poverty." ...

... Dean Baker has an excellent explanation of why Brooks is "just mak[ing] crap up...." ...

     ... CW BTW: Pretty much everything Baker explains was available to Brooks on the Internets long before he made up this crap. For instance, here, where Glenn Kessler gives 3 Pinocchios to a similar analysis by Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. or in this PolitiFact rebuttal to Very Serious Budget Guru Paul Ryan.

... Sean Illing of Slate: "For Brooks, the problem with poor people is that they're immoral. It's not because they're structurally disadvantaged, or because their local economies have collapsed, or because jobs have been shipped overseas, or because they attended chaotic schools, or because their parents worked multiple jobs for unlivable wages, or because the material demands of existence occupy the bulk of their time. Nope, it's because of poor 'social psychology.' That's the kind of explanation that could only be offered by someone oblivious to his own advantages. And Brooks has been peddling it for years." ...

... Driftglass: "The astute reader will note that whenever Mr. Brooks lectures gassily and from far, far away about the plight of The Poors, he is never shy about using his amazing moral x-ray vision to penetrate their lives and communities and pronounce judgement on these children of a lesser God." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Sad thing is no telling how many people will read Brooks' column and whether or not they absorb the exact numbers or understand their misleading character, they'll retain the vague impression that everybody knows you could cash out anti-poverty programs and save everybody a lot of money -- or hell, maybe just kill the programs outright and keep the change instead of giving it to po' folks who are incorrigible unless somebody gets in there and makes them behave." ...

... CW: I've said it before, & I'll say it again. David Brooks is the reincarnation of the Peter Sellers character, Chauncey Gardner, "the soft-headed Washington, D.C. gardener who is mistaken for an insightful businessman, and whose 'simple brand of wisdom' is misread as profundity." But Brooks, of course, is way meaner. A thanks to the writers cited above who don't "just make crap up." Brooks is a disgrace.

Presidential Race

Thomas Zambito of NJ.com: "Former Port Authority executive David Wildstein pleaded guilty Friday to his role in the politically-motivated closure of local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge. Wildstein, 53, admitted in federal court to conspiring with former Port Authority Deputy Director Bill Baroni and Gov. Chris Christie's former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly to 'punish' Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie in his re-election bid." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Kate Zernicke & Marc Santora of the New York Times: "After a 16-month federal investigation into the George Washington Bridge lane closings scandal, a judge in New Jersey on Friday unsealed indictments of two people close to Gov. Chris Christie, outlining a conspiracy to exact political vengeance against a local mayor for his failure to offer political support to the governor. Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Bridget Anne Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff to Mr. Christie, were charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to commit fraud, including 'knowingly converting and intentionally misapplying property of an organization receiving federal benefits.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Kate Zernicke: "... an indictment released by federal prosecutors in New Jersey on Friday fills out in more detail the specifics of how and why [for the bridge closing], presenting the lengths three accused conspirators ... went to, and the delight they took, in concocting their scheme and the sham story to cover it up.... The fine-grained intricacies laid out in the legal papers show the three plotting like petulant and juvenile pranksters, using government resources, time and personnel to punish a public official whose sole offense was failing to endorse their political patron. The three were in constant contact, brazenly using government emails, their tone sometimes almost giddy." The indictment also alleges (with plenty of written corroboration) that Wildstein, with the help of other unwitting PA personnel, developed plans to maximize the impact of the closing & blame Mayor Sokolich. ...

... Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "Nowhere does the indictment say Mr. Christie, a Republican, knew of the scheme or was involved in it. Yet it was a crime of political vengeance, the indictment makes clear, that was conceived in furtherance of Mr. Christie's political ambitions, and carried out in his name.... Mr. Christie faces the specter of a lengthy and embarrassing criminal trial overshadowing the 2016 presidential campaign, in which the star witness -- David Wildstein ... still maintains the governor was aware of the lane-closing plot as it happened. Even so, Mr. Christie treated the outcome of the federal investigation as a personal exoneration." ...

... New York Times Editors: "Mr. Christie can't slough these problems off on hired hands. They belong to the man in charge. [The] behavior [of his subordinates] shows Mr. Christie's inability to choose employees, to manage them and, most important, to keep them from abusing their power. His failure to do so created a culture that allowed his underlings to bully the mayor of Fort Lee.... While Mr. Christie was in Virginia on Friday morning talking about the need for trust and truth in government, Mr. Wildstein was in federal court in Newark pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and 'conspiracy against civil rights' of residents caught in the traffic jam."

... Harry Enten of 538: "Chris Christie's access lanes to the the GOP nomination are closed.... Whether or not Christie is ever charged, his position in the presidential race is already even worse than we thought it was at the beginning of the year."

Let the Gadfly Soar. Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "On Friday, the [Bernie] Sanders campaign announced that it has raised more than $1.5 million online in the 24 hours since he announced his candidacy. It is a surprisingly heavy haul for a candidate whom some in the Democratic chattering class have cast off as a gadfly...." ...

... Gail Collins: "Question: Sanders self-identifies as a 'democratic socialist.' Aren't people going to think that's a little extreme? Answer: This week, the governor of Texas announced he was putting a special watch on U.S. military exercises this summer, due to public speculation that the soldiers might take over the state and confiscate everyone's guns. Also, the Idaho Legislature recently killed a bill that would have provided federal aid in tracking down deadbeat dads, due to concern that it might involve the use of Shariah law. I do not want to hear you calling Bernie Sanders an extremist." ...

... Dana Milbank argues that Bernie Sanders & Martin O'Malley are making a mistake by not taking on Hillary Clinton "directly and forcefully.... The O'Malley and Sanders reticence is doing Clinton no favors. Were they to take her on, they could force her from her defensive crouch into a more populist posture. That would excite the Democratic base, and sparring with O'Malley or Sanders would get her in shape for the general election."

Beyond the Beltway

Alan Yuhas & Jana Kasperkevic of the Guardian: "Thousands of Americans set out to march under the banners of 'black lives matter' and 'no justice no peace' on Friday, merging the movement against police abuses with May Day's 124-year crusade for workers' rights. In New York, thousands rallied in downtown Manhattan, demanding 'disarm the NYPD' in the wake of the police killings of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and other black men around the country. Protesters also called for a minimum wage hike to $15, restrictions on carbon emissions and an end to tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans." ...

... Veronica Rocha & Brittny Mejia of the Los Angeles Times: "Traffic snarled in downtown Los Angeles on Friday afternoon as street closures took effect for a May Day rally demanding immigration reform and higher minimum wages."

William Rashbaum, et al., of the New York Times: "Dean G. Skelos, the leader of the New York State Senate, and his son are expected to be arrested on federal corruption charges next week, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The expected arrests, coming roughly three months after federal bribery and kickback charges led Assemblyman Sheldon Silver to step down as speaker, would signal an extension of the investigation into allegations of political corruption in Albany.... It is not known if Mr. Skelos, a Republican from Long Island who was first elected to the Senate in 1984, will resign his leadership post as did Mr. Silver, a Manhattan Democrat...."

Tim Egan on California in the Arid Age.