The Ledes

Monday, July 28, 2014.

Guardian: "Dutch and Australian police have failed to reach the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 for a second day as clashes rage in a town on the road to the area." ...

... Washington Post: "The Ukrainian military on Monday captured a strategically important swath of territory close to the debris field of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a spokesman said, dealing a blow to pro-Russian rebels but raising new questions about whether an investigation at the site will ever yield conclusive evidence about the attack on the airliner." ...

Washington Post: "International efforts to end the devastating three-week-old Gaza war intensified Monday with the U.N. Security Council calling for an 'immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' in the conflict that has already claimed the lives of more than 1,035 Palestinians and 43 Israeli soldiers. The ravaged coastal enclave was relatively quiet Monday as Palestinians started celebrating the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday that caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Israel mostly held its fire overnight, shelling only a site in the northern Gaza Strip in response to rockets fired from there." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Explosions rocked a major hospital and a neighborhood of Gaza City on Monday, leaving at least 10 people dead, witnesses reported." ...

... New York Times: "On Sunday, however, [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry was having difficulty accomplishing even ... a succession of temporary cease-fires..., despite a phone call in which President Obama, in a sign of mounting impatience, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to embrace an 'immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' while the two sides pursued a more lasting agreement. ...

... A White House readout of the conversation between Obama & Netanyahu is here.

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

White House Live Video
July 28

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

3:05 pm ET: President Obama awards the 2013 National Medal of Arts & the National Medal of Humanities Medal

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New Yorker illustration.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Saturday
Jul122014

The Commentariat -- July 12, 2014

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

... Worth noting: the gloves are off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annals of "Journalism," Megyn Kelly Edition

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

Senate Race

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

Presidential Election 2016

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

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

Marie's Sports Report

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

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

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

News Ledes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday
Jul102014

The Commentariat -- July 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congressional Races

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

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

Senate Race

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

News Ledes

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

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

Wednesday
Jul092014

The Commentariat -- July 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reactions ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

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

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

News Ledes

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday
Jul082014

The Commentariat -- July 9, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate Races

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

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

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

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

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

Presidential Election 2016

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

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

News Ledes

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

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

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

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